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Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Political Will, Like Water, Difficult to Stop

Greg Brownell 2One of the great lessons that I have learned in my first year at The Farm at South Mountain is that water pretty much drives everything here. We use Salt River Project flood irrigation. I have had to learn about gates and valves; how to order water in inches and hours; my rights in acre feet of water; and, like the ocean and grilled shrimp, you can never turn your back on flood irrigation. Water is indomitable.

And, the way we irrigate isn’t just about the plants and the trees: no one wants to be sitting in six inches of water while eating a great Farm Kitchen sandwich, among other Farm activities. We must do everything we can to keep our visitors’ feet dry.

But you learn: you learn that you need lots of water to keep a huge pecan tree healthy, but even a little water in the wrong place will help weeds to grow. You learn that city water is very expensive and must be used with a great deal of control and care. You learn that even in a desert you can over water. You learn that your neighbor might not want you running your water onto their property, even in a desert. The Farm is a little oasis inside a much larger oasis that is our City of Phoenix. And you learn that even though it offers a chance to escape that larger world for a moment, that larger world cannot be denied.

I have learned that The Farm is part of very unique area of the Southside and the larger metropolitan area that I like to call the “Farm District.” This area is dedicated to growing things or industries associated with growing things: organic gardens, nurseries, goat farms, horse ranches, nurseries, golf courses and schools – things that need space, fresh air and water to thrive.

And in one year I have learned how fragile this district can be. To take care of The Farm you need lots of water and our water rights for The Farm are some of the oldest and strongest in the area. You need to know how to use the water and you need to never stop learning and planning. The same is true of the Farm District except that instead of water the Farm District needs political will to maintain itself. And like water, political will in the right place will help this area maintain its rural agricultural culture and thrive in a way that is true to its history and community assets. But, like water in the wrong place, a little political will in the wrong place will destroy this unique environment.

Two weeks ago members of the Phoenix City Council showed that they have learned nothing and were willing to let a little political will give this area big box commercial development and with this development truck depots and diesel soot.  Perhaps some councilpersons were just too uninformed to understand the complexities of this kind of case even though community leaders made repeated efforts to explain this to the council in person. But, at the City Council meeting they were met with babble about the general plan or nonsense about having never turned down this kind of case before and the ever-familiar  but misapplied “but it isn’t a zoning case.” The folks who created the current system that allows a public hearing for this kind of case must not have predicted that a city council person could be that ignorant or were just so cynical that they figured it was all for show , anyway.

Despite Councilman Mike Johnson’s heroic efforts to rally his fellow councilpersons, the vote went for pollution and trickery and against one the oldest and unique communities in Arizona. Only Councilman Valenzuela and  Mayor Stanton understood the issue and voted with Johnson.

The good news is that the neighborhood is not done fighting against this intrusion and in the future will be an even more formidable advisory.  The Farm District community has taken out papers to put this issue on a city wide ballot.

Political will, like water, once it gets started rolling is very hard to stop.

 

 

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Comments

One Response to “Political Will, Like Water, Difficult to Stop”
  1. Paul Beetham says:

    Hang in there, Greg, South Mountain Village can reawaken to the challenges. To be honest, I wonder if we have lost our name/identity again. I rarely see or hear “South Mountain Village” any more. It’s always “South Phoenix”, again. That name was an irritant before; it is now.
    Best Regards,
    Paul Beetham

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