December 31, 2012

A Year of Profound Change Leads to a Big Move

by: Taz Loomans


2012 has been a year of profound change for me. I went through a divorce after being married for seven years. If you’ve ever been through a divorce, you know that it feels like the rug (actually, it feels more like the entire ground you walk on) has been pulled out from under you. Nothing looks or feels quite the same. Your old assumptions and your old paradigms don’t make sense anymore and you’re left with a blank canvas (whether you want one or not) on which you must build a new life with new assumptions and new paradigms.

During this emotionally turbulent year, I have had the privilege to travel quite a bit. In fact, as I write this, I am in the Bay Area on a new years trip. I visited some world class cities this year such as Barcelona, Chicago, Portland, New York and now San Francisco.

These trips have also changed me and the way I look at the world. Whereas before I was happy to help build Phoenix into a world-class city, I now want to find out what it feels like to live in a world-class city. Before, I wanted to help bring bike lanes, urban gardens, community and walkability to Phoenix. Now I want to live a life where those things are a part of the culture and are woven into the fabric of the city. In my travels, particularly this year, I’ve found that there are quite a few places in the country, and no doubt in the world, where this is true.

In the perfect storm of my travels combined with a fresh perspective and the fact that nothing appears the same as it did a year ago, I’ve decided to move to Portland, Oregon. According to Yes Magazine, Portland is “America’s most livable city, a hotbed for innovative ways to support green policies, public spaces, pedestrian amenities, transit, and, of course, bicycles.” In short, it has almost everything I’m looking for in a city (though unfortunately, it lacks sorely in ethnic diversity).

As you can see, I’m moving not so much because I’ve lost faith in Phoenix, but rather because different things are important to me as I go through a personal evolution. But this isn’t to say that my move and the move of other people like me shouldn’t be concerning to those who are working to make Phoenix a better place, including both its leadership and grassroots activists. Phoenix is a great place to build from the ground up, things like actual buildings, your career, a better city and movements towards socially equitable and sustainable development. But it’s still a tough place to build on previous progress and get to the next level. The city’s penchant to tear down old buildings and build new ones in their place is a perfect metaphor to how Phoenix always seems to be starting from scratch (apropos, perhaps, because of it’s name), and just can’t seem to build enough sustained momentum to become a world class city.

Sure, Phoenix is a young city and can’t be expected to be at the same level as the cities I visited this year. Moreover, it’s a young city that grew up in an era where the car was king and the suburbs were the most coveted places to live. Regardless of the reasons, however, there is a sea change towards more dense, community-oriented, walkable and bike-able lifestyles, and Phoenix is woefully behind in offering this option to people who want it. Can Phoenix change in significant ways that would be recognized not only by the city’s boosters but also by people who don’t live here? Can Phoenix mature into a city worth moving to and worth staying in, in a global economy? These questions are still up in the air, if you ask me, but that’s good and bad. It means there’s plenty of room for hope, but none for complacency.

Though I have my gripes with Phoenix, don’t think I don’t love it. I consider it my hometown, even though I wasn’t born here. It holds a very special place in my heart and I will miss it terribly. There are lots of things I love about Phoenix, but the very best thing I have found over the 22 years I’ve lived here is its people. Ever since I became a part of the tight-knit urban community of Phoenix, I’ve found my second family. I will miss this community of smart, creative, hardworking and caring people the most when I leave. I will be writing more about this in upcoming posts. Meanwhile, have a very happy new year!!!

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19 Responses

  1. Haley Ritter says:

    Phoenix will surely miss you, Taz!! And so will I! But I assure you that I will continue to keep pushing and fighting to retrofit all the streets in this city with safe, reliable bike lanes for all of us!!!!! Thanks for being such an inspiration to me and everyone invested in this type of sustainable transportation and future for Phoenix!!!!!!! Good luck with your move and your new life in Portland!

  2. Greg says:

    Taz, Your second family is with you wherever you go in the world. Happy New Year from downtown New Orleans!!!

  3. Brenda says:

    Here’s to your new adventure, Taz! You have made me love Phoenix in a way I never thought to before I met you. You’ve made me think about it very differently than I did a year or two ago. Now all us Phoenix people have someone to visit in Portland 😉

  4. Taz, congrats on a bold move. I can’t wait to welcome you to the Pacific NW. While Portland seems to have it all figured out, it doesn’t. Not yet. Don’t get me wrong…I do LOVE it here in the PNW. But there are still areas that need attention and advocacy, such as historic preservation. Can’t wait to see what you do with all your creative energy here. You up for our next coffee date? It’s been too long 🙂 Stumptown and Barista in PDX await!

  5. Kerry says:

    I don’t think there is any shame in moving to a different place where life will be easier for you. I moved to Phoenix from Cleveland, where people martyr themselves for their “love” for a city that doesn’t provide decent jobs, housing or opportunities. Good luck, Taz! Don’t get too down in the rainy NW!

  6. Anon says:

    Your notion that “Portland is for quitters” became a sort of mantra for me over the course of last year. It served as a challenge that Phoenix, no matter what, should not be neglected for the sake of other cities that have fared better, despite my impulses to abandon it at the soonest opportunity.

    I feel that your recent decision completely betrays this. Phoenix will fare no better given the absence of people like you who both grasp the challenges of life here and possess the optimism necessary to communicate them to a wider audience. I can’t help but think of your loss as another classic example of the “brain drain” effect that has always, and will likely continue, to plague Phoenix, and I wonder if it will ever truly go away.

    • Tyler Hurst says:

      Wait wait…Portland is for quitters?

      And no, people will continue to leave Phoenix because there are better places to live. Why is this so hard for people to accept?

  7. Janet says:

    Hey Taz so sorry to hear of the difficult transition in your life. You have a friend in me to listen. I do understand how difficult this is. Thank you for the influence and wisdom you’ve provided. We’ll keep working towards a better Phoenix. We do want it.

  8. Before you go, please give me a list of your favorite (or any) ethnic restaurants especially middle eastern. Also, a specific list of what I can do so that in twenty or thirty years you will return.

  9. olllllo says:

    I’m sad to see you leave. I wish you all the happiness in the world.

  10. Anne Hawley says:

    Welcome to Stumptown, Taz. As a Portland native (from way back in 1955), I keep hoping that the frankly amazing changes in the character of my hometown will attract a more diverse population. As I’m sure you know, there are deep historical roots–fairly toxic ones–that have made shifting the ethnic balance here slow and hard. Come and help us change!

    PS: you do know about the rain, right? 😀

  11. This development is disappointing but not at all surprising given your recent love letters to Portland and the increasingly critical tone you’ve taken toward Phoenix. I’ve wondered since reading this what my response might be and then from out of the blue, Jarrett Walker’s “Human Transit” blog just provided it for me:

    In other words, every city is a work in progress. If you’ll be happier in Portland, by all means move there. I wish you well in your new home. Nevertheless, there’s work to be done there in more respects than just diversity. I hope you’ll focus this blog and your other activities on improving Portland and let those of us who prefer Phoenix move our city forward without the undue criticism inflicted by some of our city’s expatriates now residing in the Pacific Northwest.

  12. pal L says:

    Good luck Taz! Be sure to go to VooDoo donuts! Portland IS a wonderful city! I live in Seattle, and love to visit Phoenix. For my part, I think Phoenix is underapprecated. There is a lot of vitality in and near downtown. Phoenix will never be a west coast city-nor should it be! The desert has its own beauty!

  13. Monna says:

    Taz, you have made such great contributions to how Rob and I view Phoenix and have offered a bold vision of what we can be here.

    Your leaving isn’t “quitting”. We all have different needs at different times in our lives. Portland sounds like a fun, new adventure. Go! Find what you’re looking for there. We will always have a place for you.

    I’ll miss our chats. You are a rare woman!

  14. Becky eden says:

    Wow Taz I wish I had had the chance to get to know you better! I’ll miss you!!

  15. Lyssa says:

    Taz, good luck on your new chapter. I’m sorry to see you go, I really appreciated your truthful opportunism. Phoenix needs more people like you. It is amazing how many smart, talented young people are leaving this city…please drop a line when you come back to visit.

    Take care and enjoy Portland!

  16. Tim Owens says:

    Taz… we are kindred souls, as my wife of 19 years decided to pull the plug on our marriage just months ago. I am in that space you are experiencing and trying hard to look upon the future with confidence and optimism, leaving behind and looking forward to new beginnings. I truly wish you every blessing you could want in your new life and know that if you keep your eyes focused forward you will make a wonderful transition and personally grow from this experience. Even though we haven’t spent much time together over the last several years, I do remember and appreciate your tutelage and help with Twitter. You will be missed by many, I know that, I am one of those folks as well. God’s Blessings on you Taz and your move to Portland. One of my current partners lives in Portland by the name of David Barchini. If you would like his contact info, let me know, and I will forward it to you for follow-up. He is a great guy and would welcome your approach if you decide to reach out to him!! God’s Speed Taz ! Tim

  17. Lisa Parks says:

    This is the perfect time in your life to try out a different city and I wish you so much happiness as you begin your new adventure! You’ve inspired me to ride a bike and you’ve changed my view of Phoenix in a very positive way. I just wanted to say thank you.

  18. Ryan Glass says:

    I’m terribly late to the party, but congrats on your big move. Thanks for the great opportunities and encouragement you always provided me. I look forward to reading your honest take on the transplant process and hopefully we can grab coffee and a donut when I make it up to PDX.

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