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Friday, September 22, 2017

What will “LIFE IN 2050” look like in SoPho?

The Central Arizona region is expecting substantial growth by the year 2050, to the scale of six million new residents and three million new jobs. What will this new population growth mean for our region’s families, economy and environment? Those questions as well as many others really depend on the growth choices we make today.

On May 16, 2008 I was fortunate enough to be one of 300  participants in the first ever AZ One, “Reality Check in Arizona”. One year later on May 21, 2009 this same group of Arizona leaders came together once again to the “Moving”, AZ One visioning exercise held at the Phoenix Urban Research Laboratory (PURL) in Downtown Phoenix for another half-day exercise to plan out the future of Central Arizona.

The participants were from various sectors of the community, including government and elected officials, tribal communities, large corporations and small businesses, non-profits, neighborhood activist, interfaith groups, environmentalist, and educators. The event was put together in collaboration with the Urban Land Institute (ULI), Maricopa Association of Governments, Valley Forward and other public, private and civic groups. They all came together to open up new dialogue and consideration about growth; and to create a more refined and focused vision for the Central Arizona region.

Projections demonstrate that the current Central Arizona Region or Sun Corridor of approximately four million people will increase to 10 million people by roughly 2050. Knowing these numbers we face tremendous challenges as our population grows. Unless Arizona stops being a great place to live and our beautiful sunlight gets turned off the growth will continue coming. Our growth is not solely because people are moving to Arizona, one third of our growth is internal and this proportion will increase in the future.

Our problems are bigger than the legal boundaries of our cities, counties and other jurisdictions. As we grow, our problems and challenges become regional in scale. If we are going to protect our water, air, and fix our transportation systems we need to deal with and discuss watersheds, air sheds, and commuter sheds. All of these issues are regional in scale.

Regional visioning is critical and is all about looking at and solving our problems the right way. As the Central Arizona region grows, there are important trends to consider and questions to ask. Will the region embrace and strengthen the Sun Corridor development pattern in which Phoenix and Tucson are becoming more interdependent and growing together?

How will the region deal with climate change, rising energy and food costs, and declining housing affordability? Will needed transportation infrastructure be funded and how? Will development occur in existing and new mixed-use centers to shorten trips and condense growth? Will these centers be connected with multi-modal transportation corridors that offer other choices about how to get around? Will the natural beauty, water and air of the region be preserved? What will happen to State Trust Lands? How can Central Arizona be a more sustainable region and what does that mean to us?

The AZ One Reality Check exercise was one of the first steps in envisioning what the future of Central could be. With this exercise as a launching pad, the region has the opportunity to engage in a broader regional visioning process with substantial public involvement. Regional visioning involves defining core values, analyzing alternative scenarios and selecting a vision for growth.

This visioning process will help or I should say has begun helping the public and today’s elected officials understand the long-term consequences of the decisions thay make and ensure a high quality of life we desire for ourselves, our children and our grandchildren.

Michael Crow President of Arizona State University addressed a crowd of about 1000 people over lunch at the conclusion of last years visioning exercise. He really put it all together for me when he said, “Arizona must develop a new psychology. With our opportunities and challenges, Arizona will have to think more like a country.”… “We must change our perspective from a small American state to one that recognizes Arizona as a ”republic” capable of economic advances, sustainable development and global engagement.”

I totally agree with him and when you look at all the growth in the coming decades the decisions we make today will have long-term consequences on tomorrow. I am blessed and honored to be a part of these visioning exercises. When I was a kid my mom and dad never talked to me about what my life or where we lived would look like in 50 years. I now have an amazing opportunity to talk to my family and community not only to think about how decisions today will affect our future but how they can be involved in the process.

“Get involved today and help develop a legacy for the next generation of Arizonans!”

sophoaz@yahoo.com

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