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The Prescott Daily Courier | Prescott, Arizona

home : latest news : local February 06, 2016

11/14/2012 12:01:00 AM
City designates downtown pedestrian walkway as 'Sam Steiger Crosswalk'
The Daily Courier/file
The Daily Courier/file
The Daily Courier, file
Former Prescott mayor 
Sam Steiger was once 
arrested for repainting 
the crosswalk thatís now being named for him.
The Daily Courier, file
Former Prescott mayor Sam Steiger was once arrested for repainting the crosswalk thatís now being named for him.
Cindy Barks
The Daily Courier

PRESCOTT - When Sam Steiger took a striping machine in hand 26 years ago and repainted a crosswalk that had been removed, he viewed the act as one of preservation, not damage.

A jury ultimately agreed, and Steiger was acquitted of the misdemeanor charges he faced in the notorious crosswalk caper.

To this day, the mid-block crosswalk links Prescott's Whiskey Row with the Yavapai County Courthouse Plaza, and the Prescott City Council decided this week to give the credit to Steiger.

In a unanimous vote, the council approved a resolution that designates the pedestrian crossing on South Montezuma Street between Gurley and Goodwin streets as the "Sam Steiger Crosswalk."

That action paves the way for the placement of a plaque telling the story of Steiger's involvement in the restoration of the crosswalk.

Steiger, who died on Sept. 26 at age 83, was linked throughout the last quarter-century of his life with a decision on May 2, 1986 to repaint the crosswalk that the Arizona Department of Transportation and City of Prescott had decided to remove after a repaving project.

Steiger's act led to a criminal-damage arrest - charges he later defended himself against in Prescott City Court.

News stories from the time say Steiger admitted to the jury that he had done the painting, but that the decision to eliminate the crosswalk was "an inappropriate use of the decision-making process."

The city resolution quotes Steiger as saying his action "wasn't criminal damage, it was historic preservation."

The idea to designate the crosswalk as the Sam Steiger Crossing initially went to the City Council in October, after downtown business owners Matt and Diana Butitta sent a letter to Mayor Marlin Kuykendall, seeking a plaque at the site to commemorate Steiger.

"That crosswalk never would have been there if not for Sam," Matt Butitta said in October. "He was that kind of guy - he got things done."

Butch Hampton, who spoke for the Butittas at this week's council meeting, noted that the cost of the plaque would be covered by privately raised money. Because the wording for the plaque is still being developed, he was uncertain when the installation would occur.

After the meeting, Kuykendall said local historian Elisabeth Ruffner had volunteered to work with the Steiger family to help draft the wording on the plaque.

Steiger's son Gail Steiger said Tuesday evening that he was happy to hear of the support for the action. "We're appreciative that they would want to do that," he said.

While Councilman Jim Lamerson said he originally had reservations about the move, he ultimately decided to support it.

"I would like to have remembered Sam differently than having his name attached to a crosswalk," Lamerson said. "But I haven't heard any objections from the family."

Local resident Daniel Mattson said the crosswalk plaque does not have to be the community's only remembrance of Steiger. But meanwhile, he said, "I think it's a neat thing. I seem to think he'd probably enjoy having his name on that crosswalk."

The City Council resolution notes that Steiger, a native New Yorker, moved to Prescott after serving with distinction in the U.S. Army during the Korean War, earning a Bronze Star, Silver Star, and Purple Heart.

After buying and operating a ranch in Prescott, Steiger was elected to the Arizona State Senate in 1960, and served until 1964.

He then served five consecutive terms in the U.S. House of Representatives, from 1967 to 1977.

In the late 1990s, Prescott voters elected Steiger as mayor, and he served a two-year term, from 1999 to 2001.

This week's City Council decision occurred prior to Steiger's memorial, which will take place this weekend. The celebration of Steiger's life is scheduled from 2 to 5 p.m. Saturday, at the Yavapai County Mounted Sheriff's Posse House on Sheriff's Posse Trail, off Copper Basin Road.

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Reader Comments

Posted: Thursday, November 15, 2012
Article comment by: Gus Patrick

With the long list of people that have done far more for this community than paint a crosswalk, this seems a bit overkill. And perhaps should have gone the way of the renaming of the street.

Posted: Wednesday, November 14, 2012
Article comment by: Scotty G.

More complainers whose names we won't see on a ballot anytime soon. If you think you have all the answers, get a petition and run for a seat on the council.

Posted: Wednesday, November 14, 2012
Article comment by: Mark Miller

On its surface this sounds like the employer ceremony of "give him a gold watch after 50 years of work". However, for those of us who had the chance to interact with Sam Steiger on issues, whether you agreed with him or not, he left a positive, indelible mark. He was a fresh, free thinker that was not corralled by the current, common wind of the day.

Look at the names of people standing up for Sam's legacy: Elisabeth Ruffner and Matt Butitta, without these two individuals, Prescott would be another Arizona town with a modern, strip center downtown area devoid of any character or historical plaques of the Characters, that made it was it is.

In a time of excessive polarization, what with our Kenyan, Muslim President and all, Sam would have reveled in the discourse... but that was Sam. Under the his politics was a foundation of keen common sense, upon which the utility of the crosswalk is based, and a plaque giving him his due is the least we can do.

Posted: Wednesday, November 14, 2012
Article comment by: @ kate webster

This type of historic preservation (celebrating the drunken pranks of a Good Ol' Boy) is what historic preservation is all about. Historic Preservation has little to do with history. Sam is celebrated because of his anti-government, anti-fascism and anti-government-employee-entitlement, alcoholism fueled shenanigans. That warrants preservation. A real and true anti-government, anti-fascism, anti-government-employee-entitlement historic preservation would instead remember the incident you reference. Celebrating Sam (who was a political insider if ever there was one) as an "outsider" is idiotic, of course, but that's what historic preservationist want: a safe, sanitized history. That's why it's backed by the Local Liberal Brain Trust. A history that shows how government kills the innocent for the egos of government-employees playing Dukes of Hazard will never be a project for "historic preservation" as long as this Council is in place.

Posted: Wednesday, November 14, 2012
Article comment by: Tom Babbitt

Sam says vegetarians need a stop light at that crosswalk,

Posted: Wednesday, November 14, 2012
Article comment by: Rose Good

I think some in Prescott don't appreciate the actions it takes to preserve the charm and historical heritage of this quaint city. This is a fascinating story that acknowledges an important public figure for believing in something. Lessons our youth will appreciate. The benefit of naysayers: They help remind us the key to happiness is gratitude.

Posted: Wednesday, November 14, 2012
Article comment by: Well deserved!

I think its a great idea!

Posted: Wednesday, November 14, 2012
Article comment by: kate webster

Just curious....If Prescott can place a plaque for Sam Steiger (who broke the law with his actions), where is the remembrance plaque for the three innocent boys who were killed almost 12 years ago while police were "chasing a criminal"? Does our city have more concern for lawbreakers than for the death of three of its young citizens?

Posted: Wednesday, November 14, 2012
Article comment by: Doug Rand

With the City Council having taken care of all the other problems in Prescott...........

Posted: Wednesday, November 14, 2012
Article comment by: Steven Frederick

If it was only possible to keep the City Council focused on on such stupefying matters of importance as crosswalk designations, the city might be in better fiscal shape...

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