A Capitol Idea

Phoenix Community Alliance's new plan for the Capitol Mall sends the homeless scrambling while the city looks the other way

He and others point out that some of the questions being raised by the PCA about the concentration of social services in the Capitol Mall will require some government answers.

City Councilman Phil Gordon says, "One of the problems--and I'll take some of the blame--is that there really isn't a big advocate up here for the homeless. There just isn't a champion."

Gordon acknowledges that conditions may change as more homeless people are pushed out of the downtown area into other parts of the city.

"What I see happening there is the homeless populations and problems are just being pushed north into my district. That sounds parochial. But you ask anyone--the police or Neighborhood Services--and they're moving north."

Gordon says the past year has brought a growing number of homeless people into Encanto Park and farther north to Sunnyslope.

"No one is looking at this in a holistic manner," Gordon says. "It's basic physics. If you push somewhere, it's got to go somewhere else."

Gordon and Councilman Lingner say the City Council has had limited involvement in Capitol Mall discussions and that the PCA is leading the effort.

Councilman Cody Williams, whose district contains the Capitol Mall area, sees the PCA as the "visible mouthpiece" for the issue--"a necessary catalyst."

He adds, "I'm not sure that what's being discussed or portrayed now will be the thing that becomes the final strategy and action plan. They represent sort of the extreme position, which is a position I've often found leads to a good compromise."

For the time being, the mayor is deferring to the PCA:
"Our job is a support role for the PCA," Rimsza says. "Our job is to not be a leader in this. The PCA has been the right leader because it's been able to pull the state, the city, the service organizations, the private sector folks together. It's like downtown. The city's taken a big role downtown. But I wouldn't call us the leader. I think that the downtown alliance is the leader."

This isn't news to the players struggling to solve the homeless dilemma in the Capitol Mall. Yet developers and homeless advocates alike agree that successful revitalization--one that includes all the current residents of the area--will ultimately demand leadership from more than just the PCA.

Contact Edward Lebow at his online address: elebow@newtimes.com

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