Monday, June 24, 2013

Thirst in the Sun Corridor

As summer is now in full swing and much of the state prepares for the record breaking temperatures to come, it seems as good a time as any to examine what the future holds for valley residents. With Arizona in a drought for over 15 years, and climate models predicting an even hotter future, it seems like any more major urban growth for the Phoenix metro area could be disastrous for the regional eco-system.  So it is with some shock to see the plans for economic growth coming from state, civic, and business groups which call for massive urban expansion to develop central and southern Arizona into a regional economic bloc called the Sun Corridor.  The  Stop the CANAMEX Sun Corridor blog recently published an interesting article on the CANAMEX trade route, the Sun Corridor, and the push from  public-private partnerships to construct a megalopolis in southwest. We have reprinted the article with the author's permission.

Thirst in the Sun Corridor

It's often difficult to expose blatant manipulation on the part of business and state leaders whom you know have their own greedy agenda.  Imagine my surprise when Arizona Department of Transportation (ADOT) Director John Halikowski took an old proverbial phrase in a creepy direction.

In reference to the development, particularly in transportation infrastructure like more freeways in this megaregion-to-be in Arizona called the Sun Corridor, Halikowski stated, “Our job is not to lead the horse to water. Our job is not to make the horse drink. Our job is to make the horse thirsty.”

I remember when my father quoted the horse/water idiom to me as a child (If you're unfamiliar with it, it goes, "You can lead a horse to water, but you can't make him drink").  He was pointing out to me that he'd provided opportunities for me but at a certain point, if I didn't take that next step, that was on me.

To imply that it is one's job to make the horse thirsty can only be interpreted as manipulative.  If we were to take this literally, it could mean working the horse harder, depriving it of water, giving it a salt lick, etc.

The phrasing implies that the thirst is not there to begin with; that it has to be produced.  To be fair, most likely what Halikowski means is something a bit less malicious, such as enticing the horse with the promise of water, thereby making it realize, while salivating, how much it needed water all along.  The proverbial horse stands in for the Arizona public, but the water ironically stands in for something which will in the long run make the Arizona public thirsty and deprived of water.  The diminishing of water is only one of the several reasons to be concerned about further development of the Sun Corridor.

In the article, Transportation and Trade Corridor Alliance to Develop Strategic Roadmap, the horse idiom reference follows this paragraph: "Halikowski acknowledged that the challenge ahead is to make the public understand the need to invest in transportation infrastructure now to grow jobs and the economy in order to boost Arizona’s competitiveness in the global marketplace."  As it is, the funding is lacking and the steps needed to secure the funding will require support from the public, especially if it means toll roads.

The Transportation and Trade Corridor Alliance (TTCA) was instituted in early 2012 by Arizona Governor Jan Brewer.  According to a press release, "ADOT – in collaboration with the Arizona-Mexico Commission and the Arizona Commerce Authority – will bring together public and private sector partners to assess opportunities for Arizona to pursue investments in trade corridors such as the newly-designated Interstate 11, and to explore enhancements to border infrastructure. The Alliance will help identify how best to take advantage of the state’s current resources and guide future investment in a strategic way to increase the capacity of existing corridors – all with the ultimate goal of improving Arizona’s competitiveness in a global marketplace" (Source).  John McGee, Executive Director for Planning and Policy for ADOT said that the Interstate 11 can’t be built without a public-private partnership (P3), meaning that one of the most important pieces of the CANAMEX route in Arizona can’t happen without private investment, likely in the form of a toll road (Source).  Privatizing an infrastructural project such as this is something that will be hard to implement without the support of Arizona residents, therefore requiring some level of manipulation.

"Trade Corridor" undoubtedly refers to the CANAMEX trade corridor, which connects Canada, the United States including Arizona, and Mexico.  Its role is to facilitate the trade mandated by the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).  It utilizes existing roadways but seeks to improve transportation infrastructure for more efficient freight traffic.  The Interstate 11 is an example of a piece of CANAMEX that has become a priority for Arizona and Nevada.  The co-chairs are ADOT's Halikowski, and Jim Kolbe of the Arizona-Mexico Commission (AMC).  Kolbe, AMC's CANAMEX expert, credits AMC as the godfather of CANAMEX.  Significantly, all members of the five-person TTCA steering committee except Michael Hunter are heavily involved with AMC.  The AMC is a public-private partnership (P3) headed by Arizona Governor Brewer who placed Kolbe as co-chair of TTCA a few months after TTCA was instituted. 

According to the minutes the July 25, 2012 MAG meeting, “Gail Lewis, Director of the Office of P3 Initiatives and International Affairs of the Arizona Department of Transportation (ADOT), reported on the Arizona Transportation & Trade Corridor Alliance... Ms. Lewis stated that the Alliance is heavily private sector and includes representatives from APL, Avnet, UPS, BNSF, W. L. Gore, port authorities, growers and brokers, Mexican manufacturers, Arizona Trucking Association, Sky Harbor Airport, and several of the state’s councils of governments and metropolitan planning organizations" (my emphasis) (Source).

TTCA is also a P3, which means it involves both government officials and private business interests.  Public-private partnerships are playing an increasing role in politics and infrastructural development. One role of P3s in general is to seek to manufacture consent among the public in order to achieve the goals of private interests.  In this case, the horse, or the public, must be made thirsty for infrastructure with the promise of the jobs that are purported to accompany economic development (just like they promised with NAFTA).  P3s also seek to build on the partnerships between business and government in order to secure funding (e.g. investments that provide the businesses with profits) for their projects.  And of course if businesses see profit opportunities, the "needs" or thirst of the public may be created through these P3s. 

It is difficult to say what type of authority or sway TTCA can have, but it appears they may function a bit like the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), another P3 exposed as having a major role in the collaboration between state law-makers and private prison industry leaders in the creation and passing of SB1070 and similar laws across the U.SBecause CANAMEX is an international/national program largely pushed by AMC of which the Arizona Governor is head, it is impossible to extricate the private interests from government.

Opponents of the proposed Loop 202 extension, also known as the South Mountain Freeway, have pointed out, among various problems, that the route desired by pro-development folks would be used primarily as a truck bypass rather than something useful to Phoenix-area residents (Source).  It would serve as part of the transportation infrastructure that is required by the demands of the Sun Corridor.  While the Loop 202 extension is not part of the official CANAMEX route, it is part of the general Sun Corridor region, which is part of the CANAMEX vision.  It is clear that the role of the TTCA is to promote trade infrastructure. 

According to the Gila River Against Loop 202 website, the main concerns are health, air quality, ground water, loss of land, and desecration of Muhadag Do’ag (aka South Mountain) and other sacred places (Source).  The jobs alleged to come with the development are likely not to come, especially since CANAMEX (source) and other projects such as the Arizona-China Alliance (source) will continue the trend of U.S. jobs being exported to poorer countries.

How much does the public even know about the plans for massive infrastructural projects like CANAMEX?  Are Arizona residents aware of the "megalopolis" or "megapolitan" area being called the Sun Corridor, which would include Phoenix, Tucson, Prescott, and Nogales and could exceed 9 million people by 2040? (Source).  It is no wonder that the P3s involved with transportation and trade would realize they need to "make the horse thirsty".  Synonyms for thirsty include enthusiastic, eager, anxious, even zealous. Their angle is to entice us with economic opportunities such as jobs and growth, while most people understand that these trickle down economics will not actualize, and we will be thirsting not just for jobs but for the merely trickling water resultant of the development continuing in this direction.

Stop the CANAMEX Sun Corridor: Highway to hell? CANAMEX, Loop 202, and the Tar Sands

more on water and the Sun Corridor:
SHERIDAN, Thomas E. (U Arizona)
Aggregation and Abandonment?: The “Sun Corridor” and Arizona’s Water Game in the 21st Century (audio)

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Bullying humor: Tempe cops' jokes fall flat, again and again

Don't make any threatening moves while running!

Radley Balko's recent article at Huffington Post, entitled "What Cop T-Shirts Tell Us About Police Culture", is both disturbing and darkly humorous, giving the reader a look into the fascistic and sociopathic humor that prevails in the world of law enforcement.

Because cops are sacred cows in our culture, Balko gives them a bit of a pass at the end of his piece, but that's okay, because everything else is quite damning.  In his article, the cops come off as inhumane, thuggish, violent, racist and perhaps surprisingly unconcerned or just too dense to realize the perception their public displays create.

The Valley has its own history of bad cop humor, of course, some of which we've already detailed, and the rest which we'll be delving into in a future article.  But Balko's piece gives us a chance to offer a little preview of what's to come, thanks to a recent Tempe police 5k run, a fundraiser, cheekily titled "Run From the Cops".  Cheeky, that is, if you've never been on the receiving end of a TPD chase.

The Tempe Police Department announced the 5k jog (and it's 1/2k junior, the "Fuzz Run") last December, inviting participants to run from the cops for charity.  The PR event offered free "play badges" for kids, and other "family fun", such as heavily armed police showing off the latest in fear-inspiring military-style gear, including "the SWAT Armored Vehicle, Police Motorcycle, Patrol Squad Car, and a Police Command Van.".  (By the way, Balko's new book details the increasing militarization of US police forces.)

What's more, and here's the connection to Balko's piece, participants in the race received t-shirts commemorating the run, emblazoned with the event's logo, a graphic that included a pair of handcuffs.  If all you get from TPD for running from the cops is a shirt, count yourself lucky.  Winners in their age category were awarded tastefully engraved handcuffs.  A token, perhaps, of TPD's affection.  Or maybe a not so subtle reminder of their more typical response, one that less affluent and non-white people experience on a daily basis.  People for whom "run from the cops" has much less whimsical connotations.

Thanks for participating!  (Photo via

It makes sense for the Tempe cops to want to play the PR game.  The force, has seen its share of scandal over the years.  For instance, in the mid-2000's the TPD was described by its own non-uniformed employees as a "good 'ol boys" network dominated by white men and resistant to efforts by employees and the city to get it to meet diversity standards.  Recently an officer was sentenced to 90 days in jail for theft and another opened fire on a drunk man tossing wine bottles around.  

In almost eerie coincidence, on December 9th, 2000, almost 12 years to the day before the charity run, Tempe officer Chris Beck opened fire on three unarmed men suspected of breaking into a car in a parking lot, wounding one.  Beck claimed one of the men had made a threatening move, provoking her to open fire.  After the shooting, the men fled in their car and were t-boned by a semi when they ran a red light, killing all three.  No weapon was found in the vehicle.  Incidentally, TPD's charity run took place at Tempe Beach Park, and the route took joggers right past the place where the Officer Beck opened fire.  This probably isn't the image TPD wanted to evoke with their PR event, but the history can't be ignored.

As Balko's article goes to show, and as Tempe's "Run From the Cops" race backs up, underlying police humor is a dark current of class hatred, bullying attitudes and, often, racism.  All the elements of policing, really.  This bad humor is hardly surprising in a society where all major institutions, especially the media, worship the police, and treat them, despite their many, many scandals and crimes, as brave heroes on the front lines of a society always about to collapse.  Police don't receive much criticism, are insulated from criticism by large bureaucracies, don't take criticism well, and regularly have their egos inflated by everything from the local news to prime time dramas.

Whether it's a Phoenix cop tweeting a racist, classist joke about Olympic Champion Usain Bolt, or a Tempe cop making two black men rap in order to get out of a ticket, police humor tends to come at the expense of others.  As Balko points out, it reflects an "us vs. them" attitude.  One that indicates a complete inability to conceive of itself the way others see them -- to get outside themselves and empathize with others and their points of view.  Thus cop humor is of the "laughing at you" rather than the "laughing with your" variety.  And when we indulge it, the jokes' on us.  

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

GPEC to out of state corporations: come to Arizona, exploit workers, make big profits!

The webpage and PR magazine for the Greater Phoenix Economic Council's Arizona Sun Corridor Partnership (ASCP) essentially amounts to one big "screw you" to workers, enticing corporations to Arizona by arguing that Arizona workers receive scant protections at work and that corporations can expect to take large profits on their backs thanks to low personal and corporate tax rates.

The ASCP, essentially a who's who of corporate boosters pushing a massive region-wide and environmentally-destructive development project (which includes the idiotic Loop 202 expansion, recently ranked by the Sierra Club as one of the worst transportation projects in the US), lists several attributes that they see as arguing in favor of out of state businesses relocating to Arizona. They basically break down into two categories: (1) You can exploit your workers, and (2) You won't be taxed while you do it.

Just a few of GPEC's corporate partners, putting their seal of approval on GPEC's vision of high corporate profits and low worker protections.

While one of the seven bullet points listed under the heading "Expand or Relocate Your Business to the Arizona Sun Corridor" refers to the number of flights that out of state corporate execs can take as they zip in and out before and after exploiting Arizona workers, the rest clearly highlight the relative ease with which that exploitation will take place, as well as the low rate of taxation the corporations and their execs will get while pocketing their profits.
  • "Individual income taxes are 4.5% versus up to 13.3% in California
  • Corporate taxes are capped at 6.97% and decreasing to 4.9%
  • Workers compensation rates are almost half of those in California
  • We have the lowest unemployment insurance tax in the nation
  • Our unionization rate is up to four times lower than in California
  • We’re a Right to Work State"
The public relations magazine they put out comes with this handy graphic, in case you're the kind of greedy CEO that needs a visual demonstration of the relative scale of your rapaciousness.  Nice utilization of gold, by the way.  I'd have gone with blood red, myself, although now that I think of it, stacking skulls would have really gotten the point across, and given proper tribute to their fondness for the low workers compensation rates in Arizona (after all, with no protections at work, who can bring a suit against the boss?).

In the end, though, what the website and the glossy magazine show us is their ideal vision of the world.  One in which development, high profits and CEO pay come at the expense of workers, who get little or no protection on the job, little to no recourse when injured at work, and little to no protection from dislocation between jobs when some fatcat executive prefers taking profits over keeping you employed.  Hey, that private jet doesn't pay for itself, you know.  Welcome to the future.  Welcome to the Sun Corridor.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Mesa PD will violate copyright and your rights, too, while they're at it

In what wouldn't be the first Twitter-related cop blunder we've cataloged, the Mesa PD -- fresh from the debut of its crime reporting app that might just spy on its users -- may have made another social media boo-boo.

Early Sunday morning, the Mesa PD posted an update to its Twitter feed announcing an addition to the MPD's facebook photo section.


Clicking on the link in the tweet delivers you to the Mesa PD's photo album, specifically a folder designated "Mesa Police Crime Scene Specialist published her first article".  In this album, Mesa cops have uploaded scans of Christine Lowenhagen entire article, including the front page of the journal.

Is this posting legal?  Is it a copyright violation?  The International Association for Identification is the organization that publishes the JFI.  A search of the IAI website brings up a pdf of official "Publication Guidelines" which mostly deals with style for writers.  However, one part does seem relevant.  It reads, "The JFI is liberal in allowing the noncommercial reprinting of articles from the JFI, especially to the IAI divisions."

While the Mesa PD may be noncommercial, Facebook certainly is not, and that's where the post was made.  Further, the "divisions" cited are regional or state associations of the IAI, so the instructions appear to be granting permission for these sub-groups that run their own independent pages to post articles.  The IAI's website itself has a list of costs for access, which line up comparably with the typically outrageous figures scholarly journals commonly charge for reading to their publications. Subscriptions for institutions, for example, are just over 200 dollars.

We emailed Alan McRoberts, the editor of the Journal of Forensic Identification, and he responded to our request for more specifics on their policy, writing, "All requests to reprint must be specific (i.e., naming the paper to be reprinted) and specify where it is to be reprinted. Each request will be considered individually."

The question then becomes whether this permission was granted.  The posting of scans suggests not.  We followed up, asking if the organization had specifically received a request for permission to post from either the Mesa PD or Christine Lowenhagen.

Mr. McRoberts replied this afternoon and provided this clarification:
Two years ago, our board of directors approved a policy regarding reprinting material from the JFI. Part of that policy indicates that "Only JFI articles that are at least six months old at the time permission is requested will be considered." The recent publication (May/June 2013) of the article from Ms. Lowenhagen is not eligible to be considered for reprinting until the end of the year. At that time, I would have to evaluate the venue (e.g., IAI division newsletter, webpage, blog, or facebook) for reprinting before making a decision regarding permission.

Going by this response, it certainly seems reasonable to conclude that the MPD did not get permission and if they had, such wouldn't have been granted for at least six months. 

When you think about it, the Mesa PD appears to be violating copyright law in the same exact way that an information activist like Jason Swartz did, activism that led the police and Feds to crack down on him quite harshly.  In fact, it was these kinds of high charges and artificially limited access common for professional journals that drove Swartz to download for online release thousands of JSTOR documents in 2011. 

This act of protest in turn led the US government to charge him with several serious crimes, levying the threat of many decades in prison against him.  His supporters cite this overly-vigorous prosecution as what drove him to suicide.  One might even go further, and invoke the arrest and imprisonment of Jeremy Hammond, the Antisec militant recently sentenced for releasing Arizona police documents in protest of racist policing.  Police in Arizona were not too keen on forgiving his internet breeches of legality.

This selective enforcement of the law, where the Mesa PD gets to decide just which laws it will enforce as well as which laws it will obey, is a problem that can't be ignored.  Just as we see it in their online activities, we see it likewise reflected in the very real world recent arrest and brutal beating of Matatangi Tai (see also: here, here).  Mesa cops have a lot of leeway when it comes to enforcement of law, but in the case of Tai, the cops were not interested in being forgiving, and so what amounted to a trespassing call, thanks to needlessly aggressive policing, turned into a violent attack on a someone who very-likely was mentally ill and unable to understand even that he was violating the law.  Tai, after all, was in a convenience store claiming he was there for his medication.  Police, however, know exactly what they are doing.  Or they should. 

Mesa police were also not in a very forgiving mood when they stunned Joseph Moreno with a taser for taking too long to surrender.  After they put him in the back of a patrol car for 45 minutes, he began slurring his speech and sweating.  When the Fire Department showed up, he was taken to the hospital, where he died.

Moreno's sister put it this way:
"I feel there was other ways of doing it... I understand, from the police point of view. But, if there was more than 40 of them, or however many, and he was in a car. He wasn't running. He wasn't in the front seat of a car trying to run off. Their way of resisting (interpreting resisting) was that he wasn't responding."
In other words, the Mesa PD has two standards: one for itself and one for the rest of us.  The law is for us to obey and for them to interpret, and that can mean a death sentence for anyone who crosses their path.  It seems copyright isn't the only thing they'll violate.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Follow us on Twitter before it's too late!

Are you on Twitter?  Do you enjoy a good time?  Why not follow us?  Join in while we tease, mock and generally abuse local newsmakers, newsfakers and various powers-that-wannabe.  Or follow us for regular links to news and witty self-important commentary. 

Why not take advantage of Twitter's vague non-compliance with the NSA to send us tips, articles and compromising photographs.  If you spot something on twitter that might tickle our proletarian sense of humor or inflame our class war desire for revenge on the rich and powerful bastards that daily abuse us, why not grab a screenshot and send it our way!  We love that kind of thing.

Here's a sample of the fun you're missing out on:

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Phoenix cops might wear short shorts while they kick your ass this summer, may be slightly uncomfortable while they do it

Do you like to laugh?  Watch this, then.

Phoenix cops are pissed off at having to pay for new uniforms.  So angry, in fact, that they joined with the rest of the working class and demanded that all workers get money for work clothes.  Just kidding, they didn't do that.  That'd be pretty crazy, right, given that cops spend their day beating and kidnapping other workers.  Have you been following what they did to Occupy Phoenix and other poor and working class people?  Yeah, no one would believe that.  These cops are a bunch of spoiled brats.

Turns out the chief, in an attempt to restore some credibility to an institution that is completely discredited in the eyes of everyone except the local media that kisses its ass all day, has opted for some cosmetic changes to the force.  No, they're not going to stop the day to day obscenity that is policing in the Valley.  But they might start wearing shorts, though.  So there's that.  Cops in shorts are pretty funny looking, after all.

Anyhow, apparently despite their higher than average salaries compared to other workers and even other cops, Phoenix police are somehow upset at having to pay money for slightly less fascist-looking uniforms.  PPD cops are really fond of their paramilitary outfits.  Makes them feel tough.  The new belts inhibit their ass-kicking ability, they claim.  Oh, is that the sound of a cop smashing a sad-sounding violin over the head of a homeless person that we hear?  Yeah, we're not buying this complaint.

Time to man up, dudes.  No one takes you seriously when you sue over clothing but stay silent every time one of your own kills an urnamed man and his dog.  Thin blue line much?  Time for the thin blue polyester shorts.  And, yeah, we'll be laughing at you.

Did Phoenix Police and FBI fusion center information-sharing on protesters extend to Freeport-McMoran, too?

Good news!  Arizona's richest CEOs are doing fine.  Because I know you were worried.  So, just so you can sleep at night, know that although there was a slight dip in pay for the state's top CEO's and chairpersons (there's a woman or two in the mix, after all!), Arizona's capitalists and managers-in-chief are still making out pretty damn well.  Granted the average did drop from $1.33 million the year before to $1.31 million last year, but what's twenty grand between friends, right?  Hey, we're all tightening our belts these days!

And standing on the top of the heap for a second year in a row is Freeport-McMoran CEO Richard Adkerson.  While the average worker in Arizona took around $44,000 last year, the mining boss took in just shy of $20 million, which actually was quite a bit less than the year before, when Adkerson cashed out some stock and took home a cool $82 million.

Which should come as some consolation to mine workers in


The short version?  The Feds let Infragard sit in on FBI fusion center discussions about Occupy protests in Phoenix that targeted Freeport-McMoran, and the head of security for Freeport-McMoran in Phoenix is a member of Infragard.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

When is "police brutality" not police brutality? When a cop says so.

Valley news outlets have given much attention to the youtube video featuring a Mesa police officer and his failed take-down arrest, and the subsequent Mesa police dog pile on Matatangi Sentituli Tai outside of a Mesa Circle K.

Coverage ranged from the Phoenix New Times blogger Matthew Hendley describing the police violence as "supposed police 'brutality' during a physical arrest in Mesa" and "more like a blooper reel", to channel 5's Elizabeth Erwin's article which reads like a press release straight from the department's PR flacks.  KPNX channel 12 brought one time Arpaio opponent, and ex-Phoenix PD "good cop" Paul Penzone onto their morning show to justify the actions of the officers, giving the excuse that the only reason this looks so bad is that "there should have been more aggression earlier on."

So there you have it, Valley media and police officers can agree on one thing: they know police brutality when they see it, and this was no police brutality.  A couple of the articles mention a car accident, which is audible in the video, which happened when an off duty Mesa cop ran a red light to jump in on the arrest.  To my knowledge there has been no follow up from any media outfit on the condition of the other driver, and many outlets failed to even refer to the accident.

In addition, a Mesa family is grieving the loss of their family member Joseph Moreno, he died after being tasered and arrested while the U.S. Marshals East Valley Fugitive Task Force were executing a search warrant for a parole violation.  The officers tasered the unarmed Moreno when an officer felt threatened.  The arrested man was placed in a patrol car for 45 minutes where his speech slurred and he sweated profusely.  Eventually Moreno was taken to a nearby hospital where he was pronounced dead.

The Moreno family has organized a vigil for their Joseph this Thursday, June 6th at Pioneer Park in Mesa at 8 PM.  The family is also in need of financial support, they have set up an account for donations to help with the costs of the funeral, the account is with Chase Bank and donations can be made to account number 2995635725.  The family is also receiving support from three fundraising car washes this Saturday at the following locations:
  • Taco Mexico Restaurant at 27th Ave and Camelback at 7 AM
  • 8607 E. Main St in Mesa between Sossaman and Ellsworth at 9 AM
  • Rudy's Restaurant near Ellsworth and Ocotillo in Queen Creek at 8 AM

Monday, June 3, 2013

Video shows Mesa cops responding to a trespassing call by beating the crap out of a confused man at Circle K

Proving yet again that there is no interaction that a cop can't escalate into a violent confrontation, a video causing waves today shows a Mesa officer responding to a trespassing call at a Circle K and winding up in an all-out brawl, including tasering, pepper-spraying and punching a man in the process of arresting him.

The victim, identified as Mantagi Tai by the police, had been inside Circle K claiming he was there for his medication.  According the cops, the officer demanded identification from Tai and ordered him to sit down.  When Tai refused the officer pulled out his taser and started making aggressive moves and swearing loudly, telling Tai "to sit the fuck down or you're gonna get tased".

From there, all hell broke loose, and after a very violent struggle the officer, with some help from an off duty cop passing by, a plain clothes office and an elderly security guard, managed to take Tai down hard to the ground, where they then proceed to pummel, knee and tase him violently.  At one point there are three officers, all of whom appear to be white, attacking one man of color, with a white security guard joining in at various points.  The officers knee Tai in the back violently and strike him repeatedly in the face while he is on the hot blacktop.  So far the news has ignored the obvious question of whether the officer would have reacted the way he did if the suspect had been white.

The discussion online and in the media has broken down along the lines of whether this was justified force or not.  People commenting on the raw video on YouTube seem to be mostly taking the side of the officer, but plenty assert that the video shows cops out of control and going too far.  The Mesa PD spokesman, Sgt. Tony Landato, makes sure to point out that the off duty officer who joined the fight (after crashing his truck into a light pole and possibly injuring someone) lost his pistol in the fight, and cites that as a reason for the viciousness of the cops.

But it seems this all misses the real point, which one YouTube user summed up like this:
So? None of that would be material if the cop stepped back, and used his radio, instead of revealing that he fights like a wuss. I'm not billy bad ass, but I did wrestle in high school. Pretty much any high school wrestler would have been on top of that cop.
Exactly.  Whereas ABC15 ended their coverage with some dimwitted anchorman remarking how "it does show how dangerous an officer's job is on a daily basis," in fact what the video shows is how dangerous it is for other people when a police officer shows up.  The officer is the one responsible for this whole situation.  It's his escalation, threats and then violent attack that transformed this from a simple case of removing someone from private property into a potentially life-threatening battle.

What we have here is a cop over-reacting and escalating an encounter when someone merely doesn't comply with an aggressive and rude demand for identification and an order to sit down.  An order that it's entirely possible that Tai doesn't even understand.  After all, extrapolating from his reference to medication and confused behavior, he may well be mentally ill.

Surely there was another solution to this problem.  But Mesa PD, as with police in the Valley generally, continue to demonstrate their aggressive and adversarial nature, as well as their dedication to violence and bullying as their preferred method of problem-solving, especially when dealing with people of color.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Tempe city council pushes plan to domesticate and homogenize downtown neighborhoods

Anystreet, "South Tempe"

Anticipating the repulsion the millionaires that the City of Tempe hopes to attract to downtown will feel when looking down from their penthouses on the unruly backyards of the proletarian masses in downtown Tempe, the city has announced the results of a new study evaluating compliance with residential codes.  And, in these data and the new plan to bring the city up to standard, they provide a glimpse at the bland, suburban future they envision for what they are calling "North Tempe" (but which everyone else just calls Tempe).

This future can be viewed right now, in what they city government terms "South Tempe" (essentially the part of the city that most downtown residents consider Greater Chandler).  The new plan for turning downtown into a clone of its lawn-obsessed, bourgeois minivan driving, go-to-sleep-at-a-reasonable-hour-but-I-can't-sleep-with-all-that-noise southern sibling comes on the heals of recent efforts to turn down the volume on Mill Avenue and a crackdown on parties in the neighborhoods.

Tempe government is making big moves again after the collapse of the housing/condo market several years ago set their big dreams back, giving residents a respite from the relentless development and transformation of the downtown and surrounding neighborhoods.  For several years, the stalled, unfinished twin towers that now go by the yuppie-friendly monicker "W6" stood over the city like a skeletal reminder of the sinister future that had stalked residents, slain at the last moment but too large to drag away, so left to decompose in the town square as a warning to others.

They stood as a warning to the others.

But the beast is back now, and the city is considering deploying three new code enforcers to bring downtown in line with the South.  According to the tally of a recent survey of homes north and south of Baseline Road, the more conformist southern residents scored very nearly perfect ratings (surprise, surprise!), while the north fared noticeably worse.  Now the city hopes to use these new enforcers and their new approach to code compliance to impose "a positive, uniform appearance for residential properties across the community."  That is, to make downtown look more like the south.

In the city's press release, Councilman Kolby Granville declared ,“This is a historic step for Tempe in the way we look at residential code compliance. Our residents will be the beneficiaries when it comes to living in a community that has a more uniformly positive appearance.”

But -- and this is important -- when the city talks about "residents", they don't mean everyone, despite talking in such broad language.  And they don't even mean current residents.  What city planners and politicians have in mind is a virtual population of people not yet living in Tempe.  Aside from the developers and their money, this is their constituency.  It's a demographic more affluent than current residents, and less diverse.  It is a gentrifying settler population, uptight, law-biding, professional and upper class.  The kind that is attracted to a neighborhood and immediately sets about changing it, imposing their values on everyone people who already live there.

This new focus on code enforcement, noise reductions and party restrictions is their way of preparing the battlefield, pacifying the local population and domesticating the neighborhood for investors, yuppies and the second tier spoiled brat children of the wealthy who couldn't trade on mommy and daddy's legacy admissions and instead got the consolation prize of ASU out of state tuition and a new BMW convertible.

Neighborhood residents already avoid Mill Avenue like the plague.  If this transformation of downtown isn't going to sanitize the rest of the neighborhood and displace residents, it will mean standing up to maintain what's left of downtown's disheveled demeanor.  It will mean house parties, loud music and unkempt yards.  It's going to mean demanding that newcomers to the neighborhood come appreciating its general character, not seeking to control and dominate it, or to cooperate with the authorities who do.  It means that they can't come to Tempe expecting not to be kept up by loud music occasionally, or to not find red plastic party cups and empty cans in their yards from time to time.

If they don't want that, then maybe they should move south to Greater Chandler.