"Which is worse? The wolf who cries before eating the lamb or the wolf who does not."— Leo Tolstoy

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon Takes on the "Nattering Nabobs of Negativism": From the "Would You Like Some Cheese With That Whine" Department.

Dogo Barry Graham can be counted on to call out whiny politicians who are loose with the facts and can't reason their way out of an imaginary box. The latest politico in his cross-hairs is Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon who has been busy sweeping the Phoenix Police Department's dirt under the rug. In a recent sarcasm-laden blog post, Mayor Gordon complained about the bad press he has been receiving from the local Phoenix, Arizona, media.

I am not denying that Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon has good reason to be cranky about the press coverage he has been receiving. Anyone who follows the sometimes churlish but always informative Bad Phoenix Cops blog already knows how dysfunctional the Phoenix Police Department has been under Mayor Phil Gordon's watch. In addition the corruption and murder scandal engulfing the Phoenix Police Department, Mayor Phil Gordon has also:

1) been plagued by persistent questions about his chronic "girlfriend problem."

2) permitted Phoenix Police Chief Jack Harris to retire -- receiving a one-time payout of $560,000 and drawing a $7,500 a month pension -- and then be rehired as a civilian Public Safety Manager earning an additional $180,000 a year on the taxpayer's dime.

3) been sued for the release of his security logs by Judicial Watch, following the denial of a public record request regarding his inexplicably large taxpayer-funded security detail (which might have been understandable at one time given the violent tendencies of one of the mayor's senior assistants).

In his November 23rd blog post, Mayor Gordon complains about bad press from the local media like a cheerleader who can't understand why the football team doesn't respect her after a Friday night under the bleachers:

At the City of Phoenix, we work to make it as easy as possible for the media: We pepper them with press releases and hold briefings on a regular basis. Still, “good news” often gets missed in favor of the sensational.

I’m not really complaining – when you’ve been Mayor for 7 years, you get used to it.

A negative story about a handful of police officers? Top of the newscast.

Contorted statistics that paint the City as an “out of control” spender, the government equivalent of a drunken sailor? Here come the cameras and mikes.

But milestones that deeply impact the lives of the “real people” who live in Encanto or Maryvale, downtown or Arcadia? They barely make a blip.

I feel like I’d better tell you the good news myself.

You’ve likely heard a lot lately about the Phoenix Police Department, mostly from cynics interested in tearing down its leadership or denigrating our officers. The truth? The PPD as an organization is doing great work. We got more evidence of this yesterday, courtesy of the CQ Press, an independent publisher that annually ranks the safest and most dangerous cities in America.

Based on CQ’s stats, we’re currently 135th out of the 400 most dangerous cities in the country. That’s better than last year, when we were 92nd and better than the year before, when we ranked 65th.

It’s also better than they did in lovely places like Tucson and Salt Lake City, perfectly nice cities no one will ever mistake for Phoenix on the “thriving metropolis” scale.

My point? 135th isn’t where we want to be, but it’s more proof that our city is making progress, even in tough economic times.

Starting a sarcastic rant about bad press by declaring "I'm not really complaining" is about as prosaic and silly as starting a speech on race relations by declaring "some of my best friends are African Americans."

Is Mayor Gordon actually bragging about the fact that Phoenix is in the top 30% of the 400 most dangerous cities in America? Apparently, this is his idea of the good news about the Phoenix Police Department that the press is ignoring. As Mayor Gordon points out, it is better than being in the top 20%, which was Phoenix's previous ranking, but telling us that we should be thankful that the previously waist-high sludge from the overflowing sewer is now at knee level is not particularly helpful and clearly nothing to cheer about.

Let me take a few moments and talk about what has been impacting the everyday lives of the "'real people' who live in Encanto or Maryvale, downtown or Arcadia." My wife and I are two of those "real people" Mayor Gordon seems so concerned about. So are are our neighbors. We live on a beautiful palm lined-street of well-kept historic homes in downtown Phoenix. The outgoing Arizona Attorney General lives on the next block west of us. We do not live in what has, in the recent past, been considered a low-income or high-crime area.

Yet, over the past month there have been two burglaries and three attempted burglaries on our block. With approximately 18 houses on the block, that amounts to 25% of the households becoming the victims of felony property crime within the last month alone (I am not including the locked bicycle that was stolen from in front of our house on a clear sunny afternoon).

Would Mayor Gordon count among the police bashing "cynics" he criticizes the young couple with two small children who live in fear after their house was broken into this month? These "real people" who live downtown are wondering why a forensic examination of their home was never conducted by the Phoenix Police Department, and why they were never contacted by burglary detectives after the initial police report was taken by a patrol officer. Even if the police were able to recover their property in the possession of a suspect, no trial could ever take place due to the lack of any forensic evidence linking the suspect to the scene of the crime. Are we really living in a City where the Police Department is either unable or unwilling to allocate the resources to do a proper investigation of a residential burglary?

My wife cannot walk alone in our neighborhood after dark. In the year that we have lived on our block there has been a steady increase in the number of drug-using chronically mentally ill transients who flood the alleys of downtown Phoenix at night after being run-out of Margaret Hance Park by the Police. The policies of Mayor Gordon and the Phoenix City Council have left our city without adequate resources to deal with the CMI homeless, and the "real people" in downtown Phoenix are left to live with the consequences of the Mayor's incompetence.

Criticism of City Hall is not cynical when City Hall has failed so miserably in governing the City of Phoenix. It is Mayor Gordon's November 23rd blog post that is cynical, not his critics in the press who are the only ones in this situation who seem to be doing their jobs by calling for competence, responsibility and accountability in the Phoenix City Government.

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