A note from Eddie…

A note from Eddie about the goings-on surrounding the 2nd Street & Roosevelt RFP in downtown Phoenix.

2nd & Roosevelt via Google EarthIn the interest of full disclosure…

If you’ve been paying attention to the news and goings-on in downtown Phoenix as of late, you’ve probably heard about the City of Phoenix’s decision to proceed with the development of an age-restricted senior housing complex near 2nd Street and Roosevelt. There were four finalist proposals from four different teams. My firm was retained by one of the proposing teams, the team led by Butler Housing Company and Rainey Studios, to provide technical and submission advice, including submitting the final paperwork to the City of Phoenix.

This has become a big issue in downtown and it has brought many different opinions to the floor. It is great to see so much passion and energy on this topic and I certainly have my viewpoints on this topic. But because I was involved in one of the proposals, I think it’s best for everyone if I bowed out of the conversations on this topic.

Thanks for understanding.
Edward Jensen / 13 November 2013

“Anthem for Doomed Youth” [W. Owen]

For Veterans’ / Armistice Day, a poem by Wilfred Owen.

What passing-bells for these who die as cattle?
    Only the monstrous anger of the guns.
    Only the stuttering rifles’ rapid rattle
Can patter out their hasty orisons.
No mockeries for them from prayers or bells,
    Nor any voice of mourning save the choirs,—
The shrill, demented choirs of wailing shells;
    And bugles calling for them from sad shires.

What candles may be held to speed them all?
    Not in the hands of boys, but in their eyes
Shall shine the holy glimmers of good-byes.
    The pallor of girls’ brows shall be their pall;
Their flowers the tenderness of silent maids,
And each slow dusk a drawing-down of blinds.

An Open Letter to Phoenix City Council Candidates

Dear Justin Johnson and Laura Pastor, Phoenix City Council District 4 candidates:

I’m writing to you this evening in this open letter to share some observations that I’ve had about your campaigns since the first election in late August.  Yes, it’s true that I helped out with my friend Dan Carroll’s campaign, and yes, we see how well that worked out.

But I’m a Phoenician first and foremost.  No silly political campaign will change that—this place has the irreplaceable quality that it will always be home.  And, since this place is home, I’m concerned about its future.  In urban Phoenix, as in all of Phoenix, we’re at a major crossroads.  As I’m going to share in a big essay in early October, our time is running out to be a well-respected city when it comes to urban living and urban life.

You’ve offered some interesting ideas and policies for what you want to do for District 4.  Some of them are good, others okay, and there are some with which I disagree.  In reading through your issues section on your websites (since most of your mailers seek to attack your opponent or tout endorsements), I’ve noticed one key theme that’s missing.  How are you going to make your policies happen?  In other words, how will you use the power of being in the council seat to effect change in our district and in this city?

For instance: One of the areas in which you seek to differentiate yourselves is what to do with the reverse lanes scheme on 7th Avenue and 7th Street.  David Lujan, who did not advance to Round 2, sought to divide himself from the pack on this issue.  While I join my Midtown neighbors in wanting the reversible lanes gone, what I feel you (the candidates) fail to realize is that any revisions of the reversible lanes scheme will require a vote of the entire City Council.  As you know, the City Council has four council districts that benefit from the perceived increased capacity these lanes provide (Districts 1, 2, 3, and 6).  It will be your job, Justin or Laura, to create and frame an argument to your northern colleagues why altering the scheme would be a good idea.

I realize that the philosophy of governance isn’t something that makes it your robo-calls or mailers to prospective voters.  These aren’t the questions that are asked even though they should be.  How will you build coalitions when you are in the chair?  What’s more important to you: ideological rigidity or compromise?  What type of place do you see urban Phoenix becoming and how will you use you office to get us there?  Do you think that the Phoenix City Council has too many, enough, or too few council seats?  Is now the time to move to a Strong Mayor form of government?

These are the big issues.  These are the big ideas.  Let’s have an honest and intellectually rigorous debate on these issues.  I’m not so much interested in what you are going to do when you’re in the chair, I’m more interested in how you’re going to get your agenda accomplished.

Let’s chat.

Miles to go before we sleep

With Election Day today, I offer a little input on the Phoenix City Council races happening.

[editorial note: I realize that the poem of Robert Frost quoted in the title, “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening,” makes allusions to suicide. The interpretation that I used when employing that phrase is that there’s a long way to go until we’ve made Phoenix a better city. If you or a loved one needs help or has had thoughts of suicide, then know that there is help available to you through Lifeline. Thanks.]


I realize that I’ve been awfully quiet on this space lately especially with some major City of Phoenix City Council elections happening and projects I’ve been working on to advance urban Phoenix. If you’ve been following along on Twitter (where I’m @edwardjensen), it has been no secret that I have been working behind the scenes as campaign chief-of-staff on my friend Dan Carroll’s campaign to be the next District 4 councilperson. We might not have the money or the national political party backing of other candidates but we are the only campaign that has made, is making, and will continue to make a difference in Phoenix should things not fall in our favor tonight.

(If you live in Phoenix’s Council District 4 and you haven’t voted yet, I would be remiss if I didn’t take this opportunity to commend Dan Carroll for your vote. He has almost thirty years of demonstrated experience making our neighborhoods better and serves on several local boards and commissions. He gets Phoenix politics and will work for you–our neighbors and neighborhoods–with a passion and intensity previously unseen by any councilperson. For my readers who live in District 8, I commend Lawrence Robinson for your vote. The city’s 18 voting centers–where any Phoenix voter may cast their ballot–are open until 7pm tonight.)

In thinking through the content of this post, I realize that a bit of it might sound a little valedictory. But with seven candidates running, who will advance after tonight is really anybody’s guess. There are miles to go before we sleep and we’ll keep campaigning and working hard on this election until we’re told by the voters to stop. The theme of Dan’s campaign has been that neighbors know best. We hold that to be true always–even if our neighbors may make the misguided assumption that a different candidate will represent them and their interests better as a councillor. That being said, though, there are some things that we have held near and dear to our hearts and we will ensure that whomever advances (us, included) treats these issues with equal importance as we have.

N4DC LogoI’m proud of the team that we’ve assembled for this campaign. We are all neighborhood, community, and civic leaders that get this city and have a passion to make it even greater. We have G.G., a longtime advocate for the Encanto-Palmcroft neighborhood and tireless advocate for preserving the quality of life in all Phoenix neighborhoods. Cyndi is from the Osborn Block Watch and is working with our western Phoenix neighbors to reduce crime and make sure our youth have better opportunities available for them. Blanca, a longtime voice for the Pasadena neighborhood, has led the fight against unwanted businesses intruding their neighborhoods. Mike is the former President of ArtLink and one of the first to do an infill project in Phoenix. Linda-Marie has helped us reach out to all of the neighborhoods in our district and has provided her voice for a couple of our calls. I’m (not to toot my own horn, but it’s my web space so I can) one of urban Phoenix’s leading thinkers, raconteurs, and doers. And then there’s Dan: the vice-chair of the Encanto Village Planning Committee, the President of the Midtown Museum District Neighborhood Association, among other things.

These are all things that we are outside of the campaign. The campaign only has brought us together into a wonderful partnership that will last longer than one, two, or even three Council terms. What matters to us is the trust placed in us by neighbors and neighborhood leaders to get things accomplished. We’ll get that HAWK pedestrian-activated crosswalk stoplight put in near the Adam Diaz Senior Center. We’ll make sure that our neighbors in Maryvale aren’t given lip service every four years by politicians and make sure that they’re not forgotten and a vibrant part of Phoenix and Phoenix political life. We’ll make sure that alleys have proper lighting. And, most of all, we’ll make sure that when the City considers changing its definition and scope of infill, that established neighborhoods are protected and have equal–if not more–say than developers and their kin.

This is the first campaign that I’ve been involved with in the behind-the-scenes operation. It’s also the first one that I’ve served as campaign chief-of-staff. And in the process, I’ve seen the best of politics and the worst of it. We’ve all seen, either directly or tangentially, the overly sexist mailer anonymously sent in recent days to our District 4 neighbors demeaning Laura Pastor while praising David Lujan. Both Dan’s campaign and I have been attacked by out-of-town operatives of a major national political party because we’re fiercely independent. We hear of campaigns raising in excess of $100,000 just for this round of the election. (We’ve raised a fraction of that.) So it’s become incredibly obvious that if you aren’t from deep pockets or have the backing of a national political machine, it’s an uphill battle to election. To be honest, however, we did know this going into this race. But that has made us even more committed to this cause and more dedicated to leadership and public service.

There are miles to go before we sleep, Phoenix. So whatever happens tonight, you know that I and those that I have had the honor and privilege to work with on this campaign will be getting to work first thing tomorrow morning–win, lose, or draw.

We hope for a win.

To repair America

There is much more work to repair America than I had previously thought.

If you’ve been in a cave: George Zimmerman has been found not guilty of murdering Trayvon Martin.

There is much more work to repair America than I had previously thought.

In defense of Phoenix criticism and @BloomingRock

Some of the best analyses of Phoenix comes from former Phoenicians. Let’s embrace what they have to add to the conversation and not summarily ignore it.

471868_305411662828648_281885915181223_382286_706098635_o1-225x300.jpgMy friend Taz Loomans, the writer and former Phoenician, wrote a piece yesterday in which she compared the most urban elements of Phoenix to just less than a suburb. In Taz’s words:

“[This] last time I was in Phoenix, visiting after living a couple of months in Portland, I realized Phoenix does suburbia exceedingly well. But it offers almost no urban life. And what passes for urban life in Phoenix is really a slightly less suburban version of suburbia. This makes me wonder – instead of trying to swim against the tide of decades of infrastructure and decades of suburban culture and values, why not just embrace suburbia full force?” [from “Is Phoenix a City of Just a Big Suburb” / bloomingrock.com]

Part of me says that she’s right. Compared to other urban environments the size of Phoenix — Seattle, Minneapolis, and Portland are examples that quickly come to mind — we are far from urban. One wonders if we’ll ever become a truly urban city on the size and scale of these cities. Phoenix came of age during the era of the automobile being the main driver for design and development. It’s not an indictment of Phoenix per se; however, it’s a design reality that contemporary urbanists seem to ignore.

I commented on the piece and on Facebook that I don’t believe that Phoenix will become an urban environment on the scale of Seattle, Minneapolis, and Portland. But instead, I think we’ll move to embrace the twenty-minute city. (The twenty-minute city is defined as places to work, shop, play, and eat that are a twenty-minute public transportation trip, bicycle ride, or walk from one’s residence.) As one of those weird Phoenicians without a car, I have my own twenty-minute city. By migrating my belief system to this instead of wanting wholesale urbanism across central Phoenix, I’ve come to appreciate this city more. Of course, we have much to improve in the areas of sustainability, density, diversity, and promoting a desert urbanism.

But my thoughts and feelings on urban Phoenix aren’t the point of this piece. As was to be expected, the usual blind boosters of Phoenix were quick to denounce Taz’s comments as a disaffected former Phoenician who has quit trying to make Phoenix better by moving to Portland. (Their thoughts and words, not mine.) Some of the most cogent analyses of Phoenix and the issues facing Phoenix have come from former Phoenicians. In addition to Taz, the writings of Jon Talton quickly come to mind. His writing may be harsh at times; however, his writing is permeated with the reality that we in Phoenix need to heed. One also thinks of the book Bird on Fire: Lessons from the World’s Least Sustainable City by Dr Andrew Ross, the NYU professor of social analysis.

We Phoenicians are terrible at taking criticism. Terrible at it. Instead of debating and discussing ideas to make our part of the world better, we summarily dismiss ideas based on the people who have offered those ideas. As a native Phoenician, it was harsh to read through Bird on Fire. But it was the best-researched tome on Phoenix history that I have read ever…hands down. The scope of Dr Ross’s research as well as the people and organizations he interviewed were spot-on. And as for my friend Taz: because she no longer lives in Phoenix does not mean that her thoughts and ideas on urban living in Phoenix are now less valid.

Phoenix will never become Portland (to which I say thank goodness!) but there are elements of Portland’s urbanism that we can adapt for Phoenix use. We’ll never be Seattle or Minneapolis, which is okay, but we can take the elements of their citizens’ strong civic engagement in their cities’ design and policy processes. We can take some of the advocacy that has made these urban areas the best and apply them to our city, county, and state policymakers and elected officials. Just because someone has left Phoenix (or is not from Phoenix) does not make their viewpoints less valid.

Let’s debate ideas, not people.

What’s OUR Apollo moment today?

What is our Apollo moment today? What can we accomplish before THIS decade is out?

Forty-three years ago, humanity set its first feet on a foreign celestial body. Or, in other words, 43 years ago, we landed on the Moon.

New York Times, 21 July 1969

Forty-three years ago today, Neil A. Armstrong and Edwin E. “Buzz” Aldrin, Jr., set humanity’s first foot on the moon. It came from an audacious dream in 1961 from the then-President, John F. Kennedy, and it was achieved “before this decade is out.”

What is our Apollo moment today? What one goal can we as Americans — nay, as humanity unified — achieve before this decade is out? Do we choose to eradicate poverty and hunger? Or pledge to ourselves that war will be no more? Do we challenge ourselves to stop our influence on global warming?

If we don’t dream audaciously, then humanity’s future is bleak. Here’s to exploring further, digging deeper, and dreaming like we’ve never dreamed before.

From the Archives: Thoughts on SB 1070

In light of the US Supreme Court’s decision on SB 1070, a two-year-old post seems to be relevant yet again.

[author’s note: The following post, originally published 14 May 2010 in the wake of the recent signing into law of Arizona’s SB 1070, is relevant following today’s earlier decision by the US Supreme Court to pre-empt certain portions of the controversial immigration law. SB 1070’s not going away yet, unfortunately, as immigration is an issue that our political leaders would rather use as electoral politics instead of actually doing something.]

Arizona State Capitol (photo: robeeena on Flickr)It’s been a few weeks now since SB1070 has been signed into law. Unless you’ve been living in a cave for the past few weeks, you know all the fallout that’s happened from around the state and across the nation. It hasn’t been pretty. There have been calls to boycott Arizona, and some state and city legislatures have introduced measures to boycott Arizona.

In all the madness, I’ve been trying to figure out what SB1070 means for me, my community, and greater Arizona. I believe that SB1070 is misguided and does nothing to solve the true issue at hand, immigration reform.  I firmly believe that SB1070 was passed because we’ve let fear drive the conversation instead of reasoned, rational debate.  As Emerson said, “Fear always springs from ignorance.”

It’s been hard putting words to how I feel. I understand the frustration on the parts of those who support this law. The Federal government has definitely let us all down in passing any sort of immigration reform. I hope that Arizona’s passing of this misguided law is a wake-up call to the Federal government to start a new dialog on immigration. Unfortunately, seeing how this is an election year, I’m not holding my breath that a humane, sensible, and comprehensive immigration policy will be passed as candidates will pander to their ever-increasingly polarized sides.

I know that it’s all too easy to say that the law will only impact those who aren’t legally in this country. I believe that this will impact everyone. It has only raised the already-heightened sense of fear in the community.  Those who support the law have publicly squirmed when they try to come up with criteria besides skin color of what an “illegal immigrant” might look like. We have a sheriff that goes on media blitzes to brag about how many undocumented immigrants he and his office have apprehended. Laws like SB1070 will only further enable him to do that.

I’m not writing this to downplay the issue of undocumented immigration in Arizona. It is a big deal. For too long, it seems like we’ve let this issue slide because there was enough resources to help immigrants and because we recognized the positive effects they’ve had on the economy. Only now are we realizing that operatives of drug cartels are operating in the local schools. Now that Arizona’s economy is in a nosedive, the state legislature and a somewhat silent citizenry are scapegoating the immigrant community for these problems. It’s their fault that Arizona is losing money.  It’s their fault that crime is on the rise. It’s not our fault, it’s their fault.

It seems like an excuse to pass this law is the increased border violence, drug transportation, and its localized crime. If this is the case, why was there not an element in the law deploying the Arizona Army National Guard to the border area to defend against this criminal element? Why are we focusing on people who are here already instead of stopping the real threat to our safety and security?  The framers of this bill have said that we want safer communities and that this will help mitigate the criminal element inherent in immigration. So why, then, are we focusing on those who have innocently set up their lives here to escape the violence and bloodshed in their homeland instead of those committing the violence and bloodshed?

One has to understand that it is a small percentage of the total immigrant population that is giving everyone a bad name. The media and its unchecked commentators are quick to highlight on a few stories that prove their points. We were spoon-fed stories about a southern Arizona rancher allegedly being murdered by an immigrant yet evidence is now emerging that an American citizen is the alleged suspect. We hear of a rise in crime, but that crime is usually localized and insider crime that is tied to smuggling. It’s not random.  As Dean Nicholas Knisely+ of Trinity Episcopal Cathedral wrote in an essay on this very topic, “There are some very bad people coming across the border. There are also many people desperate to find work coming across as well, because the crushing poverty in their home communities makes [it] impossible to feed and care for their families.”

There have been many parallels drawn that connect Arizona to Nazi Germany. As an Arizonan, I’m offended. Nobody likes their home state compared to a brutal régime that systematically killed millions of Jews. Yet that does not mean that I’m oblivious to these parallels. Those who support this law say that those who are here with the appropriate paperwork have nothing to hide. But this now means that entire groups of people will now have to carry with them the appropriate papers to show that they are either citizens or immigrants in the country legally.

I’ve been convinced that SB1070 will never actually go into effect because there are a multitude of legal challenges and injunctions that will be filed against it. I hope this is the case. I’m a proud Arizonan and I don’t like that my home state, the state in which I was born, is the butt end of jokes. The Arizona in which I live is open, welcoming, and tolerant of other peoples. The Arizona that is unfortunately being portrayed to the media is a xenophobic, old, and rancorous state.

For those who care about this state, we’ve been let down. We’ve been let down by a state legislature that passes policies blaming one group of citizens for the state’s troubles. We’ve been let down by politicians that put their careers before their constituents. We’ve been let down by a federal government that has neglected to address immigration reform thus enabling states to pass draconian laws such as these. We’ve been let down by the media that is using opinions as the basis for facts and not vice versa.

I’ve publicly debated on this blog whether or not I’ll stay in Arizona once I’ve finished my Master’s degree. I think that now is the time that I should stay here and fight to change Arizona to be the Arizona in which I want to live. The quotation by Mohandas Gandhi is increasingly pertinent: “We need to be the change we wish to see in the world.”

We need change. Desperately. But that change has to be relevant, humane, sensible, and comprehensive.

A big announcement!

…in which I share and make official some big news with you all. Yay!

Big news! I’ve started to leak the word out to a few of you but as one academic year winds down and another begins, I thought I would share some news with you all. This is, after all, a personal blog so I hope that you can indulge me here as I brag about myself.

I am pleased to share the news with you all that, beginning in July, I will be joining the staff of Arizona School for the Arts (ASA) as their Information and Instructional Technology Coordinator. Not only is ASA a nationally recognized school that produces so many wonderful alumni, it’s also the place where I spent my middle- and high-school years (grades 7-12) from 2000-2006.

I’d also know a thing or two about the alumni that the school produces: I am humbled to be leading the school’s Alumni Association as we work through a period of transition and welcome future classes to our fold.

The new gig consists of three parts. I should note that I’m not formally on the teaching faculty; however, I suspect that I’m going to be doing a lot of informal teaching along the way. First, I’ll be making sure that the day-to-day technology operations of the school are working just fine. Think of this one as managing the enterprise IT — making sure networks work, computers process, phones make calls, and so on. The second part is the unofficial Digital Knowledge Architect of the school: researching new technologies as they might pertain to the educational outcomes of the school. What is the school doing well? What needs work? How can we take ASA to the next level…and beyond? The last component is serving as the school’s Technology Advisor. Not only am I the IT person for the enterprise that is ASA, I’m that person for the 750 students that attend the school. Of course, that doesn’t mean that as students have issues with their personal tech, I’m going to fix it. But that does mean that I will be giving grade-specific information on how to be smart with technology, how to be safe online, and how to be good digital citizens.

On a different note, that means that this blog is changing its focus. You’ll see that in the past month, I’ve rebranded it as “Technology for a Digital Generation” and have started to focus on emergent technology. Over the coming months, and especially as I settle into my new role, that focus will take off and this blog will become the home for resources and research that I will be doing. Downtown Phoenix and bicycling will take a backseat on this blog. But don’t worry — there are a number of great fellow “urban philosophers” that will unequivocally fill the shoes I vacate. The last post I pen on downtown Phoenix, at least for some time, will be my “Whither Density” postmodern analysis of downtown Phoenix. Expect that one to come out in a couple of weeks.

The school is such a wonderful place and I’m thrilled to be joining the ranks as a staff person. I’m so excited and I can’t begin to thank my mentors who have inspired me to get to this place. One person that I do have to call out by name is Dr. Colleen Carmean, the current Assistant Chancellor for Instructional Technologies at the University of Washington-Tacoma. I know Dr. Carmean because we both worked at the ASU College of Public Programs and I was fortunate to work with her on several research projects about advancing technology in education. She is also a dear friend and mentor of mine. In this new gig for me, I’m trying a little bit to emulate what she did as ASU CoPP’s Digital Knowledge Architect — and to be that mentor for the students with whom I’m working. If I am even 1/10th of the mentor to my students as Dr. Carmean has been to me, then I should think I’ve done something.

That’s the news from here. To all those who have helped me along the way and on this journey, I say “thank you” and I raise a glass to our accomplishments. Of course, I look forward to many many (many!) more accomplishments and celebrations along the way!