I had dinner last night with a friend from Phoenix. It was a beautiful night in downtown Seattle and our table had a great view of Elliott Bay with the ferries coming and going. But the news from home was uniformly bleak, from the ongoing housing depression to the normality of crazy politics. Neither of us think there's a chance that the odious Russell Pearce will be recalled. It makes me wonder for the thousandth time: Why did the East Valley get stuck with the nihilist Mormons? By contrast, Salt Lake just opened yet another light-rail line, along with its commuter rail service. None of that would have happened without support from the church.
A story in the paper about the real-estate situation quoted Elliott Pollack as an authoritative "Arizona economist." Pollack is a developer and a relentless shill for the Real Estate Industrial Complex. He's a pleasant guy and our relations were cordial. But why does he have any cred left, having completely missed or dismissed the state and metro's dangerous dependency on housing and usually sugar-coating the reality after things blew up. Must be a nice gig. As is the case in so much of America, there's no price to be paid, no accountability, as long as you hang with the right crowd and stay on message. And to be fair, this blindness/denial was true of all the "experts" as Arizona ran up to the edge and jumped off.
But everything's really fine, right? We just need more optimism. The boosters are still promoting the so-called Sun Corridor, a "megapolitan" area stretching from Tucson to Prescott and containing 10 million people, or 9 million, or 8 million by 2030 or 2040. Whatever. It's going to be big, and essentially the model that propelled Phoenix during the age of cheap gas and abundant water can go on for ever. The only concession by the boosters now seems to be that this thing will bring in a few less people.
Occasionally reality intrudes, such as a recent presentation about the state's dismal performance in the world economy. Well, duh. Measures such as SB 1070 don't help. But the state has never had a strategy to lure foreign direct investment, create an export-based economy or play off its relative closeness to the ports of LA/Long Beach in the logistics field. Sunshine is enough, right? Maybe if the state had one-quarter of its present unsustainable population. Of course when it, did Arizona actually exported things, from copper to produce and electronics. Were it not for Intel, the state wouldn't have anything to contribute to the world economy aside from being a holding pen for "I got mine" sociopaths from the Midwest.
Speaking of which, somebody told me that Wal-Mart CEO Mike Duke has a "home" in north Scottsdale. Of course, he gives nothing to the local arts or for civic betterment. As Arizona's largest employer, Wally is a huge contributor to the AHCCCS rolls, as it is to Medicaid everywhere. Economic freedom! Down with government! Hands off the job creators! Oh, wait... Anyway, it would be interesting to know how many of the 1 percent have one of their twelve or twenty "homes" in "the Valley." And then to catalog the shameful lack of civic engagement, besides helping fund the likes of the "Goldwater" Institute and assorted right-ring causes.
In a similar vein, John Sperling turned 90 and received a, let us say flattering, piece in the newspaper. Little was said about Apollo and the University of Phoenix's troubles with regulators and others, or the poisonous and costly legacy of the "for-profit university" that Sperling pioneered. Again, feeding at the taxpayers' trough while denouncing "Big Government." As bad, the man is one of the richest in America and what has he done to help the namesake city of his "university" racket? Even the headquarters was built in an industrial area south of the Salt River instead of downtown. What a contrast with Bill Gates and Paul Allen, and what they have done for Seattle.
Occupy North Scottsdale!