Blog Archives

Arizona cities drop in Milken Institute’s Best Performing Cities Index

The Milken Institute Best Performing Cities Index ranks U.S. metropolitan areas by how well they are creating and sustaining jobs and economic growth.  The components include job, wage and salary, and technology growth.  How did the Arizona communities (MSAs) of Flagstaff, Phoenix, Prescott, Tucson, and Yuma perform?  Results here.

Arizona Governor declares Phoenix a “hell hole”

hellhole9p092309_tmb0001_20090923222052_640_480[Source: Fox 10 News] — Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer is caught on camera making a remark you wouldn’t expect.   The state’s budget battle apparently prompted her to refer to the State Capitol as a “hell hole.”  No doubt the state’s budget battle taken its toll on Gov. Brewer — enough to get her to say something surprising during a stop in Tucson.

She told a group of Republicans at the Tucson Country Club: “It’s a great relief to say the least to get out of that hellhole in Phoenix.”

Her office says she wasn’t referring to the city of Phoenix — instead, the state Capitol.  Not because of the building, but because of the budget battle.

It’s been a trying few months for Brewer as she’s tried to solve the state’s huge budget deficit.  Brewer has been pushing for a 1-percent sales tax increase, but lawmakers in her own party have fought back against it.  The governor expects to call lawmakers back to work soon to try and resolve the remaining budget issues.

Dam power promoted era of Valley growth

Theodore Roosevelt Dam

[Source: Ryan Randazzo, Arizona Republic] — One hundred years ago today, cheap power gave Phoenix a jolt.  Until Oct. 1, 1909, the city of 11,000 relied on gas lanterns and electricity from small wood- and gas-burning power plants.  But on that day, the homes and businesses in Phoenix received their first cheap, free-flowing electricity from the Theodore Roosevelt Dam.

The power boosted development at a time when Tucson and Clifton-Morenci both had larger populations than Phoenix, and Bisbee wasn’t far behind.  But buoyed with abundant electricity and water from the dam, Phoenix became the biggest city in the state by 1920, and grew to the fifth-largest city in the nation early in the 21st century.

The U.S. Reclamation Service, which ran the dam before Salt River Project took over, found cheap electricity was a side benefit.  “It really solidified Phoenix as the capital of Arizona,” said Doug Kupel, a historian with the city’s legal department.  “All the activity in Arizona — mining, agriculture, banking — Phoenix was at the center of that.” [Note: Read the full article at Dam power promoted era of Valley growth.]

Jobless rate climbs in Phoenix, statewide

[Source: Phoenix Business Journal] — Unemployment was up in Phoenix and Arizona in June, the metro jobless rate rising to 8 percent from May’s 7.9 percent.   The jump was even higher across the state with 8.7 percent of the work force unemployed, up from 8.2 percent in May and the highest it’s been since the early 1980s peak approaching 11 percent.  That translates to a loss of 49,400 jobs, according to a report from the Arizona Department of Commerce.

Tucson’s jobless rate gained one-tenth point to 7.9 percent, while the Yuma area felt the most stress at 19.8 percent, up from 18.8 percent in May.  Prescott stood at 9.2 percent and Lake Havasu-Kingman stood at 9.7 percent.  The Flagstaff area came in with the lowest rate in the state at 7.4 percent, up from 7.2.

Nationwide June unemployment stands at 9.5 percent, up from 9.4 in May and 5.6 percent a year ago.  In June 2008, the statewide unemployment rate was 5.5 percent and the Phoenix rate was 4.8 percent, the report said.

Statewide, losses mounted in manufacturing, trade, transportation and utilities, information, professional and business services, educational and health services, leisure and hospitality, and government sectors.  Natural resources, construction, financial and miscellaneous services, however, gained jobs.  [Note: Read the full article at Jobless rate climbs in Phoenix, statewide]

For Phoenix residents, average cost of transport consumes 3 months’ pay

Trans-Free-Day-Logo-Final[Source: Sean Holstege, Arizona Republic, March 30, 2009] — Maybe you’ve heard of Tax Freedom Day, theoretically the date when Americans have worked enough to pay off their tax burden for the year.  Researchers have now come up with Transportation Freedom Day, the date when an average household has paid off its annual costs of getting around in a particular city.  For metro Phoenix, that day fell on March 23, but it’s different for each city in the region and across the country.  Tempe residents cleared the typical cost of car payments, insurance, gas, repairs, and transit use on March 18.  Residents in New River will keep paying until April 9.

Phoenix is in the middle of the pack for U.S. metro areas.  Cheapest are San Francisco, with a March 1 freedom day, and New York (March 7).  Tucson (March 30) is near the bottom.

The findings are based on research from the Center for Neighborhood Technology, an Illinois think tank that advocates sustainable urban development.  Generally, cities with the most density, shortest commutes and most transit options fared best.  People in far-flung suburbs generally fare the worst. [Note: To read the full article and online comments, click here.]

History of Arizona place names topic of April 30 “brown bag” talk

image001In this presentation, Tucson writer Greg McNamee examines the history of Arizona place names, from Ali Shonak to Zephyr, using lively anecdotes to discuss the little-known stories behind names on the land.  Place names are like fossil poetry.  They afford a kind of folk history, a snapshot in time that enables us to read them and reconstruct how members of a culture in the past assigned names to the places they saw. The U.S. has over 3.5 million place names, and there is no part of the world where nomenclature is so rich, poetic, humorous, and picturesque.

  • Date: Thursday, April 30, 2009
  • Time: Noon to 1 p.m.
  • Place: Carnegie Center, 1101 West Washington, Phoenix, AZ 85007
  • Free and open to the public
  • Bring your lunch!  Light refreshments served
  • Free parking

Gregory McNamee is a writer whose publications include twenty-six books, as well as numerous essays, short stories, articles, and translations in journals in the United States and abroad.  He is a contributing editor to the Encyclopedia Britannica and writes regularly for its blog.  Mr. McNamee has taught writing courses at the University of Arizona and elsewhere, and he delivers talks and lectures on writing in many venues.

For more information, call 602-926-3368 or send an e-mail.

Viewpoint: What’s a motto with those folks up in Phoenix?

[Source: Anne T. Denogean, Tucson Citizen] — Phoenix: “Arizona’s urban heart.”  That, my friends, is Phoenix’s new marketing slogan, its desired image or branding, if you will.  The Downtown Phoenix Partnership actually paid some marketing firm $160,000 to come up with it.  I’d say that was a lunch hour well spent.  For the marketing firm.  Not so much for Phoenix.

What does it even mean?  If Phoenix is the heart, does that make Tucson the groin and Yuma the armpit of Arizona?  And does the slogan make anyone want to visit or stay in Phoenix?

It’s supposed to be “aspirational,” according to the downtown partnership. Aspirational of what?  When I think “urban,” I think traffic, pollution, and crime.  Does Phoenix want to be known as the Detroit of Arizona?  I don’t get it.  But this is something that cities do.  [Note: To read the full opinion piece, click here.]

Owner of Arizona Center in downtown Phoenix seeks to avert bankruptcy

[Source: Lou Hirsch, Riverside Press-Enterprise, and Cathryn Creno, Arizona Republic] — As mall operator General Growth Properties attempts to refinance loans and avert bankruptcy, observers say the immediate outcome will have no impact on shoppers.  Drew Wetherholt, national retail director in the Ontario (CA) office of brokerage firm Marcus & Millichap, said that will remain true even if General Growth is forced to sell off some or all of its malls.  “The malls will not be closing,” Wetherholt said.  “The consumer won’t even notice a change.”

Chicago-based General Growth is a real estate investment trust with stakes in more than 200 shopping centers nationwide.  In Arizona, the company owns Arizona Center in downtown Phoenix, Park West in Peoria, and three additional centers in Tucson and Sierra Vista.  General Growth is trying to negotiate an extension on $900 million in debt that was due to be repaid Friday, but warned late last week there can be “no assurance” it will get a reprieve.  [Note: To read the full article, click here.]

Small businesses rate quality of life, downtowns of Arizona cities

The O’Neil Associates/ASBA Economic Indicators Monitor asked 3,000 small businesses across the state two questions about quality of life.  The first of these asked, “Which of these cities do you believe has the best quality of life?”  Three cities dominated responses.  Tempe was the city chosen most often for best quality of life, with fully a quarter (25%) of respondents.  Tempe was followed by Tucson (21%), and Prescott (21%).  No other city received responses in double digits, although Phoenix (8%), Flagstaff (7%), and Gilbert (7%) were notable.

Quality of Life









When focus was moved exclusively to the issue of the best downtown, only four cities received significant numbers of mentions.  Again, the most commonly cited city was Tempe (29%).  This was followed by Phoenix (23%), Scottsdale (21%), and Prescott (15%).

Best Downtown









The results are taken from the Q3 O’Neil Associates/ASBA Arizona Economic Indicators Monitor.  Results provide insights into the perceptions of business owners on the economic health and vitality of the Arizona economy.  The survey has a margin of error (at the 95% confidence level) of approximately +/-6%.  For a complete copy of all O’Neil Associates/ASBA Arizona Economic Indicators Monitor reports released to date, as well as opinion research reports on an array of other topics, click here.

Urp…never mind. State’s funds for Phoenix-Tucson rail study in doubt

[Source: Associated Press] — The federal government recently announced it is giving $1 million to Arizona to launch a study of proposed new passenger rail service between Phoenix and Tucson, but whether the state can come up with a matching $1 million is a question mark.  [Note: To read the full article, click here.]