Arizona's politicos play Games, too - only nasty ones

Feb. 22, 2006 12:00 AM

Once again, the world has turned its attention to the Olympics. For 12 days, we've been transfixed by Turin. Amazed by thrilling displays of speed and endurance, dazzled by gravity-defying exploits of daring, enthralled by the finer points of a sport that involves strapping yourself to a sled and hurtling, face-first, down a track of ice.

OK, well, maybe not.

It seems Americans prefer the agony of American Idol to the defeat of so many of our Olympians. Even a TV show about a cranky doctor named House beat out the Olympics in ratings last week.

NBC executives must be on oxygen by now. Which is why I suggest they pull the plug on Turin and get themselves posthaste to Arizona.

Here there is always an opportunity to witness astonishing feats and bold, really bold, pursuits. Here there is always something to take your breath away.

That's because in Arizona, the games never end. Here are a few of the best, now playing in a venue near you.

Curling. It takes a deft hand, carefully laid spin and some serious sweeping to slide Phoenix's junketeers out of public view before next month's bond election. The city last week announced it has suspended six employees after The Republic reported that Phoenix was spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on jetsetting trips across the globe, $480-a-night stays at the Four Seasons and even a safari in far off East Africa. Three high-level city officials were given five-day suspensions. Three others got two- and three-day suspensions, except that they won't actually have to take any time off without pay. (I told you sweeping was involved.) Meanwhile, only $11,500 of the $280,000 in bills racked up by Phoenix's resident junketeers will be repaid. "How do you ask someone to pay back tens of thousands of (dollars) when their department head approved it, and the deputy city manager approved and said it was OK?" City Manager Frank Fairbanks asked recently. How indeed? A better question might be: How do you slide a request for nearly $900 million by voters next month when you can't even manage a travel budget?

Figure skating. Marvel at the artistry as Arizona's governor and legislative leaders execute intricate spins and twists in their quest to obey a federal judge's order that they teach kids English. While fines continue to mount, the Legislature is hard at work on 1,600 bills, none of which have anything to do with teaching kids English. Meanwhile, the Governor's Office was closed Monday, and on Tuesday, she attended a town hall on aging issues, which also has nothing to do with teaching kids English. On Friday, the day the fines double to $1 million a day, she'll be winging her way to Washington to hobnob with other governors while back home, the fines just keep adding up. To date, $14.5 million.

Super G. Watch in amazement as the business community glides around every obstacle put in place to stop it from illegally hiring cheap help from across the border. Watch as it zigs around public outrage, assuring us that it, too, wants to put a stop to illegal immigration. See it zag by questions of the costs of illegal immigration so it can boost its bottom line. Even Rep. Russell Pearce appears as a blur as it deftly maneuvers around his bills that would actually do something to crack down on employers. Despite all the tough talk, it is becoming clear the only "get tough" bill that will get through this Legislature will be one that fines employers a whole $200.

The G stands for galling.

Reach Roberts at or (602) 444-8635. Read her blog at

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