Growing Wild

Many in the desert suffer from the belief that development cannot be controlled.

Everyone knows that the desert is a dangerous, even hostile environment, and newcomers are customarily warned about the exotic perils that await: melanoma, valley fever, snakebite, geysers of gasoline erupting from backyard pipelines, drivers wearing big square sunglasses they just got from the ophthalmologist, and, of course, Jim Click fatigue disorder (aka Ha Errybody! disease).

Newcomers are rarely advised, though, of another disorder endemic to the Southwest: Acquired Development Credulity Syndrome. Perfectly reasonable who people move here from places with real zoning, substantial impact fees and representative government barely get unpacked before they start acquiring the following beliefs:

· This is paradise. The mayor says so.

· Anybody who just moved here two (five, 10, 20) years ago is in no position to talk about the tract or shopping center going in next door. Only indigenous persons, ranchers and land speculators have the right to decide how cities grow in Southern Arizona. Everyone else should just be grateful for the weather and stay out of other people's business.

· Home developers live to provide affordable housing to the deserving poor. The reason they don't pay road impact fees in Tucson is because SAHBA is actually a branch of Habitat for Humanity.

· The preferences and convenience of future residents of the area--whoever and wherever they may be--must be consulted before the wishes of current Tucsonans. We are privileged to build roads and put in sewers for the people who are going to move here, so that they can come and buy and start putting in roads and sewers for the next wave. Crumbling city streets are a small price to pay to see the Sonoran Desert affordably scraped and paved.

· Local government's patent lack of attention to the desires of the voters is only right. Here in the Gadsden Purchase, our representatives stand shoulder to shoulder with the developers and their friends. They work together to keep Pima County a place where the goals of the ruling elite come before the wishes of the populace. Your average voter is so focused on his own teensy world--his mountain view, his freedom from backing bells and security lights in the night, his commute, his pathetic little property value--that he can't always see his duty to the construction and real estate industries. That's why we keep a lid on democracy here. Inventive features of local government, such as city-wide elections for council seats, make it happen.

· The local media tells you everything you need to know. KVOA Channel 4 News' celebratory weeklong infomercial for La Encantada mall early this month was a splendid demonstration of how effectively the media can partner with advertisers to produce pleasing, revenue-positive news. Only once, on the Thursday night before the mall opened, did the station slip up and do a segment on the predictably negative feelings of the people who live near Sunrise Drive and Campbell Avenue, one of the city's oldest, wealthiest and, formerly, quietest areas. It was such a downer and so inappropriate-- especially when the whole morning newscast the next day was going to be devoted to opening day. However, the reporter did manage not to mention the neighborhoods' long, bitter fight against the project, and was able to wrap up with a woman who said she guessed that things changed and there was nothing you could do. That's the spirit!

Someone ought to tell those folks out by the giant new Target out at Harrison Road and Old Spanish Trail that they, too, should stop squawking and cultivate stoicism: The fix was in long, long ago. Actually, though, it is hard to see why the Target folks now think they need a sign four times bigger than the one they agreed to. They're afraid that their customers won't be able to find the store, stuck as it is way out there in the desert, but that's nonsense. Just try driving or biking out Old Spanish Trail to Saguaro East as you used to: The road is closed, and Target looms in the distance over a vast dustbowl. If that's not easy to find, I don't know what is.

So. Almost everyone in Southern Arizona is infected to some degree with ADCS--the conviction that growth cannot be controlled here. And at some point, it seems, we all agreed that only a bad sport would talk about how much nicer Tucson used to be. Bringing it up just makes everyone feel sick.

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