Nowakowski Set to Begin New Council Era for District 7
Michael Nowakowski will be sworn in as the Phoenix District 7 councilman on Jan. 2, bringing a new vision for South Phoenix and Laveen. He will replace councilmember Doug Lingner, who is forced to step down due to term limits.
Nowakowski, 44, of Laveen, won a runoff election in November against Laura Pastor, daughter of Rep. Ed Pastor (D-Ariz.). He is general manager of Radio Campesina and is married with four children.
His father is of Polish heritage and his mother was born in Mexico, making him the first Latino city council member elected since 1993.
The district poses unique challenges and advantages, from its cultural diversity to the breakneck pace of development, especially along the Baseline corridor.
Here, Nowakowski outlines his goals as councilman, particularly as they relate to south Phoenix and Laveen.
Taking back Village Planning Committees
“I think over the years we lost focus of what a ‘village’ is,” Nowakowski said. The committees have become mini-planning and zoning boards, he said, instead of community forums.
“Unless you’re affected by a strip mall being built right next to you, you never attend a village planning meeting,” he said.
In addition to discussing new developments and businesses, he wants to see residents talking about issues such as safe streets, better lighting and youth issues.
Also, he added, he’s seen people appointed to Village Planning Committees as rewards for working on political campaigns. Instead, he wants to involve community members and groups, including churches, Boys and Girls Clubs, the YMCA and block watches.
“Use the village as a center point to bring all the community organizations together,” he said.
Forming youth councils
“Young people, we took cruising away from them; they’re not allowed to hang out in the malls anymore without their parents,” Nowakowski said. “Boys and girls can’t meet in a safe environment.”
They tend to have backyard parties, and other kids might bring alcohol, guns or drugs. He proposes getting youth involved in the city to give input on their concerns and to recommend solutions.
This could not only lead to forming a more positive environment, but should also create a bank of future leaders, he said.
Growing up in two cultures opened Nowakowski’s eyes to the similarities rather than differences between people. Mexican and Polish weddings, for instance, are the same “except one has tequila and one has vodka,” he said. “Both have polkas.”
To help bridge understanding, he’d like to help bring more ethnic festivals to Phoenix so people can share each other’s culture and backgrounds.
Cleaning up the neighborhood
District 7 has almost 80 percent of Title V permits in the city, Nowakowski said, which allow businesses such as brick factories and junk yards. And, he added, “We have the largest landfill in the city right off 27th Avenue and Durango.”
This could be hazardous to the health of residents, and he wants to try to spread these businesses to other areas of Phoenix so that his district doesn’t bear the brunt of it.
“One big thing I want to score for South Phoenix and Laveen is a hospital,” Nowakowski said. “It’s outrageous – we don’t have a hospital on this side of the (Salt) River bottom. Lord forbid if anything ever happens and the bridges are wiped out.”
He’d also like to see more police and fire presence in the district, and said he’ll lobby for a police precinct in Laveen in particular.
As for more shopping and restaurants, he said, that will come when the alignment of the future South Mountain Freeway through the area is decided.
“People are holding off because they’re not sure where that freeway will end up,” he said, adding that he is opposed to blowing up part of the mountain to build it.
Keeping the rural character of Laveen
The region south of Dobbins Road was supposed to be preserved with acre home lots according to the master plan, Nowakowski said. But “spot zoning” has allowed four to eight homes per acre, threatening the Laveen lifestyle.
“I think it’s not preserving our culture,” he said. “I think we need to stick to that master plan.”
There’s a place for everything, he added. He foresees Laveen as being a place with the best schools, parks, libraries and services in addition to malls and restaurants, and thinks people will come from all over the Valley to experience its special Old West flavor as well.
“We’re just going through some growing pains right now,” he said. “Within five years, it will be the next Ahwatukee, but in a unique way.”