When voters want change, not much will prevent it

by Robert Robb, columnist – Oct. 15, 2011 07:17 PM
The Arizona Republic

From the political notebook:

– Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon has endorsed Greg Stanton to succeed him. The firefighters and cops have signs up all over the city saying Stanton’s their man.

These bring back memories of one of the larger political tactical mistakes to which I was a party.

In 1983, I was a top adviser to mayoral candidate Pete Dunn, who was running against Terry Goddard. A year earlier, Goddard had spearheaded the initiative campaign that brought a district system to Phoenix. He was running as the candidate of change against a calcified and insular status quo.

The current mayor was Margaret Hance, one of Arizona’s most formidable political figures ever. Goddard is sometimes given credit for breaking the grip of Charter Government, a self-appointed group of business and community leaders, on City Hall. In actuality, it was Hance.

Charter Government members told her she wasn’t ready to run for mayor when she wanted to in the mid-1970s. She told them to buzz off and then dusted their candidate.

As mayor, she maintained a very tight relationship with the business community. But there was no question that she was in control of City Hall.

She was obviously going to endorse Dunn. The question was how big of a deal to make of it.

At the time, Hance still polled very well. So, the Dunn campaign decided to play up her endorsement big.

That turned out to be a big mistake. The public did have a high regard for Hance. But her endorsement confirmed Goddard’s narrative that Dunn was the candidate of the status quo. And Phoenix voters wanted a change.

One of the questions surrounding this year’s mayoral election is the extent to which the electorate is worried about the cozy relationship that exists in City Hall between the politicians, city management and the unions. Is this another election in which voters want change, but of a different sort?

If so, the endorsement of Stanton by Gordon and the firefighters and cops may simply serve to confirm the narrative Wes Gullett is peddling: that Stanton is the candidate of the excessively cozy status quo.

– One element of the celebration over the Valley being awarded the 2015 Super Bowl was bemusing. According to many of our business and community leaders, it represented a cleansing of the stench the state had as a result of SB 1070, the controversial immigration law.

Let’s think that one through for a moment.

According to critics, SB 1070 turned Arizona into Jim Crow Mississippi. A football game erases that?

In reality, SB 1070 didn’t give Arizona a stench. Arizona became a leper only among liberal organizations and big businesses afraid of them. If it hadn’t been for the busting of the housing bubble, we’d never even have noticed.

What the episode actually reveals is how insecure our business and community elites are, always fretting about what others are thinking about us.

Getting the Super Bowl doesn’t mean anything about us, other than we’re a place where professional football owners think a helluva profitable party can be thrown.

If the game had gone to Tampa Bay, would we still be the Mississippi of the West?

– The high-spending ways of the Arizona Commerce Authority, with big salaries and fancy digs, have caused some buyer’s remorse among state legislators.

Last session, they agreed to Gov. Jan Brewer’s recommendation that a state agency, the Commerce Department, be spun off into a public-private sector hybrid. They are already looking for ways to rein it in.

Here’s a suggestion, a big and important one. Right now, the authority automatically gets $25 million a year for a deal-closing fund. Lawmakers who don’t like what the authority has done on operating expenses ought to brace themselves for when it starts spending real money.

Rather than flowing automatically, legislators should make all funding for the authority, and particularly the deal-closing fund, subject to annual appropriation.

Let authority officials justify their use of taxpayer dollars each and every year and make their case in competition with every other demand on the public treasury.

That’s the right way to do it.

Read more: http://www.azcentral.com/arizonarepublic/viewpoints/articles/2011/10/15/20111015voters-change-robb.html#ixzz1jvTfkQ35

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