Desperate Sal DiCiccio Ramps up the Spam

In the past seven days, I’ve received six unsolicited emails from Phoenix City Council member Sal Diciccio – along with one each from his wife and from fellow council member Peggy Bilsten. Regardless of the name, they all come from the Sal Diciccio re-election campaign. And they all desperately try to convince readers that Sal DiCiccio is not a small-minded, small-time, ethically dyslexic shyster.

As I’ve written before, I never signed up to receive these emails. DiCiccio has never responded to my questions about how I wound up on his email list. Nor did the City of Phoenix public information officer. My suspicion: DiCiccio, in an act of dubious legality and ethics, culled the city’s email system for addresses to add to his personal and political lists. I’ve received numerous emails from groups with ties to DiCiccio – and I didn’t sign up to receive email from any of them.

But hey, that’s just the "how." Let’s talk about the "why."

I’m getting this haboob of emails because Karlene Keogh Parks, DiCiccio’s opponent in the election, scares him. He’s afraid.

That’s because Keogh Parks supporters have done a great job of laying out the truth: that developers and lobbyists love DiCiccio. Even better, Keogh Parks has the backing of Mayor Greg Stanton. I won’t say Stanton is perfect, but I believe he has the city headed in a good direction -- in a direction that DiCiccio would never travel. The only ideas Sal DiCiccio offers are cutting spending (and therefore services) while demonizing honest city workers by spreading half-truths about what they earn. That’s not enough for a city struggling to modernize and re-invent itself as a real community.

DiCiccio is running so scared that he sent out an email blast in his wife’s name complaining about personal attacks on his family. Any hour, I expect a "be nice to my daddy" message from his daughter. (UPDATE: A few hours after I drafted this, I got another SalMail titled "Watch for Children as Back to School Starts. Nothing says "desperate" like a "won’t someone please think of the children?" email. A second SalMail followed about an hour later.)

If you need more evidence that re-electing DiCiccio is a bad move, read this blog post about his many distortions of fact.

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Save Phoenix Views: Now Serving Spam

Don't worry, Phoenix citizens! Save Phoenix Views will protect your view of this magnificent, er ... nice, um ... somewhat adequate skyline! (Photo courtesy of www.pdphoto.org)

People in Phoenix, Arizona, now have another busybody political group inundating their email accounts with unwanted spam messages. I received my first message from SavePhoenixViews.com on Jan. 20.

The group touts its mission to "protect views" and "pristine Phoenix neighborhoods." Its sworn enemy? Billboards. These slabs of advertising are apparently a threat to "unobstructed views of the skyline, mountains, sunrises and sunsets from your backyard." Yes, that world-renowned Phoenix skyline -- it’s the stuff of postcards and fine works of art. The group wants to ensure that such architectural wonders as the Chase Bank building aren’t hidden behind new billboards or electronic billboards.

I had never heard of this group of superheroes so intent on defending my way of life. I never signed up for its email newsletter. Since I also receive unsolicited emails from Phoenix City Council member Sal DiCiccio, I wondered if this is connected to his brand of small-time Phoenix politics. About a year ago, a group he backed also had me on its e-mail list. And wouldn’t you know, it only took 30 seconds of Google searching to discover a link between DiCiccio and Save Phoenix Views. Clearly, e-mail privacy is not one of his pet crusades. The best thing about my move to Scottsdale is that Sal DiCiccio is not on the Scottsdale City Council.

I’m embarrassed for the people behind Save Phoenix Views. Worries about billboards are the epitome of a "First World Problem." What’s really this group’s motivation? My bet is money. Someone stands to lose, so they’re organizing a "grassroots" campaign to stop the evil billboards (someone puh-leeze save us!). Anyone with an ounce of political knowledge will tell you: Behind every so-called grassroots neighborhood movement is money and hired PR guns dressing it up all folksy and down-home. I haven’t figured out the money trail yet, but it has to be there considering the efforts to the group has made and the money it has spent. It would be nice to see a full-time journalist with time and resources put Save Phoenix Views under the microscope (hint, hint – that’s my Bat Signal to The Arizona Republic).

The e-mail I received came to me "via politicalcommunicationsspecialists.com." Naturally, I went to the URL -- and got a white screen with the words "Could not locate requested resource".  

This means someone is hiding. Typical dirty Phoenix politics. So far, 15,000 people have signed a petition to get the group’s wad of "Whereas", "Notwithstanding" and "Therefore" on the ballot. It’s been nearly a decade since I was a news reporter – but I remember a Maricopa County official who told me every item on the ballot costs upward of $200,000. Does Phoenix have that kind of money to spend on non-problems?

The group also wrings its hands about higher accident rates from drivers being distracted by electronic billboards. I’ll swallow that line of BS only if every single person who signed the petition will look me in the eye and say "That’s right, I’ve never used my cell phone or texted/e-mailed while I drive." I’d bet a year’s pay that phone use distracts far more drivers and causes far more accidents than electronic billboards do.

Who could, in good conscience, put such energy into such a trifling cause? A few suggestions for more important matters: Address the many empty buildings, the waste of water, the unsustainable building, the tax handouts to big businesses.

I also sent an e-mail to the group asking to know how I wound up on its distribution list. Let’s see if anyone responds.

Why Phoenix Can’t Be More Like Chicago

chicago bean
You'll never see anything like this in Phoenix.

In July, I dropped into Chicago for a four-day visit. Overall, I was underwhelmed. Some cool architecture, yes. But the city marinates in self-importance over its fading foodie scene. The pedestrians, cyclists and drivers are by and large savages. I’d much rather visit Portland, Seattle or Vancouver.

But -- Chicago has some terrific public spaces. I was puzzled. The last few years have been an economic disaster, and we’re only starting to poke through to better times. So where did Chicago get the scrilla to keep its public works projects afloat through lean times?

Through a city sales tax of more than 10 percent.

Interesting. This could never happen here in Arizona, where the city sales taxes hover around 2 percent, give or take depending on the municipality.

An outdoor concert venue - too visionary for small minds.

I’m not upset about not having to shell out another 8 percent per purchase (especially since an intern who’s from Chicago points out that at least half of the Windy City’s sales tax props up graft and corruption).

But you know, a 5 percent sales tax that’s effectively used wouldn’t bother me a bit. The first things I’d like to see? Improved bike lanes, quality city gyms, better parks, functional water fountains along the well-travelled canals, for starters. You know – stuff to make the city more liveable, to make people healthier and more active.

Why can’t this happen here? Because there are too many regressive bomb throwers like Sal DiCiccio, perhaps the most stunted person to ever sit on the dais for the Phoenix City Council.

DiCiccio’s notion of leading is to squawk "cut spending!" like a stuttering parrot. Somehow, I started receiving his "newsletters," which are little more than angsty screeds portraying him as a crusader for the little guy. I never signed up for this; I suspect his staff tapped into city data to find an audience upon which to push his small-time agenda.

Let’s look at some recent subject lines:
Your kids’ milk money pays for raises
Taxpayers misled: Food Tax for pay raises
Your Water Bill: Going UP -- You Can Stop It!
Expected Smears on Reformers
Phoenix can Lead Nation/Unions Stop Jobs
Phoenix Spending ‘ripe for abuse’
Union takeover – Phx City Hall

How sad. Not a single idea for how Phoenix can do more for its residents (nor any idea how to write better than amateurish hack level, but that’s another story). It’s all panicky demonizing and fear mongering. No inspiration, no original thinking. No innovation. DiCiccio equates good governance simply with spending less and taxing less -- and offering fat tax breaks to pet projects in the hope of a fleeting boost in low-paying jobs.

Improving city services? Offering amenities that truly world-class cities enjoy? Forget about it.

Sure, our current tax dollars could go further. Trimming here and there? Never a bad idea. But when that and squalling about unions is all a self-proclaimed leader can do, your city is in bad hands.

I’ve always wondered why Chicagoans who move to Phoenix constantly pine for their former city (well, during the winter months, at least).

Hmm, maybe the answer is the Sal DiCiccio mentality.

Phoenix Councilman Again Shows Contempt for City Employees

I just got an ominous e-mail from Sal DiCiccio, the councilman for District 6 in Phoenix. Its subject line: "This will shock you." The title is "What do you get?". 

Councilman DiCiccio says this: "A first-year city of Phoenix clerk gets 40 and a half days off [scary bold text Sal’s], including vacation, holidays and sick time. That’s two months off — and an afternoon — in the first year of employment. And the days off keep going up as the years go by."

Wow, Councilman. That sounds like the benefits packages enjoyed by most of the civilized world save the United States, where we pride ourselves on working people into a stupor. I interpret this information as the city doing something right for its employees – giving them time to improve themselves through travel. To indulge their curiosity. To refresh themselves. Congrats! Yay, city of Phoenix for doing the right thing!

But wait! That’s not what Councilman DiCiccio is saying. He thinks it’s a bad thing to allow workers time to be more than wage slaves. I mean, what if they travel and create some great memories with the bounty of their time off? What if they go abroad and see that other First World countries have universal health care and copious amounts of vacation time? Oh, the horror. I also love cooking the statistics to include sick time.

"If employees don’t use all their time off, they get to cash in the remaining days like casino chips," Councilman DiCiccio intones, "and guess who the bank is? You and your family." [again, scary bold text Sal’s]

Gasp! You mean my Little Timmy (note: Wandering Justin has no offspring named Timmy. This is sarcasm.) is paying for those bums to go on vacation? Do you hear my howls of indignation and my weeping and gnashing of teeth? I’d also like verifiable proof that employees get to "cash in" their sick time. Remember, we know Sal "lacks specific details and numbers." And how many state and federal holidays are included in that 40.5 days?

Councilman, this is exactly the way things should work in a productive, prosperous, industrialized society. (And yes, dammit – we’re prosperous when every college kid has an iPhone.) I’m perfectly fine with my tax dollar being used to treat city employees like real people with real lives, interests and aspirations instead of worker bee drones.

Councilman DiCiccio, you have it back-asswards. You should be crusading against business owners who do the bare minimum for their employees. Laud your city’s paid time off policies. Hold them up as what decent business owners should aspire to do for their employees. Show them that fair amounts of vacation time are beneficial to people’s health, sanity and productivity.

But you’re afraid to do that, aren’t you? Because I’ll bet those same business owners will stuff your campaign coffers when you run for mayor (keep in mind – I don’t live in Sal DiCiccio’s district. So why does he send me these e-mails? To start his campaign for mayor. As I’ve mentioned before, I never even signed up for his newsletter.). If you fail to toe the line, you’ll see fewer campaign contributions.

No. It’s easier for you to throw truly hard-working and deserving people under the steamroller.

Leader? No. Politician? To the very core.

Phoenix Councilman Supplies Info About Residents to Special-Interest Group

Sal DiCiccio, a member of the Phoenix city council, has convinced me of something – that he’s funnelling information about residents to an outside organization to further his political agenda. Here’s how he did it:

Back in August, something strange popped into my e-mail box: a newsletter from Councilman DiCiccio.

I never signed up for it. I don’t even live in his district. I chalked it up as an anomaly until I got a newsletter from nofee2hikeaz.com a few days later. I also didn’t sign up for its newsletter.

DiCiccio and nofee2hikeaz.com, it turns out, have a common goal – opposing the Phoenix Park Board plan to charge for parking at less than 20 percent of the city’s trailheads.

City Staff Members Look Into E-Mail Mystery

On Sept. 8, I decided to ask city officials about what was happening: I contacted David Urbinato, parks department spokesman. He passed my e-mail to Toni Maccarone, the city’s spokeswoman. Here’s what she wrote to me:

" -- we did quite a bit of research, and the answer that we came up with is what we thought.  We do not share our city news list with anyone.  We’re sorry, but we are not sure how you got on these other lists. When I asked Councilman DiCiccio’s Chief of Staff Hal DeKeyser about it, he said that you may have been added to the Councilman’s list in a number of different ways because they have a separate, outside list that they maintain, and they add people’s e-mails from a variety of different sources."

Maccarone suggested I talk to DeKeyser. I know him – he is a former Scottsdale Tribune editor. I joined the paper as a reporter just after DeKeyser was effectively exiled to the then even-more-bustling (if you count retirees in golf carts as bustling) West Valley. There, he served as publisher of a flock of chicken-dinner publications like the West Valley View.

I decided to let things unfold a bit before talking to him.

I’m pretty sure DiCiccio had access to my information since I signed up for the phoenixnews e-newsletter. I registered using a personal address, not the one posted here at WanderingJustin.com.

Slip-Up Reveals the Connection

On Sept. 17, I got the break I hoped for: I received a newsletter from both DiCiccio and nofee2hikeaz.com – and the content was exactly the same: every subject line, every sentence, every idea. Identical.

To me, this is a major sign – likely outright proof – that Diciccio or someone working for him provided my e-mail information to nofee2hikeaz.com.

Both parties were stupid, arrogant or a radioactive combination of both.

Local Media is Watching

A reporter at The Arizona Republic also confirmed that the paper is curious about ties between DiCiccio and nofee2hikeaz.com. The reporter said interview requests for the website were not answered – and that DeKeyser denied any ties to the organization. Someone is lying. And the reporter has no motive.

Since the curiously similar e-mail blasts, I’ve continued getting DiCiccio’s Glenn Beck-ish squawking for the entertainment value. In his alternate reality, he is the only guy looking out for the little people of the impovershed Arcadia and Ahwatukee neighborhoods (someone has to make sure families there can afford the payments on their fleet of SUVs). In that alternate reality, it’s also OK to sign people up for e-mail lists against their will and to funnel their information to outside organizations that are not accountable or even willing to be interviewed by media.

It doesn’t seem the city has a policy governing how it handles residents’ e-mail addresses. So DiCiccio will probably escape censure from city officials. But I’m hoping he’ll answer for this and every other act of ethical dyslexia at the ballot box.

So what do you think? Does it look like DiCiccio or one of his staff members provided e-mail to addresses to nofee2hikeaz.com? If so, do you find that dirty pool?

Why Phoenix Councilman’s Stance on City Parks is Bogus

Phoenix City Councilman Sal DiCiccio has come out adamantly against a $2 a day parking fee for about 700 of 5,000 parking spaces at city trailhead parking lots. Here’s what he has to say in the latest newsletter he sent out (including to people like me who never signed up for it).

Let’s parse the massaged public relations quacking and uncover the truth, which will prove that DiCiccio’s stance is nothing more than a bush-league politician’s PR ploy:

1. The voice and presence of people who showed up, who contacted the council members, who passed out fliers and who talked with their friends and neighbors – that at least temporarily stopped the city from adding the $2 parking fee.

Right. So far, every single one of the opposition’s attempts to unite have been an abject failure. The NoFee2HikeAZ.com "protest hike" in August fizzled – according to its own Facebook photos, all of five people showed up. Its Twitter feed is followed by an avalanche of 12 people. And The Arizona Republic is reporting that "residents who spoke at the last parks board meeting Aug. 26 were 3-1 in favor of the fee."

2. First the Parks Board was convinced that if it didn’t produce revenue to kick into the general fund that pays normal city operating costs, cuts even harsher than the deep ones imposed in the current budget could be forthcoming. It considered a parking fee as high as $5 a day on hikers

Even at $5, the day fee is still less than the $6 day-use fees at Maricopa County Regional Parks. And I have yet to hear anyone who doesn’t consider that a bargain for excellent trail systems. Phoenix and its parks lag behind – they’re good, but they simply don’t equal the county’s offerings. A day-use fee for Phoenix might lessen the gap. Quality costs.

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How Did I Get on Anti-Park Fee Group’s Email List?

A website called nofee2hikeaz.com is now online fighting the Phoenix government’s proposal to charge for parking at 5 of its most-congested trailheads. Check my earlier post for some of the details.

Let me get this straight: The people who launched this site have the time and resources – in both time and cash – to design, code, launch and administer a website complete with YouTube videos. Yet they don’t have an extra $60 for a yearly pass for unlimited usage of those five trailheads. And they can’t park anywhere else, either.

That is just risible.

I also love the name: nofee2hikeaz.com.

How disingenuous and misleading can they get?

This is about five trailheads in one city. Let me repeat that: five trailheads, one city. Not even an entire city. It has nothing to do with the state of Arizona. Classic scare tactic from some local with delusions of Karl Rove grandeur.

But hey, what’s a little misdirection when there are $60 at stake!

I can’t help noticing that the video shows some awfully slick SUVs and sports cars in the parking lot. Maybe they could just skip a latte or two a week and apply it to the park fee? Nah, that’s crazy talk.

And here’s an interesting addition to the equation: Two days earlier, I received an email from Councilman Sal DiCiccio, the same one who railed against the proposed park fees, two days ago.

I have no idea how the councilman acquired my information. And I have absolutely no idea how the Webmasters of nofee2hikeaz.com acquired my information. NOTE: They did not use the email address associated with this Web site, but my private address.

This was the first email I ever received from Councilman DiCiccio. And the first I received from this group.

Is it a far stretch to conclude that the councilman provided the group with my information? I wonder if he was equally cavalier with the information of any other city resident.

And he has the nerve to talk about “stewardship” of tax dollar. As of right now, I don’t trust him with my e-mail address. Or yours.