The Ahwatukee Foothills Village Planning Committee held its last meeting of the year on Monday night, which was followed by a community discussion of how Phoenix should move forward over the next 40 years.
The committee also briefly discussed the South Mountain Loop 202 Freeway, although chairperson Doug Cole deferred specific questions since the topic was not on the agenda. The committee is scheduled to hear a briefing on the freeway’s status at its January meeting.
Councilman Sal DiCiccio also briefed committee members on his plans to focus on improving small businesses in order to revitalize Phoenix’s economy.
“Job creation is one of the most important things we can do as a community,” he said, adding: “The city of Phoenix is facing the worst financial crisis of our lifetime.”
Following the formal Village Planning Committee meeting city staff launched a discussion to help update the city’s General Plan.
Michelle Dodds, principle planner for the Phoenix Planning Department, led the open discussion for PlanPHX to come up with ideas for how to create a thriving city by 2050.
There are 15 villages, including Ahwatukee Foothills, participating in this planning activity across the city, Dodds said. The results will be used in the creation of Phoenix’s general plan that is currently being updated.
The general plan was last updated in 2002 and the next will likely be taken to the voters in August 2011, Dodds said.
“We’re synthesizing all that information to come up with a plan for Phoenix,” she said. “We will use that vision to form a plan.”
The four areas of Phoenix that were brought up throughout the session were infrastructure, environment, economy and community.
Many people participating in the discussion agreed that infrastructure is critical because it is often the basis for the success of the economy, community and environment, including Cole, who said that infrastructure means more than just roads.
“I think as we look into urban renewal, especially around the light rail corridors, that brings new infrastructure challenges in my mind,” Cole said. “That means there’s going to be more density and more density means more people … You’re going to need more water … you’re going to need more electricity.”
Some of the other suggestions mentioned regarding infrastructure included more mass transit using rail and improving infrastructure under the streets.
There was also lengthy discussion of the revitalization of downtown Phoenix as a community issue.
Newly-appointed committee member Michael Hinz, a 15-year Ahwatukee Foothills resident, originally came from Chicago and said creating an environment like Chicago or New York City should be sought after by Phoenix.
“What we need are patrons to cultivate the people of the community to take ownership of the community,” Hinz said.
As an economic issue, the forum continually discussed the importance of education, specifically higher education.
“Higher education is what is completely important in this discussion,” former District 6 City Council candidate Dana Marie Kennedy said.
Hinz said the public school system has flaws, but it is beyond the jurisdiction of the city.
“We beat ourselves up for the wrong reasons,” he said. “Although schools are an issue, I don’t know if schools are the critical issue in the current environment that we have … It’s a state issue.”
The lack of cooperation and coordination between entities like the city of Phoenix, Arizona Department of Transportation and Maricopa Association of Governments is an issue that needs to be corrected to allow for improvement throughout the city and the Ahwatukee Foothills community, Hinz said.
“Phoenix should not be a tail,” Hinz said. “Phoenix should be the head of the dog, not the tail that wags the dog from behind.”
Stephanie Snyder is interning this semester for the Ahwatukee Foothills News. She is a sophomore at Arizona State University.