Tuesday, March 31, 2009

MCC as a 4 year college

MCC as a 4 year college is an idea whose time has come. Kudos to Representative Crandall for championing their efforts. As we have mentioned before, we need more diversity in our higher education systems, and giving students more options and affordable choices will allow us to grow our workforce and expand the knowledge base.

When you look around to other states, you don't see them locked into a 3 university system. Look at California's system of colleges and universities, look at any countless number of places back east. With the existing population and the desire to continue to attract people well beyond the real-estate boom, education options will be critical to our long-term growth.

Mesa should be pushing for more places in addition to MCC to get into the game. I have also mentioned before that Mesa should embrace ASU Poly as its own university. Like the strides Mesa is taking in aerospace and other industries, the city could easily be positioned to lead the way in promoting solid education as part of this recovery.

Afterall, isn't Education the E in Mesa's HEAT plan?

Mayor bringing more national attention to Mesa

Mayor Scott Smith has been asked to join a national group in favor of addressing key infrastructure needs. As the story indicates, this is just another example of Mayor Smith getting national attention and the spotlight for a city which has been neglected in the past.

Mayor Smith's focus on transportation issues is the right move, especially since the long term needs include the critical Gateway freeway and improvements to the Gateway airport. While he warns of additional financial hardships that may be ahead, this is another case, where Mesa is positioning itself for the future.

Advice for John Lewis

Awhile back, Sonoran Alliance asked for more coverage in Gilbert. We responded saying we are willing to help. Since then, we have been contacted by the owner of "Gilbert Issues" and had some discussions about helping them start a blog. Nothing is final yet, but we do hope to see its launch in the future.

We understand that we don't own the copyrights to "(Insert City Name) Issues" but we do strive for a level of discourse and a community feel that we would hope would be emulated and respected, especially in the surrounding community. So, until "Gilbert Issues" fires up, I'll offer my suggestions here:

In response to his opponent dropping out, potential Gilbert Mayor John Lewis is going to scale back his campaign. This is a mistake on his part. Sure, he could scale back the fundraising and perhaps some of the things that he is paying for, but now is the BEST time for him to get his name out there and build some goodwill around him.

First, he is not in office yet, but he is the front runner and the defacto choice for the job. Fortunately, Berman is banned from the write-in, so there aren't that many people waiting in the wings to take him on. Think nationally, when it was pretty apparent Obama was far ahead, did he slow down? No. Did he really need to do that prime-time informercial? No, but the brilliance of that was that he can make people like him without having to make any actual decisions. You are never going to be more popular than you are now as a big winner - who hasn't made any decisions to anger your constituents.

Secondly, its clear that some of the bitter folks are going to continue to challenge the legitimacy of your victory because the primary is not reaping a contested general as its intended. Just look at any comment section from the primary race, the Lewis team was out in force showing their support and taking everyone else on. Since the election, it looks like they have been overwhelmed by the other, more bitter folks. Continuing to garner electronic support is a wise way for him to keep his face out there without having to spend a lot of money.

Finally, voters deserve to continue to have a dialogue. If Lewis doesn't want to spend more money, fine, but he should be out door to door as much as possible meeting people and gaining their support. If the newspapers do forums for the remaining council candidates, he should be there answering questions and meeting people.

So there you have it, Lewis can scale back spending if need be, but its a bad time for him to scale back his effort.

Monday, March 30, 2009

More defibrillators in public places?

The Council's public safety committee is considering asking the council to pass an ordinance to require more defibrillators in public places. The real question would be: Who would pay for these?

At $2,000 a pop, the expenses of requiring these items could add up rather quickly. The other question is there any maintenance involved? What about a power source? I am assuming that there are a few things that need to be done to bring one of these items in to make sure that they work.

I agree that AEDs are important and I am sure the two people who have been saved in Mesa will agree. My only concern is making a rule that creates financial hardships on businesses that are already having trouble, or adding extra burden to the city in a time that has already been marred by dramatic cuts.

Mesa is out of the D-Backs sweepstakes

Mesa is bowing out of the D-Backs challenge in order to focus on keeping the Cubs. This is not that surprising, especially in this economy that Mesa has to really focus on the priorities.

In this case, I think they are right in trying to retain what they got, instead of chasing down new teams, at the risk of alienating the Cubs, and ultimately ending up with no teams. Mesa has avoided the textbook case of the jock dumping his girlfriend to vie for the new "it" girl only to be spurned by her and left without the new girl or the old girlfriend.

Way to stick with what you have, Mesa. However, its not that easy. Now, Mesa has to figure out how to keep the Cubs in town with their demands for more seating and a modernized facility. After seeing some of the other facilities featured around town, it seems like a fairly reasonable request, and far more doable than a complete stadium complex. The question still comes down to money.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Newsflash: Cubs Fans Don't Want Cubs to Leave

In the shocking of all late breaking news, Cubs fans don't want the team to leave Mesa for Florida. I am sure that humidity and distance between stadiums would help people come to that decision. Not only that, but everyone out here knows that the Cubs are the big thing. Good luck with that back east. Plus, I would bet there are a lot more Illinois transplants in Mesa than Sarasota.

(Editorial note: Isn't every pizzeria and sports bar in Mesa Chicago themed?)

My guess is that the spring training thing is a hot story and this is one more chance to squeeze a little juice out of it before Spring Training leaves for the season. There was one interesting note, however in the article:

A deal to build a new facility for the Boston Red Sox failed when the Sarasota County commissioners failed to approve it.

If the Red Sox are looking to move, we do whatever we can to attract them out here as well. Imagine both the Cubs and the Sox calling Mesa their spring home. Talk about a reputation booster. Thats a fast pass off the most "boring" list.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Light Rail Expanding in Mesa

It has been decided that the additional 2.7 miles of "transit cooridor" into Mesa will now officially be light rail. Not really surprising based on the push for expanding light rail, but it seems difficult to do an accurate 2 year study when the actual rail line has only been up for 3 months.

No matter, because this extension wouldn't open until 2015. By then we'll be able to see exactly how it works and if it is indeed doing what its supposed to in spuring investment and attracting development. The only interesting thing to note is the notion that the vision Mesa has for the light rail is extending it to Gilbert road which could cost "$150 million but are not part of any approved plan and lack funding."

All things being equal, if there is $150 million to be found, it should be going to either keeping the Cubs, and attracting the D-Backs.

Dobson in the news again

From Obama to oh-bomb-ah. Sorry, couldn't resist the pun. Dobson High School was swept after a bomb threat was found in a school restroom. These type of threats happen more than most people think, and the school is wise to take them seriously.

“We have to take everything as seriously as possible. Even if we might think it’s a prank, we just can’t look at it that way,” Bareiss said.

While I do tend to think that schools sometimes go overboard on safety issues, in this case, caution is the best approach.

MPS hosting community meetings on Education

Thanks to one of our readers for sending us the tip about some critical community meetings hosted by MPS that start tonight. According to the letter, this is a chance for people to learn more about the state's budget crisis and "how parents can become involved in supporting education." Don't be surprised if this is a start of a rallying of parents against deeper cuts.

There are two meetings tonight at 7pm. One is being hosted at Westwood High School and another at Red Mountain High School.

The next two meetings are next week on March 31st at Rhodes Junior High School and Brimhall Junior High School. If you attend a meeting, send us the report.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Tattoo Parlor fails, lawsuit likely

In a 6 to 1 vote, the Mesa City Council voted against allowing a tattoo parlor to come to the Dobson Ranch area. Mayor Scott Smith is the only one who voted for approval, citing the fact that rather than legislating one business at a time, the council should focus on improving community standards. Looks like the opportunity for disagreement, was short-lived.

Don't be surprised if Goldwater Institute files a lawsuit on behalf of the shop owner. They weren't at the council meeting just for the fun of it. As they have proven, they are willing to litigate, so let's hope the council has some good reasons for their vote that will stand up. Otherwise, this could be Bailey's Brake Shop part 2.

Wham Bam Tram

There have already been 13 collisions with the light rail train since it opened three months ago. Someone on the radio mentioned today that it amounts to 1 collision every 6 days. Wow.

Some of the pictures along with the article were great, but the video is even better:

So far, most of the feedback from the light rail has been overwhelmingly positive. Let's hope they can get some of these kinks worked out before any of the rail lines are extended.

Benefit Baseball Game tomorrow!

Don't forget that the Second annual Fergie and Friends Benefit Baseball Game is tomorrow night at 7:05 at Hohokam park. There will be a lot of neat hall of famers and other baseball greats on hand for the event which raises money for local charities. Last year, they had 4,000 in attendance. Let's hope for more for this year. You can also learn more about the event at their website www.fergieandfriends.com.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

The Cubs up the ante in Mesa

Now, the Cubs are starting to flex their muscle a bit, claiming that they will leave Mesa if they don't get a facility upgrade (Tribune version here). Their concerns appear to mostly surround the status and quality of their training facility, but they did demand more seating in the stadium as well (its important to note that their stadium that already boasts the most seating in the league).

As we have said before, we must do what it takes to keep the Cubs in Mesa. Needless to say, in this current economy it is bad timing for the Cubs to make demands, but its not at all shocking. What is a bit surprising is their unwillingness to share a facility or a stadium with another team.

We understand that they are a unique franchise, but we also understand that they haven't won a world series in 100 years. I could see the Yankees thinking they have this type of sway, but the Cubs? Please. Besides, if the Yanks or the Red Soxs ever decided to come west, the Cubbies would no longer be the belle of the ball.

However, at this point, they are, and their demands should be treated seriously. Mesa can't be the poster child for being the first city in nearly 20 years to lose a team to Florida. However, Mesa must also be realistic about their current financial situation and must look out for the best of the City.

Spring Training's destiny is in the West, and Mesa must do what it takes within reason to foster this. As we have said before, what about Waveyard? How about some of the newly empty strip malls in the Fiesta District? What about near the new Gaylord site?

Tattoo test for Mayor and Council

A tattoo parlor wants to locate itself at Baseline and Dobson, near the Dobson Ranch neighborhood. Needless to say, the neighbors in the area don't want it, but it does meet all of the technical requirements of the zoning laws.

It is understood that tattoos aren't for everyone, but they aren't illegal, and quite frankly, they are more prevalent today than ever before. So, should they be denied because they are viewed as unsavory or should they be approved because its economic opportunity? This going to be a real test for the Mayor and Council.

These are the types of no-win situations that you have to assume are dreaded by local officials.

On one hand, you want to encourage commerce in the community and make sure the City is perceived as a great place to do business. Making it difficult for some people to set up shop, or denying people their property rights only reinforces the negative perceptions of Mesa that these officials have fought so hard to dismiss. Mesa is still recovering from the Bailey's Brake Shop debacle.

On the other hand, you are elected to represent the people. In this case, the neighbors have made it clear that they don't want this business. Does each and every resident not want it? Probably not, but the vocal ones are making their voice heard. Do you risk going against their wishes only to have them feel betrayed?

How this vote takes place is going to say a lot about this council and their ability to work through problems.

A new park in West Mesa?

A non-profit affiliated with Home Depot and others is looking into turning Beverly Park into a real park. They will provide the money and labor, if the West Mesa CDC is able to raise $10,000 in matching funds to qualify for the grant. Its more than just a "really really good idea" as the CDC director says, its a way to improve our community by using a smaller local investment to leverage a larger community donation.

The West Mesa CDC is the group that helped with the big West Mesa clean up not too long ago. I know that $10,000 is a hefty sum, but they'll likely to be able to track down a few big donors. Now, Mesa residents should pick up the slack.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

More quick hits

Reward offered
We talked last week about the dog poisonings at Carriage Lane park. Now the local residents in the area have put together an $800 reward for information (Tribune version here). If you know anything, please step forward. People should be able to safely bring their children and their pets to a park without fear of poisoning.

15 Illegal Immigrants Arrested in Mesa
DPS arrests 15 illegal immigrants without the need for a swat "raid" or dozens of tv cameras. Congrats on these officers for doing a good job and doing it with little fanfare. The people of Arizona want something done about illegal immigration. If it can be done effectively without all of the drama that comes along with Sheriff Joe, even better.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Hold on there, partner

I think everyone in Mesa might need a time out for a minute. In discussing the stimulus funds and all of the various hands out asking for a piece, the discussion has now devolved into a discussion about property taxes. To that, I think the people of Mesa would say:

Hold on there, partner.

Now, don't get us wrong. You are on a roll. The first property tax in 50 years, an election victory with a whopping 84% of the vote. Clearly, the momentum is on your side, and the Mesa voters approve of what you are up to. However, it wouldn't take long for the bloom to fall off the rose following a sudden primary property tax election.

In these tough economic times, Mesa has been a leader in making smart budget decisions and keeping their sights set on long-term economic growth. These kudos are something we have been saying for awhile, and now the Trib and Republic have caught on. Now, is not the time to use the stimulus for short term benefit that would create long term operations costs. We love the fact that Mesa is trying to do more with less, and looking for ways to be more efficient.

Stay the course, and instead use the stimulus money to position Mesa better for the future. Don't use the stimulus money (which will eventually be more taxes) to beget even more taxes for Mesa residents.

Great story about help for Conjoined Twins

I have to give the Republic credit, despite all of the ridiculous spring break pictures and celebrity gossip, they do take the time to follow inspirational stories. Here is a sweet story about two conjoined little girls who have caught the attention of celebrities, broadway stars, and others.

This is all part of the Broadway Palm Theater's OneHeart Umbrella Campaign tied in with their "Signin' in the Rain" Performance. Celebrities and others are signing umbrellas, which will then be auctioned off on ebay to help the 2 1/2-year-old conjoined twins, Emma and Taylor Bailey. Take a look, its for a great cause.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Gaylord Redux

Well, it looks like the Gaylord passage really is one of the biggest victories in Mesa's recent history. They had to go back to the 80's and 90's to find any similar margins, and I would bet that there were fewer people voting at that point. Plus, those were all common sense procedural votes making sure that the City Council didn't get highjacked.

I think it makes the community support that much more impressive.

Now that the project is a reality, the City, Gaylord, and DMB are now starting to show the voters their plan for moving this project forward. Not surprisingly, their message is that this project isn't going to happen overnight. We know the current state of the economy, so it shouldn't be a shock to us that its going to take some time. Besides, GM isn't out until this summer, and there is a lot of rehab needed before they could start construction. Not to mention that they aren't even required to start moving dirt until 2011.

As the Republic points out, nothing ventured, nothing gained. And they are right to say that Gaylord might actually be "the one" this time. The article also draws some parallels to Waveyard, which is still stalled. The difference here is that everyone involved in the Gaylord project is taking steps to show Mesa that its going to take some time to get such a massive project started and off the ground. When Waveyard was proposed, I think a lot of voters felt like they were going to be surfing by next summer.

Effective communications and managing expectations are two big keys to making sure that we understand what is going on and that things are moving forward. Everyone, well, almost everyone, understands that these things don't happen overnight, but we do want to know where things are at throughout the process. Let's hope that they continue to communicate with the community on a regular basis.

In the meantime, let's celebrate the victory and the opportunities that Mesa has ahead.

Polytechnic campus too important to ignore

Mesa City officials are making their case to ASU and the Regents to save Poly. Their logic is that Poly is important to the longterm growth of the Gateway area and its efforts to attract high-wage jobs and become a technology hub.

I think they are playing it right reiterating the need for a "research campus" in Mesa. However, I don't think its necessary for them to kiss Michael Crow's ring to make this happen. The City Council's focus should be on the regents and building a relationship with them. As it has been mentioned before, Poly could certainly stand on its own. In some ways, I think that the council is starting to recognize that:

"We want to be supportive of making sure that Polytechnic isn't just a collection of classrooms or an extended campus but rather its own entity," Somers said.

To this point, ASU has treated Poly as its own entity. If they intend to change that, Mesa should be proactively looking at other options to help strengthen and build that campus with or without ASU. Mesa has a significant investment out there, and they certainly should not let it go to waste.

Beware of Dog Poisonings

Attention Mesa pet owners: Don't take your dog to Carriage Lane park. There has been a rash of animal poisonings in the area, with the culprit hiding rat poison inside hamburger. Its terrible when you hear about something like this, especially since it means that there is some sicko out there who takes the time to buy hamburger and rat poison and mix them together into balls and spread them around.

It would probably be wise to be mindful around any park lately and pay close attention to what your dog is doing and what they are eating. Who knows if this guy has gone anywhere else. Also, let your friends and neighbors in Chandler and Tempe know as well. Carriage Lane is near the Mesa/Chandler/Tempe border, so there are a lot of parks that he could have gone to.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Gaylord approved in landslide

Wow. Just wow. Prop 300 - the Gaylord Project - passed with 84% of the vote (Tribune version here). Ladies and Gentlemen, you have witnessed an amazing occurrence.

Everything I had heard around town pointed to the Prop passing, but the margin of victory is staggering. Congratulations to Mesa for such an outstanding win.

To put it in perspective, you can take a look at the clerk's page (lower right hand corner) for past elections and this is what you'll find:

2002 Stadium vote - 56.9% No

2002 General plan - 65.7% Yes

2005 Riverview - 56.2% Yes

2006 Tax Election - 60.2% Yes Sales tax, 60.3% No property tax

2007 Waveyard - 65.7% Yes

2008 Election - Slum Landlord - 78.6% Yes, Public Safety - 66.9% Yes, Streets - 64.6% Yes

The closest margin of victory is the slum landlord law, and the Gaylord project still beat that by 6 points! This is probably the only time we'll see something like this happen.

This was a "perfect storm" for Mesa's voters. With the national economy struggling, a city fresh off a round of budget cuts, a brand new mayor who is building hope, and visually stunning project, all the pieces were there. The touting of jobs and revenue became the icing on the cake.

This is truly a great time to be in Mesa. We have a lot of exciting opportunities ahead of us and the biggest blank canvas in the valley with the Gateway project. I think we are all on our way to witnessing something amazing.

Can Mesa compete for the D-backs?

Mesa looks to be in a tough position in attracting the D-Backs and Rockies to town. First, we must give them props for not seeking a publicly financed stadium. In these tough times, it would have been hard to rationalize cutting critical services, while pouring money into an amenity.

The challenge now, however, is that Mesa must seek a private partner to help pull this off. They are competing against several Tribes, who could probably cut a check tomorrow. They are also competing against Casa Grande which is voting in May for a dedicated revenue source. The other candidates have brough money to the table. To this point, Mesa has not.

From a desirability standpoint, one would assume that Mesa would be near the top of the list. Moving to Casa Grande would be like staying in Tucson, and who knows how keen MLB would be with a baseball themed casino.

It will be interesting to see what Mesa is able to come up with.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009


Last week, a new blog and twitter called "Fix Arizona Now" burst on the scene taking shots at the budget problem, and you guessed it, telling our elected officials to "FIX IT!" It has been fun to read, and it appears that their basic premise is "if not Brewer's plan, then what?"

As we have noted, Brewer's plan for economic recovery is a lot like Mesa's plan. Last November, Mesa's plan passed overwhelmingly, approving the first property tax in over 50 years. This is Mesa we are talking about, one of the most conservative communities in the state.

Now, Senate President Bob Burns does not want to allow voters to decide on Brewer's budget plan.

The reason? He thinks that they might vote to pass it.

And he may be right. If Mesa saw the need and said yes, perhaps there are others.

So, basically, Burns' current solution is to stand in the way of the only solution that has been offered so far. Mesa Voters are acutely aware of having to go to the polls to make decisions for the government. From referendums to charter requirements, it seems like we have been voting more than any other city in the Valley. Quite frankly, Mesa could probably use a break.

However, in this case, I think Burns is wrong. If the legislature is going to refuse to act, they should put this to a vote of people. Let the people decide.

Mayor speaks out against stimulus money

Mayor Smith is speaking out the decision to put the freeway stimulus money in the West and North Valley without any regards to the East Valley. Smith points to the projects in the Gateway area and opportunities to create new jobs and encourage economic development.

Mayor Smith is correct in his indignation, but he should have gotten a few more people on his side speaking out against the inequity. As it currently stands, it sounds like Mesa is bitter because the money should have gone to them instead of someone else. I think Smith would have probably been able to get more sympathy if he had gotten some of the other East Valley Mayors to join him in speaking out. Gilbert and Chandler could have spoken up about the value of Gateway to all three communities, not just Mesa.

In all, it just goes to show that no matter how this stimulus plan goes, its going to continue to create winners and losers. While Mesa should continue to get our fair share, since it is ultimately money that is going to come out of our pocket, we should be resolved to the fact that Mesa is going to have to find its own way into economic recovery.

Prediction: Turn-out low today

We predict that Election Day turn out is going to be low for Mesa's Election today. Usually, when the election draws near, we see a spike in traffic that peaks the day before the election. Sometimes, as we saw in the November election, traffic can be as high as 3 times as normal.

Out of curiousity, we looked and Monday's stats were fairly humdrum. Not a lot of people on google, not a lot of people checking out any of the posts regarding Gaylord or Prop 300. We aren't trying to brag or claim that Mesa Issues is the only source for Mesa politics, but traditionally we have seen a spike in the past. And yesterday? No spike.

With a large number of early ballots already turned in, it doesn't look like a whole lot of people are going to turn out on Election Day.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Gaylord Election is Tomorrow!

Don't forget that Election Day is tomorrow. If you need to find your polling place, you can find it through the Recorder's office.

The Arizona Republic has a front page wrap-up of the Gaylord/Prop 300 election and what it means for Mesa and its voters. If you haven't been up to speed with what is going on with this project, either you have been living in a hole, or you don't have internet or television in your house. Information has literally been everywhere.

What this election comes down to is: Do you support the City of Mesa and its Elected officials in their efforts to promote economic development for the city? If Yes, then you should be voting Yes on 300.
Gaylord is a $1 billion private investment bringing a world-renowned project to southeast Mesa. It could have gone anywhere in the valley or the southwest, and they chose here. This isn't just one or two hotels either. This is an inroad to a whole line of convention business that wouldn't be coming to Mesa otherwise. These people shop, eat, and spend money in the community, not to mention stay in other hotels, which will spring up around the project to handle overflow.

The talk continues to swirl around economic incentives, but the argument really is misleading. The people who argue against incentives base all of their information on the notion that the project would come to town no matter what. That is simply not the case. Incentives are just that, a tool to attract and be competitive for economic development.
This is truly an amazing opportunity in a current world where there aren't a whole heck of a lot of opportunities. Voting Yes on 300 will help Mesa lead the way in our state's economic recovery.

Does Mesa have a long road to recovery?

Here is the big question: Has Mesa really changed?

When you go around town, you can feel it. The people in town and around the city really are starting to think that things are changing, and on the eve of the Gaylord Election (more on that in a later post), hope springs eternal for Mesa's future. Only one catch, some urban researchers don't agree.

They claim that Phoenix and Mesa have been hit too hard by the mortgage collapse and that our recovery is going to take awhile. In fact, the researcher is claiming that Mesa may be faced with even further decline.

Its not clear on if the researchers have actually been to Mesa, or if they have been keeping track with the steps that the Mayor and Council have taken towards recovery. Also, who knows if they have been following the changes at the Gateway area and the recently established Aerospace Institute. What about the fact that Mesa is perched to lead the entire state in recovery as the economy rebounds?

Just because some author hasn't felt the change, doesn't mean that the change is not happening. Its true that Mesa has grown for growth's sake with an economy based almost exclusively on sales taxes. However, our past does not define our future. I would encourage the Mayor and Council, the Mesa Proving Grounds people, Superstition Vistas committee and others to invite Florida here and show him how things are changed and how the city really is preparing for the future.

New movie chain coming to Mesa

A new movie chain called "Pictureshow" is coming to Superstition Springs to replace the Super Saver Cinema. Interestingly enough, the company is owned by a former Cinemark exec. If you recall, Cinemark made its first foray into the valley in Mesa with their theaters at Riverview.

While they are not direct competition, with Cinemark doing first runs and Pictureshow focusing on discount runs, its fun to wonder if Mesa is going to be a hotbed for some heated personal competition. The story is not clear on if the exec left on good or bad terms, so, we'll have to wait and see. However, its nice to see some cheap entertainment alternatives gaining life in the midst of this sagging economy.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Brewer and Building a Better Arizona

Governor Brewer rolled out her 5 part plan yesterday for fixing Arizona Budget crisis. The plan is being called "Building a Better Arizona."

If you think it sounds familiar, its because it is, Mesa Mayor Scott Smith's plan is called "Building a Better Mesa," a phrase that is starting to become common in the Mesa lexicon. If its working for Mesa, why not try it for the whole state?

Similar to Smith's approach, it appears that Brewer's plan is a mixture of cutting, reform, and finding new revenue. Taxes are going to be heart of the issue, but as we have mentioned before, following Mesa's lead in economic recovery would be a good thing for Arizona, even the entire United States.

When times are tight for a family, you have to cut your budget. That's true. But the part that some people forget is that when times are really tough, you may have to go out and find another part-time job. Growing up, I can remember families who had trouble making ends meet taking paper routes or wrangling shopping carts after hours. I knew a single mom who worked graveyard at Taco Bell for a second job to help pay the bills.

It might be time for Arizona to consider taking another part-time job for awhile. Its a sacrifice for sure, but how long can we cut before we start to hurt our state's potential?

Mesa Schools may have to cut over 300 jobs

MPS is preparing a worst case scenario where they have to lay off 310 teachers. That would be like if each of my twitter followers lost their job (sorry, had to mention that we got to 300 on twitter - yay).

Its smart for Mesa Public Schools to plan for the worst and start telling people about it now. An open and transparent process will allow everyone to be better prepared for the cuts, or start looking for solutions now. You can tell that the story's comment section is filled with people who no longer have kids in school.

I agree that the schools need to learn how to do more with less just like everyone else. However, we are talking about education here, which is one of the most important functions of our government. We can't assume that they can continue to take the brunt of these cuts and continue to educate our students as effectively as possible.

Spring Training sluggish

Spring Training attendance at Hohokam is down, despite breaking the record for the most-watched spring training game last week. This is not very surprising based on the economy, but it should be a warning that things could get a little worse in Mesa.

If fewer people are attending the games, there are fewer people in town spending money. Our budgets are still based on sales taxes, and if those continue to slip and we don't get a boost from Spring Training, there could be some trouble on the horizon.

This doesn't mean that we should give up on Spring Training or attracting more teams to Mesa. On the contary, despite the downturn, the Cubs are likely to hold the attendance record. So, we'll be hurt, but not as much as some of the other communities. The weather has been amazing for Spring Training so far, and even in these tough times its fun to play a little "hooky" and catch a game.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Gaylord is "is worth its weight in gold"

Don't believe what Gaylord can do for Mesa? Take a word from the people in other cities where Gaylord has built. Here are the phrases they use:

"Count your blessings, Mesa"
"Our returns have been staggering"
"It's brought larger conventions in this direction"
"a huge positive economic impact"

These are quotes coming from people in the hotel industry and from the CVBs in the local communities where Gaylord has located. This is not even mentioning the overflow that is brought into the community or the additional businesses that are attracted.

With this election less than a week away and the stock market at a record low, people are looking for some economic good news. This is the type of project that shows there can be real change on the horizon. There is hope for Mesa and its starting now. Our cuts hurt before others did, but we are now ahead of the curve and will lead the way towards recovery.

Let's hope the voters of Mesa see the wisdom in supporting private investment with a large amount of public benefit.

Smith's vision continues

It sounds like Mayor Scott Smith was on a roll during his latest news briefing. It sounds like once a month, the press comes up to the Mayor's office and let him riff on whatever he feels like talking about. Its not clear how this takes place, but it certainly would be fun to watch on Channel 11.

His first topic of discussion: Light Rail. He wants to expand it. While this move is probably premature, its probably smart for Mesa to put themselves first in line for extensions. Once a transit system like this takes off, the extensions end up being what all of the communities end up clamoring for. However, its important to note that Smith is leery of "long-term" programs. The operation of light rail is a continued cost, far beyond the construction. If we get more rail in Mesa, its going to mean more rail operation costs for the city.

Second and most important in our book, it looks like the Mayor is seriously looking into ways to get the D-Backs and the Rockies to come to Mesa. Its also promising that this type of expenditure is not coming from Mesa's general fund. It will be interesting, but we will have to wait and see how it will pan out. Even if Mesa doesn't land those two teams, they shouldn't give up. When the next team moves to the valley next year (I think its the Reds), MLB is going to be split 15-15 between Florida and Arizona. It makes for uneven scheduling and eventually, another team will move. Mesa should be courting the D-Backs, the Rockies, and one of the other teams still in Florida.

Finally, they are looking for ways to use stimulus moneys to help pay for Gateway airport. I would rather not incur the debt from the stimulus, but since its going to happen if I like it or not, it would be best if some of it could come home to help us locally. This is a notion that a certain local congressman would benefit from understanding.

Gilbert Issues?

A very nice shout out from the Sonoran Alliance today (no word why were dropped from Political Arizona's influential blogs, but oh well). We are more than willing help start up a blog to focus on Gilbert's issues and politics if there are people who are willing to put some time in and write about it. Perhaps the person who owns http://gilbertissues.blogspot.com would like to help out.

Let us know at mesaissues@gmail.com and we'll help start something up.

Good and bad news for Gateway

Its seems like two steps forward and one step back when it comes to Gateway. First, the bad news. The Gateway freeway was denied stimulus money. This seemed to be a shock and surprise to many, including Mayor Smith, who had some choice words for the state transportation board.

It sounds like the deal was done and Gateway was going to be funded, only to have the money pulled away without warning. This is a big blow, especially since Mesa has put up funds and have been committed to the acceleration. Not to mention the funds set aside during the good years which were supposed to be used to accelerate the projects, but instead sat there until the Government was able to sweep them back.

On the other hand, there is some good news for Gateway as well. The 13th Annual Greater Southwest Aviation Maintenance Technician Symposium is coming to Williams Campus of Chandler-Gilbert Community College. This collection of aviation experts include aviation professionals from all over. Methinks that this would be a good time to show these people Mesa's commitment to aerospace and tout the recent formation of the Arizona Aerospace Institute. Plus, they picked a great time to be out here, the weather has been perfect lately.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Pearce, Adams, and others should let Mesa voters decide

Governor Brewer is going to address the legislature tomorrow and before she even says a word, Mesa Senator Russell Pearce and others are "drawing a line in the sand" against any new taxes. However, before Senator Pearce, Speaker Adams, and others make a stand, they may want to remember the City that they live in.
When President Obama came to town, we presented a case on why the President and others should look to Mesa as a model for economic recovery. The two parts of this successful effort so far is that Mesa has been able to make dramatic cuts and raise a temporary tax.

As legislators representing Mesa, they are probably well aware that Mesa has had some of the biggest budget problems, to the point of having to make cuts to services such as fire and police, not too mention deep cuts to parks, libraries, and other quality of life items. Still, even with all of these dramatic cuts, Mesa needed to seek more revenue to keep up with growth.

The same Mesa voters who voted to elect Pearce, Adams, and others in November, are the same ones who voted overwhelmingly to support Mesa's bonds and the first property tax in 50 years. Why? Because people recognize the current economic reality and realize that some things are going to have to change, at least temporarily, if we want to keep our quality of life.

For pete's sake, look at the stock market. It has hit a record low. More cuts to education are not going to be acceptable to anyone. Plus, how long before we are mortgaging our future and the education of our children to pay off our debts of today? Clearly the conservatives didn't make this mess, but they are the ones who are going to have to clean it up.

The new Mayor and Council had to do the dirty work, but they have actually gained even more goodwill from the voters because of it.

No one asks for more taxes. The voters of Mesa, especially in those Republican primaries, most likely look for candidates who have signed the no tax pledge. However, in this case, there are probably a lot of realistic people who would be willing to make an exception.

We already saw it once in Mesa with the bond package. The key is keeping it temporary and focused on the essentials. Encourage your legislators to keep everything is on the table at least for now. Shutting down negotiations before they start is an obstructionist tactic that robs our Representatives of all of their bargaining power and essentially leaves Mesa's residents out of crafting or supporting Arizona's long-term solution.

If nothing else, let the voters of Mesa decide this issue.

Check your smoke detectors

Before you read this post, quickly, make sure your smoke detectors are in working order. When was the last time you looked at them? When was the last time you tested them?

A father and his one year old daughter perished in a fire yesterday after being trapped in their front room. The rest of the family was able to escape out the back. It is reported that the one year old had taken her first step just the day before. Even more tragic, the fire department believes that this could have been avoided if there was a working smoke detector in the house.

This is a reminder for all of us to take a safety more seriously.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Tribune Recaps Gaylord Project

Well, the election is a little over a week away and the East Valley Tribune did a long recap on the Gaylord Project over the weekend. Its a nice read for anyone who hasn't been paying attention before now. Based on the number of people who have requested an early ballot and the money spent mounting a campaign (not to mention the signs that are everywhere), its hard to think that there are many people who haven't heard about the plan.

Despite the claims of some conspiracy theorists, I don't think that this hotel is just an effort to land even more incentive money for a baseball field or some other ridiculous notion. From the things I have heard about this type of facility from other places, its going to be its own kind of attraction that brings people in from all over. Not too long ago, someone was explaining their trip to a Gaylord hotel to me.

Their biggest comment was the fact that they couldn't believe the size and scale of it all. Clearly, this is something different from anything else we have in the Valley or in the state. From their best description, they called it a "Disneyland for convention-goers."

D-Backs to Mesa?

The D-Backs are looking for a new spring training home in the Valley and the City of Mesa is on their list! Its already changing - people actually want to be in Mesa. Take that Google!

The City now has 30 days to come up with a proposal for landing and building a facility. The D-Backs have made it clear that they are not paying for the facility, and we know from the budget negotiations that Mesa doesn't have the cash either. The tourism and sports authority is also fresh out of cash after bankrolling several of the West Valley projects. So where does the money come from?

I don't really know who has money right now, but I have to assume that there are people who have money and are looking to sink it somewhere besides the negative returns of the stock market. Perhaps the stadium could be a profitable private investment during these uncertain times. Let's hope Mesa can swoop in and make a deal.

I agree that keeping the Cubs should be Mesa's number 1 priority. However, I also think that Mesa tripling the number of spring training games played in town should also be a priority. The D-Backs do consistently well in attendance and the notion of bringing them out to the Gateway area is an attractive one.

700 show to help clean up West Mesa!

The community spirit is alive and well in Northwest Mesa. More than 700 people showed up to participate in the Top 2 Bottom clean up on Saturday. In these tough economic times, its easy to worry about our own problems and not care about the community as a whole. That is why it is even more remarkable that so many people turned out to participate. Congratulations to Councilman Richins, the West Mesa Community Development Corporation, the Boy Scouts, and everyone else who participated. Thank you for taking pride in your community.

Let's hope that the rest of Mesa gets the hint and follows suit. There are plenty of places throughout Mesa that could use a little clean up. Even in nicer neighborhoods, foreclosures can be a real eye sore. I hope the other councilmembers will place their attention to other community building projects.