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May 02, 2011


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Jon, Amen brother you are my Prophet.
I seek permission to take a third wife thus insuring my entry into the highest realm of a place occupied only by theocrats.Hey Osama how’s things?
Keep that pistola handy bro the F-LDS boys is a huntin you.

Jon: what would you say to a 40 year resident who has chosen to live, work, play and raise his kids in Chandler? It CAN be done. He and his family are close to medical and most of whatever they desire. In the macro sense, this is out of synch with your far-seeing analysis, but his lifestyle does have its merits today and tomorrow. What have I missed?

cleanair, so where do I get on the Chandler extension of light rail, buy my groceries, near my cool loft, while imagining (if I were straight) were we'd send our kid to school but not too far away from the old neighborhood where are single and childless friends still live and our favorite pub or cantina is a cab or street car, or bus ride home?

Chandler Fashion Center does not make a town center and the little downtown plaza posing as a "likely" answer to downtown Phoenix does not make a dense and connected community. Besides most of Chandler's "density" consists of the typical, semi-tightly packed snubbed nosed tract homes (with some decent architectural "upgrades") compared to newer Maryvale. Basically, it is still car dependent, sprawling as all hell, and disconnected. Name a real neighborhood in Chandler; real as in Roosevelt, Willo, Evans-Churchill, etc.


I'll leave it to Soleri, pSf and others to add to this but...his suburban lifestyle has been subsidized by policy decisions that emphasized sprawl, freeways, cheap gasoline, consolidated industries etc. to the detriment of the central core, local retailers, scalable local farming, etc. and it's called "the free market." He's not really paying the cost of his inefficient, unsustainable "lifestyle." That hospital? To build it meant downgrading care at the center-city hospital. He's contributing much more to climate change than someone who lives in a city with walkable neighborhoods and transit. Shopping at Wal-Mart, he's contributing to the gutting of the middle class. Does he even think about the consequences of his choices?

Moreover, he's living in an area that supports educational and social apartheid, the white-right rule of the jungle, whatever his beliefs. This will make for a much more cruel future, even if he and his children are among the winners. He's totally car-dependent, and his neighbors vote against transit and trains. So his lifestyle is going to get very expensive.

In metro Phoenix, the situation also has further competitive disadvantages, because sprawl in a limited economy, with little attention to quality of life and diversity, has hollowed out the core. The result is that Phoenix lacks the downtown and quality urban neighborhoods, transit, arts, etc. etc. for a city its size. Thus, fewer choices. Thus, less attractiveness to many talented people. Every place has suburbs. The best also have quality urban areas and downtowns.

I could go on. But, sure, it has its "merits." They just haven't been costed out properly, for beginners.

Because of Intel, I'd probably leave Chandler out of Zion County. A place that has a knowledge-based economy probably belongs in Tempe's orbit.

The Great Dreariness (i.e., the East Valley) will necessarily be right-wing. Their idea of a "commons" is a major artery flanked by big-box stores. Aside from that, there are the neighbors they don't know but who keep their xeriscapes swept and trimmed. The drama is mostly reserved for big-screen TVs where chaos can safely be enjoyed, like a slasher movie with popcorn breaks. Mexicans shooting each other! Immigration sweeps in Guadalupe! A county supervisor's wife having sex with a Mormon boy! The latter may hit a strike too close to home, however.

The American Dream is a commodity you pay for and sell when the market picks up. You vote Republican because they're for white people. Taxes can only be cut because waste, fraud and abuse are the necessary byproducts of socialism. And you remember that you are the victim of a system that rewards unwed mothers and young strapping bucks.

Shiny, happy people, most of them.

Maybe humankind is molded by the geography they inhabit.

Arizona has the looks of the middle east. Mountains, dirt, heat.

Phoenix is Saudi Arabia
The west valley is Sudan.
Scottsdale is Iran.
Mesa is Afghanistan (Taliban/Mormon).
Chandler is Pakistan.
Tucson is Yemen.
Apache Junction is Apache Junction.
Paradise Valley is Kuwait.

Actually, this works out, because we don't want Iran OR Scottsdale to be able to develop "The Bomb"

Like most of Soleri's Chandler exemption to Zion County, I'd leave West Mesa including the old and charming historic neighborhoods, downtown and the areas around the light rail (and extension) in Maricopa County. Sorry Mormon neighbors, but we'll be claiming your stunning temple as an urban amenity critical to Mesa's downtown rebuild.

Also, how about Salt River County? It will give the Mormons some (phonetic) connection to the Vaterland (Salt Lake). We would also be spared the fallout of naming a county in the Great State of Arizona some Utopian, Christian version of Atlantis?

Oh and I wouldn't want to subject all the Hispanics of West Mesa (some who are likely illegal) the humiliation, isolation, righteous clan-caste system-making that will occur after being thrown to the lions of Salt River/Zion County...

AZRebel, Scottsdale already has many "bombs" and they are dirty as all hell. I drank one and I spent too much money there and forgot all about it...

I think those granola Tucson types will take exception to being called Yemen. For that they will plant an "herbal" garden near your home rebel. And you don't want to know what's in those hippie gardens; I've been to Portland!

pSf, point taken.

Tucson is Somalia.

Something about U of A and pirates goes together well. ( : - )

phxsunfan, I left you a message under Osama. U were right!
The east valley. the first time I ever sent Jon an E-mail, many years ago I told him Arizona had 4 million to many people and I would settle for 4 million Sahuaros, instead. I think we should send everyone back to where they came from, except me, of course.


I begin to think your viewpoint is hazed by the golden years of your youth. Writing of the agricultural golden years of the valley is a bit passe for most of us who never lived it because we are younger than you and came here from somewhere else.

Compared to the decaying midwest where I went to junior and senior high school, Phoenix has been positively vibrant. Now parochial is a term that definitely springs to mind in contemplating the LDS soaked east valley, but the decay of the old areas was baked in by economics, and that change in the costs and revenues meant the old inner cities were dead no matter what you wish.

I lived in Philly for three years in the early 90s, and I can tell you the economics of urban areas work ruthlessly against concentration that you prefer, and as long as gas is less than $10 a gallon, concentration will not happen again.

Philadelphia was an interesting case of urban economics. When do you think the peak of the city was? Would it surprise you to find it was 1917 when the subways were under construction and North Philadelphia had 20,000 people per square mile and one of the largest concentrations of light manufacturing in the world. By the time I arrived in 1993, North Philadelphia was running under 5,000 people per square mile, and houses were being abandoned at a furious rate, complete with squatters and city sponsored demolitions.

Interesting the improvements in transportation were not sufficient to overcome the draw of the suburbs that started even before the automobile. (The first exurbs were developed on streetcar and train lines starting in the 1890s.)

In the end, you diatribe against the lost agrarian paradise has some valid points, but arguing that it was "sustainable" in the face of limited water before CAP is problematic. Without the cheap water from the Colorado, golf courses and master planned communities would not have happened in an era of expensive water.

The only cure for urban redevelopment is cheap housing that people find cool and can afford to remodel, combined with active policing to discourage gang activity. I would note there are quite a few historic houses in the Capitol district that are now empty again as the values have crashed, and banks have abandoned them to squatters and destruction. But it is too far from the traditional "cool" urban core in Phoenix, and has high crime rates discouraging regrowth now that the bust has become entrenched in Phoenix.

In short, one has to examine the economic engines of Phoenix, and find them currently wanting, but one can also see the empty commercial buildings and realize that price will fill those buildings. Low enough prices that is.

Now, the insanity of the current state government, and the damage that has happened during the depression are fit subjects, but the endless musings of what might have been ignore the cost drivers of agriculture, namely land was worth far more sold for houses than it ever would make running cotton or corn.

Oranges died for the same reasons.

Allen I am replying to you in hopes of sparing you some lashing from those who will correct you forthwith. With all due respect, for someone who knows little of their hometown (Philadelphia) I don't expect you to understand the importance of Phoenix' history. I am young as well, and couldn't tell you which ugly subdivision covers a one time orchard, flower field, or cotton field but that doesn't make old Phoenix irrelevant.

Philly, despite its bad neighborhoods and ghettos, is a dense city in American constructs. It is denser than Seattle and has the most populous urban neighborhood in Downtown Philly. Yes, even more residential population than Midtown and Downtown Manhattan. Philly also took over the 5th spot from Phoenix of most populated city; all this within 135 square miles of land.

Now, from how you've described your current living situation I take it you live in a cookie cutter hood that could be found in any valley city's newer abominations. Because of that others on this blog and I cannot understand your definition of vibrant. Is it the corner Starbucks with the drive-thru? Or a busy Safeway parking lot? Perhaps a mall like Arrowhead? Either way those are the least vibrant communities in the Phoenix area even if you throw in some "gangsters" in (insert name) Central City neighborhood. You'll probably be shocked to learn that even in your "safe" suburban, walled off community, exists the heart and staging ground of criminal operations you mistakenly assign to places like Woodland and Oakland Historic District near the Capitol Mall. Crime is just as common if not more so in the suburbs; from domestic violence to the hidden drop houses. When is the last time you heard about a drop house bust in a Central Phoenix hood like Garfield or Coronado; possibly the two most Hispanic communities in the Central City?

I'll leave it at that. I'm sure you'll get plenty more and Cal is retired PPD so I'm sure he can share some more wisdom.

Jon, Thanks for the historical context. It provides understanding to the crazy politics of Arizona and claims by many that the political leaders do not represent the values of many Arizonans.

The tyranny of the extreme right minority in the east valley must be broken before the state can progress. It is unfortunately not clear how to accomplish that necessary goal.

I always found the "East Valley" Mormon politics intriguing since they seem to be much different from the progressive (relatively) views of Salt Lake City - pertaining to urbanism anyway.

Mesa has been in many respects a laboratory for the "race to the bottom" economic development model of the far right. However, the recent rise of local politicians like Scott Smith and Dave Richins (who, from an urbanist lens, might be the two most progressive politicians in Arizona at the moment)is an interesting phenomenon.

To go with azrebel's analogy - could this be a "Sunni Awakening"? Or are we still Randoholics and this will go down as merely a fleeting moment of clarity.

With all due respect to Jon Talton's far-seeing views, there is a whiff of idealism and utopian perfection in some of these treatises about the evils and societal costs of sprawl. So I'm left with this simple question: "where and how do normal mortals acquire this enlightenment"? Would "Rogue" have me living in some high rise center city condo? There's not enough Prozac to make this palatable for a wide-open spaces aficionado. That's what brought me to Phoenix over 40 years ago and the congestion/pollution has only intensified it! Is this sustainable? Probably not, but when one is in the September of one's years, quality of life trumps idealism, at least in my book.


I was drawn to the "church of Jon" back when his ideas were available to all AND there was still time to implement the ideas for a positive outcome for the valley, particularly downtown.

Sadly, it was not to be.

So, for myself, the answer was to prepare a place for me and my wife in the mountains where I will have the elbow room that I require in order to maintain my sanity. I am retired and my wife still works. I could not deal with the absurdity of living in this hell-hole without my bi-weekly escapes to the mountains.

I wish we had the ability to turn back the clock and get things done the right way, however, that space/time wormhole has still not been perfected. Besides, if time travel were possible, the first thing I would do is go back and do a few things to my first girlfriend that I never had the opportunity to do. I'm sure she would approve. So, even with time travel, there are priorities which outweigh downtown development.

(is bi-weekly twice a week or twice a month, I can never remember. Twice a month is what I meant)

Now, cleanair, don't put words in my mouth or ascribe views to me that I don't hold.

I am all for choice. The problem with sprawl is that is hasn't been priced for all its externalities. All the subsidized costs it has foisted on the commons that are not priced in. Thus, the mess all over America, and wide open spaces are the biggest casualty.

Also, the choices are not between a cabin 25 miles up the trail from Skull Valley and my 26-story downtown condo. My 1914 house and neighborhood in mid-town Phoenix were much more wide-open spaces than most of suburbia. Its Walk Score was 71 and it was close to light rail (more clean air). Yet it never felt closed in or "urban" in the way most Americans think of the term. As an old property in an old neighborhood, which had benefited from reinvestment, it didn't take new land or add to the heat island.

So there are many options for retrofitting suburbia and even exurbia to make them less car dependent, etc.

And this is no church. It offers unpopular opinions — not that I want it that way, but I have to call it as I see it and I am an outlier. It holds the powerful accountable (see the primer). Most of all, it tries to start conversations. Dissent is welcome. I don't have anywhere near all the answers.

Ahhh, 1977 Memories... Picking oranges while on stand-by at Val Vista and Main. The Man-Eating Cholla at Crismon and Clover. All the lights going out while driving Code 3 down Baseline at night. Fresh cookies and milk while picking up a regular in Leisure Village.

Ahhh Jon! Churches, particularly progressive ones, offer unpopular opinions in their efforts to teach about real happenings and guiding principles vs. woo-woo. But my question remains, "when and how do normal mortals acquire this enlightenment" about, for example, sustainable living? 'Fraid these lessons are more likely to be learned the hard way.

Morecleanair, there would be more clean air if people weren't blading the desert for new housing pods, driving vast distances to do ordinary things, living as if other creatures didn't matter, and forgetting future claims to limited natural resources. It's become fairly obvious that we're living in a brief window of time where limits don't matter. And as that window closes, we'll likely see the grinding and implacable retrofit to something necessary if not entirely comfortable.

Still, if it weren't hard facts but soft aestheticism driving our opinions, what would we base our elitist opinions on? For me, it's the sheer dullness bordering on ugliness of suburbia. What is our civilization about? What is its value? Why should it be remembered? Suburbs pretty much shrug their stuccoed shoulders and sigh "whatever".

I and my tiny cohort are not winning this argument. This blog is definitely a minority viewpoint. But we soldier on confident that there's a correlation between our viewpoints and any future worth having. We note the cities that are vibrant and their compact physical form. We compare and contrast metropolitan Phoenix to other metroplexes in order to assess the relationship between a strong CBD and overall economic strength. We note the investments in wealth-producing activities and the taxes citizens pay.

Cities are my passion. When I travel, I really don't want to get away from it all. My idea of purgatory is lying on a beach with a pina colada. I want to travel because cities are the greatest of human creations. I love nature but I'm not stirred to think that eroded rock is telling me something I need to know. And nothing will preserve nature better than overcoming this arrogance that human comfort is the supreme good. All it's done is hurt us where it matters most: in our civic soul where people come alive.

I think calling some of the ideas presented on this blog as coming from a "church" and its flock, is an easy way of dismissing the hard truth. morecleanair, you might ask yourself how you came to believe or think that where you live does not contribute to degrading air quality.

OK, OK, OK, I take the church thing back. It was just a figure of speach.

I hereby change that sentence to "I was drawn to Jon's blog.....etc, etc."



See, you have me all shook up.

Please keep being drawn.

Te absolvo.

Thanks Rogue,

Just to be safe I said five Our Fathers, ten Hail Mary's, 15 push ups and 25 sit ups.

While u all were at it. Three young environmentalists came a knocking to warn me that the GOP is about to privatize AZ parks. Of course this has been a desire of a number of folks for sometime. But now they have the votes and I think Brewer will sign the law.

And by the way another Obama disappointment, his AG is back going after hemp users? It's all about getting the votes.

PhxSunsFan says: "morecleanair, you might ask yourself how you came to believe or think that where you live does not contribute to degrading air quality." Sir, my location is based on my best efforts to deal with my longtime bronchial asthma. It comes from allergies to dust, molds, pollen etc . . not from smoking. Over the past year, I've been down with over 12 weeks' worth of the stuff. And my 8 year old grand daughter has been hospitalized with pneumonia 3 times in 9 months. So please don't tread too heavy on the principles: I'm having enough trouble dealing with the practicalities. Thanks!

Your principles seem mixed, cleanair. You live in Fountains Hills, so you are generally correct that the air is cleaner up there. But from your posts and praises of Chandler, your principles are completely off track; especially given that development in Pinal County just south of Chandler has given Phoenix horrible issues with dust pollution; who's treading heavily, Sir?

Thanks AWinter, you like the way I am able to transport my thoughts?

Jon and I have been going at each other for a while now over the density of humans and Saguaros. Of course I side with the Cacti. While on the mountain at 6 AM this morning I decided I had to respond to Soleri’s worst nightmare that included the ocean. While he seems to favor people in large groups one of my worst nightmares is shopping at Costco on Saturday. To me three people are a crowd. But on occasion I can force myself to be in a room where there are more than two people. I find mans achievements interesting and some can hold my attention for a while but My best moments are in the few places left that show little of mans foot print and the “Silence Roars”. When it comes to the Ocean there are still a few places where you can avoid the crowd and let the soft sand melt under your feet while the symphony of the waves becomes rhythmic lulling. So you boys build your cities and they will come. Except me and ED.

PSF: Let's try this . . the family living in Chandler can do everything they want or need within 15 minutes' drive time . . including work in the tech community that's flourishing. Schools and arts and medical are all good. This might not be exemplary but it sure beats the long commutes afflicting so many Valley residents.

Like cal, I often prefer solitude to people. However, since I, as well as most people on this blog are not one dimensional, I also enjoy visiting great cities.

Here's a question for soleri as well as the rest of you: What are your favorite cities to visit and given the chance where would you go live for a couple of years if you could dictate all the criteria, job, health, money, free time, etc.

Cal, I'm not antagonistic to the idea that hell is other people. Our problem is that when we decide to live very far apart from one another we end up with abominations like metro Phoenix.

And all those tourists in Cancun getting away from the madding crowd are doing so by flying thousands of miles to a Club Med that has the character of a TGIF with bedrooms. The pleasures of industrial tourism carry a high price tag, which is paid by the rest of creation. Meditation is cheaper and less damaging.

The problem with 7 billion souls occupying a finite planet is that our footprint begins to destroy the planet itself. This is particularly true for those of us with a lot of money. Now, I'm all for population control or reduction or even a one-child policy ala China. But I draw the line at genocide along with famine, pestilence and war. The best we can do is to think how we're going to live relatively compactly so we don't end up killing this cosmos' singular jewel. Any ideas?

I think the answer is cities. Suppose, as a mental experiment, that we drew a line in the sand around Phoenix beyond which no more soul-crushing depredations ala Queen Creek could be built. Suppose people were sensitive to the rights of saguaros to exist along with creatures other than themselves. In other words, imagine people who were not so greedy that they stopped putting property rights above the rights of the planet itself. Wouldn't that be a good thing? But in order to do that, these people would have to live as if their comfort and luxury were less important than they seem at this moment in this particular hell. Other people are not the problem. We are the problem.

Azrebel, my choice for a two-year sojourn would be, predictably, Paris.

Some of my favorite cities: Berlin, Turin, Vienna, Prague, Montreal, Venice, Boston, New York, San Francisco, Guadalajara, Portland, Vancouver, Geneva.

Two-year sojourn: Paris, London, Berlin, Vienna, Stockholm, St. Petersburg (and not the one in Florida), maybe Singapore. In the U.S.: New York, Boston, D.C., San Francisco. I've been fortunate enough to live in two I'd recommend: Seattle and Denver. And Cincinnati has such good bones, really amazing, even if it doesn't yet have good transit.


I like your idea about the line in the sand. I always find it absurd, when driving out to Wickenburg, to see the Peoria city limit sign about 20 miles out in the middle of the desert.

I like your city choices.

I would love to walk around Prague and advise people that if Kafka would have treated himself to a steak every now and then maybe his body would have had a better chance at fighting TB.

I watched Food, Inc. yesterday. Oh My! Good thing my genetics allow me to treat Chorizo and eggs as a heart-smart meal. ( : - )

"But I draw the line at genocide along with famine, pestilence and war." Soleri.
I would like to be idealistic enough to think that the three galloping horseman you describe above would never ride again and "we" could save the planet.
But after seventy years of observing "manunkind" in action, I am hardly Idealistic. I am going to advocate no cities where we squat in our own waste and advocate hunter gatherer. I predict through the next several hundred years some cities will continue to exist in raggedy ass fashion but will be beset by marauding bands of scavengers. I think I saw that movie.

Cal, your prediction is probably more accurate than my hope. Still, I see it as a moral imperative that we act as if civilization can be made benign so that we have as soft a landing as possible. The signs for this are not good. Browsing AZCentral, I read a story about Arctic ice melting at a much higher rate than predicted, meaning sea levels would rise five feet by the end of the century. If you live in Florida, rent.

Because I'm a masochist, I read the comments from the vigorously idiotic burghers who have decided that science is a conspiracy against business. We have a political party that now derides its own market-based solution, cap and trade, as wrong. We have a citizenry that has taken the media's evenhandedness to heart and trusts Rush Limbaugh more than James Lovelock.

Earth's geological history is now being defined by human activity. We live at the tail end of the Holocene era, characterized by its moderate temperatures. This era is concluding rapidly and the next era will be a thousand-year coda to the vanity of our human ascent. I cannot guess whether Mad Max is a Republican but I suspect the elections that will matter already happened.

When people defend as an entitlement the very conditions that are destroying the planet, I think it's fair to call rationalization an aspect of insanity. But we are who we are for a reason, and we can't wish away our evolutionary history for the sake of a future a few decades distant. That's an irrelevancy for those of us on the precipice of death. For the young, it will be tantamount to a gruesome spectacle experienced and lived in painstaking detail.

Soleri, You got the name of the movie right.Anyone else watch that movie?

cal, I've seen it more times than I want to count.


I'm pretty sure the Mad Max characters were independents. The Republicans and Democrats would all have been eaten by that time.

burp !

They made a sequel to it where energy is provided by pig shit. No the sequel isnt Unforgiven.

The 11 most walk-friendly cities in the U.S.:


None in metro Phoenix

Flagstaff made the list, go figure. Almost everything you'd want to do in town is along or near one street; San Francisco Street...Phoenix and Tempe can learn much from its little sister up north...

Choice of cities I'd live in; Cologne, Barcelona, Madrid, Frankfurt, Berlin, Buenos Aires, London, New York City, or Boston.

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