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February 16, 2009

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Wow! Another top-drawer blog item, Mr. Talton. As a matter of fact, I was going to send a hyperlink to that story, along with some telling quotes, on the off-chance that you'd overlooked it. Obviously that wasn't necessary.

The "I told you so" factor was most evident in the initial paragraphs of the story, describing the phenomenon, and in quotes such as this one:

"We can't keep doing this," said Shannon Scutari, Arizona's policy adviser for growth and infrastructure. "Our method for growing is broke, and there's no quick fix. We must have sustainable growth and solid ways of tracking and supporting it."

It was only after a second reading that I began to see how ambiguous the story actually was.

Take that quote, for instance. Exactly what does Ms. Scutari mean, and what does she and similar leaders and opinion makers propose? We don't know, because the Arizona Republic saw fit to represent alternative views (to the real-estate industrial complex) by a vague, blurb-length remark.

How can we possibly work toward such goals if the state's newspaper of record remains so afraid of stepping on toes that giving the "loyal opposition" IN THE ESTABLISHMENT a full and equal voice (or at least an opportunity to expound their views) remains taboo?

Thank goodness we have the Rogue Columnist to flesh out both the problem and some of the possible solutions.

I think the problem is that no one knows how entrepreneurial businesses really work in Phoenix and how they create jobs. And they never wanted to learn because it was too easy to keep investing in real estate.

I've been hear for forty years, and I bemoan the sprawl, too, because I came here to live in the desert and now I can't even find it. Every place I used to go to find desert or farm is now subdivision: Chandler, Gilbert, Queen Creek, Reach 11, New River -- they are all exurban now. But I am still fighting for downtown. Just moved my real estate license to Julian Blum's Infill Realty Services and am going to try to market some of these empty condos because at least they are near the light rail now and a center for jobs. You do what you can.

You are right about the Kookacracy, until they completely and utterly devastate Phoenix and AZ, only then will they be thrown out and things can begin to improve. It's heart-rending for this hometown lad to see what has been, is being, and will be done.

Maybe Talton acting like a completely unprofessional asshole in front of the Scottsdale City Council had anything to do with it?

Sure didn't prevent the blog author from clearing over $500k on his property before the crash!

As an old Phoenix native, I remember the rough magic of this place. There are still a few scraps here and there but for the most part it's gone. I was as foolish as anyone and didn't even mourn its passing until it was much too late. Then I become dyspeptic and cynical, too wounded to care much or wonder.

Talton's columns opened the wound for me, exposing it to air and light. It was good to understand the missing components of a city struggling to be vital. It was equally valuable to understand a place well enough that the love could peak through the criticism. All those dreary years of breathless boosterism couldn't hide our lack of love. Rather, they just compounded the pain of a place too eager to be something else for people from somewhere else.

The coming depression will brutally expose the dumb and craven choices we've made for 50 years. Still, there's a possible upside in a growth machine that's seized up and frozen. Maybe something will seed in its shadow, something that reminds us why we loved this city in the first place.

--"Maybe Talton acting like a completely unprofessional asshole in front of the Scottsdale City Council had anything to do with it?"

It seems that acting un-professionally has come to mean anyone who has the audacity to go against the status quo.

--"Sure didn't prevent the blog author from clearing over $500k on his property before the crash!"

Wouldn't Mr. Talton be a pretty poor economics journalist if he didn't know how to make a little money?

Moved to extreme northeast Phoenix metro almost four years ago from Portland. One semantical thing that bugs me is the reference that Phoenix is the fifth largest city in the country. That may be as far as city limits go. Then the next sentence will reference 'the Valley". The Phoenix metro area, "the Valley", is the nations 15th largest metro just behind Seattle. I'm not even sure that it makes any difference except to infer that "the Valley" is the fifth largest metro area in the country defines the importance of size to many who live here. What defines the Valley to us is simply the desert. We don't see much of the natural habitat reflected in new buildings downtown. (Or many other places here either.) Love to see Phoenix area develop an Urban Growth Boundary where all new development would go through some kind of scrutiny. The other issue that I don't see anybody dealing with is water. I take that back...Tucson is dealing with water issues because they're almost out of it.

"Maybe Talton acting like a completely unprofessional asshole in front of the Scottsdale City Council had anything to do with it?"

Ooh - I'd love to hear this story. Jon?

Touche! Nice one Joanne!

Well, Petro, I hate to waste time addressing the trolls that followed me from the Republic (but, hey, their page views are as good as anyone's -- and now I control the site, so they can't shut it down with profanity as happened to me and Richard Reulas at the Rep.)

The event was not a City Council meeting, but a town hall, where I was asked to give the inaugural speech on sustainability for Scottsdale. The anti-transit, "property rights," pro-gun, blah-blah-blah people thought they would set an ambush and take over during the Q&A. I declined to let it happen. They're so humorless they didn't get the jokes at their expense. My favorite line toward the end was on the order of, "Why are you such sore winners? Phoenix will never be like Portland. Scottsdale won't build light rail. Every inch of land in central Arizona is platted for subdivisions. You've got what you want. Why are you such sore winners?" (I still find it fascinating that these folks are so afraid of any competing ideas.)

Afterward, Scottsdale officials and audience members apologized repeatedly for the small crew of thugs -- saying these are the people who disrupt City Council meetings and scare anyone from doing anything progressive. Well, Homey's not running for Council, so I didn't have to give them yet another platform for their discredited ranting.

As for the house: It was in the neighborhood where I grew up (Willo), built in 1914, and we intended to live there for the rest of our lives -- not flip it for a quick profit and move farther out. Willo is a real neighborhood, where people keep faith with the city, and it is as sustainable as one can get in Phoenix. Unfortunately, after the powerful interests scared the crap out of the Republic bigs, they gave me an ultimatum -- and I chose to leave.

Wow, Jon. Just wow.

Like Bill, I made the Portland to Phoenix transition in the past decade. Sometimes I regret it, but I've spent nearly equal time in each place now which gives me my own unique perspective on each place. Different places, different phase of my life. Not sure if either one would have worked for me if I had somehow swapped them.

Anyway, while many focus on the differences between the two (climate being prime example), I am often shocked at the similarities in their economics. Both have relied heavily on migrants coming to their state to drive the economic growth. Oregon courted and relied on tech from California, Arizona picked housing alone as it primary industry. Yet two bubbles later and both are out of luck.
Light-rail and the urban growth boundary in Oregon did not save the state from once again coming in near the top in unemployment recently.

The question will be, which state (Oregon or Arizona) will likely recover first?

Oregon has fantastic qualify of life, in my opinion. But, I think the state still failed to diversify and prepare itself for the fall of technology. Like Arizona, they believe in their boosterism too much.

Here is an oddball take on Oregon. It mostly seems "kook" to me, but I do agree with the housing tie-in. Oregon timber was boosted by housing. And transplants from California did drive housing growth for a long time. That all seems to be gone for now.

http://www.forbes.com/2009/02/16/oregon-jobs-unemployment-opinions-columnists_0217_joel_kotkin.html

Bill, I have to agree with Jon here. Phoenix will never be another Portland. No way, no how. Even if Phoenix were to adopt an UGB now, I think the damage is already done. No way you can feasible remove the sea of sprawl to reduce the urban heat island. And I've had a front row seat too, an unsuspecting victim of the ponzi scheme which pulled me into my own upside down exurban hell box.

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