Saturday, March 28, 2009

Phoenix Arizona, For An Abbreviated Mid Western Transplant Perspective

My cool cousin Ursula asked me to tell one of her professors in Chicago about what it is like living in Phoenix, so I took a few minutes this morning, and wrote up this short summary:

Arizona is a lovely place. Resource depleted (water, and energy importing, until APS gets their large solar array going SW of town). The kidnappings here have almost all been drug-on-drug dealer related, or smuggler-immigrant related. 40% of the Phoenix area is, or has a Hispanic family member, and most of those are from Mexico. Phoenix has some bad neighborhoods like all large cities (4 million, currently here), but if you stay out of them, in general you stay out of trouble.

If you have cash, there's No Shortage of affordable PHX, Tempe, Gilbert, Chandler homes. Scottsdale and Fountain Hills are still somewhat expensive (not been hit with the downturn as much due to the concentrated wealth there) but bargains can be found. Mesa has a few good neighborhoods, but many less desirable ones. In general, in Phoenix, staying north of "Indian School Road" and east of 7th Ave (PHX is essentially a large grid pattern, like unto Chicago's sequentially numbered streets, where my maternal grandmother used to live on 169th in Cal City) the better the neighborhoods will be. South of Thomas Ave & West of 12th Ave, on average the areas become significantly economically challenged, and remain that way, until about 83rd ave. My wife and I live on the far west side. No one told us of the socio-economic landscape before we moved here. Highly recommend renting for a year, to get to know the area very well before dropping a large chunk down on a mortgage. We bought a home after just 5 days of searching in 2007, and regret our hasty decision. Home prices near downtown have started to slowly stabilize and rebound, but elsewhere around the city, they are still falling 1 or 2 or more thousand a month. There's some real bargains that can be found with a glut of houses on the market. 95% of all homes sold in Arizona in 2009 were foreclosures, so far.

If you have allergies, Arizona may alleviate your symptoms (as they did with my wife) or aggravate them somewhat (as they did with me). If you love snow, Phoenix is not for you. If you enjoy a dry heat, with humidity typically below 20%, it is an ideal climate - also ideal for Motorola and Intel's mfg facilities. Approx 300 days of sunshine, one night of light frost a year (in January typically). Summer temps in the 100s - I've not personally experienced over 120F, but like Chicago in a -30F wind chill, you don't go outside so much when it is 120F, and Carrier invented Air Conditioning in the 60s, which is ubiquitous here in AZ.

Motorola is a long term upstanding pillar of the community, as are GE Healthcare, Intel, JP Morgan Chase, Raytheon, Honeywell, Banner Health, Phelps Dodge, Boeing, Wells Fargo, SW airlines, US Air, ASU (though suffering from severe budget cuts this year) and others.

City Services are pretty good - light rail downtown and east of downtown, reliable trash collection, anti-graffiti departments who are prompt, responsive animal control (dog catcher) and police [each of whom I've called once in the 2 years I've been here for minor things]. City is running a budget deficit, and deep cuts are coming soon. The mayor is beloved (by Democrats) and despised (by xenophobic anti-immigration advocates) but seems to have a good administration. We just lost our Very Popular democratic governor to the Department of Homeland Security, and the Lt. Governor who took over for her is more or less a right wing ideologue who is trying to undo many of the things her predecessor accomplished. The state legislature is republican majority (12D / 18R senate, 25D / 33R house), and both US senators are Republican (McCain somewhat, Kyle, far far right). The US congressmen are gerrymandered to 5D & 3R - my west Phoenix district runs from Yuma to the West Side of Phoenix, about the size of 1/2 of Illinois. Taxes (income and property) are LOW - very low compared to other states, about 1/2 of what we were paying in SC.

The Grand Canyon is a 4 hour drive from Phoenix. Beautiful mountains are all around and IN the city. San Diego is as far from Phoenix as St Louis is from Chicago. The Mexican coast (Gulf of Cortez where the Colorado river trickles out into the ocean) is about 4 hours from Phoenix, 2 hours from Tucson where Aunt Sally lives - but the violence in Mexico makes driving there... an adventure, perhaps not for the feint of heart. The area known as "Rocky Point" (Puerto Peñasco, Sonora Mexico) has been relatively unaffected by narco terror and is a frequent vacation spot, but an hour south of Rocky Point at Guaymas is a known narco trafficking snuggling point where Fodors Guides warns travelers to "not stay out after dark".

Arizonians, like most of the people in the West, are very much respectful of property rights and privacy, and are more libertarian than liberal or conservative. Catholics and ex-Catholics are the majority here, unlike the SE US where Fundamentalist Baptists had an overwhelming majority (where I lived for 16 years). The "Catholic rule" means you can buy alcohol on Sundays, Indian casinos are welcomed (even encouraged), and finding a Catholic church is not hard to do, if you are practicing. There's HUGE Native American communities near Phoenix and all around the state - the state ballots can even be provided in O'odham here in Phoenix! There's large ex-Chicago and ex-NYC expatriot communities here. There's also large populations of ex-Californians, many of whom were driven out of CA by high prices, and brought their shopping preferences, their incomes, and (sometimes, sadly) their Los Angeles gangs with them, but again, avoid west of 12th ave, and east of 83rd ave, and stay north of Indian School Rd, and out of parts of Mesa, and you avoid most of the gang related influences.

Be prepared to replace your wind shield on your car, due to stray flying rocks, about every other year. We've averaged 1 crack every 6 months, and I don't drive to work, only Dr. Desert Flower does! (12 miles each way).

That's a general over-view. If you've got other questions, transplant related or otherwise, don't hesitate to ask.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.