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In a sadly misspent (and underpaid) youth I was actually a reporter who covered the legislature. This was many years ago, and all of the names have been changed to protect the innocent….Uh, I mean term limits kicked in.

Anyhoo… I “enjoyed” the perk of sitting at a crummy desk in a dank and fetid room where I would be forced to listen to the great Bob Scott kvetch with Bill Gruver over the latest injustice. Those were the days…

My employer did, in fact, pay rent. The accommodations did, in fact, allow us great access to the great minds of the legislature of that day — all three of them. (I kid, but only a little).

Things are different now. TV stations almost never go to the legislature unless there’s some video-friendly protest. KFYI and KTAR long ago gave up space there. The newspapers are dying while the AP soldiers on. Howie, for all the grief he gives (and gets back), is usually pretty fair in his reporting. Really.

So how should a balance be struck between the public’s right to know what their lawmakers are up to and the legislature’s right to control their own meeting space?

Well, it’s the golden rule: He who has the gold, rules. And, right now, the goldmeister is Bob Burns.

So… dear former colleagues, much as it pains me to say it, the time has come to find a new home.

At Washington St., just east of 15th Av., the old print shop that has stood for decades is available. It’s an old decrepit building 3 minutes from the capitol by foot. In other words, it’s perfect.

Maybe it could be rented to the media. Yeah, they’d have to walk through Bolin Plaza, past the USS Arizona mast, past the 9-11 memorial, past the 10 commandments, past the statue of Father Kino, past the US and Arizona flags in the Mall. Hmmm, this sounds better by the minute.

I won’t even charge a finders fee.

This is the wrong year to bring it up, but the legislature is fighting for space because the buildings are so out-of-date. The reporters are just the latest casualty. For those who believe in strong state governments, keeping federal control to a minimum, we should take more pride in our Capitol complex and vote to make improvements all around.

Carol - I am skeptical that making improvements to the State Capitol will provide much of a return on investment to Arizona taxpayers. Would "improvements" result in operating costs be reduced enough to cover the cost of capital improvements? Would better quality legislative decisions result from remodeling the Capital? I'm guessing the answer to both questions is probably no.

Last Fall, I was in Budapest, Hungary and took a tour of their national parliament building. The guide tole me with pride that their parliament building was the 3rd largest in the world, with 1st and 2nd place going to Romania and Argentina. It was an impressive building to be sure, but it got me to thinking that maybe there is an inverse relationship between the fanciness of capitol buildings and the success of governments.

Yeah, that is a off-the-cuff simplification to be sure, but for poor economies like Hungary, Romania and Argentina to have the world's largest parliament buildings shows some poor decision making somewhere.

I would also point out that the world's most successful retailer, WalMart, is famous for it's spartan, unimpressive headquarters. They say the humble surroundings remind employees of the need be frugal and to keep costs low. I dare say there are some legislators that need the same reminder.

A fancier State Capitol complex would be nothing to be proud of, it would just be a sign of resources misspent. If we're going to take "pride" in something, let's make it having better academic outcomes for students, safer streets or a more prosperous economy.

As a former Legislative Intern (Senate '81), I can testify that the buildings were drek 28 years ago. They're ugly to look at, pitifully out of place, and are obsolete. Americans have become so cynical of government that they've lost pride in what it symbolizes. The building of Washington, DC symbolize the democratic roots of our nation. The argument that "if we're going to take "pride" in something, let's make it having better academic outcomes for students, safer streets or a more prosperous economy" presents a false dichotomy. You can have both.

"You can have both."

If you can pay for both. Can Arizona do so at the present time?


Spartan is fine, more than fine, in fact spartan should be the goal. The problem with the legislative buildings is not that they are spartan or worn out, the problem is that they are culturally poisonous.

The old capitol was designed around Jeffersonian principles that an effective building maximizes the potential for interaction of all of the inhabitants.

The governor and chief justice were on the same floor as the legislators. Legislators spent all their time on the floor, not in their offices. The desks were close enough that all conversations could be overheard by multiple legislators. Senators and Representatives parked in the same parking lot and could hold informal meetings as they walked to the building.

As spartan as the Walmart headquarters might be, it adhered to this scientific principle while Sam Walton was alive. The headquarters was just a sea of 800 desks with not even a cubicle wall to block sight lines or the flow of information.

Consider all the violations in our current building arrangement. Governor on the ninth floor, never to be seen or mix. Some kindergarteners had met governor Napolitano more times than many legislators.

House and Senate with separate parking lots. A lack of natural mixing at that point.

Six separate entry points to the buildings.

Leadership on second floor, members on third floor.

Democrats on one side of the building, Republicans on the other.

Senator offices double walled from natural contact.

Substantial differences in office size and positioning creating pecking order issues.

Separation of desks on floor renders the floor largely ceremonial as the separation greatly inhibits the flow of conversation.

Jefferson had developed his ideas from the Roman Senate where Senators were seated shoulder to shoulder while Rome was in its ascendancy.

"As spartan as the Walmart headquarters might be, it adhered to this scientific principle while Sam Walton was alive. The headquarters was just a sea of 800 desks with not even a cubicle wall to block sight lines or the flow of information."

Funny, I also saw that in Terry Gilliam's "Brazil".

I think we should all get behind Huppenthal's plan to turn our workspaces into nightmarish, soul-crushing places where the individiual is but a cog in vast machine that will neither notice their individual achievements nor their eventual death as a grotesque Midwestern parody of a Japanese salaryman.

Also, everything should be like Wal-Mart because Wal-Mart makes money, and that alone is how we gauge success here in Huppenthal USA.

These aren't nightmarish soul crushing places. They have the heart and sould of a good party, lots of interaction and very high morale.

Klute,

Have you been down there? It's definitely out of date and doesn't have any feeling of being alive.

I have no answer as to what we should do, but it's obvious that eventually, it needs to be dealt with.

Huppenthal makes a great and cogent argument, and Klute just trashes it with a boilerplate attack on Wal-Mart. Bash Wal-Mart all you want, but give Sen. Huppenthal the credit for pinpointing (and very accurately, I will add) the many deficiencies of the current setup of the capitol complex. It fosters conflict, not communication. It's user-unfriendly and dang near un-democratic.

Jim,

I have. And I think the lack of life in it has nothing to do with the structure of the building and more to do with the souls inside.

When someone like Jack Harper says the Democratic Party is "the party of anarchy and flag-burning" (and do it for nothing more than purpose of getting his name in the papers), the time for rational discussion has passed. It's like trying to engage someone who believes the world is flat or who believes the moon landings were faked.

Both parties are engaged in a war of attrition at the State Capitol. The Republicans won't even address the Democratic party by it's proper name. Fix the culture of politics and the building will work.

DGN,

I'm trashing it because if "Wal-Mart" is the answer, you're asking the wrong question. All you have to do is go to Eastern Europe and see all the gray, drab buildings built by people who wanted to remind people "of the need be frugal and to keep costs low".

The Founding Fathers could have made simple utilitarian buildings to house the Congress - and they chose to build a building, to quote Washington for it's "Grandeur, Simplicity, and Beauty". All of Washington radiates from the Capitol. The original Capitol AZ tried to reflect that. The new one actually is more Soviet-styled than Founders-styled.

I'd be in favor of tearing down that monstrosity and making a new grand Capitol as a temple and shrine to democracy, the way the DC Capitol was built.

Dear Klute;

Obviously the Democratic Party is not an anarchy party... way too much government for that. :)

Neither side can be held "un-responsible" for the lack of communication. Look at J-no's budget... all Democrat steam rolling. Look at the stupid attacks the party paid for in this cycle.

On the other hand, so many bills get quashed by the Republicans, you can't see "bi-partisan" on the horizon either.

Huppenthal is right in that the structure should be set up like (Democratic party founder) Thomas Jefferson would have liked.

This isn't something to act on today, but it certainly could use some help in the future.

Personally, I like Britain's Parliament were they just kick the bejesus out of each other, but making people interact in government will foster cultural interaction.

I'll say this, if my business actually demanded appropriate office and/or store front, I would rent something nicer than that building. Just sayin'...

I'm studying architecture with my children and a point was made about how the buildings reflect the values of the culture they represent. There are many aesthetic aspects to the original AZ capitol building that reflect well upon the state and its founding citizens. The space issue should be viewed as an opportunity for re-evaluation and improvement. Our centennial is going to draw attention to these matters as well.

Ugh.. no editing..

"Parliament where..." and "by making people..."

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