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Local experts and national author to discuss state of sustainability in metro Phoenix, Jan. 17

A panel of local experts and Andrew Ross, author of “Bird on Fire: Lessons from the World’s Least Sustainable City,” will discuss the current state of sustainability in metropolitan Phoenix at a public forum on Tuesday, January 17, 2012.  The event, free to the public, will be held at the George Washington Carver Museum & Cultural Center at 415 E. Grant Street. Doors open at 5:30 p.m., panel discussion 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m., audience Q&A 7:30 p.m. to 8 p.m., and reception with complimentary refreshments 8 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.

Panel moderator will be Charles Redman, Arizona State University (ASU) Virginia M. Ullmann professor of Natural History and the Environment and founding director of the ASU School of Sustainability. The current slate of panelists (with two to be added soon) includes:

  • Maria Baier, state land commissioner, Arizona;
  • Steve Betts, former president/CEO of SunCor Development and current Arizona District Council Chair of the Urban Land Institute;
  • Terry Goddard, former Phoenix mayor and former Arizona attorney general who now teaches a course at the ASU Downtown Phoenix campus: “Phoenix and the Art of Public Decision Making;”
  • Taz Loomans, architect and writer/blogger on sustainability issues;
  • Kris Mayes, former commissioner of the Arizona Corporation Commission and current director of the ASU Law and Sustainability Program and professor at the ASU Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law;
  • Andrew Ross, professor of Social and Cultural Analysis, New York University.
  • Silvia Urrutia, director of Housing and Healthcare Finance, Raza Development Fund

According to Susan Copeland, steering committee chair of Downtown Voices Coalition, “Issues of sustainability are paramount to the future of Phoenix. Ross’ book is a great springboard from which to begin, or continue, discussion.”

The Downtown Voices Coalition is sponsoring the event with in-kind support from the Lexington Hotel in downtown Phoenix, Four Peaks Brewery of Tempe and the George Washington Carver Museum and Cultural Center.

Bird on Fire” is available at Made Art Boutique, 922 North 5th Street in downtown Phoenix and at Changing Hands Bookstore at 6428 South McClintock Drive in Tempe. It is also available at Burton Barr, Cesar Chavez and Mesquite Branch libraries in Phoenix.

Downtown Voices Coalition is a coalition of stakeholder organizations that embrace growth in downtown Phoenix, but is mindful that healthy growth should be based upon existing downtown resources — the vibrancy of neighborhoods, the strength of the arts community, the uniqueness of historic properties, and the wonderful small businesses that dot downtown. For more information, visit downtownvoices.org.

Phoenix leaders to fill city council vacancy… again

Arizona's new State Land Commissioner, Maria Baier

[Source: Scott Wong, Arizona Republic] — Here we go again… Gov. Jan Brewer’s decision Tuesday to tap Maria Baier as state land commissioner leaves another vacancy on the Phoenix City Council.  Just a few months ago, the council appointed Sal DiCiccio to replace Councilman Greg Stanton, who resigned to take a top job in Attorney General Terry Goddard’s office.  Twenty-two people had applied for the vacant seat.  Baier, who has represented District 3 on the council since January 2008, plans [resigned] her seat at 5 p.m. Wednesday.  The council will have to appoint an interim replacement between June 29 and July 2, according to the city charter.

Those interested in applying for the vacancy should contact the City Clerk’s Office at 602-262-6837.  Applicants must be a registered voter and live in the district, which includes the Sunnyslope, Moon Valley, and Shadow Mountain neighborhoods and the area around Paradise Valley Mall.  Because Baier has more than one year left on her term, the council must call for a special election no sooner than Nov. 3.  Voters in the district will then determine who will complete Baier’s term, which ends in January 2012.

Baier said things happened suddenly. She got a call from the Governor’s Office last Saturday asking for references and other background check information.  By Monday, Brewer had offered her the job.  The councilwoman said it will be bittersweet leaving the city after such a short time in office.  “It was the greatest priviledge of my life to serve the residents of District 3.  I haven’t met a more thoughtful and kind group of people in my life,” Baier said.  “But I’m going to continue to serve the residents of District 3 and many other folks across the state as state land commissioner.”

Mayor Phil Gordon called Baier “one of our council’s brightest stars” and said her successor will need to be ready on Day 1.  “These are challenging times that require strong and immediate leadership,” he said.  “I will be supporting the best-qualified candidate to fill a pair of shoes that need to hit the ground running from the first minute of the first day.”  [Note: To read the full article and online comments, click here.]

Phoenix neighborhoods can get anti-crime grants

[Source: Maria Baier, Phoenix City Council] — Neighborhoods registered as a Phoenix Police Block Watch or with the Neighborhood Services Department can get money to prevent crime. Neighborhood Block Watch grants range from less than $1,000 to $10,000 each. The grants fund new or existing programs that have an anti-crime component or safety program. The oversight committee will review applications and give an estimated $1.2 million to eligible neighborhoods. For information, contact the city at 602-262-6543 or by visit their website. Applications are due electronically by 4 p.m. on Friday, February 6, 2009.

Phoenix mayor kills plan to give self two more years

Mayor Phil Gordon (Photo: Nick Oza, Arizona Republic)

[Source: Sarah Fenske, Phoenix New Times] — Saying it was a “distraction,” Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon has asked supporters to back off a plan that would have kept him in the mayor’s office until 2014.  The plan, first revealed by New Times in this blog, would have consolidated municipal elections in Phoenix.  Currently, half the City Council and the mayor are up for reelection in 2011; the other half will run this fall.  The new plan, which would have required an amendment to the city charter, would put everybody on the same schedule — saving roughly $1 million every two years.

But the plan drew criticism (including some from this writer) because, in the process of consolidation, it would have tacked another two years onto the term of Mayor Gordon, Councilmen Claude Mattox and Michael Nowakowski, and Councilwomen Maria Baier and Thelda Williams — in essence giving them a six-year term instead of the four-year one originally approved by voters.  [Note: To read the full article, click here.]

Phoenix working to adapt vintage buildings for new uses

The city of Phoenix is working to simplify the process of adapting older buildings for new business uses on an all-new episode of Building Phoenix, premiering 8 p.m., Wednesday, Jan. 28, on Phoenix 11, the city’s news and information station available to Cox and Qwest Cable subscribers (for additional airdates and times, click here).

Program highlights: A 1940s firehouse in Sunnyslope becomes Bomberos Café and Wine Bar; coffee connoisseurs are filling up at Copper Star Coffee, housed within a vintage gas station in the Melrose on 7th Ave. area of midtown Phoenix (pictured at right); a former tire shop is transformed into Results Only, a facility to get pumped up and healthy; and the trendsetter who transformed a historic post office into Postino Wine Café is ready to do it again; plus appearances by Vice Mayor Tom Simplot and Councilwoman Maria Baier.

“Building Phoenix” is a production of the city of Phoenix Development Services Department.  Michael Hammett, host and executive producer, is an Emmy Award winner and former contributing reporter/producer for ABC 15’s Sonoran Living.  The program will be streamed live during the premiere.  The Building Phoenix show is available on-demand.

Plan would give Phoenix mayor two extra years — without another election

[Source: Sarah Fenske, Phoenix New Times] — City officials are weighing a plan to consolidate elections in the city of Phoenix — one that could give Mayor Phil Gordon and certain council members an extra two years in office without being forced to run for reelection, New Times has learned.  On January 9, a group called “Phoenix Election Consolidation Committee” quietly filed papers with the city clerk, establishing a political committee to support a new ballot issue.

Currently, council terms are staggered, with some members due up for reelection at the end of this year and some (including Gordon) due in 2011.  Sources tell New Times that the committee hopes to change the set-up so that everybody’s terms expire at once, thereby saving the city the expense of twice the number of elections. But here’s where we could get some opposition: Rather than have the 2011 folks run for an abbreviated two-year term, we’re told that the new plan would just push them back to 2013 — meaning those lucky council members and the mayor would get six-year terms.

If what we’re understanding is correct, council members Thelda Williams, Maria Baier, Claude Mattox, and Michael Nowakowski could all get a two-year bonus.  But the scenario would probably have the biggest impact on the mayor.  Technically, he’s due to be term-limited out of office after two four-year terms. Handing him an extra two years would surely cause some controversy.  (See: Bloomberg, Mike.)

City Clerk Mario Paniagua told us that, based on the scenario we describe, the change would require a charter amendment. That means we the voters, not the Council, would ultimately have the finally say on the plan.  [Note: To read the full article, click here.]

Reversible lanes divide Phoenix Council Members

In a previous blog entry, it was noted that Phoenix Council Member Tom Simplot wants Phoenix’s reversible lanes on 7th Avenue and 7th Street to be removed (Council Member Michael Nowakowski also supports this view).  Two other Council Members have taken the opposite position, and their rationale is highlighted below.

The Arizona Republic ran the following article written by Council Members Greg Stanton and Maria Baier.  The Phoenix City Council will be discussing and possibly voting on the reverse lanes issue at the October 7 Work Study Session at 2 p.m. in the City Council Chambers, 200 W. Jefferson St.  You are encouraged to attend the work study session and express your views on this issue.

The truth about reverse lanes

We recently learned from the editorial pages of The Arizona Republic that one of the three real fears Phoenicians have of “becoming LA” is increased traffic congestion.  We are concerned that eliminating the reverse lanes on Seventh Avenue and Seventh Street could lead us closer to that fate.  We offer the following with the hope that, as a community, we will base our decisions about the destiny of reverse lanes on the factual information obtained through intensive studies conducted by ASU and the City of Phoenix.

SAFETY
First, the studies found that the roads with reverse lanes are not more dangerous than most other roads in the City of Phoenix.  It turns out that traffic crash rates on Seventh Avenue and Seventh Street are similar to other arterial streets.  This is true for all kinds of crashes, including head-ons, pedestrians, and rearend collisions.

INCREASED COMMUTE TIMES
Second, there would be a substantial increase in peak hour commute times if the reverse lanes were to be eliminated.  This only makes sense. We would see the same amount of cars traveling on two fewer lanes each day.  This equates to a loss of road capacity of 33 percent in the morning, and 25 percent in the afternoon.

What this means time wise is that, for those traveling during peak rush hour on Seventh Street from Dunlap Avenue to McDowell Road, the commute time would be increased from an average of 25 minutes to 44 minutes in the morning, and from 20 minutes to 30 minutes in the afternoon.  Likewise, for those who use Seventh Avenue during rush hour, the increase in morning drive time would rise from 15 minutes to 29 minutes, and in the afternoon from 11 minutes to 19 minutes.  The result is a tremendous “time tax” on those living and working in our city.

INCREASED CUT-THROUGH TRAFFIC
Finally, it’s important to be truthful about how the elimination of reverse lanes would affect cut-through traffic.  Some residents along the reverse lane portions of Seventh Avenue and Seventh Street have complained that cars that cannot turn left at the arterial intersections instead turn left into nearby neighborhoods.

The analysis of the city’s professional traffic engineers is that if the reverse lanes are eliminated, much more cut through traffic will be generated in our neighborhoods –- the likely result of greater congestion.  Importantly, it may involve increased left and right turn maneuvers into neighborhoods as drivers look for faster routes through signals.

WHAT’S NEXT?
First, we must take steps to make the reverse lanes more user friendly.  Second, we must continue to explore ways to “calm” traffic for area residents and businesses in ways that do not impede the normal flow of an arterial street at rush hours.  Third, we must continue to monitor the need for reverse lanes.

If and when there is some actual evidence that the Seventh Avenue and Seventh Street reversible lanes are no longer needed, we can take steps to eliminate them at that time.  But not now.  Right now, we need them.

Council Member Baier’s next breakfast meeting is May 15

Join Councilmember Maria Baier at an upcoming breakfast meeting to discuss news from the City of Phoenix and issues of interest to the community.  She encourages you to invite a friend as well.

  • May 15, 7:30 to 9:00 am, Fraternal Order of Police Lodge, 12851 N. 19th Ave.

To RSVP for a breakfast, call 602-262-7441 or send an e-mail.

Quote of the Day

“We too often neglect what’s already here for what’s shiny and new.   We get back to it eventually…but sometimes it takes us a little too long and there’s unnecessary decline in the interim.”  City of Phoenix Council Member Maria Baier during her January 2, 2008 swearing-in ceremony remarks about the need to pay more attention to the city’s established neighborhoods