UPDATE: Pearce becomes the first legislator in Arizona history recalled and Stanton is elected Phoenix mayor. Read on if you wish. Definitely join the comment thread.
I've been predicting that Russell Pearce will survive his recall election, but what will it really mean if he's defeated by Jerry Lewis? The district still ends up with a know-nothing lightweight. Yes, it will be a nice screw you to Pearce, the father of SB 1070. But it won't change either the pathology in the Legislature or in the East Valley. It was telling that Mesa Mayor Scott Smith, a conservative and Mormon but not a nut, chose not to run (he may have bigger ambitions, but could no better opposition to Pearce be found?). Whatever the outcome, the house (and Senate) that Pearce built will remain. The NRA will remain as powerful as ever. Ditto the Real Estate Industrial Complex and the private prison con. Jan Brewer will still be governor. Tell me what I'm missing. One observer predicted Pearce would run for sheriff when Joe finally retires.
The Phoenix mayoral election, on the other hand, is of major importance. Greg Stanton's internal polls, I am told, show him comfortably ahead of Wes Gullett. The danger here is that potential Stanton voters will stay home, so I am hesitant to even report this. That Gullett ever got this far is a sign that anyone with common sense had better get to the polls.
This contest has been narrowed down to the national meme of "public-sector workers bad." That's most unfortunate. There is indeed an ole-boys system in Phoenix government, but it involves the highly placed, most notoriously the double-dipping of former Police Chief Jack Harris. What's really wrong inside City Hall may be outside the ability of any mayor to fix because it's rooted in the council-manager form of government. Whoever is city manager, the Titanic keeps sailing along. One small example: Spending large sums for consultants to generate reports that could have been done better and cheaper by the city staff. That might have been different had David Krietor or Ed Zuercher (or Sheryl Sculley) been selected city manager. That they weren't tells you everything you need to know. The many interests that feed off the City Hall status quo want things to continue as before.
I don't really give a rat's ass if the garbage gets collected in All-White-Tukee or the billboards are too high in far north Phoenix or whatever-the-hell in Desert Ridge. Five-hundred square miles of city is Phoenix's burden. It's just a mess of sprawl. LA is a mess of sprawl, too, but its 500 square miles are also filled with world-class economic assets. Big difference. The entire "urban village" concept is bankrupt. Instead of 15 distinct districts, the city has ended up with 15 arbitrarily drawn messes, many dying linear slums, but each one demanding the same treatment as downtown. Even without the suburbs stealing Phoenix's diminishing economic jewels, the city cannibalizes itself. The Biltmore district does relatively well simply because it's adjacent to Scottsdale and Paradise Valley. This is success?
With Gullett hijacking the debate, the important things have been kept safely locked away. How will Phoenix compete for talent and capital in the world economy, in the new hard times, with its many self-inflicted wounds and the hostility of a statehouse owned by the hard right? What will it take to build out the biosciences campus and leverage ASU downtown and the UofA med school in order to create many high-paid jobs? What about the heat island, air pollution, water and the desperate need for more shade, especially as climate change makes the Valley less tenable? How do you elevate the economy and social condition of a city built on the cheap, with extremely expensive sprawl, especially since the old growth machine is not (feel me, Grady?), not coming back? And if it did (it's not), it won't play to Phoenix's advantage. What about transportation options, walkable neighborhoods, quality density? Hello-o-o! Oh, for the debates that never happened.
The old merchant class is long dead, as are the stewards, the major headquarters and any private entities that might act as a pluralistic force for good, or even different ideas. Instead, far-right politics, the sprawl builders and institutions feeding on tax dollars make up what might be called leadership in Arizona, even in Phoenix. That said, Stanton is the only choice for Phoenix to have a chance.