Blog Archives

Phoenix ranks as 14th-safest U.S. city

[Source: Ofelia Madrid, Arizona Republic] — The Phoenix metropolitan area is considered the United States’ 14th-safest city, according to a recently released forbes.com list.  The business magazine ranked the 40 largest metropolitan areas in America, based on four categories of danger.  Statistics included 2008 workplace-death rates from the Bureau of Labor Statistics; 2008 traffic death rates from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration; and natural-disaster risk, using rankings from green living site SustainLane.com.  Also considered was the FBI’s violent-crime rate from the bureau’s 2008 uniform crime report.

Phoenix-Scottsdale-Mesa finished just ahead of Chicago and Austin.  Phoenix metro had the fifth-lowest risk for a natural disaster.  Minneapolis topped this year’s forbes.com list as the safest city in the United States, with the online magazine touting the city’s low crime rate.  Milwaukee ranked second with the lowest natural-disaster risk and Portland, Ore., ranked third, with the lowest crime rate of all the areas considered.  [Note: Read the full article at Phoenix ranks as 14th-safest U.S. city.]

Phoenix #6 on Forbes list of America’s emptiest cities

[Source: Richard Florida, creativeclass.com, Feb. 22, 2009] — Las Vegas takes top spot, followed by Detroit. Atlanta, Greensboro, and Dayton round out the top five.  Phoenix comes in sixth.  No surprises there.  But, I was surprised frankly to see Chicago make the list.  Here’s the full list, from Forbes.com, based on fourth-quarter rental and homeowner vacancy rates for the 75 largest metropolitan statistical areas in the country.  Curiously, there is considerable overlap with this Forbes list of the places where home sales are rising fastest.  [Note: To read the full blog entry, click here.]

Hope for a desert delinquent (What Phoenix, the poster child for environmental ills, is doing right)

[Source, Lisa Selin Davis, Grist Magazine, May 13, 2008] — In order for Phoenix to truly be a green city, it would have to be brown.  Or not brown, exactly, but the sandy shade of the mountains that surround it: the jagged peaks and parched hills that enclose the Valley of the Sun.  These days, though, Phoenix is a less-natural shade of brown; a ring of smoggy pollution known locally as the Brown Cloud shadows the city.  And that’s not the only affront to the environs here.  Anyone flying in can see the patches of fierce green lawns that paint the landscape, along with the swimming pools; the manmade lake in the suburb of Tempe, evaporating 452 million gallons of water each year; the sea of single family homes spilling across the desert; the traffic clogging the ribbons of highways; and the heat snakes squiggling from all that boiling bitumen.  The 517-square-mile city — the fifth-largest and fourth-fastest-growing in America — just survived its second-driest winter on record and is deep in drought.

So how is it that this poster child for sprawl and environmental ills is being hailed — albeit by its own government — as an exemplar of sustainability?  City leaders are quick to tell anyone willing to listen that not only are they finally getting hip to environmental matters, they’ve been attending to some of them for upwards of thirty years.  From using cleaner fuels in their fleet of trucks and buses to implementing an environmental purchasing program, from building a new 20-mile light-rail line to signing the U.S. Conference of Mayors’ Climate Protection Agreement, officials have taken concrete steps to right past wrongs.

Perhaps more important than these piecemeal sustainability steps is the city’s partnership with the local university.  What’s wrong with the city — the temperature’s rising, for one thing, and development is still skidding out of control — is what makes it such an attractive candidate for a living laboratory.  The city’s environmental deficits are educational opportunities for the students and teachers of Arizona State University’s four-year-old Global Institute of Sustainability.  “When Phoenix is done growing, it will be bigger than Chicago,” says Dr. Michael Crow, president of ASU.  “The next massive city of the United States isn’t done yet.”  GIOS, then, has a chance to affect these latter stages of growth.  And what GIOS gleans from Phoenix just might change the way other desert cities behave — that is, if it’s not too little, too late.  [Note: To read the full article, click here.]

Phoenix budget hit harder than other big cities’

[Source: Scott Wong, Arizona Republic] — Phoenix’s $270 million in proposed budget cuts are the largest in city history.  And although the national recession has forced almost all local and state governments to pare back spending, Phoenix’s reductions are among the most severe of any major U.S. city when comparing total budgets.  Plagued by the dismal economy and plunging sales-tax revenue, Phoenix is being forced to carve more than 20% out of its $1.2 billion general fund to bridge deficits in the current and next fiscal year.  Services Phoenix residents use on a frequent if not daily basis — libraries and parks, senior centers, and swimming pools — are bearing the brunt of the cuts.

Other large cities such as Los Angeles, Chicago, and Philadelphia are bleeding red ink, too, and are expected to slash many more dollars than Phoenix in the coming year.  But an analysis of the nation’s 10 largest cities shows that no spending decrease rivals the 22.5% in cuts now being weighed by Phoenix.  [Note: To read the full article, click here.]

New downtown Phoenix park taking shape

Sky Bloom

Javier Jara works on the new downtown Phoenix park (photo: Michael Schennum, Arizona Republic)

[Source: Jahna Berry, Arizona Republic] — The $30 million park taking shape in downtown Phoenix will be like no other the city has built, officials say.  The yet-unnamed spot will use water, lights, shade, and art to create an oasis for nearby Arizona State University students, office workers, residents, and tourists, landscape architect Tom Byrne said. “The concept of the park was an urban weave, so we are weaving together the neighborhood around the park, the offices and ASU,” Byrne said.

The park, which is expected to open in March, covers 2.77 acres and sits in the city’s business district. It’s bound by Central and First avenues and Polk and Fillmore streets.  The park is one of several multimillion-dollar projects — including light rail, a hotel, and expanded convention center — that city leaders hope will revitalize downtown.  To be sure, it’s not as big as New York’s sprawling Central Park or Chicago’s Millennium Park. But it is expected to be a key gathering place in downtown Phoenix and a long-awaited addition to Arizona State University.  [Note: To read the full article, click here.]

Census shows older U.S. cities hold on to more people, Phoenix slows

[Source: William H. Frey, Senior Fellow, Metropolitan Policy Program, The Brookings Institution] — Newly released U.S. Census Bureau population data for U.S. cities show a new twist on a well-known theme that could be good news for older cities hoping to reverse population declines of the past.  The familiar part of the report indicates that most of the nation’s fastest growing cities are located in the South and interior West.  Places like McKinney, TX; North Las Vegas, NV; and Cary, NC, are registering growth rates that cities in baseball’s “American League Central” division (e.g., Detroit, Cleveland, Kansas City) can only dream about.  But the new estimates also show a clear retrenchment of the old “Snowbelt to Sunbelt” population surge, a turnaround that has brought modest gains to many older and coastal cities that lost population earlier in the decade.

Population trends in the nation’s nine largest cities (those with over one million residents) offer a glimpse at the story (Table 1).  Three of these — Chicago, Los Angeles, and San Diego — flipped from population declines to gains in the past year, while their more high-flying sunbelt counterparts — Phoenix, Houston, San Antonio, and Dallas — showed reduced levels of growth.  The growth slowdowns in Houston and Phoenix were substantial, while at the same time, Chicago’s modest gain was the first registered since 2001.  Another notable flip occurred in Boston, which last year became the fastest growing city in the Northeast, after losing population the year before.  [Note: To read the full article, click here.]

At Phoenix event, Chicago mayor urges sustainability

Chicago City Hall rooftop garden[Source: Casey Newton, Arizona Republic] — Great global cities of the future must make sustainability a top priority, Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley told Phoenix residents on Tuesday as part of an Earth Day event.  “Cities are no longer enemies of the natural environment,” Daley told about 200 people at a luncheon at the Phoenix Convention Center.  “They’re leading the way in preserving and protecting it.”

The luncheon was part of Valley Forward‘s fifth-annual Livability Summit.  The summit included a series of speeches and discussions with the theme of “Healthy Living in the Desert.”

Daley, who has served as Chicago’s mayor for almost two decades, described a series of efforts the city has made in recent years to improve the environment in Chicago, its suburbs and beyond.  The efforts include rooftop gardens on high-rise buildings that lower temperatures in the summertime, allowing them to be cooled with less energy.  [Note: To read the full article, click here.]