Phoenix Is Heading This Way

AROUND THE RIM COUNTRY

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Don't look now, but Phoenix is on the move again -- and the pollution-breathing monster is headed north.

A recent headline on the front page of The Arizona Republic screamed, "Phoenix seeks big land grab." The story beneath it detailed the city's plans to extend north "nearly to Yavapai County by annexing a chunk of undeveloped land the size of Tempe" -- a "chunk" that could one day be home to 80,000 people.

The land at issue lies along an 11-mile stretch of Interstate 17 north of the Carefree Highway. The people taking issue include officials of both Maricopa and Yavapai counties who are "angered" because they believe "Phoenix is moving too far north too quickly."

In fact, supervisors in both counties have passed resolutions opposing the annexation that would add 39 square miles to what is already the nation's fifth-largest city in area.

Also wary are the few people who currently live in or near the area coveted by Phoenix.

Duane Loose, for example, moved 40 miles north of downtown Phoenix several years ago to escape the city's congestion and pollution.

"We're country people out here," Loose is quoted as saying in the article. "It's very slow, very rural. I have total peace and quiet to take my dogs hiking and hang out on the back of the porch and enjoy the peacefulness."

As folks in the Rim country hang out on the backs of our porches and watch this latest land grab by the city of Phoenix unfold, one thing seems certain -- this will most assuredly not be the last one. And the next time Phoenix goes shopping, it could very well be in our direction.

I sympathize with those who recoil in horror at the thought, especially after a recent trip to the Valley left me convinced that the place is beyond redemption.

It was the Saturday after Christmas, and I had to take several freeways to get to my destination in north Phoenix.

For some reason, on this day I encountered one rude, speeding, reckless driver after another -- all, it seemed, behind the wheels of oversized SUVs. What was even more disconcerting is that a good share of them were women, who, it has been my experience, are normally much saner drivers than men.

Was what I encountered that Saturday just a fluke? A harmonic convergence of idiots? Or has the unthinkable finally happened?

The unthinkable, expressed repeatedly during the 20-some years I lived in the Valley, was, "Whatever happens, we can never let Phoenix become another Los Angeles." With rude drivers and a permanent brown cloud hanging over the city, it's looking more and more like the unthinkable has arrived.

All that's missing is the "HOLLYWOOD" sign and the occasional earthquake.

On the other hand, you can't stop growth, and, as Assistant City Manager Rick Naismith put it, Phoenix is best suited to make sure a "quality infrastructure" is put in place and "hodge-podge development" is avoided.

To be sure, there would be some definite benefits to having the Rim country annexed by Phoenix. The most obvious is that they'd have to provide us with water, and wouldn't it be nice to have that parched monkey off our backs.

Imagine being able to legally steal water from others like they've been doing in the Valley ever since Salt River Project acquired the rights to our surface water through some pretty dubious and very shortsighted legislation back in 1903. Of course we'd be stealing water from ourselves since that's where SRP gets it in the first place, but stranger things have happened.

If we were annexed by Phoenix, we'd also get free trash pick-up and most assuredly better roads. Heck, they'd probably have to run a freeway through here.

Then there's the new jobs and shopping options that would very likely happen. Phoenix is planning on the creation of 35,000 to 70,000 new jobs in the area it now wants to annex once it's "built out with retail businesses and industrial and public uses."

Are you thinking what I'm thinking? Home Depot? Target? Michaels? Bookman's? Maybe even a Pier One or Cost Plus?

Being annexed by Phoenix is a great concept except for a couple of nagging little problems. First there's those rude drivers. They, of course, would have to be identified and barred from the Rim country. Ditto for that brown cloud. We should be allowed to generate our own pollution.

And we'd have to ask them to not refer to the Rim country as a "chunk" of land. Either that or we could just change the chamber's official slogan to "Arizona Chunk Country."

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