Phoenix Demonstrates Sour Grapes in Fight to Kill Arizona Coyotes Deal

Phoenix City Manager Jeff Barton

The proposed move of the Coyotes to Tempe and the building of the proposed Tempe Entertainment District is to be one of the biggest game-changers in our area’s recent history. Unfortunately, any good idea will have its fair share of opponents. We wrote recently about how a small group of Tempe residents are seeking to tank the proposal. Now there is an even larger threat: it’s much bigger sibling right next door.

The city of Phoenix recently filed a lawsuit to stop progress in the project. They are doing so under the guise that the proposed district is too close to Sky Harbor Airport, thus violating FAA rules.

Perhaps the most damning aspect of this lawsuit was highlighted by the Arizona Republic. “The Republic also found that Phoenix never objected to the more than 400 apartment units that were built in Tempe’s high-noise zone over the previous three decades. Phoenix even sent a letter of support to Tempe regarding a high-noise area housing development in 2013, asking only that tenants be made aware of the issue”. So the question must be asked, if it wasn’t a problem before, why is it a problem now?

It seems evident that the city of Tempe and the Coyotes representatives are attempting to be good partners. They have already capitulated to the request from the airport of indemnification in legal matters. While it is difficult to say with certainty what is happening behind closed doors, clearly the goalposts are being moved, and it seems evident that the city of Phoenix is not acting in good faith.

So why is this happening? Well, for starters, it is hard to believe that that the city attorney would be acting in a rogue capacity. It seems possible, if not likely, that doing so was in conjunction with Phoenix city manager Jeff Barton (as a reminder, Phoenix has a “weak mayor” governance system where a city manager actually runs the city). While the city manager does in theory work independently from the city council, like any employee whose continued employment is more or less at the whim of the people who chose them for that role, there is likely some pressure from some parts of the council. Many “maybes”, but little clarity.

However, it does feel like there is a degree of pettiness, perhaps jealousy. Tempe is rising, and while Phoenix is doing alright in its own right, Phoenix is simply looking like a bully that won’t let its sibling see their day in the sun. Perhaps for good reason; Phoenix has size but Tempe has momentum. But it’s truly unfortunate Phoenix has to put itself in such a negative light and cut off its nose to spite its face. We expect better than that.