January 02, 2011

New Year’s Resolutions for a Better Community

by: Jim McPherson


Today’s post is by Jim McPherson, a follow up to his guest post last week.  He helps us kick off the new year with some resolutions on how to improve Phoenix and concrete steps on how to get started.  Thanks Jim!…

Happy New Year! Here in Phoenix, the sun is out, the sky is clear, and there’s a slight chill in the air.  Not bad, not bad at all.  It’s also that time of the year to resolve to improve upon the previous year.  It’s time to look forward and to move forward.

Last week in my post, “Yes Virginia, there is community in Phoenix,” I listed 94 “fine grain” placemaking projects carried out each and every day by people who care deeply about our community and work hard to improve it.  What the list didn’t include — which would fill up pages more — was the work of hundreds, probably even thousands, of volunteers at our local arts and cultural groups, neighborhood associations, and block watches.  Volunteers who organize our parades, festivals, school functions, and so much more…

RESOLUTION #1: ENGAGE. If you are volunteering, thank you and keep it up!  If you aren’t volunteering, consider doing so.  Click on a project of interest, learn more about it, make contact, and ENGAGE!

RESOLUTION #2: TAKE ACTION. A bit of background on this one…

Some time ago, the organizers of Radiate Phoenix held their monthly gathering under the stars at Local Breeze.  The theme, sure to bring out a big crowd, was “What’s wrong with downtown Phoenix?”  Grievances were aired vociferously by the event’s moderator with some audience “give and take” thereafter.

With friends and business associates, you’ve probably discussed the problems raised before (and after) this particular Radiate Phoenix.  Improvements have been made on some.  Others continue to languish. People itch to see progress.

One takeaway I got from the Local Breeze gathering was, “Can we put down on paper what the specific problems are and who is in a position of influence to resolve them?”  Hmmm, is that one takeaway or two?

I went into list-making mode — which I have a tendency to do… remember my list of 94? — and came up with the following “guide.”  It summarizes a host (but not all, I’m certain) of neighborhood-community-downtown issues of which we’ve expressed concern, along with the “right” city department and/or non-profit group that’s involved in maintaining or improving the matter in question.

So here’s where you come in. What’s your gripe?  What riles you?  Review the list below, find your “hot topic,” and look to the right to see who is doing what.  Click on the link, learn more about it, make contact, and TAKE ACTION!  Whatever you do professionally, whatever interests you personally, you can help effect change.

Granted one phone call, e-mail, or face-to-face meeting won’t solve the issue immediately, but by expressing your interest and willingness to get involved, you’re helping to “chip away” at the impediments. The contacts I’ve listed for several of the items are good starting points (and good people!) to begin a dialogue and to move things forward.

Another caveat: this list focuses on downtown Phoenix [for those in certain suburbs, play GASP sound here]. BUT if you live or work outside of downtown Phoenix, you’re certainly welcome to use this list as a baseline to create your own list for your own council district or city outside of Phoenix. As a board member of several statewide organizations, I would welcome a compilation of such information for other communities outside of the 600-pound gorilla smack dab in the middle of Maricopa County (and you know who you are)! 😉

As for any directory, things change.  If you see additions or corrections to be made to this list, send me an e-mail. I’ll be happy to modify the list!  Downtown Voices Coalition, with the help of nearly 100 community members, updated its Top 10 priority issues.  The list is worth reviewing and acting upon as well.


Arts and Culture







Is downtown OVUH or just getting (re)started?  You can help determine which way things go, and the best time to engage and take action is now.

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5 Responses

  1. Will Novak says:

    Jim, I’m quite sure you’re not told enough, but thanks for all you do for Downtown and the City in general; you’re awesome!

    Two things that come to mind for me would be:

    1. Lack of commuter and intercity (Amtrak) service, and by extension, the sorry state Union Station is in. I guess MAG would be the ones to contact as I know they’re looking into Commuter Rail… I’m not sure who owns Union Station (the city? state? county?). I’m pretty sure Sprint or someone is leasing it and has it full of telephone equipment.

    2. Lack of a bike sharing system. DC, Minneapolis, Denver, Chicago, Pullman, Irvine, Des Moines, and soon NYC & Boston all have them, why don’t we? I’d LOVE a B Cycle system in Phoenix. Something that starts in Downtown/in Central PHX and has stations at all the LRT stops and possibly another grouping of stations at ASU/Downtown Tempe.

    I guess Joseph Perez w/Streets would be the guy to talk to since he’s the Bike Coordinator. But really B Cycle is a private company, so it’s more about contacting them.

    In fact I HIGHLY recommend everyone go to B Cycle’s website and enter either the 85003 or 85004 zip codes in the section labeled “Vote to Get B Cycle In Your City:” http://www.bcycle.com/

    That’s the sort of thing we can all be doing, and quite easily, that would greatly improve Phoenix.

  2. Chris says:

    Why hasn’t Phoenix considered an urban growth boundary?

  3. Tyler Hurst says:

    Chris –

    No one gets paid if they’re not selling property. For that to happen, they must keep building out.

    High-density lots benefit the building, not the lot, owner.

  4. Nick says:

    I’ll second Will’s “thanks for all you do” comment.

    I hope people take advantage of all of the work you have done in compiling this list.

    As for the building “out” questions, I happen to think the market can and is taking care of some of this.

    As positive things continue to happen downtown, growth will naturally occur. Lists like this, discussions like those at Local Breeze and combinations of people making a difference will continue to build a more vibrant downtown.

    Some people want the burbs and to be able to drive 2 hours to work. That doesn’t bother me. The trends are clear, there is a shift in urban renewal all across the country. Personally, I enjoy having this opportunity to watch, and in a small way participate, downtown Phoenix grow into more of a “real city.”

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