Yesterday I went to the

by francine Hardaway on January 6, 2004

Yesterday I went to the Inauguration Ceremony for the new mayor of Phoenix, Phil Gordon. Phil is an old friend of mine (and of everyone else�s as well), and it was a pleasure to see him sworn in. But the big surprise was the caliber of the ceremony itself.

These ceremonies are usually almost unbearable. They are always long, and provide an opportunity for everyone to say a few unnecessary words. Governor Napolitano weighed in, as did Senator McCain. While they were both articulate, they weren�t even listed on the printed program of speakers and entertainers.

But this ceremony proved to be thought-provoking, relatively inspiring, and definitely different. I hadn�t been to an Inauguration in over ten years, and things have really changed. The invocation, which used to be offered by only a token Jew and the local Christian cleric, was this year given by a Pastor, a Rabbi, a Gurukirin ( Sikh), an Imam(Muslim), Monsignor Ryle (Catholic), Bishop Barnwell (black), and Rev. Eve Nunez (female). It was preceded by a heart-stirring rendition of �My Country �Tis of Thee� and some flag waving by the first graders at Christ Lutheran School.

Ronnie Lopez, a long-time Hispanic community leader and political consultant, was the MC for the beginning of the ceremony, and he was accompanied by his wife, a cancer survivor. The pledge of Allegiance was led by a Hispanic Medal of Honor recipient, who came out on stage supported by a metal walker.

By the time we got into the swearing in (Phil accompanied by his wife and mother) and the political speeches, we had seen and heard from boys� choirs, girls� choirs, people of every color, background, size and shape. Some really good music, for 10 AM on a Monday. And at the end, there was even a Navajo Code Talker. Can you imagine what an effort it must have been to put together a program so rich in cultural diversity, so careful to be inclusive? In the past, no one would have even cared to try.

And what are the burning issues in the City of Phoenix? The platform on which Phil Gordon and his fellow council members got elected? Some predictable planks, such as increased transit, adequate resources for the Police and Fire Departments, and job growth through a vibrant technology economy.

But there were some really good issues I hadn�t heard before. Peggy Bilstein pledged herself to help end domestic violence, which she correctly pointed out impacted children most of all. And Phil asked everyone in the audience to buy a bench, put it in front of his or her house, sit outside and learn what happens in his own neighborhood. Phil�s bench, apparently, is outside AJ�s market at Central and Camelback, where he sits outside on Saturday morning and asks other customers their views. Apparently, he�s been of this opinion for a while: you can outwit crime and blight by simply getting to know your neighbors and watching out for them.

On balance, the ceremony convinced me that I was right not to move two years ago, when I contemplated throwing in the towel on Arizona and debarking to California. What a mistake I would have made. Look at the shape California is in, with huge budget deficits on both the state and municipal levels. Look at the earthquakes, the mudslides, the exodus of tech jobs from Silicon Valley and of tech workers back to India. Look at the housing prices, which have continued to rise through the jobless recovery.

Not that Phoenix is perfect. Phil�s going to have a hard job herding all the disparate cats into a consistent economic development policy and a drive to re-develop downtown. Over half of Phoenix residents have never even visited downtown, others drive to the ball games, get in their cars and drive back to the boonies. The Coyotes have decamped to Glendale, leaving disappoointed bar owners and restaurateurs to wonder where their business will come from.

But Phoenix is clearly on the move again, and in a positive direction. It was an impossible feat to get light rail started without Congressional support. But we did it. It was similarly impossible to get money out of the legislature for the Civic Plaza expansion in such a lousy budget year. But we did it. And who would have thought Michael Crow would have opted to give the University such a large presence in downtown Phoenix? All of this happened last year.

Time to make your real estate speculation on downtown. All the real speculators have been there for years.

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: