Monday, December 29, 2008

Light Rail comes to Mesa

The opening of light rail was met with large lines and a lot of interested onlookers. Today is considered to be the real test of the train as a commuter option. However, I would bet that it won't really be a commuter test until next Monday when everyone returns to a regular work week.

I know people who have the first part of the week off, and others who have the second half off, and some very lucky ones who have the whole week off. So, it may take some time to test the commuter capabilities, but it will get a good workout on New Years Eve for the block party and the Insight bowl. Soon after, they will be decked out for the NBA All-Star game.

I was not able to attend the opening, so if you were there, let me know how the party was and if Grand Funk put on a good show. As I have said before, I am going to wait and see how this thing works out, but its great that people are paying attention. Now, the question will be if they are actually willing to use the light rail as a viable form of transportation.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Waveyard waiting game

Waveyard was welcomed to Mesa with open arms after a resounding victory about 13 months ago. Now, they are having trouble securing the financing to get the project off the ground. This should not come as that big of a surprise based on the fact that everyone seems to be financial trouble right now, including most of the cities in the Valley. You are also seeing developers and homebuilders close up shop, so it gives you a fairly decent understanding of the economic climate.

However, the founders remain positive in their quest and believe that Waveyard will still be a reality. They have it right when they say, "It's not like (other) things are getting done and Waveyard is not." While that is true, it would be helpful for them to keep the community informed with their activities and how their plans are taking shape.

We really don't hear anything from Waveyard until Republic reporter Gary Nelson picks up the phone and asks. It sounds like the Mayor and City Manager receive regular updates, which is encouraging, but last time I checked, it was the voters who approved the project. This has been an issue I have covered before (here and here), but I still believe that there is a partnership between the folks behind Waveyard and the community which should be fostered. Its one thing for them to say that Waveyard will still get built, its another for them to show the community that they are committed to reaching their goal.

I understand that they are busy trying to make this thing happen, but it only makes sense that they should do what is necessary to make sure they are still a welcome part of the community when the finally open their doors. After all, one would expect that they would like a steady base of customers to actually come from Mesa.

Looking for creative re-use

Here is an interesting article about Mesa and their efforts to reuse old big box buildings and turn them into something else. This is not a problem exclusive to Mesa, in fact, its happening all over the valley with the closing of Mervyns, Circuit City, and Linens N Things, which are basically in every community.

The good news is, Mesa actually has a bit of a track record of finding creative things to do with big boxes and reinvigorating the area surrounding them. They mention Mekong Plaza and an incoming Mexican grocery, but there are other examples. Amazing Jakes is another example of an innovative use of an old big box. The converted outlet stores near Superstition Springs is another example of a reuse that taught lessons of what not to do.

As other communities and their shopping centers catch up in age, we are going to see more creative uses for these power centers and shopping plazas that have popped up over the years. Hopefully Mesa can be ahead of the curve and serve as an example of how other communities can effectively re-use buildings. In my mind, that would be an okay reputation to have.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Budget cuts finalized

The City of Mesa has finalized their $61 million in budget cuts. The Mayor and the Council took the time to talk about their opinions on the cuts and their thoughts for the long term. Overall, the impression I get is that these cuts were hard, but they retain hope for the future.

My hope is that these cuts will make the city think about the actual needs of the community and the services that they provide. These cuts have allowed to some restructuring, but that doesn't mean that they should be done tinkering with the system just because the budget problem has been fixed. In fact, during this lean time is the best time to decide which services are essential to the community and what Mesa can do to be the best at providing those services.

When prosperity returns, I hope they will also take this efficiency into consideration instead of going back to their old ways. If you lose your job or get a pay cut, and have to sell your home, very rarely do you return to your old home. You would hope, that when you get back on your feet, you take a time to find a newer and better home that has some of the same amenities that you enjoyed previously along with upgrades or changes that you realized were important to you.

I agree with Councilman Richins that reinstating pay that had been cut is a start, but from there, I hope they don't just hire more people back or return staff positions just because they can.

Lame duck flapping her wings

In the wake of granting of "meet and confer" powers to labor authorities, the new incoming GOP leadership has asked Governor Napolitano not to issue any more executive orders. Two Mesa Legislators have had a lot to say about Napolitano's efforts.

Newly Elected Speaker Kirk Adams said, "It would be unprecedented for an outgoing governor to issue last-minute executive orders that tie the hands of the incoming administration. Unless it involves a state emergency, the governor should not be creating new policies that will not be her responsibility to oversee."

Newly Elected Senator Russell Pearce said in another article, "This is simply outrageous, and it’s a payback for the unions, and that’s very clear that’s what it is. If she was serious about this and thought that was a good idea…why wouldn’t she have done this six years ago? She does it while she’s got a bus ticket out of town?"

Its hard not to see this as payback to the unions for all of their years of support. Unlike most, I am neither shocked nor appalled by the notion that - gasp - a politician is loyal to those who are loyal to him or her. However, I do have concerns over Napolitano's decision and I think that the unions should have concerns as well.

First, my concerns. I don't think that putting salary negotiations and unionizing the state workforce is in the best interest of the taxpayers right now. Napolitano has already done her part to create this giant deficit and now she is leaving us with another gift while her bags are packed and she has one foot out the door. I have noticed a lot lately that people hold to the fact that she is a "popular" governor and she was elected twice. However, I would question that if people asked right now what they thought of her, her popularity would be down significantly. From the Janet Cams to the mounting debt, I think her supporters are covering their ears to the bad news to they can remember her fondly.

Secondly, the concerns I see for the unions. Obviously, its not going to be popular for a new Governor to come in and strip off something that another Governor did, but it is certainly doable. If it were something that had been done years ago, I would assume that it would have a better chance of surviving. Which brings up Pearce's point - why didn't Napolitano do this earlier? This endorsement of meet and confer by Napolitano is tepid, at best, which should not be a great comfort to the unions, especially after I assume they spent hundreds of thousands of dollars supporting her for the past 6 years.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Gateway Airport's Future

Gateway Airport has finished their master plan after working on it for the last two years. It took a bit of looking, but I believe you can check out all of the documentation on the City of Mesa's site.

The exciting news is that they are predicting over 2 million passengers by 2027. Depending on development, they could see more than 5 million in that period of time. I am glad that they are being realistic, especially right now, when development seems to be grinding to a halt.

The expansion would not only be a benefit to Mesa but also the entire Southeast Valley - but it comes with a fairly hefty price tag. A $755 million estimated cost, with about $342 million falling to the cities does not seem like something that Mesa would be able to commit to in the immediate future. With so much going on out there, including the GM Proving Grounds project, its essential that Mesa is able to find ways to make that airport capable of handling an influx of traffic.

More arrests in Golfland Case

The Sheriff's office has made two more arrests in the employer sanctions case against Golfland/Sunsplash for hiring illegal immigrants (Republic version here). Now word yet on how many deputies it took to carry out the arrests, but it remains newsworthy when the sheriff does his job.

I would guess that this is the type of article written to sell newspapers. I am sure that there were a lot more arrests for different offenses on Tuesday, but these are noteworthy because they are controversial. Of course, if the goal here was to increase web traffic and sell papers, they have succeeded because I am writing about it as well.

I hate it when they trick me.

Father Dale excommunicated

My nearly year old post about Father Dale Fushek remains one of the most read posts from this site. He is clearly a polarizing figure.

Now, the news has been announced that he has been excommunicated from the Catholic Church. Bear in mind, this is the same guy who organized bringing the Pope to Arizona and introduced Life Teen. His trial is still pending, and while he has not been able to participate in Catholic Services, he has been leading worship through the "Praise and Worship Center" which has been attracting hundreds to their services.

While its still unclear what his underlying motives are, this excommunication has raised the stakes for Fushek. Now, it is known that even if he is found innocent, he will not be able to go back to the life he once knew. And if he is found guilty, how will that impact those people who attend the Praise and Worship center?

Mixed news for people with disabilities

This current economy has brought a mixed bag of news for the community as a whole as well as those with disabilities.

On the positive side, a gallery featuring artists with disabilities has opened downtown across from the Mesa Arts Center. They are currently renting the space purely for the cost of the utilities, which I would assume is a function of the landlord wanting the building to be occupied. In this case, it doesn't cost the landlord anything since the space wasn't being used, and they get to build goodwill within the community.

However, as reported on the front page of the Tribune this morning, the current budget cuts threaten programs for the disabled, with some programs being reduced and others being eliminated completely. Just as the cost cuts have impacted other quality of life items, these special programs are also threatened by the multi-million dollar hole that Mesa faces.

Perhaps these two organizations could get together to find a way to work to eachother's mutual benefit.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Gaylord Election Part 2

Just a little while after my last post, I got a press release in my email with the complete listing of the people who filed in support of the Gaylord Election. I had said before that 41 was impressive, but I didn't know it was a record number.

Here is the release I received from the campaign:

Record Number of Ballot Arguments Filed in Support of Proposition 300 – Mesa Proving Grounds Resort Core
Yes on 300 files 41 statements of support from across Mesa for the March 2009 Election

MESA – The Yes on 300 committee in support of the Mesa Proving Grounds Resort Core filed a record number of ballot arguments with the Mesa City Clerk yesterday. In all, 41 statements were filed in support with zero statements filed in opposition.

These ballot arguments will be part of the official publicity pamphlet containing ballot language and background information that the City of Mesa will send to every registered voter. Citizens are given an opportunity to submit letters of support or opposition to be included in the pamphlet.

"I am pleased with the record number of people who were willing to show their support for this historic project," said Councilmember Scott Somers, Chairman of the Yes on 300 Committee. "Our goal with this committee will be to educate voters about the project. We want to show how the largest private investment in Mesa's history will jump start development in the Gateway area. This will be a catalyst for Mesa's future economic engine."

"We need to be actively looking for opportunities like this to support the long-term health of our economy and boost revenues, especially in these challenging times," said Mayor Scott Smith. "What we will be voting on represents a private investment of one billion dollars, and will create thousands of jobs and millions in revenue for Mesa without a tax increase. We won't have to wait long to see the results either, as Mesa is projected to see nearly $70 million in new revenue in the first 10 years."

The statements of support came from citizens and elected officials from all parts of Mesa and many organizations:

· Mayor Scott Smith
· Councilmember Scott Somers
· Councilmember Kyle Jones
· Councilmember Dave Richins
· Councilmember Dennis Kavanaugh
· Councilmember Alex Finter
· Councilmember Dina Higgins
· DMB Associates Inc.
· Gaylord Entertainment
· United Mesa Firefighters
· Mesa Police Association
· Mesa Fraternal Order of Police
· Mesa Convention and Visitors Bureau
· Mesa Chamber of Commerce
· Speaker-Elect Kirk Adams
· Senator Thayer Vershoor
· Senator-Elect Russell Pearce
· Representative Rich Crandall
· Maricopa County Supervisor Fulton Brock
· Carl Kunasek, Former State Senate President
· Rex Griswold, Former Councilmember
· Dr. Jim Zaharis, Former Mesa Public Schools Superintendent
· John M. Williams, Jr., President, SRP
· Roc Arnett, East Valley Partnership
· Pat Esparza, Chairperson Planning and Zoning Commission
· Frank Mizner, Mesa Planning and Zoning Board Member
· Matt Tolman, Chairman, District 18 Republicans and Former West Mesa City Council Candidate
· Steve Chucri, President and CEO of Arizona Restaurant Association
· Sherry Henry, Arizona Tourism Alliance
· Dr. Sally Downey, Superintendent and CEO, EVIT
· Lynn Strang, President, Mesa Baseline Rotary, Public Relations Director, EVIT
· Dr. John Schroeder, Provost, Chandler-Gilbert Community College
· Marty Whalen, Long-time Mesa Resident
· Terry Benelli, Neighborhood Economic Development
· Brian Campbell, Member of East Valley Partnership Board of Directors and Past Chairman of Mesa's Economic Development and Advisory Board
· Jason Barney, Landmark Companies, Circle G Property Development, Barney Farms
· Chuck Wahlheim, Former CEO Cox Arizona Publications
· John Perkinson, Perkinson Companies
· Arizona Corporation Commissioner Gary Pierce
· Lois C. Yates, Executive Director, Falcon Field Area Alliance
· Deanna Becker, Sophomore, Desert Ridge High School

"Voting Yes on Proposition 300 will bring a world-renowned resort and tourist destination to Mesa. Gaylord Entertainment is known for their 'everything-in-one-place' properties and they have earned a reputation as an employer of choice by treating their employees as STARS," said Robert Brinton, President of the Mesa Convention and Visitors Bureau and Treasurer of the Yes on 300 Committee, "We have a great story to tell and these support statements are just the beginning of our efforts to encourage the passage of Proposition 300 and the Mesa Proving Grounds Resort Core."

Gaylord Election - 41 to 1 apparently

Two interesting stories regarding the Gaylord election in March:

First, Senator Chuck Gray publicly criticized the plan at a chamber meeting. On the other hand, the "ballot arguments" were filed yesterday and there were 41 pro-statements including several other legislators who don't seem to share Gray's opinion. Even Russell Pearce is among those who are supporting the project.

So, from the look of it, the official score appears to be 41 in favor and 1 against, although Gray's statements won't appear in the booklet. I remembered there was an interesting collection of folks who were in favor of the Waveyard project, so I went back and looked, and sure enough Gray was on the list. So why was Waveyard better than the Gaylord plan in his mind? We can look to the other Gaylord resorts around the nation and see how this thing works and they have a track record.

Gary Nelson also whipped out the "who's who" line a year and a half a go when talking about Waveyard and their 23 arguments. I would think that filing 41 is even more impressive. What's more, none of the naysayers appear to be out banging the drum. At least so far.

Mesa Fire Makes Cuts, announces plans

Mesa Fire Department is going to cut 23 positions and about $7.5 million out of their budget. They are also promoting a revised method for handling 911 calls. Still no word on if the cut day of pay is on the table, but I am assuming with these announcements and the change of heart from the fire union head, that they probably aren't.

I am glad that they have come to the same conclusion that I have that it makes more sense to man some of the TRVs as opposed to keeping all of the big trucks on the road. If they think they can do it with only two, I will wait and see, but I thought the 5 TRVs seemed to make more sense to give more coverage across the city. It looks like no department will be spared in this recession.

More on Mesa Cuts

Mesa's Parks and Rec is laying of 56 and may have to close several smaller pools. Mesa Arts Center had their budget cut by 30%. Obviously, with such a dramatic shortfall, these types of cuts could not be avoided. However, I would encourage the city to look into some different ways to perhaps bring some of these quality of life type items back in a different way.

For example, I have no idea how much money is costs to run one of the pools (small or big), but it would be helpful to know. Perhaps, then as a resident near a small pool which may not open next summer, I could try to put together an effort to save the pool for my neighborhood. You could even look for a sponsor, "Blah blah blah community pool brought to you by Coca Cola" or something like that. If its good enough for the Bowl Games, it could be good enough for public amenities.

I understand the short term need for cuts, but this shouldn't preclude us from finding creative ways to maintain our quality of life.

More on Mesa Police and Accreditation

Thoughts on Mesa has issued a follow up post to his story about Mesa Police losing their accreditation. He makes two good points that I agree with:

1. The Police Department, just like any other government entity, should desire to gain the trust of the public and work in an open and honest manner.

2. Citizens are able to vote for County Sheriff, whereas they are not allowed to vote for City employees making the accountability to the citizens less direct.

To be clear, I don't think the story hit a sore spot with me, I just thought it created more questions than answers. His report gives me the impression that the directives of the Mesa Police are now done through word of mouth and policies are not standardized. If that is, in fact, the case, there would be a major problem that must be addressed.

My question, however, is if there is some level in between that the police are achieving? I would assume if I applied for the academy and ended up as a Mesa Police trainee, I would receive some sort of formal training and a policy pamphlet of some sort. Otherwise, how would they get me to sign one of those, "I have read and I understand" statements that seems to be all the rage these days? If its something I need to sign for a library book, I am assuming it would be something that I would have to sign before wielding a gun at people in the name of Mesa.

Secondly, not too long ago, Mesa clarified their immigration policy. Am I to believe that it wasn't written down anywhere? Perhaps I am having some sort of disconnect on exactly what he is talking about. On one hand, I see procedures in place, and on the other hand, he is talking about investigation squads targeting whomever they like. Is that really an accredidation issue or is that something that should be looked into by the independent auditor. I am just having trouble seeing how the two are connected.

Advertising on Light Rail

I was watching the Suns game last night, and when the commercial for the All-Star Game came on, I realized that I had completely forgotten that it was coming to town. Then, I read this article this morning about the All-Star game and NBA and Suns' desire to advertise on the outside of the new light rail cars.

I have now seen some of the shiny new light rail trains and their slate/teal/purple color scheme. They look very nice, but I have to say that they should make an exception for the All-Star game if it will really generate $1.5 million in additional revenue.

The reason why cities attempt to land things like All-Star games and Super Bowls is to attract tourists and money to town. Why leave millions on the table? I am not saying that you should wrap every train from top to bottom to look like basketballs, but there must be an agreement that can be reached where they could do some reasonable advertising.

Not only that, but this is an opportunity to put a protocal in place that allows other events to understand what it takes financially to advertise. I understand where Vice Mayor Jones is coming from on the uniformity thing, but if you only do it on rare major event occasions, it would be a great way to allow the light rail to contribute a little bit more financially.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

What does it mean?

I read on Thoughts on Mesa that the Mesa Police Department is no longer accredited. I looked around the web and no where else did I find this news. So, does this mean that it didn't really happen or its not that big of news? I can't really tell because I looked at the link that they provided and I can't quite figure out what the accreditation means.

It doesn't appear to me to be a procedural issue. It looks like some sort of annual report that must be filed to keep in good standing. The idea of keeping tabs on officers and changing the rules to suit their needs does sound like a law enforcement official... I just can't think of which one. Oh wait, maybe the one who has his own personal swat force and raided Mesa City Hall.

Ironically, Sheriff Joe's jail lost National accreditation in October, but we haven't heard much about it. Is Thoughts on Mesa "flabbergasted" about this as well? Doubtful since they think the Goldwater Institute is missing the ball on their criticism of Arpaio.

If you are going to criticize the Mesa Police Department, point to the "getting paid to put on a uniform" debacle or questioning if they did enough in the Fiesta Mall stabbing. They have their own successes and failures just like any other group.

Demonizing Gascon doesn't really help.

Speed Cameras Redux

Well, it looks like they are finally just about ready to turn on the speed cameras on the US 60. There still does not appear to be any cameras at all on the 202 Red Mountain or on the San Tan, so at least there appears to be a way around it for the time being. However, one would assume that it won't last long.

What is most interesting to me, however, is the fact, that only about 1/3 of the time that the camera goes off are they able to capture and ticket the culprit. I have a few different acquaintances who have been flashed, and very few of them have received their tickets so far. The biggest concern I have heard from people so far is the brightness of the flash at night. Even when the camera flashes in the opposite direction, it is apparently very startling.

Brewer Launches Website

In going through some old email, I saw the announcement from last week that soon-to-be Governor Jan Brewer launched a new website for her transition. She also announced her transition team.

Twitter? Facebook? She is already more websavvy than yours truly. And I think its pretty cool that she is taking suggestions from voters and their priorities for Arizona. I am going to log on recommend that they don't look to take more money from the already struggling cities to make ends meet.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Fallout from the Stapley Indictment

One of the biggest stories while I was out last week was the 118 count indictment of Maricopa County Supervisor Don Stapley. Stapley has been Mesa's representative on the Board of Supervisors since 1993 and has been an oft-mentioned candidate for Congress (in fact, remember when he has the US Capitol on his campaign signs a few years back?).

The indictment was brought down by County Attorney Andrew Thomas and Sheriff Joe Arpaio last week with the large majority of the counts coming from a failure to report business dealings and land ownership. The rift has widened with the Board of Supervisors asking for their own legal representation, Stapley's case being assigned to an anti-Thomas judge, and the thought that Thomas and Arpaio may be stretching the seriousness of the offense.

First, I tend to agree that 118 indictment counts appears to be a tad excessive. Also, wouldn't you at least notify the guy about the issues before dropping such a bomb on him? After all, if these truly are disclosure issues, isn't the goal here to have his dealings disclosed publicly?

As Robb says in his article, there is a penalty for offenses like this, but they are misdemeanors with a financial punishment.

The fact is, only one or two of the 118 counts are probably going to stick, and that is likely all its going to take to get him off the board. Even if he does survive, the damage is done. Look at Sandra Dowling or Kevin Ross. An impression of impropriety is enough to taint an elected official for a long time. I agree with the Tribune, that we should let the facts play out, but I don't quite get their stance on freezing his salary.

The story is getting even stranger, as it turns out, as I have had a few people tell me stories about stakeouts and undercover cars following Stapley and members of his family. What exactly are they looking for? Are they worried that he is going to skip town? How much taxpayer money is being devoted to this task?

Shop Mesa

I am glad to see that Mesa is finally trying to do more to shop in Mesa. This is a creative way to help businesses here at home during the course of the normal procurement process. I am not saying that they should stay in town if they can find the goods significantly cheaper elsewhere, but you never know what you have until you ask.

This is one of the initiatives that I have heard about as of late that I really think makes a lot of sense. We are always looking for ways to attract tourists, car buyers, etc to our town, but why not utilize the revenue we collect help continue to contribute to the local economy?

Gateway plan is finished

The Gateway plan is finished and its going to go to council for a vote. Thoughts on Mesa has a call to action for this to serve as a new downtown for Southeast Mesa and a real chance to stretch our legs with some real urban planning.

The new council has put together a plan with emphasis areas that are focused more on the type of businesses and projects that they want to attract rather than parcelling out a color coded map defining what must go where. I think that this newfound emphasis on flexibility is going to allow this plan to grow and breathe in the long-term and allow Mesa to stay on the cutting edge of planning.

If you want to learn more yourself, you can check out the Gateway section on the City Site.

Train preservation slightly more likely

It turns out that the estimates to refurbish the train at Pioneer Park were a little high because they were based on bringing it to "museum quality." Instead of $400,000, the committee to save the train more than likely needs only about $125,000.

However, the committee still has only raised about $21,000, which means they are only about 17% of the way there. They plan on being at the light rail opening looking to raise more money. They should hit up Grand Funk Railroad.

Also mentioned in the article is the President of the Pacific Locomotive Association who has an almost creepy level love affair with trains. They want to take the engine and return it to actual operation. It doesn't say if they are willing to pay.

As long as its not costing the City, I am okay with giving the local group a chance to raise money. However, if it does start to cost more, I say we let the other folks pony up and take it off our hands.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Great news for Gateway

Thanksgiving Weekend spurred Gateway's busiest day ever on Wednesday with over 2,100 passengers travelling. Bustling parking lots, gift shops, and terminals is a good sign for the future of the airport. It is also downright amazing that the terminal annex was able to be built in about 75 days according to the story.

Allegiant is adding more flights in January and who knows if they have any more plans to throw another super saver cheap flight sale. It will be interesting to see if these passenger counts continue throughout the holiday as people look for flights that are either closer to home or get them to a slightly better destination.

I would assume that other airlines are looking at this growing time along with the Gaylord Resort election in March to see if they should start looking into expanding to Gateway. After all, the future growth of the valley is either south and east into Pinal County or way out west. Sensible airport service closer to home that keep people from having to drive to Sky Harbor is only going to continue to make more sense.

So long, Governor Napolitano

Governor Janet Napolitano is leaving to take the head post at the Department of Homeland Security under the Obama administration. This will elevate Secretary of State Jan Brewer to the Governor's position. It is not clear who becomes Secretary of State, but I think that Brewer gets to pick her replacement.

Although Brewer is from Glendale, I think that this is likely good news for Mesa. First, the Governor and the legislature would both be Republican. This gives Mesa resident Speaker-Elect Kirk Adams the ability to get more stuff done to help Mesa. Secondly, one would assume that Brewer would not take as much money away from the state-shared revenues which would help Mesa in this tough budget time.

Christmas lights with a message

As most people have, I have been to the cul de sac near Guadalupe and Country club with all of the Christmas lights several times. We haven't been for a few years, but I remember the house with the walking path in the backyard with the life of Christ and some sort of message about 9-11. I guess its put together by a local pastor who lives in the house and he has now been doing it for six years.

If you have never been, I would recommend checking it out, especially if your family has a tradition of going out and looking at Christmas lights. Every year, we used to go out and look at the downtown Christmas displays and then check out the lights at the Temple. When the displays went away downtown, we started looking for other places around town to look at lights. I think that the one at Guadalupe and Country Club is one of the best because its not just one or two great houses, its an entire street that really kicks it up a notch.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family. Enjoy the tasty food and the crazy sales. Remember to shop Mesa on Friday and help the sales tax numbers. I'll see you on Monday.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Mayor speaks on Economic Downturn

Mayor Scott Smith has predicted that the economic slump will impact Mesa for at least 2 years and that the City needs a stable revenue source to make sure this doesn't happen again in the future.

In the meantime, the city is finding ways to cut costs and increase efficiency. The stories talk about how inspection, code compliance, and planning have been combined into one department. This will mean an elimination in jobs, but it will mean a new set of skilled employees who would be busy no matter what the current state of construction and the economy. This will mean lost jobs, but it will help the overall health of the city and make it more flexible in the future.

I would argue that Mesa needs to diversify before it finds a way to stabilize the revenue sources. We are a sales tax based city, so the result is that we attract stores, retail locations, auto dealerships, and others to build our revenue base. We need to start looking for opportunities to create quality jobs and employment centers in town.

We're an American Band...

Grand Funk Railroad will be on hand for the Light Rail kick-off in Mesa on December 27th. I think it will be fun to go down to end of the line and check out some tunes and watch the light rail cars as they start to move around town. As for Grand Funk Railroad, they are an okay 70's rock band with a very fortunate name for this event.

I would have probably perferred Foreigner, but that would have reminded some about our illegal immigrant problems. Perhaps Bachman-Turner Overdrive, but that would have made people think about the traffic cameras. Even Cheap Trick would have been great, but that conjures images of the motels on Main Street.

So yeah, I guess that Grand Funk Railroad was the right choice.

Club shooter also here illegally

The suspect in the Mesa club shooting from earlier this month was arrested trying to make his way back to Mexico. He admitted that he has lived illegally in the United States for the last 13 years. The question that we will have to wait and see is if this suspect has any prior detentions or deportations.

Just as in the case of the suspect who killed the girl in Gilbert, I think its important to know if these lawbreakers have been arrested before and if they have slipped through the cracks. Enforcing our laws and reducing the impacts of illegal immigration is a burden that all governments must bear. I am not advocating for the blunt force approach of the Sheriff's round-ups, but when people are caught committing crimes and determined to be in the state illegally, we cannot let them go without having them face the consequences.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Mesa's financial crisis and ways out

Gary Nelson has written a very interesting article detailing the history of Mesa's financial issues and how the town has been marching towards a fiscal crisis since the 1970's. He talks of a financial committee in the 1970's and one a few years back that recommended property taxes to help solidify Mesa's revenue. He also talks of the failure of the property tax awhile back. We have discussed, at length, the problems people had with the council at the time and spending money as promised.

Obviously, the political will was not strong to be the first council to implement a tax and as long as the economy recovered, Mesa was able to sneak by without making any changes. Mesa's finances were like a car with a "check engine light" turned on. Everyone sort of ignored the problems, drove on, perhaps changed the oil, and hoped they wouldn't be driving when the car eventually broke down.

The good news is that it appears that Mesa might be able to get some of its state shared revenues back. Its not going to be enough, but at this point, I would bet that any bit would help. Nelson appears to leave it as applying a secondary property tax to all existing bond debt would be the way to solve Mesa's problems. It appears that this idea has been bandied about lately as an option to help fix the hole.

I think that this would be a bad idea for two reasons:

1. First, I belive it would eliminate all of the goodwill and trust built up by the new council. They have been talking about changing Mesa, making it more efficient, and not making the same mistakes that the old council made. To turn around and levy more taxes shows that Mesa isn't changing, but rather the council is looking for more money to keep it the same.

2. Second, the council should savor their victory. The first property tax in 50 years is a great success. Now is not the time to push it. Mesa is still a conservative town and the people voted for the bonds because they saw the needs, not because they are now okay with paying taxes. I understand that its hard when people have to lose their jobs, but we are seeing it in business and we should grow to accept it in Government as well.

Mesa and ID checks

Mesa has tightened up their ID checks on city contractors. In the wake of the stand-off with Sheriff Arpaio last month, it makes sense for them to take any precautions necessary to prevent it from happening again. I definitely think that this is a step in the right direction in making sure that the City is fighting any perception of being a sanctuary city.

By requiring all employees to show ID to get city badges, it allows the city to do their own level of scrutiny beyond the affidavit of the employer. Mesa has explained the rules to their contractors and will now have the ability to perform audits on workers to check identification.

Its not quite clear how far Mesa will be able to take this, after all, these people do work for a contractor, not for the City. However, its another safeguard in place to try to fight illegal immigration.

Obviously, this is a policy change that stems from an awkward position created by the feud created between the sheriff and the city, but what has come out of it is something that we should recognize as a good policy.

ETA: I have to agree with "mesaazguy" that there is no evil intent here on behalf of the city. In fact, I would bet that Mesa now has a more stringent policy than most, if not all, other cities in the Valley.

I seriously doubt that Mesa employees sit around and find ways to help illegals in between their parties where they burn all of the city's money and take naps dreaming about light rail.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Fire union makes counter offer

In the face of millions in suggested cuts put forth by the Mesa City Council yesterday, the United Mesa Fire Fighters union has offered to sacrifice a day of pay per year. A day of pay equals out to 24 hours per employee which would be a savings of at least $1 million a year.

From what I can tell, what is really at stake here is two things: jobs and the number of fully staffed fire trucks on the road.

First, it appears that Mesa is looking to make some staff cuts, whereas the union is offering an alternative to keep everyone in a job. Obviously, thats the role of a union to preserve jobs, and I admit that they have offered up a relatively creative way to do it. It is good to see that the members are willing to make this sacrifice in order to save jobs, but is this the most efficient way to save money? While it functions like a pay cut, it really isn't one, because the base pay still stays high, they just voluntarily give a little bit of it up. That way, if the money starts flowing again, they could just stop offering to take the furlough, instead of having to ask for a raise.

The second issue appears to be the question of the number of Fire Trucks on the road. While I believe that its important to maintain public safety, I don't necessarily believe that quantity means quality. If over 60% of calls are health related, it appears that these transitional response vehicles might be an affordable way to make the money stretch a little further. It seems silly to keep the full cadre of giant trucks manned and leave the TRVs unstaffed because it would take overtime to use them. Wouldn't it be better to work it the opposite way? Keep a couple of trucks in reserve and have the fire fighters use overtime to use the big trucks if more are needed. I think that overtime in giant emergencies seems to make more sense than overtime just to keep response times down.

I admit that I am not a fire expert, but I would hope that both the union and the city are able to get together and figure things out. Ultimately, what I want is if there is trouble at my home, I want people to respond and I want them there in a reasonable amount of time. I don't really care how many people it takes or what kind of vehicle they are driving in.

Mesa looks for help at Gateway

Currently, Mesa foots the bill for all of the police and fire service at Gateway airport. As they grow out there, they are looking for other governments to chip in to pay for emergency services.

This makes sense since the other communities already help pay for the operations of the airport. The fact of the matter is that the airport is a regional assett that is going to bring benefits to every community near by. While Mesa is going to benefit significantly in terms of an economic boost, cities like Gilbert and Queen Creek are also going to see a lot of their own opportunities.

The Gaylord project seems to be the initial salvo in the activation of the area, and if the Mesa voters approve it, there will likely be a whole slew of projects that will come on line soon after. As they have said before, the Gateway area is likely to lead the way in getting out of this economic slowdown. It should be in the entire southeast valley's interest to make sure it has an opportunity to succeed and the revenues necessary to offer basic services.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Gaylord's good news for Mesa

Part of Mesa's long term economic recovery is getting things like the Gateway area development underway and attracting news jobs and businesses to town. So, in the midst of the bad news of the day, at least there is some good news. Gaylord has dropped their plans for a San Diego resort which will hopefully allow them to focus on Mesa.

This should go a long way in showing that Mesa is not as bad of a place to do business. Heck, if I were Mesa, I would shout it from the mountaintops that an important business opted for Mesa over San Diego. In the article, it mentioned that the project is somewhere around $1 billion in private investment. As the story says, it certainly seems like a way to "kick-start" the Gateway area.

In the Tribune story, the Port Commission Chairman is quoted as saying “The lesson to be learned is that when you have a billion-dollar project, you can push these things outside the bounds of success and end up with nothing.”

It will be interesting to see if the voters of Mesa heed this warning.

Mesa cutting jobs and reducing services

The City of Mesa is looking to cut 346 jobs and reduce hours including moving to a 4 day work week. The Tribune does a very in depth look at the cuts giving even more details. Looks like nothing is going to be spared, and the City is looking for different ways to offer services more efficiently.

First, this is not that big of a surprise. We knew for months that the economy was sagging and the council has said all along that cuts were coming. When we see businesses across the country from automakers to retailers failing, it should not be shocking that a city that depends on sales tax would be in some major financial trouble.

Its natural for residents to be upset in the reduction of services especially in quality of life items such as libraries and afterschool programs. The question is, what would you cut instead? Living within your means sometimes requires cutting out luxury items to keep the household running. You wouldn't sacrifice food on the table to keep cable tv would you?

You would prefer to do it under better circumstances, but reevaluating what services the city should provide and the function of government is necessary. Replacing big trucks with smaller responders in some emergency situations makes sense. Cross training employees who are not as busy right now makes sense as well.

Sometimes change is hard - especially when it is applied to government. Its our inclination to think that the government shouldn't be effected by the same things that harm private businesses. If they offered something in the past, they should continue to do so in perpetuity in addition to doing even more. That is why government tends to grow.

However, change is necessary to keep up. Look at the average video store. If you recall, 20 or so years ago, most stores offered both VHS and Beta. Then they offered VHS exclusively. When DVDs came out, they devoted a small corner. Soon, it was half DVD and half VHS. As the market changed, they went to nearly all DVD. Then as they received competition from online sources and retailers selling DVDs cheap, they have changed their model again, offering videos to rent and purchase. Last time I was in the video store, they were trying to sell the Rockband videogame at the checkout counter.

Is this enough for Mesa to keep up? We'll see. Its going to be an interesting juxtaposition between the streamlining of Mesa government and the likely growth of the Federal government under the new administration.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

No fun at Thursday's council meeting

Mesa City Council is meeting for a study session Thursday at 7:30am to discuss the impending budget cuts. It will also be the first time that the official budget gap will be released to the public. The City appears prepared to make cuts and are already looking at things like temporary fire stations to try to do more with less.

Here are the details of the meeting if you want to watch live:

Where: 57 E. First St.
When: 7:30 a.m. Thursday.
Watch: Live coverage on Mesa cable Channel 11, with later rebroadcasts.
More info: Numerous budget documents are posed at

More on teen killed by Illegal Immigrant

First and foremost, there is a vigil tonight for Kelly Tracy, if you would like to show support or pay your respects. Tragedies such as these are far too commonplace in our society and they usually have an impact on the entire school.

From the story I posted yesterday, I had a commenter point out American citizens are known to drink and drive from time to time as well. I completely agree in light of the recent story of the man ran over after a drunken brawl. The difference is that the man jailed for killing Tracy was arrested in 2007 on a drunken driving count and his status was never checked. He was also stopped in 2006 by the Sheriff's office for an invalid license and no insurance. Not only that, but he was arrested in 2003 in New Mexico, determined to be in the state illegally, and was voluntarily deported back to Mexico.

The question is, how as New Mexico able to determine something that Tempe and Sheriff's was not? Why isn't the Sheriff raiding Tempe City Hall since they aren't taking his battle with illegals seriously?

Bottom line, we are already chock full of people who have too much to drink and make bad decisions. Why do we need to allow more who do the same? I understand that people who want to be in the United States will find ways to get back, but that doesn't mean we shouldn't try to enforce our laws.

Congressional Sleepover

Congressmen Shadegg and Flake are among those who sleep in their offices when they are in Washington DC. From a cost saving perspective, this is understandable, but its not surprising that Flake didn't really want to talk about it. These guys are fiscal conservatives and its great to see them practicing it in their own lives.

We need people in Washington who can make our dollar stretch further, however it should be noted that the taxpayers are still paying for the electricity and heat for their offices.

It must be a little awkward when you invite people into the office and you have to push off the pillows and blankets. It makes you wonder, do you think Shadegg and Flake stay up late and tell ghost stories about JT Ready?

Monday, November 17, 2008

Mesa laying off 70 employees

In the midst of the sinking sales tax numbers, the City of Mesa is going to be laying off 70 employees. The City is also looking at restructuring its departments and deciding on the scope and depth of services that they should provide. There will be concerns, as those expressed by people from the Fire Department. Obviously, response times and making sure we have firefighters should be one of Mesa's top priorities.

However, it appears that the hole is deep enough that cuts are going to be made across the board. Hopefully, some of the bond spending will be able to help ease the pain, but everyone is going to have to figure out what is essential at this point. As many people are having to go through their budgets and make sacrifices, the city and all of its departments should be willing to do the same.

Illegal immigrant kills Gilbert Teen

Still don't think illegal immigration is a problem? Over the weekend, an illegal immigrant killed one teen and injured another in a drunken driving accident as they were on their way to perform in the Gilbert Days Parade at 6:30 in the morning. He was arrested by Mesa Police Department and in addition to his crime, it was determined that he is in this country illegally.

How is it possible that we are facing a problem of this large magnitude and very few people are talking about it? It was barely mentioned in the Presidential election. In the past month or so, we have had a teen and a police officer killed by an illegal immigrant, yet the latest news we have on the subject is the push to remove "illegal alien" from court documents? I understand that there are a lot of other problems out there and the economy is suffering severly. However, immigration and border security must be a part of the conversation.

Should it be the only conversation? No. But I can see why people who focus their time and energy on these efforts are able to gain popularity and motivate people to support them. They are actually doing something about the problem. We need to respect human rights and the basic need for order in this society, but we shouldn't be afraid to act.

The Arizona Republic has also filed a follow-up story for those who would like to learn more about the victim. If you would like to help, a memorial fund has been set up through Washington Mutual and Chase banks to pay for funeral costs. The memorial service will also be held at 11 a.m. Friday at the City of Grace Church, 655 E. University Drive, in Mesa.

Getting to know Speaker-Elect Adams

The Tribune has the front page full write up of Speaker-Elect Kirk Adams over the weekend. Some would say that his story reads like the Jerry Maguire of the Arizona Legislature. He becomes inspired and creates his own sort of manifesto, goes up against some long odds and takes on some powerful folks, and ends up coming out on top.

Its interesting to learn more about legislators and their families. So often, we see them in the papers in their suits or on the TV at some sort of press conference that its easy to forget that they are real people. Adams has a tough road ahead of him in the budget, but let's hope he remembers Mesa in the process.

Friday, November 14, 2008

More cuts are coming for Mesa

More bad news for Mesa. For the fourth month in the row since the beginning of the fiscal year, Mesa has fallen short on sales tax revenue. The new hole is up to $5.4 million with no relief in sight.

The council is going to have a meeting on Thursday to discuss these issues and the common feeling is that major job cuts are going to be on the table. It also looks like very few employees have taken up the voluntarily severance package, which means that there will likely be a contentious set of layoffs.

The same set of doom and gloomers have taken over the comment section, stating that somehow, the brand new council is at fault for this. They are also trying to blame Riverview, Waveyard, and the Gaylord Project for this. However, they continue to forget that unless these projects generate money, they don't make any money. Performance based incentives make the private investors front the money and then if they succeed, they are able to get some of the reward that they generated.

Its a way to generate capital, unlike a stadium which the taxpayers have to dig into their pocket to pay.

Looking back to the old council

Here are two recent stories that relate to the old Mesa City Council and the decisions that colored their past.

One story is more positive. A coffee shop has now taken the place of the old Venchell donut shop at the corner of Main and Country Club. You may recall that the donut shop was in the middle of Mesa's sign controversy because the owner was allowed to keep his old signs which were grandfathered in, but when he went to switch to new signs of the same size, he was prohibited.

It was these types of run ins with small business and larger gaffes like the Bailey's brake shop issue that ultimately led people to belive that Mesa was not a friendly place to do business. As people start to set up shop around town and we are becoming a destination for new businesses, hopefully the image of Mesa being a bad place to do business can by put to bed.

The other story is more negative. There is a battle about to take place over a 3 acre piece of property in the Superstition Springs area. Under pressure from some neighbors, the old council voted in 2001 to place limitations on the property preventing it from being an auto dealership. The property woner, an adjacent auto dealer, would like the council to reconsider this decision. The Mesa City staff has said that an auto dealership appears to be the only viable use for the site. However, some of the council is clinging to the old vote, believing that they should respect the 2001 decision.

It wasn't too long ago that Mesa, Chandler, and Gilbert were clamoring to offer millions sales tax incentives to lure dealerships into their cities. Now, someone wants to open a dealership, adjacent to other dealerships, without tax incentives, and there is a question on if Mesa should allow it. Bear in mind, this is not the middle of some neighborhood. The property is clearly going to be commercial in nature, and the people who live near it are already used to having dealerships in the area. I'm sure they would prefer that the property was used for restaurants or something more pleasant, but the reality is that no one wants it for a non-dealership purpose.

The old council was probably right in their decision to place limitations on the project back then. However, seven years later, this decision should be revisited and the new council should be able to make the decision for themselves.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Former Mesa Cop indicted

A former Mesa Police officer has been indicted on several counts of sexual conduct with a minor (Tribune version). I am not going to go into any of the details of the allegations, but the important thing is that this guy was on the Mesa Police Department for a little over 3 years from July 2005 to September 2008.

He recently quit the force, not due to any sexual allegations, but rather some discipline and work problems. However, in light of some of the recent events, the Mesa PD would be wise to look back and see if there are any other misdeeds that he may have been hiding.

Also, this is a good reminder that no one is above the law. Its also a great reminder to teach our children stranger danger and talk to them about appropriate physical and sexual conduct. Children are usually taught to listen to authority, but its important that they know that even respecting that comes with limits.

Perception vs. Reality

Mesa has just spent $70,500 on a new marquee for the Arts center. The article is very clear that the money comes from a dedicated fund for onsite projects, but it doesn't change the fact that people think the city is spending money in the middle of a dramatic financial downturn where police and fire are being cut.

In the wake of the first property tax in almost 60 years, this is not the type of story you want out there to help maintain the trust of the voters. Again, I understand that this money is separate and set aside, but perhaps now wasn't the best time to spend it. While you may be losing "40,000 eyes" a day, I would argue that more than 40,000 eyes still read the Republic (probably even more now that the Trib is falling apart).

Either the city should continue to work on their perception issues, or maybe the should shut down a few of the more "luxury" items for now.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Thank you to our veterans

I am glad to see that Mesa had a good turn out at the Veteran's Day Parade yesterday. The Tribune also has a great slide show of the event. I am glad to see so many people, including children, on hand to help celebrate our veterans. With the constant negativity around the war in Iraq and the military in general, its important that we teach our children the importance and honor of service and dedication to our country. To all veterans, I thank you for your service.

See ya signs!

It looks like we may get a brief reprieve from campaign signs. They are all supposed to be down by Friday, or at least by the end of the weekend. Since Rex Griswold put his signs up over a year ago, Mesa has been covered. I would guess that the economy hasn't been quite as hard for the signmakers.

Hopefully, we will get a slight reprieve before the next wave of signs go up. However, we do have a March election here in Mesa. Perhaps they will allow us to enjoy Christmas before we start thinking about voting again.

Fiesta Mall Update

Here is a great run down of the rennovations of Fiesta Mall and what is coming up. Fiesta Mall will be having a showcase on November 21 - 23 including live entertainment and the arrival of Santa. This seems like the typical holiday fare, but it will be leading up to more exciting developments next year.

There is a slate of new stores opening in the spring including Best Buy and Dick's Sporting Goods as well as new restaurants. Its interesting that they rennovated the food court again, since its been rennovated more than once already. Let's hope that these changes are enough to keep the area afloat during this economic downturn.

With the closure of Circuit City, leaving the entire plaza at Longmore and Southern now vacant, it is probably safe to say that the Fiesta District isn't going to recover right away. However, these changes should help the long term viability.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

He is also a terrific dancer

Newly minted State Legislator Laurin Hendrix has a very healthy self image. The District 22 representative says that he ran a low-key campaign because everyone knows him and his character. I am sure it didn't help at all that he is a Republican in a heavy Republican District and a lot of people probably thought they were voting for a female.

Remember the food banks this season

Well, I guess its already the holiday season. Some radio stations are already playing holiday music, and the stores appear to have skipped Thanksgiving altogether and are going straight on to Christmas.

In these troubled times, its important to remember to help those in need. Food Bank requests are up nearly 40% from last year, and they are having trouble keeping pace. I understand that there are going to be lean Christmases everywhere across town. However, just imagine what that means to the those who are even less fortunate. As people lose their jobs, they are having nowhere else to turn.

To donate, contact United Food Bank at 480-926-4897 or

Latest fashion for the US 60

Saw this on Eye on the 9th Floor and thought it was pretty funny. Apparently the "I brake for Janet Cams" is available here. I will think of this everytime I see someone slamming on the brakes when they see the "Photo Enforcement Zone" sign on the 60.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Quick Hits

City of Mesa making plans for Bond Money. - Win called a "landslide."

Buddhist Temple opens in Mesa. - Only one in the state.

Entrekin lost despite "hip hop" vote. - MTV provides election fodder.

SRP worker electrocuted. - Surprised this doesn't happen more often.

Veteran's Day Parade looking for help. - There's a parade, but they are having trouble telling people about it.

Friday, November 7, 2008

City and Developer team up for Public infrastructure

DMB, the developers of the GM proving grounds are going to team up with the City of Mesa to help pay for the streets, parks, and other public facilities that would be needed to support the project. People often forget that in exchange for bringing residents, taxpayers, and jobs to a community the city is responsible for providing essential things such as fire stations, police stations, and parks.

Developers are typically asked to pay "impact fees" to help offset the cost of the added services that are required. In this case, it appears that the developer is going to be chipping in quite a bit to help pay for some of the neat features that they are planning including the "great park" and all of the streets and utilities within their project. This has come a long way in growth paying for itself, which is something that went on unchecked for so long.

Mesa planning for layoffs

Mesa announced that they are offering a voluntary severance package to city staff in preparation for the job cuts that will be coming soon. They are offering 2 weeks paid plus a week for every year of service up to 12. Its a tough time to be laying people off right before Christmas, and I would assume that the economy is making new jobs scarce.

At least Mesa is trying to give people who have other opportunities a chance to move on, thus reducing the number of jobs were people are going to have to be laid off. It looks like the cuts are going to be for real this time. I would bet that this is only the beginning.

Another Mesa Blog

There is a new blog that we'll be checking out over the next few months called "Mesa Watch." They are going to watch the government following the passage of the bonds and follow the development of the slum landlord law.

From their tone, it appears that it might be the same folks as the old Shame on Mesa crowd that mounted a campaign against the property tax a few years ago. However, in this case, it looks like they might have toned down the rhetoric a bit.

I think that government accountability is a good thing and I commend them for their effort to watch the activities of our local officials. With this new mayor and council, it appears that the public has placed more trust in their elected officials, so I don't know how well a "gotcha" blog is going to work. My recommendation to them is to make sure they take the time to report the facts.

Pearce Attacker Nathan Sproul making more friends

This just in from Sonoran Alliance, Russell Pearce attacker Nathan Sproul is looking to make more friends in an effort "unite the party." As some other folks pointed out, Sproul did not have a very productive election season this year, first taking on Pearce with Kevin Gibbons, and then falling flat in November. Now, the guy is looking to try to take over the Republican Party:

From: Nathan Sproul
Sent: Thursday, November 06, 2008 12:07 PM
To: ‘Tim J. Casey’; ‘Hugh Hallman’; ‘Sean Noble’; ‘Mike Haller’; ‘Kirk Adams’; ‘Lisa James’; ‘Andrew C. Pacheco’; ‘Jose Esparza’; ‘Jason LeVecke‘; ‘Cathi Herrod’; ‘Steve Voeller’; ‘Kevin Demenna
Subject: Party Leadership


I have spoken to or emailed many of you privately about my concerns for the future of our Party. Specifically, how does our Party in Arizona become a party that unites fiscal and social conservatives to put forward an agenda that moves Arizona in the right direction.

One of the most important aspects of this is electing a State Party Chairman who unites all factions of the Republican Party. I know this is extremely late notice, but I would like to invite each of you to join me for lunch at Monti’s on the corner of Rio Salado and Mill to discuss the future of our Party. I am paying for lunch, but as they say, there is no such thing as a free lunch.

Please let me know if your schedule permits you to attend. Thank you.

Nathan Sproul

Lincoln Strategy Group
80 East Rio Salado Parkway, Suite 814
Tempe, Arizona 85281

I am assuming that the lunch is today and it will be interesting to see if anyone attends. Its sort of like the Washington Generals hosting a strategy meeting on how to defeat the Harlem Globetrotters or the Cubs planning a parade route for their World Series celebration.

In looking through some of the names on the list, its interesting to see who is invited to Sproul's skull session. The Mayor of Tempe and the newly minted Speaker of the House are on the list. I am curious on if they plan to attend and if they hold Sproul's counsel in high regard.

You'll also see that the folks (Levecke and Pacheco) who attacked Pearce and bankrolled two the misleading and nefariously named failed initiatives (Majority Rules and Stop Illegal Hiring) are front and center on the list. I has to look them up, but I sort of remembered their names from the Pearce/Gibbons slugfest.

The rest of the names I had to google. Sean Noble is a high paid staffer for Congressman Shadegg and Mike Haller is a staffer for Congressman Flake. Well, its becoming more clear on why the congressmen would be so interested in JT Ready. I wonder if they are the guys who read my blog. If so, howdy fellas!

The rest of the people are lawyers, lobbyists and heads of conservative groups - a group that appears to cover all of the angles except for immigration. Very interesting. Very interesting indeed.

Congratulations Kirk Adams

Congratulations to District 19 Representative Kirk Adams for being elected as Speaker of the House in the Arizona State Legislature. Hopefully, this will allow Mesa and the East Valley to have a greater influence and some greater attention paid to our needs.

Also, I think he will be helpful in creating a budget that is actually balanced and take on other important issues... including hopefully getting rid of those ridiculous traffic cameras.
Its a great time to be in Mesa with a rediscovered influence in the Legislature and a Mayor and council who are making things happen.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Mesa School Board Election

Three new members were elected to the Mesa Public Schools Board yesterday. Here are the results:

- ALI'VARIUS, KATE J. 39538 19.52%
- ENTREKIN, LANCE 25911 12.79%
- NICHOLS, MICHAEL S.* 44061 21.75%
- PETERSON, STEVEN J.* 49040 24.21%
- WHITING, BEN* 43999 21.72%

Someone also just showed me how to use the county's campaign finance reporting, which is very neat and helpful in local races. Here are their campaign finance reports:

Kate Ali'varius
Lance Entrekin
Michael Nichols
Steven Peterson
Ben Whiting

The campaigns were largely a self funded affair. It appears that both Entrekin and Peterson spent over $10,000 on the race, with Entrekin giving over $10,000 to his own campaign and Peterson giving over $3,000. Ali'varius was able to gather up a little over $6,000 in donations with about $3,500 coming from herself. Whiting raised $3000 which was completely a personal loan. Nichols is the only one who hasn't filed updated reports.

Interestingly enough, money spent did not necessarily translate into a seat. Peterson won the most votes spending over $10k and Entrekin received the least. Whiting spent only $3,000 and was able to score a seat. I don't always follow these smaller races as closely as I should, but its safe to say that money isn't everything in local elections.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Historic Day for Mesa

Change wasn't only something that was being talked about nationally. Change is something that has already started to happen right here in Mesa. Last night, Mesa made history by handily passing the slum landlord law and both bond issues.

In a town of naysayers and limited government fanatics, the voters said with a whopping 78.7% of the vote that they would prefer to allow the City to crack down on slum landlords. This will be a tool that can be used to help clean up our city and make people more accountable for their actions.

The bigger news, however, is that Mesa voters approved the town's first property tax since World War II. Question 1, the public safety bond, passed with 66.9% of the vote and Question 2, the street bond, passed with 64.7% of the bond. Some people had told me that they thought the public safety one would pass, but the streets would likely be hurting because of the tough economy. However, it looks like the economic hit on streets was about 2%.

I have asked before about what it will take for Mesa to turn the corner (View the entry from November of 2007). When you look at the list, quite a few of these items are starting to move forward. Crime is being addressed and is down. Police, Fire and Streets will now have actual financial help from the bonds. Major steps have been taken to get illegal immigration under control and we have started to see the long term plan for the Gateway area.

We were promised change and change is what we are getting. Who knows if it will work out the same on the national stage, but it is good news for Mesa. Congratulations to the Mayor and Council for their victory. From cutting the program to standing by the projects as absolutely critical for Mesa, I think that they showed that the public can trust them.

Election Results

seDespite some inklings of excitement in the races, pretty much all of them came out as expected with the Republicans maintaining dominance in Mesa and most of the East Valley. Here are the latest on the Election Results for Races in Mesa:

State Senator Dst 18

DEM - NATIVIO, JUDAH 15250 43.87%
REP - PEARCE, RUSSELL* 19510 56.13%

State Rep Dst 18

DEM - PURSLEY, TAMMIE 14398 25.62%
REP - ASH, CECIL* 17344 30.86%
REP - COURT, STEVE* 17446 31.05%
IND - BROWN, JOE 7007 12.47%

State Senator Dst 19

REP - GRAY, CHUCK* 47773 100%

State Rep Dst 19

DEM - ROMANO, KATHY 23938 25.7%
REP - ADAMS, KIRK* 33222 35.67%
REP - CRANDALL, RICH* 35984 38.63%

State Senator Dst 21 (Partially in Mesa)

REP - TIBSHRAENY, JAY* 62329 100%

State Rep Dst 21 (Partially in Mesa)

REP - NICHOLS, WARDE V.* 37403 31.33%
REP - YARBROUGH, STEVE* 45757 38.33%

State Senator Dst 22 (Partially in Mesa)


State Rep Dst 22 (Partially in Mesa)

DEM - RAY, GLENN 30981 26.82%
REP - BIGGS, ANDY* 43161 37.36%
REP - HENDRIX, LAURIN* 41379 35.82%

In the Health Care District Race, Congratulations to blogger Greg Patterson for his decisive victory:


CAREY, ROB 44564 36.02%
PATTERSON, GREG* 56790 45.9%
STRATTON, HARLAN T. 22374 18.08%

Pearce Attacker strikes out again

Once again, Nathan Sproul, the architect behind the attacks on Russell Pearce, did not have a good election night - hitting the perfect zero on the races that he helped. Ouch.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Monday, November 3, 2008

Remember to vote tomorrow!

As I am sure EVERYONE is aware by now, tomorrow is Election Day. There has been a lot of attention about the national election, but its also important to weigh in on state and local issues. Here are some handy last minute things you can read if you want to be better prepared:

Mesa Bond Election:

Arizona Republic Coverage
East Valley Tribune Coverage

Legislative Races:

Arizona Republic Candidate Questions

LD 18
Judah Nativio' Website
Russell Pearce's Website
Cecil Ash's Website
Steve Court's Website
Tammy Pursely's Website

LD 19
Chuck Gray's Website
Kirk Adams' Website
Rich Crandall's Website
Kathy Romanos' Website

LD 21 (Partially in Mesa)
Jay Tibshraeney's Website
Phil Hettmansperger's Website
Warde Nichols' Website
Steve Yarbrough's Website

District 22 (Partially in Mesa)
Thayer Verschoor's Website
Andy Biggs' Website
Laurin Hendrix's Website

Healthcare District Race:

District 2
Rob Carey's Website
Greg Patterson's Website
Harlan Stratton's Website

DMB/Gaylord Megaresort Vote Today

While tomorrow is about the Bond Election and the Presidential Race, today is about the megaresort plans that are going before the Mesa City Council. Here is the Republic's coverage of the "historic" project. Here is the Tribune's coverage of the "watershed" event.

All hyperbole aside, this is a very big deal for Mesa and its future. The Mesa City Council is voting on several important pieces regarding the future of the GM proving grounds including annexing it into Mesa, rezoning the property, reviewing the agreements, and potentially placing the project on the March ballot.

I have said it before and I will say it again. I wish we could get through a project in Mesa without going to another election. However, on the plus side, we can always say that the public has had a thorough debate about each of their larger projects and come to some sort of decision. This definitely gives the naysayers a lot less ground to work with.

So long Circuit City

Well, Circuit City is pulling out of Phoenix. This is sort of surprising considering that they have been expanding around town quite a bit in the past few years. Awhile back, there was even some talk about Circuit City moving elsewhere in the Fiesta District.

However, in the end, both Mesa stores as well as the rest of the Phoenix stores are on the chopping block. Here is the official list of closings. They wasted no time updating their website either. Now when you search for a store close to Mesa, they point you to the stores in Tucson as being the only stores within 100 miles. Try the store locator for yourself.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Vote Yes on Question 1 and Question 2

The Tribune has an excellent article covering the needs that are included in the two bond questions that will be decided along with everything else on Tuesday. If you think this is just some sort of giveaway, take the time to look at their slide show and tell me if you think the Police and fire people have enough room to do their job effectively.

I can see that the same old naysayers are at it again telling people to vote no. Clearly, they have their thoughts about taxes and the function of government. However, this time around, their argument of Mesa being a wasteful city just doesn't ring true.

First, we have a new city council who started out by cutting the bonds to make them as small as possible. To me, that doesn't sound like a group trying to line their pockets or spend money unwisely.

Second, we have seen actual cuts to police and fire announced. I know that people think that this is just a stunt, but when the government wants to punish people, they take away softer things like libraries and museums. To borrow a term from someone in the article, its "political suicide" to cut money to emergency services. Seems to me like the cuts seem pretty serious.

Finally, if other people are having to make cuts to their budget or try to find ways to squeeze out more money, why shouldn't Mesa be doing the same. I don't know about you, but I have been seeing a lot more yard sales lately, with people looking for ways to make up for lost revenue. Mesa's budget is sales tax driven and has been losing already, even before the economy went in the tank.

In the end, I think its best to vote Yes on Question and Question 2. We are talking about $19 to $40 a year depending on how much your house costs. For that, I think its worth it to make sure that we have people who can respond to emergencies and keep Mesa safe. I think the new council has earned a shot, lets give it to them and see what they can do.

The election nears

Here is a great recap of the District 18 senate race, which has been relatively quiet. Well, a nuclear blast would be considered relatively quiet compared to the mudfest that was the LD 18 Senate primary. You have to give Pearce and Nativio credit that they have both stuck to their issues and offered a consistent message.

If the lines for Early Voting are any indication of the turn out on Election Day, you may want to wait 2 hours for an early ballot instead of 4 hours or more to vote in person. Its great to see so many people participating and here's to hoping that they take the time to learn about the rest of the ballot and participate in local issues as well.

If you would like to vote early, the closest location in Mesa is:

Maricopa County Elections Department (Mesa) - 222 E. Javelina Dr., Mesa

Major cuts for planned freeway expansion

The local association of governments is looking to make major cuts to the freeway plan that is supposed to guide this valley for the next 20 years. The cuts will be about $4.5 billion and a lot of freeway projects on the chopping block. Look for big ticket items like the South Mountain Freeway to probably fall off the map.

Needless to say, this is fairly disappointing since the plan is only a couple years old, but the economy has certainly taken a turn for the worse. However, I do have to say that the timing is bad to be talking about cuts to freeways and watching the different parts of the fighting to keep projects just as the light rail is starting to go up and running.

I understand that they are two different items and the money comes from different places, but people are going to naturally connect the two and be under the impression that we are sacrificing freeways for light rail. While not necessarily the case, that is the perception out there.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Robbery Case just keeps getting weirder

Awhile back, I wrote about the value of knowing your neighbors and having them look after your house when you are out of town. This was in the wake of a guy burglarizing a house and living there for awhile before the family came back.

Well, the case just keeps getting weirder. Now the police have arrested a 3rd man in connection with the robbery. The story says that not one, but two people were living in the house, and the third guy is the one who helped pawn the goods for drugs. You'd think that neighbors might be able to miss one guy coming in and out, but three druggies? I mean, come on!

Glad the police were able to track these guys down. In these tough economic times, we should all do a little more to make sure we are on the look out for crime and do our part to keep the neighborhoods safe.

Looking for a pet?

Make sure you check out the Pet Adopt-a-thon at Mesa Riverview a week from Saturday. There will be around 30 different rescue groups at the event, which means there should be a lot of different animals to choose from. Its a great reason to go out and check out the event and spend some time shopping in Mesa.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Get ready for Photo radar on the US 60

I don't know about you, but I started to avoid Scottsdale's section of the 101 when they put the traffic cams in. Not because I love speeding, but because I don't think its fair to be busted going along with the normal flow of traffic. Well, it looks like nowhere is safe anymore. The US 60's traffic cameras will be activated by the end of the week.

So, look out for getting caught speeding on the 60 at Alma School, Mesa Drive and Gilbert Road. Also look out for people hitting the brakes and causing accidents in an attempt to not get cited. Remember that the limit is 10 miles and over. So, if you are going 75, you are going to get ticketed.

Don't worry, its only a $181 ticket to help the state budget. It doesn't go on your permanent record. But that's certainly not just a cash grab or anything. I have heard a few people call them "Janet Cams," which I think may end up being the Governor's legacy if she skips town to join Obama if he wins.

In their own words: Cecil Ash

We have asked each of the legislative candidates to submit their own editorial to be posted on Mesa Issues. Over the past few weeks, we have posted responses from each of the candidates. Here is the final in our series "In their own words" with Legislative District 18 House Candidate Cecil Ash:

The recent bailout (aka “the rescue”) by the federal government has prompted anew queries concerning the appropriate role of government. What seems evident is that we have greatly strayed from the original purposes of government, and more specifically from the Constitution which formed our government. Who is responsible for this deviation? While Republicans would blame Democrats and Democrats would blame Republicans, the fault most directly lies with us as a people. Those who have made the decisions to exceed constitutional authority have, after all, been the elected representatives we’ve placed in office by democratic vote. As with any time we point the finger at someone, there are three pointing back as us.

Speaking collectively, and not individually, we have voted for those who offered us the most. We have been pandered to, and not only permitted it, but encouraged it by electing those who told us what we wanted to hear: “No work, all ease. All honey and no bees.”

One of the aspects of running for office in this, my first attempt, has been the number of questionnaires one receives as a candidate. Nurses, realtors ®, conservationists, farmers, businessmen, teachers, gays, gun owners, contractors, accountants, apartment owners, social workers, and the list goes on and on. The questions are cleverly phrased to determine whether or not a candidate will vote, if elected, in such a way as to benefit the particular group seeking his opinion. While many of these groups have legitimate concerns, it nevertheless presents significant ethical dilemmas for an elected representative. John Kennedy in his book, Profiles in Courage, discussed this issue. When there is a difference, does an elected representative vote the way his constituency wants him to vote, or does he vote his conscience, and do what he thinks is right? I’m sure there are occasions when either answer is appropriate.

When it comes down to it, however, the only oath that a representative takes is to uphold the constitution. In Arizona, Article 2 of the State Constitution states in Section 2: “All political power is inherent in the people, and governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed, and are established to protect and maintain individual rights.

If elected, I pledge to uphold the Constitution. I believe that government should be limited to those matters authorized or permitted by the Constitution. It is not up to the legislators to be nice to people, to manipulate society to accomplish the specific aims of a needy group, or to tax and spend for someone’s personal agenda. I don’t want the government to tell me what charities to support, or to promote a particular business, or to interfere with general commerce. If there is one thing that governments have in common, it is that they generally over-spend and over-regulate.

What I hope to accomplish at the legislature is to control spending, to limit government growth, and to encourage a robust business climate that will hopefully lead to an improved economy. How that is to be done is a challenge. But I’m willing to devote full time to the process. The solutions exist to improve our government. We need to persevere, open-mindedly, until we find them.

I would appreciate your support.