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December 17, 2015


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Solution: 7 cities 1 billion each.
I'll be in Why.

The mortgage tax deduction is the most broadly extended regressive tax subsidy in the IRC. Let's give the same deduction to residential rents paid or repeal the mortgage tax deduction.

What say suburban Republicans and Republican thick real estate developers?

INPHX, how does that proposal effect the federal budget deficit?

Short of socialism/communism, I'm not sure how you remove the profit motive from any development, be it houses in the suburbs or new high-rises being built downtown. A new apartment tower surely requires costs incurred by the city/state as well, no? Don't light rail, bike lanes, bus routes, etc., and other projects also "cost" all taxpayers for the benefit of some?

Lastly, all the people who moved here had to live somewhere new -- growth had to occur and not all of it could be vertical as the city multiplied in size.

Can it be argued that the metro area sprawled much more than might have been necessary? Absolutely. But there were going to be tremendous costs (and benefits) to tremendous growth, regardless.

I'm not prescient enough to know what would've been more cost-efficient, ultimately, in such a grand calculus, but I imagine it would've involved more urban construction as well as still including significant sprawl and suburban construction.

That said, I don't want to be dismissive of Jon's argument, which is persuasively stated. There certainly are a lot of costs to sprawl, no question.

I do think a lot of what happened to Phoenix is chronologically driven; it just happened to explode during "the Age of the Automobile" and I'm sure it would've turned out differently if it had grown in a different period of American history.

People who hate cities (mostly older whites living in fear of black people) vote Republican for a reason. While it has a lot to do with misdirected rage - "look at that black person over there who got a mortgage in 1979! He caused the housing meltdown!" - some of it is real. You have the pleasure of driving all day from one forgettable place to another while living in an energy inefficient box too large by half. And then there are the paid propagandists in right-wing media helpfully suggesting you're a "winner" and "producer" for doing all this. And light rail sucks! Freedom means no choices!

I have some friends here in Portland who are thinking of moving to Chicago. It's not because Portland it too weird either. Rather, it has do do with the relative affordability of a world-class city with excellent transit. They can buy a condo designed by a big-name architect for roughly half the price they would pay here for something not as compelling while reducing their fleet of cars to just one. And the prevailing wage scale is higher.

Portland is hot mostly because it's a siphon for tech companies in San Francisco where affordability is so low that most employees cannot afford to buy anything in the city. Portland may be half as costly but it's catching up. Someday, in the not-so-distant future, it will price out anyone who is not rich. This is a success story and a tragedy. The tragedy is that the U.S. has so few cities with this kind of allure.

For some reason, young creative types don't fancy living in places like Surprise and Gilbert. Those places are affordable for a reason. Yes, you get a lot of square footage for the price but you're not living anywhere with a "there" factor. If you're lucky, there's an Applebee's in the power center near the freeway on-ramp. The lack of choices is dictated by your friendly real-estate industrial complex.

We did this to ourselves in the name of freedom but it came with several pages of fine print. Most of you won't want to read it but you don't have to. Just look out your window of your car as it whizzes by character-free housing pods at 65 mph. How sustainable will this be as energy costs rise and a globalized economy continues to put downward pressure on wages? Who will pay for a public square worth inhabiting? No worries. There won't be one. Just wide roads, chain retail, and cars, cars, cars.

You know you live in a nice place when people argue a lot about real things. Not made up "subjects" like abortion, Mexican hordes, and ISIS (courtesy of Fox News and and their friends at the RNC) but things like affordable housings, good transit, education, and infrastructure. That's what real cities are about. Daydream cities like Phoenix disguise the subject under layers of frothy outrage. It's why Phoenix looks like a city few people love. Because it is.

If you're not engaged by the real world, by compelling problems and the trade-offs required for actual solutions, you're living in a daydream. You come here and offer a one-size-fits-all solution that your local think tank conjures up. You'll deny the real world to the point you dismiss climate science as a sinister conspiracy theory. You'll conjure some Mayberry-like fantasy where you can vote people off the island who offend your "values" - no Syrians, please! It's your substitute life that engages so much of your energy that you no longer notice the actual ground you're walking on. Why should you? Everything is as simple as a movie. Say, Star Trek: The Oblivious Generation.

Soleri To get U back in touch with your spiritual mother I am recommending a transition for U to Lost Valley,Oregon. It's a short trip from the soon to be over run city of Portland, by the rich. U will be able to brew your own beer and grow your very own weed, plus some carrots. But U probably will need to trade your road bike for a off road bicycle.

Jon's column makes valid points. Soleri's rant makes no sense at all. He infers that Republicans think "light rail sucks", which flies in the face of the reality that, last August, Prop 4 in Phoenix (to increase the sales tax to, among other things, pay for more light rail) passed by a wide margin even though--according to a Democratic member of the Phoenix City Council--more Republicans than Democrats voted in the election. I stipulate that Republicans have often been on the wrong side of the infrastructure issue, but light rail is helping to change that, whereas Soleri's Trump-like insults are just as counterproductive as Trump's are.

I have given up my registration in the Republican party and registered as an Anglo Asshole. Hopefully this will reduce the number of times the words White and Republican appear in the blog.

Robert, I'm curious: why is your party giving a double-digit lead to Donald Trump? Once you figure that out, come back and tell me how sensible Republicans are, how they love light rail, how moderate they really are, etc. Because from my vantage point, I see people who lap up disinformation and propaganda by the barrelful. The resulting polarization has been very useful to certain well-connected people. It has paralyzed the government, driven income inequality to record heights, protected the fossil-fuel industry from things like a carbon tax, and made critical infrastructure investments all but impossible. Four of our Arizona's five GOP congresscritters are members of the hard-right Freedom Caucus, people who would devastate the economy with spending cuts along with crippling tax cuts at the top income brackets. There's no road back to sanity that is even being heard among your tribe unless you think John Kasich is kinda sorta reasonable.

One more thing: this is the internet. If disagreeable opinions make you angry, you might change the channel. Fortunately, there are several million to choose from.

I think many Republicans of a certain age are horrified by what the party has become.

Why are they still Republicans? An affinity to what they see as the party's historic accomplishments and ideals; they are center-right and don't feel welcome in the loudest parts of the Democratic Party; history and habits -- my grandmother became a lifelong Republican because of her love of Theodore Roosevelt and antipathy to Woodrow Wilson.

Remember, the GOP was once a mass political party. That it was always more proto-fascist and racist than the Democrats is as open to debate as the left's continuing dismissal of Reagan as an "amiable dunce."

Now these Republicans are outnumbered and outshouted and hoping the party will return to sanity. I fear it will not. When they go to vote and "democracy's sacred curtain" is closed behind them, I hope they will vote their historic convictions. And those aren't found in today's GOP.


Hummmm, how to think about the sprawl that Phoenix has become. I think L.A. minus 30 years is about right.

We tend to follow all the trends in LA minus 30 years. So we are finishing out our subdivisions now, which LA did 30 years ago- where the hell is Agora Hills? Oh yeah, look at Redlands.

Your urban confection only exists where there is sufficient demand to overcome the costs of building higher and denser.

Yes, the car enabled sprawl, but so did modern plumbing. The sewer system is a modern marvel that is still ignored by most of humanity- and clean water is too.

One of the biggest problems is that to build more complex housing requires larger, riskier projects- and failure is immense. Housing subdivisions are easier to start and stop based on demand.

Remember, urban housing in Phoenix suffered when the jobs in the central core flatlined. Without a significant number of jobs, the area did not have a large enough demand.

One of the other problems faced in the discussion is the desire of people to live in single family housing, even as older residents. Jon absolutely ignores the desire of people to sprawl as a direct result of the crowded cities of the late 19th and early 20th century.

North Philadelphia is a prime example: it supported urban densities of up to 20,000 people per square mile in crowded, dirty, tenement style conditions. While they could walk to work, they did not benefit from what we celebrate as urban conveniences. In short, crowded, filthy conditions. Here is a description of sanitation in Baltimore- notice how late sanitation improved: http://publicworks.baltimorecity.gov/Bureaus/WaterWastewater/SurfaceWater/HistoryoftheSystem.aspx

And yes, this was public investment to make cities more habitable.

When the first commuter rail lines came into being, the rich fled first, followed by the middle class. The car accelerated this flight from the cities into new housing- which after seeing what housing looked like up until after 1900 looks fantastic.

In short, the nostalgia for a smaller city has it's point- but Phoenix is a late 20th Century City, from top to bottom, with 90% of the growth post 1950.

Instead of the Irish Shanty Row Houses of Fishtown (which were all torn down and rebuilt into brick houses after the civil war- urban slum clearance and renewal!), we have the new linear slum of Maryvale.

But what we miss is the need to have employment for a younger more vibrant economy. So much of Phoenix now revolves around when the retirement check from Social Security hits to fund the monthly expenses. In short, while Phoenix looks large at 1.8 million, the workforce is 30% smaller than one would estimate because of the large number of retirees.

Here is an alternative viewpoint to Rogue's.


We who came of age in the 1960s remember the specter of Richard Nixon all-too well. He was at once "moderate", brilliant, and a little insane. It's the insanity part that fascinated me - the us vs them suggestions that Democrats were closet pinkos, for example. Once he got into the White House, he worked both sides of that aisle manically. He created the EPA, tried to get universal health care done, knowingly waged a fruitless war in Vietnam, and drove a wedge between Peking and Moscow. He was also the founder of the Southern Strategy, whose legacy is what informs today's cold civil war.

East Coast Republican titans are now almost completely vanished except for the Nixonian Chris Christie. Today's Republicans are virtually a wholly-owned subsidiary of oil and real-estate interests. Those special interests drove the suburbanization of the Sun Belt and are what's driving the radicalization of the GOP today. Republicans no longer see themselves as part of the real world so much as a reaction against it.

A good retort, CT. Worthy of Jules in the iconic scene of Pulp Fiction.

Still... I may want a pony but nobody will provide sustained, layered and multiple tax subsidies for it and at the destructive expense of other societal, environmental and economic goods. These in their entirety distinguish post-war sprawl from its more sustainable predecessors.

Had the costs been included, people might have made different choices.

As for LA/Phoenix, the two are hardly comparable. Phoenix has a superficial resemblance to "the Inland Empire" — without LA being adjacent. LA is a world city with an amazing array of assets that Phoenix lacks. And Phoenix is not on a trajectory to gain them in 30 years.

Soleri, why don't you figure out why your party nominated Barack Obama not once but twice? Both major parties are not what they used to be. I do not support Trump. You answered my post with yet another rant. Without Barack Obama there would have been no Donald Trump. Newton's Third Law of Motion at work: For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. Trump, Barack, and Hillary--three demagogues who have brought nothing to the table.

Good link soleri. The philosophy of the John Birch Society has been a cornerstone of the Republican Party for decades.

Rogue is a fine novelist, thinker and journalist. I respect him a lot. He is however a recovering Republican. His embrace of the right wing extremist for the era, Goldwater, is never ending. My guess is Rogue once supported the death penalty and was a card carrying member of the NRA. Those attributes would place him far right in my hometown.

Cal's feelings have been hurt by the blunt statements made against Republicans on this blog. How Arizona. Well Cal, lucky you weren't a liberal Democrat working in Phoenix during your career, you probably wouldn't have a pension now.

As I have posted before,Tempe is the perfect example of what can be done when a city has to look inward because it is landlocked by other cities and the Salt River Reservation..It has a walkable downtown,a town lake that is a destination for many,a transit system that isn't perfect but vastly superior to any other valley city.Thank God Chandler annexed the land south of Tempe as it forced the city to rethink it's whole ideas of sustainable growth of both jobs and residences.Tempe has a great mix of homes,condos,and apartments.And no fear of vertical development.
P.S. I'm not a city employee,jsut a happy resident.

Rearview Mirror,

Yes, I was an NRA member (card carrying) and supported the death penalty. That changed a long time ago. I never mindlessly defended Goldwater, who couldn't win a GOP school board primary today anyway.

As to Rob: What is your thing, and that of your co-religionists, about President Obama? He is the closest thing to a Jerry Ford Republican we have had since...well, Jerry Ford. Even the Affordable Care Act came out of the Heritage Foundation and was implemented at the state level by the Republican Party's 2012 presidential nominee.

As to Tempe, let me reprise my earlier note:

Tempe benefited from some visionary leadership, relatively progressive politics, being landlocked, not having the immense carrying costs of Phoenix, and especially the economic engine of ASU relative to its size.

In recent years the Real Estate Industrial Complex has been on Tempe's side in developing the offices and bringing in key tenants along Town Lake. (If Phoenix had done a lake in the Central Corridor, the playerz would have shunned it).

So far, so not bad for Tempe. Still, much of the new office space will not be convenient to transit until and unless a streetcar connects it to light rail. Tempe was also hit by losing the headquarters of US Airways, a major blow.

Tempe is almost entirely blandly suburban south of University. The same big, wide, deadly "streets" as everywhere in Phoenix. Its public library -- a good friend to me -- and museum are not downtown but in the auto zone at Rural and Southern. East of Rural are the newer car-based developments, especially Tempe Marketplace, that made most retail impossible on Mill and in downtown. I understand the real-world, sales tax reasons this was done. But it undermined the urban fabric of downtown and leached away most retail. The streetcar as planned will go nowhere near Tempe Marketplace.

Downtown Tempe has had many ups and downs, but it won't ever be the regional downtown. It is not the county seat. It is not the state capital or the center of the metropolitan area. It lacks the density, delights, history, authenticity and major assets of a big-city downtown.

So it's a better "boutique downtown" than any in the metro area. But we shouldn't think it can make up for what's lacking in downtown Phoenix. It can't (and neither can any suburb; most operate in opposition to Phoenix).

Why don't we establish right now what constitutes an "old-style" Republican? I think we have to go back to before the passage of the Civil Rights Act, unfortunately, since that was the driver of what the twenty-first century Republican is today. Let's look at Eisenhower: he was not a treasonous Neo-Confederate, like all of the "Freedom Caucus" is: he was a Midwestern Yankee, and he had only contempt for the billionaires who were even then trying to reverse the social and economic gains that were spurring the growth of the middle class after WWII: didn't bother pussyfooting around, he named names and said they were few, and they were stupid.
So, was Ike a rational, decent, old-style Republican, or was he too much of a Communist and a ni**er-lover? If he was a model Republican, what does that make every member of the "Freedom" Caucus? Strom Thurmond?

Soleri writes:

You'll conjure some Mayberry-like fantasy where you can vote people off the island who offend your "values" - no Syrians, please!.

Mayberry is an interesting analogy here as a sort of utopian ideal. In survey after survey of neighborhood real estate preferences where three types are provided: 1) urban; 2)suburban or 3)rural, rural always has the highest overall preference (across all ages, the majority of young people prefer urban). But when you look into the data at a more detailed level, what people actually want in a rural environment is a neighborly, small town atmosphere, low crime, and traditional main streets. This was Mayberry:
Mayberry wasn’t sprawl, it was a walkable place with front porch houses and mixed use buildings. When suburbia was first invented in Levittown, it was marketed as the best of both worlds: Mayberry with access to the jobs of a major city. Modernist planning and architecture combined with the mass production and standardization of real estate development resulted in an outcome that didn’t achieve this original vision. What it did achieve was racial homogeny, which was a perk to many whites for various reasons, racism being the biggest. However, as America gets less white and baby boomers die off (over the next 20 years all will be over 65 and almost half will be dead), the one thing suburbia had going for it is now a big negative. Surveys of young people still want the physical character of Mayberry but want the cultural diversity of Queens.
The overall point here I guess I’m making is that sprawl was never an American preference, it was and is an artificial creation of a government infiltrated by special interests: namely the automobile, real estate, and financial industries. It was a short blip of success fueled mainly by xenophobia which will soon be gone. This should be very worrisome for cities like Phoenix that are made up almost entirely of neighborhoods that people will not want, and never really have.

Without Barack Obama there would have been no Donald Trump.

This is why Trump is interesting. He's in no way an ideologue unless it comes with giant gold letters spelling out his name. He's a narcissist who intuitively gets what the GOP base is all about. They're beta dogs looking for the "strong leader" who will restore their rightful place in the order of American things. Why is Trump such an effective channel for their outrage? Because he personally understands their sense of insecurity. Here's a rich guy who plays the system well enough to marry eastern European sex dolls and live in ostentatious palaces. All that overcompensation seems to indicate something else, however. For Der Donald, it's that he probably gets that he would have been a nobody without his father's millions. In effect, he's a carnival barker with no bite. Underneath his glitzy facade is a just another beta dog who can't hold a candle to Obama. The birtherism is the clue. He's used to buying favorable press so why not buy bad press for the guy easily outclasses him? As with another beta dog, Joe Arpaio, he only cemented his reputation as a blowhard and asshole. Dumb White Trash Republicans hate Obama because he made it on his own. He'll go down in history as one of America's better presidents while people like Trump and Arpaio will be short chapters in America's multi-volume history of racsim.

Ex-Phx Planner, I understand exactly what you're saying but just to clarify: I don't use the Mayberry trope to mean anything in the actual world. Rather, it's a kind of lodestar of Reaganesque values - Morning in America, if you will - that seduces people with celluloid nostalgia. Almost all the actual charming towns that might have once been called Mayberries are pretty much ruined. Some survive as tourist meccas (e.g., Prescott, Aspen, Park City, Payson). There are some that are preserved by their rich homeowners (Mill Valley, CA, San Luis Obispo, CA, Westminster, MD, Telluride, CO), but most are simply empty shells of their former glory.

When I was a child the family would take trips to Lawton, OK to visit the relatives. I recall how magical it all was, from the beautiful old houses to the lively main street. After I got out of the Army in the late '60s, I paid another visit and I was shocked how deteriorated it was. In the space of 10 years, it had gone from wonderful to seedy. I suspect this story was written all over America, for reasons you summarized in your comment. Today, the main streets are largely empty except for antique stores and the real-world retail sector consists of either aging malls or the big box stores on the outskirts of town.

Given our history, I doubt we could have chosen differently. Most people, of course, were quite happy with what they saw. Newer was almost always better back in the '40s and '50s. Indeed, it was my experience that the backlash didn't really happen until the late '60s and much of that was driven by hippies looking for something "authentic" (which they found in places like Santa Fe and Taos, Central City and Nederland, Bisbee and Jerome, Luckenbach and Marfa, Brattleboro and Bennington, Northhampton and Stockbridge).

Politically, I think we need to understand that good places are more easily preserved than created (see: any New Urbanist project like Seaside). Craftmanship is an art form only a few practice and is antithetical to production housing. Our economy changed after WWII, and a lot of what made American cities and towns wonderful declined. As a liberal, I wrestle with the irony that the values I champion led to the homogenization and cheapening of American life. Or looked at from the opposite direction, there's no way to square my hippie-like sensibility with bigger and better cars and houses. If I can't resolve this in my own mind, I really doubt the country could have resolved it absent focused debate. That said, the culture war is conscious misdirection of people's anger. Mayberry never existed and propping it up as a cultural icon is nothing less than cynical. Republicans prey on the misinformed and semi-conscious with cultural touchstones that are usually just inventions from advertising firms.

Soleri, you would be more horrified by what Lawton became by the early 1980s. Almost all the downtown core was torn down in favor of Central Mall, a sterile suburban shopping mall plopped down where there were dense streets and historic buildings.


Rogue, thanks for the depressing picture. I now take back every negative thing I've ever said about Mesa.

This is one way to tie politics in with suburban dreck, if somewhat tangentially. Lawton was home to Oklahoma's legendary blind senator, Thomas Gore, a progressive Democrat. Today, Oklahoma would no sooner elect a Democrat to high office than a member of ISIS. Gore's daughter Nina was born there and later married Eugene Vidal (Amelia Earhart's longtime paramour) who were parents to the novelist Gore Vidal. I was reading in Vidal's memoir Palimpsest that Thomas Gore was born in Walthall, Mississippi. I say that only because that's my real name. My grandmother in Lawton lived in a wonderful old house on Gore Boulevard, named for the senator. That's where I was conceived. Coincidence? I think not.

Oklahoma in my memory was utterly wonderful. Today, not nearly so much although Oklahoma City is making a fairly strong comeback. http://www.urbanophile.com/2015/12/07/mayor-mick-cornett-explains-oklahoma-citys-transformation/

I can't help but wonder if deindustrialization and the deteriroration of local economies have facilitated the rise of right-wing extremism. Oklahoma, like most other red states, is culturally and politically reactionary. Arizona, I would argue, is not nearly so reactionary in the cultural sense. I think that's an advantage going forward but absent real strong urban nodes, I'm not sure Arizona will rise to "purple", let alone "blue".

Here's my ode to a lost Oklahoma small town:


Part of my family lingered longer in Oklahoma than common sense should've dictated, and it was never Mayberry country, it never had time to be. By the turn of the twentieth century, it was still eight years from statehood, and still easily the most lawless, wide-open place left in the lower forty-eight. Most of the small towns were dens of vice and violence, and the closer the ones to the (dry) Indian Territory were, the more dangerous they were. With statehood, the farmers began to grouse about the abuse they were getting from the railroads and the government, culminating in the rise of a very strong Socialist movement (which eventually culminated in leftist terror groups like the Grange Co-op). Even into the twenties and thirties, it was a breeding ground for white gangsters with a grudge against authority: Floyd, the Barrows, those definitely weren't good traffic stops for a Barney Fife.

Mayberrys of the world are about numbers.

Today there are five billion more folks in the (non Mayberries) world than 1950.
The Seventeenth United States Census, conducted by the Census Bureau, determined the resident population of the United States to be 150,697,361, an increase of 14.5 percent over the 131,669,275 persons enumerated during the 1940 Census.[1]

Mayberry for Calvin.


Indianola (Mayberry) Iowa
I was born near Mayberry (Indianola) and on three occasions lived and or went to school there. I was born in a farm house, no doctor and no birth certificate. The farm was located slightly off Highway 69 and in the river bottom of Middle River. And just Down the hill from my mother’s Calvinistic Church.

I attended a country school in Warren County that had two outhouses, girls on the right boys on the left. It also had a large horse barn as most everyone walked or rode a horse. I do not recall anyone coming to school in a car. I also attended Hawthorne Grade school and Indianola High School. Indianola in 1940 to 1950 had about 4500 folks in the city limits. The surrounding area was populated mostly by small farms from 80 to 160 acres. The town was built around the Warren County seat Court house that included a police station and a jail. The perimeter lawn had trees and benches where old men sat and lied to each other when not talking about the weather. The Court house was surrounded by four paved streets approximately a block in length. The four blocks had a two story Penney’s with an escalator and an electronic wire that moved money and paper items around. There was a bank on one corner and a bar on another. Also a shoe store a five and dime and a pool hall. A movie theatre (10 cents) and a barbershop. A drug store and a café. In 1949 I was the town paper boy and got free meals at the cafe. That winter I bought coal for our furnace as my (Roosevelt Democrat) parents were out of work. And two blocks off the town square was an A&P grocery store and a big flying Red Horse gas station with Centrifugal gas pumps filled at the top with kool-aid appearing gas. 20 cents a gallon. The Grade School was a few blocks off the town square and on two main Highways. The High school was about two blocks off the main square. And churches were within walking distance of the town center. The poverty and the cold were definitely not a plus but overall there was a sense of calm and pleasantness in this kids Mayberry.

Then we moved to Sunnyslope Arizona where I continued my paper routes and learned about toilet paper. Thank god no more corn cobs.

In 1950 my Democrat father (with a pneumonia problem in Iowa) easily secured a job in Arizona as in those days jobs in Arizona were for registered democrats. He went on to become president of a local Union and when he switched jobs he again was a union man and retired in Arizona as a registered Democrat with two pensions.

AZ in my rear view mirror, I have been a registered Republican most my life. But I have also been a Union member and a Union president. And I worked hard to secure a pension and good benefits. Some of these came as a result of some good Arizona Republican politician’s involvement.

It’s near impossible to hurt my curmudgeon feelings but I think the constant repeating of words sometimes diminishes the effect that one is trying to emphasize. Fuck can be an effective word but it’s over use seriously reduces its effect. Hence my recommendation of Anglo Asshole for White Republican.

Keep in mind for me to become a registered democrat would just add a number. To remain a Republican at least I can appear to be a reasonable and somewhat sane Republican.

No one on this blog howls more about externalities (or, as I call them, pricing distortions) more than I do. This country is FULL of them- left, right, and in the middle. Other than the budget deficit (and the new budget is yet another step in the wrong direction), pricing distortions are the number one economic problem in this country.

If sprawl should cost more, than it should pay more. Count me cynical about the numbers, though.

Only the staggering inefficiencies of government could result in the cost of public services exceeding the increased property taxes (forever) when 60 acres of vacant land are turned into homes.

And even for them, I imagine they have to try to mess it up.

BTW, I grew up in a duplicate of Mayberry. Population about 3,000- the city was exactly one square mile. It's still holding on. Doors never locked, generations knew generations, many stayed. Steal a candy bar? The woman behind the counter plays cards with your mom.

You big city guys have NEVER experienced that level of community and connection. I went back for a homecoming not too long ago- probably had 30 emails from families I hadn't talked to in years to stop on by.

I understand small and rural. I recall one could stop by a farm house and even if no one was home it was allright to fix yourself a sandwich and a glass of milk and take a nap on the couch

And re Jon and the NRA, my father the Democrat was a life time NRA member. However this lifetime Republican and retired cop has never been an NRA member.
The NRA today like the Zealots of GOP today is not the NRA or the GOP OF yesterday.


You big city guys have NEVER experienced that level of community and connection. I went back for a homecoming not too long ago- probably had 30 emails from families I hadn't talked to in years to stop on by.

Last time I checked, Phoenix was a big city. Granted, it looks like a bloated suburb (aka, Lubbock on steroids), but the winters are pleasant.

The wonders of Mayberry are like any TV ad where you see someone driving a new Cadillac up a wet street to a picture-perfect Victorian house. The visuals always tug at our heartstrings and just maybe, we think, a Cadillac could time-machine us back to this better day.

Helpful hint: it won't. In 1980, for example, a Victorian house on Prescott's Mt Vernon Avenue would cost around $40,000. Today, it would price out around $750,000.

The Republican Party celebrates a fiction where old-time values and Ayn Rand lie together in a haystack making free-market babies for misty-eyed rubes. The reality is somewhat different, sad to say. Most of those rubes want to work in something other than agriculture, and the jobs tend to be in places where Mayberries aren't.

But nostalgia sells, so the "family values" party cynically exploits the felt need for community on behalf of corporate behemoths who don't give a rat's ass about anything that quaint. All we have to do is put an x in the checklist next to (a) Fetuses are babies, (b) The rich worked hard, stop complaining, (c) Jesus wants us to drive, Satan wants us take the train, (d) and Black Lives Matter is a terrorist organization.

By all means, send e-mails back to Dogpatch and celebrate Real America over potato salad in a Muslim-free small town. Just remember: 97% of America lives in a dramatically-different landscape mostly thanks to the unbridled capitalism you advocate. You can blame liberals for America not looking like Mayberry but the real blame lies with our jet-fueled economy that turned the country upside down for the sake of quick bucks and expanded markets. As someone who grew up in a lovely small city, I regret all that. But I don't forget for a moment that it was Republicans who mock my nostalgia for old buildings, trains, streetcars, and even bicycles. Sure, they love Mayberry. Just like they do any money-making theme park in a soulless suburb.

TODAY there are more Democrats in (MAYBERRY) Indianola Iowa than Republicans. Population in 1950, 5000. TODAY 15000.

Cal piqued my interest, so I checked out Indianola on Google Earth and elsewhere.

Although it doesn't appear to have a Main Street of classic commercial buildings, it is a relatively intact and compact little town. In today's America, this is a huge accomplishment. By contrast, Prescott, which has a wonderful old core, is degraded by a mess of sprawl on its fringes.

One big thing Indianola has going for it: No Interstate highways or other freeways. And I assume a willingness of farmers and/or agricultural trusts to keep land from being subdivided to become tract houses.

It does have a Wal-Mart upon the Holy Parking Lot. Thus, not much of a commercial downtown.

@RC: oddly I agree with most of this post, starting with “…largely lacks the choice of a vibrant downtown and real urban neighborhoods.” Using Google “street-scape” has its limitations, but I think it gives a fairly good idea about the nature of a place. Even Phoenix’s Right Coast little brother, Orlando, has a couple of in town neighborhoods I think I could live in. Phoenix: zilch.

Re: “I don’t “get” the appeal of suburbia, much less the exurbia…”. Well, I don’t “get” the idea of dense, high-rise in town living; really like the idea of low-rise in town neighborhoods. Suburbia comes in many flavors. The best rule of thumb might be “the newer it is the worse”. The same could be said of urban neighborhoods. The truth is, 99% of everything built everywhere since WWII sucks.

Re: the photo intro to the article: I lived in a neighborhood in Tokyo, in 1972 that was about of the same density. It was very pleasant and mostly walkable. But it was built on a grid and wasn’t strictly residential. A commercial “ginza street” was nearby, as was the train station.

On a side note, I had to make a trip to deepest-darkest new suburbia recently on a car repair mission. This site and a couple of others have sensitized me to certain things. My reaction was “my God. This is appalling”.

Re: “heavily subsidized….mortgage tax deduction”: This deduction applies of every mortgage, everywhere. Buy a condo or loft in town with a mortgage – presto – tax deduction. Buy an apartment building in-down – ditto. Every tax filing entity, regardless of the line of business, recognizes interest as a legitimate expense. Every entity keeping accounting records – even non-profits – recognize this expense. The fact that the building owner, and not the renter, is utilizing the deduction doesn’t mean that it doesn’t exist – or is a subsidy.

Admittedly, owner-occupied residences in suburbia probably outnumber urban residences by a factor of 9 to 1.

A related issue – but an important one I think – is the failure of cities, particularly ones you’d actually like to live in, to add new residential units. In fact, most do not add units at a rate to replace units that have deteriorated to the point where they are hazardous.

One more and I quit. Re: “Lacking the density of downtowns, these areas are extremely inefficient in their use of these services.” I’d theoretically have to agree with you. Even the conservative site “City Journal” agrees. See:


Here’s my issue: If dense cities are so efficient, why aren’t the services and infrastructure vastly superior to what you find in suburbia. In most cases, it’s not only not better,it’s worse – far worse.

I am surprised and pleased to see how many others here have Oklahoma connections. Both sides of my family hail from Oklahoma and I still have more family there than anywhere else by a long shot.

Of the two rural Oklahoma towns my parents were from, one is basically dead and is a poor town, populated mostly by elderly people, with no real commerce in the town (although the ranch and farm land outside of town still exists, of course). The other was large enough to stay alive and always had 10,000-plus residents, and experienced significant growth over the last ten years or so due to the oil and wind boom out that way. It was significant and unexpected growth, at least from my eyes having grown up visiting there and it never seeming to change, then all of a sudden thousands of new people are coming to a community that was largely generational prior to that.

"Truth suffers from to much analysis."
Frank Herbert.

The first photo is sorta similar to the farm house I was born in near Carlisle Iowa.


the second is the one room school house I went to. It is now a community center minus one outhouse and the horse barn.


Indianola is the Hot Air Balloon place to go along with a big destination for old motorcycle riders.

thats the second photo down on the left.

go Bernie

My family were Southern Democrats/Presbyterian (Virginia to Kentucky to Indiana to Iowa) in Iowa from around 1840, and when the Civil War was looming, all the conscription age men lit out the Oregon Trail with their families, and there were a hell of a lot of Southern Democrats from all over the Union Frontier doing the same. It helps explain the lingering Southern attitudes across the Midwest, as well as the initial surge of White Separatists who peopled the Northwest. That pre-war wave was already too late for claiming lush, fertile land around passive natives west of the Cascades, so they were stuck on the harsh Eastern side with really pissed off, warlike indians,and jeez, this thread sure went off topic, sorry...

InPHX writes:

Only the staggering inefficiencies of government could result in the cost of public services exceeding the increased property taxes (forever) when 60 acres of vacant land are turned into homes

Inefficiency is the correct word but it's not a government operational issue, it's a policy issue. It's pretty simple when you think about it. The cost of building and maintaining infrastructure and public services over a larger area with fewer taxpayers (or "low density") will always be higher, per taxpayer. As infrastructure ages, there comes a point in the size of the footprint relative to the tax base where it becomes un-sustainable. Cities are then left with the decision to cut services or raise taxes. Not a good position to be in but it's one Phoenix has been in for about 10 years.

Aside from all the other vulnerabilities of sprawl, such as a rise in the cost of oil, when the costs are coupled with a decrease in the tax base (due to a decline in the demand to live in a city, as measured by lower property values) you have an ongoing fiscal crisis on your hands. This is also where Phoenix currently is and although some moves are being made to address it (light rail expansion, downtown development, etc.) it's nowhere near a large enough response given the magnitude of the problem. Bold, transformative changes are needed in Phoenix but the Weak Mayor system of government prevents democracy from working to solve the problem.

Good post Ex phx planner. How about some solutions pretending we had a strong mayoral government.

Pat it's not off subject. Jon told me a long time ago to feel free to post "most " anything that came to my insanity driven by fermented Sajuaro juice.

Don't the Tohono O'odham use spit to get that kick-started, or is that Apache Tizwin?

South works better than Windex.

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