First, some business: I am going to take an actual vacation until August 26th. Rogue will not be updated, but feel free to browse the archives and special topic pages. My intention is to go completely without the Internet, but I will try to check the spam filter once a day. I need to recharge.
The Chapter 11 filing of Rural/Metro is a sad bookend of Arizona. Before it was a 21-state emergency services company, it was the Rural Fire Department of little Scottsdale. Lou Witzeman founded it in 1948 and for many years served as the chief of Scottsdale's privately owned fire agency. For years, conservatives burnished RFD (and later RMFD) as an example of what privatization could achieve. But in reality, Scottsdale benefited from mostly new constructions (except for the worrisome common attics downtown). Whenever a big fire erupted, RFD invariably needed Phoenix Fire's assistance, lacking manpower, apparatus and (some critics said) enough training. In 2005, Scottsdale established a city fire department — a year after Witzeman passed away. Bought by the private equity outfit Warburg Pincus in a leveraged buyout, the fate of Rural/Metro sounds like the common outcome of vulture capitalism.
Meanwhile, James Simmons died at age 88. Although a member of the Phoenix 40, he was never among the biggest of the big dogs. Still, he is a reminder of an era when the city was the home base to significant companies and chief executives who were also civic stewards. Simmons was head of United Bank, whose headquarters was located in a tower at Central and Lexington within a block of two other financial institution headquarters. Now all gone. Only the buildings are left. Quoted in the obit: Bill Shover, Gene Pulliam's community affairs vizier, one of the last of the old guard left.
Another topic is the Phoenix City Council elections. The candidates seem underwhelming, most promising trash collection and public safety, supporting "neighborhoods" (whatever the hell that means) or blathering about what a "great city" Phoenix is. Vision? Practical sense of the city's serious problems? Austin Head at least promises to expand light rail (We Built It, You Bastards). To be fair, I am a prisoner of the very limited AzCentral bios. Phoenicians need to pay close attention: The Kooks have long wanted to get control of the city government. If they do so, it will be a disaster. Council is already tilting into paralysis. Voters need to stop this.
Salud! And see you in two weeks.