As video calls have taken a bigger spot in our lives in the past few weeks, here are some cheap and easy ways to up your video call game.
What a weird few weeks it’s been. I hope everyone has been safe and healthy during these interesting times. For those who have been working from home, I’m sure video calls have been a part of your life. They certainly have for me!
Since I’ve been doing this for a bit, and since I also have some things to bring from dabbling in the photographic arts, I thought I’d share some easy things you can do to help improve your video conference setup. Each one of these ideas can be done independently of each other, so as to be flexible for limited budgets, but the total cost of all five of these different interventions shouldn’t exceed $100. With a couple exceptions, you probably have the kit around your home already! Continue reading “The Friday Five: Improving Your Video Calls”
This year marks the conclusion of my service on the Midtown Neighborhood Association Board. In that spirit, I offer five Midtown accomplishments from 2018.
This year wraps up my tenure as Board President as well as my service on the Board of the Midtown Neighborhood Association. One of the greatest honors I have known in my young advocacy career has been to be President of the Midtown Neighborhood Association Board. In the spirit of looking back, I thought it would be appropriate to outline some of what I think are the biggest Midtown accomplishments that I’ve had a hand in over my tenure as a Board Member and as Board President in these past couple of years.
Let me be absolutely clear that none of these Midtown accomplishments are my own. I was extremely fortunate to work with a dedicated group of Board colleagues that constantly challenged each other to think about what a urban-serving neighborhood association should look like. These accomplishments were made possible because of their commitment to midtown Phoenix. Our Board worked to establish consensus not only on our mission imperatives but in how we decided to execute upon those imperatives.
It is therefore in that spirit (and because it’s been unacceptably long since I’ve rolled out a Friday Five post) that I thought it appropriate to encapsulate what I think are the five greatest accomplishments that I’ve had a hand in as part of the Midtown Neighborhood Association Board.
5. We continued to deepen partnerships with other leadership organizations and leveraged their reach to help the Association’s mission. I think one of the most enduring of these Midtown accomplishments is that we continued to develop and deepen partnerships with other Phoenix leadership organizations. The Midtown Neighborhood Association is a dues-paying member of Phoenix Community Alliance and it was imperative for me to make sure we were engaging that group for all we could. While, at best, we could try to wrangle advertising for our quarterly magazine, The MUSE, or sponsorship for our major events, at worst, we were out in the community showing that we are a force for midtown Phoenix.
4. We were able to use our connections with kindred organizations on a shared advocacy agenda. One of the ongoing issues with central-city Phoenix advocacy is that many organizations have blinders on to only the issues happening in their neighborhoods and missing the greater picture. Top-of-building signage has been a big issue since the owners of the BMO Tower (1850 N Central Avenue) inaugurated their sign. When similar signs were proposed for two towers in Downtown in late 2017, we worked with our partners at the Phoenix Downtown Neighborhood Alliance (PHXDNA) on trying to create guidelines for top-of-building LED signage. As I’ve written previously, the issues that Midtown faces are largely the same as Downtown, and it’s imperative that organizations work together to lift and amplify each other’s voices.
3. We continued on the journey of implementing a committee structure. Like all of these, this one in particular was a joint lift involving many of my Board colleagues. The sustaining idea behind this is that we wanted to divorce Association-related tasks from individual people and put those roles in institutional committees that persist. This is also a great avenue to engage the community in our work! While it was a slow start this year, the foundations have been firmly established and it will only continue to grow.
2. We co-presented The Central-City Phoenix Neighborhoods Mayoral Debate in September. I reached out to my friends and fellow neighborhood organization presidents at Downtown Voices Coalition and PHXDNA to see about co-presenting a mayoral debate that was relevant to issues we face in urban Phoenix neighborhoods. Despite the disruption of fire alarms, we did the only debate on central-city Phoenix issues on 26 September 2018 at Burton Barr Library. KJZZ’s Christina Estes moderated using questions and themes developed by our three organizations’ boards and all four mayoral candidates were in attendance. Unique to our debate, we discussed issues like homelessness, transportation, and what the candidates’ plans were to build consensus in City Hall.
1. Midtown’s on the map. The big announcement for Phoenix in 2018 was that Creighton University is set to build a new campus in Midtown at Park Central Mall. With this campus, thousands of students, faculty, staff, will become a part of the Midtown community. Just as light rail and ASU aided in transforming downtown Phoenix, Creighton’s expansion has the potential to transform Midtown, and especially in concert with the transformation going on at Park Central Mall. As I have said, as Park Central goes, so, too, does Midtown. This is a tremendous opportunity and it’s incumbent on any Midtown leadership organization to be sure to capitalize on this tremendous gift.
Even though my service on the Midtown Neighborhood Association Board is about to come to a close, by no means is this the end of my commitment and dedication to Midtown advocacy! I’ve lived in Midtown now for the better part of 13 years. As 2019 rolls in, I hope to have some announcements to share about the next chapter in my Midtown–and urban Phoenix–advocacy.
There is still a lot to do and an uncertain future ahead of us. Let’s get to work.
It’s been 427 days since I’ve last posted. Let’s change that. Here are 5 things that have been on my mind.
It’s been a considerable time since I’ve last posted – 427 days to be exact. That won’t happen again. Anyway, here are five of the many things that have been on my mind in the last sixty-one weeks and will be the focus of the next few additions to this blog…
1. Still thinking about Chromebooks. This one’s fitting since my last post was about Chromebooks and how I’ve been playing around with them. In the intervening fourteen months, I’ve been off-and-on with mine but I’m still using it. It’s amazing to see how much it’s matured over that time period and how well it plays with Windows infrastructure via a Google-provided SMB share connector or a third-party RDP app. VPN connectivity is interesting with it but that’ll be the subject of a future post.
2. HOAs and IT. One of the big projects I’ve been tackling lately is the IT needs for a midrise condominium complex in midtown Phoenix. This will certainly be the focus of many posts down the road for sure; in the meantime, one theme that’s quickly emerged is that communicating technical issues and needs in non-technical terms is a skill that IT leaders need to embrace.
3. Midtown Phoenix. In 2016, I became disillusioned with the state of downtown-centric advocacy organizations and made a conscious decision to focus on the part of the world where I live and work: Midtown. As a means to that end, I’ve been elected to the board of the Midtown Neighborhood Association. August 2017 will mark the 17th anniversary of when I started to observe Midtown and the 11th anniversary of moving here from the suburbs. This renewed Midtown-centric advocacy focus is part of my love letter to Midtown.
5. The Downtown Phoenix Podcast. I know there have been a few false starts of the resuming of The Downtown Phoenix Podcast and that’s frustrated me. This is a project that needs to happen to bring serious conversation to the issues facing central-city Phoenix. I think I’ve identified a couple new individuals who will help in bringing this back. Stay tuned.
A couple of weeks with one of the Google Chromebooks. Is it right for you?
[Editor’s note: This blog will take a slight turn this year. To be sure, comment will still be offered on the urban condition in Phoenix as needed. But we will be starting to talk about the role of technology in daily life. This post is the first of that new focus.]
My main mobile machine is my trusty iPad Air but there are times when it’s nice to have a full laptop. I had been wanting to restart regular writing and I found that my iPad just had too many distractions on it to be useful. But finding a machine that doesn’t break the bank can be a challenge. I had always been interested in the Google Chromebook series of devices, even though I’m an Apple user through and through.
I picked up a refurbished Asus Chromebook C201 for about $140 online a few weeks ago and here are some of my initial thoughts on the device:
The Chromebook is not a home computer replacement. Chromebooks are powered by Chrome OS and the OS has only one purpose: to get to you launch the Google Chrome web browser. That’s it. There are no OS-level offline things except for the system settings and a rudimentary file browser (that has deep integration into Google Drive). It is all handled in the Chrome browser. In this sense, Chrome OS is essentially a thin client – the processing of anything you do is done on Google’s servers elsewhere. If you’re fine with that, then that’s great.
Chrome OS really works best if you’ve gone fully Google. Chrome OS’s web-based applications are tied hand-in-hand with the Google Apps suite (Gmail, Google Calendar, Google Drive, etc.). Other online suites do work but bear in mind you’re accessing these through whatever web interfaces they offer. You sign in with a Google Account (be it personal or issued through your workplace or school) instead of a local user account or some sort of on-premises Active Directory credentials. This gets messy if you’re using a password manager with a randomly generated password to manage your Google Account credentials!
Enterprise-level management requires an expensive additional subscription. Whenever I evaluate a piece of tech, I wonder about its integration into enterprise or managed environments. As it turns out, even if you have a paid Google Apps for Work subscription for your business users, you still need to purchase yearly per-device management licenses that range from $30 per device per year up to $250, depending on what the device does. And, unfortunately, navigating these licenses is as perplexing as navigating Microsoft license programs.
Battery life is exceptional. Considering I purchased a refurbished device, I wasn’t expecting too much in the way of battery life. I’m finding I’m getting about 7-8 hours on a full charge. Not too bad, considering the device is always connected to the Internet and therefore has to have the wi-fi radio on all the time.
If you keep in mind what this device is, it’s actually a compelling piece of technology. As a test for if a Chromebook would work for you, ask yourself this: Can you do your task within Google Chrome? If the answer is yes, then this will work. If you need a separate app, then it won’t work. I bought this device to do, really, one thing: provide a distraction-free environment for writing. Google Docs runs magnificently on this.
There are a couple limitations of this due to the nature of this system. First, if you use a separate application on your other machines for password management (e.g., 1Password), you will find that it won’t work on the Chromebook. In the case of 1Password, you’ll have to sign up for 1Password for Families or 1Password for Teams to access your password vaults. The other issue is that as offline support is an always evolving thing, offline access to your data is spotty at best. You have to pin files for offline access in Google Drive, for example, if you want to work on them where you don’t have an Internet connection. But since this device never leaves my home, this is a non-issue.
When Google announced the launch of the Chromebook on its blog back in May 2011, they said, “These are not typical notebooks. … Your apps, games, photos, music, movies and documents will be accessible wherever you are and you won’t need to worry about losing your computer or forgetting to back up files.” That’s true. Seeing how wi-fi has become more and more ubiquitous over the past five years, the potential for these thin clients for the masses is greatly increasing. The hardware is only as good as its software, it seems, and thin client computing is becoming more and more used in enterprise environments.
I’m happy with this device. I don’t expect it to do everything my Mac can do because it can’t.
As the first ballots for August’s election have been mailed out, here are five reasons why you should vote for Proposition 104 in Phoenix.
As the first ballots for August’s election have been mailed out, here are five reasons why, if you live in Phoenix, you should vote for Proposition 104. This blog also recommends returning each incumbent to their elected position as well as voting yes on all of the other propositions.
It’s more than just new light rail lines. One of the common misconceptions being conveniently perpetuated by opponents of Proposition 104 is that it’s just for new METRO light rail lines within the City of Phoenix. While, certainly, those are welcome and needed, it’s more than that. The plan expands service on city buses, accelerates repairs and improvements to roads and sidewalks, adds bicycle lanes, and enhances technology for Phoenix’s transportation system. There is something for everyone.
No, we can’t just spend this money on teachers instead. A repeated talking point by opponents of Proposition 104 is that this money could be better spent on teachers and education. Since education in Arizona is the domain of the State of Arizona, I ask: Why can’t we have both? In an op-ed opposing Proposition 104 in The Arizona Republic by Tyler Bowyer, the chair of the Republican Party of Maricopa County, Mr. Bowyer repeats this tired talking point. But given his party’s proclivity against raising taxes, I would think that if his alternate proposal were on the table, Mr. Bowyer and those using that talking point would have encouraged us to vote no on that proposal, too.
As people go back to the city, our infrastructure must go back to the city. As has been documented withgreatregularity on this blog, there is a trend nationwide of moving back to our central cities. Some promising news came out this past week about the amount of public and private investment near the initial 20-mile line of light rail. Even amid the Great Recession, $8.2 billion in public and private investment was made near the line in 204 projects. That’s a near-sixfold return on our collective community investment. Tempe has perhaps made the most of light rail, garnering $3.4 billion in investment on their smaller section of line.
World cities require people-based transportation. If Phoenix is to be a world city, which I believe is a necessary aspiration for us to have any chance to compete in the global economy, we will need to have a transportation system in our central city that focuses on moving people around, not just private automobiles. Phoenix may have grown up and developed in the age of peak automobile; however, this gives us a chance to make quality and sensible investments in our infrastructure. As we mark the 25th anniversary of the enacting of the Americans with Disabilities Act 1990, it’s important to note that public transportation and paratransit (dial-a-ride) services, both enhanced by Proposition 104, provide a wonderful mechanism for people with disabilities to be strong contributors in the new global economy.
This is a chance to take our future into our own hands. The City of Phoenix gets no love from our state government. In fact, they try to do things that actively harm Phoenix’s future. SB 1070 in 2010 and SB 1062 in 2014 are two bills that come to mind amid many others. So what better way is there for all Phoenicians to take our city’s future into our own hands by providing a mechanism for us to create, fund, and evaluate our own transportation system? While other big cities in other states get help in building infrastructure from their state legislatures, we in Phoenix get the ‘drop dead’ message from ours. If we want Phoenix to be a world city, then we are left to do the fundraising ourselves.
If we want Phoenix to be a world city, then we need to have a forward-thinking transportation system that seamlessly blends buses, trains, bikes, and people. Please join me in voting YES in Proposition 104.
The Friday Urban Dispatch for 10 July 2015: comments on Roosevelt Row, civics lesson, and moving Phoenix.
As 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.
As campaign season heats up, here are questions for the next Phoenix mayor.
Things 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:
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?
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?
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?
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?
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.?
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?
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?
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?
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?
Like symphonic music? This edition of The Friday Five recommends some works for your weekend symphonies playlist. Complete with Spotify link, too!
This 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 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.
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.
Rethinking Phoenix City Council meetings is something that is important for civic and citizen engagement. Here are five different approaches to do that.
There are some challenges to getting participation at Phoenix City Council meetings. Meetings range from a few people in attendance to packed houses depending on the business at hand. Since my academic training is in civic engagement and since I’ve attended my fair share of meetings of the City Council to advocate for a myriad of issues, here are some of my thoughts to encourage citizen engagement and to get more participation in municipal government and governance.
1. Simulcast the proceedings in the City Hall atrium. The space is underutilized during the day except for special events, like the various events taking place for National Arts & Humanities Month. But because the City Council Chambers are a small venue, when contentious items are on the agenda, the 225 seats quickly fill and the Chambers become standing room only. So people can observe the City Council doing the people’s work, why not make the atrium of City Hall a space for civic engagement and dialogue on important municipal issues and a spot to simulcast City Council meetings? With a powerful projector, a large screen, and decent speakers, the Phoenix Channel 11 broadcast of City Council meetings can happen inside the atrium. Some might say this would be noisy for visitors to City Hall or those who work inside but this “noise” is your government at work.
2. Have speakers’ cards available outside the Council Chambers security checkpoint. Some times, people want to have their support or opposition for an item on the Council’s agenda on the record but do not necessarily wish to speak. In addition to writing their councilperson, one way to do that is to use the speaker’s card to indicate support or opposition, even if an individual doesn’t want to speak before the council. But the only way to do that is to go through the security checkpoint, fill out a card, then leave. Have some cards in a kiosk outside the entrance doors and a council staff person in charge of collecting them to be delivered to the council dais. An easy option would be have them available at spaces within City Hall before and during the meetings, like the City Hall atrium (see point #1, above).
3. Rethink the security screening process to get inside the Council Chambers. I have wondered why there is TSA-style screening to enter the Phoenix City Council chambers but not the other buildings of the City of Phoenix, like City Hall. I appreciate the desire to keep those in attendance at Council meetings as well as city staff and elected officials safe; however, one wonders why this started. As commented in point number 2, above, speakers’ cards are only available post-security, which makes it challenging for people to put their views on the official record even if they do not wish to speak.
4. Hold City Council meetings at various sites around the City of Phoenix. While this might not always work for all meetings, when business for particular areas of the City can be held at one time, take the meetings on the road to that area. So if items of general relevance to, say, inner west Phoenix and Maryvale are on the table, hold the meeting at the Adam Diaz Senior Center at 41 Ave and Thomas. This would also introduce all of the council members to all constituencies in the entire city and to hear from everyone, not just their own home district. In other words, let’s bring the people’s business to the people.
5. Move City Council meetings to the Orpheum Theatre. This one would require a lot of forethought and planning to do it right and to work out some logistical challenges but I think this is something that needs to be done. The City Council Chambers, built in the early 1960s, seats 225 people. While that might have worked for a city that was 1/3 the size of today, when there are contentious issues on the Council’s agenda, that space quickly becomes way too small. The City Council has held meetings at the 1,364-seat Orpheum Theatre in the past and it should start to do that in the future. The City Council Chambers building would still be used for smaller civic functions, like meetings of various City boards and commissions, lectures, and other civic events.