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The Inbox
By Steve Stockmar
Courier City Editor Steve Stockmar keeps an eye on dCourier.comís article comment traffic. He plays referee, examines the best of the big mouths, puts out some fires and starts others.
Thursday, June 03, 2010

Steve Blair, Straight Outta Prescott


I admit, I don't listen to talk radio much. And aaaaaaaaaaahhh, the fresh air.

Steve Blair needs to stop talking for a while. Not turn in his First Amendment membership card for good; just shhhhhh. For those who have been flies hovering over his ... well, you know, for a lot of years now, there's pretty much an accepted rule for the big lug - no harm, no foul. We know he says things. He just says things. He has pretty good bumper music. He played baseball for the Roughriders. He loves Prescott to a fault.

No matter what your opinion of Steve is, he has an influence in the City of Prescott. He has a daily mic and a growing audience (see: 'no such thing as bad publicity'), he's a longtime voting member of the city council, and he's very involved in issues on all levels.

His remarks over the Miller Valley mural were so - in Steve's world and ours - badly influential that it's too much to de-construct from word one. The strangest, of course, was the amazing reference to President Obama:

"I will tell you depicting a black guy in the middle of that mural, based upon who's President of the United States today ..."

All of that - incidentally - was proceeded by Steve's classic white-man-of-the-people sell: "I am not a racist individual" but ... . He might as well say "duck, this is gonna hurt." It's almost as reassuring as the let-me-tell-you-about-my-black-friends diffuser, which Steve also nailed on cue.

Listen, no kidding. You were way off on that one. Your first conclusion was Obama, when in fact the artists used actual campus STUDENTS as models. Why not automatically assume it's another black KID on the wall? Why immediately OBAMA? Honestly, is he the only black person you know? Does anger toward an image of Obama translate to anger at any similar-toned image? No one ever mentioned the president; they were kids on the campus. So what if one's skin was painted a little darker complexion than normal? It's an artist's representation, not a driver's license photo. If red hair on Billy had come out redder than natural, would you be up on the scaffolding with a pitchfork, paint brushes, and curses against Carrot Top?

The point is, black face = Obama in your book, even a smiling kid on a playground, and that's despicable.

Let's say you're not racist most of the time, but no one's perfect and you made a racist assumption. A lot of people heard it. You made a racist statement and it spread. And it was embraced by part of a community you cherish and reflect. Jeez, Steve, at least come clean on that much.

You did have a shot clock on your anger's early alibi, though: that they had the nerve to paint over historic red bricks. It was such a weak swing that even you abandoned ship and went your own way.

I checked with accounting and here's the deal: The City of Prescott has 30 historical markers, more than 500 buildings on the national registry of historical places, a glorious downtown opera house about to open for its 105th year, a gem of a softball diamond in the middle of town that has hosted games since the FDR administration, the World's Oldest Rodeo turning a spry 123 this summer, quaint ladies dressed in 1880s duds hosting walking tours of downtown historical spots every summer, and one out of every 2.5 residents who know which way the shamrock faces in front of Murphy's every March or who still call the Resort 'the Sheraton'. History-wise, we're just fine. Re-lax.

Our city's forefathers laid the wall as a sturdy security for children, not to be a statue. The security is still there, keeping bad wind like yours outside a wall that is there for the kids, not for you and your view.

Help me understand this - is losing the brick wall losing a piece of your history, or does your interpretation of the mural signal a troubled future? Wow, what a double-whammy for you. Who in their right mind can sit on all that anger when it's sunny, it's in the upper 80s, and the 37th annual Sharlot Hall Folk Arts Fair is this weekend?

Honestly, Steve ... spare a brick wall in the name of art (whether you regard it or not), education (whether you support it or not), diversity (whether you encourage it or not) and, yes, history (bricks are permanent; acrylic paint is not).

As for the rest of you - the afternoon talk-show listeners and letter-writers - Steve is going to turn the corner here, I can feel it. He's going to come to his senses, and not involve the public in his personal problems.

Please follow him on this journey. And tell the staff and students at Miller Valley that they did a fine job and leave it at that.

In other words, shut up for a while.

Related Links:
• Art Attack: Elementary school mural getting a 'lighter' facelift
• Wall-sized art
• See PrescottDiversity YouTube Video: Jeff Lane & Kevin Kapp Apologize

Reader Comments

Posted: Wednesday, June 16, 2010
Article comment by: yogi bear

Racism is ugly. While the rest of the US is trying to knock down racial barriers, Arizona is trying to step back into the past. It's sad... When will people just see people and not color. We have to organize and throw the bums out of political office.

Posted: Tuesday, June 15, 2010
Article comment by: So Sad

How sad for the little boy who's dream it was to have his idea for a greener world painted on the side of his school. This was a harmless way to get the kids involved in a greener world, not anything political or underhanded! Please people...we have better things to spend our energy and opinions on! I believe this whole thing is about people thinking that the world revolves around them and what they think should be is called "free speech". Free speech is about voicing your opinion for a better world..not voicing your opinion so someone else gets hurt! Honestly ENOUGH Already!!!!!

Posted: Wednesday, June 09, 2010
Article comment by: Justin Opinion

The Mural is Propaganda. It doesnt matter what color the children are that are depicted in the mural. Propaganda does not belong here. A mural should represent the the town it is depicting. Where are the Miners and Ranchers that started this town? Dave in Prescott, If you want a more realistic representation of what Prescott was like in the 70's you should watch "JUNIOR BONNER". This town is represented in that film, that film was written specifically for Prescott. Billy Jack was written by some producer and Prescott was picked because "its Perty". Prospecting and Ranching are still a mainstay here in this town, even 150 years later. Just go to the "Worlds Oldest Rodeo" Coming up real soon. That mural is not at all something that belongs here. It is an eyesore...

Posted: Wednesday, June 09, 2010
Article comment by: You were saying?

Yeah, but YOU'RE the one who believes so adamantly in man-caused global warming. While what Blair has done may warrant some criticism, YOU'VE got no room to talk. Blair's made himself look bad in front of the community and so have YOU. Now, let's compare: Blair's offhanded, poorly chosen words and YOUR support of a movement to cripple the U.S. economy and the free market worldwide... all based on a fraudulent theory that has PROVEN to be a BIG FAT LIE! You were saying?

Posted: Tuesday, June 08, 2010
Article comment by: Ted Welsh

I first noticed the mural while waiting for the light across the intersection on Whipple street. My first thought, without knowing the details of the project, was that it was a picture of President Obama. And not a very good depiction of the president at that, I thought. I don't think that makes me a racist, after all it would not be out of line for a school to honor the president in such a way.
I've known Steve Blair for years, professionally and personally, and never had the impression that he is a racist. Quite the contrary. It is important to distinguish between a racial and a racist statement. Today, in this politically correct atmosphere, the racist card is being thrown about far too often. It is divisive and limits honest dialogue. We are the United States not the Divided States of America.

Posted: Tuesday, June 08, 2010
Article comment by: To: Reality Check

First of all, there are in fact white people in the mural. BUT that is not the point. What makes this about race is that when you look at the mural you see a big black kid, or a big hispanic kid, not just A BIG KID. Steve's comments that the figures should be proportional to Prescott's actual demographics are racist on their face. All the kids in the mural represent Prescott kids. What color they are SHOULDN'T MATTER. If it does, then it's about race, isn't it?

Posted: Tuesday, June 08, 2010
Article comment by: Reality Check

The mural as originally designed is by its very nature racist. Why is it that there are no white people in it? Why is it that the black figure is so much larger than the others? Aren't we all supposed to be equal or as was so eloquently put in "Animal Farm" some people are more equal than others? But the larger issue here is not that the mural looks like the work of a art school reject, not that its original design is CLEARLY racist, oh no. The REAL issue is how the hell the school found the money to spend on it and yet there is now an 18% increase in the sales tax to pay for it. TAX dollars paid for this travesty. Were the voters consulted on this? I don't recall a referendum on the subject. And furthermore, if this damn thing is supposed to promote green transportation, paint the kid green. Or would that offend purple people eaters?

Posted: Tuesday, June 08, 2010
Article comment by: Steven Ayres

The commenters here arguing that the mural is designed to promote diversity are laboring under a completely false impression. the mural is designed to as an educational project involving the kids and encouraging them to walk or bike to school, serving the deeper purpose of addressing the epidemics of childhood obesity and diabetes. To better involve them, the students and teachers chose real kids, and they chose them for their self-expression in photos, not their color.

So the whole 'diversity' issue in this case is generated in the minds of those who saw only a picture of a brown child larger than life near a busy intersection -- and felt threatened. That tells you something about the mindset of some of our neighbors, and goes a long way to explain the newfound and unfounded hysteria over illegal immigrants.

Posted: Tuesday, June 08, 2010
Article comment by: A Student of Prescott

The point many people seem to be missing about the mural is that it does not promote racial diversity. Racial diversity means the inclusion of several ethnic groups. This painting is nothing more than the bold portrayal of a lone hispanic child who looks african-american at first glance. Unless one looks closely, it is very difficult to see the other children in the background. If the artists wished to promote racial diversity, they should have done so. If they wished to portray a typical Prescott student, why did they paint a mural of a hispanic-child, when hispanics make up less than 4% of Prescott's population. An Indian reservation or a predominately black community would be just as upset if lone white child were painted on the side of one of thier schools, and understandably so. My question is, why are white Americans held to a double standard?

Posted: Tuesday, June 08, 2010
Article comment by: Natalie Miller

This was a most interesting dialogue
The way that people expressed thinking people put forward their nobel views and are more explicite about the facts . ie the relivance of the mural , the green enviornment the health of the children and awarness of the planet. The rediculous ness of some comments . eg. the racio of the "blacks" and "whites" in the community as a measure . would that include a half white half black face for fairness? I mean look at all the inequality using ratio advertising . and Blair his radio show to air his "but" not much relevant there. thank you thank
thinkers truly green people

Posted: Tuesday, June 08, 2010
Article comment by: Guy Good

"Now it has gotten to the point that we need diversity. Which is a bunch of bull. We are all Americans. "
The real tragedy is that we have somehow evolved from a meritocracy that was biased towards white males to a sort of equality scrum where more time is spent worrying about groups and less about individuals.
I'm afraid we'll never have a race or culture blind meritocracy in this country. The real loser in all of this is the individual person.

Posted: Tuesday, June 08, 2010
Article comment by: M M

To Patrick O'Mally...
Thank you for posting the info on PAT and the city of Prescott.
Going Green is the healthy future for the entire globe. It's nice to see people trying to achieve this in Prescott. Anyone who opposes clean transportation is not seeing the big picture.

Posted: Tuesday, June 08, 2010
Article comment by: To: Patrick O'Mally

Ok... I would recommend that you check out our city's website: www.cityofprescott.net/_d/bikeped09.pdf If you go to page 18 on the document you will see more about why PAT is involved in this project. At the time this document was put together, and probably currently, the planning organization working on transportation issues is without a Bicycle/Pedestrian Coordinator. Our city officials put PAT in charge of organizing promotional programs to advocate alternative transportation. The document states the organizers of these promotions will work with other public organizations to promote alternative transportation... one of the public services listed that the organizers are told to work with is schools. This is an agenda driven by our city government. Why? Because there is a great need find solutions to transportation issues in this town before it is too late. If you don't like PAT being involved, why don't you step up and fill the position? This is not a conspiracy to sell more bikes, just an attempt to promote alternatives to all the rediculous "urban assault vehicles" and all the other gas guzzling giant trucks that dominate the roads in our town. Miller Valley School is at a major intersection in our town, one that many of these trucks and other cars pass by frequently. Lots of exposure at this intersection. We do not have a bike friendly town right now, and that needs to change. Our city government is on board with this and created this project, the city government we vote on to use our tax money to improve our city. This is why the mural is on the wall at Miller Valley School and why it is not on a PAT owned building my fellow Prescottonian. Hope this helps.

Posted: Tuesday, June 08, 2010
Article comment by: Sheesh Deluxe

Was Blair exercising his freedom of speech on the radio? Absolutely. Just remember that freedom of speech does not come with freedom from consequences of speech.

Posted: Tuesday, June 08, 2010
Article comment by: Blair blows his own horn.

One can't help but notice several local folks have sent in long lists of all the wonderful things Mr. Blair does for his beloved community. Don't be naive. Don't be misled. There is not a single thing he has done that he does not tell us about. Loudly, and over and over again. On his radio show, at the council meetings...every chance he gets. He does not do anything for others - he does things for himself. He is a master of dog and pony shows, photo-ops, and pseudo-philanthropy. Really ... can you think of a single thing he has done that he didn't crow about?

Posted: Tuesday, June 08, 2010
Article comment by: Keri Lynn

Please come join me tomorrow at City Hall to support Steve. The opposition (Recall Steve Blair) will outnumber us and call us RACISTS, but please come out around 2pm. ...

Posted: Tuesday, June 08, 2010
Article comment by: Blair is really clear about the issue.

On that interview on Youtube he says there are 2 things he disagrees with about the mural: 1: he doesn't like that there is a black person as the biggest one. And 2: he doesn't like that the mural "defaces a beautiful public building". He says he likes other murals on other public buildings, including ones that the city council oversees and approved of. But not this one. Why could that be? Are there black persons on those buildings? Nope. So that pretty much tell you why he was taken off the air. Not because he expressed himself or his opinion on the show. But because he is a public elected official and has been the host of a local radio show and sounds like he has a problem with having a black person on that building. Maybe that was OK at some point in time, but it's not "politically correct" in 2010. Sorry Steve.

Posted: Monday, June 07, 2010
Article comment by: us liberty

It seems in order to be fair about diversity there should be 60% white children and 40 % other races, reflected on the mural. Perhaps diversity isn't inclusive of all races? Why would the primary focal point be on the least represented race? For thinking Americans (not herd followers) it seems an overt attempt to create more radical racism aimed at White America and anyone who dares to speak out.

Posted: Monday, June 07, 2010
Article comment by: Patrick O'Mally

To: To:Why is it there at all: I don't have a dog in this fight but it is a pet peeve of mine how people sometimes parse words to obscure the truth. It is true that PAT itself doesn't sell bicycles, however some of the key founders and leaders certainly do so. I would have more respect for them if they were a lot more honest about that. I also noticed that you never answered the question: Why the heck is it there at all (it is after all a public school funded by tax payers, not a PAT owned building)?

Posted: Monday, June 07, 2010
Article comment by: Prescott a changing !!!

Dave in Prescott:

Here is a particulaly telling statement from Ebert:

Not along ago I read this observation by Clint Eastwood: "The less secure a man is, the more likely he is to have extreme prejudice." Do the drive-by haters feel insecure? How are they threatened? What have they talked themselves into? Who benefits by feeding off their fear? We have a black man in the White House, and I suspect they don't like that very much. They don't want to accept the reality that other races live here right along with them, and are doing just fine and making a contribution and the same sun rises and sets on us all. Do they fear their own adequacy? Do they grasp for assurance that they're "better"--which means, not worse? Those poor people. It must be agony to live with such hate, and to seek the company of others so damaged.

This summarizes the sentiments better than most!!

Posted: Monday, June 07, 2010
Article comment by: TO: Why is it there at all?

Maybe I can help you with this... First off, it is Prescott ALTERNATIVE Transportation (PAT), not Prescott Alternate Transportation. Second, PAT is a non-profit organization which does NOT "sell bicycles for a living". They are simply advocates for alternative transportation, something our city needs more resources for. You should check out the website: www.prescottbikeped.org It might inform you on why "it" (the mural) is there and why this message is important.

Posted: Monday, June 07, 2010
Article comment by: Wait Wut

9 pages of comments. Let me add my simple one stolen from the very first by "Courier Reader."

Thanks for the perfect comment.

Posted: Monday, June 07, 2010
Article comment by: Dave in Prescott

Roger Ebert from the Chicago Sun-Times writes in his blog:


This isn't going away folks!

Posted: Monday, June 07, 2010
Article comment by: To All Who Want To Squash Freedom of Speech

Steve Blair did nothing more than state his personal opinion. And those of many others in this area. He did so without much thought and rather foolishly however if you all are so upset about his comments, what about the racists comments of Helen Thomas this week? I'm sure many of you that are up in arms about Blairs comments are supportive of Thomas'.....That makes you just as racist.

Posted: Monday, June 07, 2010
Article comment by: To Hispanic Contractor

Your ignorance to the process of awarding of the City contracts is probably the reason you have yet to win a bid. The City by law MUST accept the lowest bid. And the contractor MUST be qualified to do the work. Obviously, you are missing one or the other....or maybe both. Don't make your lack of business savvy about race....it's not.

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