Monday, May 20, 2013

Introductions Are In Order: Laveen, Meet Your Newest Pro-202 Special Interest Group

In case you hadn't yet noticed, there's a facebook button on the right side of this blog for the "Friends of the South Mountain Freeway". This is a page that I created in 2010 on behalf of several folks who support the Loop 202, myself included. We have never been paid, we have no budget, and we have therefore been intermittently active or not very active, depending on whether anyone gets inspired to say something important about the 202. Thankfully, that's been somewhat frequent lately -- especially for fellow page administrator and prominent Laveen residents Erika Keenan and Claudine Reifschneider. Erika and Claudine have put in countless hours for Laveen, particularly on behalf of Loop 202 advocacy in recent months (and getting about a hundred Laveen residents to show up to the city's budget hearing to ask for much needed resources). They have not, however, made any robocalls of which I'm aware -- remember, we have no budget for this campaign.

Who's Calling Me?

If you have received a call asking how you feel about the Loop 202 South Mountain Freeway, it was likely from the "Let's Build the 202" people. I understand that they have also sent out pro-202 mailings -- definitely not in our budget. Pleasantly surprised by this campaign, I did a little research after learning about the group's website in our Laveen FB group. My first impression of the website was that this looks like the work of a professional PR team, so my inner skeptic guided me to keep digging. Who in the world is paying these people?!

Luckily, this is not some sort of secretive effort. At the bottom of their webpage, the pro-202 group includes a link to their main organization page, "We Build Arizona". With a little further research, I found that this is an AZ non-profit corporation, listing Ronda Barnes of Perkins Coie as statutory agent. The officers and directors are a who's who of development interests, representing the Arizona Builders Alliance, the Associated General Contractors of America (AZ Chapter), the Tucson Utility Contractors Association, and others. Additionally, we know that District 7 Councilman Michael Nowakowski and District 27 Representative Ruben Gallego have been working diligently with their staff to promote the buildout of the Loop 202 SMF -- they co-hosted a public meeting in Laveen last week to inform residents about the process, and representatives from "Let's Build the 202" were also invited.

What's in It for Them?

Resources and growth. For Nowakowski and Gallego's constituents in Laveen, as well as for Ahwatukee residents, the freeway represents a vital economic development component, as it promises to bring the area much needed medical and commercial amenities. For the builders and their respective lobbies, it means a return of new construction where we need it. According to ADOT's environmental impact study, almost half of the region's near-term growth is anticipated within the area to be served by this freeway. After having been recently overlooked in favor of the far-flung SE Valley and NW Valley areas for new freeway projects, it's about time that we recognize the needs of this rather large swath of south Phoenix -- and recognizing it, we are. So are the business interests that will be building additional homes and those other amenities previously discussed. 

So Here We Are, All on the Same Side

Obviously, the residents of the impacted area and the construction interests share an economic benefit, most obviously to Laveen, western Ahwatukee, and the Gila River Indian Community. This helps explain why in a recent survey of active Laveen FB group members (who tend to skew higher in income and education than the community as a whole), 87% support the freeway. According to the recent HighGround survey, commissioned by the lobbying group, 59% of likely voters in Laveen and Ahwatukee support the Loop 202 SMF, and 64.3% of likely voters throughout Maricopa County agree. I guess those folks located elsewhere are in it for the regional traffic flow benefits, and perhaps they'd like to more easily visit their 75,000+ (and growing) friends and family in the Laveen-Ahwatukee area, or perhaps they want to have some fun at the huge new casino at Vee Quiva. Whatever the reason, I say welcome friends, let's work together to get this done -- and let's use the builders associations' funding to make it happen!


Unknown said...

I never thought of the other Freeway Projects before this one... I was always exited to see them open... but never realized their direct economic impact on their respective communities. This brings to mind the 303 loop connection between Happy Valley Road and the I-17... WHY WHY WHY did that get built before the SM-202...absolutely preposterous waste of resources!!

PTB said...

It's always a battle for finite resources. I still harbor a little bit of resentment for the 303 getting completely funded ahead of the 202 SMF -- especially in light of the conflicting interests of Luke AFB versus the continued development of the Surprise and El Mirage areas. Same goes for all the "shovel ready" projects we employed to use up federal stimulus funds a few years ago, as we still awaited the environmental impact statement for the 202. Likewise, I know that many of my friends who oppose the 202 are looking at the funding for other preferred projects. While I generally agree with the other side about light rail and other non-freeway projects, I can't help but also think those projects should get in line immediately behind this one.