OUR VIEW: Diversifying the economy, making housing affordable and untangling summer traffic congestion never seem to change.
New decades don't come around that often in an average lifetime, so the beginning of one is a chance to look back 10 years as well as ahead.
But 10 years ago happened to be the year 2000 and the dawning of a new millennium. Prognosticators made even more sweeping predictions than usual -- how often do you get to gaze a thousand years into the future?
Here at the Daily Sun, the new age was met with a 14-page special section that had local experts predicting, among other things, hyper-development at the Grand Canyon, sprawl in Flagstaff and a manned mission to Mars by 2020 -- the year 2000 was, after all, near the peak of the Arizona boom cycle.
A decade later, annual Grand Canyon visitation is still stuck below 5 million and neither Tusayan nor Williams has attracted a gateway theme park. The Canyon will still be there a millennium from now, although we're not sure about the rest of us.
As for Flagstaff and growth, this past year saw the fewest number of building permits issued in three or four decades, much less one. Experts no doubt will say the construction industry is cyclical and bound to recover. Personally, we'd prefer less boom and bust and more manageable growth curves this coming decade.
SOME PREDICTIONS PRESCIENT
Some of the other local predictions from 2000, however, were surprisingly prescient: the growth of Internet commerce and Web-based university courses, better medicine through genetic engineering and more efficient buildings through the use of solar energy. Each was part of a nascent trend at the time and now is a full-blown movement.
The most applicable principle for many of the issues that were facing Flagstaff a decade ago can be encapsulated in "Some things never change." The headlines from 10 years ago about lack of economic diversity, unaffordable housing, street alcoholics and summer traffic congestion could just as well be written today -- despite considerable effort by many well-meaning people to move the needle on all of those issues. The lesson is not to stop trying but to stop thinking tough problems will be resolved even in a decade, much less a year or two.
As we enter a new decade in Flagstaff, there are other unresolved issues to add to the list above.
-- Ground has yet to be broken on a Walmart Supercenter, despite voter approval nearly five years ago.
-- There is still no state-run shooting range in northern Arizona.
-- Snowmaking at Snowbowl is still at least two winters away.
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Not every issue in Flagstaff in the past decade has been static, however.
-- Enrollment on the Mountain Campus of NAU went from a record low to a record high, while FUSD enrollment has been on a steady 10-year decline.
-- The serious crime rate in Flagstaff has gone nowhere but down each year.
-- The Museum of Northern Arizona went from losing its accreditation over the sale of some artifacts to keep it financially afloat to being reaccredited and attracting enough financial support to erect an award-winning collections storage building.
THESE GOALS MET
Finally, we would be remiss in not recognizing the people and programs who started the decade with a goal and largely met them:
Lowell Observatory began an ambitious public outreach program with the opening of a new visitor center, then partnered with the Discovery Channel to bring a new, $30 million telescope to Flagstaff.
The city of Flagstaff partnered with local businesses to transform Heritage Square and revitalize the downtown.
Voters approved a Fourth Street Overpass in 2000 and city officials delivered it on schedule six years later.
Finally, the Greater Flagstaff Forests Partnership set out in the face of a severe drought to thin the forests around the city to make them healthier and safer. As we enter a new decade, their work has become a national model and arguably the single most important accomplishment of the past 10 years in the region.
A HIGH BAR TO MEET
From the perspective of one lousy year -- 2009 -- the next decade is bound to look better. But the past 10 years in Flagstaff have set a pretty high bar of cooperative planning and measured growth for those coming after to top. Based on that record, we approach the next 10 years with some confidence that Flagstaff's considerable assets and talents will be used wisely.
We hope, however, that some things about Flagstaff will not change. Ten years from now, we hope to be able to say Flagstaff's optimism, open-mindedness and charity did not falter, despite all the challenges sure to be thrown our way.
Happy New Year -- and new decade -- to all.