« Prepare for disappointment | Main | Mac »

February 02, 2021


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

So true and so sad.

I'm pretty sure Jon's reference to the speech he gave where the audience threatened him was the November 2006 speech he gave at the Scottsdale City Library. At the time, I was living in Boston but in Phoenix for a few days visiting my parents. I heard Jon would be giving this talk, so I showed up because I wanted to hear what he had to say. That was an interesting evening, to say the least.
Much of the audience showed up hostile to Jon's opinions. Jon seemed to detect this from the beginning, so he made light of it. Those old codgers didn't seem to appreciate his sense of humor.
When Jon finished speaking, he took some questions. One audience member asked him about diversity in Phoenix and compared/contrasted it to Portland. Jon replied, but the audience appeared dissatisfied with his answer, and they kept returning to the issue of Portland vs. Phoenix diversity. Finally, some guy who identified himself as George Knowlton stood up and proclaimed that "thousands of people would love to shoot you right now."
Jon replied that he would "shoot 'em back ..." Knowlton told Jon that he'd lose.
To which, Jon said, "Don't make threats, moron. I was taught to shoot by my mother."
I couldn't have scripted a more entertaining evening. Unfortunately, it seemed to devolve quickly when Jon refused to back down from the audience threats, and it was emblematic of Jon's tenure at the Republic -- and his departure. Still, I was happy that Jon didn't back down from the audience members like George Knowlton.
udience member.

Supersizing leads to Human extinction.
Their making a new DUNE film.
I have my Still Suit from the first one.
Meanwhile I rereading the Good News
by Edward Abbey.
"set in a Phoenix, Arizona of the near future after the economy and government have collapsed."
As I mentioned a number of times "the desert will win."
And here's one for the planet earth.

Edward Abbey referred to Phoenix as "The Blob That Ate Arizona". I always felt the same towards the suburbs and the damage they have done to the city of Phoenix, at least since I started educating myself by reading this blog.

Sad indeed.

Cities reinvent themselves, but seldom according to the best intentions of planners. Rather, it was a matter of giving people what they seem to want. For metro Phoenix, that meant lots of single-family houses, lots of freeways, lots of shopping centers and strip malls (but few shopping districts), and largely ceremonial downtowns.

More traditional cities like Portland haven't fared well in the current pandemic. Crime has risen because enforced boredom wreaks havoc on male self-control. Couple this with a youth culture that imagines perfect justice is just one broken window away along with defunding the police (if not its outright abolition). But the worst crisis involves Portland's magnetic draw for the unhoused, who also tend to be drug-addled and mentally ill. Their tents clog the embankments of freeways, green belts, and downtown streets. Portland tried to make the best of this sad situation by decriminalizing street drugs last November.

So, according to Zillow, Phoenix is now a winner city. I wonder how long this honor can endure rising temperatures and a looming water crisis. Still, Phoenix may well survive erstwhile critics like myself. I admit some contrition about abandoning my hometown not because I miss driving everywhere but because I never imagined a city like Portland would commit civic suicide. Say what you will about Phoenix, it will never let its idealistic impulses lead it astray.

If the Back-To-The-City movement is now over, Phoenix can bask in its well-deserved reputation as a metastatic suburban blob. Yeah, profaning the glorious Sonoran desert with McMansions and SUVs is an abomination but hey! How about those climbing resale values? The idea has gelled across the ideological spectrum that America's best days are over. Well, Phoenix aims to serve this America. It's got just about everything you'd want from a failing empire: extreme income inequality, a detachment from environmental reality, and an urban form you wouldn't mind losing if the End Times come sooner than expected.

"If the Back-To-The-City movement
is now over"

The word Hohokam is a Piman language term for “all used up” or “exhausted,” and the name given by archeologists to the ancient farming peoples of the southern deserts of Arizona.
Archeologists call these people Hohokam, a Pima word meaning "those who are gone."

"Stand by"

I am very skeptical that Superstar Cities are dead. The critical mass is impossible to replace with remote work. Austin is winnning quality. Phoenix only adds low-value stuff. Seattle is hurting itself right now. Boston and Atlanta certainly are not.


Wish i was born an optimist!


A clarification: Phoenix doesn't operate bus service in the sense that drivers are city employees. All bus and light rail service is operated by private contractors. Apparently Glendale is the only city where the bus drivers work for the city.

The busiest routes are operated by the multinational firms Transdev and First Transit. There are some private companies that appear to be locally rooted, like Total Transit and RTW in Scottsdale.

Wikipedia has the list of which contractor operates each line:


The upshot is that privately contracted drivers tend to earn less money than if they were directly employed by the transit agency. There's also the matter of what happens when contractors change. Do drivers lose their jobs or wage increases?

You know what they say about blood in the streets... sounds like an excellent time to buy a residence in Portland. Rental prices in some very nice areas of Portland are also off their highs so I am told.

Thanks for the article Jon.
With pessimist like me Optimists like these smart guys are needed. They have big credentials.
Chicago Council on Global Affairs

I didn’t suggest that Super cities are dead. In fact I think they are growing and will continue until they can’t. The human species unlike the Hawks I view with my scope each day are no longer hunter gathers. Some would call such, progress. But it’s possibly the road to extinction.

From Rogue Arizona Pages: Arizona dead cities rise up.
Someday Casa Grande may be a Phoenix Suburb in the “Valley of the Sun.”

And as “they” come the developers go for the water. The fight is on.

Yep this reminds me of the discussion you and I had years ago in the ought’s. Phoenix as a Mega City (10 Million or more). Most here will not likely be around to see Phoenix go down in scorching heat.


Rogue is definitely onto something here. Metro Phoenix is certainly unique in its aglomeration of independent cities, each one quite large in its own right even if small relative to Phoenix. 

I never thought about this much until I moved away from AZ. My adopted home of Houston is much different in that regard. Like Phoenix, the city is less than half the population of the metro area, with lots of suburban spawl outside city limits. The difference is that while there are several independent cities, suburbia is mostly dominated by vast areas of unincorporated county. I've never really been able to fully grasp the legal environment that spawned this. 

Houston in the past grew by annexing large tracts, as did Phoenix and its satellites. They had been free to annex anything they wanted, leading to disjointed borders as they annexed choice areas they wanted and skipped over other areas. The law changed to disallow this cherry picking, so they haven't been motivated to annex much recently. They also have something called extraterritorial jurisdiction, where they have some control of certain corridors and areas without them actually being in the city or having to provide services, but it keeps other cities from being able to annex those areas. I've never understood that. 

The fully developed county areas have many independent utility districts, emergency service disticts and school districts, so services are all provided without a city. I've just just never really understood why cities in AZ have been so motivated to aggresively annex and grow their borders, while that motivation hasn't seemed to be at play in the Houston area.

I agree that suburban Phoenix appears mostly interchangeable and generic, but I have always felt like each city has something of its own feel and character, subtle as it is.

Soleri, you may have seen this article. Its analysis isn't ultimately very deep, I thought, but it certainly paints the picture of Portland's immense headwinds. My question: has this all been enough to make it possible to elect a non-Democrat to mayor there? It seems like the city really needs a fundamental leadership change that will focus on saving what is special about Portland while being the adult in the room and telling the children, "NO. We won't alow you to wreck our city."


I was happy u mentioned land- locked Tempe as an exception.I keep preaching that when tempe became land-locked it was forced to look inward and start spending money on the inner city as politicians are forced to spend money(that is their job). I am glad to have lived in Tempe since 1967.

Interesting piece. I hadn't thought about all these things.

"Say what you will about Phoenix, it will never let its idealistic impulses lead it astray."

Now there's a safe assertion.

It's sad to see wonderful areas like Portland, Seattle and California counties that touch water become this. And you know what? Most people living in these areas are fed up with it, want to have their communities livable and prosperous and want communities to be humane. We can have these things, we did have these things ... but for activists and politicians who abdicated their leadership responsibilities.

Jon7190, I did read that piece and found it rather shallow just as you did. The author, Bill Conerly, is the head of a right-wing think tank called the Cascade Policy Institute. Their main crusade is against growth boundaries, which is what many observers have maintained is the linchpin to the city's once vaunted quality of life. If there is a negative side to curbing sprawl it's in making existing housing rather more expensive. At the same time, you could also see higher housing valuations as a kind of tribute to this strategy. All that said, Portland is still the least expensive large city on the left coast.

When Portland was a blue-collar town (say, prior to 1990), it had union jobs and affordable housing costs. That conservative demographic began giving way to knowledge-class workers, along with creative types involved in arts and various crafts. Soon, Portland was both hip and desirable, which meant its politics started to become precious with Wokeness and rabid with the idea that higher housing costs were a sign that the evil known as gentrification was afoot. The curious thing is that many of those social critics were also recent immigrants, so a rather basic economic law was kicking in to the detriment of lower-income residents. Did the critics connect the dots? For the most part, no.

Antifa, which is akin to an angel of death for the new Portland, blames their chronic bad mood on "yuppie scum", "racism" and "gentrification". City government is less than optimal structurally and operationally, but they do greenlight a lot of new housing. If that basic law of economics still applies, it should eventually lower the rate of housing inflation. What government can't do is ask its citizens to grow up, to realize they live in a city where bills still need to be paid and livelihoods sustained. The sanctimonious left is gaga with the notion that we could all live in a lovely anarchist commune if only we gave up systemic racism, white privilege, and the patriarchy. Yes, they are children whose certitude is both total and nearly insane.

Soleri, I've never been to Portland. It looks beautiful. A guy I knew in AZ got onto their "Fire Bureau" and moved there. I briefly considered trying to do that, but decided against it. So, I have no actual knowledge of the town. 

That said, this is not meant to be adversarial at all (like we usually are). Do you have concrete ideas on how Portland should solve its major problems? Number one being endless political unrest, followed by vagrancy. Is the problem inherent in the goverment structure? Is it a problem of one-party rule? Is it the inmates running the asylum? Are there any practical solutions? Just curious on your perspective.

My previous comment failed to include the preceding paragraphs. My session expired and I had to refresh the page. I only copied the last paragraph. That's why it doesn't make sense as it stands.

The preface was addressed to Soleri and Jon7190 in particular. West Coast cities in particular have caught the syndrome that has afflicted San Francisco since the days of the beat and hippie countercultures.

Public officials have abdicated their leadership responsibilities to activists and movements.

It stemmed after the pandemic lockdowns and was triggered by the police killings of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor and the wounding of Jacob Blake.

There was a justifiable and correct moral outrage and reckoning stemming from these acts of violence. Democracy gives us the right and responsibility to agonize with these outrages and reckonings. It's also led to some very positive consequences, such as clearing barriers for women, people of color and people of non-conforming sexualities to bring them into more full participation in economic and public life. It's also reminding us that we haven't been compassionate enough.

Black Lives Matter spawned movements worldwide, in solidarity with what happened in the US and to raise awareness to power dynamics in cultures that don't have a visible Black community or America's fraught racial structure. Black Lives Matter is in the running for a Nobel Peace Prize.

What happened in cities, though, was activists and social movements overplaying their hand. In the face of unrest and provocative sloganeering, civic leaders wanted to be conciliatory and effectively left agenda-setting to activists.

When this happens, activists originate positions, find a shared sentiment for a movement and create a performance. The role of the government is to deliver on these promises, which are often untenable and contradictory.

Just as you don't go looking for a spouse or mate in a bar or club, you don't go looking for wisdom and enlightenment in a demonstration. The social pressure and cacophony preclude that possibility.

When you hear demands to defund the police, and politicians oblige, aren't you really shocked that crime and disorder are sure to follow. For the more extreme position of abolishing the police, you're likely to repeat the outcome of Seattle's CHAZ/CHOP social experiment. Jon Talton knows about this all too well.

The upshot: In one month of CHAZ/CHOP, crime in the Capitol Hill area experienced a *twentyfold* annualized increase in crime over all of 2019. The city and police ended the social experiment after the second murder in a month. The same zone had zero homicides in all of 2019.

And it's not really "woke" when it ended up driving Seattle's Black woman police chief from her job. Very few Black women ever get to command law enforcement, and Carmen Best had the lived experience of 27 years of sworn service to Seattle.

This is happening in cities across the U.S. and especially on the West Coast. Things are much worse than they actually are because the media amplify all of the crisis. When Fox and the rightwing media ecosystem latch on, they have a pornographic fascination with Blue State degeneracy because it confirms their priors with video footage.

I repeat the conclusion of my previous post:

It's sad to see wonderful areas like Portland, Seattle and California counties that touch water become this. And you know what? Most people living in these areas are fed up with it, want to have their communities livable and prosperous and want communities to be humane. We can have these things, we did have these things ... but for activists and politicians who abdicated their leadership responsibilities.

Jon7190, I think it's partly the parochialism of young activists who mistake their idealism and noble intentions for constructive political engagement. They really do assume you can eradicate racism with street theater and moralizing. What's different today from the demonstrations of the '60s and '70s is the virtual nihilism you now see on the far left. If racism is the greatest sin ever, why not trash your own city? Why not coerce ordinary citizens into shouting "Black lives matter" in order to show support for their worthy cause? Needless to say, we're not dealing with a group of people who are intellectually deep or complex so much as bewitched by righteousness for its own sake.

What gives the left its emotional punch now is the ideological reach of Critical Theory, a virtually universal belief system now in academia, HR departments, and high-brow media like The New Yorker and The New York Times. There have been liberal critics of this theory like Sam Harris, Bill Maher, Bari Weiss, and Fran Lebowitz, but for the most part, it's too arcane for ordinary citizens to either understand or critique. What they often do respond to, however, is the shaming by their moralistic guardians. As an example, I would assume about 2/3 of Portlanders are sick of Antifa's "actions" but their voices are seldom heard because the left's cognoscenti are now so resolutely "woke". Good luck raising your voice against their politicized religion. You'll be lucky if your house isn't picketed or its windows smashed.

Portland's idealism when it comes to homelessness means that no effort or cost should be stinted to make up for the cruel injustice of their sad lives. It means passing a $2 billion bond issue to build them housing. It means decriminalizing street drugs so they don't have to worry about getting busted. It means opening up city parks to their urban camping and epic trash (including the syringes they use to shoot up with). In Portland's victim hierarchy, the homeless are second only to Blacks.

If Oregon had two strong political parties, it would be a much easier situation to correct. But as you should have noticed by now, the Republican Party is batshit insane. I'm not going to vote for people who appear incapable of explaining reality to the Trump-voting base. If there was a Mark Hatfield or Bob Packwood, I'd vote for him in a heartbeat. Today's Republican Party, however, caters primarily to the resentment-stoked and racist. I wish it would come back to reality, but they're completely trapped by their own bad bargain.

Soleri and Bobson, good points. I haven't been familiar with the thinking of homeless as the elite of the victim hierarchy, and therefore must be accommodated even at the cost of regular citizens' quality of life. That totally makes sense that they think of them that way in west coast cities, it explains a lot of the policies.

I am somewhat familiar with Critical Theory or Critical Race Theory. I think it is a corrosive ideology and its recent jump from the academy into the halls of power is really going to be unhealthy for our country. I hope that my dislike of it doesn't make you think it must be ok!

It seems like western Oregon would be able to produce a politician that could cut through the madness while still being acceptable to Portland's many left leaning centrists. I'm thinking of somebody with a populist bent who could have political success by advocating policies that are actually supported by a majority of regular people. Like a Bill Clinton, but maybe with a ponytail! He or she wouldn't even have to be a Republican, just someone smart enough and brave enough to go against the dominant conventional wisdom there. There has got to be political gold in them hills.

A correction to my post: This sentence should read "Things *appear* much worse than they actually are because the media amplify all of the crisis."

@Jon7190, I think Oregon does produce candidates you describe. Look at a statewide candidates or senators.

Gov. Kate Brown is a known quantity and looking at her election record, has never lost a race since serving in public office. She was appointed to a Senate seat, then won it outright, then was elected Secretary of State. She was able to hold the governor's office for the Democrats after a scandal forced her predecessor to resign.

Oregon has two Democratic U.S. senators. The senior Senator Ron Wyden has won a close special election and four terms in his own right with sizable margins. Junior Senator Jeff Merkley defeated Republican Gordon Smith in 2008 and in two re-elections has won the vote in the high 50%s.

Rep. Peter DeFazio is a progressive but his congressional district has a Cook PVI rating of Even.

Oregon does appear to be a pretty blue state overall. The last Republican governor left the office in 1987. Only one of Oregon's 5 seats in the House is represented by a Republican. It's the massively rural 2nd district, which covers the majority of the state's land. Three districts encompass the Portland metro area, and DeFazio's district covers the two college cities.

Bobson, I think it has been established that Oregon has gotten bluer over the last few decades and is now an almost guaranteed win for any statewide Democrat. The question is could Portland, the deepest blue part of a very blue state, elect someone (and probably several someones to control city council) moderate enough to tackle its challenges with clear eyed toughness and resolve.

Jon7190, the answer is clearly yes. If Portland's quality of life suffers significantly, there will be a correction coming. What it probably can't do is elect a Republican if only because the national party's radicalism is now an all-or-nothing proposition. This is Trump's gift to the Democratic Party.

"If more Colorado River water flows to Queen Creek now, that could start World War III."

@Jon7190, I also see Portland and other places probably going for Biden Democrats at the local level.

Probably there's an appetite for someone who can bring conservatives to the center and bring down the political temperature.

And in an earlier message, you asked whether you should go to Portland. I've visited once and it truly is a jewel, and you could be within two hours of it and it's all wonderful.

Obviously you shouldn't go now -- pretty much anything that makes Portland interesting is closed. And all of the hooliganism you've seen in the news last year was confined to a largely empty downtown and involving antifa and far-right pariahs. Just about everyone in Portland wants these numbskulls thrown into the river. When life returns to normal, though, you're going to love it.

It is beautiful. You have mountains and rivers. Portland has done a great job taking care of its downtown and its historic neighborhoods. There are lots of parks. It's bike-friendly.

What I loved about Portland is its localism. It's got an incredible small-business community, restaurants are big on locally grown food, and Powell's needs no introduction.

Portlanders also engage in tax arbitrage, if you're into that sort of thing. I think Washington has no income tax, and the residents of Vancouver come to Oregon, which has no sales tax. Soleri might know better, but there might be a locally imposed sales tax to support Tri-Met, the regional bus and light-rail system.

Oregon was also the home of Ken Kesey.
Sometimes a Great Notion.

I lived in Portland in the mid-70s. Loved it. Hated to leave but circumstances said otherwise. Now I'm doomed to live out my days in corn-land.

Cal, I had the opportunity to hear Ken Kesey. The auditorium was packed and the program was good.

Supersized by Immigrants.
According to my Dine pals
Of the 37 Maricopa County Sheriffs
only five were born in Arizona.
In 1871 William A Hancock was appointed the first MSCO Sheriff. He was from Barre, MA.
Current Sheriff Paul Penzone is from
Trenton NJ
Carl Hayden was the first Arizona native to be elected Maricopa County Sheriff in 1907

Cal, Is the Maricopa County Sheriff more powerful than the Phoenix Police Department Chief?

From a legal standpoint That is my understanding but you better research it.
Big discussion nowadays about where the powers reside. The state keeps telling counties and towns what to do.
And then their are some that think Sheriffs are the only true law enforcement.

Phoenix and Arizona Pages
Good column on Pedro Gomez of ESPN by Arizona Republic feature writer Jphn D'Anna.

Off key:
I support Rep. Deb Haaland to lead the Interior Department/
Maybe Senator Daines should consider going back to his roots (Sussex).

"The human species is of NO benefit to the planet."

As much as I find your disdain for Phoenix interesting I truly hope that it never becomes as horrible as my original hometown of Seattle. I still enjoy traveling to the Northwest but the large cities there are not something to be envious of, quite the opposite.

Political boundaries in metro PHX are the direct result of the lure of sales taxes. No such problem in MA where there are no municipal sales taxes or in OR. The "blood Sport" of annexing to secure sales taxes - particularly big ticket construction sales taxes on new homes is why Buckeye is 46 miles north to south and less than a mile wide east to west in some places!

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