I arrived back in Phoenix to find the local newspaper editorializing, "Now is the time to invent a new Arizona." I thought the "new Arizona" was what came together to put St. Janet in power and had since been cleansed from the capitol by the Kookocracy. Anyway, on a Page One snippet (the highly formatted "product" is full of "snippets") we read, "Arizona stands on the threshold of a shimmering future...This place is redolent of change — Arizona is primed for progress." While it talks of "lift(ing) off the dead weight of the Great Recession and ... start(ing) now to ambitiously reinvent our state," the overall tone of the package is very cheerleader-y. No edge. Kid gloves. The reliable developer-economist Elliott Pollack is quoted. Gov. Jan Brewer is given a column. The status quo smiles. Everything's fine.
No disrespect. The people that remain there are nice folks doing the best they can within the constraints of the huge corporate owner, right-wing extremists and Real Estate Industrial Complex. But the Arizona Republic under Sue Clark-Johnson had a few years of sterner stuff, when I and others wrote seriously about the state's opportunities — and the challenges it would take to achieve them. We had a few successes: ASU downtown, the Phoenix Convention Center, T-Gen, Science Foundation Arizona, all-day kindergarten and light rail (WBIYB). But the moment was fleeting, the opposition ferocious and the real progress was stymied or rolled back. It has been a decade since Mary Jo Waits of a more muscular Morrison Institute wrote the Five Shoes Waiting to Drop report. While it helped spur some action back then, the rise of the Kookocracy stopped it. All shoes dropped. As Waits repeatedly warned, "Arizona will become the Appalachia of the 21st century."
Back in the 1980s, when the Republic was independent, publisher Pat Murphy led similar efforts to get the city and state's attention. Powerful civic leaders — and Phoenix once had them — used the 1990-91 crash to form a new economic strategy and go after high-wage clusters. In every case, the growth machine overwhelmed reform. Why should the Great Recession, which hit Phoenix worse than most places, be any different. But my intention today is a deeper examination of where the state and metro actually stand.