They'll pass over the money without even thinking about it; for it is money they have and peace they lack.
  -James Earl Jones "Field of Dreams"
and don't go mistaking paradise for that home across the road
  -Bob Dylan "Ballad of Frankie Lee and Judas Priest"

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Frances Barwood: What a Country!

I wrote this in February of 1998 and put it on my website (this was more or less before blogs). Putting it here so that I don't lose it.

Frances Barwood is running for Secretary of State, is getting national media attention and the Squaw Peak Parkway is not even built yet. What a country! You may think of Frances "Emma" Barwood as the politician that took heat over the Sumitomo Sitix plant or as the looney Phoenix City Councilperson who wants an investigation into the "cover-up" of alleged UFO sightings over Phoenix. To those of us who have lived here for a while, Frances is just a painful story that never ends.

One of the surest way to get attention and launch a political career in Phoenix is to oppose something. Pick one, a freeway, a ballpark, an amphitheatre, a tax, go negative and the media flocks to your door. In the mid-1980s in northeast Phoenix, the big issue was where to plant the Squaw Peak Parkway north of Shea Boulevard. There was the camp that wanted it to run up 40th Street and the group that wanted it to go where it ended up, on a route that roughly follows 34th Street. Frances, at the time just another private citizen, owned a house that was in a location that would be affected by the decision and she became the leader of whichever camp she adhered to. She became the media darling, or rather the darling of the Paradise Valley Voice. The Voice, which has been mercifully dead for some time now, was the private empire of one Frosty Taylor, a vindictive woman who was anything but a journalist. Frosty would create her own nicknames for politicians she didn't like and them refer to them that way in her alleged news articles. "Terry Goddard, referred to by many as the Prince of the City, called a new conference to discuss..." You get the idea. Anyway, Frosty just loved Frances and made her and her Squaw Peak Parkway opinions well known throughout the news-starved northeast Phoenix community. In those days there was no "Community" section in the Republic and the Paradise Valley Independent would never print anything controversial so as to not upset potential advertisers.

Frosty had Frances' career peaking right around the time the parkway alignment was chosen. With the issue dieing, we were soon treated to insight into all sorts of colorful opinions held by the lady. All things could typically be explained by some sort of kooky conspiracy theory it seemed. Her connection to various right-wing fringe groups became apparent. Still, she needed an issue. When incumbent City Councilman Bill Parks proudly announced that the city was close to a deal with private developers to build a performing arts amphitheatre northeast of the intersection of Tatum Boulevard and the CAP Canal, she had one. Although she was but one of many outspoken critics of the amphitheatre, which was later built on the west side of town as Blockbuster Desert Sky Pavilion, she was one of the most colorful. Dr. Parks' association with the amphitheatre ended his political career and launched two others. Among the opposition to Dr. Parks' re-election bid was not only Frances, but an unknown real estate salesman named Skip Rimsza. Rimsza won the election, and in a move that confounded most observers, he put Frances in charge of his satellite office at the PV Community Center. I believe that this was the 1989 election.

In a side note of particular irony, the ground upon which the amphitheatre was planned is now occupied by the Sumitomo Sitix plant.

Frances, many believed, mellowed and matured while in Rimsza's employ. When Rimsza's first 2 year term expired, the districts were redrawn and a new district encompassing the extreme north and northeast of the city was up for grabs. Frances, adding the "Emma" (so that no one would think that Frances was a man's name, she explained), announced for the seat. So did several others, including two who would help define the race, Dan Carroll and Keith Morrow. Dan was a young guy, in his 20's, but had been associated with the Democratic party and local politics since he was a teenager. He was extremely ambitious and, like his political hero, Paul Johnson, seemed to have one goal in life: public office. Keith Morrow was old enough to be Dan's grandfather. A retiree, he was an outspoken member of NEVCO, an organization dedicated to the proposition that nothing belongs in their neighborhood. He had been a candidate for Parks' seat two years earlier, had opposed the amphitheatre, the Greenway road alignment, etc.

An issue that I cared strongly about, that was a potentially explosive campaign issue, was the bridged crossings of the CAP Canal at 56th Street and 64th Street. The crossings, not yet built, have been in the City's plans for many years. Morrow and NEVCO, believing that the bridges would bring traffic into their neighborhood, and seeing nothing wrong with having MY neighborhood choked with traffic as a result, wanted them removed from the plans. Dan Carroll, a friend and political ally of mine, approached me about helping him with his campaign. I was the chairman of the Paradise Valley Village Planning Committee at the time and had twice run for the legislature so my support had some small value. Before agreeing to help Dan I explained that the bridge issue was a litmus test for me, and he assured me that he supported the bridges. I became a member of his campaign steering committee and when he formally announced his candidacy, I was the guy who introduced him.

The election results were Carroll first, Barwood second, Morrow a distant third and the rest were irrelevant. Carroll failed to win a majority however and a runoff between Dan and Frances was scheduled. A couple of weeks before the runoff, I picked up the paper and read that Morrow had endorsed Carroll, farther down in the article, Morrow mentioned Dan's opposition to the bridges as a factor in his decision. Dan Carroll had traded his position on that issue for the support of Morrow and NEVCO! I was outraged. I first called Dan to make sure that I had it right. I did. I then contacted the Barwood campaign to verify that she was in support of the bridges. She was. I proceeded to write a letter to the Editor of the Arizona Republic, which was printed, explaining how I had been deceived by Dan and throwing my support to Frances. I also supplied a copy of the letter to the Barwood campaign. Dan Carroll lost to Frances Barwood by a handful of votes. I believe that my letter made the difference. I believe that I am responsible for putting Frances Barwood into office. God forgive me.

Barwood, who served two terms on the council, did a reasonably good job, but it was marred by silly distractions. Occasionally she felt obligated to make sure that no one forgot that she was a right wing nut, as in her utterances about the flag exhibit at the Phoenix Art Museum. Her UFO sighting silliness is well known. She was subject to a recall election, which would only have shaved a couple of months off of her last term. She was being recalled, not for her colorful opinions, but for her failure to oppose the Sumitomo Sitix plant. I believe that she did the right thing, by the way. We need places for people to work and contrary to what the opponents tell you, the thing is nowhere near anyone's house. When the recall election came, I voted to keep her. We knew she was a nut when we elected her, she deserves to finish the job. She did nothing wrong with Sumitomo, I figured. Of course, I don't think that Dr. Parks did anything wrong in supporting the amphitheatre and I'd bet that the neighbors would trade Sumitomo for it in a heartbeat.

Now Frances Barwood is running for Secretary of State. It appears that she will face Betsey Bayless in the primary and would face Art Hamilton in the general if she got past the primary. I can't imaging a scenario in which I would vote for her but stranger things have happened. And I will sort of miss her eventually.

Update: Barwood lost in the primary and Betsey Bayless became Secretary of State. I lost track of Dan Carroll until a few weeks ago when I encountered him at Jon Talton's table at the Willo Home Tour (Talton was selling and autographing David Mapstone novels.) Caroll made it clear that he had not forgotten our parting of the ways and suggested that he was thinking of running for City Council down here, apparently living in the area. I joked that maybe I could help, there not being any canal issues in Central Phoenix. I did not see him listed in the papers as having taken out petition packets, however.

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