Thursday, January 29, 2009

State of Mesa: Councilmember Dennis Kavanaugh- District 3

This is the latest entry in our new series, "State of Mesa." We have offered each councilmember an opportunity to submit their own editorial on the state of their District to be posted on Mesa Issues. Here is Councilmember Dennis Kavanaugh's State of District 3:

It has been a busy time for the City Council since I took office last June. First and foremost, Mesa, like virtually every other American city has been faced with an unprecedented loss of revenues due to the recession economy. In December 2008 the Council approved dramatic reductions for the balance of this fiscal year and for the 2009-2010 fiscal year. No area of city government was spared these cuts and unfortunately, we will see a diminished level of city services during this coming year.

Now more than ever, we will need help from our residents, particularly in offering volunteer services. Virtually every city department has a valued place for volunteers and I hope District 3 residents continue our proud tradition of volunteer service to our community. Also, please continue to help us out by making your major purchases in Mesa as we rely so heavily on sales tax revenues.

We do have some exciting things happening in District 3. The opening of light rail has produced a wave of excitement among residents and businesses and has stimulated new development in West Mesa. The Mekong Plaza shopping mall is a great example of adaptive reuse of the old Target store and its parking lot has been crowded since day 1. Across the street we look for the opening of an upscale Hispanic market (Pueblo Market) this spring. We are seeing the beginnings of an international dining/shopping area at the start of the light rail line.

We have completed work on design guidelines for the Fiesta District. Changes to our zoning code are also anticipated to reduce barriers to reinvestment in West Mesa and the Fiesta District. Banner Desert Hospital, Mesa Community College and Fiesta Mall have all seen significant dollars invested in their locations. Through a partnership with the West Mesa Community Development Corporation and the Neighborhood Economic Development Corporation (NEDCO) the city is encouraging fa├žade improvements by West Mesa businesses. The new regional pool facility at Rhodes Junior High School is under construction and will be a valuable community asset when it opens this fall.

Finally, District 3 continues to have stellar neighborhood groups which work hard to keep crime down and property values up. I truly appreciate all that they do for our city.

Dennis Kavanaugh
Councilmember, District 3

Prop 300: Bed Taxes and Gaylord

The Republic's Gary Nelson delves deeply into the Gaylord deal today showing how the bed taxes are at the heart of the vote. Its a great read that goes through the ins and outs of the deal, and spells out how the money gets generated and where it gets spent.

In the end, it basically comes down to this: Mesa collects bed taxes from tourists. Those bed taxes are used to promote tourism. Gaylord is going to generate a lot of bed taxes as a big time attraction. Mesa is going to let them use some of the bed taxes to promote the Gateway Area, and some to promote the hotel and convention center. The money appears to be used in the same way as it always has. The difference is who is doing the promotion.

Quite frankly, in some ways, I really think its better for Gaylord to do the promotion. They want the area to succeed to help their business. Don't you think they are going to spend their money as efficiently as possible? I think Mesa has come a long way in the past few months, but perception management is still something they need a little work on.

Of course, a couple of grumpy folks assume that this thing would be built with or without incentives. I am of the belief that they wouldn't especially in this current climate. In Mesa, its still frustrating that we have to sit through an election before we are able to build anything, but at least projects are opting for Mesa over some of our neighbors.

City of Mesa switches to 4 day work week

Mesa is going to a 4 day work week. The City of Mesa will now be closed on Friday, but open earlier and later Monday through Thursday. I think its a good move to save money, but I do question how this is going to impact City Services around Holidays. How will Monday holidays impact all of this? Will the city only be open three days that week?

I am fine with that, but I think they should be starting to set expectations now. Fortunately they aren't starting this until March (missing President's day), so I think they have until May to figure out how to express this to the public. It says that other cities have done it, so I am sure there is some sort of method to do all of it. I am also impressed that they took the time to survey the employees to see if they are on board with the move. A unilateral move like that could have hurt morale if not handled properly.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Early Voting on Gaylord Resort - Prop 300 - Starts Next Week

Starting next week, the voters of Mesa will have a chance to vote on Proposition 300. This issue is regarding the Gaylord Resort in Southeast Mesa. The reason we are voting on this is because the City of Mesa has allowed the resort to use some of the bed tax dollars that they create to help market the project to tourists. Basically, its the same job that the CVB does now, but instead of going for all of Mesa, it would just go to helping this area.

The reason we have to vote on this is because a few years back, after the stadium debacle, some angry folks changed the Mesa charter to require a public vote on "various amenities, including convention centers." As a resort and convention center, Gaylord fits this definition.

We have spoken at length regarding the Gateway area and all of the exciting things that are happening around it. This is one of the bigger opportunities. One of the facts that stood out for me the most is that this is a billion (with a B) investment in Mesa from private companies. And that's just for the hotels alone. That doesn't even talk about any of the rest of the stuff that would come along with it or the people who would be attracted to it.

What about the improvements to the airport to handle the travelers that are coming to a convention? What about the business owners who want to be nearby to cater to convention-goers? What about the restaurants and other hotels who want to be nearby? How much would all of that add up to?

All of this for trading in some of the bed tax that the project creates for itself? As I have said before, if this development doesn't happen, these revenues don't exist at all.

Riverview and offices

You have to love Twitter, this story about Mesa Riverview in the Tribune was posted at 3:05 and I saw it on Twitter at 3:11. The story goes on to explain that some of the office buildings have opened at Riverview, and they are having trouble finding tenants. While this may be a problem in the short-term, I think in the long run it will be part of the reason that Riverview may be more successful than Tempe Marketplace.

If you go head to head in the retail department, Marketplace, as I have said before, has a lot more going on. However, Riverview also boasts the office space, the autodealers, the hotel, and this office space.

Mesa has plenty of retail and some would probably say that the city has too much. That is why office commercial like this is so important. That is up to 2,600 potential high wage jobs that could be coming to West Mesa. Having office space located near a large retail center and the 101 and 202 would seem to be an easy sell when the economy starts to rebound.

More on Polytechnic

Mayor Smith doesn't think ASU Poly will close. He thinks its all part of the budget game which is being played at the legislature and he is probably right. From the protestors to the threats of blood in the streets, all of this has to do with the "gamesmanship" surrounding the efforts to fix what is likely to be the worst budget deficit (thanks Napolitano!) in Arizona history.

Certainly, with everything else going on in the Gateway area, it would be foolish for ASU to close Poly. But if thats on the table, perhaps we should start looking at the idea that Robert Robb had over the weekend about setting Poly and West up as separate undergraduate schools. A competitive environment for universities in the Valley would not necessarily be a bad thing.

Calling all Mesa Councilmembers

Dear Councilmembers Finter, Kavanaugh, Jones, Higgins, and Somers,

As with Councilmember Richins, we have offered each of you to submit a "State of the District" speech to be included here on Mesa Issues. We have yet to hear back from several of you. We hope you will take the time to participate in this form of constituent outreach. If you need to get in touch with us, you can contact mesaissues (at) gmail (dot) com.

Yours truly,
The Gang at Mesa Issues

Legislators and their bills

Interesting breakdown of the bills filed by East Valley Legislators in the upcoming session. It looks like a lot of the bills mentioned have to do with education. I wonder if the school funding protestors are going to notice.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Great news for sports in Mesa

Two really cool things going on in Mesa regarding sports:

First, the Cactus League experience has opened at the Historical Museum just in time for Spring Training next month. Its really neat to see all of the old pictures and think about the history and tradition of Spring Training throughout the valley. They are also asking for memories regarding Spring Training. I always remember taking a day off every year to make sure I caught a Cubs Spring Training Game. I also remember being honored that Ryne Sandberg called AZ his home in the off season.

The other sports related story is Cards player Lutui visiting Mesa High, his alma mater. Its hard to believe that he only graduated from Mesa High in 2002. Right now, he is probably the biggest player to come out of Mesa since Danny White. Now, I know some of you will mention Todd Heap, who is also a Mesa product, but hey, he isn't playing for the Cards right now, is he? Congratulations to him on his continued success, and congrats to Mesa Public Schools for continuing to produce quality athletes with solid character who can perform at any level.

Stapley investigation continues

In case you didn't know it, Sheriff Joe is still hot on the trail of anyone who has anything to do with Supervisor Don Stapley. This time he is searching the offices of Conley Wolfswinkel who is a local land developer. I thought the name sounded familiar, so I looked it up and Wolfswinkel was the subject of that multipart Tribune expose a while back.

This appears to be the latest in the nasty back and forth between the Sheriff and County Attorney and the Board of Supervisors.

What is interesting to me from a purely layman's perspective is the fact that they are still out investigating. I thought that when you indicted someone, especially on 118 counts, you'd have your facts and your investigation pretty well sewed up.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Jan Brewer - 22nd Governor of Arizona

Secretary of State Jan Brewer was sworn in as the new Governor of Arizona today. Was anyone at the event that can offer us a live report? I have to agree with Exurban League about her quote of the day:


“In some ways this feels like you’ve just shown up for a party,” she said. “But all the guests have all gone. Only the caterer is left — and she immediately hands you the bill.”


This is a hilarious line that does seem to be a fitting description of the mess left behind from the previous administration. I think we should give her a chance. From the tenor of her speech, it looks like they are going to focus on business opportunities and ways to make the state grow. Which is sort of an interesting comparison to Obama's "ask what your country can do for you" speech from yesterday.

I encourage Governor Brewer to make sure she pays attention to the entire breadth and depth of the state. Very rarely would Napolitano set foot east of Tempe, since that was not friendly territory to her. Mesa and the entire East Valley is going to be on the cutting edge of this economic revival, and it could be a very valuable tool to her vision for Arizona.

The Future of ASU Polytechnic

Well, the Trib says that Michael Crow is threatening to close Polytechnic and the Republic says that he isn't. Turn up your speakers on the Tribune story and you can hear an interview with Crow. He is posed the question of Polytechnic which he doesn't really address, but it didn't quite come off as them threatening to close the facility.

Ultimately, they are concerned about the proposed cuts from Senator Pearce and Representative Kavanaugh. Its not clear if they are amenable to any sort of cuts, but they are against the cuts en masse. The one cut that I definitely agree with is the 2008 SPEED stimulus package which was part of last years' stinker of a budget that was built on a wing and a prayer.

I get the need to keep up, but as I have mentioned before, building fancy new buildings doesn't really make the case for even more fancy new buildings.

More on the traffic cams

I mentioned yesterday that the current traffic cams seem almost meaningless. Well, it looks like other people seem to agree with me since only about 30% of the violators pay their fine.

I have also heard that there are a growing number of traffic camera vans popping up on the Loop 202 which had become the autobahn since it appeared to be one of the only stretches in the Valley without cameras. It will be interesting to see what the next couple of months bring.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Mesa Issues now on Twitter

Well, we took the plunge. Mesa Issues is now on Twitter. We are still trying to figure things out and all the etiquette and whatnot, so give us some time. However, it seems pretty neat so far, and we couldn't let the guys over at Exurban League have all of the fun.

Mesa to battle Pay Day Loans

Mesa has declared war on the Pay Day lending industry pledging to thwart any efforts to revive the industry following their embarassing beatdown on the November Ballot. Mesa, oft known for their plethora of Pay Day loan shops, have decided to battle any legislation proposed to keep the industry around past their sunset date in 2010.

Needless to say, I was surprised that Mesa actually has 95 shops in town. Its difficult to tell how many of these would be able to survive as check cashing stores if the payday loan laws were to expire. The question is, what will Mesa do with 95 additional empty commercial properties? I am not a huge fan of the industry, but I do think we have to look at all of the ramifications before we outright ban something from town. In talking to everyone, letting them go away is certainly the popular move, but we do have to think about what that would do to some of these shopping centers that are already suffering.

Freeway Camera Protests on US 60

About 15 to 20 protestors showed up at the Longmore overpass to the US 60 to protest the speed cameras and they are pledging to continue their efforts. There have been reports from several people who have reported that these protests caused major traffic jams on the 60, taking some people nearly twice as long as usual to get home. At least they probably stopped a few people from getting tickets from the cameras.

I agree that something needs to be done about these cameras. They certainly cannot simply be a cashcow to fill the state coffers. I still dislike them, but I do have to admit that they have changed the way I drive. I would guess that my average unchecked freeway speed when I am cruising was somewhere in the 70 to 75 mph range. The other weekend, on an open road, I looked down to notice that I was naturally traveling around 65 mph without looking at the speedometer. This decline in my speed is directly related to the speed cameras. Is 65 safer than 70? I don't know.

However, the key here is that the program can't stay as its currently put together. $160 is too steep and without any points to the license, its almost meaningless. If they want to raise revenue from this, then lower my tags, reward me for being a good driver. How about setting a budget for car related taxation. When its met through tags and speed cameras, start giving some of the money back.

Government shouldn't really be looking for ways to spend financial windfalls.

Pastor Upset at Domestic Partner Registry

Pastor David Land of New Life Assembly of God does not favor Councilmember Kavanaugh's efforts to create a Domestic Partner Registry in Mesa. He worries about condoning something outside the realm of traditional marriage. Apparently, he offered his concerns up in a letter to the Mayor. If we are able to get a copy of this letter, we will be sure to post it.

Last week, Councilmember Kavanaugh was kind enough to give his thoughts on the topic right here on Mesa Issues. Kavanaugh was quick to point out that this was in no way associated with trying to change the laws about marriage. However, he did also point out that this registry would be helpful for businesses who recognize domestic partnerships.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Inspirational Return for Mesa Blogger

Former Mesa resident and plane crash survivor Stephanie Nielson has returned to blogging. You can find her blog here. Its very inspiring to see someone come back from such a horrible ordeal and have such a positive outlook on life. This last line is particularly inspiring:

At the end of the day Mr. Nielson in his blue juzozs takes me by the hand for bed...like I said, not so different than before the crash

This is a story we have covered a couple of times. I am glad that the Republic has done such a good job following this story.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

State of Mesa: Councilmember Dave Richins - District 1

This is the first entry in our new series, "State of Mesa." We have offered each councilmember an opportunity to submit their own editorial on the state of their District to be posted on Mesa Issues. Here is Councilmember Dave Richins' State of District 1:

There are some exciting things happening in and near District One in Mesa. Two significant projects have the potential to affect Mesa and District One for many years. No, it is not Riverview or Waveyard. It is Arizona Regional Medical Center (formerly Mesa General) and Banner Corporate Center East (formerly Banner Mesa Medical Center). Both expected to generate over 1500 jobs in west Mesa.

Arizona Regional Medical Center is a full service hospital. The Emergency Room is being operated by District One resident and long-time Emergency Room Physician Dr. Kent Layton. I have great faith in Doc Layton and he has brought confidence and quality to emergency medicine at ARMC. Additionally, ARMC recently passed its accreditation inspection through the Joint Commission on Accreditation, with the highest level of certification a hospital can receive. The inspector commented that in his many years of hospital inspections he has never seen a cleaner hospital. Check it out of yourself. I am sure glad it is there if I need it. A BIG thanks to everyone who helped preserve jobs and healthcare in west Mesa, particularly Rep. Mark Anderson, Robin Harris of the Mahoney Group and Board President of West Mesa CDC, and Mesa’s Economic Development, Planning, and Building Safety Departments. I would also like to extend a thank you to my predecessor, Claudia Walters, for all she did to smooth the process of approval and communication with the City of Mesa.

Banner Corporate Center East will employ over 1200 people supporting the entire Banner system. The first 60 employees moved into the totally renovated facility on Dec. 29th, 2008 and more will move in each month. Check out the excellent article on progress in the Jan. 10th, 2008 edition of the East Valley Tribune. A big thanks here goes to Mesa Grande Community Alliance for staying engaged with Banner and encouraging quality reuses of this facility.

Another big deal, timed to coincide with Spring Training’s return to the valley is “Play Ball – The Cactus League Experience” at the Mesa Historical Museum in Horne Road and Lehi Road in Lehi. I would encourage you to check it out if you are a baseball fan. Additionally, the Wallace and Ladmo exhibit is still there as well. If you haven’t been to the Museum in a while, I would suggest a visit to see the new exhibits and reconnect with Mesa’s past.

THE BUZZ! The buzz about what? The Buzz is a new free shuttle circulating around west Mesa and downtown. It links everything together. Light Rail, Metro Link, and The Buzz should get you anywhere you need to go, without a car, and with an easy link to the airport, you can go anywhere in the world! It also achieves one of the goals of the Mesa Grande Community Alliance revitalization plan. Check out my city council website at http://mesaaz.gov/citymgt/mayorcc/richins.aspx for more information on the Buzz.

Riverview. No State of District One report would be complete without an update on Riverview. Riverview Pointe, the office component of the project will be open late Jan. 2009. The Hyatt Place hotel hopes to be open by March for Spring Training. The owner of the hotel also owns the Oakland A’s and rumor has it that it will be the hotel home of the A’s during Spring Training. The big three, Bass Pro, Home Depot and Wal-Mart are still going strong. Toby Keith’s I Love This Bar and Grill hopes to be open in time for the Super Bowl. I haven’t seen official numbers but it looks like Riverview has produced almost $5,000,000 in sales tax revenue for the city so far. I have recently reviewed the rather cumbersome agreement between the developers and the city and things seem to be on track. I know some bristle at the incentives and a half full shopping center but always keep in mind two things, 1) this is a tough economy and the developer only gets money if the project generates sales taxes and 2) many aspects of the project have been built way ahead of schedule. It takes a while to absorb over a million square feet of shopping into the market. Be patient!

Waveyard, the dream is still alive. The Waveyard group is still working on securing financing for their project. They are working on deals in South Korea and Abu Dhabi as well as the project in Mesa. Waveyard is experience the same economic difficulties securing financing as many projects around the county. We are continuing to be engaged with Waveyard, in the meantime, enjoy a round of golf or join a softball league and have fun!

On Feb. 28th, 2008, instead of a Pancake Breakfast traditionally held by council members, we are going to stage a cleanup and beautification event called Top 2 Bottom. We are going to paint bridges (similar to the one on Alma School Road), clean alleys, vacant lots, illegal signs, remove old debris and tires, and paint out graffiti. We will be meeting in front of Home Depot and Mesa Riverview early that morning so come on by and pitch in to help. We will have breakfast and a free T-Shirt for all of our volunteers. Links to sign up are found on my council website at http://mesaaz.gov/citymgt/mayorcc/richins.aspx.

If anyone has questions or needs help on an issue feel free to call me at 480.644.4002 (office) or 602.625.5162 (cell). Please don’t call my cell after 8:PM, I have young kids! My email address is councilmember.richins@mesaaz.gov. Thanks!

Cubs fans line up for more punishment

Over 50% of the Spring Training tickets for the Cubs at Hohokam are already sold out. You have to hand it to those Cubs fans, they are a loyal bunch. Heartbreak after heartbreak, they keep coming back for more.

Mesa is truly blessed to have the Cubs, the premier attraction, as their Spring Training partner. However, as I have said before, why doesn't a town the size of Mesa have more than one team? Heck, Glendale and Goodyear are both boasting at least two teams.

If Waveyard falls through, why not put a team at that location, talk to the owner of the A's who is building a hotel at Riverview. What about the D-backs or the Rockies who are stuck playing Japanses teams in Tucson?

$6 million for $20 million

Mesa is going to put up $6 million in interest costs to make sure they keep $20 million in State money for the Gateway Freeway extension. It seems to make sense, especially since their investment is going to be matched 3 times over and the project will be moved up by 4 years. Imagine if the San Tan has been done 4 years earlier!

The interest payments appear to be due in 2014 with 3 years to pay back. Hopefully, the financial crisis will be over by then, and Mesa can plan for these expenses and make sure they are within the budget. I also hope that the council is exploring ways to get the rest of the freeway paid for.

It looks to me that the City is looking to pay for the first mile, and the county is on the hook to Meridian Road, but who is responsible from there to the 60? Is there even money for that? It would be very helpful to have a freeway that directly feeds the Gateway area, but it will be a little less impactful if the freeway deadends.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

What hath the Goldwater Institute wrought?

I have had several people send me this email today from the Goldwater Institute questioning the validity of the Gaylord deal in East Mesa - an issue that was also covered in the Sunday's Tribune.

You see, they have recently had some success litigating the economic incentives for a project known as CityNorth in Phoenix. Now, it looks like they might go after plans all around the valley which use different deals to encourage development. Its a little funny, since the entire local economy is in a complete and total funk that they would like to shoot down any developments that have a chance to get off the ground, but hey, who needs tax revenue anyway? Certainly not Mesa, Phoenix or the State of Arizona for that matter.

When it comes to the Gaylord project, the simple fact is that the city of Mesa is using revenues generated by the project to help promote the area. If this development doesn't happen, these revenues don't exist at all. Isn't the goal of business for everyone involved to make money? If cities are to be run more like businesses, shouldn't they follow this mantra?

However, according to the Goldwater Institute, no pie is better than 3/4 of a pie.

As it was pointed out to me, there is a larger issue at work here. They say that the problem is when public money ends up on the pockets of private interests, not matter how they use the money. According to their logic, the mere fact that the money is given to a private interest makes the deal against the law. The rub, then, is that their endless pursuit of any public money to private interests will almost certainly spell the end of the charter school industry in Arizona.

See, for a long time, folks like the Goldwater Institute have said that public funding and vouchers for private and charter schools are the best options for people who are in areas where the public schools are under performing. They also tend to argue that charter schools and other education alternatives help make the public schools more competitive, like Rhodes Junior High's international baccalaureate program or the Mesa Academy for Advanced Studies.

Charter schools, other than the ones run by the same bureaucrats from the school districts, are often run by private interests - some as for profit and others as a non-profit. Either way, this public money would be going to help private interests. So where is the difference?

I don't know anything about the CityNorth project, so I can't comment. In the case of the Gaylord project, I know that the bed tax revenue is being used to promote tourism - the same thing it has been doing since its inception. The difference is that money from that area is going to be invested into promoting that specific area.

So, who would you rather spending that money: The City of Mesa, who has probably made cuts in their PR department, or a private business looking to make the most bang for their buck and put as many people in the hotel as possible?

Kavanaugh Discusses Domestic Partner Registry

As we mentioned last week, we gave Councilmember Dennis Kavanaugh an opportunity to share his thoughts on the Domestic Partner Registry. We very much appreciate that he took his time to share his thoughts:

DOMESTIC PARTNER REGISTRY

Last month the Arizona Republic ran several articles on a proposal before the Phoenix City Council to establish a “domestic partner registry” for use by unmarried couples, whether straight or gay, in the city. I was not familiar with this concept and asked our City Attorney to contact Phoenix to obtain a copy of their proposal as well as any background material.

I learned that as of the current time, at least 76 cities or counties in the United States had established such registries. The primary purpose of the registry is to ensure partner visitation rights in all health care facilities within the jurisdiction. The ordinances do not limit the right of health care facilities to establish visiting hours, rules of conduct or to regulate access to patients generally. They do not conflict or contravene other county, state or federal laws. They do not establish a gay marriage or civil union legal relationship. The registration issued by the city could be used to demonstrate a domestic partnership to government agencies, employers, businesses or other third parties. As an example, many employers offer domestic partner benefits and the registry is a way to qualify for such benefits.

I also learned that Tucson unanimously adopted a similar ordinance in 2003 and that Salt Lake City unanimously adopted a registry ordinance in January 2008. In the 2006 census, nearly 134,000 unmarried partner households were reported in the State of Arizona.

Medical powers of attorney or advance directives, while important for all individuals to consider having, do not guarantee visitation rights to domestic partners who are not family members. Phoenix worked with the health care community to develop the language in their ordinance.

I have asked our Human Relations Advisory Board to study the concept and the new Phoenix ordinance to see if they might recommend its adoption in our community. Depending on the actions of this board, our City Council may take up the issue later in the year.

If enacted, the program would be administered through our City Clerk’s office and there would be a fee for using the registry to offset the costs to the city. I am unaware of any administrative burdens or problems in any other community that has adopted such ordinances over the past ten years.

I do believe the registry is an equitable way to ensure visitation rights for unmarried couples. It also is helpful for the medical community by minimizing the risk of conflicts over who has access to patients in their facilities.

Dennis Kavanaugh, Councilmember, District 3, City of Mesa

Good Moves by Mayor and Council

Mayor Scott Smith was seen putting in some face time at the recent inauguration of new Scottsdale Mayor Jim Lane. Its been awhile since Mesa and Scottsdale have gotten along, and perhaps this could be the start of a good relationship. Allhands has it right, the two cities could learn a lot about eachother, especially since the Gateway area could be like Scottsdale Airpark on steroids.

In another saavy move, the Mesa City Councilmembers and judges will also be taking a paycut in response to these tough economic times. They cannot technically cut their salaries because of state law, but they are opting to donate 2% of their salary back to the city. This is a fine showing, especially since they could have given up after the state law prevented them from formally making the cut.

Now bear in mind, the Mayor and Council should be paid more than they are since their jobs really are more than full time, but it shows true leadership that they are willing to cut the small pay that they actually do receive. I commend them and their efforts to get their employees to not only do as they say, but also do as they do.

You don't hear about other cities pondering moves like this, even in ones that are struggling mightily.

Baaaaaaah

Ok, so I know that bah is more of a sheep sound than a goat sound, but I couldn't quite think of the way to write out the Goat sound. Apparently, its called a bleat. The point to all of this is the fact that City of Mesa has leased 80 goats to help clean up the weeds around town.

Its a really interesting read with some good points on how the city was able to solve a problem with goats instead of man power and pesticides. Plus, you have to hand it to the company that leases the goats, the guy figured out a way to get people to pay him AND feed his goats!

I am not an expert when it comes to greenhouse gases and whatnot, but I would have to assume that goats feeding would be a little easier on the environment than several dudes wielding gas powered weed-wackers. Besides, like the story said, the goats can get places that other people can't. If this works out, we should turn the goats over on the train at Pioneer Park.

After all, those things eat useless old tin cans, don't they?

Thursday, January 8, 2009

And the Gaylord Election begins...

As a few people have pointed out to me, the rumor is that the Tribune writers are now on a daily quota. Well, I am starting to suspect that is true. The Tribune has posted a story about signs popping up in favor of the March Prop 300 election.

Interestingly enough, earlier in the day, the headline was:

"Gaylord supporters touting project with signs"

However, before long, the headline had been changed to the much more rugged:

"Campaign for Gaylord bed-tax vote intensifies"

The story has stayed the same: The folks supporting the Gaylord project have started to put up signs and it sounds like they are doing a survey. I am not quite sure what is newsworthy here, since pretty much all campaigns do signs, but hey, the Trib promised hard hitting news every day.
I haven't seen any of the signs yet, but I'm sure they will be coming soon. From the picture, though, I do have to say they look pretty catchy... but I am easy to please. I pretty much like anything that doesn't have Rex Griswold's face or "Hogwash" on it.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

I like Mesa!

Hey, as it turns out, Mesa knows how to have a hot time. In response to the accusations that Mesa is boring, I just got an email that said if you show up at the Superstition Springs Krispy Kremes between 5pm and 10pm tonight and tell them why you think Mesa is great, you'll get a dozen free donuts. I guess there are tv cameras there and everything.

Take that national media!

Welcome to the new Tribune

Today is the first day of the new East Valley...er Mesa Tribune. In addition to the two section tabloid paper, they unveiled a new website, which is fairly impressive. I wish I could take credit for their changes, but I would assume that these types of changes were probably in the works for a long time before my rant earlier this week.

First, the site is now much cleaner which makes it easier to find things. The flash headlines are also gone, which was one of my biggest problems with the site. Now, they have this cool tabbed browsing, which makes it easier to find things and keeps some of the clutter hidden.

It appears that I can customize the homepage, which will be cool, but I do question why the opinion is stuck all the way at the bottom of their generic set up. Overall, I think its a major improvement over their own site.

As for the print edition, I am still getting used to the tabloid format, but its better now that the whole thing is one direction, instead of the normal sections being stuffed inside the tabloid front section. It will take awhile to get used to the whole thing, but I do think its cool that you can now check out the print version free online, if you would prefer to read the actual paper on the web.

In all, lets hope that they are able to provide quality news to go along with their technological upgrades.

Is Mesa boring?

In a fairly ludicrous survey, the City of Mesa was listed as Forbes Magazine's "most boring city," which according to the story, is based on the number of national news stories written about Mesa.

Its not clear if we should be rooting for more national attention, because as the article keenly observes that national media is not always good news. Afterall, the main national stories about Mesa from last year were Arpaio raiding City hall and the Gaylord project. One good and one bad. That doesn't even mention the serial killer water and ice store owner, or the fact that Mesa passed the first property tax in over 50 years.

I don't think anyone in Mesa would like to trade spots with Detroit right now, which is in the middle of a terrible breakdown of the auto industry. In all the magazine report is just another one of those silly things that don't really mean anything, but it certainly doesn't add to Mesa's reputation.

It just goes to show that there is still a long way to go in changing perceptions about Mesa and although there are a lot of positive things going on right now, the work is not over. However, I think Mesa has had its priorities straight getting its financial house in order and persuing economic opportunities instead of focusing on gaining the national spotlight.

Mesa Partnership Registry

Councilmember Dennis Kavanaugh is "exploring" the idea of promoting a domestic partnership registry for the City of Mesa (Tribune version here). We have offered the councilman a chance to offer up his thoughts on this issue here on Mesa Issues and we hope he will take us up on it.

The issue has already raised the ire of some in the conservative community because the definition of marriage was such a hot topic issue on the November ballot. I hope that the conversation can stay civil on both sides - although the comment sections aren't looking promising so far.

It should be noted that this is not quite the same issue as the November election. The Marriage amendment was a constitutional amendment defining marriage as the union of one man and one woman. The marriage issue from two years ago delved deeper into domestic partner issues and benefits and was defeated. There is a line, to at least some, between the definition of traditional marriage and domestic (or unmarried) partner issues.

I don't claim to know all of the ramifications of such a list, which is why I hope the Councilman will give us some more clarification. In the meantime, I would like to reserve judgement until I know more about it.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Light Rail Update

Light Rail's first crowd of paying commuters is no match for the throng of free riders from the trial of last week. Not that big of a surprise, really, since it is going to take a bit of time for people to change their routine to use transit of this type. However, at least the trains weren't completely empty.

Its still sort of jarring to me to see the imagery of the light rail with other familiar landmarks in the background. Its going to take some getting used to, but hopefully since its been built, people will start to use it.

Its the end of Tribune as we know it

Today is the first Monday without the paper edition of the East Valley Tribune. They tried to put on a happy face, explaining the "exciting journey" that they are undertaking with their 4 days a week tabloid. From now on, those outside of Mesa, Chandler, Gilbert and Queen Creek will no longer get the Trib at all. Those who will still get the paper won't see it on Mondays, Tuesdays, or Thursdays.

Tip to newsmakers, if you want to keep something quiet, announce it on Saturday - or late Friday. You know they already have the Sunday paper planned out, so, you can ride the tide until Wednesday before the masses will really hear about it. Of course, you'll catch hell from the same five commenters who comment on all of the online articles.

Its true that the news industry is changing and they are going to have to find a way to do more with less. I think that bloggers can help pick up the slack, but I have to be honest that I don't have the time to go to very many city council meetings or attend a forum where someone may or may not say something newsbreaking.

Now that the Tribune is going to focus more on the web, I do have a few thoughts on their website:

- Get rid of the flash story headlines - you can't view them in a new window if you want, and there isn't enough variety.

- Find a little consistency with font and text size - you are literally all over the map and it makes it hard to keep my eyes focused.

- Move the videos and slide shows to the bottom - you have a very almost google news type section of stories that people rarely get to because they get mired in all of the videos. Focus on your core deliverables, which I don't think is producing amateur news videos. Partner with a news station if you want that to be your focus.

- Allow other blogs to be part of your roll - I don't want to sign up for your blog softeware and set up another account. I already have this one.

Anyway, it will be interesting over the next week or so to get the reaction to the new Tribune. Times change, and trains gave way to planes, and VHS gave way to DVD which are giving way to BluRay, its just not clear to me who the successor will be for the newspaper.

Happy Anniversary Mesa Issues Impostor

January 2nd marked the one year anniversary of the Mesa Issues impostor created to imitate yours truly. The short-lived, Scott Smith bashing blog lasted only a month, yet its impact still can be found in still coming in second in a google search.

I had marked my calendar back in March, to see where things would be a year after their inception. No real change from them, and it made me realize how much I missed the Griswold Watch and the Scott Smith watch.

A year later, the Real Mesa Issues still going strong, trying to keep you up to date on what is going on in Mesa with a little bit of my opinion thrown in. I'd like to do some new things in the upcoming year, like give the councilpeople a chance to do a "state of the district," and maybe even invite on a few guest writers.

There are some other ideas in the works, and who knows, maybe one of these days, I'll even try twitter. Heck, even the exurban guys are doing it.