Maricopa County can manage explosive growth - SanTan Sun News SanTan Sun News

Maricopa County can manage explosive growth

May 15th, 2018 development
Maricopa County can manage explosive growth

By Dennis Barney, Guest Writer


In 2016-2017, Maricopa County added nearly 74,000 residents, or more than 200 residents a day.  

Just think about what that means.  

You might picture tacking on the entire city of Flagstaff – with a population of about 72,000 – to one of our outer suburbs. Or you might imagine a sold-out Cardinals game at University of Phoenix Stadium – and then put an additional 10,000 fans on the field.

Or maybe you can conjure an image of 50 families of four (and some pets), driving down the interstate in a long succession of moving vans on a single sunny day, each headed for a different part of our county, hoping that this will be a good place to grow a life.

However you picture it, we are the fastest-growing county in the nation, and a significant amount of that growth is happening in the East Valley, where the tech, aerospace and health industries are thriving and neighbors often feel like extensions of family (and sometimes are family!).

Our job as leaders is to ensure that we have the infrastructure, support systems and business environment to move us forward while not overextending our resources in a way that will create problems for future generations.

We can do this in several ways.

First, by being fiscally intelligent. We have worked hard to keep our budget balanced, our AAA credit rating intact and our service costs well below our counterparts across the region. This year will be no different.

Second, we need to create a pro-growth environment, and that means balancing our role as regulators with common-sense policies that clear unnecessary red tape for businesses and individuals. I have led the charge to streamline the planning and permitting process for business folks, and we are now processing more plans than ever. The work isn’t done, though. We can do more.

Third, we need to ensure that opportunity expands for everyone in our region, that our dramatic growth isn’t creating a larger economic divide. This has been a guiding tenet for many of our agencies – from Human Services and Public Health, to the courts and law enforcement – that work with vulnerable populations.  

We are all trying to work together to ensure people have access to resources to improve their lives, whether those resources come from us or from our nonprofit and community partners.

Fourth, we need to make smart investments for the future. This is the dreaming part of the job, where we get to envision what the county will look like 20-30 years down the road and then work with departments to design plans to get there.  

What kind of transportation do we need? What type of water management and flood protection? How can we ensure no drop off in public safety when we have such dramatic population growth? These are all questions we ask as we decide where to spend money.

Many people move to Maricopa County drawn to the intangibles – the weather, the open space, the independent spirit that says, “Yeah, sure, we can put down roots in the middle of a desert and not only survive, but thrive.” Just 4.3 million of us standing tall, moving forward in the midst of a summer heat wave, otherwise known as April through October.

What I want to do is ensure the essence of our great community – the stuff that’s always been there, the stuff we can’t control – isn’t overtaken by a government that tries to do too much, that gets involved in issues that are better handled locally, that becomes a hindrance and not a helping hand.

I’m proud of the work we’ve done to ensure Maricopa County government is a partner to all – new residents and current ones – in this exciting time of expansion.

-Denny Barney is a member of the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors