Over the years, Risner has exposed and fought the powers-that-be in the community on behalf of the members of the community. And because of that effort, the powers-that-be have worked hard to keep community in the dark about the man who fought to shed so much light on their behalf.
From his days challenging the Viet Nam War as student body president at the University of Arizona, to just this past May when he sued City of Tucson for public records, Risner has been under the scrutiny of the powers-that-be because the powers-that-be don’t like people who bring scrutiny to them and their friends.
Over the years, despite his best efforts and those of so many others, little has changed in Southern Arizona, which is a microcosm of America’s ills. The only real change in our little world is that secret government agents have been replaced by computers that gather every shred of metadata possible in order to keep the powers-that-be and their cronies in cash and control.
Risner, a democrat, has taken on all the power brokers, in and out of his own political party. He took on Attorney General Terry Goddard and fought tooth and nail for the truth behind Pima County elections and specifically the fraudulent RTA bond election. The powers-that-be-good in the Party didn’t appreciate Risner much, but he won the admiration and loyalty of the grassroots.
That fight, Risner’s role in it, and the vastness of the County corruption earned little air time or column space. We don’t air our dirty laundry when the boys’ boxers are in the hamper.
In 1975, when investigative reporting still existed, Fred Allison of KGUN 9 News did a story about Risner and the secret agent from the Pima County Sheriff’s Office who was assigned to shadow him. It is hard to gauge the impact the report had on viewers at the time. It aired once. No relics of a follow-up can be found.
(Today, in Tucson, it would not be covered by the mainstream media, or even the tragically hip tabloids. They all crawled into bed together sometime back in the 1980’s but the citizens were the only ones who got screwed.) `
The following is an account from Risner to one of Tucson other tireless transparency advocates; John Brakey:
In the fall of 1975 on Channel 9 News had press coverage over allegations by someone that the Pima County Sheriff had wanted deputies to be on the lookout for Pima County supervisor Ron Asta in order that they might catch him in a compromising condition and stop him for a DU. Asta, an urban sprawl foe, who had earned of the wrath of developers, had not supported a larger budget for the Sheriff’s Office.
Risner ran into a television reporter while visiting the Pima County supervisor’s office. The reporter asked Risner if he knew about the Sheriff’s Office targeting anyone for political reasons. Risner said he had been targeted. The reporter asked Risner if he would agree to an interview. Risner, who is more sophisticated than the average bear, refused but suggested that he interview “his agent” who had worked for the Sheriff’s Office while targeting Risner.
Risner gave the reporter the agent’s name and telephone number. The reporter called him and the agent agreed to be interviewed for TV but only with a camera on the back of his head. Bill Risner then agreed to be interviewed for the segment.
(Back then, as it is now, if you tell a story that exposes their corruption, you will be crushed if you are the only one telling the truth. Even if you aren’t the only one telling the truth, if no one else has the nerve to tell it publically; you are toast. You can count on the cronies of the powers-that-be to line up to lie about you and marginalize you in every manner available. It’s the Tucson way.)
Bill Risner first learned that he had a “personal” agent one evening while he was visiting the Pima County Jail to see a client. A person standing behind the desk asked Risner if he recognized him. Risner said no, he did not. The man told Risner that he should he had been “his agent.” Risner said “let’s talk.”
Risner asked as they walked outside, “What do you mean?”
Risner’s agent told him that he went anywhere he thought Risner would be or where he could hear who Risner was talking to and what Risner was saying. If, for example, Risner spoke to a college class, the agent would be there pretending to be a student with a spiral notebook to take notes.
The agent then wrote weekly reports that were distributed to the Sheriff’s Office, the FBI, the State Police, the Tucson Police, and military intelligence.
Fred Allison reported it all. Both men shared their stories and Tucson continued slouching toward 1984.
In 2014, Risner is now trying to expose what many believe was a deal to sell off valuable public property at illegal below-market prices to the cronies of the powers-that-be. He represented concerned citizens who wanted to see the records of the negotiations that they, as citizens, are legally permitted to view.
Although the number of developers have dwindled, in the 8th poorest metropolitan area in the country, guys like Don Diamond still pull the strings of the elected officials on every level of government in Arizona.
A Pima County Superior court judge ruled against the City, for its failure to comply with public records requirements and awarded plaintiffs $15,800.00. The judge found, “COT’s slipshod approach to Ms. Cruz’s request, unreasonably expanded and delayed the resolution of this matter….”
That is it in a nutshell.
The powers-that-be have unreasonably delayed so many possible resolutions to so many of our community’s problems in an effort to maintain the status quo. Guys like Bill Risner don’t divide and conquer; they uncover. And given the all the information, people of good will can make the right decisions and resolutions.