Daily Archives: March 15, 2009

Arizona State Fairgrounds could be sold in budget fix

[Source: Mike Sunnucks, Phoenix Business Journal] — The state could sell off the Arizona State Fairgrounds and other assets and take on more debt instead of raising taxes to help solve a $3 billion budget deficit. Arizona Rep. John Kavanagh, R-Fountain Hills, said Thursday the Arizona House of Representatives was working on an alternative to the budget plan proposed by Gov. Jan Brewer in an effort to shore up the deficit.  Brewer wants a statewide referendum asking voters to raise sales taxes by 1 cent.  Arizona currently has 5.6 percent state sales tax.

Kavanagh said the House budget plan would not have tax increases but instead could raise state debt limits and would look to sell off some assets.  That could include the state fairgrounds at Grand and 19th avenues and McDowell Road in west Phoenix.  He said the city of Phoenix has some land along Buckeye Road that could accommodate a new fairgrounds.  The state also could sell off an airport near the Grand Canyon and privatize more state prisons and corrections facilities.  The state needs to raise more revenue in order to avoid drastic cuts to a slew of programs and services, including universities and K-12 schools.  [Note: To read the full article, click here.]

Arizona State Archives building: dedicated in January, closed in March

[Source: Bill Coates, Arizona Capitol Times] — As principal investigator for Arizona Historical Research, Vince Murray’s livelihood depends on access to Arizona state archives.  That access was severely curtailed March 4, when the new Polly Rosenbaum Arizona Archives and History Building was closed to the public, except by appointment.  And then for only two half-days a week.

Blame budget cuts.  For Murray, it means a project that used to take two weeks now could take more than two months.  “On any typical project, there’s going to be 40 to 80 hours of research,” Murray said.  “Well, here, you’ve got — what? — eight hours that you’re allowed to do it in a week.”  Clients for his historical consulting firm include state agencies, he said.

The archives closure was perhaps the most notable cost-cutting move by the Arizona State Library, Archives and Public Records department.  Other divisions are operating on reduced hours, said GladysAnn Wells, the agency’s director.  Until the cuts, the library department had $2 million in operating funds, expected to carry it until June 30, the fiscal year’s end.  In January, however, the Legislature reduced that by nearly $1.5 million, she said.  There was one place to cut, Wells said.  “All we had left, really, was salaries,” she said.  [Note: To read the full article, click here.]

Viewpoint: Beyond chains and cheese (restaurant madness and what it means for downtown Phoenix)

Popularity of Matt's Big Breakfast fostered other local restaurant startups.

[Source: Life in Downtown Phoenix blog] — While the arts community was the first generation of pioneers to successfully lift downtown Phoenix out of its doldrums, the second wave of downtown resurgence came from the independent restaurants that gambled on the area.  By 2005, places like Matt’s Big Breakfast, Cibo, and Fate proved that independent restaurants with quality food could really have success downtown.

Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, and 2009 is really proving that as the number of restaurants opening their doors all around the aforementioned downtown pioneers is staggering.  Already this year the Turf (formerly Turf Accountant), Pasta Bar, El Portal, and Sapna’s Cafe have opened.  By the end of the month Moira will bring sushi back to downtown for the first time in years, and sometime soon Luke’s of Chicago will start a branch on Seventh Street in a renovated historic building while a Mediterranean restaurant is set to appear on Roosevelt Street just east of Third Avenue.  Almost every one of those restaurants is within a half-mile radius of the original Matt’s/Fate duo that got things rolling.  Amidst all this Palette apparently closed — which is shocking for anyone like me who was part of the sometimes-90 minute wait on the weekends for brunch — but the rumor is that someone else wanted the location and that Pallette will resurface somewhere else in the area.

Assuming these businesses can survive the current economic conditions, they’ll be poised to really help downtown surge when the housing market finally turns around.  Downtown Phoenix probably already stood alone with Tempe’s Mill Avenue and Old Town Scottsdale as options for those who live in the Phoenix area and prefer walkable urban environments.  But aided in no small part by this restaurant boom, downtown has separated itself from the chains of Mill and the cheese of Scottsdale as probably the premiere locale for urbanists.  While downtown Phoenix is of course only beginning to catch up with even its western competitors in places like Denver and Portland, it has clearly established some positive momentum.  [Note: To read more of downtown_resident’s views, click here.]

Downtown Phoenix “off the beaten track”

Some “off the beaten track” shots from one photographer’s downtown Phoenix photo-taking “extravaganza.”

Downtown Phoenix Public Market touts its success

According to this promotional video, the Downtown Phoenix Public Market is growing in a whole new direction, with plans for a six-day-a-week market shop in a vintage downtown building.

Metro Phoenix light rail ridership rises in February

[Source: East Valley Tribune] — So much for the notion of light rail’s novelty wearing off.  The average passenger count for weekdays in February, the second month of the cross-Valley line’s revenue operations, jumped 15 percent from January and was well over projections for the first year.  So much for the notion of light rail’s novelty wearing off.  Almost 35,300 people rode trains on the average weekday, Metro announced Thursday.  That figure exceeded Metro’s target of 26,000 by more than one-third.

Arizona State University economist Tim James interpreted the high ridership numbers as commuters doing the math and seeing riding a train is a better deal than driving their cars.  Light-rail passengers, he said, pay $2.50 for a round-trip ticket and nothing for leaving a vehicle at a park-and-ride lot.  Driving to downtown Phoenix plus the hassle of parking there costs more.  “It makes financial sense,” James said.  “People aren’t stupid.”  And James is seeing the free market respond to this new development: He said downtown parking garages are lowering their rates.  [Note: to read the full article, click here.]

Viewpoint: New Phoenix city tag: Urban land-Phil?

[Source: E. J. Montini, Arizona Republic] — Last week, Mayor Phil Gordon outlined his 17-point plan to transform Phoenix into the greenest city in America, an initiative that may or may not lead to an improved environment but did cause a number of enthusiastic readers to shovel out the compost heaps of their imaginations and recycle (to me) even MORE of their suggestions for the city’s new motto.  For example:

  • “Phoenix: America’s greenest (with envy) city.”  
  • And: “Phoenix: We’re Green! (Just look at our swimming pools).”
  • And: “Phoenix: Urban land-Phil.”

Downtown Phoenix

A little over a week ago, I wrote a column about how the Downtown Phoenix Partnership paid a marketing firm $160,000 to come up with a new “brand” for Phoenix.  The result?  “Phoenix: Arizona’s urban heart.”

Since then, by way of the telephone, e-mail, letters, and blog responses, readers have offered (free of charge, mostly) their ideas for what a proper slogan should be.  Some individuals were inspired simply to tweak the “Arizona’s urban heart” slogan by suggesting a less conspicuous but still vital body part.  As in: “Phoenix: Arizona’s hardening prostate.”

Others seemed to believe that our community is best identified by its complicated relationship with our neighbor to the south.  A few of these include:

  • “Phoenix: Mexico’s second-largest city.”
  • “Phoenix: Kidnapping is the new economy.”
  • “Phoenix: Latin America’s best-kept secret.”
  • “Phoenix: No English, no problem.”

A number of others residents chose to mimic the wildly successful slogan for Las Vegas, “What happens here stays here.”  Among them were:

  • “What happens in Phoenix . . . is California’s fault.”
  • And: “What happens in Vegas . . . sort of happens at our Indian casinos.”

Some readers tinkered with how the first two letters in Phoenix sound like an “f” and incorporated phonetics into slogans that were both descriptive and explanatory.  Like:

  • “Phoenix: Phirst in phorclosure.”
  • And: “Phoenix: Phar from Philadelphia.”

Others took their inspiration from the city’s reputation as a retirement destination or a place for those looking to make a fresh start.  These included:

  • “Phoenix: So close to California, so far from God.”
  • “Phoenix: Help! We’re surrounded!”
  • “Phoenix: Where Cubs fans go to die.”
  • “Phoenix: Will you PLEASE switch off your turn signal?”
  • “Phoenix: Because I was out of good options.”

On the other hand, quite a few readers took the challenge of creating a new slogan seriously.  And after having read what seemed like hundreds of heartfelt and earnest suggestions, I must admit that I have come to the conclusion that the $160,000 spent by the Downtown Phoenix Partnership was… a bargain.  

This is not to say that all of the offerings I received were without potential.  Some were decent.  For instance: “Phoenix: Little big town.”  It’s just that most of the suggestions did not possess the kind of peevish whimsy, existential kookiness or incisive self-deprecation that I love about this place.  Which is why the best of the suggested slogans, hands down, was this: “Phoenix: It’s Arpaiolicious!” [Note: To read the full article, click here.]