Fenger Pointing

Becky Fenger | February 4, 2009

Becky FengerNapolitano’s pay to play

Arizona's 2009 Rural Transportation Summit was held January 21-23 at the Hondah Resort & Conference Center, an American Indian casino and resort in the White Mountains. Pre-conference activities included snow skiing at Sunrise Resort. Cool.

Although Arizona Department of Transportation staff participated, they were not permitted to stay at the Hondah hotel. This was not due to the expense. The resort offered good rates. ADOT staff was required to stay elsewhere, and drive back and forth each day. This cost the state extra money and time, more vehicle miles of travel, and ----it must be pointed out--- accompanying higher pollution and crash risk. Additionally, it very likely was taken as an insult by the Indians. The reason for the Rube Goldberg ADOT approach: Having state employees stay at a casino hotel might lead to bad press.

It is difficult not to titter (I don't twitter yet and probably never will) over ADOT fearing bad press from the mere appearance of impropriety by their physical presence near “sinful” gambling when the management of ADOT actually commits real sins on a regular basis. Yes, unethical, statute-busting sins under the guidance of Director Victor Mendez. Since he served at the pleasure of former Gov. Janet Napolitano, his transgressions had no consequences. Newly-minted Gov. Jan Brewer would do well to look at this inefficiently-run, deadwood-laden and rule-skirting state department.

In fact, now that Napolitano is safely out of office and overseeing far bigger things, maybe we should ask the mainstream media to look into her "pay-to-play" relationship with DMJM Harris, an engineering firm specializing in transportation and infrastructure. In an arrangement that seems similar to that which brought New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson trouble (see http://spectator.org/archives/2009/01/05/beyond-bill-richardson for more info), DMJM Harris was awarded a non-competitive contract for the ADOT "Frameworks" study--- a project of very dubious merit and utility. The initial contract amount was $5 million and has been boosted to around $10 million. These amounts are larger than the ones that cost Richardson a Barack Obama Cabinet position.

The buzz is that DMJM Harris got the award at the direction of Napolitano because of some campaign donations the firm or leading participants of the firm gave to Napolitano's reelection bid in 2006. The "work" being done is vague. Its use is unclear. ADOT staff report that despite being the supposed "customers" in the transaction, DMJM Harris is essentially doing as it pleases. The $10 million could have been used to actually build roads instead of paying off high-priced consultants. Of course, it's only money, and what does the government care about watching our tax dollars?

Somebody at www.FreedomsPhoenix.com cares. Perhaps you have seen the billboards that have appeared recently along our freeways. Drawn by artist and designer Scott Bieser, the two depictions of what lawmakers are doing to the children of our nation when spending cuts are kicked down the road speak volumes. Americans are on the hook for nearly $70 trillion when our unfunded liabilities are included in the tab. University of Arizona faculty should be spanked with a cactus for offering course credit for students to come to the state capitol last week and protest any cuts to education budgets. Some selfish seniors should think of the unborn when they scream bloody murder to get funds reinstated for their senior centers. We're broke, people! Deal with it!