Daily Archives: November 1, 2009

Viewpoint: Ode to a Phoenix

[Source: jsethanderson, blogger, Downtown Phoenix Partnership] — I must be a glutton for punishment.  My passion about Phoenix history burns hot like the Phoenix sun in July and as much as I love the heat, it can harm me if I’m not careful.  Studying Phoenix history can do the same.  The subject is like a cactus: it’s beautiful, I like to look at it and study it, but if I get too close it will prick me and leave a stinging pain that eventually wears off.  Learning new things can have the same effect.  But no matter how often it happens, I keep going back for more.  I have to understand.  The past is the prologue – I must study the past.

Not only must I study history to appease (temporarily) my natural curiosity, I also have to share what I find.  To borrow a phrase from Richard Dawkins, “consciousness raising” is of the utmost importance.  When riding the light rail, I see a city growing out of the awkward teenage years and into young adulthood with a sense of its own identity.  I feel the perfect storm blowing winds of change across vacant lots downtown.  There is an energy and an excitement about urban Phoenix.  The shrill voices from the suburbs still shriek but the rhetoric is foolish and shortsighted.  The days of cheap gas and short commutes are long past.  The true costs of sprawl and of low density “communities” located in the far-flung suburbs have reared its head in a way we’ve never seen before.  It’s about time.

Beneath the city lights, skyscrapers, and our remaining historic buildings lies a fabric of history created and destroyed by lives of countless people.  Some may argue that Phoenix has an unromantic past.  I disagree.  Our romantic past was erased by the wrecking ball before our very eyes, then quickly forgotten.  The early years of the city, when Phoenix grew feed for horses at Fort McDowell, are admittedly, unremarkable.  But it was during the early booms that the desert, against overwhelming odds, blossomed into Victorian architecture with theatres, opera houses, schools, neighborhoods, museums, and trains.  Later Phoenix became addicted to a drug that destroyed it from the inside out- the automobile.  Phoenix is still recovering.  I don’t like what cars did to western American cities.  People need cities where they can walk, people need to be outside, people need to hear voices of strangers.  Phoenix lost that element.

I admit freely that I am a Phoenix cheerleader, a self-conscious cheerleader perhaps.  I’m smart enough to know that blind adoration is not conducive to creativity.  I’m hypersensitive to criticism when it’s unwarranted but will listen when it is.  Claims that “there is nothing to do in Phoenix” or “Phoenix has no culture” are the ramblings of the ignorant and lazy and I always dismiss such claims.

Phoenix doesn’t need “a” history, we just must learn our history.  This knowledge is essential for the creative and innovative ideas to take root.  Mature cities foster their history, they don’t tear it down.  Mature cities build on traditions and common language.  Our cultural language and literature of the city has yet to be written.  I can’t imagine New York without the literary contributions of Edith Wharton, London without Shakespeare, St. Petersburg without Dostoevsky.  I believe the best novels set in and about Phoenix are yet to come.  (Honestly, there is so much to write about!)  [Note: Read the full blog entry at Ode to a Phoenix.]

Unpopular street repair program back in Phoenix, including downtown

truck-front[Source: Michael Clancy, Arizona Republic] — Motorists’ least-favorite means of street resurfacing is back 20 years after Phoenix officials dumped the program amid widespread complaints.  This time it will be better, officials promise.  But a quality issue, quickly identified, has halted the program temporarily.

Chip sealing uses small rocks mixed with asphalt to coat street surfaces.  In the 1980s, when it was used, motorists would go out of their way to avoid streets where it was being done, hoping to avoid flying rocks and sticky tar.  The new process, known as “fractured aggregate surface treatment,” will use rubberized asphalt and smaller, lighter chips that are not supposed to have enough heft to fly into windshields and improved binding that will not track onto properties or into homes.

The City Council approved the program over the summer in reaction to such a severe budget shortfall that street resurfacing could take place only every 78 years, far longer than desired.  Pavements are designed to last 20 to 30 years…

John Siefert, deputy director of the Phoenix Street Transportation Department, said the smaller chips being used on residential streets are clumping, so they are not spreading evenly.  The program will be on hold until the situation is resolved.  Larger chips worked fine in industrial areas, including two locations along Interstate 17 between Seventh Street and Seventh Avenue.

Residential streets where work is scheduled to be done:

  • between Van Buren and Roosevelt streets between Seventh and 15th avenues
  • south side of Interstate 10 between Seventh and 15th avenues
  • between Bethany Home Road, Missouri Avenue, 35th and 39th avenues
  • north of Shea Boulevard, east of 24th Street and south of Cholla Street

[Note: Read the full article at Unpopular street repair program back in Phoenix, including downtown.]

Phoenix must do more with less, new city manager says

[Source: Scott Wong, Arizona Republic] — David Cavazos has been appointed to succeed City Manager Frank Fairbanks, who is retiring Thursday after nearly 20 years.  Cavazos, a deputy city manager who started with Phoenix 22 years ago, discussed some of the changes he would like to make, the city’s financial woes and how he plans to get past a 2006 travel-abuse scandal that still haunts him.

What kinds of changes can we expect at City Hall? We have to look at the very best person for every job, that everything has to be based on merit and credentials and that we’re going to look both internally and externally for support.  We (the council and I) talked about innovation.  People need to be able to do more with less.  They need to not only be willing to change but be a champion for change.  They need to adapt to change.  One of the things I’ll be focused on is how can we partner with the private sector to do the things that we may not do as well as the private sector.  We got to look at outsourcing.  We got to work very closely with employees, with our labor groups.

The city closed a record $270 million shortfall earlier this year, largely by eliminating jobs and making cuts to services.  Now we hear that this year’s budget gap has widened again by as much as $95 million.  How do you fix that? “We need to work very closely with the mayor and council.  What are the priorities?  Obviously, public safety, neighborhoods, infrastructure, economic development.  (We have to ask) what do we absolutely have to do?  What services are the most important to the community?  The public hearings are very important, talking to people, getting their input and then realizing there will have to be some streamlining.  I think you’ll see some of it at the top, probably right here in the City Manager’s Office.

Is it certain there will be layoffs? I believe that we are going to have reductions in staffing.  There is no way to get around that.  You are going to be able to do some with lease-purchase and hopefully things get better.  [Note: Read the full article at Phoenix must do more with less, new city manager says.]

As Phoenix faces “economic emergency,” mayor floats idea of temporary tax hike

home_balloons[Source: Scott Wong, Arizona Republic] — Saying Phoenix is facing an “economic emergency,” Mayor Phil Gordon this week floated the idea of a temporary sales-tax increase to keep already diminished services from being cut further.  Phoenix recently raised fees and rates for things such as parking meters and trash pickup. But Gordon’s comments, during a City Council meeting, marked the first mention of a sales-tax hike — or “emergency economic surcharge” — that the council could approve to stave off service cuts.

“It may take that to get us through the economic crisis,” Gordon told fellow council members and staffers.  “We have to ask residents: Do they want these draconian cuts?  Do they want to be understaffed in fire and police?  I, for one, think our residents would want to continue the way of life in this city.”  [Note: Read full article at As Phoenix faces “economic emergency,” mayor floats idea of temporary tax hike.]