Pandemic Poetry

PANDEMIC POEMS 

October 2020

Pandemic Poems

  1. Someone Should Do Something
  1. Were You Crazy?
  1. Chump Trump
  1. No Limbo, (for Heather)
  1. Psyche Tense, the Vice-President
  1. Not Germany! (It can’t happen here)
  1. Drones: Obama Nostalgia
  1. Help Yourself (The Lord says)
  1. Hate Incorporated
  1. Burning Candor
  1. A Paine in the Ass of America

12. A Pissy Chump So Far

13. Taking Flight with Bill O’Rights

14. Illegals

15.  A Drinking Song for May Day 

16.  We Can’t Breathe!

17.  Song Of Hell

18.  Isn’t He Rich?  

19.  Gringolandia

20.  Grand Ol’ Party

21.  Mamacita

“Art washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life.”

— Pablo Picasso

  ————————————

Greetings…

Gather round, please people, gather round!


We are here, friends, to make some sounds. 

Here is what we firmly state:


the only thing we hate: IS HATE!


If we are lucky, we might make you think, 

but it may go fast (so please don’t blink). 

And here is now my very first task,


Here is the question that I must ask:


Do you find it at all quite appalling —


To live to see an empire so clearly falling? 

Hark now, is a song now ready?


Hold fast friends, and do be steady.


I know the news is fake, 

and my hands still shake,

For as Jimmy Joyce  did once state:

“History’s a nightmare,  from which to awake.”

 1.  Someone Should Do Something!

Someone should get here and do something

Someone who rides an Angels wing

Someone who knows what’s a yang or a yin

Someone somewhere should do something.

Someone must see clearly the downswing

Someone who won’t blame the left wing

Someone who’s neither puppet or plaything

Someone, somehow, should do something.

Someone should clothe our Empire King

Someone should make all the bells ring 

Sometimes it’s all somewhat numbing

Someone should come and do something.

Someone should know something of plumbing

Someone should learn to go hunting

Someone should stop always bumming

Someone who knows should do something.

Someone may engage in some punching 

Someone needs a good thumping 

Someone should practice head bumping 

Someone should go and do something.

Someone is left broken and slumping

Someone is left behind grunting 

Someone should hardly be judging

Someone should try to do something.

Someone should find us a well spring

Someone should watch out for Beijing

Someone is lead by a nose-ring

Someone out there must do something.

Someone should do some damn thing

Someone needs to get a handle on this thing

Someone must have something to bring

Someone should go and do something.

Someone is always becoming  

Someone is needed for fronting 

Someone should lift their voices and sing

Can’t somebody, somewhere, do something?

2. Were You Crazy?

Crazy? Were you crazy in voting so badly?
Were you lazy, or just a usable tool? (YOU FOOL!) 

Was it too hazy in your own mind to see it?
He’s a bigot, and a misogynist too. (HOW ABOUT YOU?) 

Angry? Yes, I am goddamn angry!

And now I’m wondering, what did you think he would do? (BE COOL?)


You knew: he’d use you just as long as he wanted, 

And he’d screw you, as he was fooling you too. (WHAT’S NEW?)

Buddy, didn’t you know he’d be cruddy? 

— unfit, except for misrule.  

(WHAT A GHOUL)

Sleazy? He struts like Mussolini! 

Freaky! Now are you proud of your race? (A DISGRACE!) 

Bankruptcy. those he can handle quite ably. 

But his taxes, those he won’t show them to you. (BOO-HOO)

Grabbing pussy, that he can always engage in
If you were rich, you could do all of that too.. (DO YOU WANT TO?) 

All the lying — is it somehow satisfying?
You must love to absorb all of the fake news. 

(PLEASE DO) 

Well you’re crazy for buying the obvious lying 

you’re a crazy, nazi-loving fool! 

(WE LOVE YOU TOO).

3.  Chump

Whether we are to rise or are to fall,
We will do our best to please you all.


Don’t be put off by this act
Or the pointing of fingers, or the stating of facts. 

Let’s now open the door and let him in
Not to a loser, but to he who wins.

And believe it or not in what we say
He comes Dumpy Chump, so clear the way!  

“Dumpy Chump is my name
All that I do is win— again and again! 

You can search the world all around 

You’ll find nowhere a greater clown! 

I started out poor, with only millions
But with the right branding I now have kah-zillions! 

On 5th Avenue anyone I can shoot
And no one dares to me rebuke!

When you’re rich and famous, the world is your oyster 

And I am the greatest of all of the shysters.
You’re welcome here from far away—
If your DNA starts in Norway! 

Tax cuts I give are for the filthy rich

The rest just love my great sales pitch 

The working poor are always punks 

When dealing with me, Humpty Dumpty Chump 

On healthcare, you have no rights,

That I let you live should enough suffice.
Remember the KKK and the Nazis too
Have some good people, just like you!”

You can search the world all around.

You’ll find nowhere a greater clown. 

4.  No Limbo(Viva Antifa!)

We won’t sit around in limbo 

Waiting for it all to fall.

We won’t act like worthless bimbos 

And allow that chump to build his walls.

Does a poor girl have to die 

Before we all get appalled? 

Her name is Heather Heyer 

We didn’t know her — but now we do.

She was an anti-fascist fighter 

And she was nobody’s fool. 

And when we’re finished with our prayers 

We’ll have lots of work to do.

Yeah, we know where nazis come from 

And we know how far they’ll go.

Please let them have their marches 

And let their faces show…

To this psycho little fringe
We stand strong and we say NO! 

We’re not sitting ‘round in limbo
Light your torches and soon you’ll know!

You can strut with nazi symbols
We’ll reap much more than you can sow.

Yeah, we’re building our resistance 

’Til you slither back in your hole. 

Her name is Heather Heyer

I just thought you should know…

5. Psyche Tense (V-P of Christian Fascism)


I won the very best booby prize!  Now to lay in wait and pretend I’m wise. 

And when our clown leaves or dies — my destiny will be to fly! 

A crutch we’ll give for each lame duck 

But to the peons we give not a fuck.

We learned our lessons from Vietnam —

When in doubt: drop lots more bombs.

We may be nuts, but we’re not insane:

We won’t let the wretched rise again.


Yes!  We will be great again!


And only us winners will fully reign! 

It’s where I’ve always clearly stood: 

Let’s sacrifice someone else’s blood! 

Our button is much bigger than theirs,

And so, I say, are His hands. 

Scapegoating can be so much fun 

When you have all the biggest guns. 

And women (like men) we know them well—
They’ll let you do anything when you’re rich as hell. 

   Where have we heard this all before? 

   When have we not loved a war? 

    Remember when only foreigners were the “bugaboo?” 

Care for a dose of déjà vu?

6. Not Germany!  [“Dorogoi dlinnoyu”]

He de-escalates from above to save us mortals,
He promises us such greatness which we will never see.
He said he’d help us all, and keep the working class enthralled, 

and I’m not talking Germany in ’33! 


These are the days my friends, 

Will they fucking ever end? 

Our leader clown thinks he wears a crown. 

Let’s ban the Mexicans and then the muslims — and hey! 

watch out with them gays! 


He had all the gangsters and the banksters, 

Yes, a funny haircut, which he wears so proudly. 

He had the Christian right, and them that’s most uptight, 

And I’m still not talking Germany ’33! 

Are we all dazed my friends?  Will our country ever mend? 

I’ll tell you now, there still may be a way: 

To preserve our rights, we can stand and fight,


They learn nothing unless you make them pay!


How silly, our own brand of democracy: 

When leaders are selected without a majority! 

And any power they have missed, they’ll just “gerrymander” this, 

and no — that’s no word from Germany 33!  (Believe me.) 

The republic we’ll defend and do what we can 

to protect our rights to life and liberty

We’re not worthless chumps, with a united front: 

Make sure this ain’t Germany in 1933! 

There are ways my friends to make this madness end,
United, we can stop them here today 

Because now in the end, it’s really us or them, 

Don’t hide away, let’s go out and really make them pay!

  (Don’t slink away — make everyday Mayday!) 

7. Drones 

Now the drones come from where they’re hiding 

They glide down from the sky 

And they rain hell on all those below them 

Until it blows back and then we wonder why. 

It’s a long way to Tipperary
It was a bad trip through Tripoli 

Body bags arrive from Bagdad 

There’s fools’ gold in old Kabul. 

Families, yes we kill them 

Efficiently, remote assault
Rarely, do we know about it
But technically, we’re still at fault. 

It’s a good foil, to blame Bush or Obama 

But Chump is just the current fool. 

Its a hard time, for the first golden lesson: 

“Those with gold, they make the rules.” 

Well, might makes right, or so they teach us 

And Jesus is America’s tool 

Their fists are covered in velvet —
Don’t be surprised now if they pound on you too. 

It’s a long way to Tipperary
It was a bad trip through Tripoli 

Body bags arrive from Bagdad 

There’s fools’ gold in old Kabul…

8. Help Yourself

God helps those who help themselves 

One for all, and all for myself!
I wear my courage on my sleeve
And with that, I’ll take my leave.
For sure as flies go fly to crap
I’ll return later to pick the scraps.


And to each and every fool (who?)

Excuse my French as I say adieu (f-you!). 


Fear not, my privileged few
I have a weapon to use for you —
It’s an old slogan brought back of late 

And is as good as any bait:

“We will not be replaced by Jews”
And with that we can never lose!


Fuck shit-hole nations and their shit-hole folk.
I wish their children would shit ’til they croak. 

How fear is stoked, I will not quibble
Hit them hard and don’t be civil. 

Scapegoating is so much fun
When you control the biggest guns. 

Deport the children to a place unknown 

Make our cities like a combat zone.
Make our cops into soldiers for extra clout.

If anyone complains, just I.C.E. them out.

That should produce sufficient fear
Go deport those “Darkies” out of here!

Hear Here:  Fear Fear!

Do the cops have adequate gear?

9. Hate, Incorporated [based on book by Matt Taibbi]

I made a cup of coffee as the morning sun rose up

I switched on the TV news, then felt like throwing up

Everyone was screaming, yet no one was persuaded             

It seems like we’ve all signed on to Hatred, Incorporated.

When things get really wrong, some say just “be strong!”      

The others, to belong, you must agree the rest are wrong.          

When it gets translated it means we’re all frustrated

It’s all been clearly created, by Hatred, Incorporated.

Forget about the lessons we should have learned from Vietnam

and we can win the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan 

We patriots are elated, you traitors are agitated          

Those who profit from the war are in Hatred, Incorporated.

Our Army’s in eight nations with military operations

The U.S. flag is unfurled in three-quarters of the world

It’s always understated how the I.M.F. operated

White Crime is not illustrated at Hatred, Incorporated

Don’t look at child labor or corporate tax evasions

Or human rights atrocities by us or client nations

Don’t talk of debt slavery and how it was so fated        

Such coverage is not stated at Hatred, Incorporated.

We’re clearing the globe to get some cheap hamburger

Don’t ask about the World Bank or the latest corporate merger                  

Seven hundred billion the military is allocated

If we keep uneducated, it helps Hatred, Incorporated.

They manufacture fake dissent, who cares if it’s untrue

The news is written just for you to support your point of view

It’s demeaning and it’s jaded, it’s pointless and fabricated             

Commercial breaks contaminate, paid by Hatred, Incorporated.

Who profits from the sweatshops of our neighbors to the south

It seems like the only truth you hear is by the word of mouth

That shiny beacon on the hill is all but now vacated

Evicted and dilapidated by Hatred, Incorporated.

Well NAFTA will be good for us, that’s what the rich men said

Agreed were all the talking heads, just please ignore the dead.

Now an Orange Bigot is in charge and it’s clearly celebrated            

Showmanship, not substance, from Hatred, Incorporated.

Our wages are all stagnant, the cost of drugs still soars

The finest and the brightest are sent off to endless wars

Our divisions are inflated and civility outdated

It’s all carefully calibrated by Hatred, Incorporated.

Like a giant vampire squid, wrapped around mankind’s face

The bankers jam their blood lust into the marketplace

There is no solution they can see, Marx is so outdated         

When you’re schooled and educated by Hatred, Incorporated. 

There is so much that we lose when we attach to only things

Instead of trying to communicate with other human beings

 Yes we’re all so worked up now, and super opinionated

 But no one gets illuminated by Hatred, Incorporated.

           10  Burning Candors

           Behold I say to those now here
An Aberration has now appeared;

An Old Wise One of the North-east

Is speaking up for those with least.

And emerging from behind the door 

And approaching on this very floor 

May be one we are waiting for
Senator: Burning Candors!


           And if you don’t believe what I say 

          Here is Candors — so make way!

“The 1% cannot kill us all!
There is no good reason to build a wall!


It’s as clear as day and night!

Health care is a human right!


There is no debate within the nation,

Of the need we have for free education!

Not just for the rich and the privileged few—

But for the likes of me and you!


I’m too old to lead this nation? 

Better than the current abomination!”

11.  A Paine In The Ass (of America) 

Our only temple is the land, it’s spirit is its essence, and
those who worked to make it whole deserve our deeded reverence. 

This world’s the only home we own, and not some goddam rental —

Now look alive, it’s time to drive the money changers from the temple. 

Our land’s greatest leader was one who was quite lawless.

He fought for our republic and for slavery to be abolished.

His name was Thomas Paine & in revolt he was quite able —

He tried his best to rid us of these grifters at our table. 

Paine’s country was the world, his religion “to do good.” 

The rights of man & reason: that’s where he firmly stood. 

I say this to you now, not being temper-mental —

I think it’s time to once again kick con men from the temple.  

They hunt down Freedom round the world.”  That we must admit. 

“Reason may obey itself, but the ignorant just submit.”


To help secure our Bill of Rights, the solution is quite simple 

Let’s expel the banksters — would not that be monumental? 

All that truth simply asks is for liberty to appear”
But to exist we must first resist the “slavery of fear.”


You know it’s right to join the fight & I know that you are able 

For Goldman-Saks and their Wall Street hacks, let’s not be too sentimental.

“The sun needs no inscription to distinguish from the dark”

Tom Paine’s old bones must turn tonight under Freedom’s Park. 

Enough is said, let’s put it to bed, as I stop this ramble: 

Just one thing I want to sing: drive all grifters from the table! 

12.  A Pissy Chump So Far

I was thinking over that election that was auctioned

And how our dear Republic is beaten and ass bludgeoned.

Our leader is a numskull who thinks Mexicans are rapists

I’m sure he thinks the Irish are just Paddies and all Papists!  

It’s dumb and it’s so bizarre — So creepy and so cruel 

We elected a fucking fool  — He’s been a pissy Chump so far.

He dearly loves the money and women (if they’re pretty)

And for gangsters and dictators, with them he is quite chummy

He said he’d build a wall and make others pay up briskly

Will we invade again? Because Mexico won’t pay easy!

Is the wall to keep them out? Or is it to keep us in?

Or a scheme to profit in?  (Like his every deal so far).

He’s addicted to use the twitter, which helps release his anger.

He cares not for the law, and all he knows is rancor.

He won’t show his taxes, but we know that he’s a huckster.

He can’t hide his nature made of bullshit and of bluster.

The slums are the same so far, but it’s cool in private school —

The rest take it up the vestibule (!), while the rich eat caviar.

He calls for deportation of the lawful working migrant.

He declares the 2nd amendment can wipe out his opponents.

He struts like Mussolini  an American abomination,

But we have some weapons too and we’ll defend our nation.

He thinks he’s a Russian czar, 

he’s proud of his misrule

Just as welcome as an orange stool, 

 he’s built a bigger swamp so far.  

Let’s unite for the fight, 

use the freedom of our conscience.

Our side is for reason and the use of science.

Then fight this orange bigot 

with whatever tool is handy—

‘Cause this joke isn’t funny, 

and this ain’t just HIS country.

it’s dumb and it’s so bizarre, 

so creepy and so cruel 

We elected a daffy fool, 

he’s been a pissy zunt so far!

13. Bill O’ Rights

We too have a weapon we can use against the Don and all the fools:
It served us well when needed most, we need it now from coast to coast.

The Bill of Rights is where we stand.  We ain’t beggin’— we demand!   

Amendment One is so much fun: 

It let’s us speak about anyone. 

And to say to any fool: Go fuck yourself, yes please do.
We will not be used as tools — not by you or your ghouls. 

The Second Amendment you have claimed
You direct at your opponents to kill and maim.

But remember, John Brown was never tamed —

And two sides can play that game!

The Third one just simply touts:

Soldiers cannot come and take your house.
(For they are in for one big hassle
When messin’ with someone’s castle). 

The Fourth says that any search of me or you 

demands they have good cause to use. 

(Though ignored by those in power
When they claim they are a superpower).  

The Fifth says you can’t compel 

to make me have to tell
Anything against my interest—

(This one, frankly, seems the simplest). 

So when it all seems in doubt 

Just learn how to shut your mouth. 

Number six has stated this:
A speedy trial is not to be missed. 

(Do you know if they carry espresso 

In the chambers of Guantanamo?) 

Number seven I could just kiss. 

I get a jury trial, if I wish. 

Number eight says, if it’s paid,

Excessive bail shall not be made. 

Number nine is just fine
(It defends your rights and even mine). 

Number 10 is our friend 

People’s power ’til the end! 

And there are ten reasons — No Bullshit and No Bluster 

Why our government shall not have the right to fuck ya! 

14.  Illegals

How many shall we deport?

Can we do it like a sport?

Will those with the right pedigree 

Deport those they hate to see?

And who are these neighbors we shall force to leave?

Such a nightmare, who can conceive?

Maybe we can play along

By hearing it in a song…

Themselves they brought up to the north, it took ‘em quite a while 

The road was hot & dangerous and they walked it all those miles 

Through cactus thorns & coyote scorn, past whitened bones & skulls 

And all we ever call them now is just “illegal.” 

They love to see their family, more because they’re poor 

They dream of days to celebrate as many times before…

Family, friends together again, so serene and so peaceful
But they’re strangers in a strange land and we call them “Illegal.”

They’ll strive to feed their families, like you or I would do 

Hard work they’ll never shirk (in that, there’s nothing new) 

But how they are now treated just is inexcusable 

Their very existence is defined as simply “illegal.” 

Words are words and nothing more some will simply state 

But words can shape how we feel in friendship or with hate,

And life is life & it’s not right though so politically powerful 

To say the someone’s very life should be labeled “illegal.” 

Some now pray they’ll come a day in the brotherhood of man

In sisterhood, or humanhood, when we all will take a stand 

When it’s not considered normal or even plausible 

To label another human life as merely “illegal.”  

15.  A Drinking Song

“It’s May Day, comrade!” he say’s with a wink

A new day tovarich, and time for a drink!

It’s play time already—so tell me what gives

There’s only one life to live!

Let’s drink to the summer and the empire’s fall

Let’s drink til there’s nothin’ to drink at all.

Let’s drink for the lonely, let’s drink to forgive

There’s only one life to live!

Let’s drink to the future of the human race

Let’s drink for surviving all the heartaches we face

Let’s drink to Jesus and his best friend Biff

There’s only one life to live!

Let’s drink to the past and being alive

Let’s drink to the drinkers and their favorite dives.

Drink it down, brother, like a leaking sieve

There’s only one life to live!

The sun is a-risin’ ya son of a gun  

there’s only one life to live!

There’s no point in crying & lyin’ about dying 

there’s only one life to live!

Let’s drink ’til we stumble onto the ground

Let’s drink ’til the stars all swirl around

Let’s drink ’til our welcome has been long outlived

There’s only one life to live!

Let’s drink to the drinkers 

who are thirsty this morn

Let’s drink to our friends who others 

would scorn

Let’s drink ’til that bottle’s 

got nothing to give

There’s only one life to live!

Let’s drink ’til we’ve all drunk ourselves straight

Let’s drink ’til we rid ourselves of all the hate

Let’s drink to the new day, brother — and here is what gives:

There is only one life to live!

The sun is a-risin’ ya son of a gun   

there’s only one life to live! 

There’s no point in crying & lyin’ about dying 

there’s only one life to live!  Yeeeaaah!

16.  Breathe on George Floyd, Jr. (10/14/73 — 5/25/20)

Take your knee off of his neck

Lift him up now from the street.                                   

We don’t need another death                                            

   Can’t you see that he can’t breathe?

300 years is long to wait,                                             

Ain’t no good harvest with bad seed,                                     

It’s as clear as love and hate —                                     

Everyone has got to breathe.

It might be your daughter or your son,   

Your mom or daddy, can’t you see?

It could be your only one   

Who they won’t allow to breathe.

Teach your children of this land,   

Warn them as calmly as you please,

the cops must always see your hands 

& maybe then they’ll let you breathe.

There’s no good health care we can get  

while this system’s run by thieves.

Bankers couldn’t give a shit    

If you never fucking breathe.

’Cause they make money from their jails    

They make profits as we grieve,

And you know if all else fails  

They’ll charge us for the air we breathe.

But there’s a rising storm today  

Let’s hope it gets us what we need,

I can hear the millions say:  

We demand the right to breathe!

Let’s keep it up, let’s keep it real  

and fight ’til everyone is free,

Only then we’ll start to heal   

When everyone can freely breathe.

So Take your knee off of our neck.   

We’re rising up now from the street.

We can’t allow another death:    

Can’t you see that we can’t breathe?

17.  Song of Hell  (no Courtin’ in the  Kitchen)

I sing a song of hell — if that will get attention

To those who sit above whose name I shall not mention!

Yes once there was a king (of orangey complexion)

Some strive for higher ground — he goes the other direction.

   I say oh he likes to lie, just like his racist daddy

   We must have all been high to elect someone so batty!

Well he’s crooked as can be, just like his dad before him

With mobsters he agrees, the world was made just for him.

With oligarchs and whores to them he has appeal

We know what’s now in store, ’tis his “fart of the deal.”

   Oh he is so damn sly, to sheepish lads and lassies

    No need to ask him “why?” when you’re such a patsy.

Let’s hope that when it ends, it’s sooner than it’s later

We’ll rid ourselves right then of this lunatic and hater.

Let’s make our country great, and kick him in the rump

I think it’s not too late to dump this stupid chump.

     Well now I say goodbye, and hope none are offended—

     But I’ll dance and praise the sky when his goddamned reign has ended.

Oh do ya do ya die, see all the crying fascists

Oh when we say goodbye — won’t that be so precious???!!!

18.  Isn’t He Rich?

Isn’t he rich?  He’s got a pair!

Liberty now underground — he’s way up there!

 We love our clown.

Ain’t it a bitch?  Enough voters approved…

He keeps tearing our country apart, 

we were so easily wooed.

Now simmer down.  

And make’m a crown.

I thought we would stop voting for whores,        

Frightfully knowing we’re haunted —

by that choice of yours. 

We’re entranced once again 

by his usual flair, 

unsure of his lines,  

because no one is there,

There’s nothing upstairs.

It’s above farce.  

An exaltation of fear.

Did you think he would want what you want?

Better watch you’re own rear!

Think Charlottetown.  

You wanted this clown.

Now he is here.

Isn’t he rich?  

(Don’t call him a queer)

Are we losing our mind, 

taking the bait, 

 with all of his smears? 

He’s dragging us down.  

This orange clown.  

What a great year.

19.  Gringolandia

Quislings on Wall Street, raising the earth’s heat

We like to profit from all of your toil.   

Gunning for new things, fronting for oil kings

We are the whores who now rule the world.

Pasty faces again in Gringolandia!              

Looking for one last Quaker to assault.

My people say it’s the poor we should blame, 

What a joke, when we own the vaults!  

Here is the reason why war is so pleasin’: 

To us it’s a show (that others go to).

We’ll proclaim it’s your duty to bring us the booty 

We’ll steal from Muslims, Christians or Jews.

Tasty choices again in Gringlolandia!

Looking for another faker to exalt.

It’s always the same game in election campaigns:

We got the dough, so we own the votes.

The TV is our prop, we got cops that won’t stop.  

Here is the deal: we own your home!

So go on a bender, get a public defender, 

We’ll sell any vice to get you hooked on.

Pasty faces again in Gringolandia! 

Looking for one last Quaker to assault.

My people say it’s the poor we should blame,

What a joke — when we own the vaults!  

20.  Grand Ol’ Party

There is a Grand Old Party that swallowed a Big Lie,

I don’t know why it swallowed the lie, perhaps it will die. 

There was an Old Party that promotes a divider

That wriggled and jiggled and pickled inside ‘er,

They pushed the divider to promote a Big Lie

I don’t know why it swallowed the lie, perhaps it will die.

There was an Old Party that remains undeterred

How absurd are their words we have heard!

They stay undeterred to support a divider

Who wriggles and jiggles and pickles inside her,

They push the divider to promote the Big Lie

I don’t know why it swallowed the lie, perhaps it will die. 

There was an Old Party that went to bed with some rats

Just picture that, sleeping with the rats!

They sleep with the rats and remain undeterred 

They stay undeterred to support a divider 

Who wriggles and jiggles and pickles inside her,

They push the divider to promote the Big Lie

I don’t know why it swallows the lie, perhaps it will die.

There was an Old Party that fell in a bog

For a damn demagogue — who thinks he is god!

They fell in the bog to sleep with the rats

They sleep the rats and remain undeterred

They stay undeterred to push a divider

Who wriggles and jiggles and pickles inside her,

They push the divider to promote the Big Lie

I don’t know why it swallows the lie, perhaps it will die.

There was an Old Party that looked for scapegoats

To retain power they would slit all our throats!

To target scapegoats is their demagogue

For this damn demagogue, who thinks he is god

They fell in the bog and sleep with the rats

They now sleep with the rats and remain undeterred

They stay undeterred to push their divider

Who wriggles and jiggles and pickles inside her,

They push the divider to promote the Big Lie

I don’t know why it swallows the lie, perhaps it will die.

There was an Old Party that’s here and now

Do you know how they survived up ’til now?

They thrived up ’til now by using scapegoats

To retain power they’d slit all our own throats

To target scapegoats from their demagogue

For this damn demagogue they fell in a bog,

They fell in a bog and now sleep with the rats,

They sleep the rats and remain undeterred

They stay undeterred to push their divider

Who wriggles and jiggles and pickles inside her.

They push the divider to promote the Big Lie 

I still don’t know why

 their Party swallows that lie, 

perhaps it will die.

There is an Old Party who lost all moral force

What should we do?  Vote them out, of  course!   

21.  MAMACITA 

There’s demagoguery on the radio, that keeps us in the dark

Our soldiers are used like cannon fodder and we’re ruled by Oligarchs.

Amnesia is our anesthesia, when the empire’s crumbling down,

And I’ve run out of bad synonyms for those comic clowns downtown.    

We spy on friends and enemies, kidnap and torture without arrest,

Then act shocked when there’s blowback or that there’s profit in unrest.

Don’t spawn leaders you non-believers 

or we’ll drone you to Neverland.                                                     

’Cause the cops are driving tanks around, 

from here to the borderland.

      They’ve pawned your children’s future, then foreclosed on your house, 

but the banksters will sleep well tonight, of that there is no doubt.

Diarrhea of the mouth, constipation of the brain:

Vote the same way at election-time, expect a change, 

now that’s insane!

Well I see that I have bummed you out 

with my negative attitude.

My thoughts are nearly now reserved, 

my words will be subdued.

So let’s have pizza’s!  And margaritas!  

It can still be all ok,

I’m just messed up on all the “ism’s”  

and I’ve ruined our holiday.

 No te agüites, mamacita! 

Now I’ll stop this horrid rap —

If you will get me one more drink, though I know I’m such a sap!

   (Please, just get me one more drink and then I’ll take my nap!) 

“The evils of capitalism are as real as the evils of militarism and the evils of racism.”

— Martin Luther King

******

Pandemic Poems © copyright: Scott D. Egan, Tucson, Arizona

           email: boggmann@yahoo.com

           web bog:  boggmann.com

And a special thanks to PJ — por todo! (y todo tiempo)                      

Bog Notes October 2020

On RELIGION: Devout Christians and Slumlord Millionaires

“I’m not one to knock religion, but it’s always knocking me,

Always hanging with the wrong crowd, that’s where I want to be.

I’m not good at being careful, always say what’s on my mind,

Like my idea of heaven is to burn one with John Prine.”

— Kasey Musgraves

“Hey, Father! I want you to meet my friend — he’s a big atheist!” shouted Brian Flagg to the priest at the conclusion of our demonstration against the City of Tucson, alongside Pancho Villa and his genderless horse.  

The demonstrators were a coalition of coalitions — the Pima Area Labor Federation representing up to 40 local unions, the Barrio Neighborhood Coalition that coalesced scores of resident associations, the volunteers from Casa Maria soup kitchen, and activists from Jobs For Justice along with assorted Greens, Reds, Democrats, Wobblies, and others — all there to oppose the proposed Tucson’s expansion of the Central Business District (CBD) and it’s tax-abatement giveaways to developers.  

The priest, who had given a blessing to the crowd earlier, gave me a friendly greeting as the smiling rascal organizer for Casa Maria scuttled away to help clean up, leaving the good father and me standing there and attempting to initiate a conversation after such an awkward introduction.  In such diverse coalitions for change, unity is key, so it is critically important to be inclusive with all possible supporters in the cause, even with any differences that may exist.  That is what “coalition” is about, and diplomacy is often required. And by that, I do not mean “Irish Diplomacy” (“the ability to tell someone to go to hell and have them look forward to the trip”) but real diplomacy.

 So I said:

“Actually Father, I don’t really call myself an atheist,” I tried vainly to articulate, “I am more of a ‘militant’ agnostic.”

“Militant?” He inquired with an amusingly inquisitive glance.

“Yeah, that’s right” I continued: “I don’t claim to have any clue about the existence of God or to know what happens after we die, but I am damn sure about one thing: nobody else really knows either.” 

He seemed mildly amused, so I proceeded to push further with a joke (cause that’s what I do). A rich American goes to the Vatican and stands in line in the hope to be blessed by the Pope, but when the Holy Father emerges he passes right by the guy without a glance, no less a blessing, and instead goes right over to a poor, dirty and disheveled beggar in the crowd, where the Pope puts an arm around the poor fellow’s shoulder and whispers something in his ear, taps him on his back and moves on.  

The Rich guy immediately goes over and buys the beggars clothes for a small fortune, then spends two full weeks without shaving or bathing,  Finally, he puts on the beggars soiled clothes and goes back to the Vatican to stand in line looking (and smelling) like the miserable vagabond himself.

When the Pope emerges this time he goes right to the rich guy, now dressed as the tramp, as His Holiness puts has arm the man’s dirty shoulders he softly whispers in the fake beggar’s ear:

“Didn’t I tell you a few weeks ago to get the hell out of here?”

I watched the priest’s face carefully to see if I could tell his real response and he laughed right out loud with genuine gusto.  I was relieved that he thought the joke funny. Priests without a sense of humor, I have found in my experience, are no fun at all. After a very short pause, he looked at me seriously and said:

“Of course, that Pope wouldn’t have been our Francis.” He then searched my face for my real response, as I had his.  

Faith or no faith, I have an aversion to lying to a priest.  (Maybe I am still recovering?).  I replied:

“Actually father, I do agree with you there.” I admitted, “I also am a big fan of this Pope as well.”  

We both nodded in agreement.   I almost added “It’s an old joke…” thought of the name “Ratzinger” but, held my tongue (rare).  I thought I had confessed enough to him. 

I have had a few priest friends over the years, mostly “ex” priests or monks who may have left the church but never abandoned their faith.  One was the late, great Irishman Tim Prendeville who blessed Tucson with his presence for many years and his soft Tipperary brogue would regularly be heard giving benedictions at almost every Irish event in Tucson.  You could always expect a “Hail Mary” or an “Our Father” delivered in the ancient Gaelic tongue.  Our friendship grew out of shared revulsion to foreign occupations and our common support for traditional Irish republicanism.  As friends, we had honest conversations on a range of topics as friends will do, including on politics and religion. We were not so aligned on religion, as the things I generally worship are either illegal, immoral, or fattening.  Sometimes all three.

I recall telling Tim that, although raised in a strict Catholic household, I had rejected the “faith” early “like when I began to think.” I told him, so cleverly I thought at the time, that I was a “recovering Catholic” and the program was so far working well (as always, amused at my own joke). Before you could say “the Pope likes to pray” he responded:

“That is ok, Scott, that is fine.” he smiled, “If you’re still recovering, it means your are still a Catholic.”

He had me there, so I ceased calling myself that.  Tricky priests.

For a while I called myself a”neo-pagan” thinking that more intriguing than just “non-believer” until I met an actual pagan and thereby unceremoniously dumped that label as well.  

As the great democratic socialist George Orwell once said:  “as with the Christian religion, the worst advertisement for Socialism is its adherents.”  

Which seems to go for pagans as well… and probably agnostics.

Dear reader, have you ever have had to deal with church ladies who come to your door, usually of Mormon or Jehovah’s Witness extraction, and usually at some “ungodly” hour — like any time before noon on a Saturday?  Of course you have.   While always trying to be polite to these poor lost souls, there was a period when they seemed to inundate our streets here in Barrio Hollywood.  Each weekend they woke me I became more annoyed with having to spend the energy to tell them I didn’t want to spend the energy to tell them that I was not susceptible to conversion and I am tired of spending the energy telling them so.  

While complaining with some friends (what are friend’s for?) it was suggested to me an effective cure which surprisingly entailed no violence whatsoever.  When the missionaries arrive next time, it was suggested, I simply need to announce that “this is a Catholic family” after which and they will forever leave me alone.  Apparently, I was informed, if you say you are anything other than Catholic then they will keep coming because there is still a chance of being a covert to someone else’s personal Jesus or some such. 

“Why won’t they leave me alone if I say I’m are atheist and agnostic, but saying that I am Catholic repels them?” I inquired.

“You see, saying you are an atheist only encourages them to work on you!” I was counseled. “Getting you heathen bastards to see the light is what they live for.  They will never leave you alone if you tell them anything other than being Catholic.  They believe that Catholics can never change, they are considered hopelessly controlled by the Vatican and the devil and are lost forever.”

So the next time there was a rap on my door during a Saturday morning hangover I knew what the two old grey ladies at my doorstep were up to, and fully prepared I yanked the door open and — before they could issue a peep — I boldly exclaimed:

“Sorry ladies, this is a Catholic household here!”

To which they replied:

“Oh that’s wonderful!  We are here from St. Margaret’s…”  (Barrio Hollywood’s Catholic Church down the street).

I was stunned, discombobulated, even felt tricked, and I stuttered out the first thing that came to my mind (usually not a good thing) but out it came anyway:

“Uh, yeah, no, uh, I am Irish Catholic,” I blurted, “not, em,  Roman Catholic, see, and, well, we don’t follow, like, the same rules and such as you guys do, but, um, I hope you all have a really good day now.  Good luck.  Bye-bye!”

Jeez, these Catholics can sure be sneaky. So “militant agnostic” now stands as an accurate brand.  I need to speak the truth and declare my firm conviction to being absolutely resolute in professing my complete and abject ignorance regarding any meaning to our existence, and I am sticking to that story.

As a very young man, I used to pray for faith, which was obviously unsuccessful and so I soon gave up.  Doing something over and over and never having a different outcome while continuing to expect something different is supposedly a sign of madness.  And I learned I can be crazy without spending time praying and confirming it.  As a teenager in the mythologic ’60’s I tried to reconcile the teachings promoted by “The Church” (the only one true one, don’t ya know) which I was forced to attend each Sunday.  Religion seemed to be based on an unseen mythical system that was in stark contrast to the makings of the real world.  

My youthful and naive attempt at reconciliation between the spiritual and material lead me to the Catholic Worker house and soup kitchen in New York City, where I volunteered to fold their 1 penny a copy newspaper.  The founder, Dorothy Day, was a former communist who became a devoted Catholic, pacifist, and anarchist, and who devoted her life to feeding and serving the poor.  She was an amazing advocate for the homeless, who once encapsulated the reality of the scene by saying:

“If you feed the poor, they call you a saint.  But ask why there are poor, and they call you a communist.”

Dorothy Day and her work and inspiration spread throughout the land, including to Tucson at the Casa Maria house which, true to the mission, has likewise fed, clothed, and comforted countless souls in our community for many, many years. Up until COVID hit, Barrio Hollywood had a monthly open mic where people from the community came and played, ate and drank, talked, laughed, and socialized.  We played at El Rio Golf Course clubhouse bar and grill, a beautiful urban green space where the city tried to sell to private developers before residents raised enough hell to stop them. Brian is not a big bar-fly kinda guy (like us serious people).  He may have a beer with you, but lounging around giving some business money for alcohol, is not really his thing.  But after some coaxing, I did get him to come to our open mic.

I greeted him when he arrived, and he was soon in conversations with a score of people (he knows everyone as far as I can tell) when a barrio resident approached me, and looking over at Brian across the room asked:

“Are you friends with Brian Flagg?”

I did not know if it was a loaded question or what, as there are people who really don’t like Brian, although it is highly unlikely that many of them live in the barrio.

“Yes,” I said somewhat cautiously, “we have known each other a long time.”

It was then I saw the moisture welling in the eyes, and the person said:

“He saved my life, he saved my whole family.  He fed us when we had nothing, we were practically starving. He took care of all of us.  We owe him our life.”

I almost teared up myself. I later told Brian what I was told and his response was “cool.”  

That was it. Cool. Yeah, cool.  He probably literally saves people’s lives in one way or another on a daily basis. 

Cool.  What else to say?

Like Dorothy Day, Casa Maria is not only helping the poor but asking why there are poor, and that is the reason they continue to be under attack, including by scumbag slumlord millionaires, one of which will be addressed shortly (honestly, we will get there!)  But first, a bit more of my background and personal perspective.

I arrived in Tucson (around the winter of 1972 I think) by being thrown off of a railroad car, which I had hopped in El Paso and was hoping would land me in California.  Instead, I and other hoboes were found by railroad dick’s (an appropriate name if there ever was one) and thrown off in the middle of a cold November night in Tucson. I had already spent a few years on the road, living on the street, sleeping in the parks and people’s cars (back in those days people left their cars and their houses unlocked, the good old days: MAGA!) and on the generosity of others.  There were hippie crash pads then as well, and places like The Switchboard by the U.A. that would try to find places for people to sleep each night.  Tucson had good weather and good people, elements that still attract the wandering poor.

My transformation in Tucson from homeless vagabond to becoming the chief aide to two city council members, chief of staff for a member of the Pima County Board of Supervisors, along with a background in acting (a political requirement?) as a founding member of the great Teatro Libertad theatre troop honored as Grand Marshall of the Tucson St. Patrick’s Parade after running a ten-year weekly stint as a D.J on KXCI’s the Celtic Cross-Currents Show (before the great purge of progressive community voices there), and an ongoing activist in the Barrio Hollywood Neighborhood Association is a story in itself for future Bog Notes.  

But before the good citizen was a time of homelessness when I had alienated myself from all my family and most of my friends, with the few I had left all thousands of miles away.  I was alone and broke, often on the verge of desperation.  There was a Mexican restaurant where I could approach the workers from a back door, and they would periodically give me a free burrito.  There was Irv’s Pizza, who was always good for a free slice and a coke.  I survived on two buck and hour part-time wages, and some hustling.  You do what you have to do to survive.

I am not sure if you who are reading this now have ever experienced real poverty in which you actually do not know how or where you will get your next meal, or where you will sleep at night, or how you will possibly get by another day.  I was a strong young man on my own at the time, and could usually find some work as needed, washing dishes, painting houses, occasionally selling the odd drug here or there.  I got by, but I was not a parent with the grinding responsibility to house and feed children, nor was I sick or physically handicapped, addicted to drugs, or mentally deficient (although some would debate that today). Yet when I think of those times the memory of it still freaks me out to this day. I could have ended up anywhere, or nowhere.

I now have a wonderful life with a great partner (more than 40 years), with a regular pension and social security check coming in, and reside in a modest but comfortable house where we are virtually debt-free.  Yet, the fear of losing it all and ending up on the street remains an aching terror under the skin and the back of the mind.  I know, in a much more minor way compared to many others, what hopeless, dark poverty really feels like.  I can even remember what it smells like.  I recall it whenever I get cold or hungry.  I think of it when I hear the train rumble through town. I see myself every time I see the bread line at Casa Maria.

I guess I could be called a “recovering vagabond.” 

So I have a particular affinity for Casa Maria soup kitchen and the Catholic Worker movement as a whole.  My ascent to some stability came after a series of low-wage low-skill jobs with my first real employment in the “system” when I was hired as a city council aide by my dear friend Bruce Wheeler.  Bruce was elected in 1987 to the Ward I westside council seat after defeating an incumbent by outworking him with a progressive, proactive agenda.  It was then that I heard of Brian Flagg and Casa Maria.  

I don’t remember what Brian was demanding at the time, but the city council, including Bruce, thought Brian’s demands were unrealistic, but he wouldn’t go away or be mollified (a trait he has thankfully kept).  Bruce, confident of his considerable powers of persuasion, wanted to communicate directly with Brian one on one, and so set up a meeting to talk.  I didn’t go to that meet, I don’t know why, but I probably wanted to avoid a potential conflict — not only between the two of them but within my sentiments as well.  It was a conflict I really did not want to have to handle.  My sympathy was towards Brian, but my loyalty was to Bruce.

I remember waiting at the Ward office with some trepidation, worrying about what might happen until Bruce finally came back to fill me in on what transpired.  I knew Bruce to be pretty head-strong (a P.C. way to say stubborn?) and the little I knew about Brian was that he was, well, rather averse to compromise.  When my boss returned, his first words were something like:

“We are going to try to get Brian whatever the hell he wants.”

“What?” I said, somewhat surprised.  Relieved, but still surprised.

“He is probably not going to get what he wants,”  Bruce projected, “because he doesn’t have the votes.  But we are going to fight to try to get him what he wants anyway.  We will get him as much as we possibly can.”

“OK!”  I said relieved “but, you gotta tell me, I am really curious, what the hell did Flagg say to you?”

“He didn’t have to say anything” explained Bruce.  “I got there and he was shoveling up some homeless guys shit who took a dump in front of Casa Maria.”

“Huh?”  

“Look.”  Bruce declared, “here is a guy who voluntarily devotes his life to feeding all these people, and then after they eat, they shit on his lawn, and then he cleans that up.  And he keeps doing it.”

(Dorothy Day once said “the thing you have to know about the homeless is they smell, and they are ungrateful”  Yet — just like Brian — she kept at it anyway.)

“I am not messin’ with any dude like that,” Bruce continued, “let’s just try to get him and Casa Maria whatever the hell he needs.”

And we did try — which included council member Wheeler directing his other staff member, Irma Yepez Perez, to devote her attention to the issue of housing in Tucson.  Irma went on and helped develop a comprehensive report on the issue with the late, great Bill Morris (whose life-long work is honored by the Bill Morris Institute celebrated every year at the man’s favorite drinking hole, The Shanty).  

I would guess that none of the city council or most of the city staff have ever read their report or who even know who Bill Morris is and all the work he did on housing.  They certainly don’t honor his legacy.

Irma Yepez Perez ended up running for the Ward 1 seat when Bruce left it and lost by a handful of votes to Jose Ybarra thanks to the full-on attack campaign launched by then Pima County Supervisor Raul Grijalva.  If she had won, Irma would have been the first Chicana elected to the seat and would have used her considerable knowledge and research on housing to make a significant difference here. Instead, after her narrow loss, she made a great career working on her specialty of housing but with another jurisdiction.  Good for them, bad for Tucson.  

The victor of that race, Jose Ybarra, not only dumped housing as a priority, he ordered raids on homeless camps along the Santa Cruz River and elsewhere, only exacerbating the problem of homelessness.  He was followed in that office by Regina Romero, helped by the same political machine, who now has (unfortunately) been elected as Mayor.  Housing is still not a priority for this city council, city staff, or Mayor, and as far as I can tell hasn’t been since Bruce and Irma left the office.  A list of campaign contributions to the current Mayor and Council matched up with a list of developers and other businesses who have benefited from the city’s tax abatements and subsidies may suggest why.  Demands for a citizen-based committee on gentrification and displacement have been ignored.  The Mayor and Council act as their own housing commission.  Accountability and transparency are virtually non-existent.

And now we are living in unprecedented times:  

*  a clueless authoritarian President propped up by his cult-like worshiping G.O.P. zombie’s and a corrupt Attorney General who uses the constitution only for toilet paper,

*  the abject failure of once strong democratic institutions to protect our rights that were supposed to be guaranteed, but are trashed instead,

*  the outright blatant murder of Black and Brown people by the very public servants who are supposed to protect them, no justice, no peace,

*  a  grossly incompetent handling of the unchecked pandemic leading to the worst pubic health crisis in a century, causing the death of over 200,00 Americans and growing,

  • the ensuing economic collapse the likes of which have not been seen since the great depression of the 1930s, and
  • a predicted tsunami of evictions (and mass homelessness) right around the proverbial corner.

You would think that such unprecedented conditions might impel our “leaders” to review some of their practices and policies in order to adjust to these drastic conditions, but you would be wrong.  In spite of the crippling effect on the economy — on workers, on business, on financial institutions, this Mayor and Council will not change one iota from their continuing gifts o- tax breaks to their rich friends at the expense of all the rest of us taxpayers.  In fact, they just passed a motion to actually expand the Central Business District so more dollars can be shifted from our pockets for developer scams. These scams for rich folk they declare to be a necessary “tool in our toolbox” apparently oblivious to the fact that THEY, the council, are themselves the tools — for the rich.  

So the Mayor and Council, with the full backing of the City Manager (and obligatory support from the grifters at the Chamber of Commerce and a host of slumlord millionaires) continue on their merry way giving away the store as the public cupboards are depleted.  The only one dissent on the council to their head-long charge into the abyss was council member Steve Kozachik, who protested the motion because it included an amendment for some accountability in these trickle down give-aways. [more on that, later].  He wants the scams passed without ever looking at the results.  And this passed for “leadership” in this town.

Back in the Dust Bowl days, the legendary Woody Guthrie passed through our town and exclaimed:

“Tucson ain’t nothin’ but a rich man’s whore.”

It hasn’t changed.

The fight over these tax breaks is not only a dispute about how the council gets to arbitrarily pick and chose which business wins a tax break and who doesn’t (providing  unfair advantages to other business folk who don’t get chosen for government goodies:  check the CBD map for examples) but it is also the effect of these tax-subsidized developments have on the community in which they take place.  Traditionally working-class areas in downtown Tucson and the surrounding barrios are hit hard by rising property taxes and the corresponding rise in rents with gentrification and displacement directly caused by city policies.  Our city leaders prefer to issue declarations on the climate and to talk about talking about having “conversations” while Rome burns.  We don’t even get to listen to a fiddle play.

The only litmus test the city uses to determine whether these GPLET lease projects are beneficial is how many rich people they can get to occupy downtown — not what happens to the lives of working folk who have lived for generations in these increasingly unaffordable neighborhoods destroyed by gentrification.  

This is great for the rich who are made richer but has the opposite effect on the poor. 

And this is why working people connected to the labor movement, the homeless people and those who help them at Casa Maria, and barrio and other residents from organized neighborhood associations have all been protesting the city’s expansion of the Central Business District and their corresponding business schemes.  And it is also why mostly White slumlord millionaires love the city.  Which brings us to Part 2 of this story…

The Slumlord Millionaire…

MURRAY THE SLUMLORD MILLIONAIRE

Background info:  Murray (Mac) Hudson was a top aide for Regina Romero while she was the Ward 1 city council member.  He also was once President of the Menlo Park Neighborhood Association where he publicly once wrote:

“The success of Rio Nuevo 20 years from now should be measured, at least in part, on whether the neighborhood is still standing, still recognizable, still livable and enjoyable by old faces and new. Success depends upon consultation and collaboration with the neighborhoods.”

Written in January, 2007 and one must wonder what he thinks about Menlo Park today, one of the most gentrified neighborhoods in the city where the price of houses, and rent, is radically transforming the population, culture, and class away from its tradition of working class, Chicano families to rich young yuppies, like Murray himself.

According to Pima County records, Murray owns six houses in Menlo Park worth more than $860,000, and with his other $263,824 south side house his total portfolio comes to $1,126,983.  Since Murray and his friends on the council declared Menlo Park a slum, a requirement for granting subsidies to their friends, this makes him both literally and figuratively a slumlord millionaire.

Slumlords are the greatest beneficiaries of gentrification, as we can see in Menlo Park. Those who know how to use the city processes by having worked there have an even bigger leg up than others in their quest for permits and profits.  Unfortunately, it is long-term fixed income residents who are hit the hardest with displacement when their taxes and/or rents skyrocket, with the most vulnerable — renters — being the biggest losers in the chain.  

One would think that such slumlord millionaires would be content to scarf up their profits without too much fanfare — why rock the boat when your ship has come in — which is why it is curious that Menlo Park’s prominent slumlord would  feel compelled to write in defense of Mayor and Council in an email he sent to a number to residents who question the benefits of city policy on those who are not millionaires. 

Boldly, and without any supporting evidence, Murray claims that the dozens of long-term tax abatement provided to developers by the city have all been “worthy” with each being “judiciously chosen” and directing that residents should just “trust our M&Cto chose any future GPLET projects wisely” without any accountability or oversight.  Call it a faith-based kind of deal.

Hudson gives a special tip of the hat to Brian Corbin at RiverPark Inn by the freeway:

“When you see the 25 projects that have been chosen by M&C since 1999 to receive the abatement, projects such as our friends and neighbors at the River Park Inn, you can see that the projects are worthy and the incentivization [sp] helped them to happen.”

(The Tucson City Council unanimously signed off on an eight-year property tax incentive deal worth more than $1.6 million in 2017.  Mr. Brian Corbin, the owner of RiverPark Inn, was a major endorser of Regina Romero as well as Lea Marquez Peterson and Elizabeth Dole.  Yes, that Dole).

If Murray had left his message as a simple call for supplication to our masters it would have been easier to ignore his abject arrogance.  But no.  Murray feels the need to go further on the attack:

“Instead of trying to kill the GPLETs, Brian Flagg and company should be demanding that they be used to incentive affordable housing which they can do but haven’t yet.

Right.  

Like nobody has been demanding action on this very issue since the Barrio Neighborhood Coalition was created.  

Like nobody has tried to get the city to listen, by letters, phone calls, demonstrations and calls to the audience at council meetings trying to get them to appoint a task force of citizens affected by displacement, or even make appointments to their own Housing Commission. 

Like Brian Flagg or the volunteers at Casa Maria need a lecture from a slumlord millionaire on what they should be demanding. 

But what is clearly revealed in his email is that after 20 years of GPLET’s, those in charge NEVER EVEN THOUGHT of requiring an affordable housing component to development! 

According to Murray that is the fault of the community — not those in charge who made the deals and gave the tax breaks and left out any provisions for affordable housing for those being displaced. It’s the peoples fault that their own interests are not being advocated by those elected to represent them.  Isn’t that called “blaming the victims”?

Hopefully,” whines slumlord millionaire,“there will be one For affordable housing if there is a GPLET left after the yelling is over.

Yeah Mac.  HopefullyAlthough considering the tsunami of evictions that are predicted soon and the absolute lack of any priority for housing on the part of the city to deal with the current crisis, I would not bet on the yelling to be over any time soon.

In a glowing letter of support for candidate Regina Romero in the Arizona Daily Star, Murray (only identifying himself as  a constituent”) claims he has “watched her work hard for our quality of life and economic prosperity.” … yes she had, I thought, she and the rest of the council have worked for some peoples economic prosperity,  but not for the 1,600 on the city’s Section 8 waiting list for so many years that the city hasn’t been taking any new applications for years. 

Murray’s letter beseeches our community to acknowledge the greatness of Romero and to:

“Wake up Tucson!  Or should I say: Get woke before it’s too late!”

Indeed.

The Bogman  10/4/20

EMAIL FROM HUDSON TO ROMERO, SANTA CRUZ, ect. [bold emphasis mine – S.]

From: Mac Hudson <mac.hudson@gmail.com

Sent: Friday, September 18, 2020 12:25 PM

Subject: Re: GPLET/CBD conversation at Mission Garden tomorrow Sat at 8.

Hi Zach et al,

Thanks for putting the materials together.  I will not be attending the meeting since I’m out of town. But what a lovely place for an important discussion. I hope you all enjoy yourselves.

If you care to know, here’s what I think about the subject.

As stated in the materials GPLETs are one of only a few state-provided tools to incentivize development, the relatively few projects that have been chosen to receive abatement are worthy and it would be a shame to lose one of the few tools we have to incentivize affordable housing.

When you see the 25 projects that have been chosen by M&C since 1999 to receive the abatement, projects such as our friends and neighbors at the River Park Inn, you can see that the projects are worthy and the incentivization helped them to happen.

Very simply, government land that often is vacant, idle and does not contribute to the tax base is converted into projects that create housing, retail, small businesses, and other contributions to our vibrant downtown while also adding to the tax base.

It is a shame that language such as blight has to be used to justify use of GPLETs but don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater. 

The M&C has judiciously chosen each project and I think they have chosen well.

Sure there can always be more accountability over any project. So add more accountability but, again, don’t throw the incentive out with the bathwater. Ultimately, that’s what elections are for, M&C are accountable to us.

Finally, instead of trying to kill the GPLETs, Brian Flagg and company should be demanding that they be used to incentive affordable housing which they can do but haven’t yet. There are very few legitimate incentives for affordable housing and GPLETs are one of them.

There is so little common sense used in our public debates today. Even science takes a back seat to partisanship. Don’t let the loud voices throw you off, GPLETs are a useful incentive for worthy projects that add vibrancy to otherwise vacant and idle land. I trust our M&C to chose any future GPLET projects wisely. Hopefully there will be one for affordable housing if there is a GPLET left after the yelling is over.

Thanks for your time and consideration.

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Riverpark Inn Hotel receives $1.6 million Tucson tax incentive        Joe Ferguson Feb 8, 2017

https://tucson.com/business/tucson/riverpark-inn-hotel-receives-1-6-million-tucson-tax-incentive/article_0a72c1c7-8594-5be3-a844-dab48e9f5bca.html

The Tucson City Council unanimously signed off on an eight-year property tax incentive deal worth more than $1.6 million Tuesday night to help renovate a 134-room hotel just west of downtown Tucson.

Brian Corbell, the owner of the Riverpark Inn Hotel, wants to return the roughly 40-year-old hotel back to its former glory. He has pledged to invest $2.2 million to completely renovate the hotel, at 777 W. Cushing St.

Such an investment, he hopes, will make the hotel more competitive for conventions in downtown Tucson and help expand the Pueblo Gem & Mineral Show.  Planned renovations include new finishes and furniture, and fixtures and equipment for common areas and rooms. Room improvements include new bathrooms, heating and air conditioning upgrades, and sliding glass doors.

By one estimate, the renovations would result in about $16,500 worth of improvements for each room of the hotel.

As part of the Government Property Lease Excise Tax deal with Corbell, the city would receive a one-time deposit of $200,000 from the hotel.

The funds would be held by the city until all conditions of the deal are met, including revenue projections.        [Then returned???]

City Manager Michael Ortega called the deposit part of a “fail-safe” for the project itself, saying the city would audit the hotel every two years to monitor its progress.

A third-party economic assessment suggests the project will generate $1,204,061 in direct revenue and $520,059 in indirect revenue over the eight-year period.

Councilman Paul Cunningham was supportive, saying he liked the fail-safe for the project to protect the taxpayers and that there is economic development west of downtown.

The GPLET program was created to help spur development by allowing agreements between local government and private parties that replace a building’s property tax with an excise tax based on the property’s size and use.

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https://www.votereginaromero.com/endorsements

ADS Letter to Editor  August 15, 2019 

Tucson’s first woman mayor?

Wake up Tucson! Or should I say: Get woke before it’s too late!

It’s easy, with all the miserable news on the national level, to forget that we have a local election happening right now.

We have the distinct privilege of being able make history in our lifetimes. We have the opportunity to elect the first woman of color as mayor of our Old Pueblo.

Her name is Regina Romero and she has by far the most experience leading Tucson and representing Tucsonans of any candidate for mayor. She has 12 years experience on the city council at Ward 1 and as a constituent I have watched her work hard for our quality of life and economic prosperity.

Regina is the only candidate for mayor that is running clean and her lengthy list of endorsements by progressive groups speaks for itself. Make history now. Elect Regina Romero Mayor of Tucson.

Mac Hudson

West Side

https://tucson.com/opinion/letters/letters-to-the-editor/article_98f96efa-c6b3-58d0-989b-b04bfc2dbf8d.html

————————————————————————-

Tucson Weekly Jan. 4, 07 from Mac Hudson

Mailbag 

Neighborhood Prez: Why Didn’t Regan Talk to Us?

I have come to respect Margaret Regan’s approach to journalism. When I read “At Last!” (Nov. 23), in which she visits our neighborhood and discusses the impact of Rio Nuevo, I kept waiting for neighborhood voices to appear. There were none.

She quotes Councilmember Jose Ibarra: “We’re going to protect Barrio Sin Nombre and Menlo Park. We’ll stand up for housing there.” Of course, we agree, and the “we” in that statement is the city and the neighborhood working together. She could have asked the neighborhood, too.

She quotes city planner Albert Elias: “The community stakeholders care deeply about this project. They have tremendous engagement with it–this is their story.” But Regan did not ask us our side. Instead, she quotes multiple city employees and prints their photographs in a piece with PR all over it.

The success of Rio Nuevo 20 years from now should be measured, at least in part, on whether the neighborhood is still standing, still recognizable, still livable and enjoyable by old faces and new. Success depends upon consultation and collaboration with the neighborhoods.

Mac Hudson

President, Menlo Park Neighborhood

https://www.tucsonweekly.com/tucson/mailbag/Content?oid=1086423——————————————

Mac Hudson property (listed Pima County Assessor)

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Truly a Slumlord Millionaire!!!

Bog Notes September 2020

Bog Notes 9/18/20

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PLEASE JOIN US! — the Barrio Neighborhood Coalition, the Pima Area Labor Federation, and Casa Maria Catholic Worker House —

 next Tuesday morning Sept 22nd, at 8 AM (early and cool!) at Pancho Villa’s (Veinte de Agosto) Park downtown to continue our protest against the expansion of the Central Business District and tax abatements (GPLET’s) for developers at the expense of our traditional neighborhood!

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Bog Notes is published by Barrio Hollywood resident Scott D. Egan who is solely responsible for the contents which does not necessarily reflect the opinions of any organization or individual listed herein.  If you wish to be removed from future posts please respond to this email with “unsubscribe” and we will remove you from all future posts.  Thanks!

— The Bogman

1.  THE EMERGENCY:  CLIMATE AND OUR NEIGHBORHOODS

On September 9th he Tucson Mayor and Council recently passed a “Climate Emergency Declaration” to implement a “10-year Climate Action and Adaptation Plan through an inclusive community engagement process” in hopes to “identify climate adaptation and mitigation strategies that are people-centered.”

The Resolution (#23222) commits the city to inviting and encouraging such communities to actively participate in the development and implementation” and promising “full participation, inclusion, support, and leadership of community organizations.”  

It pledges to a “holistic planning” which they asserts will be “ensuring affordable housing units are available for vulnerable communities” with the creation of a “blue-green alliance of labor unions and environmental justice groups.” 

A great example of such an existing alliance could have been seen in the week leading up to the adoption of this resolution, when a diverse coalition of labor unions and justice groups picketed each council office leading up to the Council meeting.  We were protesting an item listed right next the emergency declaration:  the proposed expansion of the Central Business District and the continuing tax abatements generously granted to real estate developers by this city council.

While many of us can appreciate the existential threat of climate change, many of our fellow citizens face an equally immediate threat to their lives through evictions and gentrification which this Mayor and Council continue to refuse to address in any meaningful manner.  There were many promises made before the last election about “full participation and inclusion” of the most vulnerable neighborhoods, and for over a year nothing has been done.  Our request for a citizens task force on gentrification was denied, while the Mayor and Council sit as officials of their own Housing Commission without any public oversight or transparency in their decision making.

For example, at the same council meeting in question, a “monthly report” on housing was quickly and unanimously voted on without any discussion.  One might understand why the item was quickly passed without a comment.  Page three of the report shows a waiting list of 16,000 Tucson applicants for public housing (yet the number of people determined to be eligible on that list for April and May has been completely blacked out).  In the month of July, 12 families were deemed eligible, while zero were determined to be ineligible.  Even with the portions intentionally blocked:  only 12 people out of 16,000 were eligible?  And none were ineligible? This is the state of Tucson’s housing crisis:  thousands of families on a list who will never even be considered for public housing.  

How serious should anyone take the city on a climate declaration with a “people-centered” strategy when you look at how they operate?  How much are they really “inviting and encouraging communities to actively participate” when it comes to the survivability of our traditional neighborhoods and the residents being priced out of their homes by the economic policies promoted by this council?  How, specifically, are they going to honor the climate emergency declarations intent to “ensure affordable housing for vulnerable communities” when they continually shut the door on our faces and reject participation to those most vulnerable?

Mayor Romero, employed by the Center For Biological Diversity, and Carolyn Campbell, of the Sonoran Desert Conservation Coalition (and perhaps more significantly the co-chair of Mayor Romero’s election campaign), compiled important information to push the resolution through, including the fact Tucson is the third fastest warming city in the U.S.  A highlight not mentioned is that Arizona has one of the highest housing losses in the nation, according to a national study by the New America Foundation, which predicts a “tsunami of evictions” in our communities once the eviction moratorium is lifted.  

The reports states that “housing loss is really are amplified by the current pandemic” and their recommendations to address the problem include “expanding affordable housing options, improving tenants’ rights and getting the state to work proactively to prevent housing loss.”

Attached to the city’s climate resolution was a letter in support signed by many concerned Tucson residents who called for a community response which included the need of “ensuring affordable housing units are available for vulnerable communities.”

We should all support this, but wouldn’t it have been appropriate for the Mayor and Council at their meeting to at least discuss these issues and the long-term solutions to our housing problems as they do other important issues? Instead, they punted the issue until their next meeting.

Let us all hope that the signatories of the letter in support of the climate resolution see their dreams come to fruition, but many of us have been promised “inclusive” community engagement “processes” before — only to be excluded and ignored.  Whether it be the proposed sale of our public parks to private developers, unjustified GPLET tax breaks to developers (cross-check names with campaign contributors), or just establishing a simple community task force of those affected most by gentrification, the city has been a closed door.  While they “delayed” the business district expansion at their last meeting due to public pressure, there is no indication that they plan to change course when the topic is again taken up at their September 22nd meeting.

One only has to look at the ravaging fires throughout the west, the massive coastal storms to the south, and our own two months of unprecedented record-breaking heat, to appreciate the concerns reflected in the adopted climate resolution. Let us hope that this time — for a change — the Mayor and Council actually do what they promise on climate because they certainly have not honored their commitments when it comes  to the housing crisis and the planned gentrification of our most vulnerable neighborhoods.

___________________________________________________________________

An Open Letter to the Mayor and Council, City of Tucson regarding the expansion of the “Central” Business District 

In attempting to justify the expansion of the Central Business District (CBD) to be considered at your September 9th meeting, the City of Tucson’s Office of Economic Initiatives issued a report (8/11/20) which claims the targeted area meets:

 “the criteria of slum and blight as defined by ARS 36-1471” where “public health safety or welfare is threatened because of dilapidated, deteriorated, aging or obsolescent buildings” with “conditions that endanger life or property by fire or other causes.” 

Anyone seriously looking at the targeted 3,623 acres would have to be looking through two fully jaundiced eyes to believe this “district” is a blighted slum that endangers people’s lives. 

The area extends from Prince Road in the northwest to southeast of the City of South Tucson. It’s western boundary cuts into Barrio Hollywood and reaches south-east to near Kino Parkway. There are many large pockets left out of this scatter-shot projection, which looks like a psychotic gerrymander for crony capitalists. 

For example, look at how the CBD affects Barrio Hollywood (the neighborhood where I live). The district’s crazy jagged edge pierces through the north and south sides of St. Mary’s Road but does not include Grande Avenue where many small family business have been run for years. There are great family businesses on St. Mary’s (along with several national franchises) — but why is St. Mary’s Road designated as a blighted “slum” but Grande and the rest of the neighborhood! are not? 

These nonsensical configurations can be found all over the proposed district. Oracle Road is covered, but a few blocks over on North 6th Avenue is not. 4th Avenue north of Congress is covered, but 4th Avenue south is not. Clearly the city is picking and choosing specific areas they want to be developed, but because the entire district must be contiguous they have stretched the lines to create a surrealist hodgepodge of a map. 

The report claims a “continuing need to attract development and investment activity to the Downtown and surrounding area” by expanding the CBD to over 2% of the Tucson area. 

Taxpayers should challenge how beneficial these city policies have affected gentrifying neighborhoods before expanding to new development plans. In addition, is the lack of public process in developing and implementing these plans should certainly raise concerns from all residents. 

The report attempts to explain how sections of neighborhoods are gerrymandered: 

“The American Community Survey (ACS), for which data became available in 2004, now provides the socioeconomic data utilized in the Indicators of Stress. The 2014-2018 ACS provided data at the tract and block group level for the first time. Variables were selected that were consistent with previous studies. The geographic scale chosen was census tract rather than the former use of census block groups, due to sampling error. The indicators measure census tracts against the average condition of the City as a whole. The statistical method used measures areas in standard deviation units from the mean of the city. Each variable contributes equally to the overall composite score, since there is no credible basis for differential weighting..” 

Huh?
Explain again why Mariscos Chihuahua, Taco Giro, Tania’s and Pat’s are OUT of the business district loop, but right around the corner and within the same neighborhood are La Fresita, Viva Burrito and St. Mary’s Mexican Food who are all IN? Was there another “sampling error” at play in this decision? Could the preferential benefits be based on campaign contributions? Maybe a council member had a bad meal at one of Hollywood’s restaurants? (Sorry, the last preposition is nearly impossible). No matter… 

Already, due to political pressure, it appears the city is now “revising” the proposed district even before the public council meeting. Are these proposed changes based on some new data — or just grease for the loudest squeaking wheels? Is there a newly uncovered “standard deviation unit” now at play? Or do certain neighborhoods have more “juice” when it comes to influencing city decisions? 

I can certainly understand why Armory Park neighborhood does not want to be labeled a “blighted slum.” The question is, why does the City of Tucson think other neighborhoods are ok with such a designation? Particularly while you provide beneficial tax exemptions for select businesses while raising taxes on everyone else and ruining traditional neighborhoods with the corresponding gentrification caused by such policies. 

Perhaps the Mayor and Council and the City Manager should first justify to residents how effective your economic plans have been — such as your terrible GPLET tax abatements for developers — before you expand such a problematic program any further. Until then, the Mayor and Council should reject any expansion of the Central Business District and the awarding of any new GPLET’s to favored developers. 

PS: The report by the City of Tucson on CBD expansion can be found at: 

https://connecttucson.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/07/Findings-of-Conditions-in-the- Proposed-Central-Business-District-Area-Amended.pdf  

___________________________________________________________________________

What in heck are “GPLE’T’s” and why should we oppose them?

(Hint: a “GPLET” is not something you stuff in a turkey on Thanksgiving!)  

GPLET means Government Property Lease Excise Tax.  As the name implies, it is the leasing of government property to private corporations.  The advantage of this is that the private investors do not have to pay property taxes as the property technically remains public and the property stays on the government roles.  It is supposed to help encourage investments in areas that are deemed “blighted” and which would usually not receive much investment from private developers.

This incentive is available for projects located in the Central Business District that (hopefully) result in a property value increase of at least 100%. The amount abated cannot exceed the economic benefit created by the project. To become “government property” the City will take ownership of the property for the duration that the owner wishes to be relieved of tax obligations.

The use of GPLETs has been studied by the Goldwater Institute, which has indicted in a 2010 report that special exemptions for developers have provided:

“more than $2 billion worth of developments are exempt from property taxes throughout Arizona under GPLET deals… projects would otherwise generate about $31 million annually in property taxes.”

“It’s easy for cities to hand out GPLET deals because cities themselves do not rely much on property taxes. Sales taxes are the main source of general fund income for cities, and they rake in millions from construction of mega-properties, as well as any retail sales and hotel room bookings the project ultimately generates.

School districts, however, rely largely on property taxes and state aid that is tied to property values. About 60 percent of the money raised through property taxes normally goes to local schools.”

“The beneficiaries of GPLET deals pay an alternative tax meant to offset the loss of revenue to schools and other governments that rely heavily on property taxes. However, it amounts to only a small portion—typically less than 10 percent depending on the terms of the deal—of what would be paid in property taxes over the life of the project, according to legislative studies and reports on individual projects.”

“Aside from putting cities in the position of picking winners and losers, GPLET artificially inflates everyone else’s taxes.

In May 2008 a study by the Arizona Joint Legislative Budget Committee (JLBC) concluded GPLET deals create a substantial tax shift to surrounding properties in the downtown Phoenix area where they examined 14 properties in the area and concluded:

“those properties would have paid an additional $14.7 million annually without the GPLET exemption, or a total of about $17.1 million in annual property taxes. Instead, they paid about $2.38 million in alternative GPLET taxes, according to the study, which was based on the 2007 tax year.”

Articles:  https://tucson.com/business/local/downtown-bourn-project-gets-city-incentive-worth-k/article_e2cd873e-36d6-5a05-8f53-6c73241798a7.htm

CITY OF TUCSON

The City of Tucson has listed 16 projects listed under GPLET, 12 of which were initiated since 2014 (although again, the council has approved more than what is listed).

In some of the deals the developers are asked to pay only ten bucks a year with tax exemptions lasting for decades.  (GPLET projects are now restricted by the Arizona legislature for the maximum 8 years, but others have been grandfathered in for many decades).

The city claims that “independent” financial analysis is done on each project that needs to show that “the Project will generate revenues to the City, County, schools and State which will exceed the value of the property taxes forgone during the the term of the GPLET abatement, and the Project improvements will result in an increase in property value of more than one hundred percent,” 

Several questions arise:

1.  How much investment is needed before an area is no longer considered “blighted” and therefore no longer qualified to receive the tax abatements?  (Can downtown Tucson today still considered “blighted” and in need of more public subsidies?  Who determines this?).

2.  GPLET’s are supposed to be governed by financial evaluations (tied to the Constitutional Gift Clause) to ensure that the city is not giving greater benefits than the project will return to taxpayers.  How are these incentives and tax give-aways being independently monitored to insure the promised benefits?  Who checks that the evaluations are legit?

3.  Are there any qualification on GPLET tax abatements and subsidies that insure any allocation for affordable housing?  Are there any mitigation plans to deal with the gentrification and displacement these projects may create?

               ____________________________________________________          

I believe that the City of Tucson needs to restructure the economic initiatives available to private developers. The GPLET, which was designed to bring development to “blighted” areas, no longer serves this purpose in our thriving downtown. This means we are due to revisit the incentives and assess whether they are serving the people of Tucson as well as those moving to Tucson. This can be done in several ways: community benefit agreements, public health assessments, minimum sustainability requirements and incentivizing affordability.”

Regina Romero, Mayor

_________________________________________________

I have already put an item on an upcoming study session to re-look at the structure of the GPLET incentive, which has been used by many developers near Downtown. Among the changes I’d like to see are ones that would not only encourage affordable housing, but that would keep existing families in neighborhoods

 Paul Cunningham, council member

_____________________________________________________________

It is important that we consider the implications of new developments on gentrification and the potential displacement of individuals from their neighborhoods. As a City Councilmember, I will work to develop policies in partnership with our communities to counteract these potential consequences. 

Nikki Lee, council member

THEN WHY IS THE MAYOR AND COUNCIL NOT ONLY CONTINUING USING GPLETS, BUT ACTUALLY EXPANDING THE AREA WHERE THEY CAN BE USED?

________________________________________________________________________

SHOW UP THIS TUESDAY MORNING AND DEMAND THAT THEY KEEP THEIR CAMPAIGN PROMISES AND STOP THE USE OF GPLET AND THE CONTINUED EXPANSION OF THE CENTRAL BUSINESS DISTRICT!

TUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 22, 

PANCHO VILLA PARK (Veinte de Agosto) 

8 AM! 

SAY NO TO THIS GERRYMANDERED NONSENSE!

Communist “infiltration” of the UFW

The Communist “infiltration” of the UFW: 

A “short” autobiographical story 

by Scott D. Egan

No self-respecting urban Lefty in the early 1970s would have avoided participation in the picket line for the United Farm Workers union or UFW.  In Tucson, we regularly marched in front of Safeway and other stores as part of the boycott against scab lettuce and grapes and Gallo wine.  These weekly pickets saw regular and sustained support by a whole political, social, and racial mix of activists.  This included a various conglomeration of members of the Trotskyist Socialist Workers Party and their off-shoot the Workers World Party as well as mutual enemies — not the capitalists but other Lefties, like those of us who were from (what we considered) the “real” Party — the Communist one (CPUSA), and their youth group, the Young Workers Liberation League.  In addition, there was a large assortment of union organizers, Quaker Friends, Catholic Workers, and especially “La Raza” — the social/cultural activists in the Hispanic and Indigenous communities who were personally proud of something they rightly thought was predominantly their struggle to lead.  They saw us white activists as a supporting cast, but we were dependable and consistent.

While us city folk might not be able to get out in the fields in direct support of the workers, anyone could walk a picket line in town if you could get your butt there.  (As members of the Tucson based Teatro Libertad radical street theater we did perform in the fields for the Arizona Farm Workers union, who were abandoned by the UFW — another sad and mostly untold legacy).  The plight of farmworkers was a good fight that brought many factions together.  Mao or Stalin might have been saints or demons depending on one’s own twisted perspective, but farmworkers needed everyone’s unified support, and they generally got it from a conscientious citizenry across the country, no matter what politically sectarian line anyone was grumbling on about with each other at the time.

The UFW did have one major flaw that still haunts it: the cult of personality built around Cesar Chavez.  The man certainly deserves most of the credit for making the union as successful as it was, but Chavez also deserves the blame as well for its practical demise.  Even with a dark underbelly that has since been revealed about the consequential mistakes of the union and its seriously flawed leader, the cult of “Cesar” still holds a myth-like aura even today.  

In those old days, we saw many major union victories, especially in California, where important UFW contracts were signed that directly helped scores of workers who labored under the most oppressive conditions.  Those victories were encouragement and proof to idealists like me of being on the correct path.  Those contracts are all but gone now and the “union” has become little more than a family business that cashes in on the mythic past.  Some saw its demise coming and raised concerns.  Others regarded any legitimate criticism as heresy and almost a sin against god. Or, almost worse, a crime against St. Chavez.

At the time we knew little of the palace intrigue taking place at the UFW’s cloistered HDQ at La Paz, California where Chavez became a devotee of a strange religious cult (with some origins in Tucson) but there were other early warning signs for me that not all was right in happy valley.  First, I was a bit uncomfortable with the union’s full-throated embrace of the Democratic Party, which obviously was not my party of interest.  It was explained to me and others that such alliances were part of doing business, but that the union was really very radical at its core.  “We are not as peaceful and non-violent as our image suggests,” one union rep told me once, “you should know we are militant as hell in the fields when dealing with scabs.”  While this was somewhat strangely comforting for me at the time, I always had my doubts about the leadership.  I would later learn that much of their scorn was directed at undocumented Mexican workers, who were often reported to “La Migra” by Chavez and his band.  (The Arizona Farm Workers Union, disbanded by the UFW, actually worked to organize undocumented workers in Arizona and Mexico).

Then there were the nasty splits:  as the organization grew the radical organizers were expelled and the union newspaper which had always provided a progressive perspective was inexplicably shut down.  Rumors had it that the publication was closed for not following Cesar’s line close enough.  The radical theater group, El Teatro Campesino, separated from the union over differences in the direction as well, although they always supported the movement — just not within the confines of the UFW.  And then there was Cesar Chavez fully embracing the dictator of the Philippines, Fernando Marcos.  And even more perplexing to me, his high praise for the State of Israel.  Well, I was told, there are many Filipino farmworkers, so this is Chavez’s clever way to get the farmworkers support.   These workers support Marcos, I questioned?  Really?  And on the basis of that logic, why the praise for Israel since there are many of the farmworkers are Arab?  Certainly more than Jewish ones.  Well, “we need money and support from rich liberals.”  Yeah, don’t we all.  Hard to swallow that, at least for me.

I remember a discussion of these very issues with a particular couple who were prominent leaders of the UFW in Tucson.  We had spent countless hours together on the picket line and equally long hours resolving all the major global problems over many bottles of beers and discourse. The man was a pretty jovial intellectual and I always liked talking with him.  He was now married to a former nun after divorcing a leading Tucson Trotskyist, and they were both terrific organizers for the UFW.  I had respect for both of them and their strong and unbowed commitment to improving the human condition, as I do almost all those of a similar radical persuasion, no matter the particular flavor.  Some of the best people I ever met were such radicals.

I was not a full scale “Party” member then, but I was in the youth group called the Young Workers Liberation League (YWLL) which would eventually change back to their original title as Young Communist League (the “popular” front name fooled nobody).  From what I was learning about the world, the UFW positions on things outside of the union caused serious problems for me, having a hard time reconciling what I thought was a radical organization with what appeared to be it’s reactionary alliances.  I was around 20 years old, and sincerely just wanted to understand the contradiction, so I asked this respected couple how they reconciled all these issues.  Their responses seemed insincere and lacked any clarity to me, and I reacted with obvious dissatisfaction, stating to them: “Well, if I ever get to meet Chavez, I would like to ask him these questions directly.  Maybe he can justify all this.”

Their loud and immediate response startled me:  “Well then, we will certainly make damn sure then that YOU never, EVER get to meet Cesar,  Never!”  

Which lead me to the conclusion that there must not be any good responses to my questions and that my dear friends were talking shit they couldn’t defend.  History proved me right.  One aspect that always befuddles me is how so many humans act like they prefer to be another species — specifically: sheep.  This couple, so irate about my honest questioning, would eventually end up working with Chavez in his headquarters in La Paz.  Within a short time, they returned to Tucson with a ferocious antagonism against Chavez personally and what he was doing to the union in general.  In their eyes, Chavez seemed to be transformed from a godly saint who never did anything wrong, (and if he did commit any foibles they must be ignored for the sake of the movement) to the devil who they now denounced.  I believe this couple ended up joining The Party after I left (and then, after trashing me for questioning Chavez, disliked me more for being a heretic because I left the Party).  I suppose the CPUSA doctrinaire fit was more to their liking, as their position on Chavez changed about as sharply as the older comrades did with the Nazi-Soviet pact a few decades before.

These former friends ended up being wrong on their main contention with me as well: I did get to meet Chavez — if very briefly under somewhat amusing circumstances as I will now share with you. 

Tucson, a progressive oasis in a reactionary Arizona sea, always was a very strong hub of support for the UFW, and eventually, a planning meeting was commenced to make preparations for Chavez’s upcoming visit to a church in our town known as the Old Pueblo.  The most loyal picketers and supporters included a number of us, like me, who were affiliated with “The Party.”  We were asked if we would be willing to step up and be the local security team in charge of protecting Chavez, a job we were honored to accept (even with my reservations about Chavez and some of the union’s policies).  Plans were made, assignments given, stations determined, checklists checked, and our team was fully prepared for the job.  (On a side note, we were advised not to come armed — but I did anyway, reflecting a life-long resistance to following directions, particularly when it comes to my own self-defense. Back then I packed just a little 38 Special, which — in spite of the name — is not really that special of a pistol. I do not know if I was the only Red with a gun there, but I suspect not).

On the day of our “Cesar’s” arrival we were summoned to one last meeting before the event started with the UFW’s national security guy who wanted to meet with us and go over any last-minute issues, take any questions, and to thank us for volunteering and for all our support over the years that he had heard so much about.  I have to admit I was pretty proud of the fact that over half the local security team was made of my comrades from The Party and YWLL.  We were being acknowledged for our solidarity and being granted much-deserved respect!  I felt proud, like we were really bad-assed Reds, in charge of protecting the most important “radical” labor leader in the country.  Then, as the meeting was about to break, the lead UFW guys gives some last words of caution:

“I also want to caution you all to keep your eyes peeled for any trouble,” he announced with marked intensity.  “We have received some information that communists might be planning on attending this event tonight, and are trying to identify them.  So stay alert for any trouble!”

We looked at each other with a restrained but very bemused look of wonder.  Here we are on security detail and being instructed to watch out for ourselves!  In a twisted way, the fact that the UFW had no idea who we were proved they needed our good security!  Which we faithfully provided, no deference to the slander.  But it was very amusing to me and the other Reds.

At one point a few minutes before the event began I was directed to do something or other and I walked into a room in the back of the church with a dozen people standing around Chavez.  He was standing by a table, and he looked straight at me as I entered the room.  I smiled and nodded to him, and he nodded, expressionless.  He looked tired.  

I remember as I walked through and past him of being incredibly tempted to grab the opportunity by the gonads and say something like: “As a commie who is working on your security detail, I gotta ask ya:  what the fuck is it with you and that fascist fuck Fernando Marcos?”  But of course, I didn’t.  Perhaps I was so mesmerized by his spiritual exuberance that I was left completely speechless.  (Those who  know me you would know that it is a bad joke, of which I am known for many).  I knew I was there because I was being asked to protect him, not confront him, and passed on my way without a word.

In any case, the event went off without a hitch.

But I did get to at least be in close presence of the man, in spite of being loudly and most resolutely assured by my ex-friends that I never would.  

And I was even packing at the time.

Hail Cesar!

[For more info on the rise and fall of the United Farmworkers, see the works of Miriam Pawel, a Pulitzer Prize wining editor and reporter, whose books include “The Union of Their Dreams” and “The Crusades of Cesar Chavez.”  Also see:  https://nacla.org/news/2014/1/14/boycott-legend-sacrifices-movement-cesar-chavez-and-renewed-case-radical-democracy with a review of “Trampling Out the Vintage: Cesar Chavez and the Two Souls of the United Farm Workers” by Frank Bardacke and Joseph Nevins.

===================================================================================

A passionate quotation presented from the Bogg:

“Most people are other people. Their thoughts are someone else’s opinions. 

Their lives a mimicry. Their passions a quotation.” 

— Oscar Wilde

———————————————————————————————————————

“No revolutionary movement is complete without its poetical expression. If such a movement has caught hold of the imagination of the masses they will seek a vent in song for the aspirations, the fears and the hopes, the loves and the hatreds engendered by the struggle. Until the movement is marked by the joyous, defiant, singing of revolutionary songs, it lacks one of the most distinctive marks of a popular revolutionary movement, it is the dogma of a few, and not the faith of the multitude.”

— James Connolly

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RELIGIOUS POETRY:  “Song of the Cheerful but slightly Sarcastic Jesus”  

(written by James Joyce, who pilfered some of the lyrics from Oliver St. John Gogarty)

     John Gogarty said: of these words I am guilty, 

     But hats off to James Joyce and his mastery…

     No one attributes the verses to me, 

     Though he quotes them all quite accurately… 

“I’m the queerest young fellow that ever was heard

My mother’s a Jew my fathers a Bird

With Joseph the Jointer I cannot agree

So here’s to Disciples and Calvary.

If anyone thinks that I ain’t divine   

He gets no free drinks when I’m making the wine

But have to drink water and wish it were plain   

That I make when the wine becomes water again.

My methods are new & are causing surprise   

To make the blind see I throw dust in their eyes

To signify merely there must be a cod    

If the Commons will enter the Kingdom of God.

You know I don’t swim & you know I don’t skate   

I came down to the ferry one day and was late.

So I walked on he water and all cried in faith   

For a Jew man it’s better than having to bathe.

Whenever I enter in triumph & pass 

You will find that my triumph is due to an ass

& public support is a grand sinecure  

 When you once get the public to pity the poor.

Then give up your cabin and ask them for bread   

And they’ll give you a stone habitation instead

With fine grounds to walk in and raincoat to wear   

And the Sheep will be naked before you go bare.

                                                                                                

The more men are wretched the more you will rule

But thunder our “Sinner!” to each bloody fool

For the Kingdom of God that’s within you begins   

When you once make a fellow acknowledge his sins.

Rebellion anticipates timely by “Hope”  

And stories of Judas and Peter the Pope

You’ll find that you’ll never be left in the lurch   

By children of Sorrows — and Mother the Church.

Goodbye now goodbye, you are sure to be fed   

You will come on My Grave when I rise from the Dead

What’s bred in the bone cannot fail me to fly 

& Olivers breezy goodby goodbye.

Bye-bye, now write down all I‘ve said  

And tell Tom Dick and Harry that I rose from the dead

Yeah What’s bred in the bone cannot fail me to fly   

And Olivers breezy goodby — now goodbye.”

— from Ulysses by James Joyce

==========================================  

These written dispatches are the rantings of Scott D. Egan: a former chief aide to two Tucson City Council members (Bruce Wheeler and Mike Haggerty) and chief of staff to a member of the Pima County Board of Supervisors (Ray Carroll), as well as former Chairman and Grand Marshall of the Tucson St. Patrick’s Day Parade, along with being  one of the founding member of a number of groups including Teatro Libertad of Tucson (a radical bi-lingual street theatre), the Hooligan’s (traditional Irish music band), and the Barrio Hollywood Neighborhood Association.  He has also been a life-long supporter of Irish Republicanism and the unification of Ireland “from the center to the sea.”  He describes his current political philosophy as “Anarcho-cynicism” — a rejection of government imposed authority combined with a cynical but evidence-based assumption that humankind is too afraid of achieving real freedom (a tongue-in-cheek take on the Anarcho-syndicalism of America’s greatest union: the I.W.W.).

Known as “The Bogman” due to an epithet cast which appropriately stuck, Egan has lived in Tucson’s westside Barrio Hollywood with his wife Pernela and a ’49 Chevy pick-up truck for most of his adult (?) life.  The opinions expressed here are his and his alone, so don’t blame his family or his friends for anything he says or does.  OK?  Hey!!!  OK ???

This is what is hoped to be the first of many editions of “Notes From the Bog.”  

Til next time, Slán…

PS:  Happy Birthday P.J.!

An Open Letter To A Neighbor: Why I Am Not Voting For Regina Romero

An Open Letter To my Neighbor:

Why I Am Not Voting for Regina Romero and Why She Doesn’t Deserve Your Vote

by Scott D. Egan

Barrio Hollywood, Tucson

“It is inaccurate to say that I hate everything. I am strongly in favor of common sense, common honesty, and common decency. This makes me forever ineligible for public office.”

  — H. L. Mencken

I write this in response to you because you are a neighbor who has put a “Regina Romero for Mayor” sign in your yard.  I appreciate your right to express yourself in public about your political preferences.  I am choosing to do the same with this letter.  

You might be wondering why there are no other signs up for Romero here in Barrio Hollywood (at least I haven’t seen any), and and I would like to share my reasons as to why I think this particular candidate would be a terrible Mayor and does not deserve your, or anyone else’s, vote.

Hailing herself as “the” progressive choice for Tucson and attempting to exploit the welcome trend to support young Latina leadership which has captured the aspirations of many of us who long for real change in our political and cultural institutions, Regina Romero is running for Mayor of Tucson after three terms on the City Council.  Surface appearances aside, Romero is certainly no A.O.C.  All voters need to look past the glossy images and into the facts of her record to determine if she warrants your support. 

Let’s look at Romero’s claims versus reality:

  1. Qualifications.  Romero has spent many years in government, both working for Pima County and, for the last 12 years, on the city council.  She claims to have graduated “from the U of A and the Harvard School of Government.”  While this sounds impressive, she actually did not “graduate” from Harvard University, but only attended some classes in a program designed for politicians who can then say they went to “Harvard.”  Based on her track record in public office we are about to examine, one must wonder what is actually taught at that particular “School of Government.”
  1. Cleanliness.”  Romero is proud to distinguish herself from the other candidates because she is the only one to sign on for “clean elections” — allowing her to get extra money from the taxpayers to match the fundraising of her opponents (who chose not to use government support to run their campaigns).  Romero asserts that “money from corporations is the problem in our political system,” which few can deny.  However, Romero clearly had no qualms about taking such money for her past council elections, where her largest contributors include the largest “Ricos” in the region.  This includes maximum contributions from the top echelons of the development industry, including many who profited from subsidies and favors granted to them from policies Romero promoted on the City Council. A review of her strongest donors includes names like Diamond, Goldstein, Lopez, Dabdoub, Stiteler, Wadlund, Silvyn, and Swain, and realtors from Holualoa, Town West, HSL, Gadsden, Vantana, and Broadway Realty & Trust.  Such ritzy supporters guarantee a very responsive office holder — for them, but not for the rest of us.
  1. Accountability.  Listening to Romero’s criticisms of city policy and practices one would first assume she is a new candidate running for change and will clean it all up once in charge.  The fact is that after 12 years of being in the seat of power she has very little to brag about.  A glaring example can be found in her campaign brochure, which asserts that “gentrification downtown is causing centers to lose children, streets to lose parking and small mom-and-pop stores to close”  Well, who caused that gentrification and displacement downtown in the last decade or so?  Romero not only contributed to it, but she also helped to lead it with the consistent support of her corporate backers.  Why would anyone think she will do anything different as Mayor than as a council member?
  1. Honesty.  There is no issue that highlights the proven dishonesty of Regina Romero more than the political fiasco perpetrated in her attempted giveaway/sale of 114 acres of publicly owned, urban green space known as the Trini Alvarez El Rio Golf Course for development.  While insisting that residents should “believe me! that the property was not for sale, she was simultaneously secretly trying to rush the very deal through that she was publicly denying.  As the Arizona Daily Star reported (5/29/13), Romero was “one of the key proponents” who pushed for the sale behind closed doors.  She readily admitted that “when they [the developers] asked us what site, we offered them the El Rio Golf Course … a prime location.”  Due to the fierce resistance of a united community coalition, it was announced that “Grand Canyon University has backed off building a new campus in Tucson.” [A.D.S. 6/30/13] Yet Romero, who actually made the initial motion to begin negotiating the sale while boasting it as a “really great opportunity!”— now is claiming that she is the one who stopped the sale!  As another council member remarked at the time, her deal “just stinks… it was a big mistake going into negotiations…this should have been above board …” 
  1. Transparency.  There can be no accountability in government without transparency, and Romero vehemently avoids both.  When she and the city refused to turn over documents that were supposed to be legally accessed by the public, the people took the city to court and eventually won.  Mysteriously at that time, Romero claimed that someone broke into her office and stole her computer’s hard drive with all her files.  No alarm went off, there were no signs of a break-in, and nothing else was stolen from the entire office. A unique robbery, indeed.  Maybe some of the missing records could explain who directed the city-hired appraiser to grossly undervalue the El Rio Golf Course by appraising it as if it was an empty dirt lot to make it a sweeter deal for the developers (in violation of the spirit of the law preventing special “gifts” from government to private business).  Her hard drive is still missing.  Perhaps O.J. can help her find it.
  1. Respect.  After the city lost in its attempt to destroy the historic El Rio Golf Course, the neighborhood that primarily lead the charge was subjected to political retribution from the City of Tucson.  Barrio Hollywood, in keeping with the city rules and regulations, attempted to change their membership qualifications, removing the stipulation of property ownership.  Some of the business owners in the neighborhood had supported the sale of El Rio for their commercial interests, and there was a sudden take-over, almost a coup, of the neighborhood association by them and some residents who supported Romero.  (Most of them were never seen before or after the neighborhood election).  While Barrio Hollywood Neighborhood Association was threatened by the city with being denied recognition or any cooperation regarding various city services if the bylaw changes were enacted, the members defied the city and proceeded to make membership based on residence and not property owners, and the residents of the neighborhood regained the control of the organization.  The city backed down after being challenged by a united community (as they did on the golf course). Romero publicly played a “hands-off” role on the issue, allowing city staff to try to impose undemocratic policies on the neighborhood.  To make her sentiments clear to the residents however, Romero appointed to the city’s golf commission an individual who was a main promoter of the sale of the golf course to the developers.  Romero has never expressed any regret about trying to wipe out this historically and culturally treasured urban green space, and continually refused to meet with those who opposed her plans in spite of her constant calls to start a “conversation” about every issue.  Nor has she ever attempted to rescind her vote on the sale, which still stands as a 5-2 vote to sell the land even today.  The lack of respect between her and many of her constituents on the west side is certainly mutual.
  1. Consistency.  Romero claims she supports “improving core services like the police and fire departments.  Yet it would be hard to find a cop or paramedic who believes that assertion, which is why both the police and fire unions endorsed her opponent.  While claiming she supports education, it is her opponent who was endorsed by the American Federation of Teachers.  While assuring the public that she cares about city employees, the city bus drivers clearly don’t seem to see it that way, which is why the Teamsters Union is also a union that endorsed her opponent.  Although she claims she is “progressive” and from an immigrant family, she refuses to support Sanctuary City designation for Tucson as other candidates have.  Currently employed by a local environmental organization to “work with the Latino communities on … protecting public lands” she has instead worked to wipe out 114 acres of urban green space in a predominantly working-class Latino community.  While claiming she is an advocate for affordable housing she supported the displacement of 130 seniors at Armory Park in favor of a developer’s plan from Chicago.  Those who have actually dealt with her know full well that Regina Romero’s words consistently do not match her deeds.

In the last city election that Romero ran in, a council member from the east side received more votes from residents in Romero’s ward than she received from her own constituents.   Maybe the voters in the ward know something that the rest of the city can learn from.  I believe if you peel away the shiny image, and you will see someone who should not be Tucson’s next Mayor.  

I have done my best to explain to you why, as one of her constituents, I will not vote for Regina Romero for Mayor, and have perhaps shared some of the many reasons there are so few of your neighbors are supporting her. I appreciate that you have taken enough of an interest in the upcoming city election to express yourself with a yard sign. Voters like you and I will be the ultimate judge of how much support should be rendered for her dishonesty, lack of transparency, and disrespect for her fellow citizens.  The choice, as always, will be ours.

Sincerely and respectfully,  your neighbor,

Scott Egan

Niagara Street

Barrio Hollywood, Tucson

Tucson’s neighborhood associations poison pill

The Poison Pill in Tucson’s Neighborhood Association Bylaws

Like many other residents who have formed a neighborhood association, those of us who created the Barrio Hollywood Neighborhood Association back in 1989 used a template provided by the City of Tucson to formulate our bylaws.  We wanted to follow as closely as possible the guidelines the City was looking for to get approval as an officially listed neighborhood association.  

Why is official city recognition needed?  Obviously, it is good to be listed with the city so that we can receive official notices of information of interest that can be shared with residents, such as the Brush and Bulky program or other beneficial programs or city-sponsored events.  Back 30 years ago, having an official city listing meant that monthly neighborhood notices to residents were paid for by the city bulk mailing system.  As we know, the neighborhood mailing notices are now only sponsored once a year, yet it is still an important cost-free way to notify our fellow residents about the association and available services (and minimal support is better than none).  We have just recently been informed that the City also is discontinuing mailing notices to remind residents when to put out their stuff for Brush and Bulky.

Just a few years ago (2013-14) the City of Tucson threatened to un-register Barrio Hollywood from the public rolls, denying us mailing privileges or any cooperation with us on Brush and Bulky and other neighborhood programs.  We fought and gaining the right to keep our listing, but it is important for other neighborhoods to understand why we were being threatened, as such threats could be used against other when the City disapproves of what neighborhood associations might engage in for the benefit of fellow residents.  This is especially relevant to inner-city residents who may feel the need to fight city hall on issues like gentrification — which was the cause of the City’s conflict with our association.

The attempted de-registration of Hollywood is important to understand in context.  Our neighborhood is situation in a strategically important location for future development, gentrification, and displacement.  We are between Pima College West and the Downtown Campus, close to downtown and not too far from the U.A.  Our eastern boundary is the I-10 freeway, an important transportation access point off of Speedway, while Pima County developed the beautiful Santa Cruz Riverpark for bicyclist and pedestrians.  We have a host of great mom and pop type restaurants on Grande Avenue as well as St. Mary’s Road, and available community resources at the El Rio Neighborhood Center for seniors and day care needs.  Uniquely, we are also across the street from over 110 acres of critical urban green recreation space at the Trini Alvarez El Rio Golf Course, the targeted area for what was planned to be a major effort for extreme gentrification for the area.

In 2012, the Mayor and City Council were conducting secret negotiations to sell those 100+ acres to a private company: Grand Canyon University (or GCU), while publicly claiming that no such deal was in the works.  They tried to rush the agreement though on a last-minute council agenda, but the area residents were already informed of the deal and mobilized against it.  The Council still voted for the deal (with only council members Fimbres and Kozachik in opposition), but the community was outraged enough to launch an aggressive campaign against the plan and with the help of some (free) lawyerly services we acquired some of the public documents — the ones that had not been “lost” by the city attorney’s office — and revealed how bad the plan was, not just for westside residents but for every taxpayer in Tucson.  

Eventually, the attempt to sell this critically valued public land (at below market value) for the benefit of the developers and to the detriment of the citizens fell through.  But the collapse of the deal did not happen because the Mayor and Council saw the evil of their ways, grew a conscience, and reversed their vote.  Rather, it was the public pressure on GCU that skewered the deal, and they withdrew from the offer (of lucrative public subsidies) and bought some private land for their new campus in another part of Tucson.  It was from this loss that the City turned it’s attention to Barrio Hollywood and our neighborhood association which — along with a number of other neighborhoods who stood in solidarity with us — lead the resistance against the city plans.

It is critically important for neighborhood activists to understand what happened next in the power games that emanate from city hall.  Some business owner in the hood, many of whom we had worked productively with in the past, were angry that a development that could bring them enormous financial benefits was derailed by the residents.  They were told, after all, that up to 7,000 students would flood into the area.  How great is that for business?  Think of all the hot dogs that could be sold!  There are probably similar arguments being made wherever the city plans for more gentrification.  From their perspective they are right:  redevelopment can provide more tax revenue than a golf course.  Or a park.  Or a library.  But in our neighborhood we like those public things, and believe they are worth fighting for.

In our specific case, the land that the city was trying to give away— where the El Rio Golf Course  is located — has an important significance in the history of Tucson’s barrios.  That rich history is not the subject here, but suffice to say that those who are aware of struggle over that land are also those who want to preserve the fabric of our neighborhood community.  This might mean that on occasion local residents may not place as their highest priority the financial needs of the business community.  That does not mean we are anti-business.  But that is what we were labeled as, and worse.* 

[*Because GCU is a “Christian” for-profit educational institution our opponents claimed we were anti-religious and wanted to drive the churches out of Hollywood because someone raised the issue of GCU’s anti-gay policies!]  

One important fact we uncovered, after we took the city to court and won our public records request, was how the city tried to fix the assessed value of the land to give the developers an even juicier deal.    The appraiser that was hired was directed to value the land as if it were a dirt lot — without electricity, water, a clubhouse, an a virtual urban forest of trees.  We can only wonder how many other such deals they city engages in to the detriment of long-term residents.  If you can’t afford a lawyer or get on for free you will probably never know.

With the project killed many there was lots of talk about letting “the healing begin” and the need to reconcile with the few business folks who were most irate about losing potential future profits.

And then came our neighborhood election.

Although our residents won the battle to preserve the park, our neighborhood was soon to realize that the war was far from over.  The next Barrio Hollywood election saw a slew of individuals, many whom we had never seen before, who showed up to vote for new candidates.  Since the neighborhood association bylaws allowed voting by any resident and any business owner, certain business people showed up along with family members — who all claimed owned part of the “family” business and therefore demanding a right to vote!  The new slate won by three (questionable) votes and successfully changed the entire leadership of the association, a leadership that should be noted had spent many years working in the association.  But new folks took over, even if under questionable voting irregularities. 

Those who had opposed the sale for development were now out.  Those friendly with city who lead the fight for gentrification won.  The new “business and church friendly leadership” (!) was awarded by the city with appointments to various city committee’s and commissions — including a seat on the “Greens” committee charged with looking at the privatization of city golf courses, the very essence of the excuse for the sale of the public property we opposed.

Our members were outraged, not only by the secret deal to sell off public land but also at city interference in our neighborhood election — a virtual coup.  

A majority of residents then made a move to change Barrio Hollywood’s bylaws which would restrict elections to residents only.  Under the proposed new rules, those who but did not live in the neighborhood would not be given a vote on whom would represent those who do live in the neighborhood.  Residents, and residents only, should have the power to vote — “just like only city residents can vote in city council elections” some said.  It seemed logical.  But it turned confrontational.

In response to the threat of democracy, the new neighborhood association board, in conjunction with city staff, claimed that neighborhood associations had no right to change their own bylaws if that would exclude those who did not live in the neighborhood from voting in neighborhood elections.   

We were threatened that if we dared to change the bylaws — restricting voting to residents only — that our official city recognition of Barrio Hollywood would be stripped and we would be denied access to city services.  

We were told that there would no longer be any cooperation with residents on neighborhood clean ups, brush and bulky programs would be eliminated , and any other city resources would be prevented for use by Barrio Hollywood. 

In the face of these threats, in spite of these threats, the overwhelming majority of Barrio Hollywood residents voted for the new bylaws.  In reaction to this defiance the city retracted its own position and acknowledge our right to change our bylaws for the benefit of our residents.  

Then, after successfully changing our bylaws to prevent outsider from voting the entire Barrio Hollywood board was taken back by the residents.  While we have some new leadership we can feel confident that our association is run by residents and for residents.

And now we come to the point:  why is all this important to you?

And the answer is that any of this could happen to your association.  

Like Barrio Hollywood, your bylaws probably state that residents AND business owners can vote in your elections.  If so, you should consider changing them.  You may not think anyone from the outside can come in and take over your board, but that is what we thought. What would happen if the city was pushing something you didn’t support, and then they took over your association by using your own bylaws against you?

In our case, related family members of the business owners showed up to vote against the residents, claiming they as family all had a stake in the one business in our hood.  Do you bylaws clearly indicate only one vote for each business?  Or can it be interpreted by the city attorney’s office in a different way?  How do you determine legally who can vote?  

Neighborhood associations have an important part to play in our city.  We need to value our independence, especially as the City of Tucson’s economic priorities run into conflict with neighborhood values.   

Protect yourself.T