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February 08, 2022


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Probably should have traveled past Park Central Mall. Your observation of downtown left out a vibrant ASU campus, the multitude of restaurants and music venues.. Maybe 10 years from now you can vist downtown, not midtown.

head, I don't know why you would assume I don't know where downtown is. I'm a native of Phoenix and lived there most of my life. I would go there as a child to see movies at the Fox, Paramount, and Vista. I knew Korrick's and JC Penny's quite well. I also passed through the Westward Ho frequently when it was at its peak.

While there 10 days ago, I walked through CityScape, into the Collier Center, up through the convention complex and Herberger Theater, into Arizona Center, and onward to Roosevelt Row. I then walked through Hance Park, past the central library, and across the street past the art museum to Villa Del Coronado, where I was staying with a friend. I did drive by Park Central but didn't pause to walk through it.

What impressed me most were the large crowds at CityScape. Arizona Center is still attractive but commercially inert. I hope it can be resurrected. The UofA medical school might be the tonic that facilitates that.

You're onto something.

I've lived in San Francisco and Seattle, both of which are overrun with drug zombies.

My assumption was that Pittsburgh would be a run-down old East Coast post-industrial rust bucket. It wasn't. Not at all. Neither was San Antonio. Both were remarkably clean and vibrant. They're doing something different.

Generalizations are always dangerous, but so is denial. I haven't got around to reading the new book "San Fransicko," which gets into some of this. Predictably, that book has been roundly denounced in some quarters, and at least some of the criticism is probably justified. But after experiencing the filth, crime, and suffocating "progressive" dogma of SF, I'm not ready to blithely dismiss any critique of that place and its politics.

As always, your mileage may vary...

Homelessness is a growing issue all over America. Without a real city center you can't really judge how much people are struggling. And if you didn't see any camps it may be because you didn't look. (And if you didn't see any sign of people living on the street in Florida I would imagine it's Definitely because you didn't look past the tall buildings).

People die here on the streets in the summer. Bu)t thank God we don't have any 'moral preening' or whatever you call concern for your fellow man.

I think its an artificial picture of order and 'sanity' you see here. You could compliment a dirt lot for not having as many weeds as a fallow field, but that doesn't mean the dirt lot is better. This piece really served as a place to sound off on homelessness and liberal city policies. If your main concern is to avoid big city problems like homelessness or drugs, maybe you should head out into the country or one of these poverty-free beacons of sanity you saw here and in Florida. I think you'll eventually see the same thing just in different forms

Homeless camps exist in every city, but they are just so easy to spot in Portland. In underpasses, medians, off ramps and traffic circles there can be found Hoovervilles of decrepit RVs and tents with pallet additions, burnt out cars, and propane tanks strewn about. They do not always tolerate strangers, as a city water crew came under gun fire from a camp. The crew was attempting to activate a pump during wet weather, but were forced to retreat. As a result, several houses in the area were flooded. At least they haven’t really invaded Sabin yet, but the cool, crisp air up here sure is nice.

Even our homeless live in the “burns”. As a native you should remember alleys between streets in older downtown areas. Shaded oleander lined alleys is where many of our homeless live. Our bus stops, tree and shrub-filled washes you should remember. You note we are a sprawling suburban place—-look where the restaurants are—the cheap stores and the churches—-we have more than 100,000 seasonal homeless struggling here right now. Maybe you forgot your sunglasses and have to squint so you missed them.

If the city, county and state officials don't address the runaway rent situation and housing price/shortage situation you are going to see a homeless situation which may get ugly and violent. Desperate people with suffering families who aren't used to being homeless is not the same as the usual homeless crowd.

The current rent situation is the ugly side of runaway "capitalism".

(I'm practicing using the word "situation" in a sentence)

I live in Seattle and everything you say about Portland applies to us too. It was bad when we saw drunk people on the sidewalks in certain areas. It was worse when we started to see people sitting on sidewalks in the downtown shopping area, usually panhandling. It was unbelievable when we began to see tents and make-shift shacks all over the city. Now we have camps with garbage strewn all around, with stolen bicycles surrounding the perimeter and finally organized criminals who get the homeless to go out in the early hours of the morning to steal anything and everything they can find. When they return to camp, the criminals are waiting. The homeless are paid a pittance and the organized ones take off to “fence “ the items to other buyers who move them on. What I can’t understand is how the super liberals can think that living in an encampment is fair to the homeless. They are victimized by allowing the camps to exist. Sometimes forcing someone into a shelter and offering treatment plus other services is necessary for the greater good and for the homeless person as well.

Thanks, Soleri. I lived in Portland in the mid-70's and did not want to leave. I loved the city and vowed to come back. But I only went back for the first time in fall 2015 and there were signs that things were not well. I did not see the signs so much as hear about them from the folks I stayed with.

I'm sure sorry you had to witness the decline. I recall reading in one of your comments a year or so ago that there might be some hope for the city to reclaim itself. Are there any movements afoot to try to deal with the problems?

iaed, there is a blue-ribbon group of businessmen called People For Portland who use mainstream campaign rhetoric to advance their cause. They've excited a fury from social-justice warriors who call them every dirty name they can come up with. The group doesn't publish the names of its contributors or members, so the activists do have that to work with.

It's interesting that the political class is hunkered down and largely silent about this crisis. My sense is that they know all-too well how terrible this situation is from people in the tourism and hospitality sector. Random citizens regularly post on sites like Next Door, and I've seen polling strongly suggesting the left-wingers on the city council are in real trouble.

Portland's schizophrenia is understandable. How does a city that celebrated an anything-goes ethos for decades suddenly pivot and announce that it's pulling back? The city attracted hipsters from other cities exactly with this sense that rules were for those uptight cities that weren't "cool". Now we're seeing the downside of living without buffers including a dramatic increase in crime. Equally distressing is the loss of Portland's charm. It's hard to love a city blighted by garbage piles, graffiti, and meth-heads screaming as they walk down the street. The alienation in tangible and the mood here is sad if not dismal.

Homelessness is a complicated issue and I think this column is a little too black and white. The driver of the majority of homelessness is the gap between wages and housing costs in any given market/city. Their is a perception that all people in these situations are criminals/addicts/mentally ill/immature anti-social thugs.

In reality, the majority are people with full time jobs. That’s worth repeating. The majority of homeless have full time jobs. But, they cannot afford housing and are either on waitlists or do not qualify for subsidized housing (e.g. they’re undocumented immigrants).
Part of the reason why cities like Portland have seen a dramatic increase in homelessness is that they’ve seen a dramatic increase in housing costs over the same period and not a dramatic increase in wages or none at all. Many have dealt with this by just an overall reduction in discretionary income and lower quality of life. Those at the margins find themselves living outside. The strategy to address it is complicated.

In the long term, the economy needs to be managed to produce fewer losers. We’re taught in freshman economics that capitalism creates “winners and losers” and that that is somehow a good thing. It’s not, but it’s the least bad system that’s been implemented to date. The problem is that America is now mostly losers and we’re on a trajectory to be a nation of all losers and a few billionaires – e.g. Mexico.

In the medium term, a drastic increase in affordable housing needs be funded. I agree with the Biden policy to treat housing like basic infrastructure. Instead of seeing housing as a market-based service and using market-based public policies to correct market failures (e.g. tax credits for investing in affordable housing) we need to go back to government built and operated housing. Yes, “the projects” need to return – we can use the lessons of the past to avoid the social issues associated with them but government intervention is needed at a much larger scale to address the scale of the market failure in something as basic to human survival as water.

In the short term, better coordination of social services – which means centralizing them under one entity (e.g. a government agency) instead of doling out tax dollars to dozens of non-profits that often times duplicate services and have little oversight and accountability. Once every person has access to services, the final issue is enforcing accountability. If you have access to housing, you can’t sleep on the sidewalk. If you have access to addiction treatment, you must use it. If you have access to a place to shoot up, you can’t do it in the park, etc.

Like most issues, everyone is being pulled into the extremes of black and white. Whenever you see or hear someone chalking another up to a single term label, it’s an indicator that the person has fallen into our societal trap of black and white thinking.

Ex Phx Planner,

With respect, here is a math word problem (I used to hate these in school)

Phoenix, 400 square foot apartment, $1,450 rent.

Please solve so that all parties are happy.

Ruben - raise minimum wage (in a phased approach) to $30 an hour and simultaneously build government housing projects that charge less.

It may be true that “the majority of homeless have full time jobs,” but that depends a lot on how you define “homeless” and “full time job.”

At any rate, the majority of those homeless who are making certain cities dangerous and unlivable do NOT have full-time jobs and are addicted to dangerous drugs that have turned them into lost souls and filthy half-dead zombies, too often enabled by well-meaning people in denial. They are not Tom Joad!

High housing costs are certainly a huge problem, but drug abuse and normalization of related behavior is in many ways a bigger problem.

I don’t have the answer except to say that we have to stop refusing to see that problem or making excuses while yearning for utopia.

Ex phoenix planner.
Always good to see you show up.
"Black and White. Lots to think about.
Interesting theories.
But I would like to point out our brillant economist's and technologists discarded
a 222 year old point by a dude named Tom.
8 billion and shooting for 30.

Reality street, I agree with you that we shouldn't "normalize" homelessness and all the associated negatives (crime, litter, etc.). People must be held accountable for their actions. But, at the same time, you can't expect people to not shit in the street if they don't have acccess to a toilet and you can't expect people to just "stop being an addict or stop being mentally ill" or even more of a fantasy "just stop being poor" if society doesn't provide access. Everything I've suggested has worked in European countries, so not a utopian dream (and they area able to enforce accountability because they have systems that provide access at a level in which we do not).

Ex Phx Planner

Your answer receives an A in a classroom environment.

As I'm sure you know, in the long running political environment in Arizona, a higher minimum wage would face a fight to the death with the GOP. Expanded government housing would face a war to the death with the GOP.

An ironic sidenote if I may since I am facing this issue currently.

As a society we readily pay $6,000 to $8,000 per month to care for elderly who don't even know who they are.

Yet we won't pay hardly a cent to keep young families off the street. I know that's a whole other issue, but it just seems strange. When I get to that age, just heavily drug me leave me in the desert.

Well, I can certainly expect government to stop making it easy to be an addict, subsidizing addiction with endless handouts and no accountability, and attracting addicts and criminals to certain locations.

Some people will shit in the street if they have no access to a toilet. Others will discreetly shit in a bush or ally and dispose of the evidence as well as the can. Some will seek and find access to a toilet so they never have to shit in the street again. And some will throw shit at anyone who walks by and laugh in their face. And some will let them do it.

EX Phoenix Planner, my observations were not an effort to solve the riddle of homelessness. I understand it is a complex issue and proceeds along a spectrum from those who are severely dysfunctional, usually drug addicts and/or the mentally ill, to those who are temporarily inconvenienced.

I mentioned the phenomenon only because of its repercussions for west-coast cities like Portland. It's vastly different here than in cities like Phoenix. Does Portland fail because it doesn't spend as much money as Phoenix? No. It spends significantly more as every Portland resident knows. We're a high-tax city with enhanced social services. So is San Francisco, Seattle, Oakland, and Los Angeles. So why is our city such a mess? Phoenix spends a fraction of what we do but it isn't blighted with garbage piles, graffiti, drug paraphernalia, and tents. Something doesn't add up.

The answer isn't that complex. It's not because of insufficient wokeness. Portland is perma-woke. And that, sir, is the real the problem. We sentimentalize the homeless and then minimize the effects of their chronic drug abuse. Every west-coast city does this as well. Why these cities do this is because they attract socially conscious types who valorize "victims" at the expense or reality itself. We must never judge them or hold them accountable! They need treatment! We must, if necessary, lie about their drug abuse if only to salve our tortured consciences! I live among these sentimentalists who reinforce their common value system with brazen denialism.

I don't want to debate housing prices or the "system". Most Americans cope fairly well with reality and we don't infantilize them like social justice warriors do with the homeless. My suggestion is that they personally adopt some of them and offer them food, shelter and unconditional love. It would be stupid, of course, but it would solve the real issue at hand, which is the need of some people to feel special even if it's just another aspect of their narcissism.

Soleri, for the record, I don't live in Phoenix anymore either.

Wokeness is just noise from the fringes(even in Portland) that now has a mega-phone because of the rise of social media platforms and people like you who spend your time focused on it - which ends up just further amplifying their sophomoric bullshit. Meanwhile, the adults who should be discussing the real problems and policy solutions (e.g. you, Talton, etc.) are distracted and throw your arms up declaring defeat to a childish ideology.

To say that homelessness is more visible in Portland than Phoenix because there are more woke residents in Portland is, in my view, black and white thinking. The real issue is that 1) the housing problem is more severe in Portland (homelessness as a problem has also become more acute in Phoenix over the past 10 years ago, again, in tandem with rising housing costs) 2) Portland neighborhoods are more dense, which leads to everything being relatively more dense, including crime and other pathologies (this is nothing new), 3)mismanagement of social services funds (my point above), and 4) a culture that leans more toward empathy than accountability (what you chalk up to as wokeism.

As I said, I (and the few adults whose attentions haven't been captured by childish social media posts) believe there is a place for increased accountability. Rightwingers think that is the Total Solution (their side of the black and white social trap). The solution lies in more comprehensive reforms which will never happen unless the adults engage in political conversations and stop fixating on childish distractions.

Seattle has spent a billion dollars on its "homeless crisis" and the problem is worse than ever.

I wrote on this earlier.


Jon, I agree that more social services spending is not the answer. If it was, San Francisco would've solved homelessness 20 years ago. It's a social services management problem, a housing problem, a wage problem, and lastly, yes, a law enforcement problem.

But no drug abuse problem?!?!

the overwhelming majority of drug users create zero to minimal negative impacts on society. It's when drugs to turn addiction where problems arise. Like any addiction, be it substance or behavior, is mostly a social services/healthcare problem. If there is universal access, it can then be an accountability/law enforcement problem. Again, Europe doesn't have anywhere close to the level of these issues. Why, fewer wokesters? Please.

And yet the overwhelming majority of zombies who are actually wrecking certain cities and making it that much harder to address mere homelessness of others are crazed drug addicts.
They’re often enabled by denial and dogma.
But it’s everyone else’s fault? Please.
Can we send them to Europe while we figure things out?

"send them to Europe"....ahh childish fantasies of the right. simple black and white solutions - lock up all the drug addicts because that's cheaper than addressing the core problem with demonstrated evidence from around the world.

“Send them to Europe” was not meant in earnest, but was meant to underscore the futility and childishness of arguing that we should just do as your interpretation of what Europe does, despite our enormous differences. Sorry that escaped you.
And nobody said to lock them all up.
The point you keep missing — or choosing not to see — is that we need to stop enabling and remaining in denial about drug abuse and addiction, and its impacts not only on users but on cities and those who elect to be citizens.
Dismissing the latter as “the right” and foolish purveyors of black and white solutions is insane.

Possibly the ISSUE is beyond human solutions.
Not to worry Mom is handling it.
The Locusts cometh.

While i didnt get to the University
I found Jared Diamond and Thomas Malthus interesting.
So you bright boys flay on.
Ruben and I are looking forward to Joining Edward Abbey in the
great Sonoran Desert.
Whats left of it.

At the local level, a feasible start would be to phase out all government social service contracts(Seattle probably funds over 50 separate non-profits) and redirect that money to expand county health departments' services and reach.

At the federal level pass another bipartisan infrastructure bill that includes a massive increase in housing. Throw in a massive increase in USDA infrastructure to work with rural Rebibplicans.

Those are real political ideas. Not tired right-winger bullshit or woke non sense.

Unfortunately, many “nonprofit” service providers have become deeply invested in their roles and have obtained the political clout to perpetuate them. The “homeless industrial complex” is only part hyperbole.

A massive increase in federal support for housing could be great — depending on what that housing looks like and how it’s built and managed. Old-fashioned public housing projects sounded good at the time but turned into disasters when reality set in.

At the very least, I’d be thrilled if more people would simply acknowledge that junkies are a huge problem in many cities and that making excuses for them and tossing money around doesn’t work.

Charles Bowden and Spot are waiting in the Great Sonoran.

Why is more the solution?
Hunter/gatherers survived on less.
And didnt live in their own shit.
On the side.
Regarding Jon Talton Grass and tree neighborhoods like Willow. A few mintues ago finishing my walk in the dark in such a neighborhood i watched a home owner mowing his grass with a lawnmower equipped with a Headlight.
Let me repeat that,
Daily in this same neighborhood a number of houseless folks pass thru. Occupy what?
I didnt mention to the mower we could bag two ounces a number of times and sell them downtown for 10 bucks a finger baggie.

I'm pretty much convinced that there are no solutions to homelessness. While there are massive spending ideas that would delight the Homeless Industrial Complex, they will never see the light of day because they discount the tragic reality of drug addicts and the mentally ill themselves. These people crave and demand their fixes. They will do so until they overdose, die from exposure, or die violently. There may be a few who can redeem themselves by kicking their toxic habit but their numbers are paltry.

The choice here is whether west-coast cities will continue to deny this reality or persist in the magical thinking that with more billions to throw at the Homeless Industrial Complex a miracle might occur. At some point, even wokesters will revolt. It's politically toxic to tell the truth in west-coast cities but voters will decide this, not self-appointed "adults" who imagine themselves competent to decide what's best for everyone.

Michael Shellenberg writes persuasively about this problem in San Fransicko. I'll include a recent newsletter here that details some of the pertinent issues here. https://michaelshellenberger.substack.com/p/san-franciscos-slow-motion-suicide?r=y21o&utm_campaign=post&utm_medium=email

Jon, cut me if you like and I'll understand - but this so fits in with this conversation.
In 1972, in answer to people taking from all the government, Church, neighborhood social agencies, I built a walled city in the desert. No more help or handouts from any organization. If help is needed, take the bus to Sanctuary where necessities, including schooling, are furnished. Leave at anytime, no restrictions.
We didn't have the internet in 1972, so the walled city would need protection now. Of course, it's a dream -- but so are so many of the other black and white solutions.
IMHO, the answers will come by "thinking outside the box."
Mariam Cheshire, "The Alternate Safe World of Sanctuary."

If people, like those on this blog, can't get past their disdain for addicts and the mentally ill, and just need to right then off, fine. Start with those who are working full time and have no addiction/mental health issues. Getting just those people into housing reduces the homeless problem by 65%.

Thanks ex Phx Planner
I'm pretty much down on the
Human Species.
I ask my myth believing aquaintances if we might be one of their gods, mistakes.
The plagues march onward.

Jon and i have had ongoing different thoughts about this issue since probably 2000. Particularly panhandlers. Laws that cause panhandlers to be given a citation that they will not pay and will result in a warrant and likely an arrest and jail time is not a solution. Except they get feed and can take a shower.
In the early 60's i recall admitting homeless to the state hospital so they didnt freeze on the street. But it quit freezing in downtown Phoenix around the 80's. And state politicians have little concern. Hence to the streets.
Similar to state politicians concern about Child Protective Services that Roberts at the Arizona Republic has made a career out of writing about the complete faulure.
A similar program was done with many indeginous alcoholics being locked up in Jons favorite 4th floor Jail. A number of Phoenix Police jail personnel treated the Dine and Hopi well and benefitted by acquiring art work.
Oh well. Enough.
Think I'll watch a few Mad Max films.

Assuming we could do all that, we'd still be leaving the hard-core addicts on the street, wrecking some cities. Writing them off doesn't change the fact that they are there, and that they are too often enabled, and that too many people make excuses for inexcusable conditions.

Why can't you see that?

Most reasonable people have lots of compassion for those who are working full time and have no addictions. They're not the ones shitting on the streets of San Francisco, screaming all over the place, and breaking into cars and homes. And worse.

This discussion is not just about percentages of "the homeless" who can be helped and who can help themselves. This is, at least in pertinent part, about expensive, ineffective, dogmatic nonsense that is imposed on cities by foolish, posturing ideologues and political opportunists, and about the human wreckage they leave behind.

Soleri’s comment has got me to thinking: Phoenix has always been a good place to be from and still remains that way. That puts Phoenix ahead of so many cities that have succumbed to the urban decay de-industrialization and the removal of commercial buffers like Fair Trade Laws has brought to vast areas of the heartland.

I’m less sanguine about the Phoenix’s future because real estate and medical care are now the number one and number two economic drivers. Real Estate can’t be regarded as an economic driver because its end product produces no goods or services; something even a holistic herbal shop can claim. It's not likely medical care is going to provide the kind of economic development that launches start ups that become unicorns that bring the executive personnel who become major donors to the arts or mint heirs that unload their patrimony on civic improvements. The second biggest (not counting public services) is medical and the big driver on that is Social Security, not hedge funds. Physicians and medical personnel do provide good retail resources. Taken together this reveals retirees are our principal resource.

24th & Camel back was once our urban statement. Nearby was the Biltmore Hotel with its international reputation, Biltmore Fashion Park that only had top tier retailers like I Magnin, the nearby restaurants and clubs keeping the pulse of the area pumping. In close proximity to 24th most of the city’s business honchos resided and rubbed shoulders, thereby building civic engagement. The Baltimore area gave you the feeling Phoenix was holding its own with major cities on the coast. Now it reminds me of Las Vegas.

Today the center of cultural gravity has moved east and north, exactly where is hard to know. The Tatum area, though filled with stores and homes, doesn’t have the cache’ and has weird pockets of ‘lost’ neighborhoods. Scottsdale is too narrowly defined unless one extends its footprint north for ‘luxury' homes bought by people who cashed out of their California properties and improved their lifestyle options by two or three standard deviations. ASU/Downtown has been a godsend for Phoenix after many years of political/economic neglect, its vitality keeps contiguous sections of Phoenix proper from displaying declining economic progress (a death knell).

Our ongoing economic progress is now reliant on the burbs; Chandler, Mesa, Gilbert especially. This is where high tech has its production facilities, where server farms form business clusters. Being so far out from Phoenix with no arterial transfer of economic or cultural resources creates an asymmetrical geographic tilt to the greater urban environment. And without a cultural focus the metroplex is always in search of an identity.

Yet Phoenix still manages to hold its own. I think that may be because it’s like religious/terrorist groups that are decentralized and forced to extend themselves by involving its members in expansion or risk disappearing. People are attracted to this energy and commitment, particularly the mid westerners that have had their social, economic, and cultural life disappear into the ether, leaving them searching for an anchor.

Critical to the future is keeping an influx of people on the make electing to move to Phoenix. The old cultural ‘elan that gave old Phoenix its shine and attracted those that became dispossessed by economic/social dislocations in the past has been dissipated by its geographic spread. None of the various cities that make up the greater metroplex have the cultural or economic weight to bring together the dynamics that drives growth. However, the area always manages to hold its own economically, claw back after reversals, ride the prosperity wave when conditions favor expansion--that’s the intangible attracting the types that furnish our urban cells with evangelical/business vigor. Such is how I make sense of our growth.

"Retirees are our principal resource" (that would almost fit on the license plate). At some point retirees are going to run out, at any rate, those who can afford to move to AZ. Then what?

Death in Sunbelt Cities.
Where old people come on the road to extinction and perdition.
Lots of comments. No solutions.
iaed the licence plate should read
Humans are the Problem.

Arizona 5 C's last century


Arizona 5 C's this century

Crazy politicians
Climate change
Care facilities (kind of like cattle holding pens but for people)

Probably humans best invention to date, is the Day After Pill.
But look for the Supreme Court 5 to 4 to make it illegal.
drug addiction has been with us for 5000 years.
Kooks in Arizona think thats when their god created planet earth and humans.
Pending, Evolution soon to be not taught in publuc schooks.

Reality Street - aside from typing tantrums on an obscure local political blog, what's your idea to address drug addicts?

It starts with seeing clearly and not being a dick.

Let's all remember that one thing that distinguishes this obscure local blog is civil commenting. Please add value.

Oh come on boys your genuis is hanging out the window dangling in the SW desert wind.
Note drug use continues to increase every day.
I recall in 1970 stopping a elderly female driving erratically in Phoenix. She had a drivers License that said
Sun City Only. (Not sure how that got done)
She had 16 different prescriptions in her purse for the same pain meds.
I called her daughter to pick her up and impounded her vehicle in private impound and sent her drivers license to MVD for destruction.
I did not cite her.

The posts by ex Phx planner explain why cities are so bad at homeless control. Does he seriously believe that 65% of them are drug and mental illness free? Perhaps there are some that are hidden from view, but included in that number, but if they exist, they are not the problem. Get out of the Central corridor because Phoenix homelessness is widely spread out. 19th and Northern is a hot spot because of the closeby services specifically for drug abusers. It's convenient for them to get their methodone and five minutes later, be panhandling on the busiest intersection in Phoenix. Believing that the majority of the long term homelessness is caused by the economy is another "city planner" type observation. To anyone really observing, the issues are mental health and drug use. Whitewash over that all ypu like, but that won't make it go away.

I would suggest that there will be a "statistical" increase in "drug" use as robotics pushes humans out of the work place. All those folks currently busting their ass for Bezos will be able to do drugs all day. Wonder what the overdose stats will look like?
And then comes the food riots and city/state walled fiefdoms ran by Barons.

Time out. I am ckecking with Elizabeth Kolbert on the color of the Sky.
And also the American Lung Society on taking breath today in one of the nations most dangerous cities.
Phoenix aka Valley of the Sun.

"We will not reinvent human nature with our high-mindedness and compassion."

Just wanted to point out that is your chief heresy in the eyes of the left.

Once you cross back over that line, and deny them the possibility of perfecting man and creating their paradise on earth, all of the other points (rule of law, limits to growth) follow.

It's almost like there would be a majority of Americans who agree and want to uphold the enlightenment tradition and the Constitution, and not live in a bureaucratic tyranny or a theocracy, and are just looking for a political party that would represent them BUT NO, STOP THOSE EVIL THOUGHTS, STOP, CAN'T WON'T NEVER HAPPEN...Anyhow...

If you were to write a post with just that one quoted sentence, it would be like aggravated assault on a leftist. Stunning that 30 plus years after the fall of communism they still won't give it up.

Well written Jon, and takes some courage to tell "your side" that what they're doing (allowing once proud cities like Portland, Seattle, SF, and LA to turn into festering shitholes) isn't working and needs correction.

I love the commenters calling you mean names without telling you how you're wrong. And the other posters saying we just need more government solutions to government-caused problems. Stunning and brave.

And for the record, capitalism doesn't have a central bank controlling interest rates, holding them at 0-1% for a decade. THAT (plus debasement of the currency) leads to high prices. Debasement is obvious, but with artificially low interest rates, the rational thing to do is borrow more. At higher (natural) rates, people can't afford to borrow that much and voilá! Housing prices magically start to fall.

This post sure whipped up the childish right-wing fantasy nonsense....homeless is the result of....wait for it....the federal reserve! Shouldn't you guys be on a scavenger hunt for JFK?

This is the final word and I'm done. Soleri, I respect your mind and I've been impressed with your rhetoric for many years. I'd encourage you to look wider and deeper into the evidence in both the problems and the solutions. Basic government stats at HUD for example (which show, among other things that Florida has almost twice as many homeless per capita as Oregon; AZ is only .5 percent lower than Oregon. Chronic homeless (the share that are severe mentally ill/addicts) make up only about 20 percent of the homeless population.

This is not a simple issue and this "conversation" is intellectually lazy. Everyone wants to solve this problem, but future elections and policies driven by a left/right coalition of old white men collectively shouting "get off my lawn" will for sure lead to failure at best and myriad unintended consequences are worst.

The "chronic homeless" drug addicts and criminals may indeed make up just a fraction of the overall population collectively labeled "homeless," but they have an enormous negative impact on the areas where they are concentrated -- often city centers and immigrant or disadvantaged communities -- and an even more terrible impact on areas to which they are attracted and coddled with endless handouts, readily available drugs, preposterous euphemisms, and no expectations, much less requirements, of changed behavior. For that population, the lack of housing is merely incidental to much more serious problems. The constant tendency in some quarters to ignore or minimize the extent and impact of these problems while advocating only for massive abstract government efforts to address housing for the "good homeless" who work and struggle goes far beyond intellectual laziness and enters the realm of conscious denial.

Clearly there are no easy answers to dealing with the homeless problem. My thanks to both Soleri and Ex Phx Planner for their thoughts. And thanks to Jon for hosting this discussion.

iaed, i agree good column.
However the poor, the houseless/homeless
issue is not new.
Try reading some 1st Century to 2nd Century Roman history.
Beware the Beggars.

Todays news: The planets attack on humans continues as the plagues rolls on and the truckers are pulling a January 6th event in Canada.

For the record, I am not concerned with the economic justice issues that animate Ex Phx Planner. The homelessness that concerns me is primarily that of drug-addicted zombies turning our cities into unlivable hellholes. What the left's Thought Police do in Portland is exactly what EPP does here: ignore that subject by pretending it doesn't exist. They have even gone so far as to say that it shouldn't be raised because it might "stigmatize" people who are merely down on their luck. This is bullshit but it works when public opinions is circumscribed by censorious nannies intent on imposing their values on the naughty children who might disagree with them.

The "woke" word goes a long way to explaining how earnest hipsters control the public debate with deflections that are both pointless and insincere. You will not solve this nation's P2P meth crisis with macro-economic solutions devised by cynics who confuse their wishful thinking with reality.

For the record, I'm still a left-of-center Democrat who thinks the rich should pay higher taxes, that a single-payer health-care system would be fabulous, and that everyone deserves a permanent dwelling. I'm humble enough not to confuse those thoughts with politically feasible solutions given the huge rift in our public mood and debates. For one thing, we would need a homogeneous culture that simply doesn't exist here as it does, more or less, in northern Europe.

The immediate crisis is the chronic deceit coming from social justice warriors. We are in a medical and humanitarian crisis involving toxic recreational drugs that is not only killing users but turning some of our great cities into dystopian hellholes. How has EPP failed to notice this? Well, it's easy when you deflect the real debate from that to a kind of economic utopianism that doesn't stand any chance whatsoever of ever being enacted.

Do you really want to see lower housing prices? I have a solution! Solve this dire crisis involving toxic street drugs and make cities livable again. Livable cities are my credo and it explains why I post on this site. I am an urbanist but unlike EPP, I'm not blinded by the hubris of thinking top-down economic solutions will facilitate this reality. The real crisis, which threatens America's liberal project, involves earnest do-gooders living in a dream world of their own purity and righteousness. The first thing we on the left have to do is stop lying so fucking much. That is what's killing us.

Soleri said, "medical and humanitarian crisis involving toxic recreational drugs"

I think drug use will increase in the future.

"Earnest do-gooders living in a dream world of their own purity"

Reminds me of your previous writings regarding Bernie Sanders for president.

Hey, Cal, ever hear of this thing called the police? It's what every SJW seems to think is evil and need to be replaced by social workers. God help us.

Golly, it’s a good thing 1st Century Roman beggars didn’t get to play with a tsunami of meth, crack, heroin, and fentanyl.

Soleri: "Great" is in the eye of the beholder. You may not consider Phoenix to be a great city but lots of people do. Phoenix is the fastest growing large city in the country - https://www.nytimes.com/2021/08/12/us/phoenix-census-fastest-growing-city.html - so clearly there are many people who are attracted to it.

This article covers the revitalization of the downtown Phoenix area: https://www.forbes.com/sites/brendarichardson/2019/10/27/a-development-boom-aims-to-transform-downtown-phoenix-into-an-urban-mecca/?sh=2cf20b561139

As for Portland (or anywhere else you decide to go), you're either part of the solution or part of the problem. Complaining does nothing. What have you done to contribute to the quality of life in Portland? Seems like your track record is to bail whenever times get tough, rather than stick around and help make things better.

Soleri, yep i was one. I was considered by some to be a social worker with a badge.
More police and more laws is not always the answer.
But Portland could work on more effective solutions. Make sure to increase your stock holdings in Private Prisons.

Reality Street, its called progress.
Now days beggars have more choices.

Maryjane: And then there is Missouri River bank weed and ground up white lizard for meetings with angels.

Again, I am betting substance abuse increases.

Phoenician, one reason why I've been a regular poster on this blog virtually from its inception is my passion for cities. This includes Phoenix. I don't critique or praise it because I'm a fairweather friend or a witless homer but someone who can still make distinctions without worrying that another person might mistake me for a quisling.

One of my daily activities in Portland is picking up the trash on nearby streets the city can't or won't do. This entails on average about two to three hours everyday of me doing grunt labor for free. I'm often thanked by passers by but I don't need to be praised. I do it because this is what thoughtful citizens do in a crisis. and what city-lovers do because of their passion. Your assumption about me is a bit mean-spirited but I'll assume here that you're merely having a bad day.

I’ll make the humble observation that Phoenician seems to be missing the part about the great difficulty in being part of the solution when you’re constrained by group-think and vilified for objecting to, or even insufficiently praising, destructive ideological blinders.
I say this with complete sincerity.

Reality Street, there's a lot of group-think on both sides of the ideological divide. What many people miss is that both those sides reinforce the other's implacable opposition to anything that doesn't conform to their "ideology". Both sides play this game and it's driving this country insane. But reality is not all one thing or another. It's almost as if we've had a religious awakening where we located the devil in those people on the other side, which makes us certain that we're the godly ones.

I'm going to be blunt here: the left's culture war is as stupid and vile as the right's. I'm pro-choice, gay, cosmopolitan, agnostic, etc. That doesn't mean I have stopped thinking for myself like virtually every lefty in Portland. They love their idiotic culture war so much they're destroying the city if only to advertise how effing woke they are.

My side right or wrong is the same impulse that makes somebody on the right believe they'd rather die than admit vaccines work or some lefty insisting that there can be no peace unless perfect justice has been achieved. Both ideas are insane. The left has convinced itself that its righteousness and purity are a ticket to nonbinary heaven. How is that different from any fundamentalist voting for Trump because God told them to?

As usual this conversation has gone round and round and round and round. And what pops out at the end......any solutions, real solutions? Hell no.

Go back to past discussions and pick a subject.


The border


On and on.

Sorry to be a broken record about this but it is what it is.

I'll use the border as an example.

If we really wanted to, we could shut the border tight as a drum. We have the money and the personnel to put an agent/soldier every five feet the length of the border. Instructions, Shoot to kill anyone who approaches.

Silly solution? Sure.

Now for the TRUTH. Can you handle it?


For God's sake, Wells Fargo alone makes $2,000,000,000 a year just from illegal immigrants here sending money back home.

Do you think Western Union still makes their money sending telegrams to grandma?

I worry about some of you. Did your mama just birth you yesterday, when it was nighttime AND you fell off the turnip truck as well????????????????

Don't look to politicians.

Follow the money.

See, this is why nobody likes you. I put forward a cogent, concise argument which no one has yet brought up. And your reply was smug giggling. Ha ha ha. The Fed? What are you like a conspiracy theorist? You probably thought that was a clever retort, but it just shows you're not that smart. You did work for the government, after all...

I think you're right though. The institution which controls the currency and the price of credit has NO effects whatsoever, intended or unintended, on the economy at large.


Well stated man. Sorry you need to spend a good chunk of your day picking up others' garbage. I realize you were the columnist here, not Rogue.
Mea culpa. Hard to have a coherent convo with these new lefties, huh? When you bring up valid criticisms, they just change the subject or insult you and say it's somehow YOUR FAULT. Wonderful people. The wokesters seem like the 21st century version of the young Red Guard Cultural Warriors in Mao's China, erasing history and toppling statues to lead to a glorious future. As they all knew, the ONLY reason the Revolution hadn't been accomplished was because others weren't fervent enough in their support!

Ain’t no difference.
Blind ideology is just that.
One of my big concerns, and a point I tried to make in a previous thread, is that intolerant leftist ideologues and their enforcers tend to drive many reasonable working folks — and certainly the non-politically-obsessed White working class, people who do still matter — away and into the arms of Trump and his fascist groupies.
I see that dynamic as one of the immense tragedies of our time.
In trying to make that point, I’ve been ridiculed as insufficiently attuned. Go figure…

I just stumbled upon this post and find it fascinating. Some of the best dialogue I've seen to bridge the B&W divided bullshit rhetoric. I'm a 40 year native Phoenician who moved to PNW 20 years ago and have to agree, the situation Portland finds itself in is dismal and pathetic. But rather than assigning blame as to how we got there, why isn't more energy being spent on solutions? I'm confounded. Understanding the problems are a complex mix of drug abuse, minimum wage, housing prices etc, isn't this what governing and political discourse is about? How weak are we who have lost our way. Anyway, I doubt "quaint" Phoenix is any better than Portland when it comes to homeless issues. It's just not as apparent in the never ending spread of the festering amoeba that the city has become. Being an Aquarian, I still remain (very cautiously, mind you) optimistic that some of these problems will begin to be properly addressed once we start to be inclusive in our problem solving. Can we please just quit the old white male patriarchy that clearly hasn't served this country well for bloody decades?

Winter in Phoenix:
This afternoon i got off the freeway and on to East Van Buren. Between 40th street and 16th street i saw a number of obviously homeless folks. Most pushing a cart loaded with "possessions."
I noted a few local hookers working the street. Van Buren is famous for it's street walkers since it was once the main drag (highway 60) thru town.
Its winter so that means the Internationals (traveling prostitutes)are likely in town.
But who dosent want be in the Valley of the Sun in the winter?
Ps. Enjoy the Phoenix Open!

Desert Rat, if "solutions" were so easy to come by, we certainly would have seen some by now in those cities that spend disproportionately on this problem. Is it a paradox that the problems instead only worsen? Not if you realize that failing to tell the truth at the outset underlies this catastrophe. Lying to protect "victim" groups now seems synonymous with liberalism, which to be sure, is fundamentally illiberal since the entire point of our liberal tradition has been to enhance our collective well-being with more information and expertise. You can't lie your way to freedom. It's so wrongheaded that it should stun us that we don't see this.

The left's preoccupation with identity politics explains why we're stuck in this unhappy place. Sometime in the last couple of decades, it became acceptable to oversimplify reality to blame nebulous entities (say "white male patriarchy") in order to explain the troubles some people have with day-to-day life. It's how "anti-racism" gradually became the focal point of the left's culture war, and it soon expanded to include gender issues as well. Since this kind of victim hierarchy is alienating to a majority of voters, it began to politically damage Democrats in heartland states.

Make no mistake: the left's culture war is a disaster for liberalism. Various advocacy groups and their media allies have bought into it so mainstream Democrats dare not speak up for fear of unleashing holy hell upon their heads. It will likely take multiple election losses for saner Democrats (e.g., James Carville, Barack Obama, et al) to prevail. I'll be blunt: we will deserve every loss coming our way because this toxic ideology is anathema to our humanity. The balkanization of the human spirit by earnest victimologists will destroy not only liberalism but democracy itself if we don't wake up.

good observations and excellent points.
Great poetry

Solutions? I'm not confident the human species is capable of anything but destruction.
Note: Xi Jinping and Putin continue their agreement on how to divide up Europe and Africa. Ghenigas Kahn rides.
"Pity this busy monster Manunkind"

Oops., sorry Genghis Khan

Wow, just wow. I still read, follow but seldom respond. No interest in having the fight about the evils of "Sun City." In this case i will make the exception. The comments made along with soleri's article nudged too many thoughts not to.

At this stage of my life i have become much more pragmatic. Perhaps that is why i so enjoy soleri. Our politics are similar and buy-in for me is easy. He is practical, down to earth and able to articulate and if he offends someone, oh well.

In the 1990's i had been working for a local union in St Paul MN. By the mid 90's i had grown weary of how it was run. I was elected president and thought i could save/change organized labor. I was either foolish, naive or both. It took me about six minutes in office to understand the only thing i had a chance to fix was our 7500 member local. At that point, the job got easier.

Maybe it was because i had sobered up 20 years earlier. In treatment the first thing they taught us was to make our bed. Translation, take care of the little things right in front of you. I've ever forgotten that lesson.

I visited my folks who had moved to Sun City in the mid 90's. Took me three years because i didn't want to be with a bunch of old people. My first visit, i knew it would become my home when we retired. It was like the concept of organized labor from a collectivist standpoint but also embraced tenets found from those leaning to the right.

Self-governance, responsibility, accountability and ownership were all part and parcel of living in the community. I bought into it lock stock and barrel. It fit perfectly with what i learned over the years; all politics are local. Big picture solutions are usually the dreams of fools.

It is why i elected to respond. Soleri gets it. Take care of your neighborhood, your community. This country has become enmeshed in the politics of the stupid. The problems posed in this blog have been lost on all of the crazy hatred and ranting and ravings from the far right and the far left. There will be no solutions unless and until people start taking care of the business they can take care of.

Sad to say, everything else is pure bullshit. For me, i'll keep giving back hundreds of hours in my community a year and keep doing everything i can do to make it a better place to live.

The other thing l learned in treatment; keep it simple stupid. It's old worn and perhaps trite, but it works better than anything else i have come across.

Soleri's excellent guest column has generated 75 comments and counting. Well done.

I'm old enough to remember when journalists were pressed by the bosses to provide "solutions." It doesn't work. Most complex issues defy being solved. The question is what are the constructive steps vs. the destructive ones.

Which reminds us of Steve Jobs' axiom: The axis today isn't right vs. left, it's constructive vs. destructive.

I know that in Seattle a billion dollars has been thrown at the "homeless emergency" and it's only grown worse. With such generosity from a guilty liberal city, social-service providers have no incentive to address the complex situation of the unsheltered (most don't simply "need a home"). They are unaccountable and taxpayer money is providing six-figure staff salaries.

Meanwhile, a stood-down police force, legal pot and no penalty for possession of hard stuff, organized shoplifting, no enforcement of the laws, and generous handouts make "Freeattle" a magnet. Unlike Portland, Seattle still has many attractions, a strong diverse economy, and is finally beginning to see a backlash.

I was struck, especially on Facebook, to the often frantic defensiveness by "Valley" residents to the column. No observations beyond "This is the best place on earth to live!" will be tolerated. So strange for the fifth most populous city in America.

I'll add a postscript - Soleri is evolving and that's gratifying. Finally, none of us can fix this mess - it's too big. Boom!

Let us have Will Rogers sum up this discussion. "Never miss a good chance to shut up"

United States 2, Sarah Palin 0

You lost me "at cities in Florida doing well"......delusional, must be at Mar-A Lago.......or South Beach....

Richard, I spent five days in St Petersburg, and then two days driving from there south to Ft Myers and Naples and across the Everglades and north to Ft Lauderdale, Pompano Beach and south again from there to Miami. The Atlantic coast was spectacular although I spent one night in an interesting if sketchy city called Hollywood. The gulf coast was equally impressive. St Petersburg has some beautiful neighborhoods and even a lively downtown along a stretch of roadway called Central. Tampa has a vintage neighborhood named for a 19th century town it later annexed, Ybor City. I was pleasantly surprised how urban and lively it was.

Florida has three times the population of Arizona, so comparisons are probably inapt for that reason alone. What I did see impressed me greatly. Not once did I see a homeless tent and graffiti was virtually nonexistent. Miami is more conventional in the sense of having a downscale area on its west side, but its downtown was off-the-charts impressive, as was South Beach.

I think of myself as an urbanist, so Florida's primarily suburban character is not particularly interesting to me. That said, it was functional on its own terms. I never felt unsafe or uneasy while there. The state is heavily retailed with numerous high-end stores. It doesn't cater to dangerous tweakers and the mentally ill unlike my unhappy adopted city of Portland.

Cities and states make choices that are driven more by opportunity than design. Politics itself cannot change their cultural destiny but it can reflect its population's values. From what I saw, Florida works quite well. Arizona is like it in its suburban character although there are large parts of my home state that feel left behind. Florida may well be that way itself although I didn't see much evidence for it. That said, my cursory overview is hardly definitive. Your mileage may vary!

The failed feckless homelessness policies of SF,LA, Portland and Seattle have helped to create and sustain an urban debacle, but it's the escalating cost of housing, cost of living and economic booms in California, Portland and Seattle that have fueled homelessness and will continue to produce high rates of homelessness even if temperate climate West Coast cities clean up their act so to speak. These same processes are at work currently in Spokane and other "hot" housing markets. The main reason homelessness has been an intractable problem in the US is because economic booms increase, not decrease, homelessness by driving up housing prices and by creating untenable economics for low income and middle income families without strong family support systems. Economic growth and homelessness are strongly associated, and that dilemma which has been created by a large increase in income inequality since 1980 is not going away. Moving chronically homeless mentally ill people and drug addicts into secure facilities will not get at the underlying economics which is only becoming worse. Nevertheless, Schellenberger is right that current conditions for the chronically mentally ill and drug addicts are unacceptable and inhumane and have to change. Filling up jails and creating large horrible psychiatric facilities is not the answer; but there will have to be increased use of involuntary commitment for the chronically mentally ill and a large investment in small psychiatric facilities and residential drug treatment programs for some homeless people living on the street and increased use of legal mandates. This will be difficult to do without creating a human services debacle to match the current debacle in West Coast cities. "Homeless" does not need to be put in quotes; this is Schellenberger's BS; homelessness is indeed a housing crisis as well as an indicator of what happens when social policies divide cities into haves and have nots. Drug addiction and chronic mental illness are thoroughly enmeshed with extreme poverty as indicated by analysis of the racial/ethnic profile of homeless populations.


"LA is spending $600,000 to $800,000 to house a single homeless person."

Is that fact or fiction?

Technical note — Ever since Al's post February 11, 2022, everything in this thread appears in italics on my machine. Even the "Posted by | date/time" signature. Are others seeing this too?

yes, italics too.

Makes our comments seem more soffisticated. Regardless of spelling.

I've been in two physical altercations with aggressive homeless. One on Central Ave and One on Glendale Ave.

I grew up in super lib PNW and spent 15 years in the SF Bay Area. I have no more patience for my fellow Americans to resolve the homeless issue. I also refuse to be pushed around by vagrants and give my beautiful walks up. Think globally act locally.

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