An Open Letter to the Residents of South Phoenix

Dear Resident,

    What will become of the community you call home?  For years the community in which you live in has long been neglected and ignored.  As you read this meetings are being conducted with little attempt to gain your opinion on matters directly affecting the place in which you live, your community, your neighborhood, your home.
    No question you are aware of new development near your home, no doubt it makes you proud to have more places to shop, more places to eat, more choices in your life.  These choices make us feel good, they make us happy.  For years South Phoenix has been neglected from these choices, so why the opportunities now?  There are no Starbucks in South Phoenix, but there will be soon.  Will you be there to enjoy these amenities?  The Rio Salado Project has been a dream for Phoenix lawmakers for years.  It will one day become a beautiful park for all Phoenix residents to use but especially those in the area, the residents of South Phoenix.  Will you be living in South Phoenix when the project is completed?  One man who knows all about relocation and its promises is Pastor Leroy Albo of the Family of God Church in Phoenix.   Pastor Albo will tell you the Rio Salado Project is a dream that was promised to him and his neighbors when they were forced from their homes to make room to build Sky Harbor Airport.  After speaking with him on the matter, he says this project will not be built during his lifetime, a promise that was made over 30 years ago.  What promises have been made to you?
    Gentrification is the process of new development and new investment into older, aging areas of a city.  No one has offered to "clean up" the area before Bank One Ball Park, billion dollar sky rises and luxury homes were built in your neighborhood.  The plan is not designed for you and your "Crappy home".  Yes, you and your "crappy home" are not welcomed in your community.  At least this is what Dean Brennan of the City of Phoenix Planning Zone Department shared with students from Arizona State University when asked about the older residents who are barley offered face value for their homes which will be destroyed to make room for new luxury home and golf courses.  Mr. Brennan must understand what makes a home beautiful to him and his six figure income, certainly is different from you.  I am not sure he understands this concept.  Dean Brennan is so enthused about moving long-time residents out of South Phoenix that when I asked if he thought 85 million dollars was too much money to be given to one project in a community that has for so long been abandoned by Phoenix lawmakers he said, "No, I believe it is reasonable."  I then asked if he thought it would be reasonable to use "a little bit" of the money into help fix up and paint some of the older homes in South Phoenix so that they would not appear, "crappy".  Dean Brennan then responded by saying that there were community services available to help fix older homes that residents could apply for.  When asked which programs these services were, thier names, how much money would be allotted to each resident or where to apply for the services, Dean Brennan had no answers.
    One man who is fighting for your interest is Phoenix City Council Representative Mike Johnson, who is a retired Phoenix Police Officer.  He also just happens to be a long-time South Phoenix resident.  Johnson says that if long-time residents are going to be bought out of thier homes, they should get fair value, and that means more money for moving fees.  Councilman Johnson also is promoting affordable housing as one way long-time residents can continue to live in the community and not have to be "shipped out" to the West Valley.  This is a philosophy that Pastor Albo shares.  Pastor Albo says that residents must demand that not only fair value for thier homes, but relocation fees from the company that is forcing the move.  This would not make a precedent, as Pastor Albo tells of his move to make room for the airport.
    What next?  Speak up!  Rise up!  Get up!  Stand up!  If you want to keep your home, you will have to fight for it!  Only you can prevent forest fires, and only you can keep your neighborhoods from being taken from you.  As of February, Karen Williams who heads the Rio Salado Project said that there are more than enough residents that actually want to move and that some often call her and ask if they should sell thier homes now or in a few months.  When I asked her what percentage of residents actually want to move, she replied, "I believe it is over 35%."  Hmmm, that would mean that 65% of South Phoenix residents do not want to move.  Democracy at its finest.  Another problem that has recently been created is the slander attack on Councilman Johnson in the New Times weekly newspaper.  The New Times claims that Johnson has been given unfair treatment in being appointed to prominent chairs in the city council that will affect new development or investment.  Council members have made attempts to vote Johnson out of these appointments  I suppose it is true that the residents of South Phoenix are not allowed to have a voice in City Hall.  But you do have a voice.  Your opinion counts, your neighbors opinion counts and an entire community functioning as one makes a whole lot music to my ears.   The next meeting you can attend is April 23, 6:30-8:30 PM at the Travis Williams Family Center, 4732 S. Central Avenue.

Councilman Michael Johnson:
Karen Williams:

This letter was written by James A. Velasquez on 4/15/2002.