Daily Archives: January 24, 2010

CenPhoTV for the week of 01-22-2010

This week on cenphotv, tough spots for the light rail, a new gallery on roosevelt, cenpho camp, a walkabout, and a great place to talk to your neighbors.

Phoenix residents vow to fight cuts to city programs

[Source: Jahna Berry, Arizona Republic] — As Phoenix leaders prepare to whittle $140 million in city services to help close a $245 million budget gap, neighbors say they are ready to fight for popular programs.  The proposed cuts will be announced this week, and there will be public hearings next month at which residents can voice their concerns before the final vote, scheduled for March 2.  But residents aren’t waiting to have their say.

In central Phoenix, downtown activists are worried about two neighborhood parks that they fear could become havens for crime if they lost funding.  In west and south Phoenix, residents want the city to stop trimming library hours.  And in northeast Phoenix, horse enthusiasts are concerned about a popular equestrian park…

The latest round of cuts comes one year after the city slashed $156 million in city services to close a $270 million general-fund budget shortfall.  City leaders are considering a proposed 2 percent grocery tax that could generate $50 million annually.  But even if it is implemented, the city would still have to cut about $100 million in city services.

Since cuts are inevitable, residents also worried that Phoenix may end recreation programs at University and Verde parks.  Cuts at those parks were proposed last year, but the city backed off amid an outcry from the community.  Activists recently spent most of the Downtown Voices Coalition meeting brainstorming ways to shield those parks from more reductions.  Cuts could erase years of community efforts to boost youth programs, discourage gang activity, and make the parks safer, said Reid Butler, a local developer who belongs to the group.

It’s premature to talk about specific programs because no proposals have been made, city spokesman David Urbinato said.

The Parks and Recreation Department has been asked to suggest ways to cut its budget by 30 percent.  At 30 percent, “it would dramatically reduce, if not eliminate” many parks programs, Urbinato said.  The parks would remain open, but the staffing, programs and community centers attached to them would face deep cuts.  “That’s the tragic downside.  There has been massive investment through the system” over the years, Urbinato said.

People now depend on city services more than ever, said Councilman Michael Nowakowski, noting that he and Councilman Michael Johnson represent some of Phoenix’s poorest neighborhoods in west and south Phoenix.

Residents have pressed Nowakowski to protect after-school programs and library hours, the councilman said.  People wait up to three hours to use free computers at César Chavez Library, because they have canceled their Internet service, he said.  Recently, a mother came to a community meeting with an armful of notices about sex offenders who live in her neighborhood, he said.  She wants the city to keep low-cost after-school programs open so her children will be safe, Nowakowski added.  “We need to listen to find out what are the needs and wants for the whole city,” he said.

Viewpoint: Phoenix, put aside dreams of Gotham

[Source: Joel Kotkin, Arizona Republic] — LOS ANGELES – Now that Phoenix’s ascendancy has been at least momentarily suspended, its residents are no doubt wondering what comes next.  One tendency is to say the city needs to grow up and become more like East Coast cities or Portland, Ore., with dense urban cores and well-developed rail transit.  The other ready option is always inertia – a tendency to wait for things to come back the way they were.

Neither approach will work in the long run.  Over the coming decade, Phoenix has to recalibrate its economy into something based on more than being a second option for Californians and speculative real-estate investment.  Instead, it needs to focus laserlike on economic diversity and creating good jobs.

The model here for Phoenix is not New York or San Francisco.  Phoenix can’t rival these cities for their 19th-century charm or early 20th-century infrastructure.  As we would say back in New York (my hometown): fuggedaboutit.  Instead of dreaming about Gotham, Phoenix should think more about Houston.  Like the Texas megacity, Phoenix is the ultimate late 20th-century town, dependent on air-conditioning, ample freeway space, and a wide-open business culture.

A century away from becoming “quaint,” Phoenix needs to follow Houston’s example of relentless economic diversification: in Phoenix’s case, away from dependence on tourism and construction.  Houston has done this by focusing beyond its core energy sector to fields like international trade, manufacturing, and medical services.  Phoenix’s opportunities may lie elsewhere but may include some of these same industries.  The idea is that the region needs to heal its job problem.  Only then can the real-estate market rebound on a solid basis.

This employment focus must replace the current obsession with changing the city’s urban form.  Despite the current problems, Phoenix has performed pretty well over the past decade, creating more new jobs than most Sun Belt cities, not to mention job losers like San Francisco, Chicago, Los Angeles, and New York.  Equally important, it still leads the nation over the past decade in net in-migration among the largest cities.  [Note: Read the full opinion piece at Viewpoint: Phoenix, put aside dreams of Gotham.]