Son #1 posting the latest radio show episodes my father did with Mike O’Neil:
Find the original episode here. And encourage the big guy to start blogging again 😉
Son #1 posting the latest radio show episodes my father did with Mike O’Neil:
Find the original episode here. And encourage the big guy to start blogging again 😉
Son #1 here posting this for posterity’s sake: this is an interview my father did back around Thanksgiving with Mike O’Neil of the “Think Tank” on KTAR 92.3FM:
And here is the official blurb on it:
Conservatives are prone to think that the answer to crime is severe punishment. Liberals are traditionally more concerned with rehabilitation. It is pretty hard to design a program that appeals to both groups.
There is a program in Maricopa County that would seem to have something for everyone. The Restorative Justice Construction project assigns probationers with construction skills to work details that involve undertaking construction projects for legitimate and needy nonprofits. The nonprofits generally contribute needed materials, while this program provides the labor.
Worthy charitable entities get much needed work done. Since participating probationers include both master craftsmen and apprentices, the latter often get to develop marketable job-related skills. And court-mandated work requirements are met by doing things that are more useful to the community than picking up trash.
Attorney Dave Tierney has been involved with this program for many years. We discuss how the program evolved, what it takes to make the program work, how it differs from less successful programs using prison labor and what are the obstacles to replication of this program elsewhere.
You can find the original interview posted here. You can also find an interview I did with him and my Mom here on my podcast. If you want to hear more interviews like these from my Dad please leave a comment here on the topics on which you’d like to have his opinion.
This is another unsolicited guest post from son #1… My father recently appeared on Justin Bayless’ “Relentless Mentality” podcast. In this episode my Dad discusses his Peace Corps experience, how he met my Mom, his activities in Mississippi during the 60’s to help register black voters, the early start to the Sacks Tierney law firm and some of the projects he’s currently involved with today in Phoenix. Enjoy!
On May 7, 1975, my first son Sean, was born and home life became child oriented. Connor was born 11/08/77 and that doubled the need to be home and playing with the kids. I continued on as a full time litigator at the growing law firm, which we moved to a new building in the late 70’s. Professional life and the family consumed a lot of time but the situation in Phoenix and in Arizona was fluid and it seemed that we were on the verge of shucking off the hold of Charter Government in the City. I was drawn to doing as much civic stuff as I could, given the opportunity to make change. I spent a fair amount of time with my friend Rosendo Gutierrez working on the struggle to get minorities onto the School Boards and the City Council, eventually participating in Rosie’s campaigns for the City Council, his work there, and then his (unsuccessful) campaign for Mayor of the City. My wife, Susan, was teaching at Phoenix Union High School and the bilingual program in which she taught was under fire from conservatives though it was doing incredible amounts of good in the community. We both spent some time in the community defending and improving that program. Susan stopped teaching once both boys were born, so she could be a full time mom.
With Judge Raul Castro having resigned as Governor in 1976, the Secretary of State (Wesley Bolin) succeeded him – and Bolin’s Assistant (Rose Mofford) became the acting Secretary of State. Rose had run the place for years as Bolin was in his mid 80s. Bolin assembled a few staff (Bill Reilly from APS was his Chief of Staff) and began a tour as Governor that lasted only about 6 months. While such was occurring, Dino DeConcini (who had been Castro’s Chief of Staff) asked me to head his campaign to become the next Governor of Arizona. We raised money and hired some staff for that venture but fate intervened… On a Saturday morning, while Dino and I were at a meeting with Chicanos por la Causa people in South Phoenix, my best Friend (Ted Williams) called Ted was Director of the Health Department and had just been informed by Department of Security (State Police) folks that Governor Bolin had died early that morning. Bolin had caught a chill on a helicopter ride examining flood threatened dams on the SRP waterways and had perished in the night. Only a week before, Dino had met with Attorney General Bruce Babbit. Babbit stood next in line to be Governor, if Bolin were to die, and Babbit had indicated that, if Bolin were to die, Babbit would “run downhill”, meaning Babbit would serve as Governor as the Constitution required – but would then run for the Attorney General’s office in which he had been serving for several years. It was 7am in the morning but I jumped in my car and raced to Babbit’s home in Central Phoenix. When I reached the door, Hattie Babbit answered the door and said: “You are too late. He has gone to the mountains with Ron Warnicke, Paul Eckstein, and Bob Allen”, all three of them being Harvard classmates of mine and Babbit’s, class of 1965.
With three or so days, the quartet returned and Babbit said that he had changed his mind and would now run for Governor instead of Attorney General… Babbit had money and name recognition and would have over a year as an incumbent Governor so his candidacy posed a strong challenge to Dino’s candidacy. Several of us got in a plane and flew down to Tucson at night. We met with Dino’s father (Evo, former Supreme Court Justice) and brother Dennis, later Senator from Arizona) plus some Tucson pols who had been key in the Castro Campaign. Evo and I urged a shift to Dino’s running for Secretary of State and his spending his time to reinvigorate a disorganized Democratic Party. Dino and essentially the entire group wanted Dino to run for the Attorney General’s slot being vacated by Babbit – and that was the late night decision which was made. We ran that campaign for A.G. over the next months and were said by the polls to be ahead. I went into the A.G.’s office (being run then by Jack LaSota as acting A.G.) and examined files and budgets. The place seemed to me to be awash in difficult problems. In the campaign, we were opposing Bob Corbin, a County Supervisor and far right Republican. A week before the ’78 election, at a late night meeting in my conference room at my law office, we were so far ahead that we decided to remove $10,000 from our last week’s media buy. At 11pm at night, I drove North on Central Avenue and at a stoplight stopped next to Tony Mason, Esq., who had been in the meeting. Both of us were separately driving to El Tovar Lodge for a Town Hall Meeting the next morning, a several hour trip. Tony rolled down his window and said to me, ” I think we have just made a big mistake”. He was right, while we drove North, Bob Corbin fired his campaign manager, took on Phoenix Mayor Tim Barrows as campaign manager, jetisoned some ill advised TV Commercials showing Corbin on a white horse with 2 sixguns, doubled his media budget for a lot 10-second TV spots. Corbin won the election by a very slim margin, starting a Republican “spiral of office holder success” which continued for the next 40 years in Arizona.
Shortly after this debacle, Tom Irvine and I went to Dennis DeConcini in Tucson with some poll numbers and voting statistics. We participated in the decision which Dennis made to run for the Senate seat. Jocko Conlon opposed Sam Steiger in the Republican primary for that seat and they beat each other up badly. Dennis won that seat by a small margin and very soon after became embroiled in a Panama Canal fight in the Senate, where in a large faction opposed turning the Panama canal over to Panamanians.
In 1980, something occurred that changed my life in an amazing and unforeseen way. The folks that I had been beating up on regarding theoir role in Charter Government (the Charter Government principals) decided that they were aging out and that they should bring into existence a leadership training institute. They decided that it would be a very intensive “civics course, with a full day every month devoted to instruction by the highest level of government and private sector industry leaders. For example, on education day, there would be finance, teacher union, School District heads and students, plus a field trip. On Corrections day, there would be top officials from the DOC, inmates, advocates, Judges, Probation folks teaching the day. On electric day, there were flights over the dams and visits to Palo Verde Nuclear Plant, plus top executives from APS and SRP. The class was 45 persons and only 5 of us were democrats – and I got selected to be one of the minority. Class sessions were no holds barred debate marathons and I made some friends with the folks from the other side of the aisle. It was an exciting and intellectually stimulating time and the connections on the other side of the aisle have helped me in many ventures since, not to mention the understanding of just how things work and get done in this area.
In late 1981, I had a bad break. I had just finished two years as legal counsel to the Democratic Party of Maricopa County (Rosendo Gutierrez was the Chairman) and I was heading home at 10pm after a tumultuous meeting. A fellow named Lloyd Sherk was a chef at the Impeccable Pig Restaurant in Scottsdale and he was headed home at the same time – but he had a snootful of liquor in him. I was driving a new sportscar with a sunroof I had had specially installed in it. Sherk was driving a ten year old Cadillac Sedan. He crossed into my lane and hit me head on doing 45mph. I was doing 30 and the collision occurred at 7th Street and Missouri, 14 blocks from home but only 4 blocks from a fire station. I came to in great pain and there was a firefighter with a big mustache right in my face. I could smell gasoline. He said, “don’t worry buddy, we are going to cut you out of this car. My sports car was a small twisted ball of wreckage. Mr. Sherk blew 0.18 on the drunkometer breathalyzer, had been driving on a suspended license, and his car was unregistered. I was a long time in the hospital in 1981 as the sunroof had nearly cut off my ear and given me one heck of a slice on the left side of my face. My right knee had hit the gear shift and exploded and they spent a lot of time sewing my ear and face and then operating twice on the knee. I was in and out of the hospital for months and on crutches for about 8 months. As I lay in the hospital, I decided that I needed to step up my extra curricular life and decided to take out a City Initiative Petition to reform the City Charter and get rid of Charter Government. After some research, I chose the Portland/San Diego plan of 5 elected at large and 5 elected from districts (sort of a senate/house split) that would give districts some say and allow some folks to run City-wide. I raised some money, opened a little office, hired some signature gatherers, and watched the Charter Government folks go crazy. The Mayor (Margaret Hance) created a Charter Reform committee to put the slows to my efforts and picked Jon Kyl, a lawyer from the Jennings Strouss Firm to head it. He later became a U.S. Senator… At some point, when it became clear that the Charter Reform Committee was a delay tactic, Pat Cantelme from the firefighters union called me. He said that if I would alter my plan to be a straight 7-Wards plan, then they would back me. I refused and there was an immediate filing of a competing petition by the firefighters calling for a ward system. They had a young fellow named Terry Goddard (son of a former Governor) head their effort, spent a lot of firefighter time and money, and soon Terry and I were debating on talk shows which plan was better. Charter Government opposed any change, but the firefighter plan won in a very close election. By 1981, we had a new City Charter. The Charter Government people who had spurned my plan were now aghast at the result. I was summoned to a meeting in the Plaza Club with the editor of the paper and a bunch of Bankers and real estate guys who strong-armed me, trying to get me to run a repeal effort. They heavy handedly indicated that, if I declined, then they would put me on some sort of a blacklist and make my life tough. I declined. They got Chuck Theisen, a Mercedes Dealer, to run the repeal campaign – and it failed badly. Since about 1982, Phoenix has been a City with 8 Wards.
My identification with the Castro crowd and then the DeConcini crowd made me friends with a lot of southern Arizona democrats – but (busy with Dino) I had “sat out” the Babbit campaign for Governor in which many of my democratic lawyer friends in Phoenix had been much involved. In the early 80’s, though, Babbitt thought past that fact and began to involve me in the sort of things I had been doing before, correctional reforms and educational issues. In the early 80s, I ran the Governor’s Commission on Computers in Education for Babbit, compiling statistics as to how many school districts were using computers in the classrooms and at what cost with what results. Babbitt then hired a pair of Southerners, Bill Jamieson from North Carolina (leaving the Carter administration) and Ellis MacDougall from Georgia. Bill ran the Department of Economic Security here and was a very religious episcopalian and became a Deacon then, on leaving Arizona in the early 90s, became a Minister in Atlanta. Ellis MacDougall was a feisty, firey passionate reformer of the Corrections Department. Ellis was newly divorced and, when he came to Arizona, he had a lady friend and was interested in creating a social life that would fit with his 24/7 work in the embattled Corrections Department. Ellis and Babbit made me the head of Arizona Prison Industries Board of Trustees, a seven person Board. Ellis put together a men’s cooking group comprised of Joel Nilsson of the Republic Newspaper, Ned Creighton of the conservation Capitol Times newspaper, Bill Jamison, Ellis, me, and Charles Case, a bankruptcy judge. The guys met once a month and cooked the meals, with the wives eating the food. It was a great way to stay up on what was going on in State Government. By the mid 80’s, Prison Industries (known as ARCOR) was working with the Corrections Department hand in hand, and was making 21 products and selling furniture, milk, mattresses, etc. and serving up crops, jeans, fencing and the like for the Department. Things were looking pretty good – but a late 80’s election was coming from which Bill Schultz, the apartment tycoon, would suddenly withdraw, leaving me and Bill Jamison hanging out there as his key insiders. That departure of the strong democrat running for Governor would result in a Pontiac Dealer from Glendale, a right wing odd fellow, becoming Governor. Things were about to go to the dogs in Arizona… big time.
This is an unsolicited guest post from Dave Tierney’s son, Sean Tierney.
I’m eleven months into a year-long trip around the world working abroad across Europe, Africa and Latin America. I flew home the other week from Lima, Peru to attend an awards ceremony for my Dad. He recently received the Valley Leadership Man of the Year award for his service to a number of organizations and his work on various civil rights issues. He talked about some important stuff and I’ve now had the privilege of seeing him receive a handful of these awards (previously the Hon Kachina Volunteer Award the Judge Learned Hand Award).
My Dad works tirelessly behind the scenes via a number of volunteer organizations. He has some incredible stories and wisdom I’m hoping he’ll share here. He rarely speaks publicly but when he does it’s always on an important topic confronting society. His talks are direct but not preachy and he’s always good about giving actionable and realistic suggestions for what the average person can do to help the cause.
Below are three of his talks I’ve captured on video (2 acceptance speeches and one talk for the Harvard Club).
If you enjoy hearing what my Dad has to say, take a sec and chime in via a comment below and encourage him to get back on his blogging horse 😉
Valley Leadership Man of the Year Award acceptance speech on 3/20/17
Discussion of prison reform in Arizona
Justice Learned Hand Award acceptance speech on 3/8/11
Discussion of immigration issues in Arizona
Talk on civil rights issues for the Phoenix Ivy Club 11/15/13
Stories from his work in Mississippi back in the 60’s around voter education efforts
So, in March of 1969, I went to Boston, decided that there was too much cold weather and not enough Spanish spoken to set up shop there. In a prescheduled phone call, I told my fiancee that it looked like Phoenix was the choice. Her answer was “whatever”. I had to arrive in Phoenix before Midnite on 3/31/69 or they would not let me take the Bar Exam in July. I got a flight that brought me to the gate by 11:45pm and had three folks waiting there to sign affidavits that I had arrived in time. The Law Firm had arranged with a client of Sy Sacks (one Manuel Wilkey) that he would provide me with a car (as Wilkey was in the business). On April Fools day, I went to the firm, signed a few papers, got into the promised car (an enormous blue 4 door 1959 Cadillac sedan with plates taped to the window). I was heading out to get an apartment and shop for a car. I was stopped by a pleasant Phoenix policeman who enquired about a non-working tail light. Within moments, he had elicited that I had a job and was driving on my Massachusetts driver’s license. He wrote me up for the tail light, the plates improperly attached, and for driving on my foreign state’s license while being a resident (there was and is no “grace period” in Arizona). I continued on my way, rented a one bedroom efficiency apartment at 16th Street & McDowell, bought a 1967 Chevie Malibu, had it licensed to the new apartment’s address, and returned to the law firm. The three tickets would put 8 points on the Arizona Driver’s License that I needed to get right away. If I got it and the tickets stuck, I would be unable to drive… One of the Partners in the law firm (Dushoff, Sacks, and Corcoran), Bob Corcoran, the guy with whom I was to work for the next several years, told me not to worry. He would represent me on the 3 tickets in City Court. Sy Sacks called me into his office and told me to prepare an affidavit by Mr. X stating A,B, C, etc. I left his office, went to the chief secretary (it was a 4 lawyer firm) and asked Bernce Schumacher, “when you write an affidavit, how does it start off?” Bernice looked at me a little sharply and said: “Mr. X, upon his oath deposes and says as follows…” Harvard had never taught its law students anything practical and I had been 4 years out of the classroom doing non-law stuff in Venezuela.
My job at the law firm was to back up Bob Corcoran (who later became Justice Corcoran). Bob had been a water bond lawyer at a large and famous Phoenix firm. One day, he walked into the County Attorney’s office in 1962 and asked if they would hire him and let him try murder cases, which he proceeded to do very well for four years. He then went into private law practice doing criminal defense and needed a spear carrier who knew the game and would work long hours. It was a help that I spoke Spanish and had been involved with jail visits and prisoner interviews, then criminal defense cases as a third year student in Cambridge during the last 2 years of lschool. The work at D.SC. was interesting; the hours were crazy; Bob was a dynamite teacher, given to sending me off to do things that I had never done before. Every Saturday at 8am I met Bob at the office and, across his huge Oak Desk (brought down from a saloon in Prescott), we would share a thermos of coffee, 2 donuts, and discuss the week’s new cases in the door, hearings held, motions filed, and plans on each case for the next 2-4 weeks. Among our clients was the then U.S. Senator for Arizona, picked up and booked for driving under the influence. I went to the jail myself at 3am one night and bailed out Paul Fannin, who a few days later pleaded guilty, served a day, paid his fine, and complimented the boys in blue for doing their jobs. As that first summer wore on, I learned what hot really was. I took a Bar Review class and sat next to Cornelius J. O’Driscoll, then recently arrived from my Native Boston. I could not then imagine that he would become my next door neighbor for 15 years in 2 different neighborhoods and that his wife would become my wife’s best friend…
Somewhere in here I thought that I had better get myself up to Susan’s parents’ farm in South Central Illinois. I caught a plane and Susan’s father, Wayne Fennel , met me at the St Louis airport. I had prepared. I had memorized a list of the names of cows and their descriptions. As we left St Louis, I waited for the right opportunity, caught sight of a fine bovine specimen, ran through the list in my head, and stated: “That is a good looking Swiss Chocolate Bull over there…” I had misremembered the list (it was a Brown Swiss) but it kept Wayne in stitches for the next 60 miles. We arrived at the farm (in the middle of no where) and the 2 young kids (Jim and Patty) met us at the back door. Susan’s mother (Cecelia always referred to as “Bug”) was cooking Jonnie Marizetti, an italian dish. As we sat in to dinner, I picked up my fork and realized that I needed to wait for grace to be said. As I took the first mouthful, Susan’s mother said: “And what religion are you, David.” Not seeing the beckoning shoals, I gave a 150 word response about my near atheist world view. Susan’s mother left the table, wept in the living room and then called the local priest. He arrived in an hour wearing a brown robe with a rope belt and carrying an attitude. After interviews with several of us who had been at the dinner table, he told me that the marriage could not occur. I cited him some Canon law with which he had never had any contact. After a sort of uncomfortable weekend, I came back to Phoenix and had to write the Catholic Bishop of Illinois a brief citing Canon law – which he agreed with. The Brown Frocked priest was sent to some other parish. No more was heard of this problem.
Working long days and wild cases, doing class for the Bar, then studying til midnight for the Bar Exam got old fast. In July, we all went down to Tucson, where the Bar Exam would be given for 2 days at the U of A Law School’s Great Hall. The guys at the firm recommended the Tidewater Hotel, conveniently located to the U of A. At 2am in the morning before the exam, the Tidewater Hotel (owned by the mob) was dynamited. About 75 guys who were staying there for the exam stood in the Street in their pajamas to watch the firemen, all the while reading from their Bar notes so as to use the time well. As the exam commenced, my name was called and I went down front and was handed a telegram. It was from the guys in the firm and was a long litany of quotes from outdated Old English Laws, the Statute of Shifting Uses, the Rule against Perpetuities, etc. I tore it up and dropped it in the wastebasket so no proctor would think it was a cheat sheet for the 2 day exam. I passed and life got easier. Susan got out of the Peace Corps in August of 1969 and came to Phoenix to stop here on her way to the farm. I promised to get another car (we would need two) and to get it up to her in Illinois so she could get around while she planned our wedding for November 29, 1969. I went out and bought a 1968 Olive Green Pontiac GTO with a 6 liter engine, loud pipes, and a special Hurst Racing Transmission. I drove it up to Illinois in one 28 hour drive around October 1, 1969. Susan’s brother and sister agreed it was one “Boss” vehicle. Susan planned a pretty big wedding at a little parish church then a reception at the Rockcliffe Mansion on the River at Hannibal Missouri. My best man was my old friend from Harvard Law School weekends, Lee Dushoff. I think most of the attendees at the wedding had never met a jewish person and it was an interesting cultural exchange. The wedding was attended by about 8 or 10 Peace Corps people from Susan’s group. They ate anything and everything put in front of them, filled the gastanks for their cars before they left the farm, and generally really had a blast and were slow to leave. On my wedding night, upon carrying Susan over the threshold at the hotel, I managed to leave outside on the doorstep a prominently marked suitcase. The suitcase was spotted by the Peace Corps volunteers who stood outside the door for a long time shouting advice and suggestions… We drove the GTO and a trailer that consumed a lot of gasoline to Phoenix, did a honeymoon in Frisco and Route 1 down to San Diego, then came home to a tiny apartment at 15th Street and Campbell just before Christmas of 1969.
The Law Firm was called Dushoff, Sacks and Corcoran, and was on the 15th floor of the newest downtown office building. My initial salary was $12,000 a year. When I was a week in the firm, the chief secretary, Bernice, came to me and said, “Did you agree on a salary with ‘the boys’?” I said, “we never discussed money.” With that, s hunted and bearded the 3 partners and, as an afterthought, my salary was set by agreement between them and me. Susan found a job within a week of our setting up house in our tiny apartment. She started teaching mathematics to the children of migrant workers out in Peoria. It was a long drive and chaotic changing classroom makeups. In April, she got a call from Phoenix Union High School. They had a bilingual 4 year high school program and their bilingual math teacher suddenly had gotten called up to a professional baseball team. They needed Susan immediately, were paying top dollar of all the school districts, and would get her a temporary certificate while she took 2 years to get a teaching Masters from ASU. Susan fell into a neat job where she worked with gifted selected young teachers under Maria Vega, a lady known here and in Texas, who ran the program. The students were motivated and flowered under the hothouse program, which weaned them off of Spanish and into English, while teaching them material (Math) that they had never understood from teachers in the grades below who were unable to speak Spanish. Susan’s connections in the world of bilingual education promptly immersed us is what was really going on in Phoenix. Segregated eduction (Blacks and whites) had lasted in Phoenix til 1962 when Carver High School closed. A very uneasy truce existed in the schools and, in fact in 1973 there was a major student walkout and strike over racial discriminatio at Susan’s high school. My Law Firm had requested that, for the first three years, I not spend time and energy on extra-curriculars. They wanted me to really apply myself to becoming good at my trade, i.e. Criminal defense. I was trying, but the City was wracked with racially based divisions and disputes. The Phoenix Union High School District had some 30,000 students in 15 schools and the 5 man Board of Trustees elected every 2 years was a bunch of five older white guys. No matter what was done, the Chicanos and Blacks could not work together – and the election was at large – so white candidates beat any minority candidate every time. By the summer of 1970, I found myself enmeshed in the creation of a possible treaty between the black and brown communities so that there could be a compromise candidate for the School Board. In my living room, Calvin Goode (a firebrand from the black community) sat down with Rosendo Gutierrez (a firebrand from the Chicano Community). Each brought seconds and supporters. A deal was cut and for the next 3 elections, a compromise candidate ran with the support of both groups, first Gutierrez, then Reverend Carrico, and then another. Nothing could breach the at large feature of the election as a safe harbor for the white community and their handpicked candidates. That feature, the at large election, was hamstringing candidates that sought to alter the entrenched City Council elections… The access to education was an important feature of the American Dream for minorities and they could not even get a seat at the table to help make decisions. High school drop out statistics were horrific and Blacks and Browns felt they were not being heard.
Working for candidates for school board for the huge unified high school district board showed me that the City was Balkanized and conflicted worse than the school board situation. This was a Charter Government City, ruled by a 30 year old businessman group called the Phoenix 40. They were comprised of the newspaper, plus the utilities, plus the Banks and developers, plus a few big employers – and they were used to having their way. I found myself bucking their candidates, criticizing their actions, and folks told me I was swimming upstream against powerful currents and forces. About that time, I figured out that two forces, the churches and the neighborhood associations were going to remake Phoenix, so I enlisted in the latter. I made friends in the neighborhood groups, advised them on their fights with City Council and the Charter Government buddies who were the developers trying to gut neighborhoods and build high rise buildings all over town. My friend Rosendo “Rosie” Gutierrez ran for Council then for Mayor with my help and Charter Government was growing ever weaker… By 1973, I had several campaigns under my belt on the local scene. I had become counsel to the Democratic Party and served two years. Bob Corcoran had left the lawfirm and gone to a firm across the alley, which merged with Fennemore Craig. Criminal defense practice had become non-economic because a huge public defenders office had been created. Bob left to do divorce practice at a big firm. I turned to civil litigation then to construction law litigation. The law firm was growing and all looked good. Then Rosie Gutierrez made me an offer that I could not refuse, one which was going to change my future totally…Rosie said that he knew a guy named Raul Castro, a former judge from Tucson who was going to run for Governor of the State. Raul needed 4 new tires for his 1958 Pink Thunderbird so he could drive the State.. Did I want to get in on the ground floor and raise some bucks, then help set up and run the campaign…
The chance to run an Hispanic candidate and unite the minority communities was so appealing thatI could not resist. With my friends and my wife, Susan, I went whole hog into the Campaign, serving as sort of a lawyer riding herd on the wild and crazy old pols from Tucson that wanted to do a traditional smoky room sort of campaign, one that had some questionable and not disclosed sources of cash. A legal committee of Tom Tang, Dennis DeConcini, and myself was formed and we fought to keep the campaign straight under a brand new campaign finance law. We had 19 campaign committees and it made for a lot of oversight to keep the old crowd from screwing up under the new law. After a year and a half of hard work, Castro was elected Governor in a cliff hanging election against Russ Williams, whose slogan was a racist swipe, “He looks like a Governor”. Meaning, Castro looked like a Mexican… It seemed exhilerating. There was a chance that we were going to have a fair playing field to advance the cause of minorities.. So the next story in this chain will deal with how it all went awry in about two and a half years!
This is an unsolicited guest post from son #1, Sean Tierney. Dad, sorry to hijack your blog like this but having created it I still have the login credentials. I figured given the circumstances of it being your birthday this is a valid birthday surprise. I’m writing this from London, UK on the morning of 8/19/16 but technically it’s still your bday in Phoenix, AZ…
I wanted to share a quick story of a formative moment from my younger years that shows what makes my Dad, my Dad. The motivation here is partly that I forgot to send a b-day present this year and this is the only thing I could think of that would arrive in time from across the pond. But also I’m hoping this may motivate the big guy to resume his blogging effort again after more than a year’s hiatus.
When you’re a five-year-old aspiring engineer obsessed with building space legos, it’s important that you get it right. Millions of lives depend on your legos having flawless structural integrity, built to spec and that they match the model shown in the instructions precisely… or at least that’s the way it feels 😉 Growing up I had no less than 16sqft of my room devoted to lego bases. That was my thing. I’d get a new kit from the toy store at Colonnade Mall, go home and spend the entire afternoon assembling it to perfection and then proudly add it to my space empire colonizing the corner of my room.
One day I came home with a set called “The Galaxy Explorer” – it was the biggest and most complex lego set I had worked with at that point and it was to be the linchpin of my space colony for the obvious reason that it had to get me around the galaxy.
When I arrived home from the toy store I set about the most important mission of my life up to that point assembling this thing. As you might imagine the instructions for putting this together were intense. There was this 3×5″ glossy color pamphlet that unfolded into a sprawling blueprint that was too big for the dining room table and looked like one of those language-less instruction sheets for Danish furniture- just a huge set of pictures with arrows and numbers. I dutifully began my mission.
Some four hours later nearing completion of this beast I came to an impasse. The plastic lego pieces that were left simply did not match up with the ones in the pictures. Occasionally you make errors as a 5yr-old engineer so I checked and rechecked my work thus far but it became gradually clear that this was an unsolvable engineering project given the materials at hand. 3-D printers were still 30 years in the future and they didn’t sell the pieces I needed a la carte at Kay-Be Toys. Was it just pieces in this box that were missing or were the blueprints for the entire design of the Galaxy Explorer just fundamentally broken? If the latter, how many other space travelers were impacted by this omission?? I wrestled with the biggest crisis of my life to date. This was the first time I had followed instructions to a T only to hit an insurmountable wall and fail at something. All my honed lego-building skills were useless in the face of missing the key pieces necessary to complete the ship.
At some point my Dad walked in to find me at the dining room table sobbing over the nearly completed model. I was emotionally knotted and wrapped around the axle with my first experience of failure and the impossibility of making something work. LEGO was teasing me with a picture of what it should be but an impossible task of actuating it.
The next thing my Dad did fundamentally changed my worldview not just with lego-building but everything. It was one of those epiphany cross-roads moments that evolves you as a human and opens your head to a new way of thinking. He said, “My man, these instructions aren’t the only way to build this. It’s just one suggestion for how THEY think it should be put together but you’re a smart guy. You can build an even better version of your own.” In that moment he installed a license to “color outside the lines” in my 5yr-old operating system. But not just that- he installed also the encouragement to question and challenge instructions when they were clearly flawed along with the confidence that indeed I had it in me to come up with a better approach.
The notion that I might be able to invent a better version than LEGO and that “the authoritative instructions” were merely a suggestion for one potential way to do it blew my mind. I immediately began cannibalizing my other space legos, pooling pieces and building out my own designs. In place of a sometimes-unworkable spec to follow, I saw ways to improve and freedom to create. Probably to the dismay of many subsequent grade school teachers I challenged instructions when they didn’t make sense. And years later this seed of thinking would eventually lead to me co-founding JumpBox, a company that fundamentally rethought the way in which software could be distributed as a virtual machine and not an installer. We used that to democratize a whole class of software known as “open source” and make it accessible to non-techies. The now-ingrained personality trait of questioning instructions and recognizing true vs. false boundaries has taken me places I would have never gone otherwise.
This is what makes my Dad, my Dad. He’s the guy who risked his life in the 60’s smuggling voter training materials to would-be black voters in Mississippi to help them gain voting status- working, not just talking, to fix a system when he recognized the instructions were simply wrong. And by his actions, showing others that it could and should be done.
Dad, happiest of birthdays to you. Thanks for this and other lessons you and mom gave Connor and I growing up. Now please get back to blogging again so we can all hear what happened after the Peace Corps 😉
So, in the third week of December of 1967, my parents arrived. I met them in Maiquetia, the airport 9 miles East and South of Caracas, then a city of nearly 2 Million. We motored up the hill, several thousand feet, then spent the night at Los Pinos, a hotel favored by the Peace Corps volunteers. The next day, after a look at the sights, we rented the only kind of rental car that was rented, a VW bug (2 doors). My dad was over 6 feet and about 80 at the time. Mom was a spry 60 and would inhabit the rear seat for the next 3 weeks. When I drove the bug off the lot, a driver cut me off. I reacted as Venezuelans (among whom I had been living for a year) ordinarily would react. I put both my hands out the driver’s side window and told the guy loudly with appropriate blue (spanish) language what I thought of his parentage. My father made no comment, but my mother was visibly shocked, though she had understood not one word. We drove to a tiny village in the mountains North of Caracas, Colonia Tovar, which had been created in 1890. A shipwreck that year had resulted in 200 German immigrants being stranded on the shore. They had walked to about 8,000 feet of altitude and then created an Austrian village with half timbered houses, German food, and had continued speaking only the German language. Germans came every ten years or so and always trudged up to the town, improving the gene pool. In the late 50s, the Dictator Perez Jimenez had built a road to the town and it became a tourist destination. It was as unlike the rest of Venezuela as New York’s entertainment district… From there we drove to and through various (hot) cities and then up to cold Merida in the far Northwest. Merida was a University town in the high Andes with a 14,000 foot mountain in the middle of it. We rode the 3 tiers of teleferico cable cars ever higher and I have a picture of my Dad stepping around piled snow to get to the observation platform at the top, where it was hard to breathe. We drove down through the Llanos, cattle-bearing endless plains, to my City, Barquisimeto, where endless commerce and rail yards awaited. As Christmas day arrived, my folks were in a little hotel at the Obelisk on the Northern edge of Barquisimeto. I drove home a mile or so away to tend to the lettuce garden (see prior post). When I returned, my folks were on their second maitai and were bemused by the roller skaters. Twas a tradition throughout Venezuela that the teenagers skated around the clock the few days before the Christmas feast. No one worked for about 2 weeks and everyone repainted his house, usually with garish memorable colors. Venezuela was known for its 20 varieties of light beers and the 40 kinds of rum, a large amount of both being consumed during Christmas week. It was a good time to stay off the roads.
I had told my landlord (Genaro) who was an Italian immigrant, who had then told the front door renter, a native criollo, that my parents had come to Barquisimeto from the States. The front door guy, Leonardo, came round and insisted that he would throw a fiesta for my folks. A day or two later, at about 2pm, Leonardo showed up behind his house, but in front of my house. He was leading a pretty mature goat. He announced that dinner would be around 5pm and cut the goat’s throat. He produced a 4 by 8 foot piece of dirty tin, which he stood up against his back wall. He butchered the goat and hung it up on the tin to bleed out. When I picked up my folks at about 4 pm, the flies had pretty much had their fill. We stood around pitching darts and watching Leonardo roast most of the goat over the fire in a pit which he had dug in front of my house. I made the salad and, about 5:30pm or 6pm, paper plates and silverware appeared. Roasted goat and yucca plus salad and new glasses of Cacique Rum were handed out. I watched my mother struggle to consume an appropriate portion of goat, but noticed that my dad had gotten through his plate pretty fast. I later found he had tucked a lot of pieces of tough goat in his pants pocket. About 7pm, the 4 man musical conjunto set up shop in Leonardo’s front house’s living room. The entire barrio population for a couple of blocks round showed up to meet the Americanos. My mother was given the big green-plastic-covered barcolounger chair by the front door in Leonardo’s house and was introduced to every arrival, though she spoke no spanish and understood not a word. The barcolounger had no springs and whenever she sat, she went right down to the floor – and getting up each time was a struggle. The party was boisterous and about 9:30pm my parents were fading fast. At that moment, about ten soldiers from the Circolo Militar arrived with automatic weapons in hand to inspect everyone’s identity cards (cedullas). They were looking for guerrillas, who would be without identification papers. The soldiers were introduced to my parents who wondered why heavily armed paratroopers had come to the party. We left about 10pm over the protestations of Leonardo. When I returned about midnight, the party was really getting going. As they say… priceless. My folks then felt like they had really seen something of the country… After some time at the beaches, my folks went home – but left the goat meat behind, buried in my garden.
The year of 1968 commenced with constant research, then reports, then idea sharing, and action in the concejo municipal where I worked. There was tax money and therefore fire equipment and stoplights appeared and were put into use. The municipal slaughterhouse was reorganized, moved, reconstructed. Steve Woolf drew plans and Central Government funds were obtained for housing to be constructed cheaply on ejido (public owned) lands. Every large City in Venezuela owned fairgrounds and (as in Ireland) the cities would try to make their fairs lavish so that citizens would come from afar to see the marvels of the fairgrounds, just like County Fairs used to be in the U.S. Barquisimeto embarked on a massive redo of its fairgrounds and Woolf was tasked with designing a massive 90 foot structure that would be the symbol of the Barquisimeto Fair. I worked with the Woolfs at their house in the Barrio far to the North as Steve designed a structure with about 30 straight pipe collums which were mounted at a slightly off vertical slant in a circle. This formed an hourglass structure but stabilization was a puzzle… The bolting of the joints of the uprights proved to be a mathematical riddle which was finally solved by Steve. We constructed a 12 foot high model which nearl collapsed and tried to squash Bev woolf and I as we painted its columns. The council accepted the hallmark structure and Steve supervised a very costly and challenging construction of the 90 foot structure at the Fairgrounds, which for years was the logo for all Fair publicity. Along the way there were trips into Caracas for Peace Corps business meetings, trips on the train on the weekends to the Puerto Cabello beaches, trips to Merida for sightseeing, trips with an arab coworker friend who raced go-carts and taught me how to do that and to crew for his cart. I have always been an avid reader. At night, to save money (which was always short), I would cook at home in my electric frypan and would read until late (under a mosquito net) from the book locker, some 120 paperback books selected by other volunteers to be in the locker which every volunteer received.
The social life in my barrio was a problem. Everyone drank to excess and booze was really cheap. There would be a party somewhere every night and it was hard, and became harder, to say no to invites. After a few months of coming home nearly 3 sheets to the wind from accepting multiple rum and cokes, I consulted with volunteers longer in-country than I. I was told to just say, “Gracias, pero no quiero otro trago. Me hace dano al higadu.” This means that one has a liver (higadu) problem and that you just cannot drink much. With this handy phrase, I put an end to having to sleep with one foot outside the bed or hammock on the floor, outside the mosquito net (which was hazardous), and began getting more rest and more reading time. Somewhere 2 or 3 months into 1968, I had gone to a volunteers party at the home of Doctor Stephenson in Barquisimeto. This was a despedida, a going away party, for a group of 30 volunteers, each over 65. They had come down to work in the prisons, teaching inmates how to make artificial legs and arms, had finished their stint, and had decided to go home in an unusual way. They all bought motorcycles, outfitted them with racks, and were leaving as a group to cycle to Indianapolis, where they were to substitute for the pace car to open the Indianapolis 500 race for 1968. The party lasted all day, drinking beer in the sun, volleyball, swimming, etc. Ed Kaufman and I decided to see if we could get dates so we could go downtown in a taxi and see an incredible new Action Film starring Lee Marvin, regarding an escape from Alcatraz, a thrilling film named “Point Blank”. Ed asked his choice and I asked this blonde chick whom I had noticed a few weeks before. Her name was Susan Fennell, a tall teacher volunteer from a tiny town 120 miles to the East, several years younger than I, a farm girl from Illinois. We all went to the movie. She fell asleep in the open air theatre and she snored. I wrote her off.
About 5 months later, I met her in more auspicious circumstances, when we both were returning on a puddle-jumper flight from Caracas. We shared a Time magazine, had dinner, and seemed to hit it off.
Some 1 month after that dinner, around September, 1968, the local Area Director for the Peace Corps, Bill Dewey, was asked to leave his post in Barquisimeto, move to Quito Ecuador, and become the Country Director in Ecuador for the Peace Corps there. Peace Corps Venezuela had no way of quickly replacing Dewey. At that point in time, the 1968 November (every 5 years) national election was nearly upon us. Peace Corps Caracas was very nervous because the concejos municipales were becoming increasingly the scene of shoot-ups. Each mayor would hold an audiencia every Friday morning and listen to any citizen’s gripe or petition… In my own concejo, twice shots had been fired at Mayor Gallardo during the audiencia, and it was happening elsewhere. My entire group was being asked to pack up and go to Puerto Rico – where the group would hunker down and together write the definitive manual about managing cities in Venezuela, combining best practices from each of our 30 different cities. By October 1968, I had decided that I did not want to go to Puerto Rico. I wanted to stay around for the election excitement in November – and that would give me time to “run out the string” with the blonde chick, Susan Fennell. Dewey asked me if I would leave the concejo, take over Dewey’s job as an area director staffer, and thereby make it possible for Dewey to move to Quito Ecuador. I said yes. Peace Corps said that I would continue to be paid as a volunteer but I would act as if I were a trained staffer. I got as jeep and the duty of seeing every one of 50 volunteers in an area the size of Texas at least once a month (and writing weekly reports to be mailed in to Caracas showing every one was getting seen and their problems were being solved, work, health, or romance)… I agreed and picked up a wreck of a green 4 wheel drive 4 door Willys jeep and commenced driving about 750 miles a week on treacherous roads that had no lights but lots of burros and cows on them at night. I slept in 2$ a night hotel rooms or in volunteers’ living rooms, having an office and a secretary receptionist in Barquisimeto. Along the way, I dated the blonde chick (Susan) who lived in a tiny town outside of San Felipe which was at one end of my territory. This presented a dicey issue as the Peace Corps did not allow staff to date volunteers. I was a volunteer but I was also a staff. I didn’t ask. After 6 months of dating, I produced a ring, proposed to Susan Fennell at her house in a blinding rainstorm, and she said yes. I called the Director of Peace Corps Venezuela (Henry Wheatley) the next morning after I banked the yes – and had to tell Henry about the engagement. I expected that he might fire me… When I got him on the phone and got 2 sentences out of my mouth, Henry said, “Shit, I didn’t win the pool.”” I enquired about that and Henry told me that, each week, the Doctors posted incoming reports on a big board in the basement of the Cracas Peace Corps offices. All 300 volunteers were listed on the left side from floor to ceiling, In boxes stretching out in a line to the right, entries were made in the volunteer’s “channel” showing the date and file number for each report mentioning that a volunteer had been visited. This would quickly demonstrate who was not getting seen. If a volunteer fell ill or went missing, the relevant reports would be quickly retrieved to be consulted. Susan Fennell’s bar chart line had stretched out far ahead of all the others (as she was being seen a lot) and the doctors and some staff had wagered when an engagement might occur for her and me. Dr Rauenhorst had won the pool. Henry had not…
The election concluded and the Country did not fall into a civil war… The ADECOS were for the first time replaced by the COPEIANOS (Christian Socialist Party) but the peace held. In February, 1969, Susan and I took an incredible trip across Venezuela then into and all around Columbia, and then into Ecuador, staying with the Deweys in Quito at one point. We saw a lot of old cannons in old forts and some bustling amazing cities. I received a puzzling phone call from the States about the chance of a job with a small law firm in Phoenix, Arizona… By March 10, 1969, it was time for me to leave Venezuela and for someone to replace me as Area Director in the area around Barquisimeto. After an appropriate 3 day party, I left my bride-to-be to finish another 6 months of her time in the Peace Corps and I set off for the United States. I wore traditional Venezuelan dress and I went via a plane that landed in Miami. On the gangway out of customs there, I was surrounded by blue haired ladies who were loudly discussing social security payments. I immediately began to miss Venezuela. Re-entry in my native Boston was a bummer – and the Peace Corps physical exam was checked by my own Doctor at the Leahy Clinic – who found that the Peace Corps physical exam had missed several cysted parasites. After a sort of nasty disgusting week or two, I managed to put to death the last living souvenirs of my 2 and a half years of living in Venezuela. It was time to interview around with half a dozen Boston Law Firms and deliver on my (almost forgotten) 3 years of legal education at Havard Law School. I had to go look for a job… and to then decide where I would start a home and a family.
So, at this point, coming to the end of my 28th year, I had had a string of lucky breaks: my mom had been a stay at home mom, young and bright, for my first seven years, and I was the first child in the family, so I got a lot of attention; the schools in Arlington Massachusetts were good ones and I went from there to Hingham, a well off town with great schools; Dad had been blackballed in some clubs at Harvard around 1920 because he was Irish and Mom had been paid less at Boston University because she was a woman – discrimination was a dirty word around our dinner table; living in the restaurant in Hingham had been hard but it taught me a good work ethic; I got in to Brandeis, a young vibrant University with great teachers; I had a scooter or motorcycle for much of my college time and got to spend time in Boston at events in that cultural City; I fell into civil rights related activities and it propelled me into student government; as Treasurer of the student union at Brandeis, I learned about balancing budgets and fiscal controls; I got into Harvard Law School and was forced to work to stay in, which made me study like crazy and budget my time to keep up with classmates who only attended school; I got to join the Peace Corps instead of the war corps so I learned a language and a culture, and this occurred just before the Peace Corps began to change from its original idealistic direction; I found a good life-partner at a great timing point so we got to choose where we lived, how we lived, and what work we did. And now, I started on a new string of incredibly lucky breaks and choices in a BOOMING young city… See next post.
This is a daunting task, to summarize nearly three years of working and living in a culture radically different than our own – and during a time that is so different than the world today. To begin with, the war in Vietnam was dominating the news and the life of the Nation. I was a young person, having left Harvard Law School at 23 and the clerkship with the Supreme Court of Massachusetts at 24. I started Peace Corps training in San Francisco State University upon turning 25, and the training was like Boot Camp, long hours, jammed with tests to see that you were learning whatever was being taught, punctuated with field trips about culture, and topped off with physical exercise which left you wrung out. Arriving in Venezuela in late December of 1966, the world changed utterly and completely for me. Instead of living in each other’s suitcase in a barracks with 27 male volunteers (see previous post on Training), I was on my own. I moved to a routine where nothing in the day was scheduled and fixed – in fact you made your own schedule and set your own sort of fuzzy goals. You assessed the situation in which you lived – in a manner which you had been taught over the last few months of 1966, and there was usually no one around with the same background as yourself with whom to check on your analysis. There was damn little supervision or guidance as we stepped off into a situation that the Peace Corps had misread. We had been trained in Cadastro, a system of rating properties and applying taxes, something that Venezuela had no interest in doing at all….
I lived at first in Decmber of 1966 in Nuevo Pueblo Barrio in Barquisimeto with Ed Kaufman, a volunteer younger than I who had been there about a year. Every dwelling in the barrio was concrete block and some were mud walled. Roofs were tin sheets overlapped, but sometimes red asbestos sheets were used, and when it rained (often and thrice daily during June and December), the noise was considerable. Ed was friends with those who lived in his neighborhood, and like all Venezuelan barrios it was a neighborhood unlike those in Boston, Every house had 5 or 6 kids, with maybe a married child having moved in with a few of her own, The neighborhoods were awash in children at all hours – and few men were to be seen during the day. The men to be seen in a neighborhood in the day were there because they had a business, a bar, bodega, metal working shop, auto-repair shop, or small factory. There was no zoning law restricting what could be done and where. There were industrial zones where the factories were larger and located cheek to cheek, but most neighborhoods had pottery and welding and auto-mechanics working next door to homes. While nearly everyone was Catholic by heritage, almost none of the men went to church services; the women went and they took the kids. There was a big imposing church downtown in Barquismeto at the Bolivar Plaza, one of which Plazas was found in every City in Venezuela. In the barrios, there were low ceilinged 6,000 foot square churches, tin roofed, often with a priest from Spain or from Oklahoma. The Jesuits had come to Venezuela in the fifties, at the same time as a flood of European immigrants fleeing war-torn Western Europe, All those immigrants had to do in 1951 to gain admission was to SAY that they were going to work on a farm. Everyone winked at each other and the Germans opened bakeries and restaurants, the Italians commenced clothing manufacture, the French opened restaurants. Arabs came in great numbers and they opened stores selling Kitchenware, stove, knives and dishes. The Jesuits settled in and they created a system of Cooperatives, a culture of cooperatives. They educated the native Venezuelans on how to raise cattle, potatoes, watermelons, pigs, etc., working together. All over Latin America and especially in Venezuela the lower classes were learning how to band together, keep the accounting ledgers, manage the business of the Cooperative, share skills, and raise crops that they could sell and avoid the clutches of the money lenders and the crooks in the markets. In the barrios, there was a remarkably friendly and help-your-neighbor spirit among all living there. The Country had enormous natural resources. Democracy was less than ten years old in 1966 and its upsides were in sight. When you entered a barrio, very quickly it got around who you were and what your story was – and strangers to the barrio were spotted in a moment by the people from block to block. Crime was not a great problem, except in a few such neighborhoods. Of that, more below.
Barquismeto (in the State of Lara, located about 225 miles Northwest from Caracas and about 200 miles South of Maracaibo the oil port) was a city of over 500,000 people when I arrived (750,000 today) and it had one traffic stoplight, no fire department, and a garbage system that consisted of picking up piles of refuse in the barrios in open trucks, driving to the river a little downstream from the City, and dumping the contents into the river. The City governments operated the Municipal Slaughterhouses. No animal could be killed and butchered in the City without going through the slaughterhouse and paying a fee. This worked for farmers raising cows and pretty much for pigs – but in the barrios, people kept goats and a few pigs and they slaughtered them in their backyards whenever they wished and paid no fees. The town was huge but essentially all one story homes and, downtown, there were just a few 2 story buildings and one or two 6 story new office-residential buildings. The Peace Corps had a regional director officed there in one of the few 6 story buildings. Bill and Ellen Dewey (Californians about 25 years old) lived in an apartment on the 5th floor and the office was in a space on the 6th floor. There was a Peace Corps Doctor, Stevenson, who lived in a big house with a huge yard on a nice street, He and Bill Dewey tended to about a 5th of the 300 volunteers in country, That meant that Dewey travelled all the time in a green 4 door Willys Jeep with 4 wheel drive so as to visit the individual sites where 60 volunteers lived in an area larger than the State of Texas, each volunteer living alone (unless they were one of the rare married couples volunteers). Doctor Stephenson had office hours and volunteers who would get ill could drag themselves a few hundred miles (more on that below) to see him or they would come in for regular checkups from time to time.
After my hiding out for a few weeks (see previous post), the fellow who was to become the first City Manager in Barquisimeto came to town and presented himself to the City Council, which had secretly agreed a year earlier to replace the Tammany Hall Crowd that were running the place and scamming the City. Señor German Noria was a Creole Petroleum administrative employee who had signed on to be trained at Central Government expense in Covina California. He and I one morning went to the Office of the City Manager (one Mr, Moros) and the Mayor (Don Luis Gallardo) came in and told Moros to get out of town. Noria fired about 65 cronies of Moros that afternoon. That night the tires on Noria’s car were slashed. Over the next few days, Department Heads who were serious about their jobs and the work that their Departments were supposed to be doing came in to discuss with Noria what was happening. One by one, they signed on to Noria’s stated vision for the City, no graft, competent services, and a new rejuvenated kind of service-providing to the citizens. There were 21 political parties in the State of Lara and the Barquisimeto City Council was a coalition of the 3 largest parties. The Council met weekly and they were content to have Noria run the business of the City with only the occasional request for patronage, i.e. employment of their family and friends. Noria was a master politician and, from Engineering to Tax Records to Streets to Garbage to Fire to Collectors of Taxes, he sure-footedly gained the Council’s trust and then their admiration. The first job was to get control over the levying of taxes and the intake of the income from taxes. There had never been a budget for the City and it was a real task to assemble one. The records as to income received in the past were hazy and incomplete. An amazing find was that the 45 or so Collectors of 5 different branches of Taxes were given each week big bundles of paper slips showing what tax to collect from a particular business. There was no accountability as to how many receipts they handed out, what reductions they negotiated on the spot at the doorsteps of the businesses, and what portion they turned in of the cash that they gave receipts for. In other words, each Collector had a license to steal what he could get away with stealing and there was no knowing what he had pocketed. Collectors for one branch of Taxes would knock on a business door on Tuesday but a different collector for a different branch of Taxes would arrive on Thursday and another one on Friday. No one talked to any of the other collectors. One collector did not collect from one businessman for all branches of the 5 types of Taxes… The first week, I sat through a memorable meeting with a citizen. To go abroad, a citizen had to have his Identity Card (Cedula) stamped with the seal of the City of Barquisimeto. A gentleman came in and admitted to Noria that he owed the City approximately 10,000 Bolivars in Taxes – but said that he could not pay that amount and that he needed to go abroad to visit family. I watched the negotiation session at the end of which he paid 5,000 Bolivars and he got his Cedula stamped… The City had an “accounting machine”, an IBM Hard-Wired-Board early computer, but the young hotshot (Suarez) who had been hired from Caracas to run it was in over his head and was concealing that he could not make it do what was wanted and could not make it sum correctly.
Since Barquisimeto was the largest of the thirty cities into which the Peace Corps was placing those of my 30 person group of volunteers, the top 2 Spanish speakers of our group had been assigned to Barquisimeto, myself and Steve Woolf (and, incidentally, it was thought, Steve’s wife Beverly Woolf). Steve was a brilliant MIT Architect whose father was a well known engineer in the City of Boston. Steve was a gifted musician and, with a moment to practice, he could play any instrument (more of that below). It had never been clear what Beverly might do – but she had been working as graduate student on computers in MIT on the Mars shot – and that was going to become really important. They lived in a different barrio than mine and even further out. Steve worked in Municipal Engineering and he wangled a grey small Willys jeep to get to and from work and to spots where he would be doing on-site work. In the first few weeks on life in the Municipal Council, we three were doing what Peace Corps taught us: ask polite questions, really listen to the answers and explanations, look for holes and vacuums and voids in services, figure out the force-diagram that explains why things really are the way they are. Then slowly and with care, seize the day and find a way to dramatically cut through some snarl and tangle to make something dramatically better. While Steve Woolf was learning what engineering did and what services he could perform there (it turned out to be a big one), Beverly and I stumbled onto the fact that the citizens of Barquismeto were killing each other off at an incredible rate in the streets of the center-city. As we tumbled to how amazing the carnage was, we could easily envision why. The streets (Carreras running North and South, Calles running East and West) all met at right angles – and there were no stop lights. Streets were usually one lane with 20 inch high curbs because when the rainy seasons came, the houses in the blocks had roofs that sloped into central courtyards and then drains gushed all the water into the streets, which flooded 20 inches deep at least, filled with refuse and rats that had lived in the drains (more of that below). Carreras were usually two lanes, that is opposing two lanes going North and South. Everyone drove at whatever speed they liked and on entering an intersection, say going East on a street, they simply blew their horns loudly and charged through. Enormous traffic jams were caused by busses in a dozens bright colors that stopped everywhere at any moment, creating gridlock for blocks behind them, so blow more horns please. Beverly and I decided to get the traffic records which were controlled by the National Ministry of Traffic, in a separate remote office to which no one ever went. We plotted five years of records of accidents on a huge map – with purple dots for deads and red dots for woundeds and green for crash and yellow dots for pedestrians, with a slash if deads. The map showed patterns and when we overlaid the chaotic bus routes, it was clear what was occurring. Certain places in the City were death traps. We then got yellow pads and folding chairs and invented a way to score the rhythms of traffic during long days at those intersections. We created a report showing that we needed to create one-way Carreras North and South, that we needed to systemize the bus routes and control the stops, and that we needed a few more traffic lights. Beverly then had the genius idea to computerize the data that we had, especially the stuff on the map. Working with punched IBM cards she created an impressive pile of greenbar paper. We presented the report to the Council, which was waiting to see what in the heck these gringos could bring to the City. There was initial resistance to our idea of limiting the free-for-all approach to traffic, which resistance came to an end when Beverly got up and dramatically went through piles of green bar paper showing that the computer had been used and all opposition then ceased. About a month from the time we started the study, the city council ordained one way streets, a bunch of changes in bus routes (boy, were the bus guys angry), and the creating of about a dozen new traffic lights. In the nearly three years that I was in Barquisimeto, the cacophony of auto horns reduced and I believe thousands of potential deads and woundeds were avoided… That computer, primitive hard-wired board machine that it was, was a godsend.
So, the time Easter came around, I (and the Woolfs) were pretty plugged into the rapidly reforming City Council. I had acquired an Estonian girl friend who was a veterinarian and had come to the conclusion that I could not run with her crowd as they were too well off and insular. Some of my co-workers at the Council invited me to accompany them to the Beaches for the Easter week celebration, Pascuas. This, like Christmas, was a 10 day period when no business is transacted anywhere in the Country. Everyone who can relocates to the beaches, lives in tents or palm thatched lean-tos and shares beer and bug spray. My group planned to go to a Beach near San Felipe then use dugout canoes to get out to a small island where the deposed Dictator, Perez Jimenez, had once had a luxurious home, looted and burned in the late 50’s when he was forced from office. We got there and campfires were started. We all hung up our hammocks from the palm trees, enjoyed the beach, cooked food as darkness fell, and drank beer or um til midnite while Quatro music was played and sung. About 1am, I took off my shoes and fully clothed lay out in my hammock about 4 feet off the ground. Before I got well off to sleep, I heard rustling and movement. I shine a flashlight and saw that the place was overrun with rats. I reached down and got my shoes, took the laces out, used them to stitch the hammock closed at the top (so a rat would not fall from the palm tree into the hammock) and spent an uneasy night. Un the morning, I told my friends and we paddle through the mangroves back to the big Beach and stayed there the rest of the week.
While there was not much crime in Venezuela, the volunteers all lived in the worst barrios and it seemed that the bad guys knew when it was that volunteers got paid once a month. There were stories how in all the cities in the barrios when payday came around, one or another volunteer would get robbed, quite often at knifepoint. In my City, Pete Adolph was a volunteer a couple of barrios away from mine. He had been a Marine, in Vietnam, and after the Marines came down in the Peace Corps. About 4 or 5 months after I came in-country, a trio of locals came onto Pete one Friday payday at about midnight. With a knife or two they demanded his money. Pete left them in an intersection in a pile of body parts. The word went out in the barrios and then went around the Country: Do NOT mess with the Peace Corps volunteers – because they are martial arts trained and are expert that way. In all the time I was in Venezuela, three years, I never heard of another volunteer being robbed after Adolph’s event, not once.
The Beatles were the craze the world over. A friend of the Woolfs sent Steve Woolf a record of “Revolver”, the Beatles latest album. Steve set it up at his house in the barrio on a stereo with outdoor jury-rigged speakers and the neighbors begged him to play it over and over. Steve cajoled a local Priest, Padre Jose from Nebraska. to loan Steve a folding pump organ. Steve learned to play the songs from Revolver in just a day or two and was in demand everywhere with the traveling portable pump organ.
About 40 miles away from Barquisimeto (over very bad dirt and mountain roads towards Acarigua) lived a volunteer married couple, Tom and Janet Bazis. He was a metal-welding tractor mechanic and she was a midwife nurse, Janet was off in the mountains on a mule delivering babies and teaching midwives. Tom was home in the home shop in which they lived one night and had an appendix-burst attack. There was no way anyone there in the village could help him. He took a decrepit jeep that someone had left there to get its brakes repaired and drove the jeep with no brakes to Barquisimeto by himself. I was in the Peace Corps office when he opened the door and fell through it unconscious. He was rushed to the not-so-good local Hospital and Doctor Stephenson did an emergency appendectomy on Tom. Tom lived and did fine. He would attend my wedding 2 and a half years later…
In June the rainy season arrived one day with a spectacular torrential rain. As I made my way home that night, riding my bicycle North from the Council offices heading for my barrio, the tile roofs in each block of homes dumped all of their rain into the courtyards in each block. Water spewed out of the underground pipes that vented from the courtyards into the streets, spewing refuse into those narrow one or two lane streets with 20 inch curbs, which promptly became deep rivers. I took my shoes off and pedaled furiously with the shoes hanging from my neck by their laces – until I realized. The water choking the streets was filled with rats expelled from the drainage pipes and they were swimming in the water through which I was pedaling my bike. I put the shoes back on and pedaled home warily. On reaching the edge of my barrio, I found that I had to pick my bike up and carry it on my shoulder because the streets in the barrio were no longer dusty, but were gluey clayey mud which choked the tire against the mudguard of the bike.
One thing that we volunteers could not eat in Venezuela was the lettuce. It was cultivated in fields where human waste was used as fertilizer and the consumption of lettuce was bound to make you ill, maybe with something that could not be cured. I lived in a little 900 sq foot cinder block house with three rooms, including an indoor toilet and shower. I had a small refrigerator and a hot plate and an electric fry pan. I had the usual Peace Corps Book Locker, filled with books selected by earlier volunteer groups. I had a bed with a mosquito net and 2 hammocks in the front room. I built my own furniture. In front of my house, I excavated a garden, 30 ft by 15 ft. I sun dried the soil, turning it constantly. I then wheedled horse manure from the veterinarian, before parting from her. I grew lettuce and I made salads. Steve Woolf painted a huge mural on the wall above the Garden. Essentially every person in my Peace Corps Group arranged in-country travel such that they could come through Barquisimeto. I lived 4 blocks from the station for rural busses and the volunteers all came to eat a salad, sleep a night in a hammock at my house, and have a salad for breakfast before leaving in the morning.
There were two meetings held of all the volunteers in my group in the first year, one in late March and one in August (3 months and 8 months after arrival). All 30 of us met in Caracas and reported in open session what was going on in our local City Councils, how obstacles were being overcome, how useless our Peace Corps training had proved to be, what good systems were in place in one City to be copied for another – and how stressful it was to live and work in a culture where you were never quite sure that you really understood what was said to you or why something was being done – or not done. The meetings were incredibly interesting and informative. I thoroughly enjoyed what I was doing and learning. My parents wrote and said that they would come down in December of 1967, when I would be a year in country. We would rent a Volkswagon Bug and we would travel throughout the country. It would turn out to be a strange trip.
I had been in Brandeis University as a Junior when we stayed up all night in early November 1960 as John F. Kennedy, the Senator from Massachusetts, swept the National election. We had thrilled earlier to his charismatic speaking style, cheered his very public speech confronting the convention of Religious leaders in Texas as to why it was high time that a Catholic could be elected in these United States; we had booed his opponent, Nixon; we had gone to the mock convention held in the Gymnasium at Brandeis, where long before the election Kennedy had been selected as the Democrats party candidate. At the televised Inauguration in January of 1961, we watched Kennedy (with no topcoat at a freezing and smoking Lectern located on the steps of the Capitol) rail against the military industrial complex that had tried to bedevil Eisenhower, heard him call for service to the Country, and we were inspired. Right after inauguration, Kennedy’s brother in law, Mr. Sergeant Shriver, was told by the White House to create the Peace Corps post haste, spring-boarding off an idea which Hubert Humphrey had floated during the initial primaries. Humphrey had called for an analogue to the “War Corps” (the army/navy/air force). The new entity was to take “high minded” recent college graduates, to put them into positions in the poorest countries of the world, to give them a few survival supplies and perhaps a very few tools, and to let them work side-by-side with the people of that country to do some task, likely involving physical labor, the building of “improvements” like bridges or wells or arable fields. The idea was that the volunteers would export democracy, be the antithesis of our “ugly American” tourists, learn about the cultures and languages where they were, then come back and liven up a whole generation’s inward-turning myopic view of the world. Before I left Brandeis for the summer of 1961, a friend who was one year ahead of me, and about to graduate, sat with me one night in the snack bar. David Matz told me he would be going to West Africa, I think to Ghana, as one of the very first Peace Corps volunteers to go overseas. He talked of the language training, the cultural training, the physical training, and the job training that he would be undergoing in just a month or so in Puerto Rico. In 1961-62, I and many of my classmates read letters from Peace Corps Volunteers that were in Africa, the South Seas Islands, South America, and Central America. The letters were passed hand to hand on campus and sometimes made the student newspapers and journals of the time. I was heavily occupied in the Student Council Committee on Mississippi Civili Rights and in finishing my three years as Treasurer of the Student Union. I read the information with interest but had little thought of going. By October of 1961, I thought that I would apply (tardily) to Law School and, as I remember, applied to only one, Harvard Law School. By late January – early February of 1962 I had been accepted to Harvard Law School, as had 5 others in my class of 260 at Brandeis. I knew what I was going to be doing for the next three years and I paid less attention to the Peace Corps news as I trundled off to Cambridge, just 15 miles down the Charles River from Brandeis. David Matz did his 2 year stint in Africa and went on into the Peace Corps staff in Africa.
The Cuban Bay of Pigs invasion occurred and Kennedy’s star seemed to fall. Civil Rights crises brought Kennedy to the TV stations one evening and then he backed giving the protection of Federal Marshals one day in November of 1962 for James Meredith in Oxford Mississippi and two died in the riots. In segregation struggles in Atlanta and Selma, Kennedy reluctantly stepped forward to intervene and his star rose in the Eastern States. In the fall of 1962, when I began my second year in Harvard Law School, the Cuban missile crisis kept us all home for a long week, watching Kennedy on the tube and preparing for the end of the world. The People’s March on Washington occurred in the summer of 1963 and I went there in a lead bus in a cavalcade of some 50 busses from Boston. CORE and ACLU and SNCC were the organizations who arranged the busses. I was active in CORE and was a bus captain. Then, one day late in November of 1963, my roommate and I attended our Constitutional Law Class at the Law School, a class which was taught by Paul Freund, the famous professor whom everyone knew would be Kennedy’s next appointment to the U. S. Supreme Court. Class was to begin at 1pm. At that hour, Freund stepped to the podium, fought back tears, and announced that there would be no class, as Kennedy had been assassinated in Dallas in an open car. We all went to our dorms and our apartments to watch with horror as the whole thing unfolded on black and white TV. I was dating a girl who was the heir to the Burpee Seed Company fortune. We sat all night and watched the waves at Nantasket Beach while she cried her eyes red. The next day, she went home to her family in Chicago, simply destroyed by the events which unfolding. The Peace Corps slipped from view. Johnson became President. The very bad summer in Mississippi in 1964 led to the 1964 civil rights act re transportation and employment. That gave way to the voting rights act of 1965. Malcolm X was riding high in New York and there was vicious talk about black power and armed revolution in the ghettos of the big cities. In Boston, CORE (Congress on Racial Equality) met in a contentious meeting; the attending members voted to expel all “non-negroes” and there would be no white members of CORE any more. Gretchen Pfuetze and I rode home to Cambridge on her motor scooter and knew that we were sidelined from 6 years of civil rights work as the civil rights movement imploded around us in Boston. Vietnam and its war were sucking up every able bodied recent graduate of any educational institution (and thousands of non college guys to feed the army’s desire to hurl hundreds of thousands of men into the battle against the North Vietnamese.
In a fluke in 1964, I suddenly was hired as a Law Clerk to Justice Paul Reardon the Supreme Court of Massachusetts, a wonderful job for my future as a Lawyer, a job that guaranteed that some large law firm in Boston would hire me when the clerkship expired in June of 1965. But, while clerkships usually meant the draft boards would give clerks a draft deferment, it was clear that the war in Vietnam would require that, immediately following the clerkship, I would need to be in some branch of the service – or I would be inducted as a rifleman in the army with rice paddies in my immediate future. At that point, the draft frenzy was such that many guys getting out of law schools had applied to the JAG. Having a Harvard Law Degree no longer guaranteed a role in some armed service’s Judge Advocate General (Legal) office. Working through this, I found that I had some connections that would permit me to go into the Coast Guard as an officer – but it had to be for five years – and there was only a fifty-fifty chance that I would be a lawyer. If I served as a lawyer, it would be in a small and remote installation, But there was a fifty-fifty chance that I would be instead running an eighty foot boat on the Mekong Delta, often under mortar attack from the opposition, with a rather limited life expectancy. The Coast Guard operated those boats… This is the way John Kerry (now our Secretary of State ) served in Vietnam. I had looked at Peace Corps service as a possibility, but they only had bee-keeping in Swaziland and mussel-raking in Micronesia types of programs. It just did not look very interesting to me and there was a significant chance that my draft board in Plymouth Massachusetts would deny a deferment of draft status and I would be yanked from a Peace Corps training program to a rifleman slot… I did all the tests, passed the physical exam, and I was ready to swear into the Coast Guard and take my chances…
At the last possible moment, 3 days before I was to swear in, the mail at 29 Putnam Avenue in Cambridge brought an invite from the Peace Corps. They were going to try something totally new. They were going to chance putting lawyers and city planners into positions in city government administration in Venezuela. They would take 60 potential volunteers most of whom would be from Harvard and MIT, would likely keep 30+, and those 30+folks would each serve as a “spear-carrier” assistant for a Venezuelan young professional out of the Petroleum Industry. Those 30+ Venezuelans were already in Covina California and were undergoing training. There had never been anything like a city manager in any Venezuelan city. These Venezuelan guys each needed an assistant to watch their backs and to help counsel them through god knows what sort of problems they would encounter as they “parachuted” into corrupt city administrations in Venezuela and remade them each into a clean and open democratic system. Holy smokes! I was already fluent in Spanish – and this sounded like a heck of a good time… You get to travel. You get to really learn a language. You get paid (a little) to learn and live a culture for two years. Did I mention that you get to travel? I notified the Coast Guard that I was passing on my swear-in, hoping that Peace Corps would accept my application to the new program… I signed on with the Peace Corps. They then accepted my sign-on. So far so good – but this was sort of a gamble. If I flunked out or if the draft board said no, I was going to Vietnam as a rifleman. I began notification to my draft board and started the application for yet another deferment, crossing my fingers that they were not going to reject that idea. I finished the clerkship and for a few months worked my hump off in the Elliot Richardson for Attorney General Campaign. I spent two weeks on a bicycle saying good bye to Cape Cod places and Islands (Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard) which I loved. I appeared before the draft board and they said NO to a deferment. I appealed – and my Dad (a World War I Vet) agreed to appear at the Appeal Board for me… In mid September of 1966, I took a plane to San Francisco to report for training. It was to be at San Francisco State University (“SFSU”), which was a hippie sort of place with about 20,000 students most of whom were passionately opposed to the war in Vietnam and ready to spend most of their Saturdays demonstrating on campus or at the Oakland depot from which Marines shipped out to Vietnam. The University was run by President Hiakawa, later on the California Board of Regents, later a famous U. S. Senator. Hiyakawa was “at war” with the student body. We incoming volunteers assembled at a small church perched on a knoll looking right down onto the campus and some large parking lots and some park like areas where demonstrations mobilized. The Peace Corps had rented an aging steel colored bus that sat 60 people at a time, like a huge Greyhound bus. We were to lodge, sleep, eat at Fort Funston, supposedly a disused National Guard barracks right out on the edge of the Ocean some 3 miles from SFSU. With our bags and raincoats in hand, we were bussed to the barracks.
No one told the National Guard that we had arrived. The place was full of cots, not all assembled; folded mattresses; lockers; trash, not all in buckets; and musty odors. At 5am the next morning, as we slept on our hastily assembled cots and mattresses, a squad of National Guard with rifles at full port raced through the barracks calling out cadence as they commenced an early morning training exercise. Classes for us began that day, with the volunteers separating into three language instruction groups. I was in the third with 3 other folks, the advanced Spanish class. I had had years of speaking the language with a girlfriend from Chile, after I had had some advanced classes in Spanish. There were 13 hours spent every day in formal classes or special activities: geography, history, anthropology, surveying, construction, “cadastre” (a kind of a properties registration system used in a few South American Countries, but not in Venezuela), and language for many hours a day. Josefina Rigg was a 24 year old Venezuelan who arrived at the church on the edge of campus and she became the teacher for our advanced language class. We four students saw movies, we read poetry, we read newspapers and novels, we played out discussions of current events, we did scenarios for our expected work in a Concejo Municipal (Municipal Council), we drilled grammar and vocabulary, we discussed everything else taught to us in other classrooms. It was intense. There were physical exercise sessions and long walks. There were field trips in the aging silver bus to weird places with small groups being dropped off in odd places and told to solve some problem together, how to bridge a stream, dismantle a barn, construct a fence. Returned volunteers were the staff. They were charged with weeding out ‘weak sisters” who would not last 2 years of pretty much isolation from other Americans. On Saturday nights we got liberty, no class til Sunday noon – so we would all bus into San Francisco and frenetically see the sights, especially chinatown where enormous meals and much drink could be had very cheaply. Every 2 weeks during 3 months a few volunteers, men and married couples (no single women in the group) were sent home. We formed a choir and sang a cappella old English songs because one of our number had a guitar and specialized in that music. We had a memorable trip where we were taken to the bad parts of Tiajuana, given 80 pesos, were told we might be there in that barrio for 3-5 days on our own, that we were find a place to sleep and something to do. I repaired a damaged abandoned house, borrowed a bed and blankets, ate sparingly and waited to be picked up. One of our guys went across the border, got a plane, and went home. A few days before Christmas we were told that we were the ones going to Venezuela, were given plane tickets home, told to pack a trunk with short sleeve white shirts, an electric frying pan, a few kitchen utensils. and enough underwear to last 2+ years, plus a list of other essentials. We were all to meet in Miami for a plane to Venezuela in a few days. I went home to say good bye to a girlfriend I was breaking up with and to cram as much as I could into my 4X2.5X1 trunk. It wasn’t that you could not get clothing or pans in Venezuela – but that sort of stuff could be expensive and we were going to be paid very little to live on…
The plane to Venezuela resulted in a 6-7 hour flight, landing in Maiquetia, the airport on the Coast 9 miles from Caracas, all straight up! when we came off the plane, there was a circle of army guys with drawn revolvers surrounding the gangway which was wheeled up against the plane. The eight year old democracy which had been created when dictator Perez Jimenez was deposed in 1956 (and the triumvirate of army generals and an admiral turned the country over to democracy two+ years later) was a fragile young government. The ADECOs had had a 5 year term and were 3 years into a second term. There were 21 quarrelsome electoral parties… The army guys knew that some student radical communist organizer was coming in on the plane and they lifted him right there from the gangway. We bussed up to Caracas, passing through two Alcabalas (checkpoints manned by 19 year orld army cadets with automatic weapons at the ready). We lodged at the Los Pinos hotel where we stayed for almost a week, until it was the day before Christmas. In Venezuela, there is a total paralysis of the community from about 12/20 to 1/15 every year. Family takes over then and, as at Easter, no one does much work and all systems go on stand-down. We were about to “parachute” into our respective work sites, some 30+ cities of all different sizes all over the country, there to lay low and quiet until the 30+ Venezuelan newly minted city managers would “sneak” into our city sites. Then we would join the guy for whom we were to become spear carriers and he would go the City Council to announce he had arrived and was ready to throw the bums out. The crooked tamany hall style administrations would be swept from their roles – and “us good guys” would take over their desks, bar the doors, and commence clean government from that day forward… So you know now what is going to happen… NOTHING is going to go according to plan and each of us 30+ volunteers is going to be helping his city manager guy wade through a lot of deep doodoo, while seeing just how well we could speak the language and follow the culture as it played out around us.
On about 12/23/66, I found myself in a small office building in Barquisimeto, State of Lara, Venezuela, meeting the volunteer at whose house I would be hiding out for about 2 weeks, one Ed Kaufman, a year or so in country, living quite a ways out on the edge of Barquisimeto in a barrio called Pueblo Nuevo, at the end of a bus line. On my second night in Ed’s house, the Diegepol (Federal Secret Political Police) showed up around midnight to arrest Pedro, who lived across the street from Ed’s house. Pedro was accused of being a supporter of the band of Cuban guerrillas hiding in the hills outside of town to the East. They took Pedro away, a whole squad of them traveling in in two black vans. There was no trial, of course. He never returned. I reported for work 2 weeks later – and then it got interesting.