When W. Steven Martin announced that he'd try to unseat Maricopa County's longest-running embarrassment -- Sheriff Joke Arpaio and his stale "I'm tough on criminals" routine -- the most hopeful sign that the radio commentator knew what he was doing was his creative slogan.
"If you don't know who to vote for, ask anyone in law enforcement," reads Martin's campaign Web site (www.wforsheriff.com).
The subtle dig capitalizes on what New Times readers have known for years: that within the law enforcement community, Arpaio's long been a figure of derision. People in the know realize that his policies, supposedly aimed at reforming criminals by making jail an inhospitable place, are really just ploys for publicity that often backfire.
A new poll backs up the notion that Arpaio's antics aren't playing well to people who should know better.
The Jokester has always crowed about how popular he is. He loved pointing out that, among the general public anyway, his approval ratings were sky high. In years past, more than 80 percent of Arizonans thought he was doing a good job. And the rest, he'd be quick to add, were probably in his jails.
Hardy har har.
A new study by pollster Mike O'Neil suggests that the Joke is wearing thin. After canvassing 400 business and community leaders, O'Neil found that Senator John McCain (74 percent), state Attorney General Terry Goddard (87 percent), Governor Janet Napolitano (81 percent) and County Attorney Rick Romley (72 percent) all enjoy high approval ratings from the Valley's movers and shakers. O'Neil also asked local leaders about President George W. Bush (56 percent), Secretary of State Jan Brewer (59 percent) and Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Horne (46 percent). But O'Neil admits he was surprised when Arpaio, with only a 35 percent approval rating, came in dead last.
"It's been a couple of years since we've seen any polls on the sheriff," O'Neil says. "Either he's gone down in popularity, or he's never been popular with this particular group. My guess tends toward the latter."
Arpaio brushed off the study. "This poll just asked a small group. That doesn't concern me because I serve the people," the sheriff said.
But O'Neil defended his numbers, pointing out that the polled group, members of Greater Phoenix Leadership, Valley Leadership, East Valley Partnership and Westmarc, is a good representation of the most important local business and community decision-makers.
"I defy anyone to come up with a better definition of Valley leadership than that," he said.
Perhaps Martin should change his slogan.
Don't know who to vote for? Ask anyone with a clue.
A Question of Ethics
The City of Phoenix wants to make sure that the incoming mayor and city council -- which could have up to four new members -- will get an important lesson in good governing ethics.
To that end, the city's paying $25,000 to bring in an outside expert, Tim Delaney of the Center for Leadership, Ethics and Public Service, to teach the newbies how to sift through piles of complex city documents. "Budget documents are two and a half to three inches thick," warns city manager Frank Fairbanks, who favors the idea of educating incoming council members. "City codes are five inches thick. . . . I'd be surprised if any [novice] can use them to make decisions." (The Spike wonders what they've been doing all along.)
Delaney, a former state chief deputy attorney general, says candidates spend so much time campaigning for office, they're rarely prepared for what happens after they win. Their campaign promises often don't pan out, he says, because "you run into restraints -- with the law, politics, budget." Delaney's orientation will explain the principles behind the city's many codes and guidebooks, and instruct council members about the minutiae of public life.
Mayoral candidate Phil Gordon says the training's a good idea. And councilwoman Jessica Florez, who recently replaced Gordon after he resigned to run, says, "If someone could have done this orientation for me it would have been very helpful." (This from a woman with a master's degree in public administration.)
But what sort of ethical lesson will the newcomers glean from the city's plan to pay for Delaney's expertise? Only $5,000 of his fee will come from the city's general fund. The remainder -- $20,000 -- the city plans to raise from civic organizations. (Fairbanks says a list of likely sources hasn't been made up yet.)
That's right: The same organizations likely to come crawling to the city council later asking for handouts will be paying the lion's share of the council's training on ethics.
Maybe, if this experiment works out, the council can hit up former bishop Thomas O'Brien for cash to pay for driving lessons.
Called for Icing
In a development that's sure to improve RoxSand's hurt feelings, we've noticed that another celebrity restaurateur involved in a midnight getaway has landed firmly on his, er, skates.
In January, we reported on the New Year's disappearance of Privé, the swanky downtown joint known more for orgiastic high jinks in the halls of the historic San Carlos Hotel that housed it than for its cuisine. On the first night of the year, staffers were told that a private party would be held in the restaurant, and white drapes were drawn to keep prying eyes from seeing what was really going on -- the entire restaurant was stripped bare by co-owner Stephen D'Amico before the next morning. Left in the lurch, unpaid employees could only scratch their heads and wonder why D'Amico had pulled the plug and how much his partner, Phoenix Coyotes hockey player Andrei Nazarov, knew about the stripping.
Nazarov, at least, has apparently not let the bad feelings of a few former employees stop him from going on with a new venture.
County records show that the left winger obtained a liquor license in June for something called Nazarov Vodka at 3614 East Southern.
When we drove by the place, it appeared to be a warehouse in an industrial park. A phone call confirmed that the hockey player was in the building, but he declined to get on the line. With a wholesale liquor license, the Coyote appears to be setting himself up as a supplier of the distilled spirit to other restaurants.
It's heartwarming to see that the county wouldn't stand in the way of a local sports star just because his record in the food and drink industry was as dubious as a Coyotes slap shot.
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