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Metro Atlanta leaders defend value of Phoenix LINK trip

Maria Saporta

By Maria Saporta

About 100 metro Atlanta leaders headed to Phoenix Wednesday on the 14th annual LINK trip.

The group was first given a bus tour of the communities of Tempe, Scottsdale and Phoenix, seeing first hand the desert-like landscape with a system of canals and lakes aimed at capturing every drop of water. Phoenix only gets an average of seven inches of rainfall each year.

The Atlanta Regional Commission selected Phoenix as the 2010 LINK city as a way to learn how another metro area has been able to manage a limited water supply.

But this trip had another ingredient — the scrutiny of an Atlanta television station.

CBS Atlanta sent investigative reporter Wendy Saltzman to meet the public and private officials as they disembarked from the buses to go to the Arizona Biltmore.

Wendy Saltzman of CBS Atlanta interviews Clayton Chairman Eldrin Bell in lobby of Arizona Biltmore

Wendy Saltzman of CBS Atlanta interviews Clayton Chairman Eldrin Bell in lobby of Arizona Biltmore

Saltzman said her editors had sent her out to Phoenix but they didn’t want her to be one of the paying members of the delegation because of a possible conflict of interest.

For the record, everyone pays their own way to go on LINK trips. The trips are three days of back-to-back informational sessions and on-site visits with leaders in each city.

Elected officials said it was important for people in Atlanta to understand that the LINK trips are essential in creating a regional mindset for our metro area and that it is anything but a junket.

Luz Borrero of the City of Atlanta talks to former City Council President Lisa Borders while waiting for bus at the Phoenix airport

Luz Borrero of the City of Atlanta talks to former City Council President Lisa Borders while waiting for bus at the Phoenix airport

The first session Wednesday afternoon included four panelists that provided a quick overview of the Phoenix area, beginning with Margaret Mullen, former executive director of Downtown Phoenix Partnership.

Mullen outlined the good, the bad and the ugly of Phoenix.

In the good territory, she mentioned the rebirth of downtown Phoenix, once described by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development as the major city that’s most unlikely to recover.

On the bus ride from the airport to downtown Phoenix with Camelback Mountain in the background

On the bus ride from the airport to downtown Phoenix with Camelback Mountain in the background

Other good developments include the expansion of Arizona State University, the University of Arizona Medical School, the opening of a new light rail system and the Science Foundation Arizona (similar to the Georgia Research Alliance).

The bad? “Our economy. It sucks,” Mullen said.

And the ugly?

“Too much partisanship,” she said. “Too many kooks in elected leadership roles. That’s the hardest thing we have to deal with.”

Mullen was referring partly to the controversial and restrictive immigration bill that Gov. Jan Brewer signed into law last week.

Maria Saporta
Maria Saporta

Maria Saporta, Editor, is a longtime Atlanta business, civic and urban affairs journalist with a deep knowledge of our city, our region and state.  Since 2008, she has written a weekly column and news stories for the Atlanta Business Chronicle. Prior to that, she spent 27 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, becoming its business columnist in 1991. Maria received her Master’s degree in urban studies from Georgia State and her Bachelor’s degree in journalism from Boston University. Maria was born in Atlanta to European parents and has two young adult children.

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5 Comments

  1. Avatar
    Lesley Grady April 29, 2010 10:11 am

    I don’t understand why anyone would question their elected and civic representatives meeting, studying, and garnering the best ideas and proven strategies for effective leadership. The LINK trips are intensive “immersion” opportunties for this learning and establishing essential relationships across the region. LINK has proven its value-value that can only occur unless we are taken out of the chaos of daily life. Experiential opprtunities such as LINK are as essential to leadership growth and development as traditional class settings –and the learnings last much longer.Report

    Reply
  2. Avatar
    Yr1215 April 29, 2010 11:13 am

    LG – I second your previous statement. I could add half a dozen additional reasons that this is a good thing for metro leadership.Report

    Reply
  3. Avatar
    FJ May 2, 2010 12:02 pm

    I agree that it is a good exercise to learn from other areas.

    I like Phoenix for some of the same reasons I like Atlanta but I don’t know that there is anything we can learn from Phoenix. The two metro’s are probably more alike than different in terms of transportation, growth and developmentReport

    Reply
  4. Avatar

    “The Atlanta Regional Commission selected Phoenix as the 2010 LINK city as a way to learn how another metro area has been able to manage a limited water supply.”

    FJ, the biggest thing that Atlanta can learn from Phoenix is how to effectively manage a very limited water supply. Phoenix gets only 5-7 inches of precipitation a year while the Atlanta Region gets roughly at least ten times that amount of rainfall at 50-60 inches of rain per year. I may be going way out on a limb on this one, but if Phoenix, a metro area of 3.5 million people in a DESERT, can get by on only five inches of rain yearly then I think that’s it’s safe to assume that North Georgians can, someway, somehow, squeeze by on at least 50 inches of rain yearly in a virtual RAINFOREST, but hey, I could be wrong.

    Phoenix and Atlanta may be alike in that they are both Sunbelt cities whose greatest growth took place for the most part after World War II and was driven almost exclusively by car-dependent development and fueled by a transient population that moved in from somewhere else and both cities may both sometimes have to suffer under sometimes whacked out and misguided state legislatures in Arizona and Georgia, but there are significant differences after that. Phoenix is desert city that has no choice but to make do on less than one-tenth the amount of annual rainfall that Atlanta receives. Phoenix is also a town whose street system is laid out on a strict grid system with streets and major throughfares orderly numbered (numbered streets and avenues run north and south and named streets and avenues run east and west and many major streets carry the same name or number for up to 20 miles!) spaced roughly every half-mile to one-mile apart, each of whom run either due north and south or due east and west with few major diagonal throughfares which may help the city not have to be quite as over-dependent on its freeway distance unless you’re commuting over long distances while Atlanta’s street system is “laid-out” on a sometimes disjointed and chaotic system of meandering ancient Indian trails with roads that may change name and direction a half-dozen times or more which contributes to heavy over-dependency on its freeway and arterial network. All of Urban Phoenix and its fewer suburbs also lie primarily inside of one county for the most part, Maricopa County, which makes local governance at least a little easier while Metro and Greater Atlanta and its numerous suburbs consist of hundreds of different cities and towns and stretch out into dozens of different counties which can make coming to a consensus in local governance quite a challenge and also makes bringing the state into local issues of regional importance a necessity in many cases.Report

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  5. Avatar

    “The bad? “Our economy. It sucks,” Mullen said.”

    “And the ugly?”

    ““Too much partisanship,” she said. “Too many kooks in elected leadership roles. That’s the hardest thing we have to deal with.””

    Okay, I take back what I just said….Arizona and Georgia are way too much alike after all!Report

    Reply

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