Monday, June 14, 2010

Editorial: In this case, what's in a name is a lot

The story of the Whiskey Row crosswalk is often told as Prescott lore, and there are many variations in the details. It may be that it's so often told that no one feels compelled to research the facts, but it would be nice if we could count on the unnamed Courier editor to take an interest in separating lore from reality, or at least not confusing them further.

I've been in town longer than Tim has, and while that doesn't confer any special knowledge, I may have heard the story a few more times. I've never before heard the idea that the City eliminated the crosswalk, rather it was ADOT, the reason being that Montezuma Street is officially a state highway (89), and unregulated crosswalks are not allowed on highways. One of the remarkable things about the crosswalk -- and I'm talking secondhand here, I haven't confirmed this with ADOT -- is that it is the only unregulated crosswalk on a state highway in Arizona. I've also never heard that when Sam painted the crosswalk he was operating only as an outraged citizen. Sam's reputation for stunts and gaffes while drunk is well established in the lore, extending to his failure to appear for his mayoral speech at the Y2K event ten years ago.

Some will say it's not fair to kick a man while he's down -- Sam suffered a severe stroke some years ago and is no longer able to defend himself -- but knowing him, I'd say he'd be the first to laugh at the idea of sanitizing his image for posterity.

If we're talking about putting up an historical marker, what we need is an official account, researched and confirmed, from someone with the authority to tell it. Another hipshot from the editor only muddies the water further. Prescott cares about history. I have to hope the editor does too.

Update, Tuesday: Daveinprescott asks, "Do you know anything about "The Prescott Western Heritage Foundation"? I have never heard of this group before and wonder what their involvement is with the local politics and why they'd be interested in putting this guy up front and center as a symbol of Prescott's past-as if it's something we should all admire? Is this a sizable group? Who are its members?"

Good question! This "group" filed with the Corporation Commission as a tax-exempt nonprofit on May 4 of this year, stating as its purpose "to provide charitable opportunities for children to a) participate in performing arts productions; and b) to participate in educational seminars and classes in the theatrical arts." Its articles of incorporation state that it will have no members, so it consists of just two directors: sculptor and Western art booster Dennis Gallagher, and former councilman Rob Behnke. Mr Behnke signed the filing and the organization's official address matches his home address.

Mr Behnke was on Council during Mayor Steiger's term, and is one of the prime movers of the foundation raising money to renovate the Elks Theatre, which the City purchased under Sam's leadership.

It's not clear to me how ennobling a crosswalk with Sam's name plays into theatrics for children, but the world's a funny place, y'know? I expect Mr Behnke came up with the idea on his own and is using the foundation's name to make the effort look a little bigger, gad bless'm.

ToMA: Selecting local subcontractors is truly vital

Sandy Griffis may be qualified to speak on the topic of hiring local contractors to remodel our schools, and what she has to say may be cogent. But it's hard to tell, because short of a few illiterate, drug-addled rants in the comments, this is the worst-written piece I've seen in the Courier in an awfully long time.

The language is murky, full of industry jargon, as if written as a personal letter between people with deep background on the issue. The syntax ranges from clunky to impenetrable. There are so many hanging adjectives it looks like a style preference.

While I have to wonder whether an introductory paragraph is missing from the top, I can have little doubt that the column pretty much came over the transom in this condition, since even a third-string Courier copy editor would have done something to clarify the acronyms and clean up hopeless garble like this: "The project delivery must be appropriate and as a community citizen it is important to ensure that each procurement and the selection process has been appropriately qualified and again, for the well being of our community and to ensure that local is used it is important to watch the weighting of criteria and data." Yikes.

I'm not saying that the awfulness of this particular piece does any significant damage to the body politic. But for me it's hair-raising in that I have to infer that the editors are either incapable of handling technical language, incompetent to determine that language this bad needs fixing, unwilling to put any effort into a prepackaged column, or simply not at their desks and the machine is running without an operator. In any case this is no way to build credibility for a news organization. Get your act together, people!