Monday, November 30, 2009

LD 19 Musical Chairs

As it gets closer to election season, we'll be doing more of a legislative breakdown of the races, and what to expect. However, there is a bit of breaking news from over the Thanksgiving weekend that we felt was important to share.

LD 19 Senator Chuck Gray has announced that he will not seek another term in the Arizona State Senate. Following Gray's announcement, Representative Rich Crandall announced that he is exploring a run for the now open seat. This leaves an open seat in the house for LD 19, the other of which is currently filled by Speaker of the House Kirk Adams.

Chuck Gray moved from the House to the Senate in 2006 when Senator Marilyn Jarrett passed away. Gray won his 2008 Senate bid unopposed and was still eligible to serve another term under term limits. Those of you may also recall that Gray was one of the few opponents to the Gaylord project earlier this year. He is also been on the Senate leadership team this year that was in the middle of a lot of the budget controversy. He says that he will return to politics, it will be interesting to see what he pursues.

There is a lot of speculation on who will run for the open House seat and if anyone is going to step forward and challenge Crandall. Two names that have come up several times are former City Councilmember Rex Griswold and the owner of Sonoran Alliance who appears to be considering.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving

Quiet week here at Mesa Issues, but we wanted to take a moment to wish Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family.

Enjoy the time with your family and take some time to be thankful for the many blessings in your life. Even in these tough times, we still have so much to be thankful for.

If you are planning a lot of shopping over the weekend, remember to shop Mesa and help the sales tax numbers.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Mayor slams legislative dysfunction - immediately validated

Mesa Mayor Scott Smith is in Washington DC at a national League of Cities conference. During a panel, he criticized the Arizona Legislature, stating that "We're having a contest with California to see which state government is the most dysfunctional." The off-hand joke proved, almost immediately, to be true.

Just hours after his statement, his position was validated as the latest legislative budget agreement stalled in the Arizona Senate falling one vote short of passage. You'll recall, that the budget talks stalled earlier this year after the budget was held hostage in the Senate by a few votes.

Senator Vershoor, who represents a part of Mesa and Gilbert, decided not to show up, not because of the nearly $300 million in proposed cuts, but because of "other policy shifts the Legislature was making in its special session."

In the end, Mayor Smith is right. Our legislative system is now so disfunctional, that even when everyone agrees that cuts need to be made, one or two legislators can hold the entire system hostage for their own interests. Months ago, we asked the legislature to follow Mesa's lead and offer a blend of cuts and the opportunity to raise revenue to fix the problem.

Obviously, that didn't happen, and now cuts are the only thing on the menu. However, these cuts are now being held hostage because of other issues. How does the problem get fixed? These cuts are difficult, but it is clear that they are necessary. Now, the question remains, can the legislature put aside their partisan nature and their idealogy to do what is right, or do they allow the state to continue to flounder.

Mesa has blazed a path directed towards recovery. It would be wise for the state to do the same.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Flashing lights - what do you think?

Mesa is going in with the school districts to place flashing lights in several school zones. The total cost to the city is $92,000 to place the lights at 6 Mesa district and 2 Gilbert district schools. The city has found that these measures reduce speeds near schools by at least 5 mph. So, what are your thoughts on this?

On one hand, this is taxpayer money in a tough time. Yes, it's transportation sales tax dollars, but just like anything else, you have to weigh perception against the facts. Voters will look and see that city workers are being laid off, yet things like blinking lights are being installed. It's not that the lights are bad, but voters don't view certain money coming from specific pots.

On the other hand, how much is a life worth? If this slows down drivers to save a single life, isn't that worth $92,000? Many people would prefer the blinking lights to photo enforcement or speed bumps or any of the other alternatives.

Is this the right thing to do regardless of the timing? Is it a bureaucratic decision being made outside the realm of public perception? With so many distractions - cell phones, construction signs, campaign signs - are blinking lights enough?

Share your thoughts in the comments section or via twitter @mesaissues.

Aviation good and bad news

Mesa continues its rollercoaster of news and jobs - especially when it comes to aviation. First, a new type of helicopter produced by Boeing may bring more jobs and manufacturing to Falcon field. This would help diversify Mesa's current plant which is pretty much dependent on the Apache helicopter.

However, this good news is tempered by the fact that Gateway Airport is running a $1.8 million shortfall. Despite all of the good news coming out of Gateway and all of the exciting opportunities, vacancy is still 40% (they like to say 60% occupancy), which is down from a paltry 4% in 2007. What it comes down to is the loss of Boeing at Gateway, which appears to be unrelated to their work at Falcon.

These numbers are slightly deceiving, because they would recover 20% with the leasing of one hangar, but the reality is, that times are still tough, even for the places that are likely to be on the cutting edge of our recovery. It does show, that our economy, while likely to have reached the bottom, is going to have a rocky return to prosperity. In the meantime, we must celebrate our steps forward and hope they outweigh our setbacks along the way.

Friday, November 13, 2009

@MesaIssues and Twitter Friday

Everything sounds better with Friday after it. #FollowFriday, Football Friday, and even Mesa Issues and our Twitter Friday. Get ready for our weekly recap, post of the week, and all things Mesa.

Check out our twitter page @MesaIssues. Check us out at We would always appreciate a follow!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

MPS continue to ponder big changes

We mentioned last month that Mesa Public Schools was considering creative ideas for using their existing facilities and diversifying the education options. We are starting to hear even more of these big changes that are being pondered.

First, as reported last week, MPS is considering closing Powell Jr. High which is among the 8 proposals to be considered by the School Board. The others include returning freshman back to the High School campuses, closing Guererro and Alma elementaries or turn them into alternative types of schools, merging Hendrix and Frost into an K-8 advanced academy, and several other options.

One of the options, turning Alma Elementary into a Franklin Traditional school, received more detailed treatment in the Tribune. We understand that the curriculum is structured in a specific way, but still don't quite see how this differs from a regular school.

We have mentioned the challenge that this might provide to parents who simply want to send their kids to the schools closest to their homes, just as it has been done in the past. However, there another question to ponder that we wonder if it has been even asked. While trivial, what would be the new naming convention for these new school? Many of the schools are named after former Superintendents, public officials and other town leaders. Look at the history.

Guerrero is named after Pedro Guerrero, early pioneer and businessman. Pomeroy is named after Francis M. Pomeroy, Mesa Pioneer - there are still a lot of Pomeroy's in town. Alma School hasn't been on Alma School road in many years, but the namesake school always existed. Based on the naming of the other Franklin schools would it lose it's identity? Same goes for Hendrix and Smith which are both named after former Superintendents?

Maybe it is not that big of a deal, but it is something to keep in mind in a community steeped in history. The school system does need to make changes, but sometimes the little things like names may cause some of the biggest problems.

More on the visit from the Cubs last week

Sorry we missed this before, but the Arizona Republic ran an account of the Cubs event which sounded almost exactly the same as the eye-witness account that we received. All in all, it sounds like it was a very well done event.

Still no word on exactly how the project is going to work, but the article did hint that it may take months to iron out the details. Hopefully, in the meantime, the Ricketts family will remember the overwhelming amount of support they received out here to stay.

Keep the Cubs also found a very cool post from the Cubs Spring Training PA announcer debunking the arguments coming out of Florida on why the Cubs should move. He does a great job taking apart everything from the marquee team myth to the idea that Florida increases World Series chances. We highly recommend this article, especially for the Mesa diehard Cubs fans who want to be equipped to fight back.

MCC looking to connect through social networking

Here is an interesting article from an MCC student about MCC's efforts to connect via social networking. Although the program has an awkward name MCConnect (sounds like getting wi-fi at McDonalds), the research that it is trying to accomplish is very relevant and interesting.

It wasn't that long ago that students had to register for classes in person or via the telephone, now students can register for classes online and interact with their professor and get their class information via email. This type of information is likely to continue to decentralize as we progress. The articles says that students right now did not prefer texting as an option to receive information, but this may change over the next few years as students raised with texting start to attend college.

This is good news to see that MCC is looking to change to continue to provide high quality service to their students. This is also a nice change of pace to hear some good news from the community colleges, which in the past few months and years haven't always been the bearers of good news.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Chavez opens "Campeones" in Mesa Today

Today is the opening day for "Campeones" the 30,000-square foot entertainment venue owned by boxing legend Julio Cesar Chavez. The hype started earlier this week, with the venue being described as a cross between "ESPN Zone and Dave & Busters."

This is exciting news especially since this venue is unique compared to anything else in the Valley. Like Toby Keith's and Amazing Jakes, if people want to have this experience, they have to come exclusively to Mesa. This is, once again, another fine example of Mesa's ability to put together quality reuse projects for existing big boxes.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Twitter Friday @MesaIssues

Sure, you know #FollowFriday, but do you know Twitter Friday? Get ready for our weekly recap, post of the week, all things Mesa.

Check out our twitter page @MesaIssues. Check us out at We would always appreciate a follow!

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Mesa Public Schools override passes - Others fail countywide

Mesa voters approved the Mesa Public Schools bond override last night with a 58% to 42% margin, which for some reason AZCentral was calling "slim." This is a big deal, because as we mentioned before, these elections can no longer be taken for granted.

These school bond elections used to be an easy win, but not so much anymore. Across the county, several other school bonds and overrides failed. We don't have the details on how these cuts will impact the schools, but you can bet that there will be several districts that will have to go even leaner next year.

Taxpayers are having to make tough choices in their own lives, and they want to make sure that everyone from the government to the school district have to do the same. These districts will no doubt try again sometime soon, and it would be smart for them to show the cuts that they are making and how they are finding ways to be more efficient if they want any chance of future passage.

Cubs Owners in Town: Reception Last Night - Tour Today

Turns out that the Cubs Reception with Governor Brewer, Senator McCain (via video message), Speaker Adams and other officials and business leaders was last night. Keep the Cubs has it right, having so many leaders in the room shows a real commitment to the Cubs.

We also got an eye witness account of the event from Terry:

"The reception was impressive yesterday evening. Backdrop was the sunset, there was a great intro video showing off all of the great places that we all love as Arizonans and Mesans. Gov. Brewer spoke about Az being the place with the most IL. natives that have moved to milder climates, that we have one of the seven wonders of the world and how she was committed to making the deal happen. She opened her comments by saying that with the leadership in the room we could get the deal done right then.

So, the leadership in the room; Speaker Adams, Thayer Vershoor, Don Stapley, Steve Court, Cecil Ash, Rich Crandall, Michael Bidwell (who commented on the Cardinals making it to the Super Bowl and the fan support- all sell out games since the stadium was built and how the Cubs could imagine the same support) , Ryne Sandberg, Rep from Harry Mitchell's office, AG's office, I'm sure I am missing some of the elected officials but you get the picture.

Rep. Adams commented on growing up in Mesa and the Cubs being a part of being a kid in Mesa because of spring training. My favorite comment of the evening came from our Mayor- There are 1800 (he gave a much more specific number) miles of coastline in the United States but only one Sonoran Desert. Visitors get a one of a kind experience when they come to AZ.

Crane Kenny had nothing but praise for the way the Cubs have been treated here in Mesa over the years by the City and the Cactus League.

When Tom Ricketts spoke he said it was his first visit to AZ. I hope his first impression is memorable and one that makes him want to come back often. I know that why I ended up here. Many of the people I went to college with at ASU were transplants from IL. I am from DC and many of my friends went to FL for school. It was dumbfounding to me how many of my friends at ASU were from the Chicago area and the point was really driven home when Spring of my Freshman year rolled around and we spent our afternoons in the cheap seats watching the Cubbies. They sure have devoted fans that love AZ as much as the Cubs."

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Cubs are in town today

Mayor Smith tweeted this morning welcoming the Cubs into town. According to the timeline last week, we would guess that the reception for the Cubs would be soon, maybe even as early as tonight. If anyone has intel on how the reception goes, we would love to hear about it.

It will be interesting to see how the meetings go and any feedback that the Cubs are offering. Is Mesa waiting to put together a final offer until after they see which property the Cubs like best? Will Mesa have to go to an election? If so, are the Cubs willing to wait for election results? What do the offers look like, is there an overwhelming favorite?

Some would argue that having so many options doesn't stack up as well against the single offer from Florida, but we would say that having the ability to craft an agreement together makes the most sense.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Tribune shutting down at the end of the year

This is truly a sad day. The East Valley Tribune has announced that they will be shutting their doors on December 31st. From the sound of it, it appears that, since the staff will be offered severance packages or reassignment, the Trib's website will soon be gone as well.

So, that's it. The entire paper will be history. What's more, several national news sites get their local news from the Trib's feed, so it is going to be interesting to see where they go next. Will it be AzCentral who seems to be on their last legs as well? Speaking of, it's a little weird to see, but even the Arizona Republic is covering the announcement.

Twenty years ago, you had the Arizona Republic, the Phoenix Gazette, and the Mesa Tribune to get the news. The Mesa Tribune was known for reporting the facts, keeping things relatively fair, and giving conservative opinions with a libertarian, limited government flair. The Mesa Tribune was uniquely Mesa.

Now, we are just left with the Republic, who despite having several Tribune alumni, does not quite have the same feel as the old paper. We should have seen it coming back in April, when they won a Pulitzer, laid people off, and cut back Saturday service.