Daily Archives: January 5, 2010

Phoenix steps up efforts for accurate census count

[Source: Scott Wong, Arizona Republic] — The sputtering economy, spike in home foreclosures, and crackdown on undocumented immigrants could pose significant hurdles for officials working to get an accurate count of Phoenix residents for the 2010 census.  At stake are hundreds of millions of dollars in federal and state funding, disbursed to cities based on official decennial population figures.  “There are a lot of concerns that we have,” said Tammy Perkins, who is coordinating Phoenix’s census efforts.  “Every person we miss costs the city $400 a year.  If we miss a family of four, that’s $1,600 a year for 10 years.”

Census figures released this year revealed that the number of immigrants living in Arizona in 2008 had fallen by about 60,000, to 932,518, likely a result of the economic recession and construction slowdown.  Meanwhile, 60 percent of Valley home sales last month involved foreclosures, making it harder to track former homeowners who are now staying with friends, in hotels or living on the streets.

Hispanic leaders have said that Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s raids and crime sweeps have forced some immigrants to move out of state or back to their home country, while fostering a distrust of government among those who’ve stayed.  “There is a lot of fear in the Hispanic community.  I think we will have a really hard time getting Hispanics to open the doors and return their census forms,” said the Rev. Eve Nunez, a community leader who is heading a Phoenix census committee focused on the faith-based community.  “We are trying to dispel that fear by telling them how much this will mean to their community.”  [Note: Read the full article at Phoenix steps up efforts for accurate census count.]

City of Phoenix’s budget shortfall hits $245M

[Source: Scott Wong, Arizona Republic blog] — Phoenix’s budget outlook just got a lot gloomier.  In an e-mail to city employees Tuesday, City Manager David Cavazos said the budget shortfall for the current fiscal year and next fiscal year is a combined $245 million, or 22 percent of the general fund that pays for police and fire protection, libraries, and other basic services.  That approaches the record $270 million that was cut last year from the budget, including a $156 million hit to city services.

Cavazos said the national recession and lagging tax revenues continue to hammer city coffers.  Layoffs are almost certain.  “Given the size of the shortfall, we will need to cut positions and unfortunately layoffs are anticipated,” he wrote in the e-mail.  “Our people are our greatest asset and we are focused on holding positions vacant and reducing costs to minimize the impact on our employees, and in turn, the public we serve.”

All city departments have submitted proposed budget reductions of up to 30 percent.  Public safety departments submitted 15 percent in proposed cuts.  After reviewing those proposal, Cavazos will present his proposed budget to the City Council on Feb. 2.  Community members will be able to attend public budget hearings through the month of February, with a council vote taking place in early March.  [Note: Read the full blog posting at City of Phoenix’s budget shortfall hits $245M.]

Viewpoint: 2010 offers chances to improve life in metro Phoenix

[Source: Arizona Republic (Phoenix insert) editorial board] — The gifts have been unwrapped.  New year’s wishes have been sent.  Holiday decorations have been taken down and put away.  OK, maybe that last one has yet to be scratched off the to-do list.  But with every new year comes vows to make it better, richer and more enjoyable than the last.  With numerous job losses, mortgage foreclosures, and budget cuts in 2009, everyone should want to strive to make this year better.  Today, we suggest ways to help our communities in 2010.

  • Be a tourist. We are creatures of habit. We dine at the same places, shop at the same stores, and take part in the same weekend activities.  Our continued patronage at these spots will be much appreciated.  But if we lived a day or a weekend like a tourist instead of a local, what might we see, find, or learn?  A visit to a museum or art gallery would open our world to arts and culture.  We should treat ourselves to a meal at a special spot or make a purchase at a store.  If we expect tourists to come to the Valley, visit these places and spend money, we should be willing to do the same.
  • Shop local. We can give city coffers a healthy dose of sales-tax revenues by spending money within our municipal borders.  This enables our cities to provide public safety, fill potholes, remove graffiti, rid neighborhoods of green pools, and offer recreational activities.  And it keeps people employed, which churns the economy.
  • Go green. Park the car and take the bus, light rail, or local trolley.  This saves on gas and maintenance costs, and it makes the skies bluer.  Plus, taking public transportation is a great way to see the city from a new perspective.  Let someone else do the driving while you enjoy the ride.
  • Be counted. Fill out the 2010 Census questionnaire.  The census helps the federal government determine how to allocate $400 billion to cities to fund services and programs.  This includes public safety, parks, libraries and senior centers.  Don’t think skipping the census will save the federal government money.  Census workers will go to your home or talk to neighbors to gather the information they need.  Without an accurate count, the money that should have gone to your city will be diverted to municipalities where residents filled out the questionnaires.  Look for your questionnaire in the mail this spring.
  • Stay involved. Political shenanigans and extreme budget cuts in 2009 made citizens more aware of governmental operations.  Taxpayers must stay connected.  Attend council meetings, volunteer in the classroom, and vote for the candidates who will best represent your interests on the city council, school board, and Legislature.

The upside to the struggles in 2009 is a renewed determination to make our communities better.  [Note: With the exception of the U.S. Census bullet point, each of the above suggestions is “right out of the playbook” of the Downtown Voices Coalition’s 2004 report, “Downtown Voices: Creating a Sustainable Downtown.”  Good to see we’re thinking along the same lines!]