September 14 - September 20, 1995

B y  J e f f  S m i t h 


LEST YOU'VE BEEN laboring under any misapprehension concerning the character of the man you fools elected governor the last couple of chances you had, let me remind you of an item that was reported in the morning rag late last week.


"Symington offers 25% of salary to pay $8.8 million Mercado debt" the headline read. Bear in mind that headlines are not punctuated like normal writing, so forgive the absence of the period.

I pondered a little on that $8.8 million figure mentioned in the headline, and the Mercado angle, and began to wonder what Symington's salary might stack up to, alongside the former. Thinking a bit more rationally, I recognized that Fife Symington probably hasn't done an honest day's work in his life. He didn't get rich by working, he got that way by being born and then got richer by marrying well. Mostly he paid himself million-dollar development fees with money he borrowed from banks until he got elected governor, and he had to settle for $75 grand a year at that. Before taxes.

The story went on to explain that the agreement whereby Fife "offered" to pay a quarter of his check to defray this multi-million dollar debt arrived just in advance of legal proceedings to garnish his wages, so the offer is devoid of charity or generosity.

And indeed, absent of substance as well. The Arizona Republic, which filed the story that The Associated Press picked up and the Star ran the following day, did a little arithmetic and calculated that it would take Fife 469 years to repay the debt, based on his gross salary as governor. But the deal Symington "offered" is talking after-tax dollars. And just last week, another Maricopa County Superior Court judge raised the judgment against Symington to $11.4 million from the original $8.8 million, to include interest. It would have taken an inordinate amount of research to determine Fife's actual take-home pay, because you can bet he deducts everything imaginable.

Suffice it to say that re-dickered for net net and for the $11.4 mill, we could be well into the administration of J Fife MMCCLLXXXVIII before the sins of the forefathers cease to be visited upon the sons.

You'd think that in view of the fact that Fife III and his wife Ann personally signed contracts guaranteeing to repay loans of $10 million taken from various union pension funds, that they'd try to do a little better--and be a lot quicker--at repaying their bad debts. It's not as though they don't have the money. The Symingtons almost certainly have more than $10 million at their disposal--or $8.8 or $11.4--and you can rest assured that when it comes to their own family budget--for housing, transportation, entertainment, clothing and travel, education for the kids, eyebrow pencils for Fife--that much and more will be found and spent. But when it comes to legal and legitimate debt, for which the unions have the autographs of Fife and Ann Symington, all of a sudden the money is locked up in trusts, or, according to the Symingtons' lawyers, held in Ann's name only, and not subject to court judgment.

So while Fife and Ann can look forward to their retirement years certain in a life of continued wealth and wretched excess, the union members whose $10 million they borrowed, pissed away and now refuse to repay except for this ludicrous pittance that amounts to less than nothing--an insult really--may be wondering whether the pension funds taken out of their hard-earned pay every Friday are lost forever and if they'll have to get by on Social Security alone. Which, of course, Fife's Republican Party is planning to raid in order to give rich Republicans (here comes Fife again) a big tax cut.

I know middle-class white males are frothing at the mouth these days over their dwindling economic and political power; what I can't understand is why they're directing their anger at Bill Clinton. Republicans like Fife Symington have stolen more from American taxpayers in the form of tax subsidies, bad debt and outright fraud--welfare for the rich--than all the unwed mothers in the country could ever imagine.

Never let it be said that Fife Symington lacks imagination when it comes to spending our money for his schemes.

WHICH SPEAKING OF... imagination that is, it was an act of surpassing fiction when Fife flew down to Patagonia last year and stood before the upset and angry...and then increasingly pacified and grateful crowd of country cousins and told us what a wonderful, peaceful setting we live in, and what a shame it would be to see it shattered by the roar and the physical hazard of heavy truck traffic. Already during the winter produce shipping season, and even off-season, the volume of semi-trucks menaces the safety of pedestrian and car and light truck traffic along Scenic Highway 82. With NAFTA coming on line in December and bringing Mexican trucks in unrestricted numbers onto our roads, this could turn into Slaughter Alley.

So Symington came down for a photo-op and a few words and said By Gum he was going to do something about it. Boy! Get right on that. The boy was his appointee at the Department of Transportation and he brought a few cops and bureaucrats down and made a show of enforcing the speed and weight limits for a few weeks and that was it.

Suddenly Symington is saying Golly, I guess I can't order the trucks off this twisty, two-lane back road with no shoulders and lots of blind curves and tourists and schoolkids and cattle and horses. So solly.

Well last week I drove to Nogales and saw road crews beginning work to widen the bridge on 82 across Flux Canyon Wash. Earlier this summer they widened crossings on all the gullies and washes on 82 east of Sonoita.

The Arizona Department of Transportation plans these projects at least five years in advance. What this tells us is that all the time Fife Symington and his flunkies were telling us they were going to try to save us from heavy truck traffic this rural highway never was designed to carry, they already had their plans to widen the bridges and "improve" the roadway to accommodate all the truck traffic they can coax out of Mexico.

They lied to us, pure and simple.

Why am I still surprised when these things happen?

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September 14 - September 20, 1995

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