Friday, February 27, 2009

Quick Hits for Friday

Its kind of a slow news day, so I am just going to do a couple of quick hits on what is going on:

Freeway funding not a done deal for Gateway. It still has to get by the State Transportation Board next month and it looks like some people on the board are less than enthused. Now its the East Valley Mayors' jobs to show them why the freeway is essential to our future.

Mesa Parks Cuts are going to be severe. It is not hopefully a longterm solution, but I think that public safety is more important than parks at this time. Ironically, as it is mentioned in the article, when people can't afford anything else, they start to use the parks and libraries more. Doubt that they are going to complain about slightly longer grass and bushier trees. They probably have a few bank owned homes in their neighborhood anyway.

Mesa is trying to curb theft. The "lock it or leave it" campaign is supposed to help Mesa residents to secure their items to prevent theft. I think they should have gone with the more evocative "hey dummy, lock your stuff!"

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Stimulus saves Gateway Freeway

Transportation officials have brought funding back to the Gateway freeway through the money coming to Arizona as part of the stimulus package.

On one hand, this is good news because as I have said before, this freeway will benefit the entire Southeast Valley. However, with such a large chunk of the stimulus going to this one mile of freeway, its very uncertain how the Pinal County portion of the freeway is going to be funded. I understand that a large chunk of money is in the upfront costs, but with three alignments still up in the air, it seems like the rest of the freeway project could get mighty expensive.

Also, I just don't know how going into even deeper debt and raising $1 trillion in taxes is the long-term solution for creating a healthy economy. We have already seen out here in Arizona what happens if you boost spending artificially and pay for things we can't afford. Eventually, when the one time money runs out, your budget "ponzi scheme" as some people have called it, collapses.

This stimulus, in all of its earmarked glory, is just another one time fix. While it will help boost the local economy and get people back to work in the short term, I don't know what its doing to attract other economic opportunity.

Mesa goes to 4 day work week

Starting next week, Mesa is going to the 4 day work week. City Hall and administrative offices will now be closed on Fridays, but open 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays. Still a little tight for those who work till 5 or 5:30, but hey, most of those people worked on Friday as well.

It will be interesting to see how much the savings really are. The city says that this is a pilot program that will be reviewed later in the year. How do you think its going to work?

ICE, ICE Sheriff

Some experts are saying that the ICE program that Sheriff Joe is using to support his raids is a complete bust. From what I understand from this fact sheet and what the article says, the "287 (g) training" is supposed to help local authorities to take efficiently care of criminal illegal immigrants. Basically, the non-profit critiquing the Sheriff's practices explain that the intent of this training was to equip local law enforcement, not give Sheriff Joe free range to arrest Hispanics.

East Valley School Teacher Mike McClellan disagrees, saying that the ICE training is working just great... for the Sheriff. He then proceeds to go through a littany of the Sheriff's misdeeds that are lost under the cloud of him "being the only one doing something about illegal immigration." As long as real immigration reforms continue to fumble along, the Sheriff is going to continue to get away everything else he is doing.

Regarding 287 (g), I don't necessarily think the whole concept is broken - just the way that the Sheriff has manipulated it for his own gain. Of course, that seems to be his MO. However, in the case of Twitter, someone has already beat him to it. As I mentioned earlier this week, everyone should follow the fake Sherriff on twitter - its pretty funny stuff.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Northwest Mesa Clean-up

What a cool idea! Northwest residents have a chance to meet their neighbors while improving their community this weekend, which I am assuming means Saturday. I am not quite sure why its called "Top 2 Bottom," especially since its in District 1. Shouldn't it be "Thats a Clean 1" or "1derland" or "1 ton of clean up..."

Here are the details:

At stake: This is the weekend for a big neighborhood cleanup effort in City Council District 1, which covers northwest Mesa.

What's involved: More than 500 volunteers are expected for the event, which is called "Top 2 Bottom." Projects will include wall and bridge painting, picking up "nuisance" signs, alley cleanups, graffiti effacement and trash cleanup.

How you can help: Volunteers are asked to meet at 7 a.m. in the Walmart parking lot at Mesa Riverview, 1061 N. Dobson Road. They'll be fortified with free food, get a T-shirt and head out to their assigned projects. The work is supposed to be finished at 11 a.m.

Learn more: Contact Kathy Macdonald, an assistant to District 1 Councilman Dave Richins, at 480-644-5296.

Play Ball!

Spring Training appears to be the issue du jour. Probably because it starts today. This article has an interesting look at how Arizona appears to have the upperhand over Florida. Its interesting to see that Arizona has been able to nab 6 teams from Florida in recent years. Can the valley nab a couple more and reach the tipping point?

Also, a permanent home is being sought for the Cactus League exhibit that is currently on display at the Mesa Historical Museum. Since Mesa is such a rich part of the Spring Training history, lets hope they can hold on to this museum.

Even the Gaylord promoters are getting in on the action. People started reporting a new commercial a little while back, and it popped up on YouTube yesterday as well. Connecting a renowned economic driver like spring training to the attraction of a Gaylord resort is a smart move:

The next smart move would be to actually get some teams to locate in East Mesa, or anywhere in the East Valley for that matter.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

More on the Aerospace Institute

The Republic is already in love with the Aerospace Institute. The Tribune is not quite there, but it recognizes the potential. Regardless, it represents good policy to continue to pursue opportunities in spite of current economic conditions. These are the types of investments in time and energy which will really blossom as everything recovers.

Not too long ago, everyone spoke of Gateway and the Proving Grounds in terms of vision, theories, and what-ifs. Now, we are seeing actual movement, and more and more people can see the tangible impacts of this vision. I would say that the Gaylord Resort and the aerospace institute are real steps towards this goal.

Spring Training is here

Spring Training is finally here and the Hohokams are putting the final touches on the spring home of the Cubs. Once again, we are reminded the value of Spring Training and what it does to our local economy. The Cubs will, no doubt, be one of the highest draws again this year, especially since they attract so much local attendance. However, even the Cubs are predicting some slowdown, but it will be interesting to see how the other teams compare.

A couple of teams to watch are the ones in the new parks opening in Glendale and Goodyear. Based on their features in the Republic, they should be poised to have a good year. Add into the mix the D-Backs and Rockies looking for a home in the Valley, and as I have mentioned before, how long before the Cubs and their new ownership start asking for theirs.

Its inspiring that the Hohokams care so much about the stadium and the team. Let's hope they are willing to help do what it takes to keep the team. It would be weird to have the Cubs call somewhere else besides Mesa "home," but its not completely outside the realm of reason. Especially in this slowed economy, the Cubs can show the monetary value that they bring, especially over some of the other teams in the valley.

Tribune has "difficulties"

Probably one of the finest hours for the Tribune and their advertisers and they blow it. Their story about Dobson students having concerns over Obama's plan made national media and was featured on the Drudge Report. Around that same time, the linked page mysteriously changed to a different story.

East Valley Tribune denies any shenanigans and says any claims otherwise are purely conspiracy theories. While many will continue to focus on the change in the page itself, I think its more important to view what it represents. First, something that should be obvious to most people. Drudge is more influential than the Trib. See the chart:


Drudge is consitently one of the top 1000 sites it the WORLD. East Valley Tribune toils in the 50,000 to 100,000 range. But look at the spike, you know it coincides with? Being on Drudge!

So what happens? On the Tribune's highest daily rank ever, their site crashes and the page mysteriously changes. Great job, fellas. Its like being on TV for the Miss America pagent with bad make-up and an ill-fitting swimsuit.

Secondly, what about Hayley Ringle, the Tribune writer? Shouldn't she be more upset? This was her chance to get some national attention which was deserved for her thoughtful piece looking at the announcement from a different perspective. The rest of the Trib did a 4 page centerfold on the visit, with everyone jumping up and down in excitement. Meanwhile, I am assuming that since she was assigned to a classroom, she is probably fairly new. Who knows if she'll have a job next week at the Trib, but hey, at least they did her a solid by getting people to read her story...oh wait.

Finally, what does this say about the Trib's new business model? You wanted to focus on your web presence? It looks like it needs a little work, and perhaps a little more security. All we can hope now is that they take the time to assess what went wrong and what they can do to make sure it doesn't happen again.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Gateway lands Aerospace Institute

Earlier last week, it was Mayor Smith standing tall for Gateway, now even more good news for the Mesa's growing area. It was announced that Gateway will be the future home of the newly formed Arizona Aerospace Institute (Trib version here). The institute will be headquartered at the Proving Grounds, which is also going to be the home of the new Gaylord Resort if it passes next month.

What a great time for the Southeast Valley. These types of large projects will not only transform that part of Mesa, but will also be a boon to the other surrounding cities such as Gilbert, Queen Creek, and even more of Pinal County. As jobs and economic opportunities locate in that area, people will be able to stay closer to home to find quality jobs, and perhaps it can reverse our old trend of "drive until you can afford it" housing that has lead to our current unsustainable housing model.

From Mesa's perspective, its certainly a big boost to the A in Mesa's HEAT, which stands for healthcare, education, aerospace, and tourism. Mesa was recentlynamed one of the nation's top cities for aerospace, our goal now should be to make Mesa THE top city for aerospace. What is stopping Mesa from becoming the "silicon valley" of aerospace technology?

Mesa's crime problem has no color

Despite the claims of some, not all of Mesa's crime problems can be attributed to illegals or hispanics. What is really interesting to me, is now they are putting the ethnicity of the criminal right into the story, almost as an attempt to cut off the discussion before it starts.

Mesa's Serial robber strikes twice more

Man holds up 99 cent store with steak knife

The two men wanted in connections to these crimes are both caucasian. Although both fairly unique, their stories attracted only a handful of comments. Now, another story from the weekend: a repeat DUI offender is arrested after urinating in front of an unmarked police car and drinking in public.

The difference? A hispanic surname.

Before the comments were turned off, there were pages of negative comments, including questions of his legal status. To which, I say, if he has been arrested on DUI 3 times and is still in the state illegally, someone is seriously not doing their job.

The truth we need to remember is that Mesa's crime problem has more facets beyond illegal immigration. Arizona is still twice the national average when it comes to meth use and meth related crimes. Thefts also typically rise when the economy is hurting and people are losing their jobs. Now is the time for us to work together to solve these problems and help police our own communities, lets look beyond ethnicity and instead, look to just stopping the crime in general.

MPS to vote on superintendent tomorrow

It was mentioned awhile back that Mesa Public School had a formal interview with Associate Superintendent Cowan. Now, it looks like they might be ready to make a hire. They are going to vote on hiring Cowan tomorrow at the board's regular public meeting which begins at 7 p.m. (549 N. Stapley Dr.).

With over 21 years at the district and the last 6 as the associate super, it appears that Cowan has a breadth and depth of understanding of how the district has done things in the past and what kind of cuts that they have had to make. It also means that he has been around to see some of their innovations to stay competitive. He will likely provide the continuity that the district needs to continue to move forward.

The challenge is that he cannot linger to long in the past where MPS was the mega-district powerhouse that lorded over all. With greater education options, MPS must focus on their core mission and find ways to stay viable in the sinking economy. We must remember that the district shouldn't survive for its own sake, but for the students in Mesa who need a 21st century quality education to compete in the workplace.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Mayor standing up for Gateway

Mayor Scott Smith is making a strong case for the future of the Gateway area. He has become a leader on this issue and really appears to understand how he wants to make the pieces fit together. He also appears to be making sure everyone is headed in the same direction.

First, he is taking shots at ASU, criticizing their cuts at ASU Polytechnic saying that they are hurting the school and dampening Gateway's potential. He also takes the new provost to task for not being a part of the community. I agree with Smith's assessment, but think he should go even further. He should be challenged to ponder the university perhaps outside of ASU's control. If ASU doesn't want it, is there someone else who gets what it means to the area?

Next, he is defending the Gateway plan telling developers that its going to be hard to make any real changes to what has been established. He is sticking to the council's vision, and its going to be difficult for anyone to change direction on that.

Finally, he is out stumping for the Gaylord Project. If you have turned on a TV lately or opened the mailbox, you probably have seen that the mayor is in favor of this project. Someone sent along the TV commercial which has also made its way to Youtube:

I smell manure

And its not just some spread to keep that turf growing on Dobson's campus. District officials are now saying that the landscaping improvements at the school were already in the works and they were just "expedited" because of the President. As I look at the other schools around Mesa, I sure don't see a lot of other ones with green grass. In fact, short of the turf on the varsity football fields, I can't remember a time that MPS seemed to care about the state of the grass on any campus. If it really was part of the bond package, it seems kind of a waste.

Whats even more interesting is that this explanation is thrown in near the end of a different story regarding Dobson students and their opinions of Obama's speech. The statement is almost throwaway in nature, added with some skepticism from the students.

On the bright side, its nice to see that some of the students have thought through this stimulus package and the potential it could have on an already burdened economy. However, it can't be said that Obama is not creating jobs, because the landscapers and Qwest workers would say otherwise.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Robb supports Gaylord Project

I nearly fell out of my chair when I read this: Arizona Republic Columnist Robert Robb had nice things to say about Mesa's Prop 300 and the Gaylord Project.

Not too long ago, I said that Robb "...of course, hates ice cream, apple pie, and puppies." following his negative review of Waveyard. It turns out that he also spoke critically of the Riverview shopping center.

The oft-naysayer of government participation in economic development even went as far as to say, "I, in fact, have very little critical to say about the Gaylord project. It strikes me as a very different proposition."

If you have read Robb for any length of time, you know that is about as resounding of an endorsement as he can muster. As you look around town, you can really feel the momentum building for Prop 300. While most people had a concern or two about some of the intiatives of the past, the people I have talked to seem to be fully on board. Maybe its the economy, maybe its the scope and feel of the project, but I would venture to guess that Prop 300 is leaning toward passage.

Obama's visit: The Grass is always greener

Someone who attended the Obama event today sent over this picture from the front of Dobson High School. What you are looking at is brand new turf installed just for the President's visit. If you look beyond the statue, you can see protestors in the background and the old grass that is yellow and dead, which is how its supposed to be be right now in Arizona.

Now that the hype is over, perhaps some one should ask how the school could afford this when they are facing $10 million in cuts as it is. Maybe they will take it out of their stimulus money.

Anyway, congratulations once again to Mesa and Dobson High School for your day in the spotlight. For those who were unable to attend the event, here is the text of the President's speech and here is a slide show of photos from inside the event.

Five Questions with Scott Somers

We are still hopefull that the other councilpeople will write a "State of Mesa" for Mesa issues. The invitation still stands. I hope Richins and Kavanaugh mentioned it to the others today, as they were all expected to be at the Presidential Visit.

One person we are still looking forward to hearing from is Councilman Scott Somers. In the meantime, here is a 5 questions with him. The commenters are also asking questions of him, most of which are really directed at Scott Summers, of X-Men fame.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Keep the Cubs in Mesa!

Although President Obama is a White Sox fan, perhaps he could put in a good word with the other Chicago team about staying in Mesa. One of the big question marks that surrounds the change in ownership for the Chicago Cubs is if they will stay in Mesa for spring training. Their current contract allows the Cubs to opt out of their current contract as soon as 2012.

In case you didn't know, the Cubs have consistently been the highest grossing Spring Training team bringing millions into the Mesa Economy despite playing in an aged park that has no other commercial or other attractions near by.

Now, if I were the new owner of the Cubs and I came to town and saw the new digs for other teams that are popping up in Glendale, Goodyear, Surprise and others, I would already be making demands. I have said before that more than one team should be practicing in Mesa, but if nothing else, our number one priority must be keeping the Cubs in Mesa. Not only are they an institution, but they are a cornerstone of our economy.

Part of that solution, however, is likely going to involve a new park. I am still a fan of the new and old Hohokam parks, but they don't hold a candle to some of these new places and in some ways, Mesa is not realizing the potential of spring training because there is no shopping, retail or dining nearby. The only things close by are homes, a cemetary, and neighbors with cars parked in their yards.

As I have said before, if Waveyard falls through, perhaps that would be a good place to go. Maybe try to attract the A's or the D-backs into a facility. Or as some of the commenters have mentioned, why not East Mesa? Imagine a Gaylord hotel full of people flying into Gateway Airport to see their favorite team. I know that the economy is tight, but Mesa should do what it takes to keep these opportunities.

Welcome to Mesa, President Obama

President Obama will be in Mesa tomorrow making a speech on the campus of Dobson High School. This is quite an honor for West Mesa, and Mesa as a whole. Dobson is taking it seriously, sprucing up the place for the President's arrival (No idea how Mesa Public Schools is affording that, but we can skip that issue for now). It will be good to have a little national attention on Mesa, and perhaps we won't be at the bottom of the "most boring" list next year.

The President is in town to promote his stimulus package and to see the East Valley foreclosures up close. While both of those issues do apply to Mesa, there are several more compelling reasons why he could come to see Mesa as an example to the rest of the country in this current economy:

First, Mesa has made the tough cuts and lived to tell about it. They made major cuts to their budget, police, fire, personnel. They are striving to do more with less and increase efficiency across the board. These cuts were not ideal, but they were necessary.

Second, Mesa has raised taxes and retained the goodwill of the voters. They created a bond package and then reduced it in light of the slowing economy. They explained the critical needs to the electorate and got them to overwhelmingly pass the first property tax in 50 years. They also gave relief to the voters by making the tax go away after a prescribed period of time.

Third, Mesa has been a leader in reuse development. With shops closing across the country leaving big boxes in every community, Mesa has found a way to put these spaces to different uses.

Finally, Mesa is attracting nearly $1 billion in private investment with the Gaylord Project. Now, Gaylord is not going to build in every community, but other cities should look to business instead of to the government to help create financial opportunities for the future. A stimulus will help in the short term, but its the government giving a man a fish instead of teaching him how to fish.

Mesa is so much more than just a town of foreclosures, a point I hope the Mayor and others point out. Hopefully, this won't be the only time Obama visits Mesa during his administration, but City should enjoy the honor while it lasts.

Welcome Political Arizona

Arizona's own "Drudge Report" has hit the scene with one of the most comprehensive collections of information on Arizona Politics that you can find. Its called Political Arizona, and so far, the site looks great. I am certainly going to add it to my blogroll and use them to help keep up with the latest.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Hispanic Grocery coming to Mesa

A new Hispanic Grocery is coming to Mesa and bringing 400 jobs. At this point, with the current state of things and the news last week of Bashas closing stores in Mesa, its nice to see anyone looking to expand or do business in Mesa. Would I have preferred that they come into an existing building instead of building their own? Probably, but I don't run their business, so its not my choice. All in all, I think its a pretty good thing.

What does bother me though is the comment section of a story like this. See, in any story about Mesa, you have a few grumpy people complain about the illegals blaming them for everything. Water main break? Illegals using too much water. No nightlife downtown? Illegals scaring people away. And so it goes. However, one mention of Hispanic grocery and its like all decorum goes out the window.

Do these people say the same thing about the Mekong Plaza? No. What about Lee Lee market? No. Ethnic shops are part of this community and, if other cities like New York, LA, and San Francisco are any example, they are a measure of the maturity and diversity of the culture.

All I am saying is just because the store has "Hispanic" in the description is not enough to sic Sheriff Joe on them.

Mesa Public Schools update

Associate Superintendent Michael Cowan got a chance to interview for the top spot prior to the recent school board meeting. Although Mesa now faces another $1 million in cuts for this year, so I don't know how desirable the job really is.

Faced with sagging enrollment, a state budget for the last few years based on hopes and dreams rather than fiscal responsibility, and competition from other schools, Mesa is going to have to look for ways to innovate. Don't get me wrong, I still believe that "There is no better place to learn," but I think they are going to have to make some of Mesa's newcomers believe it as well.

First step, let us know what is going well in Mesa Public Schools. I haven't heard or read much about MPS besides these cuts for quite a while. Are the kids going to science fairs? Are there any cool things that teachers are doing? How about those specialty schools that you are running? How about doing a parade each year where you recognize all of the champions from different sports and events?

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Mesa and the Stimulus Plan

Apparently, Mesa has a big stake in the stimulus plan. It looks like the details have been decided and the final price tag is going to be $789 billion, but no update yet on how it impacts the list from this morning's article.

However, the list from this morning is more than enough to go on to see how the stimulus would help Mesa. Overall, I maintain that the plan is far too big, but there are a couple of things that I do see as the appropriate role of the Feds. Here are the areas where Mesa could benefit from the stimulus along with my comments in red:

• Highway funding, including possible federal help for the Gateway freeway. Money for that project, which Mesa had hoped to use to accelerate construction, vanished last week amid the state budget meltdown. (We mentioned Monday that Gateway would be a good place to spend stimulus money)

• Improvements for Mesa's two airports, Falcon Field and Phoenix-Mesa Gateway. (Another decent idea that would help Mesa's long term growth)

• Continued support for the Valley's light rail system. Included in that is hoped-for federal help with $8.5 million in engineering costs for extending light rail into Mesa's downtown. (Light rail is not proven, but not adverse to this if it means that Mesa could spend their transportation sales tax dollars elsewhere.)

• Money for buses, including the rapid-bus links to the light-rail line. (I can see how public transit would appeal, but the problem is that even after the stimulus is gone, this would require operations money. Probably welcomed in East Mesa, but we still see a lot of empty buses out there.)

• Immigration-law training for Mesa police officers, and numerous law-enforcement grants. (Would be heralded by many, especially those folks in the comments section who blame all of Mesa's woes on the illegals. This would also show a strong commitment to solving the immigration problem.)

• Money for the Va Shly'ay Akime project, which would restore about 14 miles of Salt River habitat along Mesa's northern border. (This is where the priorities get a little wonky. While this is a noble project, I don't think is important while hundreds of people are losing their jobs and Mesa cut their police and fire by 10%. I would rather have more police on the road over a restored habitat.)

• A Salt River trail system between McClintock Drive in Tempe and Alma School Road in Mesa. (Again, trails are nice, but this is a luxury item that we don't need right now, nor do I think it would create a lot of jobs from people constructing the path.)

• Federal environmental rules. Mesa is worried that the Obama administration may impose tougher air- and water-quality standards, some of which Jones said are already "outrageously unreasonable," creating more expense for the city. (Already cost too much and would create even more burden in a time where cities are facing bankruptcy as it is.)

• Community Development Block Grants, which Mesa uses to fund neighborhood improvement projects. (If we don't find ways to help people pay their mortgages, there isn't going to be enough neighborhood improvement projects in the world to cover up all the forclosed and for sale signs.)

• More money for the Neighborhood Stabilization Program, which Congress passed last year to combat blight in areas hard-hit by foreclosures. Mesa got nearly $10 million from the program's first installment. (See point above, this one seems like a better fit although I am not quite sure what they do.)

• Development of the Mesa Grande Cultural Park, which will open an ancient Hohokam settlement to the public. (The ruins have been here for hundreds of years, there is no reason that they can't wait a few more.)

• Support for Boeing Co.'s Apache helicopter program, one of Mesa's largest industries. (Goes back to jobs and sustaining one of Mesa's largest industries. If this can help them to achieve long term stability, that would be good for Mesa.)

Mesa should stick to the programs that help create jobs and sustain our long-term assetts, or have an impact that stretches beyond the year or two that the stimulus will be in effect. Part of our problem in the first place is that we have grown the government at such a large pace that it became impossible to sustain. However, once you offer something, its downright impossible to take it back.

We are seeing this issue at ASU right now, where now the citizens think its their God given right to have a university with 4 campuses. Same will go for any expanded bus service offered or neighborhood grants. Once they start, they tend to perpetuate. Anyway, it looks like the deal is done and so we will have to wait and see what is in store for Mesa.

Mesa Arts Center Marquee

The Mesa Arts Center Marquee has finally arrived (Republic Version here). I have mentioned in the past that I understand that the money for the marquee comes from a dedicated arts fund, but as I have said before, I don't think the average voter knows that. Judging by the pictures of the installation, there appeared to be several workers putting that thing together. Perhaps they could spin it as job creation.

Give 5 Mesa!

The Mesa United way has launched their virtual campaign, Give $5 Mesa, as a means to help recapture some of the lost revenue in this tough economy. The idea is to give $5 bucks to the United Way and then forward the effort to 5 of your friends. Its a pretty creative way to encourage people to continue their giving, even if its down significantly from years past. As they say, its a small way to make a big difference. Here is their video:

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Big Changes for ASU

ASU President Michael Crow has announced some significant changes to ASU and its operations. Some of the changes include dramatic cuts at the ASU West and Polytechnic campuses. Crow is also assuring the public that he is not going to pull a Napolitano and head for a better job elsewhere.

I am sure this is going to spark another whole round of panics and threats that Arizona's education system is going down the tubes. Here is a bit of a reality check:

First, it looks like in some ways, Crow is taking the critical schools and retrieving them back to the main or downtown campus. In the short run, this will eliminate redundancy. In the long run, this may be a play for ASU to let West and Poly go, which I have said before, may not be a bad thing. State colleges run by separate boards would be a great way to offer undergraduate programs at cheaper rates and educate different parts of the workforce.

Second, before everyone freaks out too much, remember that its only been under Crow's empire that ASU has grown so much. Wasn't he the one who coined "One University, Many Places?" Not too long ago, ASU only had the main campus and the West Campus. ASU Poly has only been around since 1996 and the Downtown brainchild is only a couple years old. If West and Poly go, ASU would have a net campus gain of zero, basically trading West for Downtown. That may hurt Crow's legacy, but its not devastating to the actual University.

Finally, lets be honest, Polytechnic is far too valuable to shut its doors. ASU may want to bow out, but that doesn't mean its a lost cause. The state could run it as a separate university/state college, or perhaps there is someone else looking to open an aerospace focused campus to fit in with the Gateway area.

Just because Crow is crowing doesn't mean the world is coming to an end.

Mesa All-Star Charity Game

One of the fun things about Spring Training is to see all of the old ballplayers come to town - some as part of management, others as spectators. I suspect some try to relive the glory days. Who knows, but there may be a few of those types at the Mesa Charity All-Star game hosted by former Cubs All-Star Ferguson Jenkins.

The game will be played on March 25th at 7:10pm. It doesn't say where in the article but I suspect its at Hohokam Stadium.

According to the story: Half the proceeds go to the HoHoKams, who primarily fund youth sports programs. The other half goes to the Ferguson Jenkins Foundation, which funds such charities as the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, Red Cross, Special Olympics and Negro Leagues Baseball Museum.

Jay-Z and Lebron Donate to Mesa School

Rapper Jay-Z and international basketball superstar Lebron James have teamed up to donate instruments to the Mesa Arts Academy (Tribune version here). The Mesa Arts Academy is operated by the East Valley Boys and Girls club.

Unlike some of the cynical people in the comments section, I think that this is a really nice gesture on behalf of these gentlemen and Sprite. They are taking part of the NBA's efforts to bring goodwill to the communities they are in - a noble and thoughtful effort which can help drive away ill-will of the misbehaviors of the NBA past.

With the All-Star game coming to Phoenix this weekend, it only makes sense to harness the star power in town to help the community. This will be a unique opportunity for the youngsters at the Academy, and sadly, this is probably as close as the people of Arizona will see Lebron James as part of the Valley community. I seriously doubt he will consider Phoenix when his latest contract expires.

Interestingly enough, I follow just enough basketball to get it all wrong. However, I do know that New York is supposed to be saving 2010 cap space to make a big push for Lebron. However, Jay-Z is in some sort of ownership role with the New Jersey Nets, which are moving to Brooklyn sometime soon. Could Lebron end up playing for his buddy Jay-Z's Nets?

Monday, February 9, 2009

Early Ballots start for Prop 300

If you haven't received your early ballot for Mesa's March Election, you should get it soon. Meanwhile, to mark the first weekend of early ballots, the Tribune has announced their support for Prop 300.

While most papers would say, "Vote yes on 300" the Tribune sticks to "We believe a close look at the facts will propel almost anyone to vote 'yes' on Prop. 300," which is about as ringing endorsement as they can give.

Mayor Smith focuses on the economy

Mayor Smith is calling for investment in the community (Tribune version here). In a speech last week, the Mayor focused on Mesa's future opportunities in health care, education, and aerospace. His vision is using these three areas to help boost Mesa by creating long term stability and additional revenue for the City.

Its an interesting juxtaposition between the Mayor and President Obama, both of whom were elected last year based on a dissatisfaction with the current establishment and a mantra of change. In addition, both were thrust into dire financial situations that must be solved immediately.

While President Obama is focused on a $800 million spending package that seems to have a little bit for everything for everyone, Mayor Smith made the cuts necessary and is now focused on a clear and concise plan that will not only help in the short term, but create a true path to Mesa's economic success in the long-term.

In some ways, it can be that simple: If you want educated people to stay in Mesa, give them opportunities to achieve higher education here. If you want quality doctors in Mesa, give them a chance to go to school and do their residence here. If you want Boeing, MD Helicopters, Cessna and others to stay, show them that there is no other place in the world that is better for aerospace. These are finite achievable steps that can show a return on investment and are based on a plan of where Mesa wants to go.

On the other hand, Obama's plan appears to lack vision or focus. Obviously, the economic situation was more dire than he could even realize, but that doesn't mean we should be throwing more good money after bad. Why spread the money around so much? How about devaluing existing homes to match the current market so people aren't upside down in their lines of equity? How about buying up some of that bad debt that banks were supposed to do last time around? How about building the Gateway freeway for Mesa?

If we really are spending enough to cover 90% of all home mortgages, why not do that? Pay them all off! Think about how much liquidity it would create for people if their mortgage was paid. It would resurrect the auto industry over night with people taking on a new car payment with their newly found cashflow. Think about how many people would buy an investment property or a second home. Think about how many would put more money into the stock market! Plus, it cuts the excuses for parents who can't afford college for their kids.

The beauty is in simplicity. Something that Mayor Smith seems to have found that President Obama has not.

Even Bashas is hurting

How bad is the economy? Even Bashas is shutting down stores and laying people off. Two of the stores that will be shut down are in Mesa. I believe that these stores had been in these locations for somewhere between 20 and 30 years. In both cases, I believe they are one of the major anchors of their development.

As we talked about last week, with so many stores shutting down or relocating, Mesa is going to be faced with a lot of empty boxes in retail strip centers throughout the city. We don't have to eliminate all of the empty boxes, as some will be filled as the economy recovers, but now is the time to think of creative ways to change the dynamics of some of these old shopping centers.

Smaller tenants such as cleaners, nail shops, or sandwich places rely on some sort of draw to attract people to the shopping center so that they will use the other services. Groceries or other retails have done this job in the past, but perhaps its time to look at other models. Office? Education? Fitness?

Mesa has turned a Target into an asian marketplace, a Home Depot into a kids playland, and a movie theater into an art gallery. If anyone has a chance to reimagine this abundance of retail, I would say that its Mesa.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

More on the Gaylord Rendering

The Tribune has also launched their story about the Gaylord rendering, and they even have a bigger picture you can look at for more detail. I think it looks even cooler the more you study it. Judging by the size, I would assume thats the conference center space off to the left. I would also assume the center building with the tall towers would be the one most likely to hit that 18 story height. All in all, I think its very cool and will certainly be something out of the ordinary that will attract people to southeast Mesa. Going for the 1,500 rooms right off the bat creates more capacity generating more immediate revenue. I think it shows confidence in the location.

Republic blogger Joanna Allhands doesn't like the image because she doesn't think its "Arizona" enough. Her complaints surround the architecture and the palm trees. I don't know how long Allhands has lived here, but I think it will fit in just fine. After all, are any of these things not "Arizona" enough?

Egads, that sure looks like some Spanish architecture.

There is even some more of it AND some Palm Trees.

Speaking of Palm Trees, they certainly don't fly in Mesa.

Besides, as well all know, resorts in Arizona certainly can't combine palm trees and greenery with the Desert!

Gaylord/Prop 300 rendering is very cool

Here it is, our first glance of the proposed Gaylord Hotel for Mesa. My first impression? Woah.

You look at the pictures of their other resorts around the country and you know that that are big. But then you see the concept of what it would look like with Mesa as the backdrop and it gives you a much better idea of the size and scope of this plan. This truly is nothing like we have seen in Mesa.

I don't quite get the comments about Santa Barbara style architecture. Maybe I haven't spent enough time in Santa Barbara to notice. But the question is: What did they want? A giant pueblo or something that looked like a mission? I think it looks good without being too, well, southwest-y.

Think about what it will look like as you drive up on a place like this. There certainly won't be any missing it. Plus, it a lot of ways, this could be Mesa's greatest ambassador. You could have some CEOs come to Mesa to go to a convention and they stay at this place overlooking the Superstitions and the beautiful desert. They play a little golf, enjoy the weather, see that there is a lot going on out here. Next thing you know, they could be moving their operations to Mesa. It is not that far-fetched of a scenario.

Overall, I think the rendering is very cool and will probably go a long way to convince the voters of Mesa.


First, I wanted to give a shout out the new blog, Gila Courier. I have been meaning to mention them for awhile, and I finally got around to doing it and adding them to the blogroll. They do a good job of follwing stuff at the legislature and criticizing the Arizona Republic. I think of them as sort of the Espresso Pundit that posts more often and doesn't try to break the writing endurance record.

Speaking of the Republic, I'd like to thank them for adding Mesa Issues to their "other voices" roll. I must be truthful and admit that we asked them to add us, but hey, they did it, and even put us in the middle.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Get a glimpse of Gaylord tomorrow

Stay turned, looks like we are going to get our first glimpse of the renderings of the Mesa Gaylord tomorrow.

Allhands posted a couple of interesting pictures that are shown to the right. It looks like whatever we are going to see is probably going to be fairly large in scope. I always sort of thought that the "megaresort" tag had been tossed around too much, but it looks like Gaylord definitely sticks to the "go big" mantra.

Allhands got the insider's sneak peek, and normally I would take her word for it, but since I only have a few more hours to wait, I am going to reserve judgement until I see the drawings for myself.

Is it time to restructure the university system?

Very interesting opinion piece regarding restructuring the university system. The basic premise is to split off ASU West and ASU Polytechnic and make them into separate universities. I am not quite sure why ASU Downtown is spared, perhaps its the fact that they now house several programs that used to be located at Tempe.

Now, I don't think that the naming convention for the new schools is as important as this guy mentions, but I think the idea may have a few merits. As I mentioned before, adding some competition to the market may not necessarily be a bad thing. Besides, if Crow wants to toss Poly aside to continue to build his prestigious empire, perhaps we can find someone else who would want to actually offer affordable undergraduate education to students. Heck, while we're at it, that could be two more in town college football teams in the mix!

Riverview and Redeveloping West Mesa

A West Mesa Sports Authority is moving from their old power center at Southern and Baseline and into new digs at the Mesa Riverview project.

Overall, I still remain a fan of what Riverview is trying to do. However, I do have to say that its disappointing that Riverview is taking some of the stores that were in the area and moving them to the new shopping center. I was looking through their list of shops, and I may be wrong, but I believe that the Wal-Mart, Bed Bath and Beyond, Skipro, and Petco were all moved to Riverview from a previous location. Sports Authority appears to be following this same fate. That is a lot of empty boxes in the area to fill. Don't get me wrong, I am happy they stayed in Mesa, but that is a lot of redevelopment needed - especially in the Fiesta District.

Mesa has been creative in this department. The Mekong Plaza appears to be doing well, appealing to a niche clientele and attracting new business into town. With the old Sports Authority filled by a Supermarket that caters to a hispanic demographic, perhaps they can do the same. The paper claims that it would be a compliment the other developments, namely the Campeones boxing-themed restaurant that is coming to the area. Perhaps this is the start of another concentration of businesses, giving Mesa a more interesting and international flare.

Look at us, we're cultural! Perhaps, we won't be the most boring city in the world next year!

This is a challenge, but not an insurmountable one. I understand why corporate retailers want to move to better locations, we should have seen it coming a few years ago when every car dealer migrated to be right next to a freeway. The retailers most certainly were to come next. Now, the property owners, Mesa, and others need to figure out how to best fill these boxes, or come up with other creative uses for the next stage in viability.

Stimulus for Bloggers

Don't want to spend $800 million? Here is a simple solution, do a stimulus for bloggers! We certainly deserve it, and think about how many nice things we would say about you.

My personal fave:

2. Blogging is an unskilled profession. Let's be honest - for every Nobel prize winner, there's a nutter or nonentity with nothing to say, writing nothing of interest. It's not like research into green energy or university education - where a stimulus might simply raise the price of already-scarce skills. Blogging is something any unemployed banker or subprime borrower can do, and sometimes already are.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

The Cardinals Stadium Impact

First of all, may I just say that the Super Bowl was a heck of a game and everyone from Arizona should be proud of the team no matter how disappointing they have been in the past. They worked hard and despite very few people nationally believing them, they gave the Steelers a run for their money.

One of the after effects of all the fan euphoria and the Cardinals actually fielding a good team is this great story about East Valley officials lamenting the loss of the Cardinals Stadium. It was likely to happen, and I am sure its planted to create some heated discussion. Which it has, sparking a lot of East vs. West controversy in the comment section.

Basically, what Tempe and Mesa could have had was the Stadium and surrounding development instead of the Tempe Marketplace and Mesa Riverview projects that they have now. This notion is fairly ironic for those who remember that Marketplace and Riverview fought each other bitterly and spent millions to square off in what was probably one of the more costly local elections of all time.

Anyway, the voters at the time shot the project down. The voters of Mesa went as far as to make sure that anything even resembling a sports or public facility needs a public vote, hence the votes on Waveyard and Gaylord.

Would it have been nice to go to more Cardinals games because they were closer to home? Yes.

Would it be nice if the stadium was on the light rail line, instead of out in the west valley? Yes.

Would Mesa and Tempe like a million dollars a game in revenue pumped into the economy, plus the chance to keep the Fiesta Bowl and National Championship games? Yes.

Well, they aren't uprooting that stadium and dragging it to this side of town, so its time to get over it. Glendale, like it or not, has been very aggressive in putting up the money it takes to attract these types of opportunities. Will these things ever pencil out? Who knows, but they have beaten Phoenix, Tempe, Scottsdale, and Mesa to the punch attracting the Coyotes and the Cardinals to their city.

The lesson to take away from this is just as some of the people mention in the article. We must not lose our grip on the opportunities that we have before us. Althought we'll have to wait and see what it looks like, this Gaylord project could have the same sort of epic stature and local impact that a stadium has. Is it going to be filled with rabid fans from accross the valley? No. But it could bring millions of people into Mesa, including CEOs and other decision makers, and show them that Mesa would be a good place to do business. Now, that would help Mesa's long-term growth!

Gateway Freeway in Peril

Remember awhile back when we lauded Mesa investing $6 million to trigger $20 million in funding for the Williams-Gateway Freeway? Well, it looks like the legislature has swept that $20 million away to help cover their $1.2 Billion dollar revenue shortfall.

This means the start of construction by 2012 is not likely. As I have mentioned before, imagine if the San Tan had been done 4 years earlier. The sooner we can get some of the freeways open, the sooner we can reap the rewards of the economic opportunity. This freeway is going to help all of the Southeast Valley, including those who commute from Pinal County. The longer this is on hold, the more trouble it could potentially cause.

So the question is, what does this do to Mesa and their $6 million investment? Is it too late? Is the money spent? Is it still worth it to do the research at this point, or should they hold off for now so they don't have to start paying interest in 2014? Clearly, Mesa appeared to make their investment acting on good faith. Its not clear if the legislature reciprocated.

Gaylord/Prop. 300 Election Update

First, if you spend any amount of time on the Tribune's new website, I am sure you have seen the ads for Prop. 300. I finally clicked one the other day and checked out There is some pretty cool stuff on there. If you want to learn more about Gaylord, DMB, or their plans for the proving grounds, its a good place to start.

Also, you can tell the election is drawing nearer as both papers start to take a more in-depth interest on the vote. The Tribune recently explored the impact of the current economy on the Gaylord vote. I tend to think that the current economy plays well for this project. Every day, we are reading about people losing their jobs, companies going under and industries in need of a bailout. In the Valley, we have read that Mesa is no longer the only city who needs to make dramatic cuts.

Long story short, the economy is hurting. I think the promise of new revenue for the cash-strapped city along with jobs would be a welcomed opportunity. If the numbers are right, they say that this could bring $5 million or more to the city. I would have to check again, but isn't that about the amount that Fire had to cut from their budget?

Also, lets compare this to the national stimulus package to the vote we are faced with in Mesa right now. The national plan is all taxpayer money, our money, doled out to different things ranging from banks to sex education programs. On the other hand, Prop 300 is bed taxes being used to promote Mesa and attracting a $1 billion in private funds.

If the federal program came along tomorrow and said that the $800+ million would immediately trigger billions more in private investment, guaranteed, I would be more apt to support. Alas it does not, and we have to wonder if we are throwing more good money after bad.

In the case of the Gaylord project, if you don't stay at the hotel, they aren't seeing a dime of your money. And even if you did, that money wouldn't be going to pay some 7 figure bonus to some executive, its going to promote Mesa to the world. More tourism to Mesa means even more money spent in our community.

West Mesa Neighborhood Meeting Tonight

Building Strong Neighborhoods is coming to the Fiesta Mall area. They are having a meeting tonight at 6:30 p.m. at Adams Elementary School which is located at 738 S. Longmore. This is part of the long-term efforts to address the different parts of the city.

You should check it out or call (480) 644-5889 for more information.