Friday Urban Dispatches: April 4

For Friday April 4: Friday Urban Dispatches are a unique boots-on-the-ground perspective of what’s happening in our own backyard of downtown Phoenix.

The Friday Urban Dispatches are a unique boots-on-the-ground perspective of what’s happening in our own backyard of downtown Phoenix.

friDispatchHance…enHANCEd. Last week was the big master plan reveal for the next chapter in the life of downtown’s Hance Park.  The plan delineates the park into three areas: a neighborhood park on the west, a civic plaza in the middle, and a performance hub on the east.

BIDding for Roosevelt Row. The City of Phoenix is in the process of authorizing up to $80,000 to study whether an Enhanced Municipal Services District (EMSD), otherwise known as a Business Improvement District (BID), would work in the Roosevelt Row neighborhood.  The academic literature is mixed on its assessment of EMSDs but a couple trends and themes quickly emerge: 1. Property values in EMSDs do rise significantly.  For real estate investors, this is good; for independent shops, can they shoulder the added expense of their lease payment?  2. EMSDs are generally instituted in areas that have significant decline in property values or civic interest.  If there’s one neighborhood in central city Phoenix for which that is the exact opposite, it would be Roosevelt Row.

Budgeting for the worst. Since the last Friday Urban Dispatch, the City of Phoenix released their trial budget and their cuts-only solution to ameliorate a $38 million deficit from the books is not pretty.  It closes parks and parks-related programming, slashes operational support to arts and cultural organizations, and places minimal value on the civic fabric of our community.  While I do think some long-standing contracts, including employee compensation, need to be looked at, to fix this year’s budget through cuts only is not right.  Was the 2% food tax phased down too early?  Maybe.

A podcast of action. After Monday, The Downtown Phoenix Podcast will be 3/4 finished with its inaugural series production. What’s in store for it after the series 1 finale goes online on April 21?  Even I don’t know.  I have been pleased with its reception and I am sure it will be back for even greater things.

Thank you, Debra. Tonight is First Friday and I hope that you’ll be able to come by Obliq Art at the Arizona Center for a community tribute to the life and legacy of Debra Friedman, the former Dean of the ASU College of Public Programs who unexpectedly passed away in January. To those who had the great privilege to work alongside Dr. Friedman, it was so evident that the arts held a special place in both her heart and as a cornerstone for the partnerships that she facilitated.

Friday Urban Dispatches: March 14

The regular Friday Urban Dispatch from downtown Phoenix for March 14: a unique boots-on-the-ground perspective of what’s happening.

Every other Friday or so on this blog, I’m going to do a mini-series of urban dispatches—thoughts from the urban landscape in Phoenix.

friDispatchMeeting new voices. This has been a great week for meeting new voices that have an honest interest in making our downtown community better.  I realize that I’m coming at the downtown question from an academic / intellectual perspective (I mean…my undergraduate degree is Urban and Metropolitan Studies!) but I’m starting to find these new voices that are approaching the downtown question from the same angle.

Not just “no” but “no…but what are the alternatives?” One of my conversations this week was with Paul Lopez, a Phoenix native and someone who’s in-tune with the goings-on in City Hall on many levels.  We talked about the need for downtown to have a grocery store—somewhere on the scale between a neighborhood market and a suburban grocery store—and our conversation hit on an important decision-making philosophy: Rather than saying ‘no’ outright, let’s ask this question: “No…but what are our alternatives?”

City Hall is starting to get the urban condition. It’s not perfect but I am getting the sense that City Hall is starting to get the notion that the downtown / urban condition is different and has a different lexicon, vocabulary, and design imperatives than suburban Phoenix.  It’s not perfect yet but the right baby steps are being made.  More promising, however, is that City staff are wanting to listen to downtown interests to make sure that everyone is on the same page.

Whither McDowell Road.  While the previous point is a plus, there are still silos within City Hall that need to be broken down and addressed.  The City’s definition of “downtown Phoenix” goes to the south right-of-way of McDowell Road while their definition of “midtown Phoenix” begins at the north right-of-way of McDowell.   Left out of the discussion is McDowell Road itself, a core east-west street in central Phoenix.  Right now, it’s a nightmare to travel at any time of day.  At 3:00pm on weekdays during the school year, the mass pick-up of students from Arizona School for the Arts makes Manhattan traffic look like a small town.  (The City needs to work with the school to work on a traffic management plan…or the same school needs to encourage its students to take public transportation!)  I like the streetcar line proposed for McDowell Road but that’s a long-term aspiration.

A city in potentia.  Last Friday night, I was walking around downtown to see and hear the goings-on of the Viva Phoenix music festival.  In addition to the musicians performing on their outdoor stages, there was a definite energy downtown: there were people, there was noise, there were even random marching bands walking around.  I’m loathe to use phrases like “seminal moment” or “turning point” but I think March 7 will be looked on in years hence as a turning-point for downtown.

The Friday Dispatches: February 21

The Urban Friday Dispatches: SB1062, geographic precision, walking and biking, and pedestrian malls

friDispatchEvery other Friday or so on this blog, I’m going to do a mini-series of urban dispatches—thoughts from the urban landscape in Phoenix.

SB1062…sigh. SB1062 has been passed by both houses of the State Legislature and is on Governor Brewer’s desk to sign.  It’s a discrimination bill that targets our friends, neighbors, and colleagues in the LGBTQ communities…full stop.  To say that it’s a “religious freedom” bill is wrong and is an explanation that should be an affront to any person of faith.  Lots of statements opposing SB1062 have been sent along to the Governor’s Office — including Phoenix’s mayor Greg Stanton, the Steering Committee of Downtown Voices Coalition, the Greater Phoenix Economic Council, and others — and one must hope that the Governor has the decency to veto this unconstitutional legislation.  One wonders if Google’s announcement that it’s considering deploying its Google Fiber service or next year’s Super Bowl are in jeopardy. Otherwise, it’s off to the courts.

Where is downtown Phoenix.  The massive fire yesterday at a salvage plant near 23rd Avenue and McDowell Road is out and our first responders did a spectacular job responding to this dangerous situation.  In reporting the fire, lots of media outlets labeled the fire as being “in downtown Phoenix,” something we who live here know is geographically incorrect.  I sent out a “note to media” tweet that said that 23rd Avenue & McDowell is “NOT downtown Phoenix” but I don’t know how many outlets heeded that advice.

Walking and bicycling.  For the past four months, I’ve been a part of the City of Phoenix’s Ad Hoc Pedestrian and Bicycling Task Force, the group that is tasked with looking at the City’s plans for pedestrian and bicycling master plans.  A draft document of a pedestrian safety plan was given to Task Force members and I was generally pleased about its content.  The tone, however, of that document seemed to place the onus of responsibility for their actions more on the pedestrian instead of those around on bikes and in cars.  For pedestrian safety, though, there are two things that can be done that will enhance that in the downtown core: ban bicycling on sidewalks and ban mobile phone use while driving a car or bike.

Pedestrian malls.  Something that I’ve really gotten the feeling of in this town is that we really really don’t like the idea of pedestrian malls.  As the most progressive cities in the world start to think about their future without cars, it’s certainly something that we in Phoenix need to start thinking about.  “What!?” you ask.  “Phoenix without cars?  Surely you can’t be serious!”  (I am serious and stop calling me Shirley.)  Look at the data: We’re past the point of “peak car” — more people aren’t getting their driver’s licenses when they turn 16 or 18.  The first cities were formed in Mesopotamia ca. 5400 BCE.  The first modern cars were driven in 1886—more than 7,200 years after the first cities.  By my math, cars have been around for just about 2% of the time cities have been around.  We can certainly have cities, again, without cars.

Announcing the Launch of “The Downtown Phoenix Podcast”

The launch of “The Downtown Phoenix Podcast” was announced this morning by Edward Jensen of Edward Jensen urban productions.

“The Downtown Phoenix Podcast” To Launch March 3, Bringing Conversation-Driven, Action-Oriented Programming To Downtown Phoenix

PHOENIX, ARIZONA (12 February 2014) — The launch of “The Downtown Phoenix Podcast” was announced this morning by Edward Jensen of Edward Jensen urban productions.  “The Downtown Phoenix Podcast” will bring high-quality, conversation-driven, and action-oriented programming to the downtown Phoenix scene.

The “Podcast” is a project of Edward Jensen, hailed by many in this community as one of downtown Phoenix’s most critical thinkers.  New podcast episodes will be available for free download each Monday morning beginning March 3, 2014, at the Podcast’s website,  Subscriptions through iTunes® and other popular podcast programs will be available as well.

“Doing a downtown-centric podcast is something that I have wanted to do for awhile and I am very happy to get this project off of the ground,” said Jensen. “Ever since my four one-on-one conversations with Phoenix City Council candidates last year, the community has wanted a continuation of that conversation-driven format.  Keeping with the theme of this year that we have set, ‘A Year of Action for Downtown Phoenix,’ our initial series of episodes will encourage people to get involved in making our communities better places to be.”

The first program will feature a conversation with David Krietor, the CEO of the nascent Downtown Phoenix, Inc., the new group tasked with looking at downtown Phoenix livability and economic development.  Future programming will include conversations with new and diverse voices from around the community and in-person events will be held to get a pulse of the community for community engagement and neighborhood improvement initiatives.

about Edward Jensen urban productions: A new approach in thinking about urban issues and quality-of-life issues, Edward Jensen urban productions brings deliberative hands-on action to improving our communities.  The firm is also in charge of the “2014: A Year of Action for Downtown Phoenix” project, challenging our neighbors to get involved to make our neighborhoods and communities better.

Interim Update: Upgrade, not replace

Three-year old computer, meet new technology. Isn’t that grand?

[Editor’s Note: I promise to you, the home reader, that there will be a very substantial update next week surrounding quite a few new projects that are happening in this New Year 2014. In the meantime, here’s a quick dispatch.]

In the final days of December, I wrote an essay on the greenest computer, noting that the greenest computer is the one that can have its parts be easily replaced or upgraded. I replaced the original hard disk with a solid-state disk (the machine can go from being completely off to completely running in about 10 seconds…eeeeEEEEE!) and that I was about to replace the battery on the machine. With the new disk and the new battery, I am getting about 7-8 hours per charge with wireless on.

IMG_1112As the machine is three years old, it isn’t graced with the low-power Bluetooth 4.0 chip that all new computers, smartphones, and tablets have. Until last night! I purchased a $12 USB Bluetooth 4.0 dongle that enables low-power Bluetooth connections. The OS recognizes the chip; now, I’m trying to find a way to use the Bluetooth menu bar icon to control the USB adapter instead of the internal card.

The practical side of this is that my MacBook Pro and my iPhone can communicate using the Authy app. What is Authy, you ask? Authy is a second-factor authentication device that is compatible with the Google Authenticator system of two-factor authentication. (I hate passwords, remember? See number 6.) Authy, using Bluetooth 4.0, has a companion app for the Mac that securely transfers that six-digit code to your Mac’s clipboard. It only works on pre-approved and pre-paired computers and that authorization can be rescinded at any time.

I’m sure that I’ll discover more things for which having a Bluetooth 4.0 chip will be useful. in 2014

What does 2014 have in store on Writing. Lots of writing.

One of the things that I discovered in 2013 as something I like to do is write.  With that in mind, I’ve decided that I’m going to try to write 1-2 essays a month that will be on this website.  There’s something very pleasing in writing, I’ve discovered, and it’s a great way to begin conversation on issues that are near and dear to our hearts.

What are the topics of these essays, you ask?  Naturally, they’ll relate to issues of urbanism, urban policy in downtown Phoenix, technology, and how all three of these intersect in the wild.  I’ll write on the arts, especially if there’s a concert of the Phoenix Symphony or the Arizona Opera that I attend that’s worth sharing.  And, perhaps, I’ll write one or two personal posts as a means for you to get to know me a little better — the first essay I’m working on for this New Year 2014 is five things I’m going to try do in the next twelve months.

With open arms, let’s welcome 2014.  Happy New Year!

Marching To 2014: 15 Posts in 15 Days

As 2013 winds down, it’s time to look ahead to 2014 and how this year will set the stage for what’s to come.

marching toward 2014As a year winds down, it’s become custom to look back and look forward simultaneously. So this blog in this year will be no exception to that: over the course of the next fifteen days, I’m going to look back at the 2013 that was and how that will shape the core of 2014. I call this “Marching to 2014.”

The posts over the next 15 days will be replays of popular posts from 2013, two series of “year-in-review” posts me and our community, and a couple posts related to Christmastide. 2013 was an interesting year with lots of changes and it’s good to know how that will shape the 2014 that will be.

Join me as we all march into 2014. Let’s see what we’ll find!

Summer Reading 2013: Downtown Phoenix

My summer reading: the history of downtown Phoenix plus the wider contexts of urbanism post-World War II.


Summer Reading 2013: The History of Downtown Phoenix and the Context of Urbanism post-WW2

The books (so far, there’ll be more):

  • The Emerging Metropolis: Phoenix 1945-1973, William Collins (2005)
  • Urban Theory and the Urban Experience: Encountering the City, Simon Parker (2004)
  • Urban Policy Reconsidered: Dialogues on the Problems and Prospects of American Cities, Charles Euchner and Stephen McGovern (2003)
  • Metropolitan Phoenix: Place Making and Community Building in the Desert, Patricia Gober (2006)
  • Growth in Arizona: The Machine in the Garden, Morrison Institute at Arizona State University (1998)
  • Desert Visions and the Making of Phoenix: 1860-2009, Philip VanderMeer (2010)
  • Urban Theory: A Critical Assessment, John Rennie Short (2006)
  • Images of America: Downtown Phoenix, J Seth Anderson, Suad Mahmuljin, and Jim McPherson (2011)
  • Megapolitan: Arizona’s Sun Corridor, Morrison Institute (2008)

More will be added, I’m sure…

Linux Chronicles: Dell Latitude XT2

It might seem difficult getting your new Dell Latitude XT2 to work with Ubuntu; however, taken one step at a time, it’s pretty easy.

Editor’s comment, June 2020: This post seems to be, by far, the most popular page on this website, and still averages a few dozen visits each week. The solutions proposed on this page have neither been reviewed nor updated since 2013. We take no responsibility for any problems that may arise.

My Dell Latitude XT2I got a new computer the other day. Well, that’s a partial truth — it’s a machine that’s new to me. (The machine was shipped to its original customer in February 2010.) It’s a Dell Latitude XT2, a notebook computer that converts into a tablet PC with a resistive touchscreen. It came with a neat little stylus that works quite well for being a pressure-activated screen!

I bought the machine from Dell Financial Services’ Direct Sales unit for cheap. With shipping and a one-year warranty, I only spent about $500. By comparison, when the machine was shipped new in 2010, the street retail price started just under $2,000! It was a good purchase for me because as I’m starting to run more and more errands for my consulting, sometimes schlepping around an iPad alone just doesn’t cut it. There are times when it’s important to have a full computer. As I do a lot of commuting by bicycle and public transportation, I also don’t want my MacBook Pro to suffer the wear and tear of my commute…or worse, get damaged or destroyed if I were to get in an accident. The XT2 was a small purchase that, although I’d be sad to destroy or damage this machine, I can afford to purchase a replacement should I need to.

Enough philosophy: let’s get to running Ubuntu on this machine. The machine came shipped with Windows Vista but that was the first thing to go. I replaced it with Ubuntu 12.04.2, codenamed Precise Pangolin within minutes of turning it on for the first time just to make sure that it worked well. I read through several online guides about how to make this machine work and although the steps seemed daunting, I found that they were largely unnecessary and not needed. In simple terms, my steps were this:

  1. Ensure that the system OS is up to date with the latest standard Ubuntu kernel
  2. Update the system’s BIOS to the latest version (at this writing, it’s version A12)
  3. Check the system BIOS to see what wireless cards are enabled or disabled
  4. Install the Magick Rotation utility
  5. Have a lot of fun!

If you’re interested in my steps that I took in greater detail, I’ll go through them. Do note that most all of this is done from the terminal so your typing accuracy has to be spot on. Your results, although they should be like mine, may vary: please make a backup of your data before embarking on this journey (and don’t blame me if anything bad happens!).

Continue reading “Linux Chronicles: Dell Latitude XT2”

Phoenix debates land use near light rail stations

The City of Phoenix is holding a forum to get citizen input on land use planning near light rail stations. For the Camelback/Central Ave light rail station, the forum is being held at the Days Inn at 502 W Camelback Rd on Thursday at 6:30pm.

[cross-posted from the Downtown Voices Coalition blog]

Camelback/Central LR station public artThe City of Phoenix is holding a forum to get citizen input on land use planning near light rail stations. For the Camelback/Central Ave light rail station, the forum is being held at the Days Inn at 502 W Camelback Rd on Thursday at 6:30pm.

State law requires cities, towns, and counties to update their general plan every 10 years and this is the first revision of Phoenix’s general plan after the development of METRO light rail.

Phoenix is amending the city’s general plan for land-use planning near light-rail stations and is asking residents for input.

A public meeting to discuss the station at Central Avenue and Camelback Road is at 6:30 p.m. Thursday at the Days Inn, 502 W. Camelback Road.

The general plan is a blueprint that outlines land-use and policy guidelines on how the city should grow and redevelop for decades into the future.

State law requires cities, towns and counties to update the plan every 10 years but legislation the state passed last year extended the deadline to 2015 to give budget-constricted local governments short on planning staff more time to update their general plans.

Attendees will discuss a general range of appropriate building heights for future real-estate redevelopment.

By having stakeholders identify what they want to preserve, promote and will accept in advance, the general plan can better guide future real-estate development.

The meetings are not about property ownership, existing zoning or uses, city officials have said.

Properties along the light-rail route are in a transit-overlay district, which means less space is dedicated for parking due to the proximity to the train.

Read more here.

If you go, the nearest light rail station is 7th Ave/Camelback Road (Melrose District). For more information, call 602.256.5648.