Daily Archives: March 7, 2010

MADPHX “Vision Quests” podcast examines turning plans into action

The folks at MADPHX — Jose Gonzalez, Derek Neighbors, Nina Miller, Mark Dudlik, and Bully Bjorn — return this week and the discussion turns to how to develop plans of action and suggestions for driving implementation.  One of the examples they bring up is the January 16 Downtown Voices Coalition “visioning session.”  MADPHX is a podcast of representatives of the “creative class” in metro Phoenix talking about what they are doing to help make a dent in the communities they live and work in.

Couple invest in downtown Phoenix neighborhood, arts boutique

[Source: Georgann Yara, Special for The Republic] — When Cindy Dach and her husband, Greg Esser, bought a vintage cottage south of Roosevelt Street and west of Seventh Street in 2001, the area was sketchy, especially after sunset, Dach said.  At the time, Dach joked that when she saw a car slow she would hurry inside.  Five years later, a slowing car means a real-estate agent or prospective homebuyer is inspecting properties.  “Now it’s someone looking for one of our hidden bars,” Dach said.  “It’s funny how that metaphor of cars slowing down shows how the neighborhood is changing.”

That vintage cottage houses her shop, Made Art Boutique, part of a revitalization of funky galleries, eclectic boutiques, and bars in the heart of Phoenix’s hipster haven.  That was not the vibe when Dach opened Made Art in March 2005.  At first, the boutique opened for limited hours and focused around events and occasionally offered crafting workshops.  By that November, Dach was able to expand hours.  The business was running at a loss at first, but it stabilized in 2007.

Owning the building gave Dach the flexibility to take risks.  “It was a huge advantage,” she said.  “We knew the rent wouldn’t go up when the neighborhood changes, and we felt we could manage it within the community.  We did know we were ahead of our time.”  [Note: Read the full article at Couple invest in downtown Phoenix neighborhood, arts boutique.]

Phoenix planning director named mayor’s chief of staff

[Source: Scott Wong, Arizona Republic] — Debra Stark, who has served as Phoenix’s planning director for the past five years, will be Mayor Phil Gordon’s next chief of staff, he confirmed Friday.  Stark replaces Toni Maccarone who after a year and a half is returning to her former role as director of the Public Information Office.

Gordon said he had tried to bring Stark on board as early as two years ago.  She has had significant interaction with the public, as well as experience with zoning, economic development, and public-safety permitting, he said.  “I thought Debra Stark would make a great chief of staff and a great addition to the Mayor’s Office,” Gordon said.

Stark’s appointment comes at a time when the Planning Department is being consolidated with Development Services because of budget cuts.  Before coming to Phoenix, Stark had served as a planning manager and community development director in Peoria.   She also was the planning manager for Maricopa County, and started her career as a Phoenix planner.

Adam Diaz, downtown Phoenix advocate, dies at 100

Adam Diaz, Phoenix's first Latino city council member, and family

[Source: Connie Cone Sexton, Arizona Republic] — An interviewer once asked Adam Diaz why, at age 77, he continued to be so politically and socially involved.  Why not just take up bowling or golf?  Diaz politely discounted the suggestion.  “My time is limited,” he responded.  “Every day you get up is a bonus day.  But having a goal keeps you young.  It helps keep you alive and vital.”  His positive attitude paid off.  Diaz died Friday.  He was 100.

Diaz led an accomplished life.  A highlight reel would include, of course, being the first Latino councilman of Phoenix.  He served four years, starting in the 1950s.  One year, he was vice mayor.  He later spent five years on the Phoenix Elementary School District board.  He championed downtown Phoenix decades before it was the hip thing to do.  He pushed for historic preservation and pushed even harder for preserving the spirit and legacy of the Hispanic people.  He helped establish Friendly House, helping the poor.  He was a board member for Chicanos Por La Causa.  President Bill Clinton tapped him for his Task Force on Aging.

Accolades and honors followed his every project.  But he would point to the two things that made him strong: his family and his community.  He embraced Phoenix with warmth and pride.  He sought improvements for all but was a constant advocate for the Latino community, especially in south Phoenix.  He lived there most of his life.  He lived during the years when Hispanics were not welcome by many to live north of Van Buren Street and were prohibited from going to certain schools.

Diaz’s gentle nature became passionate about bringing change and taking on responsibility for getting things done.  It had been that way since the death of his father when he was just 13.  He went to work as a delivery boy for Western Union, then as an elevator operator in one of the buildings owned by prominent Phoenix businessman George Luhrs.  Diaz was popular, engaging.  Luhrs took him under his wing, eventually making him a building manager.  The job put him in the path of many early Phoenix movers and shakers.  Arizona Sen. Barry Goldwater became a friend and urged him to run for the City Council.

Diaz’s daughter, Sally Feight, said he liked being on the council because it gave him greater access to knowing the community’s needs.  “He really was a man of the people,” she said.  Granddaughter Lisa Urias said he never retreated into old age, adding, “every morning he would say, ‘Que bonito el dia’ (What a beautiful day).  He loved life so much.”