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December 10, 2009

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I visited Phoenix last April on business; it was my first trip back to the city where I grew up since I left for a new job in Boston back in 2004. What a shock -- it was everything that Mr. Talton speaks about in this column, and then some. The office "parks" around Metrocenter were decaying and empty, the number of shuttered chain restaurants around the mall was striking. And that was just the Metrocenter area. I drove along Central Avenue north of Camelback and noted many vacant storefronts. Downtown was a pleasant surprise -- it was nice to see all of the new skyscrapers going up -- and light rail seemed to be quite popular. But those were the lone bright spots in an otherwise decaying city with a bleak future.
I know many Phoenicians still love their city, and I don't mean to offend anyone with this post. But I spent a generation in the Phoenix area, and it saddens me to read articles like Mr. Talton's, or have seen firsthand, the ugly metropolitan area that the "Valley" has become.

The art store moved to the SE corner of Indian School and 16th Street.

Metrocenter apparently has a full-service pawn shop inside the mall now.

Tempe's Mill Avenue, maybe the one real downtown in all of Arizona, is cancer-ridden. The chain stores that took the place of local retail have largely folded up.

There won't be an AJ's in Cityscape after all, which shouldn't be a surprise but it does suggest how immune to learning downtown developers are. Did RED study Arizona Center's woes in advance of replicating its dreary suburbia-in-downtown master plan?

The Beadle-designed Mountain States building at 3rd St and Earll was finally imploded and yet another huge empty parcel in central Phoenix was created for the duration of my lifetime and probably yours as well.

Of course Seattle is booming; Boeing has the support of the federal Ex-Im bank to finance the sale of its jets. Boeing employment is UP 5 percent this year, thanks to a flood of orders backed by the Ex-Im bank security.

In Arizona, the Goldwater Institute is suing any and every business suspected of receiving government aid. This helps explain why Arizona has the nation's highest percent job loss; it's run by a bunch of bright young politicians who are doing their best to go back to 1910.

A couple of other trends: the appearance in neighborhoods throughout the city of dollar stores; the number of check-cashing and payday loan stores.

The latter is an older trend and may be winding down now that the public referendum put a cap on theiry usury, but the July sunset of the legislation enabling their existence may not come soon enough, if Grant Woods (campaign co-chairman of Governor Brewer) and the well-dressed minions of the lobbying firm HighGround (whose executive leadership, Chuck Coughlin and Doug Cole, will be managing Brewer's election campaign) have any say in the matter.

Unable to defeat the voter proposition despite outspending it 15-1, the payday loan parasites are apparently working to engineer a legislative end-run around popular will. The problem is that whereas their money couldn't buy the people's vote, the politicians may be more receptive to it.

http://www.azcentral.com/news/articles/2009/12/01/20091201paydaylenders1201.html

(Predictably, Robert Robb's editorial column pooh-poohs the idea that where there's smoke there's fire: "It requires extraordinarily shallow thinking to conclude that, by hiring Woods and High Ground, the industry has co-opted the governor or the governor is somehow involved in the effort to keep the payday lending industry alive." Just a coincidence, of course.)

Emil, you always raise valid points, and you're an excellent writer. Keep up the good work!

Mr. Talton wrote:

"(WHY won't the Info Center identify Pollack as a developer??)"

There's something fishy about Pollock.

Meanwhile, it seems that a group calling itself Americans for Prosperity (as opposed to Foreigners for Impoverishment) has beaten Pollack to the punch. The Arizona Republic reports that the group has a surefire plan for "knocking out the deficit" and "clearing out the deadwood" among other mixed metaphors.

The group's plan calls for eliminating all tax credits EXCEPT for those that provide tax money for private schools. (No, this is not an article from The Onion. Read on.) Also, for "eliminating various state programs and entire agencies, ranging from all-day kindergarten to the Agriculture and Commerce departments", as well as unidentified "across the board" budget cuts. If that doesn't sound like a recipe for prosperity, the group also advocates "the budget gimmick of 'sweeping' excess funds in various state agencies, and privatizing such offices as the Arizona Commission on the Arts and the state Library."

http://www.azcentral.com/arizonarepublic/local/articles/2009/12/13/20091213politics-budget1213.html

Meanwhile, Glendale reports that, due to tax cuts by the state legislature in 2006 (coming due in fiscal 2010-11) it expects to collect $11 million less in income taxes (the largest source of revenue Glendale receives from the state each year). Also, that the state legislature's reduction of assessment ratios for business properties in 2005 will again result in a significant slump this year in property tax revenues.

I absolutely love going to Phoenix. Arizona is one of the coolest dates in the US. On my first visit to Phoenix. I met up with a friend of mine who is an Olympic swimmer in training. There are some great bingo games taking place in Phoenix as well and I've not yet seen a gigantic car rental facility that you made reference to earlier on.

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