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January 25, 2018

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Great write Rogue!

For the first time in many years, I've bookmarked this piece. Good job, Jon.

Yes, this is a fantastic write up. Moved to Phoenix in 1990, always had a feeling that I missed something and I was too late. I'll never know what that "something" was, but I am quite sure I was correct.
Thank you.

Great article. I remember that the sprawl actually began way before the nineties. Probably post war with the return of veterans. It really began to accelerate in the 60's and just kept on exploding until the present time. Who could ever have envisioned housing developments virtually to New River and Lake Pleasent? The real question is: where and when will it ever end.

Keep on "tellimg it like it is" Jon.

I took a side trip to various high-desert cities this week with the endpoint being El Paso. It looks a lot like Tucson and its downtown, while fairly dismal, contains some astonishing gems, many designed by its foremost architect Henry Trost of Luhrs Tower fame. El Paso was an important city at one time but it now feels like an also-ran.

Las Cruces is the kind of small city that either charms you with its remote location and blue skies or immiserates you with a dark feeling that you're marooned on a faraway planet. Agriculture gave LC its original purpose, which now seems to be little more than box shopping and driving. Fortunately, New Mexico State University provides an economic backstop.

Douglas is home to one of Arizona's greatest public spaces, the lobby of the Hotel Gadsden. Sadly, the former mining powerhouse today is a basket case, its economy more or less dependent on transfer payments from the federal government and Border Patrol. Bisbee is about 25 miles away while Mexico is next door but under lock and key. Driving back to Phoenix through Tucson, I got into a funk seeing sprawl vectors 20 miles north of Oracle. This horror has been in the making for a long time and old hippies like me couldn't change a thing.

I think the Phoenix problem is whether a city can be better than something we might call its geographic destiny. In the 1990s, it was becoming clear that Phoenix's arc was flattening. Central Avenue, once our gleaming boulevard of the future, suddenly seemed embattled. Tagging exploded while retail contracted. As with many other second-tier cities, it seemed as if its economic muscle had weakened. Phoenix still had attractive neighborhoods and a kind of allure that comes from proximity to one of the planet's most enchanting ecosystems. If you loved poolside parties with Dos Equis Ambers and chile rellenos, it was nearly heaven.

The fifth largest city in the nation should ideally be more than Palm Springs on steroids, however. The self-doubts about its seriousness expresses itself as cheerleading in some perky souls, or existential angst in others who sense the sadness behind the happy talk. The power elite went with what works and sprawl became a self-justifying explanation for our civic purpose.

By the late '90s, the malaise appeared to be lightening somewhat. Crime was going down nationally and the Back to the Cities movement was accelerating. Big proposals like WilloWalk (now Tapestry on Central) suggested there was hope Phoenix might build an urban future on its relatively weak bones. This proved harder in practice than theory, however. As Arizona Center demonstrated, there's no substitute for the organic complexity of cities. Make believe won't get you there.

The perennial efforts at reinvention are tinged with desperation. We have had very smart people reaching into the urban revival toolkit without actually changing Phoenix's underlying reality. Phoenix worked well when it was largely Anglo and the nation was still a manufacturing power. It works less well when the city became too amorphous to be marketed as socially and economically dynamic. It's extremely difficult to retrofit suburbs as alpha cities.

The past is always prelude even as we freely speculate about what might have been. If everyone thought like me (or Rogue) Phoenix might have been a better city although counterfactuals are hardly proof of anything. Phoenix's destiny was a compound of many factors some of which we can scarcely imagine let alone define. Randomness is a miracle in the same way people who meet on a dark street and somehow find they had known each other in childhood. Wishing that childhood was different really misses the wonder of it all.

Soleri-'The perennial efforts at reinvention are tinged with desperation. We have had very smart people reaching into the urban revival toolkit without actually changing Phoenix's underlying reality. Phoenix worked well when it was largely Anglo and the nation was still a manufacturing power. It works less well when the city became too amorphous to be marketed as socially and economically dynamic. It's extremely difficult to retrofit suburbs as alpha cities."
You are so correct.When i came here in the 60's it was awash with engineers working for Motorola or Western Bell.Manufacturing built all the Hallcraft homes in Scottsdale and Maryvale.It fueled the city's growth until the 80;s when the financial grifters took over and gave us the s&l debacle and the meltdown of the 2000's.I was in new home construction and remember thinking-surely the Drigg's and Keating's know what they are doing-boy did I have it wrong.Oh well-it was fun while it lasted.

Soleri-'The perennial efforts at reinvention are tinged with desperation. We have had very smart people reaching into the urban revival toolkit without actually changing Phoenix's underlying reality. Phoenix worked well when it was largely Anglo and the nation was still a manufacturing power. It works less well when the city became too amorphous to be marketed as socially and economically dynamic. It's extremely difficult to retrofit suburbs as alpha cities."
You are so correct.When i came here in the 60's it was awash with engineers working for Motorola or Western Bell.Manufacturing built all the Hallcraft homes in Scottsdale and Maryvale.It fueled the city's growth until the 80;s when the financial grifters took over and gave us the s&l debacle and the meltdown of the 2000's.I was in new home construction and remember thinking-surely the Drigg's and Keating's know what they are doing-boy did I have it wrong.Oh well-it was fun while it lasted.

The things that made Phoenix "humane" and "intriguing" seem to have been deliberately cast aside when Phoenix decided to become BIG. As in so many of these "ambitious" dreams, the human element--and intimacy quotient--becomes an afterthought that the "empathetically displaced" yearn for. But, as Thomas Wolfe said, "you can't go home, again." The greed which drove those who saw Phoenix as needing to be "big for big's sake" trampled underfoot a beauty one might liken to the extinct species that live on only in dreams. Greed often exterminates tranquility and esthetic beauty on its altar of profits.

My family moved to Phoenix in 1954. I left in 2002. I saw it all happen. I now live and teach in a small town in Georgia and love it (but I DO miss real Mexican food.).

All the things that made Phoenix cool and unique seem to have become a sea of red tiled roofs. The Japanese Flower gardens in South Phoenix (which you could smell for miles), the orange groves, the old theaters that are now high rises and bus stations.

At least a few "developers" got rich.

Gee, the commenters above talk about how manufacturing built Phoenix, but it built all of America- and here is one of the primary architects of destroying America lamenting the obvious results: https://www.aei.org/publication/men-without-work-2/

Gee, no jobs, no middle class.

America does not understand why Trump won- this is why.

Now, once again, everybody is lamenting the huge numbers of lousy service jobs, but without good high level manufacturing, meh.

The financial and real estate industries are essentially service industries- and our base is the huge numbers of people retiring to Arizona. No real growth beyond that deadly minimal social security inflation increase. So, we have a lot of older cars driven low miles, and a lot of car repair places.

So, next look at rural Arizona, population declines in places without nice scenery and background. I think that places with population declines are in real trouble, and Phoenix may be next to have some decline, especially if the immigration deals are done and enforced (far greater population of DACA and illegal than estimated)- and that decline in population will drop low end real estate values and start slumification again.

Which nobody expects, do they?

The really terrifying part was Trump is simply an opportunistic blowhard who got in front of a huge trainwreck in America.

And if you look close, neither the Dems or the biz Republicans have offered any real relief- instead they want more immigration and free trade- all of which is guaranteed to further immiserate the disappearing middle class.

But hey, our empire is doing well, with perpetual war and huge money flowing out to support it...and then there is healthcare.

Fuhgedaboudit. We are done, and until we reorganize our economy and country to make a new Deal, it will get worse- and what comes next might solve those problems at the expense of our Republic.

Do you mean, for instance, if we had a Manhattan Project aimed at renewable energy in all of its many forms, including R&D, manufacture, installation, and maintenance, in the process retraining millions of Rust Belt workers, instead of trying to make sure those 30,000 coal miners stay on the happy road to black lung disease and methamphetamine addiction?

Something like that?

Gee, I wonder which political party would get behind that and which would oppose it?

I remember 1984 when a New Deal Democrat, the hapless Walter Mondale, ran against Mr. Morning in America. He suffered one of the greatest landslide defeats ever when the industrial heartland decided tax cuts for the rich, anti-union labor law, and greater income inequality would make America great again. If you have to ask why, then you need your hearing tweaked to catch high-pitched dog whistles.

There are a lof of reasons why manufacturing declined in America (see Winner Take All Politics by Jacob Hacker and Paul Pierson for a compelling history), but the larger truth remains that we are not one nation. It's easy for the rich to scam the working class and elderly with wedge issues and then walk away with the spoils of their cynicism. Democrats are permanently disadvantaged in this way. If you respect complexity and sane policy analysis, voters, along with a few pols (see: Bernie Sanders), will damn you as somehow uncaring. That said, we don't need two insane political parties. One has done enough damage already to threaten the survival of our democracy.

Forgive me but no post this week. I have a bad cold.

Airborne tablets and whiskey. You need to get your blood alcohol level to where the germs feel unwelcome.

The Doctor

(My nickname on my high school football team was "the doctor". I never found out why.)

Hope you feel better soon.

“That said, we don't need two insane political parties.” Well yes, but more significantly we need a Democratic Party that is committed to winning. The insane party is winning and it may already be too late for the measured party. Another generation of right wing America.

drifter, to paraphrase you, another generation of right-wing, "the rest of the world is supposed to lionize us and smooch our heinies," hopelessly stuck-on-stupid, patri-idiotic, ugly americans.

drifter, I'm fond of saying (and repeating ad nauseum) that there's only one progressive coalition. When the purists in our coalition decide to sit out elections because they are offended by the human stain of ordinary Democrats, Republicans win. We don't have to look deep into history to see what results (see: George W Bush and Donald J Trump).

I assure you I want to win, which means I'll take the less-than-perfect centrist in lieu of the metaphysically pristine liberal. For example, Krysten Sinema. Already I hear the rumblings of our too-good-for-this world progs wanting to smite this heretic more than combat demonstrably insane right-wingers.

I already have this foreboding sense that 2020 promises to be more of the same. What should be a slam dunk may turn once again on the sensitivities of people offended that their pet causes haven't been sincerely addressed (say, GMOs, drones, a single-payer litmus test, chemtrails, free-trade treaties, etc).

Democrats have to walk a high wire in which they appeal to the better angels of the electorate while not degrading reality to a point that burlesques the entire process. Republicans, by contrast, can dog whistle the Horst Wessel song and the base will swoon. Democrats are not so lucky since we are a coalition rather than a tribe. This is the nub. We have to accept the fact that we're not going to win like Republicans do (that is, obscenely). We can and must pull together in light of this reality. That said, I'd rather lose than sacrifice my decency as a human being.

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