News

Who Wants a Lap-Dog Press? Your Gov

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The reporters, who want easy access to the news, also had requested regular press conferences. Mofford's response? Forget it. Well, reporters asked, what about when there are major events, such as when the U.S. Supreme Court issued its decision in the abortion case earlier this summer? "She did issue a statement," Manager responded, citing a one-paragraph release that said very little--and that came nine hours after reporters first asked for the governor's reaction.

Mofford's press policy is a preview of what the public is likely to see--and not see--of the state's chief executive in the 1990 campaign. Cunningham admitted as much to reporters when they first complained about her inaccessibility, saying the "current plan" was to have Mofford keep a low profile. They'd rather not have her out there, answering difficult questions in front of TV cameras. What little the public will see of Mofford will come from carefully staged and scripted speeches, ribbon cuttings and interviews with selected friendly reporters.

Cunningham also made another telling statement about how Mofford intends to keep reporters in line. "You get more with honey than with the sting," he intoned. The message was clear: If you're nice to the governor, we'll make it easy for you to keep covering her and give you scoops. But if you're not willing to play along, we'll do everything possible to keep you from finding out about what little the governor is doing or thinking.

Whether Cunningham's threat has any effect will depend on whether the largely docile members of the capitol press corps are willing to work for the news or want to continue to be spoonfed lap dogs.

GEORGIA'S UDALL PROBLEM When Georgia Staton announces later this month she wants to be Arizona's next attorney general, she'd like to have Congressman Mo Udall at her side.

But Udall, a well-respected Democrat who consistently wins by large margins, won't be anywhere in sight. Aides say the congressman simply has a policy of not endorsing anyone before a primary. But Udall reticence may have its roots in genetics.

The Udall clan includes a number of attorneys. One of them is Stephen Udall who is the Apache County attorney. And the thought of stepping up to become the state's top prosecutor has crossed his mind.

"I really haven't given a lot of thought to the matter although I have been approached," Udall says. Does he want to run? "I don't know how noncommittal I can be," he responds.

But he clearly considers himself qualified. More to the point, he thinks voters ought to choose someone who has been an elected county attorney. "I'd much rather have someone who is prosecution-oriented and has shown that through their efforts in office than somebody who just comes flopping in off the street to use the position to step somewhere else," Udall says. "That scares the crap out of me."

Udall's musings aren't good news for Staton, who lost out in her efforts last year to become Maricopa County attorney. Since that time she has been on the political circuit, speaking to Democratic groups across the state to improve her name identification. That's something she'll need if she has to wage a primary battle against someone whose family name is as well-known as Babbitt or Goldwater.

JUSTICE AIN'T CHEAP The Phoenix City Council hopes it can do with money what it couldn't do legislatively: Slow the number of appeals it hears from the Board of Adjustment.

Councilmembers will decide next week if those disappointed by the board's decisions will have to pay $500 for a new hearing before the council. There currently is no charge for the appeal.

The role of the Board of Adjustment is to determine when property owners can get a variance from city zoning regulations. Since 1934, when Phoenix established its own board, anyone who did not like a decision could take the case to Superior Court.

All that changed last year when NeuroCare convinced the Board of Adjustment to allow it to locate a group home on North Central Avenue for people recovering from head injuries. Rather than risk a time-consuming--and potentially losing--appeal to the courts, the homeowners instead leaned on state Representative Jane Hull to change the law.

Hull shoved through a bill allowing disgruntled homeowners to petition the city council for review of any board decisions.

With Hull's new law in place, the Phoenix City Council, led by local Councilmember Howard Adams, then voted 5-4 to deny NeuroCare the necessary permit.

Despite that vote, the council has since had a change of heart and doesn't want to be dragged into these fights. Last session they lobbied to repeal the law. But state lawmakers didn't want to deal with the issue.

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Howard Fischer