Feedback from the Issue of Thursday, October 29, 2009

TOWERING MESS

Ain't it just perfect?: Ray Stern's piece on the Centerpoint Condominiums debacle got at the heart of the greed and hubris of the development boom, not only in metro Phoenix but in other Sun Belt cities.

First, the developers were proposing four towers! What were they smokin'?! Two towers was a colossal stretch, even in the booming economy of 2005, when the project broke ground.

Then, throw in Scott Coles and his Mortgages Ltd., with its unscrupulous practices, and you've got a colossal mess — one that cost Coles' investors their life savings, in some cases, and cost scads of condo buyers their earnest money.

And ain't it just perfect that the two most beautiful high-rises in the Phoenix area (from a distance), buildings that tower above Tempe's landscape, are nothing but empty shells that may someday be imploded?
John Cooper, Phoenix

Coles' grim legacy lives on: Scott Coles reaches out from the grave like some Halloween monster. There are plenty of people he scammed who would like to kill him, if he weren't already dead.

Interesting that the Tempe "twin towers" deal was the thousandth cut to Coles (with his trophy wife leaving him being the 999th).
Ed Stein, Phoenix

Tempe is a hunk of Swiss cheese: Thank you, New Times, for writing about this issue again. Being directly affected by the development in 2005, I have been talking about this BS for years.

Downtown Tempe is now a big hunk of Swiss cheese. I, personally, will be holding a demolition party on the day they push the button.
Jessica Jordan, Tempe

We're with you, Al: What I'm wondering is why anybody in their right mind would invest their savings in something called Radical Bunny? You've got to think from the get-go that this thing would go bad.
Al Hodges, Tempe

Living in the wasteland: Hey, we all know the Valley is just one more high-rise/mall/rail scam away from perfection, right?

The denouement will be people flocking from the East and the South to live in a "world class" place. Then they can all sit around in the blast-furnace heat and say, "Gee, isn't this overcrowded, overdeveloped place great?"

After all these years, how can rapacious developers still sucker so many people? After they get their buck, they're gone, and little people like us [are left to] live in the urban wasteland.
Chris Long, via the Internet

ALEX'S STORY

Hats off to the Varlottas: My heart goes out to Niki Varlotta and her family. It is truly sad when a family is destroyed because a child has mental issues. And it is even sadder when you live in a state like Arizona that has little compassion for such children and now is in an economic crisis.

The story of this family's struggles with Alex was heartrending. Any parent can understand the grief these parents felt at having to leave their son in a treatment facility in a far-away state.

I don't think I could be as strong as Niki Varlotta has been. My hat is off to her.
Betsy Mathis, Phoenix

No easy solution: This is such a sad story. A parent having to call the police on her own child is almost unthinkable, except if Niki Varlotta hadn't done this, there could have been tragic consequences. She had another child to consider.

Yet I understand how expensive this kind of care is. What happens when the judge continues to order the state to pay, and there's no more money in the public coffers?
Jim Kirkland, address withheld

What's your point, Charlie?: Honor thy father and thy mother. Eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth. Survival of the fittest left to take the land.
Charlie Sutter, Phoenix

 
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Emil Pulsifer
Emil Pulsifer

A related story which I'd really like to see Phoenix New Times (and others) cover is the way that Arizona's cowardly legislature has tried to raise revenues by encouraging the state's regulatory and other agencies to adopt steep fee increases which are, in effect, huge tax increases on the working and middle classes. These fees affect both child care and elder care. The current cost of a three year child care facility licensing fee is $150; under current proposals, that will rise to greater than $13,000 for child care centers with more than 100 or so children in their care. Prior to this, California was the most expensive state, charging about $3,000 for a similar three-year license.

Fiscal conservatives are always complaining about such things as the minimum wage, claiming that businesses will cut jobs and services and/or pass increased costs on to the consumer.

But by their own logic, this and similar fee rises amounts to one of the biggest backdoor, hidden tax increases on Arizona families in the history of the state. Nobody gets to vote on it, and nobody is held politically accountable for it, since it comes from changes to agency rules permitted by the legislature rather than directly from new tax laws. Once again, Arizona's legislature is protecting their real constituency -- corporate fat cats and the wealthy -- from tax increases they could easily afford, by increasing the burden on the backs of the little guy.

Emil Pulsifer
Emil Pulsifer

Bob Young,

I've seen some of your letters to the editor in recent Community sections of the Arizona Republic. I like your comment here best. I think you should compile a database (or logbook) of big Valley real-estate projects, especially those which have received taxpayer subsidies, and gather some general information on exactly how much such subsidies and tax breaks are costing the municipalities in which they exist; also, how these businesses generally qualify for such tax breaks (who do they have to know, what kind of process does it involve).

That information, suitably organized, would make one hell of an expose. You might even get Phoenix New Times to consider publishing it, but at any rate it would be fascinating and someone, either in print or on the web, would likely do so. You might even find that it offset the cost of your personal property tax increase.

Just a suggestion also: talking about how your kids are grown and why do you have to pay property tax to support the general education system, etc., is not the best way to gain wide popular sympathy for your position, since a lot of readers still have kids in school and also perhaps have broader notions of civic responsibility. (If I'm confusing you with someone else, my apologies.) But big real-estate developers and businessmen are beloved only by themselves and by the politicos who scratch their backs. So I think that's a great angle: mix populism with your personal tax woes as a property owner (which others may be able to relate to).

Bob Young
Bob Young

I paid my property tax at the beginning of this month and they had increased by 28% over last year. I did a little investigating on the Maricopa County Assessor�s web site and discover that the Centerpoint, a 30-story and adjoining 20-story tower in Tempe has not paid its 2009 taxes for $134.06. This is ten times less than what I pay for my small two bedroom, one bath bungalow. I dug a little deeper and found that the Centerpoint�s tax bill for 2008 was zero. I see their tax bill is going up next year but still will fall way short of the real value of the property. I think the school district, the city, the county, and taxpayers like me are getting shortchanged. What do you think?

 
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