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The Warehouse Tape

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"I talked to both you and Andy last week, and I thought we all felt we could use some more study, and the current site for the morgue was not the most desirable one.

"Now I understand both of you are changing your opinions. But I will stay on board, though, to say that we are damaging the warehouse district."

"Perhaps you misunderstood me," Stapley replies. "I never said anything meant to make you believe I did not support the current status recommendation.

"I think what makes the most sense now is for us to work together and move together and put all personal preferences aside, because I think it encumbers us for anyone to encourage these organizations and neighborhood associations to in any way inhibit our alliance."

Who is this guy, Darth Vader?
We shall crush these meddlesome rebels who dare defy our plans for the downtown Penal Star.

And God forbid a county supervisor should form and act upon a personal preference, or change a position after listening to constituents.

Stapley doesn't think too highly of the intellect of critics of the county plan.

"I think people have gotten emotional about this morgue, like it's this deep, dark thing going in downtown. Well, I don't think it's the offensive use everyone conjures in their mind that, oh, God, it's horrible, it's the dark side going on down there, or The X-Files or whatever else."

Oh, I see. It's not the whole downtown cultural district thing people are howling about. It's their fear of zombies, slithering off the cold, steel slabs in the new county morgue, slouching toward the Arizona Center to feast on the brains of the innocent.

"You know, a morgue, it's not like a homeless shelter, where there's all these people milling around, panhandling," Stapley continues.

"It just says 'Forensic Science' on the concrete wall, and I would submit that most people don't even know what that means."

Yeah, well, Stapley doesn't know the politically correct name for morgue.
"To call [the Forensic Science building] a morgue is an antiquated, derogatory term that I find objectionable," county administrative officer David Smith admonishes the board.

So there.
Smith, who is charged with implementing the board's plans and policies, is the first invited speaker at the session. He sounds wounded by the uproar.

"My staff is feeling discouraged at this point," he says. "This thing has gone into controversy before the professionals have had a chance to do their work."

Let me stop for a second. Isn't going "into controversy" part of a process that's supposed to be public?

Now, back to Smith, who says that while the jail, morgue and parking garage locations are set, the structures themselves are still in the design phase, and afford the county a chance to prove it can be "a good corporate citizen."

"We could create an exciting array of softening and humanistically pleasing physical changes," says Smith.

"We can make the final design be compatible with the larger issue of some kind of neighborhood theme. Let's at least look at whether or not we could pull off the trick of making a medical examiner's office compatible with a parking structure compatible with a jail compatible with some kind of artists and retail community and so forth.

"Just because it hasn't been done anywhere else in the country doesn't mean we can't do it here."

I once saw a guy try to unclog a septic tank by dropping a stick of dynamite down the pipe. I'd never heard of anyone doing that, either. And as I watched him light the fuse and shout "Fire in the hole," I felt the same queasy anticipation as when I visualize the county using a new jail as the centerpiece for restoring a historical district (with a parking garage and a morgue--sorry, Forensic Science building--as trimming).

Smith characterized the new county building locations as "rebuttable presumptions."

"If someone has one that's better, then, gee, let's hear it."
Allow me to rebut.
I reiterate the alternative jail location suggested to the county, over and over, by its opposition: the larger, county-owned lot on Lincoln Street between Third and Fourth avenues. That's where the jail could go instead, or as a massive addition to the current expansion plans for the county's Durango jail, which is miles from downtown.

Neither the Lincoln nor the Durango sites were even discussed in the board's special session.

Instead, once they finish slapping Wilcox around, the four other supervisors spend most of the hour reassuring their staff the project has a green light, patting one another on the back, and vowing no retreat, no surrender.

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David Holthouse
Contact: David Holthouse