Blog Archives

Viewpoint: Central Phoenix, the good, bad, and ugly

[Source: Jon Talton, Rogue Columnist blog] — Because I know the fragile self-esteem of Phoenicians is at stake, let me begin my observations about the state of the center city with the good stuff.  I smelled the orange blossoms — even stepping out into one of ugliest urban spaces anywhere, the pedestrian loading zone at Sky Harbor.  Many of the Midwestern transplants dislike the scent, which makes me dislike some of them even more.  But this small, fleeting thing reminds me of my often magical city that is gone forever.

Some of the projects begun under former Mayor Skip Rimsza and spearheaded by people like former Deputy City Manager Sheryl Sculley, retired Deputy City Manager Jack Tevlin and Ed Zuercher, now a deputy city manager, have turned out quite well.  As I wrote before, the starter light-rail line is great.  Now lots of places are clamoring for LRT; the trick will be to avoid using light rail when commuter rail would be more efficient.  A metro area the size of Phoenix needs both.  The Convention Center is such a startlingly attractive set of buildings that you wonder if the design was approved by mistake, given Phoenix’s ability to erect such ugliness.  The ASU downtown campus, Mayor Gordon’s signature accomplishment, is more of a reality, and thus will be more difficult for the Legislature to destroy.  The lovely oasis of Arizona Center remains, shady and cool.

Read on if you want to know “the rest of the story,” as the late Paul Harvey would say.

Much of the center city looks as if it has been cleaned up after repeated carpet bombing by the Allies in World War II.  There’s just nothing there.  It’s staggering to see the cleared land along Van Buren, Washington and Jefferson in what was to be Mayor Gordon’s “Opportunity Corridor.”  Other vacant lots proliferate around the Central Corridor.  City Hall seems to have learned nothing from its clear cutting of the neighborhoods between 7th Avenue and the state capitol during the 1980s.

This is problematic for many reasons.  First is what’s lost.  One would never know that Phoenix in 1950 was as densely populated as Seattle is today.  Buildings, many average but many with architectural value, crowded along every street.  For example, the district between 7th Avenue and the capitol had many Victorian houses and apartments from the territorial and 1920s era.  Van Buren and east McDowell, to give just two examples, sported commercial strips with the buildings right up to the sidewalk.  Downtown and the warehouse district were dense with interesting, durable, and in some cases priceless buildings.  Now all gone.  [Note: To read the full blog entry, click here.]

Phoenix light rail route choice aims to draw passengers

Metro Light Rail

Light rail train in downtown Phoenix (photo: Jack Kurtz, Arizona Republic)

[Source: Glen Creno, Arizona Republic] — The people who planned the Metro light-rail route that opens Dec. 27 wanted to attract a lot of passengers, connect urban hubs, and provide an economic lift to neighborhoods along the line.  The result is a 20-mile route that runs between north-central Phoenix and the western edge of Mesa.  The $1.4 billion system strings together schools, sports arenas, commercial areas, new condominium complexes, and neighborhoods.  Any new light-rail route is controversial, and Metro was no exception.  When the new line opens, there likely will be more questions and complaints about why the line runs here rather than there, why one neighborhood and not another.

Jack Tevlin is a retired city executive who was Phoenix’s deputy city manager for transportation when Metro was planned.  He’s familiar with the complaints.  “People say: ‘I live in Paradise Valley.  This doesn’t help me,’ ” Tevlin said.  “But this is just the beginning.”  Planners see this first stretch as the trunk of a system that will branch out as extensions are added.  The story of how the first stretch of light-rail track was planned is about financial, political and physical challenges, some compromises, some high hopes, and a little history.

Phoenix mayor appoints new chief of staff

Toni Maccarone, Public Information Director.[Source: City of Phoenix] — Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon today announced that Public Information Director Toni Maccarone will serve as his new chief of staff.  “Toni and I have worked together for more than 10 years, and I am delighted that she has agreed to lead our team,” said Gordon.  Maccarone will replace Ruth Osuna, who currently serves as the mayor’s chief of staff.  Osuna will complete her year of service and rotate back to her deputy city manager position in the City Manager’s Office.  Osuna and Maccarone will transition during the next 30 to 45 days.  “Ruth is extremely committed to the city, and I thank her for her dedication and helping to lead our office through some challenging issues during her year of service,” said Gordon.  “I look forward to continuing to work with Ruth in her capacity as a senior member of our management team.”  

Historically, a series of Phoenix deputy city managers and department heads have served as the mayor’s chief of staff. Former chiefs of staff include David Krietor, Ed Zuercher, Jack Tevlin, Sheryl Sculley, Ray Bladine, Andrea Tevlin, and George Britton.   “I am happy to welcome Ruth back to my management team,” said City Manager Frank Fairbanks.  “There are several upcoming critical issues where her skills will make a real difference.”

For the past seven years, Maccarone has managed the Public Information Office, including internal and external communication for the city, the phoenix.gov Web site, and PHX11, the city’s award-winning television station seen on Cox and Qwest cable.  [Note: to read the full press release, click here.]