Daily Archives: November 29, 2008

Rumors quashed about demise of Phoenix’s Village Planning Committees

[Source: Paul Barnes, Neighborhood Coalition of Greater Phoenix] — In October and early November, the Neighborhood Coalition of Greater Phoenix began hearing rumors that as part of budget cuts, the City of Phoenix may eliminate Village Planning Committees as well as the entire Village System. These rumors were brought to the attention of Mayor Phil Gordon.

Below are e-mail communiques from Mayor Gordon and City Manager Frank Fairbanks assuring the Coalition that regardless of whatever severe budget cuts might have to be initiated, the Village Planning Committees and Village System will be retained.

November 17, 2008 e-mail from Mayor Gordon to Paul Barnes:

Dear Paul,

Per your personal request, I am providing you with the following response to your e-mail so you may read it, send it, or discuss it with anyone you choose:

Paul, while I have not heard nor was I aware of any rumors that the city, due to “budget cuts and perhaps for other reasons as well, Phoenix may eliminate the village planning committees as well as the village system,” I informed you that I “would not support either of such actions should they be formally recommended.”  I am not only reaffirming that pledge, but am committing that I would aggressively oppose any such action, formal or informal.

Please assure everyone that this won’t happen.  However as we did discuss, substantial cuts will occur in all departments thus reducing service; increasing wait times; and delaying planning activities, meetings, and special projects in many cases.  We did discuss that some village committees that form ad hoc or subcommittees may have to do without staff as the city may not be able to continue overtime salaries till the budget picture greatly improves.  The village committees could seek through the full council, a waiver to a village subcommittee request for staff resources which if granted would then be allocated from the city’s general fund (thus taking away dollars from something else). However, let me again stress that no villages nor the system itself or any portions thereof will be eliminated.  If anyone has any concerns, please have them contact me as I represent everyone in the city.

Phil Gordon, Mayor, City of Phoenix

November 17, 2008 e-mail from City Manager Frank Fairbanks to Paul Barnes:

Paul,

The Mayor copied me, so let me add some information to this discussion.

First; The City by State law must have a balanced budget.  City revenues are declining and will not support the current level of activity.  The City has no proposed cuts at this time.  We have not identified what we will propose to balance the budget. I have not yet seen all of the options yet. Budget & Research is examining all the options in cooperation with the departments. “The City,” meaning the Mayor and City Council or City Management, has not yet proposed any cuts to the Village Planning process or anywhere else.  Any cuts would be proposed on January 6, 2009.

Second; About a month ago, each department head (Debra Stark in the case of Planning) was required to submit a list of what she would cut from their own department, IF their department were to be cut 30%.  The Planning Department 30% list included cutting 4 of the 11 Village Planners as the worst case scenario.  I am told that currently, 11 Planners staff 15 Village Planning Committees.   If these 4 positions were cut, then 7 Village Planners would remain to staff the 15 Committees.  Under this Planning Department submitted proposal, all Village Planning Committees would continue.  If these cuts proceeded, Planning proposed that all Village Planning Committees would remain is operation, some lighter agenda meetings might be cancelled and the amount of fresh research would likely be reduced.

Third; City revenues continue to decline.  We have not hit bottom.  We do not have a final estimate of the percentage cuts that will be necessary because the situation is still very fluid and we don’t need a final estimate until we propose cuts.  The target cuts for all civilian general fund departments are between 25% and 45%.  Because of massive community support, the Police and Fire Departments will have an increase in their budgets, but this increase will not be as much as their normal cost growth.

Finally, let me add that city management also supports the village planning program and model and we have no interest in eliminating it or reducing this important part of our community.

Frank Fairbanks

Foreclosure-riddled metro Phoenix to get $121M in federal aid

[Source: Catherine Reagor, Arizona Republic] — Metropolitan Phoenix’s ailing housing market is getting a boost from the federal government.  Early next year, Arizona will receive $121 million to combat the state’s growing foreclosure problem.  Most of the money must be spent to buy and fix up foreclosure homes and then help people purchase them. Homes in the Valley communities hardest hit by the downturn will be targeted.  Those areas include neighborhoods in Phoenix, Mesa, Avondale, Tolleson, and Surprise.  The money, distributed by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Affairs, comes from the nation’s Housing and Economic Recovery Act, which Congress passed in July.

The funds are earmarked for “stabilizing” the neighborhoods hurt by too many foreclosures.  The federal money will go toward the purchase of thousands of Valley foreclosure homes, which means more work for real-estate agents, appraisers, title agents and lenders.  Many people who have struggled to get financing or down-payment money to buy a house will get help.  The funds also will mean more jobs for contractors hired to fix up foreclosure homes. Homeowners in neighborhoods hurt by too many foreclosures should see their home values stabilize and even increase as the money is spent on houses nearby.

A record 35,000 homes have been foreclosed on Valley-wide so far this year.  Many neighborhoods, particularly on the Valley’s fringes, are dotted with homes left vacant and vandalized because of foreclosures.  “This money will a go a long ways to helping a lot of people and communities,” said Fred Karnas, director of the Arizona Housing Department, which will get more than $38 million of the federal money.  Only Phoenix, which has been allotted $39 million, will get more of Arizona’s share.  Several other communities will receive money, as well.  [Note: To read the full article, click here.]

In the works, an ASU Downtown Phoenix Campus Chorale & Glee Club

Several ASU students are interested in organizing an ASU Downtown Phoenix Campus Chorale and Glee Club.  The goal is (a) perfect harmony and (b) to go holiday caroling around the campus on Wednesday, December 10.  Their first rehearsal of traditional holiday favorites and new music will be Thursday, December 4 from 4:30 to 6 p.m. in Room 286 of the University Center (411 Building).  For more information, visit their Facebook page.

Dining sales in downtown Phoenix picking up, says Partnership

[Source: Lynn Ducey, Phoenix Business Journal] — Sales at bars and restaurants in the downtown business district were up 5.4% through September, according to a report just released by the Downtown Phoenix Partnership.  From January through September 2008, sales at downtown bars and restaurants totaled more than $194 million, compared with $183 million during the same period in 2007, according to the report.   “Bars and restaurants are a leading indicator of any type of redevelopment activity,” said Dave Roderique, president and CEO of the nonprofit partnership, which represents businesses within the 90-square-block downtown area.  “I think this is a very positive sign for downtown.”

Downtown Phoenix Partnership research indicates 29 new bars and restaurants opened between January and September, including Bar Smith, Sonoma Grill, Sens, and ZPizza, and eight others were under construction. The study also shows 14 restaurants closed during that period, including 101 Bistro and Circa 1900.

U.S. population and growth trends by county, 1970-2030

An interesting map! Click on the map to enlarge.

APS Electric Light Parade returns to uptown Phoenix, Dec. 6

[Source: City of Phoenix] — The APS Electric Light Parade returns to the streets of uptown Phoenix for its 22nd straight year.  The 2008 parade, themed “Preserving a Family Holiday Tradition,” kicks off at 7 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 6 on Central Avenue just south of Bethany Home Rd.  Comprehensive parade information is available online in the APS Electric Light Parade link here.  General information is available by phone at 602-534-FEST.

This annual spectacle has attracted up to 200,000 spectators to the parade route.  All entries in the parade –- even individuals in performance groups who walk the route –- are decorated in holiday lights.  In years past, some entries have sported more than 50,000 lights.  In addition to the floats, performance groups and bands also will take part.  From just south of Bethany Home Road, the parade proceeds south on Central Avenue to Camelback Road, then heads east to 7th Street where it turns south to the end point north of Indian School Road.

Below are some tips for those planning on attending the parade:

  • The parade is a rain or shine event.  Keep an eye on weather forecasts and dress accordingly.
  • Spectators are encouraged to bring blankets and chairs.
  • Coolers are permitted, though alcohol and glass containers are not allowed.
  • Viewing spots along the parade route are first-come-first-served.  Spectators often start arriving three hours before parade time to reserve spots.
  • Parking is on street and also is on a first-come-first-served basis.  Private lots near the parade area often offer parking for a fee.