Enjoying Merry Main Street

It was a delightful evening on Merry Main Street with hubby and friends from Mesa Leadership Class.  If you live in the East Valley go check it out – lots of fun!


Lots of food to choose from and places to sit in Pioneer Park.
Yeah, I had one of these!
And hot cocoa from here!
Check out the trucks’ schedules
Interesting performance artists from the MAC.
Can’t beat the Mesa Temple for Christmas lights display!
Reflecting pond = 2x the lights!
Lyn and his wife, Laura, and Jerry catch a free ride on the light rail.
Hubby’s first time on the light rail downtown.
I, personally, feel much safer with Batman aboard!
Great night for ice skating, but we just watched!
Live music too. Who doesn’t love skating to disco?!
Cool car show on Macdonald. “Who you gonna call?”
We could buy this for about $20K but it wouldn’t fit in the garage.
How cool to see Lightning McQueen!
Group photo with The Man!
NYC ain’t got nothing on Mesa’s Christmas Tree!
Santa, honey, did I mention I want a crossbow?





Mesa Leadership learns first-hand about local legislative process

Special to the AZ Republic

Contributed by Jill Adair, a freelance journalist and an associate faculty member at Arizona State University’s Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication.

Partisan politics, compromise, voting outside your party’s caucus, budget issues and lobbyists.

Mesa Leadership participants got a glimpse at what goes into the local legislative process Dec. 4 when this month’s class focused on city and local government and was held in the lower level of the Mesa City Council Chambers.

“It’s the hardest job that I absolutely love,” said Kevin Thompson, Mesa City Councilmember from District 6.

Thompson filled Scott Somers’ vacant seat in January. He said he never intended to get into politics but as soon as he considered it seriously he was ready to take it on.

“I knocked on 4,000 doors before the election,” he said.

Thompson said while city council positions are nonpartisan, he’s stands for conservative principles but understand he represents a range of political beliefs in his district.

He said he becomes disaffected for the “vote for my project and I’ll vote for yours” way of doing things.

“I believe in doing the right thing, regardless of the party,” he said. “It’s about doing the right thing for the community; it’s about doing the right thing for citizens.”

Accompanying Thompson to speak to the Mesa Leadership class was State Rep. Doug Coleman, R-Dist. 16, and State Sen. Andrew Sherwood, D-Dist. 26.

Coleman Sherwood Thompson
From left, Rep. Doug Coleman, Sen. Andrew Sherwood and Mesa Councilman Kevin Thompson.

“I like public policy-making,” said Coleman, who represents East Mesa, Apache Junction, Gold Canyon and a part of San Tan Valley. “I don’t really like the politics behind it.”

Coleman served several terms on Apache Junction City Council and 12 years as mayor before running for state legislature.

“Municipal government is something I admire.” he said. “I think every community has its own personality and its own flavor, and I think that’s because they do have a lot of local control.”

At the state Coleman says he’s ruffled a few feathers. He voted with eight other Republicans for the expansion of Medicaid in Gov. Jan Brewer’s budget in 2013, thus being outside of his party’s caucus on the issue.

“The problem with that is when you cross your party, especially on something major, there are repercussions,” he said. “And there have been.”

“I thought it was the right thing to do,” he said.

Coleman said the financial benefit from expanding Medicaid has since supported his outlying vote.

“Last year we cut $500 million out of the (state) budget,” Coleman said. “If we had not passed Medicaid we would’ve had to cut $750 million. And when education’s almost half the budget, you know where those cuts would have to come from.”

Making law is an interesting process, he said. “It’s a good fight, but it is a fight every day.”

Sherwood, whose district covers west Mesa and parts of Tempe, was serving in the state’s House of Representatives when he was appointed last month to the Senate to fill a vacated seat. He said he’s also found himself a lone man on issues.

“I don’t think elected officials know who they are anymore,” he said. “They are being engineered. We need bold leadership.”

Sherwood said he is constantly reading bills and trying to educate himself on issues.

“I work about 100 hours a week at the capital,” he said.

At the state and municipal levels, the budget is always a vital consideration in the process.

Candace Cannistraro
Mesa Budget Director Candace Cannistraro speaks to group.

“The city has to balance its budget,” said Candace Cannistraro, Mesa’s budget director. By law, the city is not allowed to go into deficit, but does issue debt in the form of bonds voted on by the public in elections.

“We don’t make things, we provide services,” she said about city expenses, adding that the city’s goal is to be “effective and efficient.”

Mesa has had to make steep budget cuts over the last seven to eight years and still “total uses exceeds total sources,” Cannistraro pointed out on a graph.

“The gap is not growing,” she said. “We just need to close the gap.”

Out of a total budget of $1.61 billion, Mesa’s general operating fund is $326.9 million and debt services total $379.2.

Mesa doesn’t have a primary property tax because of profits from city-owned utilities, but voters passed a secondary tax in 2008 to pay for bond debt. Much of Mesa’s revenue comes from sales tax.

She emphasized: “The most important part: Shop Mesa.”

Eric Emmert, vice president with Dorn Policy Group, spoke to the group about what a professional lobbyist does.

Eric Emmert
Lobbyist Eric Emmert explains how he influences public policy-making.

He said Arizona has about 33 registered lobbyists to every one elected lawmaker, while Congress has about 66.

He said the value of integrity is most important.

“If you’re lobbying an issue and you don’t have integrity, you’ve already lost,” he said.

He advised local residents to make their voices heard by contacting lawmakers, but not by using the same message in mass emails, tweets or social media posts.

“Tell how it impacts your personally,” he said. “That really gets the lawmakers attention.”

 Before class Jaime Glasser gives a report about shadowing Mesa Mayor John Giles.

Ride-Along with Mesa P.D.

Today I got a ride-along with Mesa Police Officer T. Jackson in the Red Mountain District. She was great and gave me an amazing six-hour experience!


We started the morning checking out a call about a suspicious character in an apartment complex, then provided backup to a possible DUI stop, then she got a Code 3 call about a man with a gun (yes, she turned to me and actually said, “You got your seat belt on, right?!” and then turned on the lights and sirens and we flew down Greenfield Road). Honestly, it was quite thrilling! But the “gun” call ended up being a BB gun and really nothing.


Then she checked out a house alarm call (again, nothing).

IMG_5571Again she provided backup to another possible DUI (the gal had two kids in her front seat!) and then another Code 3 call (this time we sped down Gilbert Road).

Takeaway: People, get OUT of the way! I could not believe how most people did NOT pull over even when she came up behind them with her lights flashing, sirens blaring and horn honking. Next time you see an emergency vehicle with flashing lights just think they might be on the way to save a life of someone you know. Pull over to the right!


This time the call was in my own neighborhood! A 27-year-old man had punched his 68-year-old grandma in the face and had a knife! So sad! Multiple cops and paramedics responded and the suspect was arrested, handcuffed and put in the back of the car. I went with Officer Jackson to the police station downtown where he was booked into jail and will receive a psych evaluation. I got a tour of the police station (I started my career at the Mesa Tribune as a police beat reporter back in the mid-’80s but had never been back very far behind the glass).


I also watched while she filled out numerous forms on the suspect. She said she spends about the same amount of time on forms as on actual calls on the street. She had to go back to the Red Mountain Station for more paperwork so I went home. It was all very interesting and I would recommend a police ride-along to anyone who has never done it. It is very eye-opening! God bless our law enforcement officers!

Shadowing Mesa Mayor John Giles

This week I had the opportunity to shadow Mesa Mayor John Giles.

jill and mayor
With Mayor Giles on Dec. 8, 2015

We had time to visit and I asked him some questions about our community and why he wanted to get involved in municipal government. He said while he initially rejected the idea of running for mayor he now loves the job and said he was announcing the next day his intention to seek re-election.

See his announcement video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=al_dlHtCGMo

I attended a meeting with the mayor about Artspace, an affordable housing project coming to Mesa for struggling artists. Then we walked across the street from his office to attend City Council study session, where we heard a proposal for a multi-field soccer and fieldhouse complex in northeast Mesa. Then at City Council meeting I saw him and other city leaders discussing and voting on city issues, including naming the utility building after former City Manager Charles Luster. It was all a great experience!


Mayor’s office


View from the mayor’s office
Beautiful views to the north of Main Street from the Seventh Floor


City Council study session in lower level of Council Chambers, 57 E. First St.
Proposal for youth sports complex in northeast Mesa
Mesa City Council meeting
A recognition to State Rep. Kelly Townsend (R-16) from League of Arizona Cities and Towns
Rep. Townsend poses with Mesa City Council members


Former City Manager Mike Hutchinson proposes naming the city’s Utilities Building, 640 N. Mesa Drive, to the “Charles K. Luster Building.”
Mr. Hutchinson speaks about Mr. Luster’s 42 years of service to the city of Mesa. The vote passed to rename the building in Luster’s honor.
City residents (above and below) voice their complaints about the city’s handling of the the mobile-home park Mesa Royale.


Enjoy Merry Main Street in downtown Mesa

Merry Main Street was one of Mesa and the East Valley’s most popular winter events for years bringing thousands of holiday revelers to downtown Mesa to enjoy music, lights and good food. Find a schedule of days and times under Activities & Entertainment.   After a decade hiatus, the NEW Merry Main Street is back…bigger and better than ever.

Check it out through Jan. 3, 2016!



Watch the video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A8UdG1F-K28

Mesa Leadership looks at arts and culture downtown

Special to the AZ Republic

Contributed by Jill Adair, a freelance journalist and an associate faculty member at Arizona State University’s Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication.

Now that the Light Rail extension is completed through downtown Mesa, local officials and business owners look forward to a rebirth of the area.

David Short, executive director of the nonprofit Downtown Mesa Association, leads the organization dedicated to promoting economic growth of the city’s central business district.

“We really work hard at making downtown and the businesses successful,” Short said while speaking to Mesa Leadership participants Nov. 6.

While it was indeed challenging for downtown businesses through the construction of the Light Rail, the worst part is behind them and they now look for the positive impact that increased access to downtown can bring.

Short said interest is increasing in downtown and the focus is on getting more restaurants, retail businesses and adding mixed-use buildings.

Also picking up is activity that brings visitors and shoppers downtown, Short said, noting how his organization’s promotional events have grown in a few years.

“We went from two event days to 60 events a year,” he said.

Short and other local leaders spoke about downtown development with a focus on arts and culture to the Mesa Leadership class at the Mesa Arts Center.

Class members toured MAC’s four performance venues, from the intimate 99-seat Farnsworth Studio Theater to the 1,600-seat Ikeda Theater; the art galleries of Mesa Contemporary Arts, a variety of art studios and classrooms; and indoor and outdoor multi-use areas that provide gathering and presentation spaces.

Cindy Ornstein, director or Arts and Culture for Mesa and executive director of MAC, said the center, at Main and Center streets, is celebrating its 10th year and continues to grow in numbers, making Mesa an increasingly popular arts destination and an anchor of activity for downtown.

“We’d like to put Mesa on the map where creative things happen,” she said.

Cindy Ornstein
Cindy Ornstein, executive director of the Mesa Arts Center, give Mesa Leadership participants a tour of the facility, including several art galleries currently exhibiting Chicano State of Mind and The Past Decade of Collecting by Cheech Marin.

An upcoming presentation of “Play Me, I’m Yours” begins in February and features dozens of painted and weatherized pianos located in public spaces around Mesa, available for the community to play and enjoy, she said.

These pianos – transformed into works of art – will be located in parks, public areas and at community events. They will invite the public to engage with each other.

A major project in the works along Mesa’s Light Rail line is Consolari, an idea born from grief and of recognition that music heals the soul.

Consolari, a Latin word meaning “to console, to reassure and to comfort,” would be a world-class concert hall similar to Carnegie Hall in New York and built on land that was formerly an auto dealership just east of the MAC, according to State Sen. Bob Worsley (R-Dist. 25) and his wife, Christi.

Bob Worsley
State Sen. Bob Worsley explains the plans for Consolari, a performing-arts complex in downtown Mesa, to Mesa Leadership class Nov. 6.

“Music heals and is transcendent,” Worsley said, explaining that his wife came up with the idea of expanding the arts in Mesa in a big way after the death of their grandson.

“Music actually heals emotionally and physically, and can bring peace and tranquility to our communities and to our children and to ourselves individually,” he said.

In consultation and in partnerships with the city of Mesa, New York City’s Lincoln Center and others, Consolari is projected to become one of the nation’s premier performing-arts destinations on a 15-acre site that has an existing 1,300 space parking garage.

The Mesa Arts Center was just the beginning and Consolari will complement and enlarge the music campus, Sen. Worsley said, adding that the adjacent land is in escrow and is expected to close before the end of the year. Worsley said money for the concert hall itself will be raised privately and not through taxpayer’s money.

“We don’t want it to be a burden on taxpayers,” Sen. Worsley said. “We want it to be a blessing to the community.”

The Worsleys’ vision, which they call Lincoln Center West, also includes a K-12 arts-based school, a place for Arizona State University’s music therapy classes, and a research facility delving into the ability of music to help people suffering from autism and dementia.

It also ties into the Light Rail expansion, with a section from the Phoenix Art Museum to Consolari being dubbed “Arts Line.”

Christi Worsley said the concert hall will be “perfect acoustic” with seating for 2,000, but can transform and enlarge to additional seating large enough for Broadway-touring shows.

“It will be the first music hall of its kind in the world,” she said.


Bustling Mesa has Something for Everyone

(From USA TODAY, Dec. 5, 2015)

Ah, Arizona.

Canada’s unofficial 11th province is a warm-weather perch for snowbirds from around North America and one of the most popular getaway destinations in the Southwest.

Home to cactus, prickly pears, rattlesnakes, the Grand Canyon, roadrunners, Apache trout, the world’s oldest rodeo and the bolo tie, the state is rich in attractions that entertain the cultured, the curious, the wild and untrammeled.

Perhaps the most intriguing destination is Mesa. The Maricopa County gem is a bustling city (larger than the cities of Cleveland, Atlanta and Miami) with a small-town, throwback vibe. It’s characterized by farm-to-table excursions, recreational opportunities that span spectacular mountains, sprawling deserts and sparkling lakes, kitchy ghost towns, modern craft breweries — and hardcore geezers.

wind cave
An early riser enjoys the view over Mesa from the legendary Wind Cave. (Photo: Flash Parker)

Read the rest of the story here: http://www.usatoday.com/story/travel/destinations/2015/12/05/bustling-mesa-has-something-everyone-especially-snowbirds/76781228/