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January 09, 2009

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Excellent column, as always.

It's nearly a perfect storm - a national depression, a low-wage service economy, and falling home values. True, oil prices continues to fall but predictions are rife for a resurgence. At some point, the confidence game that is metro Phoenix crashes.

20 years ago, we were going through another bust (mostly fallout from the S&L debacle). RTC was auctioning off thousands of houses, prices were declining, and a recession was underway. Yet to look back at Phoenix is to see a different city. Motorola was still the largest employer (now it's Wal-mart), the central city had plenty of retail (Park Central looked strong and Chris-Town was still middle-class), and the cancer of exurban planned communities hadn't quite metastasized. Downtown, Arizona Center was being planned and the Mercado had some interesting retailers. The Arizona Republic was necessary unlike today. There was even a burgeoning art scene on Jackson Street.

It's not that Phoenix hasn't met some challenges or excited hope. It's more that the center just began drying up at a crucial juncture. So when the power vacuum downtown was filled with sports moguls and government bureaucrats, it was probably inevitable that Scottsdale and Tempe would emerge as new satellite centers. Now even Glendale can stake its claim.

Today, metro Phoenix is a jellyfish with no central nervous system or directional capacity (the Janet Echleman art installation downtown will be nicknamed aptly). State government reflects the diffusion of interests and power. We will "manage the damage", as Jesse Jackson used to say, but we won't fix or cure anything. And it all happened so fast. For individuals, that's chastening. For a city, it's stunning.

Quote from ASU's President Crow Re: draconian cuts proposed to Arizona's state university budgets: "There needs to be a thoughtful and public discussion of the options. Otherwise, the Arizona of the future may more closely resemble a far-off Third World country than nearby states such as Colorado and Texas.”
http://asunews.asu.edu/20090115_proposedbudgetcuts

Thank you for this thought-provoking and interesting piece, Mr. Talton. So often, my visits to Rogue Columnist are stimulating and illuminating.

"Another crisis is the lack of a real economy in metro Phoenix."

I couldn't agree more about this. I think that some progress is being made to explore additional economies. I know that many are working hard on getting the technology economy moving.

"Unfortunately metro Phoenix is saddled with sprawl barons who won't give back to the community."

This too is sadly true, in fact, it might be our ultimate demise.

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