Barwood says that her inquiry about the mystery lights began innocently. On May 6, nearly two months after bizarre light formations were seen over many parts of Arizona, Barwood was preparing to attend a city council meeting when she was approached by a camera crew from the television show "Extra."
"The reporter said, 'We've tried everybody. No one will talk to us. Will you?' So I said, 'Sure. About what?' They wanted to know why no one was inquiring about the lights," Barwood told CNI News in a telephone interview.
That day's council meeting was a televised policy session where council members were permitted to raise any question they wished. Barwood asked if the city could investigate the mysterious lights. She quickly discovered it was a subject no one wanted to touch.
"One of the deputy city managers named Pat Manion told me, 'You shouldn't have asked that. You opened Pandora's Box,'" Barwood said. "I didn't realize this, but the mayor's office had been avoiding talking to the media on this, and his office issued a statement that there are no UFOs over Phoenix."
Barwood says that Pat Manion agreed to find out, if possible, why there was so much political resistance to investigating the lights. However, about ten days later, Manion died of a heart attack after riding his bicycle to work. He was only 49 years old. Barwood had lost an ally.
Meanwhile, the mayor mounted a campaign of ridicule aimed directly at Barwood. She says the mayor's press secretary printed up phony business cards that said, "Frances Emma Barwood from the planet Zenon." She found a picture of herself posted in the city hall lobby with the caption "From the planet Zenon."
The mayor publicly accused Barwood of seeing little green men. Her question about the lights was characterized as an inappropriate interest in UFOs.
"I never said UFOs," Barwood insists. "I just wanted to know what it was."
An article about Barwood's attempted inquiry appeared in the Arizona Republic newspaper on May 10, Barwood says. Two days later, a judge reinstated the recall effort against her.
Barwood's political opponents had begun the recall effort in 1996 after she voted with the rest of the city council to site a large manufacturing plant in her district. Although the vote had been 9 to 0 in favor, some residents of her 2nd district, the largest in Phoenix, were infuriated that she supported the project.
One CNI News subscriber lives in Barwood's district and was among those opposing her. He wrote: "This recall effort has nothing to do with her position on the lights over Phoenix. Some in our group think this is just one more example of her paranoia in action... There were many reasons to recall her. Among the most prominent was her fervent support for a manufacturing plant named Sumitomo Sitix... sited in the midst of a residential and recreational area. I live only 1.5 miles from this monstrosity! If I had known this plant was going to be my 'neighbor' I probably would not have bought my house where I did."
However, the original recall effort failed to materialize because the petition which would have put the recall measure to a vote was found to contain many invalid names. A judge ruled to allow some of the contested signatures, but attorneys for the city appealed the ruling, and the matter became mired in litigation. As of early 1997, it appeared to be a dead issue.
Then, on May 12, the judge announced that the effort to recall Barwood was valid and would appear on the next ballot.
But Barwood soon discovered that her opponents were no longer talking about the Sumitomo factory. The campaign against her now seemed to focus on her inquiry about the mystery lights.
"I started getting phonecalls from people saying they [her opponents] were going door to door saying that I see little green men and that I think we're being invaded. I never, ever said anything like that. It was really upsetting to me," she told CNI News.
Barwood said that her opponents' campaign literature also ridiculed her interest in the mystery lights.
Meanwhile, however, she was hearing from many other people who had seen strange things in the sky and wanted to her to know.
"I've never seen anything," Barwood says. "But lots of people called, very credible people -- teachers, police officers, doctors, a psychologist. A very competent, celebrity-type person who works in the town of Paradise Valley, whom everybody knows, said he just wanted me to know that he saw this. That was more than enough for me to realize that this was not mass hysteria. This was very obviously something."
In the election on September 9, Frances Emma Barwood defeated two other candidates to retain her council seat. But she considers it ironic that her opponents went to so much trouble to oust her, because she had already announced that she will not run for another term on the city council. Her present term ends this December.
She hopes her victory sends a message to those who apparently wanted to block her inquiry into the mystery lights.
"They tried to make it an issue, but now I'm hoping it backfired on them," she told CNI News. "Because people do want to know what's going on, and they do want to know why the government is so silent on it."
Barwood isn't through with politics. She says she's considering a run for the Arizona Secretary of State next year.
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