In the 1991 film "City Slickers," Curly, the grizzled-but-sentimental cattle driver played so well by actor Jack Palance, tells a group of dude-ranch guest cowboys that the meaning of life can be simply described as "just one thing."
Everyone has their own "just one thing," he said, and we are expected to be true to it.
In that spirit, here is a list of East Valley cities with "just one thing" we hope those who live and lead in each will be true to in 2009.
Chandler's leaders should take their heads out of the clouds and discard their view that they are somehow untouched by the fiscal crises facing its neighbors and start facing potential budget shortfalls just like them. That Chandler officials recently saw nothing wrong with spending tax dollars on a loaded-with-extras car for the mayor (including a moonroof and global positioning system) indicates a lack of seriousness about this issue.
Gilbert should learn to acknowledge that what's new and different isn't automatically bad - and frequently isn't. The attitude that gave rise to the divisive and exclusionary term, "non-traditional businesses," is not one to have in this day and age. Places that offer tattoos and piercings may not reflect everyone's taste, but they are common enough today in the East Valley that they are becoming more, um, "traditional" then many think.
Mesa should accept, even embrace, that it's a big city, period. It's population is larger than Miami's. Larger than Minneapolis'. It should embrace its growing urban nature and its leaders realize through both word and deed that the Mayberry model no longer applies. A city this size shouldn't have to consider cutting library hours to solve its fiscal problems, for example. Hear about those kinds of things in Miami or Minneapolis? Uh, no.
Queen Creek is faced with its own identity challenge: In 2009, what is it, a rural enclave or a growing municipality needing to recognize that it is an emerging East Valley transportation center? Queen Creek is no longer an island, it is a crossroads. With proper and reasonable planning it can continue to be a desirable place to live, but only if its leaders recognize that desirability is predicated in part on concomitant infrastructure.
Scottsdale, so focused as it is on image, needs its city government to be accountable to the public, and not just provide a vision of accountability. Trust in local leadership, for so many years a given, needs to be rebuilt from the ground up. One way is to downplay its overemphasis on aesthetics as the prime consideration in zoning decisions, which appeals to a shrinking constituency.
Tempe's leaders have already figured this out, but putting its growth eggs in the one basket of downtown high-rise development has not proven to be the panacea. Tempe has much to rely on as an already diverse community that goes beyond the Mill Avenue shopping-and-dining district and Arizona State University. Officials should guide these other elements into vibrant, needed new uses.
Apache Junction long has been able to consider itself the East Valley's outsider, a community disconnected from the rest. The combination of recall and standard elections has potential to bring complete turnover to the City Council; voters must be mindful of the community's need to be an active participant in regional growth and development issues.