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June 25, 2009

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Brilliant post.

As Kenneth Boulding put it, nothing fails like success. We can't learn anything from it. Therein lies the political nature of economies incapable of modifying themselves. Other places could challenge themselves with investments in education, high-tech, and research. Phoenix didn't have to.

The problem compounded itself once the (non)strategy was established. A Frank Fairbanks could effectively manage a large bureaucracy in a growing city with growing tax receipts. Now, his successor will be forced to manage a city with shrinking revenue and much smaller population growth.

I'm not sure we should be surprised or even upset. If our national elite couldn't see the problem with a housing and credit bubble, could some relatively obscure bureaucrat foresee the looming pitfalls in a perpetually booming megapolis?

Even today, denial is everywhere, both nationally and locally. We can't imagine a future that looks significantly different than the past although virtually every signpost is warning us of that fact. We will learn the hard way, and then only fitfully.

The Waxman-Markey bill is up for a vote today. Even if it passes, it's been so watered down that it barely makes any headway in reducing our greenhouse gases emissions. Meanwhile, the denialists on the right have effectively captured conventional wisdom on the issue. You will see little if any alarm in the MSM about the escapism at the core of our Michael-Jackson obsessed society.

Jon: If by "the state's biggest endowment" you mean the Piper Trust, the Trust moved its offices from tony Scottsdale to Phoenix last year (12th Street & Missouri): http://www.pipertrust.org/aboutus/contact.aspx.

That's the small point. On the larger one, I'm not sure it's fair to blame Fairbanks, as city manager, for a lack of vision and consensus on the City Council. And that's what did in Sheryl Sculley, not lack of support from Fairbanks, but rather lack of support from the Council. (And it's not as if her move to San Antonio was smoothed by their council's own in-house politics.)

Given the examples of Science Foundation Arizona and President Crow, you can battle the right-wing establishment with success for a while, but eventually you get slapped down. Keeping your head down, trying not to draw their attention, and doing the best job you can (and saving the outrage for when it's truly needed, knowing you have only one shot) might be the best strategy available. Tortoise vs. hare, if you will.

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