[Source: Arizona Republic; section headers organized by yours truly] — With this being Christmas week, we figured you wouldn’t want to read a traditional editorial any more than we wanted to write one. So today, we lighten things up a bit with awards for notable achievements in 2009.
- Story of the year: Phoenix did the virtually impossible this year — it cut $270 million from the general fund to balance the budget due to low sales-tax revenue. Residents are feeling the effects with reduced hours or closures of swimming pools, libraries, and senior centers. They also see more graffiti and potholes because staff is stretched so thin. Now the city is talking about cutting an additional $100 million or so. This story is getting old.
- Best cheerleader: Mayor Phil Gordon earns this award again. With frequent trips to Washington, D.C., to lobby for stimulus funds, and Janet Napolitano resigning as governor to lead Homeland Security, Gordon is the face of Arizona.
- Embarrassment: Rep. Ray Barnes’ rambling reasons for voting to cut $144 million from public education. Grab some eggnog and watch this Phoenix Republican go off.
- Hot potato: The idea to raise the sales tax temporarily to generate revenue quickly. Mayor Gordon suggested a community member take on his idea. But no one wants to touch it.
- Landmark: The city became the second in the state to offer a domestic-partner registry to gay or straight couples who share a Phoenix residence. Among other privileges, the registry grants partners visitation rights in hospitals.
- Pillar: City Manager Frank Fairbanks earns this award again. He retired this year, but not before balancing the nastiest budget deficit in city history. Thanks, Frank.
Downtown Focused/Strong Influence
- Pushin’ on: Light rail has its fans and its foes. But ridership is up and businesses have sprouted along the line. The system is approaching it first anniversary. We say light rail is on track.
- Newcomer: Janet Echelman’s “Her Secret Is Patience” at the new Civic Space Park downtown opened to much criticism. Meant to resemble a cactus bloom, the floating sculpture was called everything from a basketball hoop to a male contraceptive. Not that we mind. Some of the best artwork in the world drew heavy criticism. We’re just glad people are noticing what downtown Phoenix has to offer.
- Comeback: Phoenix Urban Market Grocery and Wine Bar at Central Avenue and Pierce Street is the first grocer to serve the area in 30 years. It only carries the basics. But milk, vegetables, bread, pasta and other staples are welcome.
- Bragging rights: President Barack Obama made three visits to the Valley this year. One of those was to the new Phoenix Convention Center, where Obama addressed the Veterans of Foreign Wars national convention.
- Feather in the cap: A budding knowledge-based economy, parks and preservation efforts, and teen spaces at public libraries make Phoenix an All-America City. Now it has the civic award to prove it. This was Phoenix’s fifth win. It would be a shame to lose these gains to budget cuts in the down economy.
Other Parts of Phoenix
- Senseless act: A photo-enforcement-van driver was shot to death while deployed near Loop 101 in north Phoenix. Thomas DeStories was indicted in connection with the shooting death of Douglas Georgianni.
- Tallest story: Despite opposition from neighbors, the City Council approved a Mormon temple whose steeple and spire will rise 86 feet above the Deer Valley area.
- Unsung hero: The Macehualli Day Labor Center in northeastern Phoenix provides a central location for day laborers and potential employers to negotiate business. The center is for sale.