Thursday, November 29, 2007

Ballfields list is cut down

More news from the Waveyard ballfield debate. It looks like the City has taken Kleinman park out of contention which I am sure will make some people happy. The real X factor here is if the private land that the City is looking into. Obviously, they are in negotionations, so they can't disclose who else they are dealing with, but if I had to bet, I would guess that the ballfields will end up on private land sold to the city.

District 5 race heats up

According to the Trib, 2 more people have thrown their hat into the ring for the District 5 City Council seat. Lets see if they will be able to get the signatures in time.

I am glad to see that there is going to be more competition for the seats. More people should want to be involved in City Government and truly want to make a difference.

Have you seen this Lamborghini?

This has been all over the news and the radio for the last couple of days. This guy did over 200 mph on the 202 in East Mesa. If you have seen this car, or know this guy, please call the authorities.

I have no problem if people want to use their hard earned money to buy fast toys to show off. I do have a problem when people want to drive at 219 mph on roads with other people. If something goes wrong, this guy is killing himself and probably a bunch of other people. I heard that this guy has also taken his car over and tresspassed onto the Bonderandt driving school site and driven over there as well.

I had heard that the video had been taken down, but here it is again. If you know the voice or the car, please let someone know.

More Finance Troubles for Mesa

According to Gary Nelson of the Arizona Republic, sales taxes revenues for Mesa have dropped another $900,000 below projections in just about a month. The new gap is about $2.5 million below the current budget needs. So I guess my question is: where will the cuts be made? Why is this such a surprise when its clear that Mesa's revenues depend so heavily on sales tax revenues? How come the council's budget doesn't come with built in contingency?

Here is a thought: Instead of building a budget that has to be cut, why not build a budget with some surplus built in. That way, when times are lean, your surplus is lost without impacting the services as promised. In this current structure, we are constantly set up for disappointment. People put away savings for exactly the same reason. You have some money saved away so when something unexpected happens (like major car troubles, a trip to the hospital, braces) you have the money to pay for it - instead of being left broke and looking for a way to pay the mortgage.

When the property tax failed, we were told that cuts were going to be made? What ever happened to that? Was it all talk? The voters were told what they would be losing by voting it down and they did it anyway. So, why are we still in such a bad position? Shouldn't the council taken that as a clue that they should change the way that they did business? Shouldn't we expect a much leaner budget?

Instead, we are back where we have been for awhile now: at the whim of the economy and Mesa's sales tax revenues.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

When will we know if Mesa has turned the corner?

So, I have looked back over the last few posts and over the last few months and I really have to say that in many ways, things are starting to finally look up in Mesa. We are looking at quality projects like Waveyard, Mesa Proving Grounds, and the Condos at Fiesta Mall. People seem to be interested in actually moving to Mesa.

I think that a lot of people will tell you that Mesa is on the verge of turning the corner. But I think that there are still a few very pressing issues that need to be addressed before we can even discuss making such a proclaimation:

  • Reducing crime in the aging parts of Mesa
  • Keeping up with police and fire coverage especially in East Mesa
  • Delivering all of the transportation projects that were promised
  • Getting immigration under control
  • Creating a budget that doesn't continue to grow out of control
  • Cutting our reliance on utility rate increases
  • Building a long term plan for Gateway
  • Making a plan for Downtown
  • Taking an objective look at Light Rail

These are the types of issues that I hope that the candidates for Mayor address in the upcoming election. Its clear that there are positive steps in the right direction, but the road to redemption is long. Its going to take some vision to get these things done.

Hotel added to Condo Project

The Republic is reporting that a luxury hotel has been added to the Condo project at Fiesta Mall. It is good to see that Mesa is trying to attract some more upscale hotels. I have always been disappointed in the difference between the bland outside of the Hilton and its relatively decent interior. This is another big step for the Fiesta District, but it still begs the question: What are upscale travelers and business going to do in the area? The Republic says:

"The project is considered a key facet to the Fiesta District's revival, along with renovations to Fiesta Mall, expansion of Mesa Community College and the new Children's Hospital tower under construction at Banner Desert Medical Center."

While I agree that things are looking up for the area, it doesn't really answer the question on what people in a fancy condo and a hip hotel are going to do in the area? There is only so much time they can spend in the mall. Plus, unless I hear differently, Westcor is only replacing the old store with two new department stores. I don't really think thats going to have the hipsters running to shop there. Let's hope that there is more coming.

Future of Mesa Proving Ground

Here is a really interesting article in the Tribune about the Mesa proving grounds and what sort of plans the developers have for it. At first blush, it sounds like a lot of big talk. But then I realized the group doing the work is DMB Associates.

I looked them up and it turns out that they are the same folks who did Verrado and DC Ranch - which are two of the more interesting communities I have seen. So who knows, maybe they can deliver something like we have never seen before.

We have a real opportunity in East Mesa between Gateway Airport and the Proving Grounds to make something really spectacular. However, its going to take some global thinking and a commitment of not only the people in the area, but businesses and the City of Mesa. Let's hope the action backs up all of the talk.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Looking up in West Mesa

Lots of big things were approved last week at the Planning and Zoning Board. However, one of the biggest wins is what wasn't approved: another pawn shop for the area. Mesa is an interesting town because it filled with conflicting forces: one force is trying to rennovate, innovate and restore - transit development, new condos, etc.

The other force is trying to perpetuate our current situation - more pay day loans, pawn shops, and apartments. The sad part is: this force is really the status quo right now. We have seen some major victories as of late including Waveyard and these condos, but this is only the beginning. We have big opportunities in the east part of the city if they are done right.

Aren't there bigger problems in Pinal County?

Pinal County wants to launch a county-wide wi-fi network. I guess it will be good for all of the people who have to telecommute to work because there is no way that they are willing to brave the traffic.

I think that this is a neat idea, but shouldn't the county be focused on more pressing issues? This certainly seems like something a private enterprise could come in a do a better job of by themselves.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Updated: Truitt is out

The Republic is now reporting that Darrell Truitt will not run for District 5.

They reported last week that Truitt had filed for District 5. Good for him for sticking to his original plan. Like I said before, I don't know if he had made any pledge to not run, but I am glad that he is not taking the incumbent advantage.

Waveyard Final Count

Pretty interesting to note that the project won in early ballots and on election day in all 6 districts. The margins are especially high in the east part of the city. I am glad to see everyone was on the same page on this one. I think its more interesting to note that 22,000 of the 46,000 ballots cast are from East Mesa.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Well Said!

I wanted to compliment Kym Levesque for her blog about the Higley School teacher. I agree that teachers live under constant scrutiny and walk a fine line where they hold none of the power.

I think the first part of her blog is well stated and right to the point. It is preposterous that this teacher is resigning over two "incidents" that seem minor - and almost ridiculous in nature.

However, I don't think that the school bond issue and the teacher expectations is quite the right fit. Voters weren't asked to extend the overrides to give raises to teachers and put more money in the classroom. They were asked to override the budget of the school district. The budget that includes a lot of bureaucracy and not a whole heck of a lot of efficiency.

When the overrides went down, the schools say that its the teachers who will suffer, but there are certainly other ways that the schools can cut back. And I am not just talking about all the easy things that schools usually threaten, like arts.

Rex Griswold first to file petition signatues

Former City Councilman and current Mayoral Candidate Rex Griswold has filed his petition signatures yesterday. The picture above is of him and his buddies celebrating outside the clerks office - super duper, gang! Just Kidding.

Griswold is the first out of the gate. I wonder if having his signs up so much earlier than anyone else helped him in his petition gathering process. Kudos to him, but I bet we'll see the other two file before too long. He seems to be doing the fundamentals right: raising the most money, getting his signatures in first. Seems like the guy might have some momentum.

The real question is, as a former member of the standing council, do people trust him to fix Mesa?

Light Rail making friends

The Tribune is reporting that Mesa business owners don't want light rail down Main. Gee, I wonder why! It seems like all the construction and stuff has been a total breeze for all those businesses in Tempe and in Phoenix. It will be interesting to see how this one develops. However, correct me if I am wrong, but aren't these extensions a little while away? Why are they doing all the work now?

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

MCC in the news... for something positive!

MCC is buying the old Fuddruckers and Harkins theater by Fiesta Mall. I guess thats what happens when you start saving the money from the junkets and start using it towards school improvements. Kidding! Kidding!

But seriously, what did they cut to make room in their multimillion dollar bond budget for this?

Anyway, I don't know if I am going to enjoy the smell of old hamburgers and nacho cheese when I am enjoying some artwork, but who knows. How many shows are they going to have going on at once over at the Harkins 5? It seems like a pretty big space, but maybe this will be interesting.

We didn't see this problem in 2000?

The Republic is reporting the debate that has grown over the future bonds and the secondary property tax that may be attached. Mesa is having to find $30 million bucks this year, to pay for bonds that were previously issued. Its been a long time coming since I think these bonds have been pushed out over a long period of time to try to make ends meet. Its like taking out a 7 year loan on your car.

Now, the City staff is talking about raising a retroactive tax to pay for whats left so there would be enough operations money to pay for the stuff that they want to build with the new bonds. You gotta hand it to Tom Rawles. At least he says it like it is. There is a clear problem at hand: even if the voters approve the bonds to build the new police and fire stations, there is not enough money to staff them. Now, the council is talking about leaving that issue in the hands of the future council. What sort of leadership is that?

If you recall, there was a lot of talk about imminent cuts during the property tax election. What happened to all of those? Why aren't they talking cuts now to make up the $8 million a year needed to staff these stations. We need priorities, not retroactive taxes.

What is even more troubling is the following statement by Claudia Walters:

"The fundamental problem, she said, is that the city's financing system no longer works, and no one could have foreseen that when bonds were issued in 2000."

Really? We didn't see that people were moving out of Mesa in 2000? We didn't see new freeways coming online making it easier for people to live further away? We didn't see that people were starting to shop elsewhere? We didn't see that Mesa was the only community without a property tax?

I am sure someone must have mentioned that there was a potential problem down the road. I certainly know that it didn't take until 2007 to realize that there was a problem.

Friday, November 9, 2007

Riding the Roller Coaster

The Tribune is reporting that sales tax revenue is down and its impacting Mesa's budget. So far, it looks like they can handle it, but who knows what the future holds. The article tries to link the bond issue to the drop in budget. We have been in tough economic shape for awhile. The sales tax slowdown isn't what put the city in this hole.

Having bonds with a secondary property tax to pay for infrastructure is a more steady approach to getting some needs met. Mesa went out for the whole enchilada a while back with the primary property tax and was roundly rejected. Perhaps they will be able to make the case for specific projects. Its the difference between trusting the council with the blank check and sending them to the grocery store with a certain amount of money and a shopping list. Perhaps the voters will be a bit more trusting.

The only thing that troubles me is this line:

"And the tax assessments could go up because of ongoing costs to maintain facilities and pay salaries tied to the bond package. "

I don't think that these bonds should pay for M&O. The city needs to find away to take care of that with their regular budget. Otherwise, we are putting ourselves into a perpetual obligation, because once we get that staff in place, you know that it would be darn near impossible to remove them. No one has the political will to lower the number of police and fire workers that they have in the city.

Mesa Mayor's Signs

Saw my first Scott Smith sign yesterday. Saw it from about a mile away. Its an interesting contrast compared to Rex's signs. Griswold seems to use a whole bunch of his sign for his picture. I think I figured out why:

He wants the San Diego transplant vote. You stay classy, Rex! I can't possibly be the first person to make this observation, right? Please tell me someone else has thought of this.

I can't wait to see what Claudia Walters comes out with. It probably won't be half as fun.

Still a lot of work to do on Waveyard

Here is a great editorial in the Arizona Republic today about Waveyard and how there is still a lot of work to be done. My sentiments exactly! I have made it clear that I support the project and that I think that its good for the city. Now that its approved, however, I think that we need to make sure that the project is delivered as promised. I have scanned the development agreement and it looks like there are a lot of things in place to make sure that these guys give us everything that they are promised. I know that there were a few people out there complaining that this is going to end up being a glorified condo complex - I seriously doubt that will happen.

However, we need to make sure that there is not a gap between what was promised and what is actually delivered to the voters. The voters across Mesa overwhelmingly supported this project because they were promised something unique in exhange for those ballparks and that golfcourse. Now, they just have to make sure that they deliver.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

ASU wants more money

Is anyone really surprised by this report that ASU wants more money? I think that ASU has a bit of a public perception problem. If you want more money, don't be building fancy buildings and growing a huge new campus downtown. Are we supposed to be impressed with everything that is going on and just willingly open our pocketbooks?

Now, I have been told that ASU is one of the cheaper state universities in the country. I could see if they wanted to boost tuition once in awhile to keep up, but it seems like they are doing this same song and dance every year. At least Crow waited until he had a decent football team this year to ask.

East Valley Congessional Races

Saw this very interesting article about the upcoming races in the East Valley. I also saw this post by the folks over at Seeing Red Arizona categorizing the Flake/Pearce contest being a race between an open border lover and a very popular immigration advocate.

The one thing that I notice is that in both CD5 race and the CD6 races, we are going to watch a bunch of Republicans beat up on eachother. There are going to be up to six people looking to take on Mitchell, and Flake and Pearce is going to be nasty as well.

Well, gee, this tactic seemed to work out well 2 years ago in CD8. Plus, a lot of people forget this, but Napolitano skated to victory in her original AG's race because two republicans lit eachother on fire in the primary. Republicans beating up on Republicans is never a good thing - and I think its an especially bad thing next year.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Reward! Watch Thieves Caught on Camera

Big Sticks Cigar Store Theives

Please take a minute to watch this video and see if you can identify either of the culprits. If you can, you might earn yourself a nifty $1000 bucks. Check out the whole story from Big Sticks, which is the cigar shop at Riverview. Saw this story in the Republic, and figured I would help spread the word. If we can't use the internets to catch thieves, what is it good for?

Election Results

Waveyard passes with 65% of the vote and the commenters over at the Tribune sure are angry. I am glad to see the voters were willing to listen to the deal, see the merits, and vote for it. Quite frankly, I am prett surprised that it passed with such a large margin, especially here in Mesa. Now, lets hope that they deliver on everything as promised.

The other interesting thing from yesterday is the surprising number of school overrides that went down. It looks like the government may have a taxpayer revolt on their hands. Rising assessments, increased taxes, a slowing economy... The property tax reform movement may have some momentum.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Be sure to vote Yes on Waveyard

Well, the election is finally here. If you haven't done so already, I encourage you to find out where your polling place is and go out and vote. This issue is important to the type of city that we want in the future. Here are the reasons I voted Yes:

  • Its supported by everyone, including the crazies at VBO. That's really saying something.
  • It will certainly generate more money for the city over the golf course.
  • We missed out on the Cardinals stadium. We should have something to show for it.
  • It would be nice to have a cool place in Mesa where I can take my kids.
  • I'd rather do this than start the property tax debate all over again.

We'll see how it goes. I hope the voters of Mesa make the right decision.

Monday, November 5, 2007

East Mesa says, "I will gladly pay you Tuesday..."

Here is an interesting article from Today's Tribune. Yikes. Instead of asking growth to pay for itself now, Mesa is apparently asking growth to pay for itself later. We are so far behind in planning out there that people are being allowed to come in now and pay for their growth later. Gee, I wonder if thats going to cause any problems.

Friday, November 2, 2007

A true test of the trust in the council

Looks like voters are going to be able to decide on "Home Rule" in the upcoming election. Its sort of interesting how this debate is shaping up. By posing it as a budget cut question, I think that many people may vote against it because they'd like to see the council make cuts.

If you remember, during the property tax debate, the city council said that they were going to have to make a bunch of cuts if the tax failed. The tax didn't pass, and I don't know about you, but I haven't really felt a pinch. Those kind of empty threats, followed up by the appearance of a continually growing budget is what creates a credibility gap with voters.

I think that I would like to see some sort of deal cut where if people vote Yes on "Home Rule" the council will agree to make $50 million in cuts or something like that.

District 5 Update

Phil Austin has filed papers to run for the District 5 seat vacated by Rex Griswold. I wouldn't be surprised to see Terry Benelli follow closely behind. The most interesting thing in the article was this statement from Darrell Truitt:

"Truitt said this week he has not yet decided to run for the position."

I thought part of the reason the council picked him was because he wasn't going to run. We'll have to see how that all plays out. In the meantime, the Republic thinks that Truitt is a good pick for the temporary job. It doesn't say if they would support him in an election bid.