The Republic of Eggs

You’d think it would be hard for a mere blogger to argue with a guy who’s won a Pulitzer. Surprisingly, it isn’t that difficult at all. Maybe it helps if you’ve never heard of him before.

Stuart Warner may be a perfectly nice guy, and he may be a water-walking editor. But being an editor at the Arizona Republic is like being the rooster in a one-hen chicken coop: Not so much to crow about.

So, you’ll forgive me if I observe that I’ve heard this kind of squawking from the Republic before…usually just before yet another egg is laid. Which is about once a year for the last five or six years.

In his column Sunday, “Picking up the eggshells after real estate’s great fall,” Warner promises to “break a few eggs” in reporting on Arizona’s real estate/housing/construction industrial complex. And he’s pushed real estate reporter Catherine Reagor out to the point on this search-and-report mission.

However, for all her accolades (“…the voice of real estate in metro Phoenix…She writes for the newspaper and online. She’s a regular on TV, radio and at local real-estate seminars and forums. National and international media seek her out for interviews.”) I don’t remember Reagor predicting the bursting of the housing bubble. Like Warner, Reagor may be fabulous. I just haven’t seen any evidence of it.

On the other hand, Warner channels a substandard real estate ‘expert’ in Ioanna Morfessis, “the state’s leading growth expert and founding CEO of the Greater Phoenix Economic Council.” He quotes her:

Real estate is to Arizona’s economy like oxygen is to the human body.

I’m no physician, but if he’d asked me I would have said our climate is like oxygen to the human body. Real estate is more like our skeleton.

I was thoroughly unimpressed with Morfessis when she had a lucrative contract steered her way by City of Scottsdale folks who wanted her to create an “economic development framework” (i.e., validation of what they already planned). Morfessis’ core finding? The problem with Scottsdale is the people who live in Scottsdale (“Naysaying Weasels and Luddites are Scottsdale’s Top Threat“).

Strike Two for you, Mr. Warner. What else ya got?

I hope you are still drawing a paycheck at the Republic when you get the answers to the questions you pose in your column. My answers are in brackets just in case you miss out:

— Why aren’t Boomers buying retirement homes like their parents did? [Because a great many of them LOST their pensions and retirement savings, and many have had to go back to work just to get by]

— When will Millenials [I think preferred spelling is “millennial,” but I didn’t win a Pulitzer] jump into the housing market? [Never, as long as many are still having expenses paid by their parents]

— What is happening to all the homes scooped up at bargain prices by outside investors? [Rented by millennials, or more precisely, rented for them by their parents]

— Is the economy more diversified now than when her initial report was published in December 2004? If not, why? [No, because our faux-Republican elected officials are too busy giving subsidies to their friends to allow any sort of organic diversification]

And let me pose some questions you SHOULD be asking:

— Does growth pay for itself, i.e., is it truly economically sustainable? [No]

— What is the cost of growth, i.e., what do the residents of a city like Scottsdale give up to accommodate erosion of development standards, higher density, more (and new) residents? [a portion of our quality of life]

— If you don’t like the answers you get to the above questions, then: Why are our public officials approving or even encouraging high density housing projects and other forms of gentrification? [Campaign contributions from zoning attorneys, real estate developers, and the liquor industry…and a whole bunch of voters who don’t see their quality of life slipping away, partly because of lousy media coverage]

Mr. Warner, I’ve been a little hard on you. But you get paid for it so I’m not going too feel bad.

Meanwhile, I encourage you to do your homework. You can start by reading a few recent articles on ScottsdaleTrails. I’ll even buy you a cup of coffee over which to explain some of the more nuanced issues if you care to hear it.

And my closing advice is, I’m not looking for journalists to break eggs so much as simply having some huevos.

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  1. The best “Arizona Republic” columnist no longer works there. He was apparently “run out of town” by the real estate industrial complex and booster crowd for writing articles critical of them. Despite his staunch support of light rail in Phoenix, I consider his blog and yours the best sources for critical commentary on issues affecting Scottsdale and metro Phoenix.

  2. When I saw the name “Stuart Warner” my first thought was the name of the manufacturer of the speedometer. I never heard of this guy at the Republic but, then again, I canceled my subscription a few months ago. I decided that after 25 years as a subscriber I couldn’t stomach another column from impostors like Roberts, Benson, Montini, and Valdez.

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