Richardson: Pearce's drum beats on – but for how long? - East Valley Tribune: Columnists

Richardson: Pearce's drum beats on – but for how long?

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Retired Mesa master police officer Bill Richardson lives in the East Valley and can be reached at

Posted: Friday, October 28, 2011 5:30 am | Updated: 11:19 am, Sat Oct 29, 2011.

Gone from the busy corners in Mesa and the East Valley are the illegal aliens who gathered looking for work. Also gone are the low-paid workers who found homes at restaurants, car washes and construction sites where business owners could pay cash and cheat the tax man thanks to Arizona’s failed statewide law enforcement system.

Some would argue that the alien exodus is due to state Senate President Russell Pearce, R-Mesa, Senate Bill 1070 and his rabidlike attacks on anything alien. Others would say the absence of illegals in the state’s lowest-paid and dirtiest jobs is due to the failing economy. And then there’s the argument that economic growth and low unemployment in Mexico are the reasons people have gone back there. Don’t forget the massive buildup of thousands of U.S. Border Patrol agents on the Arizona-Mexico border.

Maybe it’s a combination of all of the above. The bottom line is most are gone and others continue to leave.

Illegal immigration has long been the rallying cry for Pearce, Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, former Maricopa County Attorney Andy Thomas and a host of other elected opportunists who always have an eye open for an issue that can be simplified and mass produced in the media to ensure re-election.

While this trio and their groupies have been beating the anti-alien drum, Arizona has gone into the economic outhouse and sunk further and further behind the rest of the country when it comes to building a future for our children and grandchildren.

The one industry that continues to grow like a well-watered weed in Arizona is organized crime. Thanks in large part to Arizona’s long-running neglect when it comes targeting serious crime and enforcing all of the laws and not just zeroing in on illegal aliens.

But the trio that led the charge to reshape Arizona law enforcement priorities and took the state in a different direction have their own problems.

Thomas is out of office and facing possible disbarment for serious ethical violations, and is under investigation by the FBI. Arpaio is under investigation by the feds and has been confronted with his office’s alleged misappropriation of $100 million in jail tax money. Pearce is also under investigation for his involvement in the Fiesta Bowl scandal and facing a recall election and removal from his Senate presidency.

It still remains to be seen whether Pearce supporters will be investigated regarding questions surrounding the diversionary candidacy of Olivia Cortes, who signed on purportedly to challenge Pearce in the upcoming recall but withdrew her name after questions were raised about her effort being a sham to draw votes from Pearce’s other challenger, Jerry Lewis.

As the state Senate president and former chairman of the Senate and House appropriations committees for almost a dozen years, Pearce has used the state’s purse strings to take Arizona in the direction he’s wanted it to go.

Even with the drastic decline in illegal immigration, Pearce is still fixating on it.

It’s like a broken record when Pearce starts his machine-gun-like blasting of quips and quotes and putting blame for all of Arizona’s ills on one group or another — but never the Legislature that Pearce has bulldogged for over a decade.

There’s no doubt in anyone’s mind that what Pearce wants down at the state capital, he pretty much gets — and woe to the elected official who dares to stand in his way.

Some say Pearce is a godsend to Arizona. Other’s say he’s just the opposite.

The bottom line for Mesa and Arizona is that come recall election day, if Pearce stays in power it’s more of the same. If he gets booted from the Senate by Mesa voters there’s little doubt the legislature will take a different and broader direction — a direction guided by an entire Legislature and not a single Mesa senator with a myopic focus.

• Retired Mesa master police officer Bill Richardson lives in the East Valley and can be reached at

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