Friday Five: Urban Dispatches

The Friday Urban Dispatch for 10 July 2015: comments on Roosevelt Row, civics lesson, and moving Phoenix.

Phoenix Mayor QuestionsAs part of this blog’s The Friday Five series, The Friday Urban Dispatch is a unique boots-on-the-ground report on the urban condition in Phoenix.

Roosevelt Streets Improvements. This week marked the completion and public dedication of the Roosevelt Street streetscape improvements, the anchor of which is shade structures designed by the artist Meejin Yoon. There have also been some controversial planter pots installed on the south side of Roosevelt between 1 and 3 Streets. I like them. I think they add a level of whimsy and artistic quality to a street that is supposedly about those things.

BIDding for Roosevelt, part II. As part of this month’s Hance Park Conservancy meeting (of which I am a member of their Board of Directors), a presentation was given by Nancy Hormann, the consultant helping to organize the proposed Roosevelt Row Business Improvement District. While on the surface, this is a good idea, the devil’s in the details. Of great concern is the non-inclusion of major cultural anchors in that part of the world, such as Burton Barr Central Library and Hance Park. A business improvement district, it would seem, would be more robust and more viable if it drew from a bigger pool of support.

Entertainment districts and civics lessons. The City of Phoenix is set to create the first of its three allotted “entertainment districts” in downtown Phoenix. As I explained to the Downtown Phoenix Partnership on their Facebook page (because there is no wrong time for a civics lesson), this entertainment district is something that is a function of Arizona Revised Statues (Title 4, Section 207). It has nothing to do with what we conceive of entertainment. Nor is meant the Legends Entertainment District, which is neither legendary nor entertaining. All it has to do with is that in this entertainment district, the State Liquor Board may entertain issuing a liquor license that is within 300 feet of a school or church, subject to the customary and normal approval mechanisms like everywhere else.

Moving Phoenix. In August, Phoenix voters will vote for Mayor and those in the odd-numbered Council Districts will vote for their councilperson. This blog recommends returning each incumbent to their seats. Five ballot questions are also for consideration and this blog recommends a YES vote on all of them, especially on Proposition 104, the adoption of Transit 2050. The package involves improvements to Phoenix’s public transportation network as well as financing much-needed repairs to our streets. If Phoenix is to have any chance to compete in the world economy, public transportation is a key component. Voters should vote YES on Proposition 104.

Cities attract talent. If Phoenix is to be a world city, which I think is a necessary aspiration, then it means we must not be afraid of new ideas from outside our own boundaries. Come to think of it, it’s what ALL cities must do. So it has been extremely frustrating that many in downtown Phoenix lament the opening of Meejin Yoon’s “Shadow Play” art installation mainly because Ms. Yoon is not a local artist. If that line of thinking is valid, should the Phoenix Public Library only shelve books by local authors? Should the Phoenix Art Museum only show works by Arizona artists? Or should the Phoenix Suns and Arizona Diamondbacks only field players from the area? Of course not because that is not good for all. There is a definite place for local involvement and the advancing of local interests. It is not, though, in our exposure to the arts and the humanities. We must not feel threatened by the broadening of our horizons.

Good riddance

The Glendale City Council came to their sense to cancel their Arizona Coyotes contract. Let this be a call for the team to move west.

friday essay logoEarlier this week, the Glendale City Council came to their senses and realized that they couldn’t afford to keep the Glendale, Ariz., Coyotes. While I welcome that realization, I wonder what took so long.

Public (read: taxpayer) funding of sports stadiums are always a losing proposition. While I could share formulas and case studies that prove my point, it boils down to simple economics and the following statement: If stadiums did, in fact, make money and were profitable, team owners would privately finance the building of those facilities. Since that doesn’t happen, we’re all on the hook.

A great book I read recently is Circus Maximus: The Economic Gamble Behind Hosting the Olympics and World Cup by the Smith College and Brookings Institution professor, Andrew Zimbalist. It certainly should be on the urbanist’s bookshelf. Dr. Zimbalist appeared on Olbermann a few months ago to talk about his book.

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ELKQrkikxL0

To those who think that the Coyotes should move back to downtown Phoenix, I ask this: What City of Phoenix programs are you willing to sacrifice for this endeavor…parks? Community arts grants? After school education? Public safety? Infrastructure? As it emerged after the fire of the downtown Phoenix Sheraton that the City was using funds meant for repairs or replacement of the Gila River Arena (previously US Airways Center) to patch the shortfall created by the hotel’s operation, the City is not in a position to build a new arena.

When the Glendale, Ariz., Coyotes renamed at the start of the 2014-2015 season to be the geographically agnostic “Arizona Coyotes,” I sensed the beginning of the end was in sight. The Coyotes had played in suburban Glendale starting in the 2003-2004 season and were still called the Phoenix Coyotes. Nobody was confused. But with new management for the beleaguered franchise, the name raced to nowhere and we’re left with the “Arizona Coyotes.”

My one request to the Coyotes’ owners and to the National Hockey League: Don’t make this a giant legal battle to stay in suburban Glendale. They’ve clearly said that they don’t want you. Take this as a cue to relocate. Isn’t there considerable interest to put a team in Las Vegas or Seattle? Take a cue from the playbook of the Indianapolis-née-Baltimore Colts: Leave in the middle of the night.

But unlike the Colts, we won’t send our State Police to stop you.

Tuesday Twelve: Phoenix Mayor Questions

As campaign season heats up, here are questions for the next Phoenix mayor.

Phoenix Mayor QuestionsThings have been very quiet here on edwardjensen.net since the end of 2014. It does feel good, though, to get back in the writing saddle.

As municipal campaigns in Phoenix are heating up in advance of August’s elections for Mayor, odd-numbered council districts, and several ballot questions, it’s time to pose some questions for those seeking to represent us. In a special edition of The Friday Five, here is The Tuesday Twelve (because alliteration is always acceptable): a list of twelve questions for discussion as Phoenix elects her next Mayor:

  1. The optics of Phoenix being in the state of Arizona have come up again in this year’s legislative session. Arizona’s State Legislature and Governor Doug Ducey have enacted one of the most vindictive and anti-urban budgets in recent memory. In this session, the State Legislature is debating legislation to take powers away from cities, as seen in the proposed statewide ban of municipal single-use plastic bag bans. Critics have observed that instead of Phoenix (as Arizona’s largest city) setting policy at the State level, it is the other way around. Define Phoenix’s relationship with the government of the State of Arizona. How is Phoenix lobbying at the State Capitol to advance Phoenix’s interests?
  2. There is a movement happening in America’s cities to move back to the central cities away from the suburbs and farther-flung areas. In Phoenix, the opposite seems to happen. In 2014, Sprouts Farmers Markets announced their corporate HQ relocation to CityNorth at 56th Street and the Loop 101. In January, the Phoenix Business Journal reported that in 2014, 93% of this metro area’s office leasing took place in the East Valley and that more office space was vacated in central-city Phoenix than was occupied. Why is Phoenix not catching on to this trend? What City policies can be enacted so Phoenix catches on to this back-to-the-city movement and doesn’t become the hole in the doughnut?
  3. Central-city Phoenix neighborhoods have come under assault in 2014. In September, the Federal Aviation Administration revised its flight paths for westbound departing aircraft from Sky Harbor International Airport, taking them over the Grand Avenue corridor. The Internet retailer eBay has proposed a giant monolithic building for 3rd Street and Indian School Road. Some neighborhoods lack suitable streets infrastructure. Urban transportation infrastructure like adequate sidewalks and bicycle lanes are not in good repair. How can City Hall help those who choose to live an urban lifestyle—something rare in this place—protect their neighborhoods from these assaults?
  4. Despite a wet end to 2014, Arizona is still in the midst of a multi-year drought that shows no signs of easing. In 2014, Smithsonian reported that Arizona could run out of water by 2020, citing the Phoenix metropolitan area’s leapfrog growth compounded by the effects of climate change. What immediate action does Phoenix need to take today to lessen our environmental impact? Is now the time to implement an urban growth ring to stop our encroachment on the magical deserts that surround us?
  5. Last week marked one year since the approval and public unveiling of the Hance Park Master Plan, a new approach to creating a true urban ethic in Phoenix. In the intervening year, that plan has languished in the bookcases of City Hall, as very little has been accomplished towards its implementation despite a unanimous approval by the Phoenix City Council in 2014. As this blog will comment on Friday, Hance Park is the best shot that Phoenix has to create an urban focal point; despite its $118 million price tag, it must be built. How will you help the City of Phoenix build Hance Park within this decade?
  6. The Roosevelt Row arts district has been in the news lately as two proposed apartment complexes are slated to be built surrounding the intersection of Roosevelt and 3rd Street, involving the demolition of the former GreenHAUS building, which contained several murals by the painter Ted DeGrazia (1909-1982). The proposed replacement apartment project takes its design cues from a suburban rather than urban context. This is true in other developments in central-city Phoenix as well, like the project proposed for the northwest corner of Central Avenue and McDowell Road. While other cities demand excellence and get a better quality of project, why is this the best we can get in Phoenix? How should Phoenix do better?
  7. In 2014, the City of Phoenix Community and Economic Development (C.E.D.) Department hired Christine Mackay as that department’s new director. Ms. Mackay is a 16-year veteran of the City of Chandler, including serving as their Economic Development Director from 2008-2014. In your assessment, what should the top three priorities be for C.E.D.?
  8. Phoenix’s urban circles have been openly debating changing the Phoenix City Charter regarding our city’s form of government or number of seats on the Phoenix City Council. Phoenix is a Council-Manager form of government, meaning that the Phoenix City Council sets policy and city staff (under the City Manager) implements that policy. If only one of the following could happen in this next mayoral term, which would you rather see and help make the case to voters for them to approve: making Phoenix a strong-mayor form of government (mayor-council) or adding more seats to the Phoenix City Council? What arguments would you use to help make that case?
  9. As Phoenix grows, it has looked to other cities for smart practices on how to become more urban. Which of the following most exemplifies a strong, healthy, and vibrant city: Portland (Ore.) or Houston? Why?
  10. Unlike other cities, schools and public education are not the prerogative of the City of Phoenix. Despite this, however, the City has recently approved construction bonds for several privately run charter schools at recent City Council meetings through the City’s Industrial Development Authority. Is this acceptable? Why or why not?
  11. Partisan politics has created unacceptable gridlock in Washington. Governance at the Arizona State Capitol has, at best, forgotten about Phoenix or, at worst, hindered progress. In their book The Metropolitan Revolution, authors Bruce Katz and Jennifer Bradley make the case that cities are tasked to lead the way in advancing progressive agendas. How will Phoenix lead the way in 21st century urban governance? What is holding Phoenix back? What reforms need to be made so Phoenix can lead?
  12. In 2016, which is the first year of the next mayoral term, the United States Senate seat occupied by John McCain will be up for election along with all seats in the House of Representatives. Would you finish your four-year term as Mayor or run for any of those seats?

Downtown Phoenix In Review 2014: Opportunities

As 2014 winds down, let’s look back on the year that was in downtown Phoenix. In this finale post, I’ll look at downtown Phoenix’s opportunities for 2015.

[editor’s note: Over the previous ten days, we’ve published our year-end Downtown Phoenix In Review 2014 series. In four posts, we looked at downtown’s strengths, weaknesses, and threats that shaped its 2014 and set the stage for 2015 and beyond. You are invited to read all of the published essays here.]

Downtown Phoenix In Review 2014 graphicDowntown Phoenix In Review 2014: IV. Opportunities

1. Building on economic momentum of the University District. In December, a study was released that showed University of Arizona’s Medical School in downtown Phoenix had a $1.3 billion economic impact in 2013. Not in this study was the economic impact of Arizona State University’s presence, though I’ve teen told that those studies are in the works. There is a curious dislike of the presence of these universities in downtown Phoenix but this is the best thing that we have going for us at the moment. These institutions also have something that private ventures might not have: permanence. This quote from an article in CityLab (formerly The Atlantic Cities) summarizes this well: “‘General Motors in Flint, Michigan, picked up and left. And with it went all of these jobs, and that really decimated the economy,’ says [author Tracey] Ross. ‘Wayne State University in Detroit? They’re not going to be picking up and leaving.’”

2. The “Central Arts District” if it gets going and becomes more inclusive. Not much is known about the Central Arts District other than it consists of several of the arts organizations in Midtown, the Phoenix Community Alliance, and the ownership of the VIAD corporate center. The Midtown Museum District, whose mission and boundaries are the same, seems to have been kept in the dark about this. Even the Phoenix Arts and Culture Commission, of which I am a Commissioner, knows nil about this group.

3. New residential projects coming to downtown. Ground is set to be broken on several residential projects in the central core this year: the Union at 1 Avenue and Roosevelt, the Muse at Central and McDowell, and projects surrounding the Barrister Place project at Central & Jefferson. Physical design notwithstanding, these projects will bring some new density downtown, always a positive. If Phoenix is going to latch on to the back-to-the-city movement happening nationwide, then some new residential density is needed. This is a start.

4. The Super Bowl comes to Phoenix in February. As the world descends to Phoenix for February’s Super Bowl, Phoenix has started to put its best foot forward. While the game is in suburban Glendale, most of the main events are in downtown Phoenix. This is a great chance to show the world about Phoenix. Despite the problems of the N.F.L. this year surrounding domestic abuse (among other things), the Super Bowl brings the eyes of the world to its host city. Phoenix’s urban leaders should capitalize on this.

5. A new Chief for the Phoenix Police Department. After a tumultuous tenure as Chief of Police, Daniel V. Garcia was fired by Phoenix City Manager Ed Zuercher on 18 December after Mr. Garcia called a press conference slamming his critics and demanding a contract extension from the same City that ordered him not to hold that press conference. Telling of Mr. Garcia’s tenure was his curious absence from a marathon City Council meeting the previous day to address community-police relationships. With community-police relationships on everyone’s minds these days following high-profile incidents in Ferguson, New York City, and even here in Phoenix, a new start was needed.

Downtown Phoenix In Review 2014: Threats

As 2014 winds down, let’s look back on the year that was in downtown Phoenix. In this third post of four, I’ll look at downtown Phoenix’s threats.

[editor’s note: Over the next few days, we’ll be publishing our year-end Downtown Phoenix In Review 2014 series. In four posts, we’ll look at downtown’s strengths, weaknesses, threats, and opportunities that shaped its 2014 and set the stage for 2015 and beyond. You can see all the published essays to date here. Part IV will be published tomorrow.]

Downtown Phoenix In Review 2014 graphicDowntown Phoenix In Review 2014: III. Threats

1. A lack of major economic players in downtown Phoenix. In December, it was announced that Actors’ Theatre closed down after nearly three decades of performance.  The artistic director of the group, Matthew Wiener, said that the most important factor that led to the troupe’s closing was the decline in institutional support.  “We have very few Fortune 500 companies headquartered here.  Those things are very important.”  And of the major companies that are here, they settle in other cities or in the far reaches of Phoenix.  In July, Sprouts Farmers Market announced they were moving their corporate headquarters to the downtown-killing CityNorth development.  It is problematic that Phoenix is both central-city and suburb in one.  The idea that we must have economic activity all across the 550 square miles in Phoenix is killing our city, as is the next point…

2. Thinking regionally. This is a major mantra of a few of those in positions of power and influence in Phoenix: that we are better off as a region than as individual cities.  While that sounds idyllic and certainly nice, in practice, it means that other cities run laps around Phoenix for economic development.  Downtown Tempe, for instance, is growing tremendously.  No more evident was this than at last month’s PlanPHX community gathering.  I attended the economic development session and one could have easily thought one was in something from the State of Arizona or metro-wide economic development organizations.  It took a full half hour to get to Phoenix; I was almost at the point of interrupting their regionalism reverie to say, “I am sorry, but I thought this was a session on improving Phoenix’s economy, not the state’s or other cities’ economies.”  The longer we think that we will succeed in Phoenix by letting other cities run laps around us, the more irreparable Phoenix’s economic future will become.

3. Future of Phoenix Suns and Phoenix Mercury in downtown Phoenix. In the wake of the electrical fire at the downtown Phoenix Sheraton Hotel, owned by the City of Phoenix but operated by Sheraton, news came out that the City was taking a financial loss on the hotel’s operation.  It emerged that the City was using funds set to finance improvements to or a potential replacement for the 22-year-old U.S. Airways Center to make up the balance.  With the facility now called Talking Stick Resort Arena, after the casino resort operated by the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community (east of Phoenix) and with the expectation that private sports teams must have publicly funded and operated sports stadia, one must wonder if the Suns’ and Mercury’s days in downtown Phoenix will come to a close in a few years’ time.

4. Failing to capture “back-to-the-city” movement happening nationwide. In 2013’s strengths list, I wrote that there was a nationwide renewed interest in downtowns and urban areas. Unfortunately, that renewed interest has not really been captured here in Phoenix.  The cities of Tempe and Mesa have run laps around Phoenix vis-à-vis economic development.  Everything here is labeled as “the Valley” or “Arizona” despite being in or for Phoenix.  The local NHL team abandoned the name Phoenix Coyotes for the ambiguous “Arizona Coyotes” for the start of this season.  The 21st century global marketplace will be based on urban: urban areas, urban activity, and urban economics, not states or broad regions.

5. More “brain drain” from Phoenix. There were several notable departures from Phoenix this year and one more has been announced for early 2015.  Whatever their reasons for leaving (and there is no wrong reason to depart Phoenix), we wish them the best on their new adventures.  This doesn’t include the hundreds and thousands of those whose departures go unnoticed or unheralded.  For Phoenix, though, this is something that desperately needs to be addressed: why are people leaving and what structural things can be done to make the case for people staying in this place?

Downtown Phoenix in Review 2014: Weaknesses

As 2014 winds down, let’s look back on the year that was in downtown Phoenix. In this second post of four, I’ll look at downtown Phoenix’s weaknesses.

[editor’s note: Over the next few days, we’ll be publishing our year-end Downtown Phoenix In Review 2014 series. In four posts, we’ll look at downtown’s strengths, weaknesses, threats, and opportunities that shaped its 2014 and set the stage for 2015 and beyond. Part I of this polyptych looked at downtown’s strengths. Parts III and IV will be published after Christmas.]

Downtown Phoenix In Review 2014 graphicDowntown Phoenix In Review 2014: II. Weaknesses

1. “Still-none” items from 2013 Year-in-Review weaknesses list. At the end of 2013, I commented that two of downtown’s weaknesses were a lack of a close, walkable grocery store and not enough residential density. Here we are, one year on from those comments, and we’re in the same boat.  Though more boutique restaurants have opened downtown, the economic activity and residential density needed to support them isn’t following.  The recent closest thing to a grocery store for downtown, Bodega 420, closed in June. Speaking of residential density: while some projects are slated to begin in 2015, those will bring limited relief to many of central-city Phoenix’s housing problems, including genuinely affordable housing for families, not just urban hipsters.  It might be, unfortunately, too little too late.

2. Thinking we can copy-and-paste our way to become a better urban city. There is a difference between taking smart practices from other cities and just trying to emulate them.  I was engaged in a conversation with a downtown observer who said that downtown Phoenix and downtown Denver were alike.  While this might be true on a very superficial level, this ignores one very crucial element that the design-centric community here ignores incorrectly at best and dangerously at worst: context.   There are very different contexts for why Denver (or any other city, really) is the way it is and why we are the way we are in Phoenix. Understand those first and then things will start to make sense and downtown advocates can work on smarter and better projects.

3. Suburban-urban projects underway on Central Avenue. Construction began in earnest on the new Elevation Central apartment complex at Central and Highland this year and the Lennar “Muse” project at Central and McDowell is set to begin in early 2015. Both of these projects are uninspired in their design and where they are in this place and moment in Phoenix history. Both projects are four-story stick (read: wood frame) wraps of a five-story parking garage and both projects do not make architectural gestures to Central Avenue, urban living, or this unique moment in Phoenix’s urban history. They look like projects better suited for the far suburbs than transit-oriented development in central-city Phoenix.

4. Results from November’s elections. To nobody’s surprise, Republicans took over the United States Senate and kept their hold on the United States House of Representatives and all of Arizona’s statewide elected offices.  (Of course, when the other major party runs away from its accomplishments or its de facto leader, this was bound to happen.)  In Arizona, cities and urban issues failed to come up as talking points from the candidates, which shows that there isn’t an interest at the statewide level to have Arizona’s cities be key parts of the 21st century urban-centric economy.  Only one candidate replied to a list of urban-centric questions I posed: Congressman-elect Ruben Gallego.  (I think it helped his campaign, n’est-ce pas?)  In addition, November’s elections solidly disabused the notion that Arizona is a purple state: despite a few progressive enclaves in Phoenix and Tucson, this state is solidly red.

5. New flight departure paths from Sky Harbor and initial Council inertia. In September, the Federal Aviation Administration published new departure procedures for aircraft departing over central-city Phoenix, taking them over Grand Avenue instead over the Salt River.  While details on who knew what and who approved these plans are unclear at best, there was a lot of inertia to get individual members of the Phoenix City Council to use their collective bully pulpit to effect change.  In some correspondence I have received, one councilperson said that the City has no jurisdiction over the FAA and so they would not contact the FAA on that constituent’s behalf.  While that statement is technically true, the City does have a bully pulpit it should be using how it can.  Recently, the Phoenix City Council unanimously passed a resolution asking the FAA to revert to the pre-September departure procedures.

Downtown Phoenix In Review 2014: Strengths

As 2014 winds down, let’s look back on the year that was in downtown Phoenix. In this first post of four, I’ll look at downtown Phoenix’s strengths.

[editor’s note: Over the next few days, we’ll be publishing our year-end Downtown Phoenix In Review 2014 series. In four posts, we’ll look at downtown’s strengths, weaknesses, threats, and opportunities that shaped its 2014 and set the stage for 2015 and beyond. The quartet of posts from last year provide indispensable context to the urban condition and are worth your read.]

Downtown Phoenix In Review 2014 graphicDowntown Phoenix In Review 2014: I. Strengths

1. Hance Park Master Plan reveal. One of the big urban events in 2014 was the unveiling of the Hance Park Master Plan in March. The new Hance Park Master Plan makes a statement for urban public space in Phoenix. NYC-based !melk (led by Jerry van Eyck) worked with of Scottsdale-based Weddle Gilmore and Phoenix-based Floor Associates to create a fantastic plan for the 32.5-acre urban space. The Hance Park Conservancy, Phoenix’s first conservancy dedicated to a specific park, is now working to coordinate the $118 million fundraising project to translate paper to reality. Parks and public space are an integral part of the urban experience and this opportunity to create a defining urban space in Phoenix is an opportunity that we cannot let slip by.

2. Upgrades and maintenance at some of Phoenix’s best public art projects. Two of Phoenix’s best public art projects received major upgrades in 2014: Janet Echelman’s “Her Secret is Patience” at Civic Space Park received a new net and upgraded lighting in early December and two new artist-designed terrazzo floors at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport opened as part of the Terminal 3 SkyTrain expansion. The Airport’s terrazzo floors and the Echelman at Civic Space Park are, in my opinion, two of the nicest things that we have in this city and both show that we can do fantastic art projects in this city.

3. Music festivals in downtown Phoenix. March featured two big music festivals in downtown Phoenix: the VIVA PHX festival on March 7 and the McDowell Mountain Music Festival at the end of that month. Both festivals brought energy downtown and, most importantly, people. As I wrote in March right after the VIVA PHX festival, it seemed like downtown Phoenix was a “city in potentia.” The question is how can we keep that energy happening all the time?

4. Overwhelmingly unified opposition to SB 1062. In February, the Republican-led State Legislature passed Senate Bill 1062, a bill that would make it legal for individuals and businesses to deny services to others based on one’s religious beliefs, which is a thinly veiled assault on civil rights for everyone. Drafted by the anti-LGBTQ “Center for Arizona Policy,” the legislation would have unfairly targeted our LGBTQ friends, neighbors, and colleagues. After the bill was passed in the Arizona State Legislature, scores of Phoenix (and Arizona) chambers of commerce, community organizations, and elected bodies came out in near-unison against this damaging legislation. Governor Brewer ultimately vetoed the bill.

5. Groundbreaking of ASU’s Arizona Center for Law and Society. On 13 November, Arizona State University and its community partners broke ground on the new downtown Phoenix home of the ASU Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law, the Arizona Center for Law and Society. The building is set to open in time for the Fall 2016 semester and it will bring more development and density for downtown’s University District. Time will tell how open the building will remain to the public but I remain optimistic.

Friday Five: Weekend Symphonies

Like symphonic music? This edition of The Friday Five recommends some works for your weekend symphonies playlist. Complete with Spotify link, too!

The Friday Five: Weekend SymphoniesThis is a personal blog, after all, so we’re taking things a little differently for this edition of The Friday Five: five symphonies that should be on your list for the weekend and some suggested recordings. If you’re on Spotify, you can subscribe to the playlist here.

1. Symphony no. 2 in D Major (op. 43) by Jean Sibelius: There are a lot of things to be said about this work. While scholars debate whether this work was meant to be an anthem to independence of Finland from Russia (the finale does have a point), this work paints a picture of the Finnish landscape.  Its opening movement is lyrical, its second movement is hauntingly beautiful, and its third and fourth movements are grand. If you have dry eyes after listening to the finale, then you’ve been doing something wrong. (Suggested recording: Minnesota Orchestra conducted by Osmo Vänskä, along with Sibelius Symphony no. 5, recorded 2011 on the BIS label, BIS-SACD-1986)

2. Symphony no. 36 in C Major “Linz” by Wolfgang Amadé Mozart: While Mozart’s symphonies nos. 25, 40, and 41 might be played more, we are rather partial to Mozart’s Symphony no. 36.  It’s your standard late edition Mozart symphony. Still, though, it’s full of youthful charm and energy. Pay attention to the trio of the menuet: it’s a favorite. (Suggested recording: Scottish Chamber Orchestra conducted by Jukka-Pekka Saraste, along with Symphonies nos. 32, 39, and 41; recorded 2011 on the Virgin Classics label, Virgin 96370)

3. Symphony no. 2 “Mysterious Mountain” by Alan Hovhaness: Perhaps not a symphony in the four-movement Classical style, this is more of a programmatic work. Two movements with unusual time signatures surround a lovely double fugue, of which Alan Hovhaness was perhaps the best contemporary composer of the fugue format. (Suggested recording: American Composers Orchestra conducted by Dennis Russell Davies, along with Hovhaness’s Lousadzak and Lou Harrison’s Elegiac symphony, re-released 2008 on the Nimbus label, Nimbus 2512)

4. Symphony no. 4 in f minor (op. 36) by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky: A staple of the Classical repertory, the San Francisco Symphony and Michael Tilson Thomas’s recording of Tchaikovsky 4 should be a staple of anyone’s Classical library. Few recordings match the artistic excellence presented here. The third movement is a lively scherzo with pizzicato (plucked) strings. Just be sure to reduce your volume before the fourth movement starts! (Suggested recording: San Francisco Symphony conducted by Michael Tilson Thomas, on the Keeping Score series, released 2010 on the SFS Media label, SFS Media 30)

5. Symphony no. 1 by Henri Dutilleux: With apologies to Monty Python, this comes from the and now for something completely different file. M. Dutilleux passed away last year and his works cemented himself as the composer par excellence of French classical music in the late 20th century. His Symphony no. 1 is something very different, indeed: a four-bar motif sets the stage for the first movement passacaglia, the third movement has a theme but is introduced well into the movement, and the fourth moment starts with grand fanfare that sounds an awful lot like something from Messaien’s Turangalîla-Symphonie. You’ll have to take my word on this one. (Suggested recording: Seattle Symphony conducted by Ludovic Morlot, along with Dutilleux’s Tout un monde lointain and The Shadows of Time, released 2014 on the Seattle Symphony label, Seattle Symphony 1001)

On the Air: KJZZ interview on ASU Downtown Phoenix

Mark Brodie of KJZZ-FM in Phoenix sat down with me to ask some questions on ASU’s expansions into downtown Phoenix.

KJZZ logoIf you thought you heard a familiar voice on KJZZ-FM’s The Show this afternoon, I offered some commentary on ASU’s expansions into downtown Phoenix.

The audio is here: http://kjzz.org/content/66891/asu-expands-downtown-phoenix-new-law-school.

My thanks to Mark Brodie for his excellent questions.

A note: Be back here tomorrow morning for a different take on The Friday Five.

Friday Five: Election 2014 post-mortem

On the Friday Five this week, we take a look at Election 2014 and some things we’ve learned. We’ve been looking at the results incorrectly.

A lot been made about what the results from Tuesday’s Election 2014 mean. If you’re a die-hard Democrat, one could safely say it was not a good night at all.  If you lean more Republican, then you had an absolute ball. The point of this post is not to comment on specific policies but more about partisanship and the political system.

The Friday Five: Elections 2014 post-mortem1. Tuesday was not a repudiation of liberal ideas but, instead, a repudiation of the Democratic Party.  In numerous races across the country, Democrats lost handily, including a majority of seats in the United States Senate.  While Republicans will infer, incorrectly, that Tuesday’s results were a repudiation of progressive ideals, I believe the Republicans successfully carried the message that the Democratic Party is not in touch with America.  Democrats had walked away from their de facto leader, President Obama, and some of their major policy accomplishments.  This also includes no action on immigration, which would alienate a significant voting bloc.

2. There were some good moments for progressive urbanism, though. In Phoenix, Proposition 480, the bond package for the Maricopa County public health system, handily won and Proposition 487, the elimination of Phoenix’s pension system in favor of a 401(k)-style system, was defeated.  In a night filled with challenging news for those of us with left-leaning philosophies, these were two bright spots and moments of sanity.

3. Progressive-minded people need to instill the same importance of voting in their adherents as conservative-minded people do.  I still do not understand why people do not vote.  Some will say that there are barriers to voting but others and I believe that the results would not have changed were those barriers not present.  In Maricopa County, it is painfully easy to vote: the County Recorder’s office will mail you your ballot and a postage-paid envelope to return your ballot. While I believe there should be as few barriers to voting as possible, there are some rules that are set up and, for better or worse, we should play by those until we can get those changed.

4. Arizona is not a “purple state;” it is solidly red.  Despite a few liberal enclaves in Tucson and central-city Phoenix, Arizona is a red state.  I give you one race that proves my point: as I type, Diane Douglas leads David Garcia in the Superintendent of Public Instruction race.  Mr. Garcia had a significant coalition of support for him but he had one fatal flaw: he had a “DEM” next to his name on the ballot.  Meanwhile, Ms. Douglas ran a minimal campaign (in the Republican primary, she was “not John Huppenthal”) and is set to succeed Mr. Huppenthal in the Superintendent’s chair.

5. There is a great opportunity for a new party to take over as this country’s progressive party.  As I mentioned in point #1, the Democratic Party is in a state of disarray. It’s not sure what it publicly believes other than they’re “not Republicans.”  There needs to be a party that loudly and proudly proclaims what I think aren’t controversial issues at all: a desire for a strong commons, equitable and progressive taxation, the need to move away from 19th-century energy to clean energy, and a strong belief that we need to invest in cities. There is a growing discontent with the Democratic Party because it has a reticence to commit to those few things. There are multiple political parties out there other than the two major parties so I encourage you to research all of them and join the one that best suits your beliefs, not what someone tells you is working for you.