Blog Archives

Councilman Nowakowski Invites Residents to Crime Summit

[Source: City of Phoenix]

Councilman Michael Nowakowski will host his District 7 Crime Summit at 8 a.m. Saturday, Feb. 26, at the Phoenix Police Training facility, 10001 S. 15th Ave. The summit will bring together law enforcement personnel, city staff and local residents to discuss crime issues in their communities, police resources, Block Watch, Phoenix Neighborhood Patrol (PNP), and Blight and Graffiti Busters programs.

Speakers will include Public Safety Manager Jack Harris and a presentation on the Police Community Engagement and Outreach Task Force. Residents will be able to speak directly with the District 7 precinct commanders (Estrella, South Mountain, Maryvale and Squaw Peak police precincts) along with community action officers and code enforcement officers.

Event schedule:

  • 8 to 8:30 a.m. – Registration
  • 8:30 to 9 a.m. – Opening remarks from Councilman Nowakowski, Public Safety Manager Jack Harris and Assistant Police Chief Andy Anderson
  • 9 to 10 a.m. – Breakout sessions for each precinct area with community action officers, Block Watch representatives and Blight and Graffiti Busters
  • 10:15 to 11:30 a.m. – Panel discussion with representatives from the Police and Neighborhood Services departments, PNP and Block Watch
  • 11:30 to noon – Lunch, followed by an optional tour of the facility

Lunch will be provided (at no cost to city taxpayers). RSVPs are requested. To confirm your attendance, call the District 7 Office at 602-262-7492 or e-mail council.district.7@phoenix.gov.

Viewpoint: Convenience over safety: reverse lanes on the 7s

The following is a letter by Vice-Mayor and district 7  Councilman, Michael Nowakowski, written after yesterday’s City council recommendation to maintain the reverse lanes with minor changes.


Dear friends and neighbors,

Nowakowski Convenience Over Safety: Reverse Lanes on the 7sToday, my colleagues and I at City Council considered the recommendations of the Ad Hoc Task Force that studied the issue of the reverse lanes on 7th Avenue and 7th Street.

For many years as a private citizen, I disliked the effect that the reverse lanes had on traffic and neighborhoods, and for the past few years I’ve had the privilege of fighting the reverse lanes as your councilman. My staff and I know intimately the problems with speeding, the confusion, the cut-through traffic and the accidents and near-misses that threaten people along these roads. I’ve received thousands of calls, emails, and letters about the negative effect of reverse lanes on our community.

At today’s meeting, however, convenience was chosen over safety and quality of life. While it’s promising that the City will pursue enforcement and education along the reverse lanes, my hope has always been to eliminate the reverse lanes and put safety first. I’d like to thank Councilman Tom Simplot for his long-time efforts to eliminate the reverse lanes, and my colleagues Councilwoman Thelda Williams and Mayor Phil Gordon for their willingness to consider the well-being of our neighborhoods.

I would also like to extend a big thanks to all of the members of the task force we seated for their service, and the hundreds of Phoenicians who participated in the public hearing process regardless of how they feel about the reverse lanes. A city is only as great as its people, and we have the best people.

Your friend,

Michael Nowakowski

Vice Mayor and District 7 resident

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.

Two major downtown Phoenix developments get go-ahead from city council

[Source: Lynn Ducey and Jan Buchholz, Phoenix Business Journal] — Two new hotel brands now call Downtown Phoenix home, after Phoenix City Council approved separate development deals paving the way for the properties. Council members OK’d one deal One Central Park East that includes plans for a 280-room Westin hotel and corporate headquarters for Freeport-McMoRan Copper and Gold Inc., and another that rebrands the existing 520-room Wyndham hotel as a Marriott Renaissance.   “We are very happy. Christmas has come early,” said Steve Moore, president and CEO of the Greater Phoenix Convention and Visitors Bureau.  “We now will have the power of the Marriott brand in downtown Phoenix and the Westin gives our downtown Sheraton guests an opportunity to upgrade.”

Council members unanimously approved a development agreement known as a Government Property Lease Excise Tax, or GPLET, incentive program for the One Central Park East project.  The Westin hotel would be a tenant inside the newly constructed building, which also would house Freeport’s headquarters.  They also voted 6-2 in favor of a development deal with Phoenix Hotel Ventures LLC, which would result in the rebranding of the Wyndham into a Marriott Renaissance.  Vice Mayor Tom Simplot and Councilman Michael Nowakowski voted against the proposal.

Simplot said the difference for him was that the Westin project was a modification of an existing GPLET that led to the construction of One Central Park East, which is built out, yet unoccupied.  In contrast, the Wyndham is an existing property.   “Councilman Nowakowski and I agree philosophically.  Personally, I believe GPLETS should be used sparingly for projects that simply aren’t viable without them,” Simplot said after the meeting Wednesday.

Council members voted unanimously in favor of the One Central Park East Project.  Proponents said the projects would create and retain additional jobs, create a future revenue stream for bed and sales taxes across the city, county and state levels and keep Phoenix on a competitive par for group meeting and bookings at the Phoenix Convention Center with similar-sized cities, such as Denver and San Diego.

In addition, the Wyndham project will result in $10 million in property upgrades and access to Marriott’s branding power while the Westin is an upscale business class hotel.  The Wyndham rebranding is expected to take place within the first part of next year. Construction of the Westin build-out is expected to begin shortly, with the first guests expected to begin checking into the property in 2011. [Note: To read the full article, visit Two major downtown Phoenix developments get go-ahead from city council.]

Does Arizona have an image problem?

Outside the Phoenix Convention Center, where the U.S. President was speaking on Aug. 17, "Chris" sports a semi-automatic rifle and pistol.

[Source: Scott Wong, Arizona Republic] — Just as local and state tourism officials tried to shed Phoenix’s unbecoming title as the “kidnapping capital of America,” another national moniker has emerged: gun-crazy.  A man carrying a pistol and semi-automatic rifle outside the Phoenix hall where President Barack Obama spoke this month ignited a media firestorm, reinforcing the stereotype of the Grand Canyon State as a gun-loving vestige of the Wild West.

The firearms display, later revealed to be a publicity stunt, was legal under an Arizona law that allows most citizens to openly carry guns in public without a permit.  But the spotlight cast by cable-news pundits, newspaper editorials and blogs — including censure from a world-renowned travel writer — raised questions about whether Arizona’s lax gun laws make it safe to travel and do business in the state.  “We’re an urban city, and there are individuals trying to hold on to the old ways of the Wild West,” said Phoenix Councilman Michael Nowakowski, himself a gun owner.  “We’re going to lose a lot of conventions because of one knucklehead.”

Before the gun stunt, tales of Mexican drug cartels abducting rival smugglers and immigrants and holding them for ransom in Valley homes had already painted Phoenix as a city under siege. [Note: Read the full article at Does Arizona have an image problem?]

Latino cultural center in downtown Phoenix aims for fall opening

[Source: Jenna Davis, Arizona Republic] — The new Latino cultural center that [the Phoenix City Council] approved for downtown may open in November.  Advocates for Latin@ Arts & Culture Consortium Inc. will have access to a city-owned building beginning Aug. 1 and will then have 120 days to prepare the new facility.  Ruben Hernandez, a spokesman for the group, said organizers hope to have a soft opening on Sept. 15 to coincide with the eve of Mexican Independence Day, but it might be November or December before the 7,200-square-foot facility is ready for visitors. 

The cultural center has been the focus of a consortium of Latino arts groups that said it realized that in a city of 1.5 million people, 40 percent of whom are of Hispanic decent, a Latino cultural center was needed.  The building previously housed the Museo Chicano, 147 E. Adams St., which closed in January.  [Note: Read the full article at Latino cultural center in downtown Phoenix aims for fall opening]

Midtown Phoenix empty lot where WWII housing once stood sold

[Source: G.G. George] — The Encanto Citizens Association Board attended the foreclosure auction on Thursday, June 11, 2009 for the vacant land on the north side of McDowell Road between 13th and 15th Avenues.  The property that the out-of-state investor, Scott M. Haskins, had purchased in 2006 for $5,400,000 had contained 32 moderate-rate apartments meant to house war workers during World War II.  It was just two years ago to the day, June 11, 2007, that Haskins had the historic Palmcroft Apartments demolished.  In ECA’s opinion, Haskins’ action irresponsibly wasted a historic resource that, properly managed, could have sheltered low-to-moderate income families for generations to come.

The Encanto Citizens Association opposed both the alley abandonment and the grab for the excess right-of-way at the 15th Avenue bus stop.  Councilman Michael Nowakowski, Mayor Phil Gordon, former Councilman Doug Lingner, and the other Council members denied the developer the alley abandonment and the excess right-of-way.  The F.Q. Story Historic District also supported ECA’s position.

The property was sold at auction to Michael Sklar of the Sonata Property Group for $500,000.  Mr. Sklar is familiar with the neighborhood, having previously lived at 1621 N. 11th Avenue.  The Encanto Citizens Association will continue to monitor this property and, in the best of all possible worlds, work harmoniously with a developer who truly has something to contribute to the appeal of Encanto-Palmcroft.

Phoenix receives $39 million to fund neighborhood stabilization program

[Source: City of Phoenix] — The city of Phoenix received a $39.4 million contract for Neighborhood Stabilization Program funds under the Housing and Economic Recovery Act of 2008 (HERA), passed by Congress last year, the fifth largest funding allocation among U.S. cities and counties. The first phase of the Phoenix Neighborhood Stabilization Program (NSP) offers low cost loans of $15,000 to assist with down payment and closing costs for eligible homebuyers that purchase a foreclosed home as their primary residence.  There are federal eligibility requirements that must be met under this program for the house and the prospective homebuyer. For example: a family of four can earn up to $77,050.  The house must be foreclosed and the property holder willing to discount the price.  The homebuyer also must attend eight hours or homeownership counseling.  

The NSP emphasizes market driven strategies, partnerships, and leveraging to increase the number of properties that can be restored to productive use. Additional programs include buyer assistance with rehabilitation, acquisition and rehabilitation (including multi-family housing), demolition and redevelopment within defined areas of greatest need.  The city will be issuing a Request for Proposals in support of the NSP activities, specifically the more intensive programs for rehabilitation of foreclosed properties, later this month with programs being rolled out this summer.

Councilman Michael Nowakowski, chair of the Housing and Neighborhoods City Council Subcommittee, is ready for staff to put the funds to work for the residents of Phoenix.  “In the 2008 calendar year, more than 15,000 housing foreclosures occurred within the city of Phoenix.  These much-needed funds will help hundreds of residents and neighborhoods impacted by foreclosures,” said Councilman Nowakowski.

Click here for more information on this program and on the overall foreclosure impacts.  Additional information specific to the first phase also can be requested by calling the Phoenix NSP program hotline at 602-262-6602.

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.]

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.]