Valley of the Drolls

It's that time of year, the season for journalistic sharing, when all good reporters feel compelled to pontificate on the previous year and tell you, the reading public, what we think you should have paid attention to. Top 10 story lists, dubious achievement awards, even cleverly thought out "gifts" to newsmakers fill the media at the end of every year.

This year, New Times introduces the Doofus and Darling Awards. For the moment, we've set aside our trademark snarkiness to recognize a few people or institutions who we believe are genuinely trying to make this Valley a better place. On the other hand, there is still no shortage of those who should know better, and we've taken this opportunity to mention a few who are not the usual suspects.

In truth, when we made our list -- after hearty staff debate -- we came up with many in this community who have been more darlings than doofuses over the past year. A few worthy of honorable mention who nearly made the final cut: Jerry Colangelo, of course, but everybody already loves him. Legislative up-and-comers John Loredo and Henry Camarot, on the Democrats' side, and, yes, we even like a couple of Republicans, Deb Gullett and Ken Bennett.

U.S. Senator John McCain will surely gasp at the thought of New Times finding something to like about him, but we did take note of his continued aggressiveness on certain issues we like, especially tightening up gun sales.

In that same vein, we like former Phoenix mayor John Driggs, who single-handedly saved Tovrea Castle and its surrounding land, and County Supervisor Mary Rose Wilcox for providing kick-ass Mexican food and primo people-watching at her new El Portal restaurant downtown. And we have to tip our pica pole to Jon Talton, the savvy business columnist at the Arizona Republic who has spent much of the past year laying out a solid public-policy framework to get our collective economic shit together.

Doofuses, we have a few. And, in fact, too many to mention them all. The parking-garage boondogglers, the Bob Burns-wanna-be land scammers, the family killers, the pork-barrelers, the carpetbaggers -- all third verse same as the first.

For individual stupidity, we have to go with former Diamondbacks back-up catcher Mike DiFelice, whose barroom antics involving a couple of women cost him a World Series ring.

Still, we have singled out those who had some lingering impact on this community, beyond a 30-second blast on the 10 o'clock news.

Other runner-up doofuses: Outspoken abortion doctor Brian Finkel, once the darling of the pro-choice crowd, now in one of Joe Arpaio's jail cells on charges he sexually assaulted numerous women. Former Valley restaurateur Norman Fierros, who drove one of the city's best restaurants straight into the ground. Again. Freshman congressman Jeff Flake, whose Don Quixote act is making him look like the ass.

So, without further ado, we present the top chumps and champs of 2001.


Trickster Tempe: Until September 11, the proposed Arizona Cardinals stadium -- and where it should go -- was the biggest local news story of 2001. (How pathetic is that?) The sorry saga continues. And doofuses abound.

The City of Tempe's backroom dealings and shady maneuvers cost the city the new stadium and with it the Arizona Cardinals, the Fiesta Bowl and future Super Bowls. Mayor Neil Giuliano's greasy plan to trade development rights to the Cardinals to cover the city's up-front costs to build on land owned by Salt River Project smacked of self-interest. Rather than hold public discussions over the proposed site (a mile due east of Sky Harbor's longest runway), Tempe lied to the Tourism and Sports Authority, claiming to have preliminary FAA approval for the stadium.

Whoops. The FAA wasn't about to rubber-stamp Giuliano's latest development fiasco.

Still, there is an upside to this dismal story for Tempe. The city won't have to deal any more with TSA and its chief, Ted Ferris, who are lying to the public about the ultimate cost of the stadium. There's no way it will ever come in at the $331 million TSA promised prior to the November 2000 election in which voters approved construction of the stadium. Try $431 million.

Absolutely Flabulous: It isn't often that an Arizonan makes it on to the pages of People magazine, so folks were understandably excited in 1998 when the national media celebrated our own Fab Five -- five women elected to the state's five highest offices, all at once.

But fab has turned to flab over the past few years, as these five have proven that women can be just as mediocre as men when it comes to governing. Governor Jane Dee Hull's most lasting accomplishment has been her own face-lift. Attorney General Janet Napolitano and Secretary of State Betsey Bayless have spent most of their time in office eyeing Hull's spot. Treasurer Carol Springer -- along with Hull -- failed to notice that Arizona's alternative fuel tax credit was about to bankrupt the state. And schools chief Lisa Graham Keegan gave us unregulated charter schools and onerous standardized testing -- then split early for a lucrative private-sector job.

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