« 'Entitlements' | Main | Men don't read »

August 22, 2011


Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

Wasn't biotech suppose to be Arizona/Phoenix thing?

In the June 25th - July 1 issue of New Scientist there was a piece on where to go if you want to make it in the biotechnology field.

In the US all these got black ink:

San Diego
Los Angeles
San Francisco
N. Carolina

They didn't mention AZ and Phoenix...
As if they didn't exist. So what happened?

Where are the biotech jobs Governor?
Does whitey righty even have a biotech plan anymore?
Or is he too busy whistling Dixie in a thornscrub graveyard? (Note: knee jerk opposition to stem cells is not a winning plan.)

Jon's underlying pessimism is the message that resonantes with me. The details floating on top of that pessimism (real estate, poverty, lack of University funding) don't really matter. Arizona has eaten its future. All it has got left is whatever rednecks and teabaggers can bring to the mix. And what exactly is that? Hostility for all social compassion? And from that seed corn something prosperous will grow? Even with Mississippi and Texas offering just as much that way?

No. There is no future here. Or more to the point: Read the future of Arizona in Jan Brewer's face. That should be your road map: Too much sun and not enough care...

Anybody young and smart won't even think about coming to this forsaken snake pit. And anybody smart, who is already living here, should be deep in plans to escape...

Hell is becoming all-too literal: http://www.azcentral.com/community/phoenix/articles/2011/08/22/20110822phoenix-weather-august-hot.html

As much as I want to think there's a solution embodied in a politician or even a business class, I think it's too late. Even if Phoenix somehow reinvents itself for something other than sprawl and freeways, the retrofit will be crushingly expensive. And if we somehow got lucky on that front, the climate itself is now stacked against us. We can't even blame ourselves here - this would be happening if the citizenry were smarter than the one we have. As it stands, there's no resistance to any of this.

I met an older couple this past weekend at a party. They live at Villa del Coronado behind the art museum. They have a son who's an ER physician in Olympia who's planning on building a house on several acres with room enough for the parents. They've lived here most of their lives but they sense the future is no longer bright. They worry what will happen to Arizona as the climate crisis worsens and water resources get stretched. And they worry, too, that they're underwater in their co-op, and might have to abandon it if they leave Phoenix.

They love it here but they're not fools. It was probably the rise of the populist white-right that sent the loudest signal: this place isn't getting better; it's getting worse. It's one thing to look at our history and see the various ways our hubris mindlessly pushed us to "bigger, brighter and better". It's something else, however, to see the result and realize it's a dead end. Greg Stanton can manage the damage but he can't change our downward arc. Our improbable history is now an angel of death staring at us sternly as if to remind us that there are no second chances at the end of a rope.

Richard Nilsen has been writing a five-part series for the Arizona Republic titled Building History about the development of Arizona from about 1870 onward. Sunday's installment covered the era of charter government. It was interesting to note the political and economic methodology involved.

According to Nilsen, the Charter Government Committee, originally consisting of lawyer Frank Snell, Valley National Bank President Walter Bimson, and Arizona Republic owner Eugene Pulliam, called for an empowered City Manager drawn from a national pool of candidates, the elimination of the ward system, with city-wide elections instead, and the creation of a seven member city council including the Mayor as a member. The idea was to reduce the power of local politicians (and the nepotism and narrow patronage they favored), as well the inbreeding of the local political system.

They also embraced bi-partisanism, at least as a tactic of change and power-sharing.. "They nominated candidates under the CGC banner in both Republican and Democratic primaries, ensuring that one of their choices would be elected no matter which party won the vote." Then, they bankrolled their candidates, and the Arizona Republic lionized them. "The CGC won every seat of every city election between 1949 and 1969".

The development strategy was different under CGC leadership, too:

"An El Paso businessman noted of Phoenix's efforts, 'Industrial scouts are met at the plane, entertained, offered free land, tax deals and an electorate willing to approve millions in business-backed bond issues.' In comparison, "El Paso does nothing. Unless we start hustling after new industry, we're going to wind up in serious trouble,' he lamented. Phoenix passed El Paso in 1950 to become the largest city in the Southwest."

"In 1955, a group of business leaders brought Sperry Rand to the area by raising $650,000 in 72 hours, using the money to buy the company a factory site and paying for improvements to the nearby airport and other things. There were tax breaks and other inducements. That year, manufacturing passed agriculture as the major source of income in the Valley."


But, the article notes that Phoenix's downtown, sprawl, and other growth-related problems started much earlier than are commonly acknowledged:

"The race to spread outward had some unfortunate effects. Primarily, it killed downtown.

"In 1966, Arizona Republic reporter Walter Meek called the center of Phoenix 'a mercantile graveyard, and in many ways, a slum. . . . Since 1958, the central business district of Phoenix has suffered perhaps the worst decline in land use and commercial activity of any major American city.'

"The effects in Phoenix were worse, he wrote, 'because the loss has been more complete and because it happened in so short a time. . . . Other cities are answering their problems with corrective action, but Phoenix lies waiting, like an anesthetized patient for the unknown surgeon to operate on its diseased heart.'

"One developer wrote, 'Downtown is a mess. After 6 p.m., downtown Phoenix is a funeral home.'

"As one critic complained, the city's planning policy was 'not to plan at all.'

"There were other problems. Bad air, for instance. The Wall Street Journal declared Phoenix's air the worst in the country. Automobile fumes and dust storms sometimes made the air murky and barely breathable.

"Weather Bureau meteorologist Louis Jurwitz explained, 'The normal result of living is to pollute the air, and there's a heap of living going on here now.'

"Or as promoters apologized, 'A lot of this is just the price we're paying for growth, and much of it will take care of itself.'

"They didn't explain how."


I'd like to hear from Rogue readers how the district voting system which followed the charter government era changed things, for good and ill.

The article contains an interesting bit of information, unusual in the usual rags-to-riches, pull-yourself-up-by-your-own-bootstraps version of success found in popular histories.

Where did developer John F. Long get the capital to start his homebuilding empire? Did he perhaps scrub floors and save nickels like the dickens? No, he got it from the government:

"Long used money from the G.I. Bill to buy a lot on North 23rd Avenue, planning to build a house. He also got an option on two adjoining lots."

Long built the house mostly with his own labor, then received an offer for twice what he paid for materials. He sold the home and used the options he'd purchased on the two adjacent lots, built homes on those, and sold them too.


None of which is to say that he didn't succeed in his endeavors because of hard work, sound planning, innovation, and (at least in part) being in the right place at the right time; but it was the G.I. Bill, which gave him the accumulated capital needed to get started.

The post- WW II G.I. bill gave returning servicemen university tuition grants, zero-interest, no money down home loans, and a year of unemployment compensation. The home loans "enabled millions of American families to move out of urban apartments and into suburban homes. Prior to the war the suburbs tended to be the homes of the wealthy and upper class".


Emil, I recall the district system as a kind of glasnost where different voices got inside the ruling cabal. Instead of everything being filtered through that cabal's value system (please: no hippies!), there was an invigorating updraft from below that suggested Phoenix had overcome some stultifying parochialism.

At least that's the way I remember it. Your mileage may vary, however. By the 1980s, the old guard was already giving way so a political shift was probably inevitable anyway. Once the stewards themselves left, a vacuum resulted that was filled with players from real-estate industrial complex. Growth became not merely the byproduct of civic improvement, it was the machinery that dominated all aspects of our lives.

Phoenix was a "winner" city from the 1950s through the mid '00s. There were many reasons for this, not the least being a stewardship class, including CGC, that laid the foundations for our amazing growth. The problem, as we're always chatting about here, was that formula also brought along the parasites that eventually attacked the host. We see it mostly in the sprawl and low-end economic activity that now define us.

Phoenix grew too fast, too much, and too recklessly. It came of age when cities became seeming anachronisms because of the car culture and the civic degradation that inevitably followed it. But at the time, there was little doubt Phoenix was a stunning success. We look back now and shake our heads how foolish we were. But even the few of us who doubted the glory of it all couldn't really argue with the show itself. Money doesn't talk, it shouts. And Phoenix was rock 'n roll heaven for about 50 years.

Districting, as done, was a mistake. It has created eight "mayors" of different "cities" with populations of around 150,000 each. Once in, they are royalty serving out their terms with no opposition. They have little incentive to act for the good of the entire city or downtown. It "worked" for many years because an effective mayor could build a majority consensus. With Phil Gordon's meltdown and the rise of the Tea Party, that's gone now.

Another unintended consequence of the democratization was the rise of "village" and neighborhood boards (and here I think of the Willo Soviet) controlled by a narrow group of activists. They act as another veto elite, and here I think of Willo gating itself off and opposing perfectly good projects.

Reforms: 1) Strong mayor; 2) Smaller districts with more homogenous interests; 3) Adding four at-large members 4) Having all members represent downtown.

"Too much sun and not enough care..."

The Governor's face is simply a reflection.

Another reflection: Too much sun and not enough care to capture its energy.

Making fun of the Guv's face? You are a grumpy bunch.

I have a question for you Phx/ AZ bloggers.

When did Phoenix/Arizona go from paradise to hell for you?

Even with all it's prior shortcomings, it changed to hell for me when we got flooded with all the Californicators in the 90's . They changed everyone's expectations of how life would be lived in the valley. Two hour commutes were a source of pride. Two hour waits at restaurants were a badge of honor. Car culture/ monster SUV's were taken to a new level. Leaving all the "minorities" of California meant they didn't want ANY of those people living anywhere near them here in AZ. That period was the turning point for me. That is when I formulated and put into play my escape plan.

So, where were you when this beautiful state turned into hell on earth for you?????????????????????????

@Rate Crimes....

You just can't beat cheap Chinese labor...
Especially when cheap is all that matters:

"Solon Corp. will close its Tucson solar-panel factory in October, laying off about 65 workers, but the company plans to maintain a development company in Arizona.


...the Tucson facility can't compete with low-cost factories overseas and that solar panels have essentially become a commodity where the minor differences among manufacturers are not major considerations for utilities buying solar panels.

"The Solon product we manufacture here in Tucson may have a better fit and finish than some others, but the market doesn't really value that," he said. "The market values a low price. We are going to stop beating our heads against the wall and say, 'How can we be smart strategically?' "


Phoenix for me improved during the 1990's with the influx of Californians. Their arrival brought better food stores catering to health conscious consumers and other broader ideas.

The problem with Phoenix has been its inherent right wing nature. An example is the love of all things related to law enforcement. What other jurisdiction outside Arizona places law enforcement on such a pedestal? Sheriff Joe is the most influential politician in Metropolitan Phoenix. Says a lot.

Midwestern and Californian migrants certainly brought their racist values to Phoenix but the US is a racist nation. It is an illusion to blame Midwestern, Californian or Mexican immigrants for Arizona's problems.

It is an issue of incompetent governance related to the one dimensional right wing legacy of Arizona.

The mayoral race in Phoenix will have its effect on the city for better or worse. It won't address the essential problem of exclusive right wing ideology that is killing the place.

Azrebel, I'll make a (necessarily) partial list of traumas/shocks.

1) Prescott Valley becoming the Apache Junction of Yavapai County.

2) East Valley transformation from groves and orchards into current horror.

3) Japanese flower gardens on Baseline plowed under.

4) Fox Theater torn down.

5) Paulden House ruin torn down so 32nd St could become major arterial between Camelback and Lincoln.

6) Squaw Peak Freeway.

7) West Phoenix transformation from middle/working class to underclass.

8) Cine Capri torn down.

9) Tucson disenchantment.

10) Westward Ho becoming social housing.

Good things happen, too. But I think what my list shows is that the bad stuff is a bit of an irreversible lurch to something worse. Obviously, the Japanese flower gardens were not going to be "theme-parked" into permanence. They lived, prospered, and died only to be succeeded by charmless housing pods. This was probably inevitable. Phoenix and Arizona were not so much "lost" as transformed in an urban growth cycle that is now bottom feeding off its own scraps.

JMAV, I tend to agree. The problem we have here is that Arizona self-selects for people who prefer driving to (anything other than driving), living in anonymous housing pods to real cities, shopping to being, believing to questioning, and fearing to trusting.

We're not going to change this character with different immigrants because that's pretty much who we were as the post-war boom took off. Our system is self-designed to reward its own failure with more prisons, socioeconomic segregation, and right-wing ideologues. You don't vote it off the island. It is the island.


"The problem with Phoenix has been its inherent right wing nature. An example is the love of all things related to law enforcement. What other jurisdiction outside Arizona places law enforcement on such a pedestal? Sheriff Joe is the most influential politician in Metropolitan Phoenix. Says a lot."

In spades! I did a stint in his tent city (DUI - no pride there) and wrote up the conditions there for the AZ Republic. A responding LTE accused me of whining.

For anyone interested in that article, I transcribed it here:


(Be sure to scroll down to see a response from the clueless Sheriff Joe to a song I wrote about his outdoor jail.)

If I had to name one year, it would be 1968, when it became clear we would get the CAP. Like many who had worked for years to secure the project, most prominently among them Carl Hayden, my mother was profoundly ambivalent about the consequences. One night she took me on a long drive to take in old Phoenix, the groves, flower gardens and fields. "It's gone," she said. "You've seen the best of it."

To be sure, there were many turning points, such as those mentioned by Soleri, where a different outcome might have made a big difference. I believe farm preservation programs that have been widely used could have saved the Japanese Flower Gardens and many groves. But the will, leadership and vision were not there.

When I chose to come back home in 2000, I had no idea of the depth of the changes and resistance to anything but "growth." I'd lived in four cities that had transformed their downtowns and saved real neighborhoods, and couldn't imagine a city the size of Phoenix wasn't on the same trajectory. How wrong I was.

azrebel, for me it was the 1980s. The city stayed hot at night in the summer rather than cooling off. The orchards between Phoenix and Scottsdale disappeared completely. Roads where being widened everywhere (who would think the 4-lane Superstition Hwy would become the superroad Hwy 60?). The desert got developed. Everyone went crazy believing the tripe Reagan said (but never did).

"Everyone went crazy believing the tripe Reagan said (but never did)."

Reagan is the veritable Baphomet of the Republican Party: even though he never existed in the advertised form, everyone still has to kiss his ass to join the club.

Though you'd never know it by reading the Arizona Republic, Obama and Reagan run neck and neck for spending levels as a percentage of GDP. Obama's only completed budget year thus far -- fiscal year (FY) 2010 -- had federal spending at 23.8 percent of GDP. In 1983 under Reagan, federal spending as a percentage of GDP was at 23.5 percent. Presumably, conservatives don't consider this evidence that The Gipper was leading the country to hell in a handbasket. See page 24 and 25:


Note that the use of 1983 as a comparison year is particularly apt, since (like FY 2010) FY 1983 followed a severe recession.

As for taxes, in 2003, Bruce Bartlett (domestic adviser to Reagan and Treasury Secretary under Bush Sr.) noted that the Tax Equity and Fiscal Responsibility Act of 1982 (TEFRA) "alone raised taxes by almost 1 percent of the gross domestic product, making it the largest peacetime tax increase in American history". Bartlett continues:

"In 1983, Reagan signed legislation raising the Social Security tax rate. This is a tax increase that lives with us still, since it initiated automatic increases in the taxable wage base. As a consequence, those with moderately high earnings see their payroll taxes rise every single year. . . In 1984, Reagan signed another big tax increase in the Deficit Reduction Act. . . The Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1985 raised taxes yet again. Even the Tax Reform Act of 1986, which was designed to be revenue-neutral, contained a net tax increase in its first 2 years. And the Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1987 raised taxes still more."

Here's a link to Bartlett's full comments. Note that because this was written in 2003, the size of these tax increases (in absolute dollars) would be much larger today:


Bartlett has an updated (2010) blog comment in which he estimates that Reagan's tax increases equalled nearly half of his tax cuts, but I don't think that takes into account the effect of income creep in the payroll tax increase, as suggested by Bartlett's earlier comments. Bartlett's more recent comments are timely in the deficit/debt debate:

"It may come as a surprise to some people that once upon a time in the not-too-distant past Republicans actually cared enough about budget deficits that they thought raising taxes was necessary to bring them down. Today, Republicans believe that deficits are nothing more than something to ignore when they are in power and to bludgeon Democrats with when they are out of power."


For my part, I disagree that deficit concerns were the primary motivation: at any rate, as former House Speaker Jim Wright has said, "Reagan's tax increases fell mainly on consumers, low- and middle-income people. Sales and excise levies. Reagan didn't call these taxes. They were, in his euphemistic lexicon, "user fees" and "revenue-enhancers." "

As for income taxes, it's worth noting that the top marginal personal income tax rate was 50 percent for the first six years of Reagan's presidency (1981 through 1986). In 1987 it was 38.5 percent (or a single percentage point below the top rate under Clinton', and above the current rate under Obama of 35 percent (because Obama permitted an extension of the Bush tax cuts for the top earning households).

It was only in 1988, the last year of Reagan's presidency, that the rate dropped below this: however, though the marginal rate for top earners dropped to 28 percent in 1988, there remained a "bubble" which taxed the middle class at 33 percent. Scroll through the tables of The Tax Foundation:


How many of the tax increases were "initiated" by Reagan is irrelevant, though he certainly worked closely with Alan Greenspan in pimping the Social Security tax increase (deceitfully mislabeled as "prefunding" future liabilities). He could have vetoed them, but didn't.

Emil !!!!

Baphomet ??? Really?

It's 115 degrees. Are you really going to make me have to close out this window, open Google and see what the heck that means?


Alright, I will. But it better be someone wearing a bikini.

Pre-heatstroked and grumpy in the east valley, azreb

Emil's got my back! But I was hoping for bikinis too. Templars, goats, conspiracies, oh my!

"Templars, goats, conspiracies, oh my!"

Norway's onto 'em:


"Alright, I will. But it better be someone wearing a bikini."



Probably, I threw in the towel on Phoenix because of its effects on my health. I developed chronic bronchitis that kept me indoors and/or on the shelf for 2-3 months a year. I developed a series of skin cancers requiring ever more invasive surgery. All of this took maybe 40 years to fully materialize but when it did, it was a sobering wake-up call. Add this to the fact that my 8 year old granddaughter has been hospitalized 3 times in 12 months for asthma . . and I've concluded that Phoenix has become barely habitable.

As a resident of Tempe since 1966,the best thing that ever happened to us was Chandler surreptitiously annexing Williams Field road out to the Foothills.Tempe was then forced to look inward and develop the land that was left,since we were boxed in on all four sides.Phoenix should have done this in the 80's instead of constantly looking to expand for expansion's sake.Instead of capitalizing on the dry riverbed like Tempe,it looked west and north.The development around the Legacy and Raven proved that people would live in South Phoenix and could have continued north to the river and then west to downtown.Instead Phoenix put it's eggs in Anthem and other unsustainable developments 30 miles from it's downtown.The denial continues in the election as they all wait for the next big boom,while the rot continues from the center out.

"The market values a low price."

@korevel, more than any 'market', it's a culture with a quarterly report mentality. Those Chinese commoditized PV modules with lesser fit and finish will become very costly in another decade. Too bad the U.S. is an unregulated dumping ground for sub-standard PV modules.

The best of the best American cities:


Rogue, associated with the link you provided to the Scientific American analysis is the third part of the series: "The Top 10 Cities for Air Quality".

Top 10 Most Polluted Air

1.Bakersfield–Delano, Calif.
2.Visalia–Porterville, Calif.
3.Phoenix–Mesa–Glendale, Ariz.

I would like to see an analysis of water quality in the Scientific American report.

The Morrison Institute is premiering a forecast that says "The Sun Corridor" has enough water to support 9+MILLION people. That assumes trade-offs like homes vs. agriculture and shows near zero strategic vision of future issues like peak oil. Wasn't this supposed to be an impartial entity, not a shill for the real estate complex?

Morrison is a creature of the Real Estate Industrial Complex. Maybe they even believe this nonsense. Nine million people in central Arizona may be possible, but hardly desirable or sustainable. And with the ongoing depression, it will never happen.

Verify your Comment

Previewing your Comment

This is only a preview. Your comment has not yet been posted.

Your comment could not be posted. Error type:
Your comment has been posted. Post another comment

The letters and numbers you entered did not match the image. Please try again.

As a final step before posting your comment, enter the letters and numbers you see in the image below. This prevents automated programs from posting comments.

Having trouble reading this image? View an alternate.


Post a comment

Your Information

(Name is required. Email address will not be displayed with the comment.)

My Photo

Your email address:

Powered by FeedBlitz