Daily Archives: November 18, 2009

Census release ranks Arizona’s poverty rate 13th highest in nation

[Source: Christine Rogel, Cronkite News Service] — Arizona’s poverty rate stood at 14.7 percent in 2008, 13th highest in the nation, according to U.S. Census Bureau data released Wednesday.  In all, 935,000 Arizonans were estimated to live in poverty, defined by the federal government as less than $14,489 per homeowner under 65.  That was up from 876,000 in 2007. “It’s worrisome because behind the numbers are real people and families struggling, and during the recession it has gotten worse,” said Timothy Schmaltz, coordinator for Protecting Arizona’s Family Coalition.  “We’re living in a state where we have food boxes, but they’re smaller than they were a year before because they are serving more people.”

The national poverty rate was 13.2 percent in 2008, up from 13 percent in 2007.  Mississippi had the highest rate at 20.8 percent; New Hampshire’s was lowest at 7.8 percent.  In Arizona, Yavapai and Greenlee counties had rates that fell below the national average: 12.9 percent and 11.3 percent, respectively.  Maricopa County’s rate was 13.4 percent.  The report said that one in three Apache County residents lived in poverty, giving that county the 45th-highest rate among more than 3,000 counties analyzed in the report.

Elizabeth Segal, professor of social work at Arizona State University, said that cuts in social services due to the state’s budget crisis have exacerbated the problem of poverty.  She said early childhood education is key.  [Note: Read the full article at Census release ranks Arizona’s poverty rate 13th highest in nation.]

Riding the Phoenix rocket

Lloyd Alter writes for TreeHugger, is an Associate Professor at Ryerson University teaching sustainable design, and has written for Azure and Ontario Nature magazines.  He traveled to Phoenix from Toronto to attend Greenbuild 2009.  Click here for his (favorable) observations about Phoenix’s light rail system.  In the video above, Lloyd also interviews two light rail customers who also ride bicycles in the Valley.

Downtown Phoenix Journal weekly recap

[Source: Si Robins, Downtown Phoenix Journal] — Last week was a busy one for Downtown Phoenix, with the Green Streets Festival and Day for Downtown wrapping up a very successful Greenbuild International Conference and Expo at the Phoenix Convention Center.  On Friday, a DPJ staffer took to the streets with people from all over the world, exploring Downtown Phoenix’s greenest buildings, and proving that the Valley of the Sun is becoming a player in the national green-living scene. On less serious notes, DPJ visited an adults-only presentation at the Great Arizona Puppet Theater and tried some tasty brews at Communitas’ Phoenix Brew Party in Coronado.  We also couldn’t stop eating, as we visited Urban Cookies to learn about its journey toward home-baked success and visited the Welcome Diner and Matt’s Big Breakfast for some seriously tasty eats.

Tour downtown Phoenix’s newest school, Nov. 19

Viewpoint: A Desert Shade of Green?

[Source: Alec Appelbaum, The Faster Times blog] — The stubborn fact of urban investment in this century involves density.  We can forget about economic growth outstripping environmental cost if we don’t invest in ways to reward people for living, working and playing close together.  That can mean big opportunities for suburban office parks, rural town centers and old-style cities, but it also means some awkward transitions for cities whose layout relies on excessive driving.  Consider downtown Phoenix.

I just went there for the annual expo of the US Green Building Council, which I suspect chose the locale as a Lenin-shipyard proclamation of their message’s reach.  And downtown Phoenix is a warren of womblike hotels and a massive conference center, with artificial efforts at urbane charm.  This includes a greeter simpering scoldingly at me when I run across the street, homeless men on aluminum benches, and a prerecorded voice telling me to “enjoy the greening of downtown Phoenix.”  The simperer reveals how underpopulated downtown remains, and the homeless hint at how underfunded the social network remains.  But the salient thing is that powerful somebodies want downtown Phoenix to not be horrible.

Yes, there are posted instructions on how to cross a street and security guards at the convention hall say I won’t find a bathing suit at the downtown mall.  But I do find one, and there are sidewalks, and the womblike hotels have balconies overlooking actual blocks and streets.  On day two of my visit, I started to get the trendline.  I saw the new light rail glide past the four old buildings, the “clean cab” company rolls around.  But standing on the Sheraton balcony, I saw again that there’s no waterline or mountains to define the horizon.  Without barriers to physical growth on all sides, it will take natural disaster or political will to make places like Phoenix develop strong centers.  Nature will provide the disasters.  Then what?

We’ll have to see whether trends in urbanizing lead to scalable industries.  It dawned on me late on my 24-hr sojourn that the Compass restaurant on 21 (”turning the direction of SW cuisine,” say elevator ads) is a rotating rooftop.  Forty years ago, these were as thorough an urban inevitable as a downtown ballpark is now.  And as I passed Phoenix’s massive and retroish Chase Field, I wondered naifishly: when people need affordable housing and good jobs, why is there enough room downtown for a fat square brick ballpark?  The riddle’s solution involves homes, business incentives for clean manufacturing, and policies that monetize the pleasures of close proximity.  Each city in America will need to work up its own formula.  As I flew home to New York in a November hurricane, I couldn’t quite rouse that old Northeastern smugness.  And that’s a hopeful sign.

Job sprawl high in metro Phoenix

[Source: The Urbanist] — This graph is a jobs index comparing the jobs located more than 10 miles from CBDs to jobs located within three miles of CBDs.  The dark blue sections show the difference in this ratio between 1998 and 2006.  For instance, the ratio for Phoenix is 1:1, meaning Phoenix experienced 100 percent more growth at its urban boundaries than it did in its city center. The lightest areas show the values for cities within the Northern California megaregion.  [Note: Read the full article at Job sprawl in the megaregion.]

Mayor’s talk urges more investment for schools, downtown Phoenix

[Source: Jahna Berry, Arizona Republic] — Arizona State University’s and University of Arizona’s downtown Phoenix campuses are a crucial part of the city’s future, Mayor Phil Gordon said on Tuesday.  Gordon delivered his annual State of Downtown address before a crowd of residents and local movers-and-shakers at Civic Space Park, 424 N. Central Ave.

The mayor didn’t mention it by name, but after the speech Gordon said that his words were also aimed at the state Legislature, which has delayed a key vote that would allow a $164 million education facility on the city’s biomedical campus to move forward.  “Let me end with a heartfelt and passionate plea for everyone who cares about this community, this state and our shared future — to keep investing in education,” Gordon told the park crowd.

The sixth annual address comes as the region slogs through a brutal recession that has halted or delayed several downtown projects, pushed many property owners into foreclosure and siphoned jobs.   But on Tuesday, Gordon was optimistic about the heart of the city, which he has made a central issue during his tenure as mayor.  Phoenix’s investment in ASU’s downtown campus, which opened in fall 2006, continues to pay off, Gordon said.   The university has created 2,500 jobs the mayor said.  More than 7,000 students are taking at least one class downtown, up 42 percent compared with last year.

The political gathering had the air of a city festival.  Local eateries handed out food samples and bands played.  About 1,200 people visited the park during the event, said Lt. Jeff Lazell of the Phoenix Police Department.   [Note: Read the full article at Mayor’s talk urges more investment for schools, downtown Phoenix.  For ABC 15 news video of the event, click here.  Video above provided by The Downtown Devil.]

Analysts revise methods, find no metro Phoenix population rise since 2007

[Source: Catherine Reagor, Arizona Republic] — Metropolitan Phoenix’s population has remained basically flat since 2007.  That calculation will generate its own set of questions in an area with an economy based on growth.  At the same time, it may be the first accurate estimate of population growth here in years.

This latest population estimate is the conclusion of an 18-month analysis by more than 30 of the state’s top economists and business and government leaders, who are trying to fix Arizona’s method for tracking population.  Their report, “Influx/Outflux: Metropolitan Phoenix,” was presented Tuesday at an Urban Land Institute Arizona meeting.  Problems with the formula used to track the number of people moving in and out of Arizona in recent years led to inflated population figures.  This exacerbated shortfalls in a state budget built on sales-tax projections.

Authors of the study used a new formula based on different data.  Results of the 2010 census will be the best measure of the new formula’s accuracy.  “Clearly, we don’t know exactly how many people we have,” said Rick Brammer, a partner with Applied Economics.  [Note: Read the full article at Analysts revise methods, find no metro Phoenix population rise since 2007.]