Monday, June 24, 2013

Thirst in the Sun Corridor

As summer is now in full swing and much of the state prepares for the record breaking temperatures to come, it seems as good a time as any to examine what the future holds for valley residents. With Arizona in a drought for over 15 years, and climate models predicting an even hotter future, it seems like any more major urban growth for the Phoenix metro area could be disastrous for the regional eco-system.  So it is with some shock to see the plans for economic growth coming from state, civic, and business groups which call for massive urban expansion to develop central and southern Arizona into a regional economic bloc called the Sun Corridor.  The  Stop the CANAMEX Sun Corridor blog recently published an interesting article on the CANAMEX trade route, the Sun Corridor, and the push from  public-private partnerships to construct a megalopolis in southwest. We have reprinted the article with the author's permission.

Thirst in the Sun Corridor

It's often difficult to expose blatant manipulation on the part of business and state leaders whom you know have their own greedy agenda.  Imagine my surprise when Arizona Department of Transportation (ADOT) Director John Halikowski took an old proverbial phrase in a creepy direction.

In reference to the development, particularly in transportation infrastructure like more freeways in this megaregion-to-be in Arizona called the Sun Corridor, Halikowski stated, “Our job is not to lead the horse to water. Our job is not to make the horse drink. Our job is to make the horse thirsty.”

I remember when my father quoted the horse/water idiom to me as a child (If you're unfamiliar with it, it goes, "You can lead a horse to water, but you can't make him drink").  He was pointing out to me that he'd provided opportunities for me but at a certain point, if I didn't take that next step, that was on me.

To imply that it is one's job to make the horse thirsty can only be interpreted as manipulative.  If we were to take this literally, it could mean working the horse harder, depriving it of water, giving it a salt lick, etc.

The phrasing implies that the thirst is not there to begin with; that it has to be produced.  To be fair, most likely what Halikowski means is something a bit less malicious, such as enticing the horse with the promise of water, thereby making it realize, while salivating, how much it needed water all along.  The proverbial horse stands in for the Arizona public, but the water ironically stands in for something which will in the long run make the Arizona public thirsty and deprived of water.  The diminishing of water is only one of the several reasons to be concerned about further development of the Sun Corridor.

In the article, Transportation and Trade Corridor Alliance to Develop Strategic Roadmap, the horse idiom reference follows this paragraph: "Halikowski acknowledged that the challenge ahead is to make the public understand the need to invest in transportation infrastructure now to grow jobs and the economy in order to boost Arizona’s competitiveness in the global marketplace."  As it is, the funding is lacking and the steps needed to secure the funding will require support from the public, especially if it means toll roads.

The Transportation and Trade Corridor Alliance (TTCA) was instituted in early 2012 by Arizona Governor Jan Brewer.  According to a press release, "ADOT – in collaboration with the Arizona-Mexico Commission and the Arizona Commerce Authority – will bring together public and private sector partners to assess opportunities for Arizona to pursue investments in trade corridors such as the newly-designated Interstate 11, and to explore enhancements to border infrastructure. The Alliance will help identify how best to take advantage of the state’s current resources and guide future investment in a strategic way to increase the capacity of existing corridors – all with the ultimate goal of improving Arizona’s competitiveness in a global marketplace" (Source).  John McGee, Executive Director for Planning and Policy for ADOT said that the Interstate 11 can’t be built without a public-private partnership (P3), meaning that one of the most important pieces of the CANAMEX route in Arizona can’t happen without private investment, likely in the form of a toll road (Source).  Privatizing an infrastructural project such as this is something that will be hard to implement without the support of Arizona residents, therefore requiring some level of manipulation.

"Trade Corridor" undoubtedly refers to the CANAMEX trade corridor, which connects Canada, the United States including Arizona, and Mexico.  Its role is to facilitate the trade mandated by the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).  It utilizes existing roadways but seeks to improve transportation infrastructure for more efficient freight traffic.  The Interstate 11 is an example of a piece of CANAMEX that has become a priority for Arizona and Nevada.  The co-chairs are ADOT's Halikowski, and Jim Kolbe of the Arizona-Mexico Commission (AMC).  Kolbe, AMC's CANAMEX expert, credits AMC as the godfather of CANAMEX.  Significantly, all members of the five-person TTCA steering committee except Michael Hunter are heavily involved with AMC.  The AMC is a public-private partnership (P3) headed by Arizona Governor Brewer who placed Kolbe as co-chair of TTCA a few months after TTCA was instituted. 

According to the minutes the July 25, 2012 MAG meeting, “Gail Lewis, Director of the Office of P3 Initiatives and International Affairs of the Arizona Department of Transportation (ADOT), reported on the Arizona Transportation & Trade Corridor Alliance... Ms. Lewis stated that the Alliance is heavily private sector and includes representatives from APL, Avnet, UPS, BNSF, W. L. Gore, port authorities, growers and brokers, Mexican manufacturers, Arizona Trucking Association, Sky Harbor Airport, and several of the state’s councils of governments and metropolitan planning organizations" (my emphasis) (Source).

TTCA is also a P3, which means it involves both government officials and private business interests.  Public-private partnerships are playing an increasing role in politics and infrastructural development. One role of P3s in general is to seek to manufacture consent among the public in order to achieve the goals of private interests.  In this case, the horse, or the public, must be made thirsty for infrastructure with the promise of the jobs that are purported to accompany economic development (just like they promised with NAFTA).  P3s also seek to build on the partnerships between business and government in order to secure funding (e.g. investments that provide the businesses with profits) for their projects.  And of course if businesses see profit opportunities, the "needs" or thirst of the public may be created through these P3s. 

It is difficult to say what type of authority or sway TTCA can have, but it appears they may function a bit like the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), another P3 exposed as having a major role in the collaboration between state law-makers and private prison industry leaders in the creation and passing of SB1070 and similar laws across the U.SBecause CANAMEX is an international/national program largely pushed by AMC of which the Arizona Governor is head, it is impossible to extricate the private interests from government.

Opponents of the proposed Loop 202 extension, also known as the South Mountain Freeway, have pointed out, among various problems, that the route desired by pro-development folks would be used primarily as a truck bypass rather than something useful to Phoenix-area residents (Source).  It would serve as part of the transportation infrastructure that is required by the demands of the Sun Corridor.  While the Loop 202 extension is not part of the official CANAMEX route, it is part of the general Sun Corridor region, which is part of the CANAMEX vision.  It is clear that the role of the TTCA is to promote trade infrastructure. 

According to the Gila River Against Loop 202 website, the main concerns are health, air quality, ground water, loss of land, and desecration of Muhadag Do’ag (aka South Mountain) and other sacred places (Source).  The jobs alleged to come with the development are likely not to come, especially since CANAMEX (source) and other projects such as the Arizona-China Alliance (source) will continue the trend of U.S. jobs being exported to poorer countries.

How much does the public even know about the plans for massive infrastructural projects like CANAMEX?  Are Arizona residents aware of the "megalopolis" or "megapolitan" area being called the Sun Corridor, which would include Phoenix, Tucson, Prescott, and Nogales and could exceed 9 million people by 2040? (Source).  It is no wonder that the P3s involved with transportation and trade would realize they need to "make the horse thirsty".  Synonyms for thirsty include enthusiastic, eager, anxious, even zealous. Their angle is to entice us with economic opportunities such as jobs and growth, while most people understand that these trickle down economics will not actualize, and we will be thirsting not just for jobs but for the merely trickling water resultant of the development continuing in this direction.

Stop the CANAMEX Sun Corridor: Highway to hell? CANAMEX, Loop 202, and the Tar Sands

more on water and the Sun Corridor:
SHERIDAN, Thomas E. (U Arizona)
Aggregation and Abandonment?: The “Sun Corridor” and Arizona’s Water Game in the 21st Century (audio)

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