Disclaimer: The comments in the blog are my personal opinion and may or may not reflect an adopted position of the city of Glendale and its city council.

In the March 1, 2017 edition  of the Glendale Republic there is a story by Jessica Boehm entitled Surprise leaders sound off on tearing down city’s ‘Berlin Wall’ to unify residents. Here is the link: http://www.azcentral.com/story/news/local/surprise/2017/02/27/surprise-state-of-the-city-unite-divided-residents/98301216/ . It isn’t just Glendale or Surprise that has a “Berlin Wall,” every community has its own version. A “Berlin Wall” is metaphorical for what divides a community.

In Surprise, “To the north, retired residents live in age-restricted communities, many of which have lavish parks and other amenities paid for by expensive homeowners association dues. South of Bell Road, young and middle-age couples are raising families in the tract-home developments that permeated the area during the Valley’s housing boom.”

The divisions in Surprise became apparent when, “a $63 million bond measure — which would have funded nine projects, including a new recreation center, swimming pool, road improvements and fire stations — failed by less than 500 votes.” Why? Because the voting clout was with the northern retirement communities who saw nothing in it for them except and increase in property taxes and the southern, younger residents, unengaged in their community and simply failed to come out and vote. Each groups’ priorities are drastically different.

Glendale has been fortunate to date when it comes to bond elections but the future may portend quite differently. While there is no physical wall in Glendale, there is a growing divide between its northern and southern populations. Northern Glendale is characterized by an older, less diverse, more affluent and educated population. They tend to have more leisure time and more disposable income to spend on such activities. They also tend to be universally connected to the internet which can coalesce and encourage them to greater activism and they tend to live in HOA communities.

Southern Glendale is characterized by seas of starter and mid-level tract homes rarely in an HOA community. There is a younger population, decidedly less affluent, more diverse and less educated. Internet access is not universal. It is an area of mid range working families and the working poor with little free time and too busy working or spending time with the kids to be concerned about city issues. They are less likely to become activists and even less likely to vote. The voter turnout between north and south Glendale is historically stark. The north districts of Barrel, Sahuaro and Cholla always produce more voter turnout than the south districts of Cactus, Ocotillo and Yucca.

In the Surprise article several community leaders were interviewed but the $64 dollar question of how “to ignite civic spirit” was left unanswered. Civic engagement can be generated through education. But that is only part of the answer. People need equity. Notice I did not say ‘equality.’ People are motivated to act not only when they are educated about an issue through communication. They are motivated to act when they learn that it is in their best interest to do so — exactly the reverse of “not in my backyard” but rather “yes, put it in my backyard.” Issues and infrastructure development issues will move forward when all citizen stakeholders, both north and south, learn that they will share a piece of the pie.

That may be the reason why Surprise’s latest bond issue failed. The northern portion of the city did not see a share of the pie for it was their vote that cause it to fail. That could be Glendale’s fate, not just on any proposed bond issue but in its continued failure to offer a piece of the pie to its southern residents. Until Glendale recognizes and accepts the imperative of “Upgrading Glendale,” especially in its southern districts, the divide will only grow. At what point does it become Grand Canyon-like where nothing will breach the chasm?

© Joyce Clark, 2017               


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