Vote for iMesa projects to transform community - East Valley Tribune: Columns

Vote for iMesa projects to transform community

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Jim Ripley is the former executive editor of the East Valley Tribune. Contact him at

Posted: Tuesday, January 10, 2012 11:27 am | Updated: 3:08 pm, Wed Jan 11, 2012.

I need your votes. Real fast.

Not for myself. I'm not running for anything.

But for two project ideas I posted on the iMesa website.

Let me stress that I stand to gain nothing financially in any of this.

And allow me to confess I should have posted these ideas a long time ago, because time is running out.

The iMesa committee will make specific recommendations in February.

Since when is my tardiness your emergency call to action? Now, if you are willing.

If you are not familiar with iMesa, the program's website says it "is a grassroots citizen investment and improvement effort to develop transformational community projects in Mesa."

That means it's an opportunity for citizens to identify what the city should do to make the city better.

The program has been going on for many months and has been well publicized, but my head wasn't into transformational ideas until about a week ago.

That's when I began exploring the iMesa website and discovered that, well, what's going on there is interesting.

That's when I posted two projects - one dealing with the great indoors and one with the great outdoors.

Let's begin inside and work our way out.

The title of the indoor project for which I am asking your vote is: "A downtown place to tell Mesa's story."

Here's the text:

"Let's celebrate Mesa's story and strengthen the emerging downtown arts and cultural district by renovating the city-owned historic Federal Building at 26 N. MacDonald Street. By making it the downtown home of the Mesa Historical Museum, residents can more easily learn how their city came to be and how the past is shaping the future."

I need to make a couple of points.

One, this is not a new idea, and I did not originate the idea.

In researching this column, I came across a nearly two-year-old story in the Tribune that reported the city was studying the idea.

The building, which could be used to tell Mesa's story, is part of Mesa's story.

It was built in 1937 by the Department of Treasury to become Mesa's first 1st-class post office.

It is now on the city's Historic Property Register.

The federal government turned the now closed-to-the-public building over to the city in 2002 with the understanding that it would be used for a museum, according to Greg Marek, who was the city's redevelopment director back then and worked on the transfer.

Turning the building into a museum that tells Mesa's story would place three museums within a three-block area in downtown Mesa, according to Lisa Anderson, director of the Mesa Historical Museum. If you include the Mesa Contemporary Arts Museum at the Mesa Arts Center, there would be four museums all within an easy walk of each other.

Here's the thing: Mesa has a downtown natural history museum, a museum for youth and a contemporary arts museum. But no place dedicated to telling its own story.

Ho-hum, you might yawn. But you would be wrong.

Mesa Historical Museum through its Playball! The Cactus League Experience exhibits and exhibits on Mesa's aviation and aerospace history shows how dynamic and organic Mesa's story is.

I told you early on that I have nothing to gain financially from this project; but as a volunteer member of the Mesa Historical Society board, I have a labor of love investment to cover.

And I believe that the more people know about their place's history, the stronger their ties to the community will become.

In just a few days the proposal has gone from last place to sixth place in the voting on the iMesa website.

I'm feeling like a rock star. But the concert isn't over. I need your vote to keep the momentum going.

Here's how to vote: Go to and search for "federal building." Or you can go directly to the proposal by following this link:

When you get there, click on the vote box on the left. You'll be asked to register your name and email address, and you'll get 10 votes to cast however you want.

At the beginning of this column, I told you that I had also posted a project related to the great outdoors.

That project has skyrocketed from last place to 36th place.

OK. I know that's not all that good, but it's still my baby and I'm proud of it.

Here's the project: "Build an eco-treasure and boost tourism."

Text: "The lower Salt River Basin sits at Mesa's doorstep and is a haven for bikers, hikers, river floaters, birders, cliff rappellers, picnickers, fishermen, campers and fresh-air seekers. The Tonto National Forest is a good steward given its limited resources. But the river basin could be so much more if the city raised public awareness, mobilized constituencies and partnered to develop wider roads for bikers, an interpretive center for families, safer and more developed walking trails, bird habitat and more. Think Sabino Canyon."

Like the federal building proposal, this isn't a new idea. I first tried to cast light on the lower Salt area in 2009. I can't say I was all that successful. The recession might have something to do with it. But here's a link to that column:

I wrote a subsequent column on how Sabino Canyon near Tucson could be a model for the lower Salt River basin, but I could not find a link to it.

But you don't need me to tell you how beautiful the area is and to see the potential. This Saturday, take a drive north on Power Road, come up over the rise just past Red Mountain Ranch and look down on Red Mountain and the valley below. I'm sure there are more breathtaking views. But not many and not this close to home.

Be careful of the bicyclists who ride the highway. Stop at Coon Bluff, walk along the river and into the mesquite forest. Keep your eye out for black phoebes and a great blue heron. In late spring they will be joined by tubers and kayakers.

Drive south a mile or so to Phon Sutton recreation area park lot and walk out on the boulders that overlook the convergence of the Verde and Salt rivers. You might see an eagle scouting the river as I did last week.

Head back to the more intimate Granite Reef Park and follow the trail south that fishermen trek.

Now imagine.

Then vote at Search for "eco-treasure."

Or use this direct link:

Thank you for your votes.


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