Blog Archives

Now through October, go ahead and wonder about Phoenix’s future

wonderlandfront[Source: Phoenix New Times] Gregory Sale and Kimi Eisele have a simple, yet profound question for Phoenicians: Ever wonder about the future of this place? If so, you can immediately become an active participant in their interpretive piece “Go Ahead, Wonder,” which will have a presence at the “Phoenix as Wonderland: Art from New Times’ Best of Phoenix 2009” exhibit.

Sale’s idea for the piece — which is an amalgamation of media, text, photography, sound, interviews, and participation — was to envision his personal wonderland here in Phoenix as a community that gets involved with social issues.  The instructions go like this:

Leave a one-minute voice message, e-mail 100 words, or contribute at the opening of the “Phoenix as Wonderland” exhibition during October First Friday.  Offer your vision for how this region could grow/change/evolve physically, ecologically, intellectually, socially, emotionally, culturally, and/or spiritually over the next ten, twenty, or fifty years.

  • Out loud: 602-744-6527 (now till October 31)
  • In writing: visioning@newtimes.com (now till October 31)
  • In person: 1437 N. 1st St, Phoenix from 6 to 10 p.m. Friday, October 2

“Phoenix as Wonderland: Art from New Times’ Best of Phoenix 2009” opens with a free First Friday reception on Friday, October 2, at [merz]project, 1437 N. First St. For more information, call 602-229-8478 or send an e-mail.

Viewpoint: Phoenix will rise from the ashes

[Source: Kit Stolz, Guest Contributor, Grist Magazine] — During a session called “Sustainability and Growth: How Can a City Develop Sustainably When its Identity is Built on Growth?” at the American Meteorological Society convention, a development expert named Grady Grammage colorfully dispelled some myths and revealed some little-known truths about Phoenix.  One myth: Phoenix is unsustainable because it imports water.  Virtually all cities import water, Grammage pointed out, even New York, not to mention countless other necessities for urban life, such as food, fuel, and steel.  Phoenix arguably has a more stable supply of water than numerous other cities, such as San Diego, because Phoenix imports its water from numerous sources, albeit at great distances.

In Grammage’s view, a bigger question is “habitability,” and he brought up the Urban Heat Island Effect, which he thinks, based on surveys, will drive more Phoenicians out of the state by 2020 than those who move in from other states.  Grammage reports that when he expressed this view, various public officials and “water buffaloes” — water experts — in Phoenix scoffed.  They think Phoenix could support as many as 10 million people — more than twice its current population.

But the climactic trends may have already been trumped by the economic trends.  According to a huge and thoroughly-substantiated front-page story in the Arizona Republic, Phoenix is already losing population — thousands of people — probably due to the economy.  Foreclosures are up a mind-blowing 534% from last year, while water hook-ups, trash collection, and sales tax revenues are all down sharply.  Substantial numbers of buildings have no water service, indicating abandonment, and sales tax revenues are down 8%.  Even crime has declined.

Already, the Phoenix city government has to try and close a 22% revenue gap of about $270 million, and if the state finds that the city is losing residents, it will cut its allocation of tax returns still further.  Perhaps this is why the mayor, Phil Gordon, scoffed at the reports of population decline. “The growth of Phoenix, like all cities in the Valley, has slowed significantly.  But Phoenix’s net growth is still positive, both in jobs and population,” he said.

Cognitive dissonance, anyone?  Or, is it just garden variety denial?  In any case, something is in the wind… as reflected in a sign I saw this morning in an empty storefront in downtown Phoenix.  Guess we’ll find out what kind of wind it is soon enough.

Phoenix is losing residents, signs say

[Source: Michael Clancy and Casey Newton, Arizona Republic] — For the first time in modern history, Phoenix’s population could be shrinking.  It’s an idea that would have been unimaginable just a few years ago, when Phoenix was surging up the list of the nation’s most populous cities.  Now, a variety of indicators suggest that fewer people are living here than a year ago.

No one knows for sure exactly how many people have moved in or out.  But with the 2010 census about to get under way, some indicators suggest Phoenix’s population may be smaller than the projected 1,636,170 people.  City records show declining trends in several key areas.  Among them:

  • Foreclosure numbers have skyrocketed, meaning fewer city homes are occupied.
  • Water hookups are down, suggesting the same.
  • Some aspects of trash collection have ebbed because fewer people are buying things that produce waste.
  • Crime has declined across the city while police are getting fewer calls for services, a possible indicator of fewer people.
  • Sales-tax revenues are likely to drop for the second year in a row, with this year’s collections off almost 8% from last year.

[Note: To read the full article, click here.]

U.S. population and growth trends by county, 1970-2030

An interesting map! Click on the map to enlarge.

No political party discussing American West population explosion

[Source: Froma Harrop, Houston Chronicle and reprinted in the Arizona Republic] — There’s a burning concern in the American West — almost an obsession — that Democrats did not touch in their convention here.  Nor will Republicans in St. Paul.  It is the U.S. population explosion.  The West is feeling the brunt of it, as flowing lava of housing developments and big-box crudscapes claim its cherished open spaces — and increasingly scarce water supplies.  The U.S. Census Bureau now expects America’s population to top 400 million by 2039, far earlier than previously forecast.  The 300-million mark was hit only two years ago, so if this prediction is correct, the headcount will have soared by 100 million people in 33 short years.

America’s fastest-growing region has been and will continue to be the Intermountain West.  Its megalopolises — centered on Denver, Phoenix, Las Vegas, and Salt Lake City — are set to add 13 million people by 2040, according to a Brookings Institution study.  This would be a doubling of their population.  Hyper-growth still brings out happy talk in some circles.  The Brookings report looks at the population forecasts for the urban corridor on the eastern face of the Rockies, spreading from Colorado into Wyoming, and enthuses, “Such projections point to a huge opportunity for the Front Range to improve on the current level of prosperity.”  There are challenges, it says, but they can be met — and you can almost hear local hearts breaking — by new roads, bigger airports, more office parks.

And where oh where are they going to find water?  Every county in Colorado was declared a federal drought disaster area in 2002, when the population stood at 4.5 million.  It is expected to approach 8 million by 2035.  As former Colorado Gov. Dick Lamm notes, the region is so dry that you can still see the wagon wheel trails laid down in the 1840s.  “This is an area that plans to add 13 million people?” Lamm said to me.  “Crazy.”  [Note: To read the full opinion piece, click here.]

Arizona part of “region on the brink”

[Source: “A Region on the Brink: the Southern Intermountain West,” Brian Krier, Next American City] — The Southern Intermountain West encompasses Arizona, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, and Utah, a massive region facing a considerable population boom and a rapidly evolving economy, neither of which are expected to slow down in the next few decades.  According to the report, the Mountain megas’ population and job base could very well double by 2040, a rate that will drastically outpace the rest of the country.   The report concludes that growth in the region will have “tremendous implications for the built environment and regional construction activity,” estimating that the current housing stock will need to be nearly doubled and non-residential space would need to increased by a total of 9.4 billion square feet.  Future expenditures for this alone would push well into the trillions of dollars.

Geography will also continue to play a key role in the development of the region.  Because the federal government remains the region’s principal landowner, the policies that govern these areas have significant impact on what is leftover.  With much of the densely populated areas tucked neatly inside mountain ranges or sprung up from deserts, a number of quality of life issues have sprung up that need addressing: access to public transportation, reducing automobile dependence, and improving urban spaces.  All of these concerns, of course, pale in comparison to the most critical issue facing the West: water management.  As development continues throughout the West, water access and management may very well determine whether this current boom can be sustained.

In order to face these issues head-on, the report calls for a “new federal-state-mega partnership that will allow the region’s pivotal megapolitan areas to surmount their common challenges and assert their leadership in the nation and the world.”  [Note: To read the full article, click here.]

Arizonans continue to flock to suburbs

Arizona's wide open spaces... urp, that was 20 years ago...[Source: Howard Fischer, Capitol Media Services, “U.S. census shows Arizonans migrating to suburbs,” July 9, 2008] — New figures from the U.S. Census Bureau show Arizonans continued their march to the suburbs — and beyond — in the year ending July 1, 2007.  But gasoline was selling then for less than $3 a gallon.  And that leaves the question of whether fuel at $4.10 — or maybe even $5 by the end of the year — will slow the double-, triple- and even quadruple-digit growth of mushrooming bedroom communities.

The statistics released today show Gilbert grew faster between the beginning of the decade and July 1, 2007, than all but two other cities of more than 100,000 in the nation.  The community’s 82.3 percent growth rate was topped only by McKinney, TX, and North Las Vegas, NV.  San Luis, AZ, increased its population nearly 55 percent since the decennial census, compared with nearly 51 percent for Somerton, and less than 14 percent for Yuma.  Wellton increased its population by nearly 2 percent, according to the census. 

Overall state population growth during the same period was 23.5 percent.  But Gilbert, which used to be on the edge of civilization, now finds that people are commuting through there from even farther distances.  In fact, Gilbert had only the 10th fastest growth in Arizona when cities of all sizes are compared.  Topping the state list is what had been tiny Maricopa, south of Phoenix, which wasn’t even incorporated when Census Bureau workers came knocking on doors for the formal decennial count.  The agency figures there were only about 1,535 people living in the community on April 1, 2000.

That was before newspapers began advertising new homes for Valley residents there — assuming you’re willing to drive through the Gila River Indian Community to get there.  Seven years later it was home to close to 39,000 residents, an increase of nearly 2,400 percent.  The growth is occurring in all directions from where residents work.  [Note: To read the full article, click here.]