Tag Archives: Cochise County

Ending Agony in Fry Town

When Sierra Vista became an incorporated township in 1956, it excluded a half square mile of land that was originally owned by turn-of-the-twentieth-century settler Oliver Fry. Mr. Fry resisted inclusion with the town growing around him, and as a result his land, which came to be known as Fry Town, remains un-annexed and has steadily fallen into disrepair; its residents poor, its crime rates high.

Residents of Sierra Vista proper do not go untouched by this, either. Crime is not conveniently contained within Fry Town’s historic blocks, nor can Sierra Vistans easily ignore such a relatively small section of disrepute. Not when Fry Town and its many bedraggled residents are so prominently on display at Sierra Vista’s main entryway. It’s the first thing newcomers see. It’s not a problem that can be swept under an indifferent rug. It is front and center, and it demands our attention.

Fry Town’s annexation into Sierra Vista’s city limits seems long overdue, but Fry residents have voted against this appropriation in the past. And, while annexation would certainly offer Fry Town residents many city benefits they’re currently bereft of, it is not going to eradicate the problems derived from a socio-economic petri dish of poverty, drug abuse and crime – one that’s been left to fester over the last half century.

Similarly, recent city and county led efforts to give Fry a cosmetic makeover –demolishing abandoned, dilapidated mobile homes and raising new, more aesthetically pleasing, low-income housing – merely whitewashed the neighborhood for appearance sake. It did little toward the long-term health of the community. And, without investing in the future of the residents themselves, it’s only a matter of time before those new developments look like the graffiti-laden relics they replaced. Real change starts with people, not real estate.

To be certain, residents, city leaders and law enforcement have debated the issue for years, and there have been several efforts on all sides to address it. But, ramping up police presence and tearing down structural eyesores amounts to adhering Band-Aids to gushing wounds. And, while not all of its inhabitants live in abject poverty, many do. Many of Fry Town’s inhabitants are trapped in a hellish cycle of poverty. They grew up with crime as not just a fact of life, but a way of it, learning no honor among countless thieves. Their parents were poor, uneducated, abused substances, and abused them. They grew up to do the same, and their children, and their children’s children, in one, long, ghetto nightmare.

Helping these people break the cycle, that is the solution. Granted, there are programs in place designed to address this issue. Unfortunately, Arizona isn’t all that keen on funneling tax dollars toward welfare subsidies; thus, said programs are not adequately funded. Most agree that welfare isn’t intended as a way of life, but rather serves as a helping hand; a hand that pulls one up from the gutter and helps them stand on their own feet.  That is the definition of a working welfare program, and the impoverished population of Fry Town desperately needs it.

Their plight calls for a program that offers drug rehabilitation, where necessary, and intensive therapy. No one abuses drugs because they have a healthy sense of self-worth. You don’t do that to your body, or to your life, if you’re not already in a profound amount of pain. These people, whether they’re abusing drugs/alcohol or not, need to be armed with healthy, psychological tools in order to combat their own mental anguish. Fry Town needs a crackdown on mental health; a SWAT team of counselors at the ready.

If part one of a successful welfare program teaches life skills, then part two offers job skills and employment training. Of course, that would require there being viable jobs for which to train. Sadly, there’s a vast wage gap in Sierra Vista. The local middle class sustains itself with government jobs, government contracting jobs or healthcare work. And, as the government downsizes, it’s a very small employment pool to draw from. Sierra Vista must work on drawing new industry to the area. After all, food service and retail work does not a middle class make.

Yet, the most important, most sure-fire resolution to the woes of Fry Town is this: educate its children. If children are the future, let us plant the seeds that ensure a bright one – and those seeds are called tax dollars; tax dollars that fund their schools and tax dollars that fund the social programs these children require. Some of these kids play in dirt lots and crumbling streets, some with empty bellies and bruised bodies. I know. I have seen them. They exist. They need their community at large to help. They need citizens who are invested enough in their city’s future to pay it forward in taxes, just as they need a city council and a school board that won’t mismanage those taxes.

You can avoid Fry Town all you like, ignore its struggles if you wish, or be satisfied with quick-fixes to its unsightly surface but, eventually, Fry Town will call on you. Whether its presence drives your property values down, its criminals steal your car, or its drug dealers sell their wares to your kids, its suffering spills over those half square mile borders, and its consequences will affect you. It is not their problem, it is our problem – and luckily, it’s one we can fix.

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Dumb Deer Diary

Around 7:20 AM, going 65 mph, heading west on Arizona Highway 90, with the sun – having just finished its dawn-makin’ business in New Mexico – rising in my rear-view, I saw an impressively large male deer leap across the pavement before me.
And stop.
In my lane.

There were no other cars, though traffic was quickly rounding the bend behind me. And while I had my headlights on, he didn’t appear mesmerized by them. He came to a halt  (this breathtaking buck; this absolutely magnificent creature, with his enormous antlers, his soulful eyes) about ten feet from the hood of my car (my car…. the one with the awesome brakes) and he slowly turned his massive head my way. Nonchalant. If I spoke deer, I bet he would’ve said,”‘sup.”

My hurtling black death machine was purely an afterthought to him. And when I try to understand the reason behind his sudden, dangerous pit stop, I try to imagine his thought-process…and it sounds like this (…and he’s very fancy): “Alas, weary am I from all this graceful jaunting, to and fro, in forest-like peace and tranquility. Hark! Tis civilization, yonder! Me thinks I shall rest these weary antlers… but where?  Hmmm, I see a fast approaching contraption of certain death. What luck! I shall stop right in front of it. Splendid!”

My oh my, he was GORGEOUS. His gaze was the gaze of the ages.
And he was very stupid. And he is very, very lucky to be alive.

As traffic caught up to us, I held my right hand high over the passenger seat; Jedi-forcing the oncoming traffic to slow their mornin’ roll – which they did. And after that beautiful buck had properly assessed me, with all the interest his fairy-tail ass could muster, he bounded the remaining lanes of the highway, toward safety.

Actually, he headed toward a suburban development. So, probably not safety. But that’s okay because, as we all know, you don’t have to be smart when you’re that pretty.

I drove away from the encounter awe-struck; nearly convinced of it’s spiritual import.  A random AM eye-lock with the glorious divine. But the rest of the day proved far less enigmatic. In fact, the overwhelming theme of the office that day ( and I’m working again….but we’ll talk about that later) seemed to be that of rampant stupidity. Not by way of my co-workers, but rather their overall report of the active corporate world at large. Shocker, I know.

So was my handsome buck a celestial totem, or just the universe presenting me with its official Ambassador of Dumbass; warning me of the day ahead. Or, of course, he could just have been a deer, doing what deer have done since the dawn of motorized vehicles. But, my goodness, he was a joy to behold!
And magical. And I’m going with that.

Gary Larson's The Far Side®Gary Larson’s The Far Side®

Autumn is a State of Mind

It’s a beautiful September day in southeastern Arizona. In these parts they refer to fall as a second spring. But honestly, autumn here is like a perfect summer day anywhere else. It’s 80 degrees. The sky is Crayola baby blue, spotted with floating clumps of cotton balls. It often looks like a child’s delightful art project up there.

I seized the weather with a walk. Two miles of pushing a happy toddler in a comfy stroller through paths lined in blooming greens. The monsoon rains give us a three month reprieve from desert-living. We won’t feel a real chill until Christmas. And even then, it’s not exactly the Artic north around here. When the temp drops below 70 we all run, en masse, for our sweaters.

But autumn has always been my favorite season. Once upon a time, in another life, I associated it with Technicolor burgundy and blood orange. Leaves crackling beneath my cute knee-high boots, deep inhalations of crispy-clean earth, hot-n-sweet beverages, hearty broths, resurrected fireplaces, soft, color-splashing scarves, Happy Halloweens, moody grey heavens above and rain – Seattle rain. And when I moved to Arizona, all those many moons ago, how I mourned the loss of it.

Other than the occasional harvest wreath, hanging on someone’s front door, or the jack-o-lanterns that can only sit out the day of October 31st before melting into mush, there’s very little, traditional sign of the season. Trees retain most their leaves until December; then those leaves make some sort of suicide pact and all plummet at once to their leafy death. Green one day, gone the next – and it’s straight from “second spring” to winter we go. This took some getting used to.

But I’ve come to love a new brand of fall. Blue skies and sunshine in fitted tees and capris. Outdoor activities, warm breezes, lizards, toads and their babies. Thanksgiving dinner on the patio and pumpkin spice lattes -ICED! Because it appears autumn, like so much else, is just a state of mind.

HOT COCOA, ANYONE?