The Bird on Mayor Phil and why the Fonz can't tell the world, "Fuck the police"


The last place this pugnacious penguin figured he'd ever be was sitting across a table from Mayor Phil Gordon. But the battle against Sheriff Joe Arpaio makes for odd allies: Republican Rick Romley's endorsing now-Democrat Dan Saban. And The Bird's applauding the courageous stance taken by Hizzoner over Nickel Bag Joe's dastardly, anti-immigrant dragnets.

But there we sat, over a cup a Joe at Hava Java at 32nd Street and Camelback, the mayor looking a pinch more peaked than usual, perhaps from being in the unusual position of granting an interview to one of his most dogged critics. But The Bird's willing to gobble a heapin' helpin' of crow for three reasons: The mayor's criticism of Arpaio during his César Chávez luncheon speech, Gordon's letter to U.S. Attorney General Michael Mukasey asking for a Department of Justice inquiry into Joe, and Gordon's remarks during the State of the City address before the Phoenix Chamber of Commerce, wherein he blasted the sheriff for 40,000 felony warrants gathering dust in Joe's in-box.

"Rounding up those people should be a priority," Fightin' Phil told the assembled chamber fatcats. "Instead, [the sheriff] has created a Sanctuary County for Felons with his reckless priorities that target brown skin and cracked tail lights instead of killers and drug dealers."

Our septuagenarian sheriff has been apoplectic, claiming Phil's lying about the 40,000 warrants and spitting like a mad mutt that he's not targeting the brown sections of the PHX. Sure ya ain't, Joe. In fact, this Daffy Duck figures you'll be going into tony Scottsdale any day now. After all, Joe might catch some illegal Canadians, Krauts, or Frogs drinkin' smoothies in the food court at Scottsdale's Fashion Square.

BTW, Joe, regarding those warrants and your bogus blarney asserting that you're responsible for only a small portion of 'em, you should take some time off from coloring your 'do with STP and read the description of your duties in the Arizona Revised Statutes, Title 11-441. It states, in part, that the sheriff shall:

"Serve process and notices in the manner prescribed by law and certify under the sheriff's hand upon the process or notices the manner and time of service, or if the sheriff fails to make service, the reasons for failure, and return them without delay."

As your eyesight's going, you may have to have your lackey, PIO Paul "Chicken Little" Chagolla, read it for you. Or maybe even David "Jabba the Hutt" Hendershott, if he can take time away from coordinating the deputies he's still sending down to Honduras on our dime.

But this dodo digresses. The reason The Bird wanted to meet with Da Mayor was to ask him why he decided to do what he's done, which is show the kind of intestinal fortitude that state pols such as Attorney General Terry Goddard and Governor Janet Napolitano lack. And no, this winged wordsmith doesn't count Nappy's wishy-washy statement on Channel 8's Horizon that the situation with the sheriff is "troublesome." Grow a sack, Nappy! Christ knows you might as well, considering that you amble around the ninth floor of the Executive Tower like a freakin' truck driver as it is.

"What led up to it," explained Gordon of his attack on Nickel Bag, "was the aggressive change in tactics from the sheriff, in terms of him making statements in press conferences and him enforcing his federal 287g power [which allows Arpaio to use ICE-trained deputies to implement U.S. immigration law]. Even if you think of the Pruitt's deal, it was a whole different type of operation.

"Then he started to escalate," continued Gordon, "targeting Hispanic neighborhoods and persons of lower socio-economic status. So that was on one hand. On the other hand, I was meeting with individuals who continued to relay stories of how they'd been stopped — American citizens and legal residents. It kept tugging at me."

One of Phil's staffers, a third generation Hispanic American whom he asked The Bird not to mention by name, had been harassed by a sheriff's deputy months ago, and was cited for making a turn on a road posted as closed, though Anglos in other cars simply were given warnings. Pastors and bishops in local churches told him of their parishioners being profiled or, in some instances, torn from their families and deported. But it was one visit to the Most Holy Trinity Catholic Church in Sunnyslope that really affected the city's top exec:

"About five or six individuals were there talking to me [about] a young kid who got pulled over and didn't have his driver's license. [Sheriff's deputies] stopped him in front of his house. They still took him to jail. There was a little girl there who was crying and afraid to go to school. So I determined it was time to do something."

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Stephen is a former staff writer and columnist at Phoenix New Times.
Contact: Stephen Lemons