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Danehy

Population projections show the area's growth is getting rapidly out of hand

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The bad news is that, according to United States Census Bureau projections, Arizona will double in population by the year 2030 and will be the 10th largest state in the union. The good news is that those of us who winced when we read or heard about that will all be 25 years closer to death by then.

This isn't one of those "we have to control our growth" screeds, because that ship done sailed. We may or may not have had the chance to control our growth destiny back in the 1970s, but, by the slimmest of margins, the land whores took the reins of the Pima County Board of Supervisors, and our fate was sealed. It's been downhill ever since, and it's definitely picking up speed.

At first, it was barely noticeable. No new high schools (a sure sign of growth) were built in the 1970s. Desert View and Marana Mountain View opened in the '80s.

Only Catalina Foothills opened in the 1990s, but then, around the turn of the century, we got Ironwood Ridge in the Amphi District and Cienega in Vail. Now the word is that both of those districts are planning at least one, and possibly two, new schools each. The Tanque Verde high school is opening; Marana will probably need another one soon, and Sahuarita High, south of Tucson, is bursting at the seams. The rush is on.

There's an old logic problem about placing one bacterium in a petri dish at noon. The bacteria double every minute. At 1 p.m., the dish is finally full. When was it half-full? The flash answer is 12:30, but the actual answer is 12:59. Things have a way of starting slowly, then getting out of hand in a hurry.

The signs are everywhere. If you want to be stunned, drive up to Mesa by taking the Highway 587 route off Interstate 10. You'll be going along through the desert, and all of a sudden, there's a subdivision. And then there are cows. Then Basha High School, out in the middle of freakin' nowhere, then more houses, then more cows.

Apparently, no one is in charge. There is a pretty high turnover rate on the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors, probably because it's hard to bend over and keep one's arm outstretched, palm up, for extended periods of time. Conventional wisdom used to be that Maricopa County would fill up around 2050. Now, 2015 looks more on target.

Pinal County is now being nibbled at from both the north and the south. Satellite city/subdivisions are sprouting up in the Saddlebrooke area way north of Tucson, while developers coming down from Maricopa see Pinal and its rural areas as being rape-ripe. Even the middle of Pinal County is under fire. Land in Eloy, near the intersection of I-10 and Interstate 8, which comes in from San Diego, has seen a 1,000 percent price increase in a matter of a few years. It's very obvious that somebody sees that as a boom area, possibly even as the hub around which the mythical Tucson-Phoenix megalopolis can coalesce.

All I know is that, as much as I love Tucson and Arizona, I don't want to be here for all that. I've lived here more than half my life, but I don't want to exist in Super South Phoenix. My wife's family has been in this area for 150 years, and she's starting to get uncomfortable.

The report says that people will move here partly because of the weather, which is a cruel joke, at best. The phenomenon of people flooding into Phoenix has already changed the weather in that dump. Thirty years ago, summer nighttime low temperatures were in the manageable 70s. Now, with the glass and steel buildings, the endless roads, and the swimming pools, fake lakes and fountains every damn where, they sometimes go weeks without it ever dipping under 90. And the 100-degree low temperature is not far off. Yuma will look temperate by comparison.

A friend of mine who works for the city of Tucson read the projections and just shrugged. "Looks like I won't be out of work any time soon," he said. When I asked if we should at least try to do something to maintain some sense of order, he said, "You can't stop people from coming here. If they don't like the cold back east or they're not happy with California, they're going to come here looking for something new."

Well, it's for damn sure we can't stop people coming from the south. Why should we be able to stop them coming from the east and west?

In an attempt to end on an up note, the report also predicts that in 2030, there will be 100 million people living in the states of Florida, Texas and California combined. Imagine what that'll do for the national IQ. You know that old saying about "in the kingdom of the blind, the one-eyed man is king?" Even with 11 million people cramped in here, we'll be the one-eyed man with cataracts, nearsightedness and glaucoma. But we'll never get to the point where we're California.

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