Restaurants Are Not a Zero Sum Game

I had the pleasure of participating in a Chandler‘s Local Bites meet up last week.  Local Bites allows local Chandler restaurants to get together and solve problems they face and increase awareness for their businesses.  They had a panel with @jessharter, @skinnyjeans, @hdellc and Randy Walters (Pittsburgh Willy‘s).  The best part was watching them as they worked together for the greater good of all restaurants in Chandler.

These guys get that it is not a zero sum game.   They understand that someone will not eat at the same restaurant for every single meal.  Furthermore, they understand the more awareness of restaurants in close proximity a diner has, that the more likely they will go to that destination to seek food on a regular basis.  I wish that other zero sum game communities would recognize this and collaborate more often.  I look forward to more good stuff to come from this group and was glad to participate.

It was nice to see @santanbrewing, @corkchandler and @florindino‘s all there and joining the discussion.  I think this group has a lot of potential to get the word out on great eats in Chandler.

See Dave.. I’m talking about stuff I’m doing now.  Thanks for calling me on carpet to do it more!

Commentary on Whats Wrong With Downtown Phoenix

Last week Tyler Hurst made a post on what’s wrong with downtown Phoenix. There is certainly one thing he got absolutely right,  “Downtown Phoenix isn’t about businesses, buildings or parks. It’s about people. Those that live, work and/or play here make this place what it is.

Here are my thoughts on Tyler’s list.

1. Anything fun is spaced too far away. We have small little hives of activity connected with long, dark patches of absolutely nothing.

This is problematic.  There seems to be little factions popping up all over.  Hell many can’t even agree on what the boundaries of downtown Phoenix should even be.  Concentration of people and activity is extremely important.  Even the ASU downtown campus isn’t connected to itself.

2. Most of the people living here are liberal artists. They don’t make much money, don’t understand how to make money and seem content with First Fridays for selling anything. Yeah, good luck with that.

There definitely seems to be a lack of understanding of how basic economics work among many of the biggest proponents.  This is preventing real attraction of people who will support the area financially.  In time, when the economy picks back up it will also mean rich land developers mowing down what is being worked so hard to build.  The city will support this because while “vibrant” the current model does not show economical significance in comparison to what big land developers offer.

3. We have tons of groups, yet no one talks to each other. Go ask the marketing person at the Phoenix Art Museum and he’ll tell you the same. We all have our own thing on our own day, and they’re all sparsely attended.

Unity is so important.  People need not like one another, but they need to learn to support one another.  Creativity/Innovation is not a zero sum game.

4. Everyone wants a creative class down here, but no one understands what the hell that even is.

See item #2.  The basic misunderstanding of things such as social classes is just one sign that there are basic misunderstandings of how things effect the economy.  Until the struggling artist understands they need that corporate creative professional bringing down 200k a year to support them, it will be painful to see things collapse when big developers start their engines again.

5. Most are against anything corporate or chain, yet they don’t understand that’s where the money comes from.

See item #2 and item #4.  The theme here is that while local is best for sustainability, downtown needs to be sensitive to what the people with money are willing to participate and support.  The right mix of things is necessary to get things in full swing.  Even “real cities” have chains and non local owned businesses.

6. Everything is shiny happy unicorn rainbows all the time. THE BEST EVENT EVER! First Friday was a blast! The little scavenger hunt we had changed my life (okay, that last one was actually fun)! It’s called perspective. Try it.

To be excellent you must constantly seek improvement.  The only way to improve is to find deficiencies.  If everyone thinks everything is perfect already, then no improvement occurs and one is destined to mediocrity.

7. No one looks around. Nice Twitterhunt last week, CenPho businesses. Didn’t bother to check that many of the people using social media had their own GeekWeekAZ and were too tired to participate, did you?

Im not sure you can blame the businesses here.  What are the people doing to engage the businesses?  Everyone should be in it together.

8. Too many businesses think A) Twitter is the answer or B) don’t have a fucking clue what the internet, much less social media, even is. I live downtown and I don’t hear a damn thing about what goes on down here, and I’m constantly searching social media channels. It’s about BALANCE.

There certainly needs to be community OUTSIDE of technology.  While technology helps get the word out in many ways it retards the relationships that are vital to building real and sustaining community.  Turn off the technology for a while and really get to know people.

9. Everyone bitches, but no one bitches out loud and in public. Pissed about Modified Arts? SAY SOMETHING. Want to start a music venue? ASK AROUND.

You are victim if you passively complain and don’t stand up to voice things or are unwilling to get involved.  I think the biggest faux pas that creative class has made in downtown Phoenix is not getting involved in the right organizations and making an impact.

10. We want our downtown to be just like someone else’s. Doesn’t work that way. While I love the Gaslamp District, our city leaders seem too concerned with north Phoenix to make that happen. You want to improve your city? DO IT.

See #9. Also, be fucking unique.  Don’t be what someone else is.  The people here are unique, as is the weather, the culture and the history.  Make downtown phoenix representative of that uniqueness.

11. Phoenix thinks it has an image problem, when Phoenix IS THE PROBLEM. It’s foot-burning, nose-drying, armpit-sweating hot five months every year here, and we have a downtown WITHOUT ANY SHADED SIDEWALKS.

Please.  Shaded sidewalks while nice are not the problem.  Phoenix is not the problem.  Remember Tyler, it’s the people.  The people are the problem. 🙂  They need to be united in trying to transform where they live.  They need to have a vision with clarity that they can get behind and they need to be ruthless in executing it.  No whining, no complaining.  Less talking and more doing.

12. You built a park in the middle of the city and didn’t bother to shade it. Instead, we got a floating cervix that only looks good at night. How fucking stupid are you people?

The shade it provides is less than stellar and we can argue about it’s looks.  Im not sure it has anything to do with what’s wrong with downtown Phoenix.  It’s better than the pile of shit erected in front of Skysong.

13. The AZ Republic still exists, apparently above questioning. Does anyone even read that rag anymore? Arpaio met with Biden? WHO’S REPORTING WHAT?

I read that rag cover to cover every weekday (along with the Wall Street Journal).  I think it is in dire need of some help, but right now it’s all we got.  Someday I will get frustrated enough to get passionate about trying to change how we report news here to try to change things, but for now it’s better than nothing (albeit not by much).

14. Businesses think Light Rail is the answer. No, being amazing is the answer, Light Rail is just a more efficient way of bringing people to you.

Light rail has positioned well for an economic future that didnt exist before it.  However, the cost and operations are probably something that will be problematic for years to come as local governments involved are so poorly under funded.  However, you are correct it is not THE answer.  Being awesome (read being excellent) is the answer.  Downtown will never be awesome until it learns to criticize and respond to criticism with improvement.

15. Too often, criticism is passed off as complaining. Ever try asking a critic if they’re willing to help? I bet they are!

Agree.

16. ASU has been allowed to grow in the middle of downtown, without any sort of clear plan as to what role it will play in the community. Right now, it offers residents limited WiFi. Woohoo.

ASU brings more harm than help in the long term.  Ask Tempe what it’s like cleaning the cage of the 800lb giant.

17. There’s always talk about shopping local, yet no one actually does it. Ever seen unmanageable lines at the Farmer’s Market? Me neither.

I can’t speak to this one, but if people aren’t shopping local, downtown Phoenix stands little chance.

18. That people probably haven’t even read this far.

no comment.

Agree or disagree, get down to Local Breeze on Tuesday, November 24 from 5:30-7:30pm and get your point across. You don’t count if you don’t show up.

What is sad is that there will probably be more people there arguing for what to do that DO NOT live there, than there are people who actually do.  If this is the case.  If even 10% of the people that are there don’t currently live or operate businesses down there, then downtown is hurting much more than I expected.  I would love to attend and give an opinion, but honestly I don’t have a dog in the fight.

Disclosure: I live in Queen Creek and operate businesses in Chandler.  I am committed to improving both of the communities and the southeast valley. However, I would love to see the entire metro area and even Tucson succeed.

The Empire Continues To Grow.. Is It Evil?

There was recently a somewhat glowing review of the ASU downtown campus in the Arizona Republic.  However, I think if you look at the numbers, they might be more scary than uplifting.  They seem to want to brag about a huge percent increase in enrollment over last year.  It is funny that originally they were reporting 11,500+ students and the Republic debunked how they were counting students and the actual number ended up being under 5,000.  Nothing like an “honest” doubling of numbers when you are trying to justify a $200 million investment.

I am not sure these numbers are much better.  They are reporting just over 7,000 students or roughly a 1,300 student increase.  That sounds pretty reasonable, but if you really dig.  You will find that 390+ were moved under a “reorganization of university classes” from the ASU West Campus and another 230 aren’t actually in a program offered downtown.  So about 620 of the 1,300 new students were potentially manufactured to help bring numbers in alignment to give hope of the 15,000 students by 2020 promised  in the beginning.

Truth be told I could care less if 5 people 500,000 people attended the downtown campus.  What I take the most exception to is the downtown campus tends to re-inforce Dr. Crow’s desire to build his legacy through building the ASU empire.  This is actually good to the bottom line of ASU, so he is doing a good job using that measuring stick.  On the flip side it’s bad for Arizona in general.  Let’s ignore the $40+ million Scottsdale sunk into SkySong and the dismal return they have seen there and lets look solely at the Downtown Campus.  You have $200 million in city bond, $71 million in a journalism school that left Tempe.  The City seems to justify it by saying another $34 million for the Civic Park and $1.4 BILLION in light rail and another $29 million in nursing school will make it pay off some day.  So in the last five years we are looking at $1.8 BILLION investment in education.  Yet, we scream that we are under funding the university system?

I’m concerned that council members believe that ASU should be the “major economic generator” downtown and that they try to link the promise to “opportunities with ASU” including the Convention center?  Shouldn’t they be most concerned with providing us a solid workforce?  Shouldn’t they be focused on educating students?  What about research? I’m also glad that we now measure economic impact with concrete factors like “downtown is now more vibrant”.

I won’t pick on ASU too much though.  They are doing what is right for them and their future.  However, would we have been better off devoting that money to better things?

Note I realize things like the light rail benefit more than ASU students.  I am not a moron.  They seem to indicate that all those things were necessary in getting students to take classes downtown though, so it has to be discussed.

How Do We Fix Phoenix? Solutions Are Out There!

A blog I started reading recently and suggested by Chuck Reynolds called Rogue Columnist, is pretty interesting. It highlights a lot of the problems in Phoenix from someone that was raised here pre 1970 and has since moved to Seattle. It has a great sense of history about this great place, but can be misguided at times by agendas against sprawl, lack of water conservation, conservative government and lack of attention to global warming. While certainly am not interested in promoting any of those things, I think the author at times gets too hung up on his agendas and is not realistic in expectations. I do however applaud that he CRITICIZES what is going on here and isn’t the average “cheerleader” that we normally see.

He highlights 15 solutions to make Phoenix better. I was going to comment on them on his blog but figured it was easier to do so here. Please read his original post, it has the full details to each of these items.  Also read his other writings on Arizona. It stuff for great discussions.

1. Stop building outside the existing urban footprints of Arizona’s cities.
I agree with this. Lets back-fill some, instead of pushing more sprawl. I am not sure the best way to do this short of tax penalties for continued sprawl. What would that look like?

2. Water. Arizona needs to declare an immediate water emergency — aimed at sprawl and the lack of transparent facts about the state’s reserves, not aimed at watering shade trees.
I agree with this, but call bull shit on the rhetoric used to support it. The easiest way to conserve water is increase it’s cost dramatically. Set reasonable use amounts and penalize the hell out of any usage above that amount.

3. Incentives to develop inside the footprint of the Salt River Project, which has the best chance of surviving the future.
I think this is one is fairly bunk. While I agree with the sentiment I think the authors hatred of suburbs clouds his vision. We don’t need to spend money to attract people back into the core. Penalize the growth and let this occur more naturally. If you make incentives for development, then big developers will abuse this to their advantage and we end up with more stupid shit no one wants.

4. Diversify the economy into high quality sectors.
Short of water conservation, this is the biggest thing we should be doing. This is the primary mission of Gangplank and a deep passion of mine. The time is now. Municipalities understand a “growth” economy  isn’t working anymore and are more supportive than ever. Let’s not waste this opportunity. I think the downtown bio-med stuff is largely a joke, but at least they are trying. The solar movement is mostly lip service, but again they are trying. I vehemently disagree with the authors suggest we “recruit” outside companies.  We have been doing this for 40 years and it doesn’t work.

5. All this means rethinking “growth.”
I agree with most of what is here. Some of the items I’m less passionate about (in their current incarnations), but overall the ideals are correct.

6. Let the East Valley set up its own county (I suspect Tempe and Scottsdale would stay in Maricopa).
I actually think this might be a good idea, but for the exact OPPOSITE reasons the author states. I think that West half of Maricopa County is much more of a boat anchor than the East half. Ultimately, Im an old school Arizona boy and I would love to see it stay itself and have everyone win.

7. Fix the schools
I whole-heartedly agree with this. HOWEVER, I completely disagree to do it by giving them more money. Fix the institution and the system, then fund the shit out of it, but DO NOT give it funding before it is fixed.  Burning hundred dollar bills is more productive.

8. In urban areas, stop building roads and make a crash program for all kinds of transit.
I disagree with Light Rail, as its too expensive for the lack of density we currently have, but agree we need more viable transit. High-speed rail to Tucson/LA/SanDiego/Vegas, commuter rail and other innovations would be interesting. I would love to see people get CREATIVE here.

9. Become an outward-looking place.
I think we need to look outward, but lets fix ourselves first. This is a second tier item on my list. When we are in better shape lets start looking for a date to the prom.. K.

10. Create an appropriate tax structure.
We definitely need a fix here, I have not thought about it enough to have opinions on the right thing. We need to be less real estate friendly and more business friendly to start.

11. Provide tax-increment financing and other proven tools to cities to revitalize and channel development and business into their downtowns.
I like the idea, but need to study it more to have a strong opinion either way.

12. Invest water in creating multiple shade islands in Phoenix. Encanto Park, Arcadia and the area from north of Camelback Road to the Arizona Canal on Central show the dramatic affect this shade and grass have on lowering temperatures.
I disagree with this one. Let the desert be the desert. I call bullshit on the whole temperature thing. I do agree we should have more parks, but pushing for “shade islands” is for fannies (see what I did there MarkNg).

13. Declare moratoriums on more development in Buckeye and Pinal County (see point No. 1 above).
I don’t think it’s correct to put moratoriums on them, but I think its fair to make them pay their own damn way. Which they can not. So in essence it puts a moratorium on them. I have some radical thoughts on this but they may not be viable. 🙂

14. Fix the immigrant underclass that is already there, with good schools, English learning (it is the international business language) and ladders up to information age jobs.
I agree here. The KEY is no more English as a Second Language. Becoming fluent in English is MANDATORY.

15. I don’t have all the answers. I do know that doing the same thing over and over while hoping for a better outcome is the definition of…today’s Arizona.
I’m disappointed that the author doesn’t have all the answers, but I have a few to add. I would have a LOT to add, but I didn’t sit down and think about it. 🙂

– Stop the bullshit. Fix Immigration Laws and Open Immigration. See item 14.
– Stop recruiting outside and international companies as the panacea to build new economies. We need companies started here and grown here. Recruiting headquarters, call centers or operational arms is not viable long term. We need founders of companies here that are loyal to here and MOST IMPORTANTLY will re-invest back here when they succeed.
– Be responsible for the community you live in and make a difference.