Letters

Letters from the week of November 13, 2003

Bright Lights, Big City

Cruise control: My blues band, the Loose Cannons Blues Band, plays quite often at Monroe's (3 West Monroe), and the rockabilly band I play in, the Haymakers, performs at Big Al's (710 South Central) quite often as well. These are restaurants and/or bars that you don't mention ("Sorry, We're Closed," Paul Kix, November 6). Séamus McCaffrey's also has live music downtown, as do a number of venues. Why don't you mention them?

We have been getting fairly good crowds. There could be more help from the city (which is your point), but this mantra that "there's nothing downtown" is a real buzz kill. I think it really chases people away.

Another factor you don't mention is that there used to be thousands of people in downtown Phoenix before they banned cruising. I'd like to see them bring that back. It was great until it got out of hand because it became so popular. There are a lot of classic car clubs that have "cruise" nights all over Phoenix and the Valley that are very successful. Why can't we do that in downtown Phoenix? Because everyone's afraid of the anti-cruise ban attitude that came around during the mid-'80s.

Please continue to point out the opportunities to have a good time in downtown Phoenix as well as the improvements you can obviously see are needed.

James Bailey
Phoenix

Creative class act: I left the New Times-sponsored lecture by Richard Florida at the Orpheum Theatre on October 21 feeling both energized and overwhelmed. I had no idea how I personally could move forward the ideas presented. What happened on the way to my car, however, got me thinking.

About 1,300 members of the Valley's creative class had just surrounded me in the Orpheum Theatre; yet, one block south, I felt like Tom Cruise walking through an eerily vacant Times Square in Vanilla Sky. One of the benefits of our city is that there is usually a free parking spot if you are willing to walk a few blocks.

I hadn't had time to eat before the lecture, and as I walked through the surreally deserted city, I realized I was hungry. I passed three open but empty restaurants and decided to stop and eat at one. I sat, talked with the manager, and ate my dinner. No one from the Valley's creative class came in. However, in that time, a group of six out-of-towners entered. They were here for a convention, looking for a strip club. In that moment, I realized that my acts of walking, eating and conversing were political acts.

If we want to create a vibrant, energetic, living downtown, if we want to create an authentic Valley culture, then we must engage in political consumerism. Political consumerism means investing time, money and energy toward actively promoting positive change. For now, Valley residents who want to foster a creative culture must first support the small, independent businesses that are unique to Phoenix, and go to national chains as a last resort. This can take more time, cost more money and be less convenient. But creating a stimulating, vibrant culture is not about convenience. Convenience means going to the mall on a Friday night and participating in generically cloned consumerism. Seeking out and supporting independent businesses and restaurants is about using our consumer power to help support a creative culture unique to the Valley.

We're Americans, and we buy stuff, lots of stuff. Valley consumers who consider themselves the creative class must develop a political awareness to consciously go buy the stuff that supports the creative, independent retailers. This might mean going to an independently owned store even if it's out of the way. It might mean not getting 30 percent off best sellers from the generic chain store. We must remind ourselves that, in the end, 30 percent off is meant to kill the competition, and the competition is the independent shop owner. It also means if the independent retailer does not have what we want, because they cannot afford to have a large back stock, we need to order it from them and wait. Instead of cruising Ray Road for large chain restaurants, we need to find independent restaurants we like, go back on a regular basis, and tell our friends to go.

Thirteen hundred of us drove into the city to hear a free lecture about fostering and supporting a creative culture. Then, everyone got back in their cars and left. Imagine if all 1,300 of us had taken the time to walk downtown that night in order to find a local restaurant, bar or coffee shop, then ate dinner, had a drink and talked.

Dan Hull
Phoenix

Florida key: Thank you for your review of Richard Florida's visit to downtown Phoenix ("Speech Therapy," Michele Laudig, October 30). I have read the last few articles in New Times about downtown (re)development and was interested to hear about Mr. Florida's visit.

I have worked downtown at Majerle's for the past three-plus years. I started out as a doorman, and am currently a manager and bartender. Over the past three years, I have become intimately acquainted with the many facets of downtown life and nightlife. I agree wholeheartedly that downtown Phoenix needs direction and leadership to become the flourishing and vibrant downtown that Mr. Florida (and myself!) believe that it can be.

Let me digress a bit. I have lived in Arizona since 1981. I have experienced firsthand the "commuter" lifestyle that is so prevalent in the Valley. But because of my experiences downtown over the last three years, I believe that downtown Phoenix, through baby steps, is headed in the right direction! While I cannot speak for other venues, I can say without a doubt that Majerle's is open seven days a week, from 11 a.m. to 1 a.m. We have grown -- just like downtown Phoenix -- over the past 11 years. We are not going away! (In fact, I guarantee that Mr. Florida could have had a memorable dining experience at Majerle's on the night in question -- even after 9 p.m.!) Downtown Phoenix is attracting people with vision and with expectations. The problem for those of us who spend a majority of our time downtown is that, from the outside, the rest of the people in the Valley of the Sun may feel like it is not happening fast enough.

This brings me to another point. There is zero affordable housing in downtown Phoenix! Lofts that are listed in the mid-150,000s. "Free three months rent" is actually prorated over the course of a 15-month lease at some apartment complexes. And the buzz word of the mid- to late 1990s is still apparent: gentrification. How many vacant, semi-historic homes sit boarded up and abandoned for months and years just waiting for the adjacent land to be bought and redeveloped into another high-rise that holds 2,000 people who live in Gilbert?

I applaud New Times for keeping people aware of a myriad of issues -- downtown Phoenix among them. While I do not always agree with what is written or the opinions expressed therein, I cannot thank you enough for doing what all "news" publications should do: keep us thinking and talking!

Andrew Voeltz
Phoenix

The shadow government knows: My thanks to John Dougherty and New Times for their courageous exposé of what appears to be public corruption at the highest level of city and county government ("Jerry's World," October 16). In cooperation with 501(c)3 public trusts, organized for the public benefit and private, for-profit interests, which are both one and the same, "the shadow government," as stated by Angelos Peter Romas, appears to have diverted billions of public tax dollars for stadiums, a theater, exclusive non-compete/no-bid contracts and, most recently, the $15 million purchase of property, supported by the threat of condemnation and eminent domain.

When the boundaries between the state and public and private interests are blurred through an intimacy of interaction and intent, yielding massive public investment in private enterprise, it is the responsibility of governmental authorities and agencies to hold the public officeholders, the officers and directors and the corporate vehicles they control, accountable to both the taxpayers and voters. We can demand nothing less than honest stewardship.

Rick Handel
Phoenix

You can't go home again: This is in response to Jim Sparks' letter (October 23) accusing people who have moved here from other cities of wanting to change Phoenix to be like the city they left. Actually, Jim, we don't want to change Phoenix into the cities we left, we want to change Phoenix into a city.

Liz Novak
Via e-mail

For Kids' Sake

Redact this: As a former caseworker at Child Protective Services, I say your column is absolutely right on the money ("Redact Attack," Robert Nelson, November 6). Rick Romley seems to be the only person who knows what needs to be done to reform this seriously flawed agency.

The family preservationist/social worker mentalities have dominated CPS far too long. Family preservation is a social experiment gone askew. The morons who wrote the present laws governing CPS were only echoing a social experimental agenda in calling for family preservation over protecting a child. Family preservation concepts have no provision to make parents responsible for their actions, and children were placed in jeopardy time and time again because the parents weren't made to correct their ills and show significant progress.

I'm all for Romley's plan.

Name withheld by request

Doing Time

Taking a stand: An excellent article by Robert Nelson on Arizona's prison system in crisis ("Clink!" October 23)! Thank you. The public needs this kind of reporting. Alas, sometimes the big media are scared to take a stand (like calling for an outright end to the failed drug war) for fear of losing ad revenue; and the politicians not only fear losing votes but their empowerment over the masses.

Roma Thomas
Sun City West

In Harm's Way

Living dangerously: It's very much true that the system does not work. Why would Union Pacific still even have Michael Coleman working there after he killed Charles Conway ("Throttled," Patti Epler, October 16)? They must be nuts! Or just very stupid for putting other people in danger. And what I also don't understand is why they would hire some guy who doesn't have the right specifications for being a train engineer. I don't see how not being able to see clearly is being discriminated against, when clearly you need perfect vision for the job. And while giving this killer $400,000 to drop his case for a job he couldn't even do right, he still has the same job as before. Why wasn't he convicted for killing that guy? Obviously they don't care if he does it again.

Name withheld by request

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