Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Sticking its nose in Mesa's business

The Goldwater Institute has, once again, stuck its nose into Mesa's business. This time they expressed concerns over the deal to keep the Cubs in Mesa.

When was the last time Goldwater Institute was actually for something? As much as conservatives claim to hate "big brother," the GI is about as close as you can come to a nanny organization trying to tell everyone what they can and can't do. They don't care about Mesa or Arizona really for that matter. Otherwise, they would try to be proactive in their policies instead of complaining about everything and suing when something doesn't go their way. Goldwater Institute is more like a law firm than a policy think tank.

At least their distribe was juxtaposed with a response from the Mesa Chamber, who, you know, actually represents Mesa businesses. The Chamber sets the record straight on the misinformation out there and discusses the financial benefits of the project. Most importantly, they actually realize that the Cubs are critical to Mesa's economy and long term economic growth, something that the naysayers seem to ignore.

In the end, we're prone to stick with the people from Mesa who actually care about this town over those professional naysayers who would almost rather sue someone over actually participating in a thoughtful policy discussion.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Cubs Update

Chicago Cubs fans are in for a treat as the Yes on 420 committee brings Ron Santo into town on Saturday, October 9th. Santo is a beloved Cubbie and one that many think should be in the Baseball Hall of Fame.
Also, it looks like Cubs Team Chairman Tom Ricketts was in town to speak to the Rotary club. They don't appear too sure if a Cubs - Waveyard plan can work, but they are looking into it. Regardless, here is the key from the article:

"The stadium will cost $84 million, and the Ricketts family plans to invest additional money on a privately funded entertainment complex dubbed Wrigleyville West. The team will focus initially on the baseball components of the development and then start working on the entertainment portion, Ricketts said."

Unlike other ballparks across the valley, this plan has a built in retail component that is a successful concept and will be actually backed by the team. This is a smart investment to keep the Cubs in town and maximize revenue.

Gateway growth barriers

Just a day after we talked about Allegiant making great strides to improve business in the East Valley, we see this warning that Gateway needs some changes to continue to improve its image and customer experience.

The question remains, do you make the upgrades in hopes that it will attract more people or do you wait for more people to help rationalize the upgrades? Everyone recognizes that Gateway isn't Sky Harbor, but if they want to be a seen as a serious alternative, some of the improvements will be necessary.

Throughout the country, certain airports are often avoided because of their customer service problems, overall cleanliness or general layout. Gateway has a unique opportunity to be a solid mix of convenience, value, and simplicity. Its a model that Southwest airlines has done as a carrier, and Gateway could follow as an airport.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

More on Cubs and Waveyard

The head of the Mesa CVB seems to think that the Cubs and Waveyard could share the site at Riverview. There has been some intrigue to this point, and he thinks that there would likely be enough land to house both. We're aren't as positive about the idea, but it is something that should be explored.

The result would shed a lot of the different components and leave Waveyard as whitewater rafting river, scuba lagoon and wave pool. It is not clear what other elements, if any, would stay, but it could make some families come and stay in town longer before or after the game. Who knows if it could work, but that is for Mesa, the Cubs, and Waveyard to determine.

One thing that is for certain is that it is critical for the Cubs to stay in Mesa. Our economy depends on sales tax revenues and spring training is a major contributor to keeping the revenue we have for public safety, streets, etc. We can't risk losing the Cubs to Florida or to some other city. So, if Waveyard is part of the equation, fine, but it shouldn't stand in the way of making sure to maximize on the financial impact that the Cubs can generate for Mesa.

Remembering sacrifice

While the war in Iraq might officially be "over," it is important to remember that there are those across the world who continue to fight each day to defend our freedom. Some pay the ultimate price.

Unfortunately, a Mesa soldier was recently killed in Afghanistan. Her story was accompanied by a slide show of Southeast Valley residents who have died in combat. It is important to remember these people and everyone who has served to keep this country safe.

Good news from Allegiant

Allegiant Air will be starting flights from Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport to Idaho Falls, Idaho starting November 12th. Just as there are many transpants from the midwest in the valley, there are also a lot Mesa residents who hail from the Idaho area.

This news comes a week or so after it was announced that Allegiant was expanding capacity by adding more seats to each plane.

It is good to see that some businesses are expanding and keeping the course in spite of the economy. As we start the economic comeback, we hope that there will be even more good news from the Gateway area and hope that they will be on the leading edge of recovery with businesses like Allegiant leading the way.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Waveyard or Not?

It looks like Riverview is the preferred location for the new Cubs facility leaving behind the downtown and the northeast locations. So, now the question remains: what to do about Waveyard?

Earlier this year, it looks like a Waveyard/Cubs project was proposed and rejected, but now it appears to be back on the table. The idea, while intriguing, does raise a lot of questions.

Waveyard was billed as a one of a kind destination unlike anything we have ever seen. Now, we're looking at something that is half the size? What will become of the surfing wavepool, scuba pool, white water rafting, the luxury hotel, condos, dining etc? If the thing can't be built without a ballpark, how are they supposed to get something done in Dubai or elsewhere? What does that do to their current agreement where they were supposed to buy all the land?

Second, where will the Cubs train? Isn't one of the biggest parts of this election about giving the Cubs a competitive training facility? Can that still be done in the smaller space? Can the stadium be big enough to compete with the other west valley stadiums if the land is shared?

It seems like there are two groups here that want to make full use of the land, but might be willing to take half of something over half of nothing. It doesn't hurt to explore this opportunity. However, at the end of the day, it is far more critical to keep the Cubs who are proven over something that still has not been able to get off the ground.

If they can work together, great. If not, Cubs have the far greater chance of success.

Tattoo suit dismissed

Over a year ago, Mesa rejected a tattoo parlor in the Dobson Ranch area. At the time, we discussed that a lawsuit was likely and there was a risk for it to turn into a disaster. It turns out that we were wrong.

The judge has dismissed the lawsuit and it appears that the issue is dead. The formal ruling as not released yet, so its not exactly clear what the judge was thinking, but unlike the Tempe issue, it doesn't appear that the Goldwater Institute or any other litigation-friendly thinktank jumped to the tattoo artist's aid.

Now, over a year and a half later, you have to wonder how much money was lost and if the business owner would have been better off to set up shop elsewhere.

Chinatown in Mesa

We have talked about Mekong Plaza before and how its a model for creative reuse for communities across the state. Now, the people behind that project are taking it a step further by expanding their food court and offering a wide variety of asian dining experiences.

From casual dining to sit down elegance, this looks like another opportunity to create jobs and attract shoppers and diners from other communities to the area. As they have seen it other areas, the result will hopefully attract other businesses and encourage improvement in the surrounding community.

Culture and diversity is something that Mesa has embraced and it can pay long term economic dividends improving our quality of life, increasing variety, and making the city more attractive for businesses looking to relocate.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Cubs update

There is a lot of Cubs news from over the past couple of days, so we have compiled it down to one update.

First, in the paper today, the Keep the Cubs committee has an editorial in the Arizona Republic today extolling the virtues of why the Cubs need to stay in Mesa. One of the most exciting pieces they mention is the Wrigleyville West concept. This built in retail plan which would attract visitors similar to the area around Wrigley field in Chicago. While it is easy to get lost in the mire of the site selection, we shouldn't overlook the fact that the development surrounding this project would be far more unique than any other spring training facility in the valley.

Speaking of the site selection, Mesa has released their study about the sites and the potential economic impact they may have. The only challenge is that they tested generic retail because they didn't have any specifics about the project. One could guess the kinds of stores, bars, and shops that would line up for Wrigleyville West, but without details, its hard to tell if they study really tells us anything.

It does, however, create good fodder for those who have their heart set on a specific site. Does downtown work or is it another case of allowing real estate to dictate planning? Does Riverview work or would it oversaturate retail? Does northeast Mesa work or are the neighbors against it? Each site has its challenges, but there is one thing that we must all agree on - regardless of the site, keeping the Cubs in Mesa is critical to Mesa's long-term economy.

Finally, don't forget that the Fergie Jenkins little league clinic is tonight. Here are the details if you are interested.

Building a legacy

You may not think of them as "legacy" projects, but major programs like the Central, Arizona Project, the Salt River Project, the complettion of the I-10, and the creation of the other valley freeways have been critical to the growth and maturation of our community. In the midst of this economic slowdown, eyes have turned to the horizon for the next round of "legacy" projects which could define our economic success for many years to come.

Obviously, $25 billion is not easy to come by, but it is good news that there are already planners with vision of what we want our community to become instead of constantly managing what we already have. From a transportation and infrastructure perspective, it looks like there are some great ideas that could have a lasting impact.

The project that appears to have the most immediate potential would be the I-11 freeway from Phoenix to Las Vegas with connectivity to Salt Lake City and Denver. There are very few ways to get north/south in the mountainous southwest. Though growth has stalled, when it does recover, these cities will be at the forefront once again and these kinds of connections would be greatly beneficial.

The project with the greatest potential impact appears to be the inland port in Phoenix with a connection to a deep water port in Mexico. First, the article explains that the ports in Los Angeles and Long Beach are full. Why not allow Arizona to get in on the action? In addition, higher wage jobs at a port in Mexico could help spur opportunities which would potentially help reduce the flow of those fleaing north and entering Arizona illegally.

We're not sure that the high speed rail connections throughout the west would have the same immediate impact (when was the last time some one rode a train), but at least all options are being considered.

The question does remain, how do we find the money to match the vision?

How well do you know Mesa?

Missed this until now, but AZCentral has a fun little quiz about Mesa. We took the quiz, and we'll admit that we missed one about the year the Lehi school was built. Only missing one isn't bad!

Fun little factoids about the Cubs, the Bank of America building, and other Mesa spots. Try this quiz for yourself and find out: How well do you know Mesa?

Friday, September 10, 2010

Keep the Cubs launches website

From Keep the Cubs: Now Online

The online home of the campaign to Keep the Cubs in Mesa is now live on the internet at , the campaign announced today.

Mesa residents can follow developments in the push to approve Proposition 420 through the site’s sign-up feature that promises alerts on upcoming campaign events and breaking news.

Already, the site features information about a free youth baseball skills clinic hosted by Chicago Cubs Hall of Fame pitcher Fergie Jenkins for Mesa kids next Monday, Sept. 13 from 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. at Hohokam Park.

The campaign promises more Cubs-themed events where residents can meet Cubs legends and show their support for keeping the Cubs in Mesa for at least another 30 years.

Proposition 420 will be on the November 2nd ballot in Mesa.

Focusing on opportunity over real estate

The Republic has an insightful editorial today about the need to focus on attracting opportunity for its own sake instead of attracting it to fill empty land. Mesa recently launched healthcare and education studies to see how either could be used to fill site 17 in downtown. Ultimately, the results have shown that while Mesa may be able to attract opportunity, there is no guarantee that the downtown site would be the best fit.

They go on to say that focusing on real estate is not the "most effective strategies to woo high-wage jobs Mesa's way." While we agree, sometimes real estate will have to be a factor. Mesa has among the most creative reuses in the valley with Amazing Jakes, Mekong Plaza, and AZ Country USA to name a few.

These may not fit into the "high wage jobs" category, but they do show ways that creative thinking and real estate considerations go hand in hand in creating successful ventures. Thoughtful reuse and the creative incorporation of site 17 may still be in the future for healthcare and education opportunities. They key must be, like the editorial says, a focus on attracting the jobs, not just filling the space.

While their overall premise that Mesa's pursuits of healthcare and education should be more flexibile is spot on, we don't necessarily think that they give Mesa enough credit for being creative in its approach to challenges.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Largest decline in MPS history

Mesa Public Schools saw a sharp decline in enrollment - nearly 3 times what they expected. They have not yet released the school by school analysis, but one would suspect Arizona's immigration law along with the changes Mesa Public Schools made closing schools down and shifting focus of others has likely had an impact on the decline.

With 3,300 students fewer than expected, MPS will likely have to cut $16.5 million from its budget. Now, the question remains, with the falling enrollment, will even more schools be shut down?

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Finter saves life with CPR

Here is an amazing story of Councilman Alex Finter helping save a woman's life during a ride along. Finter, a former firefighter, jumped in and helped with CPR until the fire department arrived and took over.

Read the story for yourself and if you want, take the time to congratulate Councilman Finter yourself for a job well done.