Blog Archives

Talton offers alternative view on downtown Phoenix Civic Space

[Source: John Talton, Rogue Columnist] — Former Arizona Republic columnist Jon Talton still thinks and writes about his old hometown, Phoenix.  Upon returning to his current home from a recent visit and book signing tour in Arizona, Jon wrote the following blog post about the new downtown Phoenix Civic Space (in contrast to this other local blogger’s view):

“…Which brings me to the Floating Diaphragm.  That’s what local wags have dubbed the “public art” project that is the signature of the new park on Central Avenue downtown between ASU and the Y.  At night, it’s stunning.  A floating purple dream.  But, as with the Sandra Day O’Connor Federal Courthouse, this is something designed by someone with no knowledge of local conditions.  After the first big monsoon, look for the diaphragm in your neighborhood — Gilbert would be appropriate, with its sex phobia and sex scandals. 

The park — we’ll see.  Phoenix is not good at civic spaces.  It’s unclear if it will have enough shade and grass to be inviting year-round.  And nobody can stop the creeping gravelization of the once-oasis central city.  City Hall sets a terrible example.  The old Willo House has been spiffed up as Hob Nobs.  But it’s surrounded by gravel and a couple of fake palm trees — who wouldn’t want to be around that 140-dgree heat surface on a summer day? And there are more of them — the natives and long-timers agree the falls and springs have shrunk to a week or two, and winter is getting shorter (and it lacks the frosts that once kept the mosquito population in check).  The central city needs lots of shade trees and grass, to offset the heat island effect.  It is a much better water investment than new golf courses or more sprawl.  Nobody’s listening.  Almost: The Park Central Starbucks has made its outdoor space even more lush, shady, and comfy. 

Back to the diaphragm.  It’s definitely better than the “public art” you whiz by at Sky Harbor because it focuses a civic space, the kind of walkable, gathering places great cities have and Phoenix mostly lacks.  Some art at the light-rail stations is quite well done.  But, there’s a deadening sameness.  My friend, the Famous Architect, likes to rib me, “Not everything old is good.”  True enough. But not everything new is good, either.  I’d love to see some classical statues and artwork downtown to, say, commemorate the heroic pioneer farmers, the heroic, displaced indigenous peoples, the heroic Mexican-Americans, the heroic African-Americans from this once very Southern town and the heroic Chinese-Americans.  Just two or three would offer some contrast and variety, and, I suspect, unsophisticated oaf that I am, elevate and inspire more souls who communed with them.  It would also give the lie, in visual form, to the newcomer lie that “there’s no history here.” 

Another wish I won’t get.  [Note: To read the full blog posting, click here.]

Phoenix city budget crisis increases interest in volunteerism

[Source: Cathryn Creno, Arizona Republic] — The City of Phoenix now has a Web page where people can search for ways to volunteers at city parks, social service programs, libraries, and more.  The site was launched Monday in response from calls from citizens wanting to volunteer time to programs in the wake of the city budget crisis, said Deborah Dillon, the city’s education program director.  The opportunities listed include a program to guide visitors at Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport, a graffiti cleanup program, the Phoenix Police reserves, and the volunteer gardeners at parks, including the Japanese Friendship Garden in downtown Phoenix.  Training typically is provided to most city volunteers.

Dillon said the city is still in the process of trimming programs to balance an approximate $270 budget deficit and is not sure where the biggest needs are yet.  And, “because we haven’t had a central place for volunteers to register their interest, I don’t know the answers to how many new volunteers have come forward,” she said.  “Our first step was to put together a better website so it would be easier for them to find out volunteer opportunities.”

County Sheriff cancels inmate transport via Phoenix light rail

[Source: Alyssa Pivirotto, ABC 15] — Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio will not use light rail to transport inmates to the 4th Avenue Jail, according to a statement released Thursday afternoon.  Earlier this week, the Sheriff started those transports from Sky Harbor Airport to the downtown Phoenix jail, saying it was a way to save money on parking transport vehicles.  Now, the City of Phoenix has given the Sheriff four parking passes, allowing him to park for free.  [Note: to read the full article, click here.]

Sheriff deputies use Phoenix light rail to transport inmates

[Source: KSWT/Associated Press] — The Phoenix area’s new light-rail trains have begun transporting prisoners who are flown in from out of state from the airport to downtown Phoenix. Armed Maricopa County deputies and Sheriff Joe Arpaio himself accompanied the first prisoner, a woman wanted for felony and forgery, on the light rail to downtown last night.  The woman covered her face when local news media surrounded her with microphones and television cameras.

Arpaio says taking prisoners from Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport to his headquarters in downtown will save about $72,000 a year in airport parking fees.  But a airport spokeswoman says all law-enforcement agencies in the state that are transporting inmates can park at the airport for free.  Arpaio maintained his office pays $27 a day to park at the airport and won’t stop taking inmates on the light rail until he gets written verification that parking is free.  [Note: To read the full article, click here.]

Phoenix Sky Harbor drops to 9th busiest airport in U.S.

[Source: Jahna Berry, Arizona Republic] — As millions of passengers cut their travel budgets, Sky Harbor slipped down the FAA’s ranking of busy U.S. airports.  Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport was the ninth busiest airport in 2008.  In 2007, it was the eighth busiest.  Charlotte Douglas Airport, in Charlotte, N.C. is now No. 8.

The Federal Aviation Administration ranking measures the number of takeoffs and landings by commercial airlines, air taxis, private planes, and the military.  “This is a direct reflection of the economy and is unfortunately the way things are at airports across the country,” said Deputy Aviation Director Deborah Ostreicher.  [Note: To read the full article, click here.]

Phoenix Sky Harbor ‘healthiest’ airport says magazine

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Phoenix Sky Harbor pet park

[Source: FoxNews.com] — …But it was Phoenix’s airport that really made an impression on the judges.  The building has two pet parks and recently added adult changing stations in bathrooms after a family with a disabled son made the suggestion.  According to Health Magazine, Sky Harbor’s bathrooms are “widely known as some of the nation’s cleanest.”  Sky Harbor also has several low-fat dining options: Take your pick of veggie burgers, vegetable burritos, or avocado cucumber sushi.

To develop the rankings, the magazine’s editors compared data about the nation’s leading airports from government reports, rating agencies, and other sources.  Here are the top 5 healthiest airports, according to Health Magazine:

  1. Phoenix Sky Harbor International (Arizona)
  2. BWI Thurgood Marshall (Maryland)
  3. O’Hare International (Chicago, Illinois)
  4. Detroit Metropolitan (Michigan)
  5. Denver International (Colorado)

WABAC Machine: Ladies fashions in ’50s Valley of the Sun

Click on the photo to watch a 1950s “infomercial” on women’s fashion wear in the Valley of the Sun.

From high atop South Mountain, a view of metro Phoenix

Photographer John T. films this panoramic view of metro Phoenix as seen from high atop South Mountain.  Included are shots of downtown Phoenix, Chase Field, US Airways Center, Sky Harbor International Airport, Camelback Mountain, Tempe, and the University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale.

The New York Times spends 36 hours in Phoenix

Downtown Phoenix at night (David Kadlubowski, New York Times)

[Source: Randal Archibold, New York Times] — Like the myth behind its namesake, Phoenix seems to have come out of nowhere to rank as the nation’s fifth largest city. Even long-timers have a tough time explaining the city’s appeal. Phoenix has left no firm mark in pop culture, aside from a bit role in the opening shot of “Psycho.”

The list of famous area residents is rather short: Barry Goldwater, John McCain, Jordin Sparks are among the better known.  And the city is an inferno in the summer.  The other nine months of the year, however, are gorgeous and sunny, making it a perfect time to visit the city’s new bounty of top-notch golf courses, fashionable resorts, eye-opening museums, and cool night life.  [Note: To read the full article, click here.]

Business Facilities magazine calls Phoenix “City of the Future”

[Source: Jenny Vickers, Business Facilities] — Strategically positioned in the Southwest, the Greater Phoenix area is one of 10 U.S. markets projected to experience 85% of the nation’s growth over the next 35 years.  Greater Phoenix, which consists of the City of Phoenix, much of the rest of Maricopa County, a large section of Pinal County, and small parts of southern Yavapai County, currently is the 13th largest area in the United States, with an estimated population of four million.  The City of Phoenix is the largest state capital in the U.S. in terms of population and is the only state capital with a population of more than one million.

With a labor force of over two million people, Greater Phoenix is known as a business and innovation hub with international access for aerospace, high-tech, bioscience, advanced business, and sustainable technologies companies.  Currently, over 20 major Fortune 500/1000 companies are located in Phoenix, such as Allied Waste, AT&T Inc., Bank of America, Boeing, Google, Morgan Stanley, and Wells Fargo.  Honeywell’s Aerospace division is headquartered in Phoenix, and the valley hosts many of its avionics and mechanical facilities.  Intel has one of its largest sites in the city, employing about 10,000 employees.  Businesses are easily connected to the region, nation and the world with two major airports — Sky Harbor International Airport and Williams Gateway Airport — and a new light-rail system being launched in December 2008.  [Note: To read the full article, click here.]