Today’s post is by contributing writer Feliciano Vera:

I had never been to Portrero Hill.  The view to the east, across the Bay towards Oakland, was nothing short of breathtaking. Framed as it was by the deep inset windows and aromas of Plow, against a foreground of artisanal sausage, almond pancakes, hipsters and software developers, it almost made me cry.

And then Kelley interrupted my reverie: “So, when are you moving here?”

“Trust me.  This isn’t making my decision to stay any easier.” I responded. My son lives across the Bay in Oakland. With no girlfriend or wife, and nothing but work keeping me in Phoenix, I could easily move. My folks wouldn’t mind. San Francisco is closer than Cambridge ever was – or West Lebanon, New Hampshire, for that matter.

The question weighed on me.  This trip didn’t make it any easier.  I was in town trying to convince a number of old business associates that kooks really didn’t dominate Arizona. I was successful, mind you, but the only reason for that success is that my professional (and avocational) preoccupations were not anathema to them, as they seem to be here. But every step of the way, I was asked some version of Kelley’s question: When are you moving?  Why are you still in Arizona?  Are you crazy?

My internal rationalization has always been that Phoenix is a city in need of leadership.  Sure, I could go to San Francisco, or New York, Boston, or DC, make money and lead a comfortable life. But here I could make a difference. At least that is what I keep telling myself.  Especially on those 110+ degree days.

Then again, this place has its own ways of grinding you down. Many of the die hard fighters I know have left, tired of the insanity (yes, I am talking to you Jon and Annie). I can’t fault them. Really. Their decisions were probably sane when compared to the inertia of my own romance with Phoenix.

We are collectively looking over the precipice of the worst of summer. We no longer have the respite of the cool evening breezes of my youth, or the clockwork monsoon showers. We may well have cut down too many trees because they were too expensive to maintain, and we may have bladed too many acres of virgin desert to plant new subdivisions. In the process of carving out our own, personal, slice of the American dream, we seem to have forgotten our collective responsibility to each other is what has allowed Phoenix to survive summer’s hostility.

The aggregation of our work is what will allow us to transform this place.  Whether we are designers or developers, government officials or entrepreneurs, it is our responsibility to each other to cultivate, shape, and invest in the best talent and ideas that will allow us to survive.

Because that really is what this whole series of conversations on design, planning, development and sustainability is about.


It’s getting hotter by the minute.


The temperature as I write this is 109 degrees, and it is the beginning of June.  My internet connection is on the blink every five minutes because of the heat load.

If we don’t do something now, we’ll just continue to slow baste in our own insanity. And I for one, would rather slow roast a pernil and crack open a beer than cook myself in a Crock Pot of our stupidity.

Photo Credit: Photo from cognitivedistortion.com.

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6 Responses

  1. louise roman says:

    Years ago I scandalized a dinner party by proposing the ‘stay the F put program’. My point was that if we all ‘stayed put’ we would care a lot more about the places where we are put. This is hard to do when it is boiling outside and sirens of cooler climes call to us. But we need to take Feliciano’s challenge year round:’ Aggregation of our work is what will transform this place’. Let’s get on with it, in our small and large ways, individual actions, political actions. This is not a new conversation. Also years ago I recall a challenge put forward (I think by Lattie Coor) : Drop the summer night time temperature in Phoenix by 10 degrees in 10 years. Seems modest but there are a lot of moving parts to make this happen. Shall we start with SHADE ?

  2. Josh says:

    its that time of the year again!

    time to ponder the existential questions of life in Arizona.

    why are we here?

    why is so dern hot?

    why am I not in California?

    will it ever get better?

    If you’re anything like 95% of Phoenicians you are here because you wanted independence and freedom to do something that you probably forgot about in lieu of a complex of complaints and contingencies centered around Arizona not being California.

  3. Feliciano Vera says:


    Excellent suggestion that we resurrect Dr. Coor’s old challenge.


    Good, bad, or otherwise, I had no choice about the matter of my residency, given that I am a sixth generation Arizonan.

  4. Josh says:


    Why people come out here to live is all part of the mystery of Phoenix. Why did the native Americans come here? Why did the American settlers come here? Why is this place growing so quickly?

    All these material issues of livability can be solved- the real question is 1) should we solve them and 2) why? What makes this a place apart from LA, NYC or Denver?

    appreciating your blog btw…

    • Feliciano Vera says:

      Great questions, Josh.

      Among the best primers on Phoenix’s history are Jon Talton’s Phoenix 101 columns (http://roguecolumnist.typepad.com/rogue_columnist/phoenix-101).

      Your latter questions on livability are incredibly relevant and woefully absent from most contemporary public discourse, perhaps because they require a degree of self-examination and sustained thought that escapes the bulk of our leadership, elected or otherwise. But they strike to the core of any discussion of economic development, let alone sustainability.

      Unfortunately, many of our elected leaders (especially at the state level) seem to think that the sole reasons people come here are normative i.e., for low tax and regulatory burdens, and fail to offer a positive rationale for migration and investment in the state.

      Absent any real leadership, I would argue that it is incumbent upon us – especially those of us foolish enough to stick around during the summer – to offer such a positive rationale, or rationales for investment and migration. This is all the more important if we are to persist in our efforts to attract capital and talent capable of propelling us into a competitive position globally with first and second tier cities, rather than third-tier cities, as we have been wont to do since the mid-nineties.

      I stand by my observations in my prior columns: that is more than enough work to go around, and I certainly can’t do it on my own. However, I cannot content myself to lob beer cans onto the playing field, much as I might sublimate my competitive tendencies. So I have to settle on getting into the mix and working towards resolution of the very questions you raise.

      Suffice it to say I am glad you are not hesitant to remind me that we need to ask ourselves those kinds of questions regularly.

      Especially during the summer.


  5. Do you not feel like there’s a certain boiling beauty to the heat? Like it sterilizes and simplifies life. Only the strongest desert plants and animals and people survive and thrive here. And our tough, dangerous beauty is magnified against the desolate landscape.

    The summer is brutal, but there’s an element of pride involved in surviving it and our reward is the stunning winter.

    Or maybe it’s just me.

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