The Lobby

Written by Editorial Staff Category: Valley News Issue: July 2017
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Private Practice

Private doesn’t always mean better, but it’s a risk the city of Mesa is willing to take as it becomes the first city in the Valley to utilize a privatized jail. Despite widespread dissent from city residents, the Mesa City Council voted in a cost-saving move to approve a three-year, $15-million contract with CoreCivic, previously known as Corrections Corporation of America. Starting later this year, inmates charged with misdemeanors will be transported to the company’s private detention facility in Florence. Mesa Mayor John Giles says the private facility does away with the booking fee in place at the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office and cuts down on per diem costs. But opponents bemoan allegations of violence and sexual abuse at CoreCivic facilities. Emily Verdugo, program coordinator with the American Friends Service Committee, which challenges mass incarceration, says, “We are dismayed that Mesa’s elected leaders chose to vote against the clear wishes of the majority of their constituents.”
— Lauren Loftus

Back Where We Belong

Move aside, Philadelphia: Phoenix is eating your cheesesteak. According to new data from the U.S. Census Bureau, Phoenix added 32,113 residents between July 2015 and July 2016, the largest gain of any city in the nation. Obviously, this bodes well for the Valley’s real estate market and overall economic health, but more vitally, it feeds our statistical vanity by restoring us to No. 5 above the City of Brotherly Love on the U.S. population leaderboard. A history of the Philly-PHX horserace, in graphical form:


  • Philadelphia, the nation’s third-largest city, reaches a peak population of 2,071,605.
  • A decades-long “white flight” shedding trend begins; Philly falls to No. 4 behind L.A. 
  • Philly drops to No. 5, behind Houston, with fewer than 1.6 million residents. 
  • Ahem. Philly reclaims No. 5 as PHX sheds 150,000 residents during the housing collapse.


  • Phoenix enjoys unprecedented 400% population growth between 1950-1960, leapfrogging from No. 99 to No. 29 among U.S. cities.
  • Phoenix cracks the Top 10 for the first time. Population: 789,704.
  • A decade of soaring 30% growth puts Phoenix on Philly’s doorstep at No. 6.
  • Boo-ya. An unstoppable real estate market pushes PHX past Philly for No. 5. Mortgages for everyone!
  • Steady economic growth restores Phoenix to No. 5. Mmm-mmm. That’s good cheesesteak. 

Mood Stabilizer

“Hey, baby/It’s the Fourth of July.” Put down your newsfeed. It’s time to wave flags and party. 

Arizona Breakfast Weekend runs July 27-30. Your chance to score that sweet jalapeño Benedict you’ve been eyeballing.

Chandler-made rocket shoots down a mock ICBM over the Pacific. You’re welcome, free world.  

Cheech & Chong come to Talking Stick July 21. They thought someone said “Thai stick.”

National Council of La Raza hosting conference in Phoenix July 8-11, the first since boycotting AZ over SB 1070. First order of biz: reconquista the Downtown Majerle’s.

Arizonans struggle to spell “tomorrow” more than any other word, according to Google. Hey, we live for the moment.

Fleetwood Mac mates Lindsey Buckingham and Christine McVie play Comerica July 25. Does Stevie know? Does Stevie care?

Corruption is hot again. Michael Nowakowski land scandal, Corporation Commission election-rigging make us nostalgic for the ‘70s.


Bob Parsons

As the founding CEO of Parsons Technology, GoDaddy, YAM Worldwide Inc., PXG, et al, it would seem that serial entrepreneur Bob Parsons has no interest in locating his laurels, let alone resting on them. We caught up with the enigmatic impresario and talked golf, girl power and his go-to websites.

GoDaddy was named one of the Top 10 best brands in our Brand PHX feature story. In your opinion, what are some other standout local brands? 

I spend my time focused entirely on what I’m doing and trying to accomplish, so I’m the wrong guy to ask about other Arizona brands. That said, one brand I’m especially proud of is our golf club company PXG. We started it from scratch a few years ago, and we’re up to 150 employees. Annual sales are approaching $100 million and it’s already turning a small profit.
How’s your golf game these days? Favorite course in the Valley?

I am, and have always been, a middle-of-the-road golfer, and I carry a handicap that averages about 10. The only golf course I play in the Valley is Scottsdale National. I just love it there.

You have been lauded for reviving the defunct Arizona Office of Film & Digital Media. How do you envision the future of Arizona filmmaking? 

The film industry in Arizona is on the rebound for sure, but keep in mind that recently it was allowed to deteriorate to where it was all but dead, so it pretty much has nowhere to go but up. Arizona, more so than any other state, has geographical areas that feature a beautiful diversity and should be utilized by the film industry. Establishing the state film office was a step in the right direction. The next step is to provide smart incentives that make sense for Arizona and that everyone can get behind.

You and your wife recently opened the Bob & Renee Parsons Leadership Center for Girls & Women. Have you always felt passionately about women’s issues?  

While I’ve caught a lot of flak for GoDaddy’s commercials when I was CEO, I was always one of the first ones to step up and support women’s causes. This includes causes like Girl Scouts, homelessness, domestic violence, teen pregnancy, re-entry into the work force and many more. I’ve found during my business years that often my most efficient and effective key executives have been women.

How did you get into furniture design and fabrication with The YAMWOOD Foundry? 

My custom finishing company, Spooky Fast, started doing a lot of jobs for clients that couldn’t find the right pieces to fit their needs. Eventually it just made sense to create a new business dedicated to building high-quality, 100 percent customized office and residential furniture. I couldn’t be happier; the work coming out of YAMWOOD is incredible.
When people think of GoDaddy, they think of domain-hosting. What are your personal most-visited websites? 

Other than the websites for my companies, I find myself quite often visiting, and, depending on what I’m interested in at the time, I’m on car company websites like, and To that list, add the websites of motorcycle manufacturers like Ducati and Triumph. I also like to check out watchmaker websites, particularly Breitling and Panerai.

What’s next on the to-do list?

I’m not a big planner and don’t have much in the way of “I want to one day do this or that.” The key thing I look for in new projects is that they are fun and become a labor of love – that way I spend more time at whatever it is and tend to do a better job. My father used to tell me, “When you love something, it tells you all its secrets.” He was spot on with this.


by Mike O’Neil

Institutional Knowledge

Without naming names – or political affiliations, as the case may be – certain Americans are anxious about the future. Specifically, they wonder if the liberties and freedoms they treasure will be intact in four or eight years.

This is pretty typical when the poles of power shift in Washington. When Barack Obama took office in 2009, a sizable chunk of voters were convinced he would turn America into a Third World sado-communist hellhole within his first term. Thankfully, the thing that saved us then is the thing that will – presumably – save us now: our institutions. 

Institutions matter. Think of Russia, Turkey, China or the many other places where an elected leader has near total control over most of the institutions of society. Or most of Africa, with their “One Man, One Vote, One Time” version of democracy, in which the democratic process itself is swept away by extremist policymakers. 
True democracy rests not just on voting, but on the independence of several key societal institutions. 

1) A free press is the only thing that keeps politicians honest. Reporters who work for “mainstream” media are held to far higher standards than the politicians who attack them. Editors and fact-checkers have no parallels in the political domain. These flesh-and-blood people – mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, church-goers, gym-members, you name it – are “the media,” not mindless bands of drones taking orders from corporate puppet-masters. Of course, because they are human, they can make mistakes. But those who “get it wrong” more than rarely will find their careers over quickly if they work for a respected news organization. If an outlet gets a specific report wrong, contest it. But the broad-swipe characterization of “fake news” just serves to undermine a free press. 

2) An independent judiciary. The whole idea of a judiciary committed to the application of law is that sometimes the law requires that judges issue opinions contrary to public opinion and against the wishes of elected leaders. When you hear attacks on “unelected” judges, understand that these are attacks on the very idea of rule of law. Likewise, references to who appointed a judge, his partisanship or ethnicity are all attacks on the idea of rule of law and should be recognized as such. 

3) Our senior military. Highly placed career military officers, particularly general officers, are drilled in norms of not only civilian control, but also of legality and a duty to resist illegal orders. In the waning hours of Richard Nixon’s presidency, when there was concern about the chief executive’s mental state, senior military officers were reminded that any lawful order could only come through the established chain of command, not directly from the commander-in-chief. This is an important check on the illegal use of military power. Like other institutions, our senior military are human, but for every Michael Flynn there are 100 H.R. McMasters. More than 200 years without a military coup? That is a tribute to the prevalent institutional norms in our military. 

4) Our senior civil service. The upper levels of our government are staffed with highly trained scientists, engineers and national security specialists who will dutifully perform their work no matter who is president. No major terrorist attack on our soil since 9/11? Not an accident. Drink tap water without giving safety a thought? That is only true in a small fraction of the earth’s countries. Polio? It used to terrorize parents, but we haven’t seen a case in almost 60 years. All these norms and a thousand others we take for granted are delivered courtesy of these civil servants. (And if we ever committed to the silly notion of “running government like a business,” some of the senior civil service who run multibillion-dollar organizations would see their salaries spike a hundredfold.) People who have not given a thought to what these people actually do malign them as “bureaucrats,” but, if these folks quit en masse we’d have chaos and mayhem within hours.

These institutions have served us well for the last 241 years. But let’s not get too smug about their future. Nowhere is it foreordained that they will continue to operate freely. They persist only if we continue to support their independence. Think of that the next time you hear one of these institutions being attacked.

Mike O’Neil is a sociologist and pollster who hosts the public affairs program, The Think Tank, on KTAR-FM 92.3. 

From The Hip

“Working in Carefree, we see mule deer, bobcats and any number of other wildlife going by the windows, but in mid-April I walked into a room and saw this nosy guy peering into the window. I thought by the time I went to get my camera he would be gone, but 
he was still there.”

— Mary Henderson photography hobbyist, using a Samsung Galaxy S6, April 17, 2017

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