Tempe Mayor Hugh Hallman know light rail is worthless for mass transit - but he uses it for corporate welfare! And from the article Tempe Mayor Hallman seems to be mixing government and business in a way that would make any fasist proud!

Light rail was a tough sell as a transportation mode. On a per-passenger-mile basis, it is enormously expensive. But as a redevelopment tool, it is enormously effective. Hallman says it will pay off handsomely in that regard for Tempe.


Hallman keeps finger on pulse of redevelopment in SE Valley

Mar. 1, 2006 12:00 AM

Tempe Mayor Hugh Hallman's office is equipped more for real estate deals than for governance.

And Hallman admits - gloats, actually - that he spends much of his time with developers who hope to cash in on Tempe's boom.

Hallman loves to do deals. But he's no fan of tax incentives to get a deal done. I've learned that, with Hallman, what you see is what you get.

Hallman's intellect is sharp and complex, but his agenda is simple: He wants what's in Tempe's best interests. And he's not afraid to take a machete to the bureaucratic red tape that gets in the way.

I spent an hour in his office last week while he regaled me with the many deals that are in the works. He wielded poster-size aerial photos of the city to show me where each is taking root. My head was spinning.

Tempe's boom is no accident, and other Southeast Valley municipalities should take notice. There are many reasons for it, but three stand out: Town Lake, light rail and a do-business City Hall.

Hallman's predecessor, Neil Giuliano, and his City Council, on which Hallman served, get credit for the first two, but Hallman gets credit for the third. And Hallman is determined to use his deal-making skills to take full advantage of the first two.

As I sat in Hallman's office on the third floor of Tempe's inverted-pyramid City Hall, he pointed to seven giant construction cranes within sight. This place is definitely under construction.

This is good for Tempe, of course, but it's also potentially good for the entire Southeast Valley, if neighboring cities are savvy enough to follow Tempe's lead.

Light rail was a tough sell in the Southeast Valley as a transportation mode, and rightly so. On a per-passenger-mile basis, it is enormously expensive. But as a redevelopment tool, it is enormously effective. Hallman says it will pay off handsomely in that regard for Tempe.

Besides a number of high-rise developments proposed in downtown Tempe along the light-rail line, a 10-story condominium project is planned for Apache Boulevard, where run-down trailer courts, trash-strewn vacant lots and prostitutes have dominated the streetscape for years.

"Light rail is going to change the perception of how people get around," said Steve Barduson, architect of the Tempe Union Station Lofts, which is expected to include 400 condos and live-work spaces when complete.

Barduson told The Republic's Katie Nelson that "while there is probably nowhere lower on the food chain in Tempe than Apache Boulevard right now, we're banking on what it could be."

Some of Mesa's officials are waking up to the redevelopment potential of the light-rail line, which will continue east along West Main Street to Longmore Road. It will stop there because of opposition within Mesa to putting more than a token amount into light rail.

It was a good decision at the time. The Southeast Valley needs freeway and arterial street improvements, along with expanded bus service, first.

But once the 20-mile light-rail line begins service in a few years, demands to expand the system will be heard. That's what has happened in other metro areas where light rail was introduced, and it will happen here.

There will be demands to extend the line east along Main Street to Apache Junction. Chandler will want a line, as will Gilbert.

Light rail is not a panacea, but it will be an important element, particularly in areas that need redevelopment attention.

Other elements are important as well, and we can look to Tempe for leadership there. Town Lake is a master stroke. It is a people magnet. A shimmering body of water in the Sonoran Desert.

A frivolous use of scarce water, you say? Nonsense. This is one of the wisest uses of water in our desert environment. Water is what makes this Valley livable, and public water features like Town Lake that all can enjoy enhance our unique lifestyle.

There are other opportunities for modest to grand water projects all along the Salt River, as well as the canals that traverse the Southeast Valley. We should take advantage of those opportunities.

Still have doubts?

Spend an hour with Hugh Hallman in his City Hall office. He'll change your mind.

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