There Go The Neighborhoods?

Did Neighborhood Power score big when Paul Johnson beat out developer crony Howard "High-Rise" Adams for the mayor's job? To hear Johnson himself, you'd think so. "My hope is to be a friend to the neighborhood groups," says Hizzoner. But neighborhood advocates are far less buoyant. Even allowing for the inveterate grumpiness that besets the truly committed, the only clear win in their view is the defeat of their archnemesis Adams. As for Johnson, they wish they could see more clearly where he is headed with all his newfound power.

"Our plan was, `Anybody but Adams,'" says Peter Martori, godfather of the Greater Phoenix Neighborhood Coalition. "We saw it as a strategic defense and we pulled it off.

"But I don't think it was a clear victory for neighborhood interests. If you look at Johnson's record on the council, he has lined up with Howard almost all the time. On issues ranging from zoning to new development fees, he has very much supported the interests of the development industry."

Johnson was preferable to Adams mainly because he's "a clumsy politician"--and thus not as dangerous an adversary, Martori says.

While not celebrating, the movement leaders acknowledge that, given the nature of politics, their influence at City Hall probably has been enhanced by the mere appearance that Johnson's succession was a victory for them. (And they wasted no time before lobbying openly to have one of their own, westside neighborhood leader Barbara Wyllie, appointed by the council to Johnson's vacant seat.)

In the showdown for the mayor's seat, Johnson had to seek support from neighborhood allies such as Linda Nadolski and Calvin Goode. "In the future he's either going to have to consider their interests or snow the press into believing he has, which in some cases won't be too hard to do," Martori says.

Johnson says he is eager to meet with neighborhood leaders as he begins to map out his strategy for his two-year term. "If they have things on their agenda, I want them to call me and we'll sit down and talk," he says. "I've got calls in to them, as a matter of fact. I can't promise I'll always be with them on votes, but I want them at the table as I set my agenda for the next two years."

Beyond the appointment of Wyllie-- which Johnson shows no signs of delivering--the neighborhood groups have not decided just what they want from the new mayor. "The next step is for us to decide what we want to accomplish," Martori acknowledges. "The neighborhoods have yet to mature as a political force. Right now, they are a guerrilla force."

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Kathleen Stanton