They say hindsight is 20/20. Foresight, not so much. But if there’s one safe bet, it’s 2020 will be a year for the history books.
Ahwatukee and the rest of the Phoenix region will not sit meekly on the sidelines as the nation debates the fate of its president by way either of impeachment or the ballot box or both.
The region – tinged blue on the west and blazing a solid red on the east – will be every bit as embroiled as Washington, D.C., in the epic debate over America’s future.
More locally, two of Ahwatukee’s golf courses could see significant developments before election season gets into full swing.
In a few weeks, a quartet of local men will present a new vision for the Club West Golf Course and it could include residences of some kind as well as a pared-down playing field from 18 to nine holes.
If the homeowners association board is satisfied with the plan, it will put it before the community’s approximate 2,400 homeowners for a vote.
Meanwhile, the Arizona State Supreme Court will make a momentous and long-awaited decision ‑ or start to ‑ in the long legal chess match between homeowners and golf course owner Wilson Gee.
Within the next week, attorney Tim Barnes, representing two homeowners who want the 18-course restored to its former glory before it was closed in 2013, will file his answer to Gee’s request asking the high court to review a lower appeals court ruling he must restore the 101-acre site.
If the high court agrees to take the case, the course will likely languish in its barren, deteriorated condition for months/
If the high court rejects the request, Barnes will be going to Superior Court for a hearing on his request to hold Gee in contempt for failing to comply with the January 2018 order to obey land use regulations for the site and restore it as a golf course.
Gee hinted if the Supreme Court doesn’t take the case, he could file for bankruptcy – further clouding the future for a resolution of a legal fight, approaching its sixth anniversary.
Another local hot potato could be resolved in the battle over the QuikTrip gas station plan at the intersection of 40th Street and Cottonwood Way. Residents of the 160-home Foothills Paseo II subdivision are fighting the plan because the gas station is at the end of their only way in or out of their neighborhood.
Their issue is not with having a business on the site, which was zoned for commercial use before most of the homes were even built. They contend a gas station poses a major hazard because if there was a leak, they would be trapped.
The city has been considering the plan for months because of traffic and hazardous spill concerns.
More freeway developments
Just because people are using the Congressman Ed Pastor Freeway doesn’t mean constructio0n is over.
Still to be opened later this year is the 32nd Street interchange and the 6-mile multi-use path along the southern edge of the freeway.
Also, the Arizona Department of Transportation still has to install shields to keep freeway light glare from nearby residents’ homes and backyards.
And it still faces a fight with Promontory residents over the shortened sound wall.
On the political scene, the tens of thousands of voters in Ahwatukee and the East Valley could well play a deciding role in a pivotal U.S. Senate race, and they will decide as well whether the two congressional seats representing the region remain split between the major parties.
Legislative seats, city council and school board slots and three East Valley mayoral gavels also are in play.
Apart from that, the region’s physical shape will continue to evolve thanks to numerous major construction projects.
First, a look at the political landscape.
With incumbent Donald Trump the presumptive Republican nominee, early campaign action will be on the Democratic side as voters in Arizona’s March 17 presidential primary help winnow down what was originally a slate of 20-plus would-be nominees.
The state Republican Party canceled its primary to thwart any possible challengers to Trump.
Ordinarily, Arizona would not elect a senator in 2020, but this is a special election to fill out the term of U.S. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., who died in August 2018.
Republican Martha McSally, who was appointed to the seat by Gov. Doug Ducey, stands against several GOP primary opponents. Among the Democrats, former astronaut Mark Kelly is regarded as the front-runner and, according to some early polls, could defeat McSally in November – although his lead in early polls has shrunk in recent weeks.
The winner will serve out a term that ends in January 2023.
The East Valley spreads across two congressional districts.
Solidly Republican District 5 includes Gilbert, east Mesa, parts of south and east Chandler, and Queen Creek. Republican Andy Biggs, a vocal supporter of Trump, is seeking re-election against Democrat Joan Greene, who lost to Biggs in 2018.
The Ninth District encompasses Ahwatukee, Tempe, West Mesa, northwest Chandler and parts of Scottsdale and Phoenix. Former Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton, a Democrat, won the seat in 2018. Chandler City Councilman Sam Huang is among the Republican candidates.
Every seat in the 30-member Arizona Senate and 60-member House is on the ballot for a Legislature traditionally dominated by Republicans.
The East Valley is represented by legislators from six districts – 12, 16, 17, 18, 25 and 26.
One of two early questions around these elections is whether Democrats will keep all three seats in Legislative District 18, which covers Ahwatukee and parts of Chandler, Mesa and Tempe.
Sen. Sean Bowie and Rep. Mitzi Epstein are both seeking third terms while Rep. Jennifer Jermaine is seeking to repeat her first victory of 2018.
The other question involves the other Chandler district, LD17, where first-term Rep. Jennifer Pawlik cracked the all-red area two years ago. In that district, Rep. Jeff Weninger and Sen. J.D. Mesnard are expected to seek two more years.
School board races
The year will almost be half over before voters get an idea of how races for the Tempe Union and Kyrene governing boards are shaping up. But with three seats on each board in play, these races could be the sleepers in a contentious election year.
That’s because members of the so-called highly conservative Purple Parents group might try to gain control of the boards.
They have been particularly vocal at Kyrene board meetings for nearly a year.
Although sex education has been hit on by some Purple parents, the major issue has been Kyrene’s equity program – which the district initiated to reduce wide racial disparities in student performance and disciplinary actions.
Also on the horizon
East Valley cities and Phoenix have been preparing for months for the April 1 U.S. census, which will determine how much federal money comes to our cities. Census data also will play a role in redrawing congressional and legislative district boundaries. The 2020 election will be the last to use the current district maps.
The law requiring suicide prevention-awareness training for all 6-12th grade school staff takes effect in the 2020-21 school year. Tempe Union already has such a program in place even before the measure, pushed by Sean Bowie, was approved by the Legislature last session. The law just doesn’t cover teachers, but everyone involved with those grade levels.
The widening of Loop 101 from south of Ray Road to U.S. 60 is scheduled to be completed by summer.
Construction of the next five miles of State Route 24 eastward from Ellsworth Road is expected to begin in the fall. The roadway is now known as the Gateway Freeway.
Downtown Tempe will continue to be torn up for construction of a three-mile streetcar system expected to open in the spring of 2021.
Major expansions of the East Valley’s health-care system: Banner Ocotillo Medical Center, a brand-new hospital, opens in the fall at Alma School Road and Loop 202, and the Dignity Health Mercy Gilbert Medical Center will open a $200 million wing devoted to children’s and women’s health. Chandler Regional Medical Center also is expanding, with a 96-bed addition to open in early 2021.
Construction is to begin in February for a controversial campus of Arizona State University right next to Mesa’s city hall. The project will include a parklike city plaza that has been in the works for years.
This coming summer, Gilbert will open a new phase of its massive Regional Park at Queen Creek and Higley roads. The centerpieces are a 7-acre lake and a performance pavilion/amphitheater.
The City Creek Reserve redevelopment project on the east end of Mesa’s downtown timed to correspond with renovations to the city’s historic Mesa Arizona Temple, is slated for completion in the fall. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints expects to reopen its fully refurbished temple and its overhauled gardens in time for its popular Christmas lights display, which has been canceled the last two years because of the renovation project.