Reading endless statistics from the U.S. Census Bureau can be pretty boring. I get most of the government output because, once in a while, there’s a story hidden in the numbers.
So it is with “The Buckeye scam,” as I call it.
We live in an Arizona community of retired folks numbering about 90,000. Some 15 miles away to our Southeast is Phoenix, county seat for Maricopa County, fastest growing county in the country. About 20 miles Southwest of us is Buckeye, Arizona, fastest growing city in the country. So says the Bureau.
But, if you know the landscape hereabouts, you’ll discover the real Buckeye growth story isn’t in the numbers. It’s really in the local government overreach. And the mileage.
Buckeye is a small, old, relatively isolated town. A couple of big farm equipment dealers, a fertilizer plant and a few large farms break up the flat desert landscape. Lots of very old, one-story houses, many without air conditioning and a lot of ’em pretty rundown. Also, lots of small farm worker houses. The town site has maybe 4,000 people. Maybe.
But, 18 nearly barren miles due North is Verrado, a relatively new, largely self-contained subdivision of about 17,000 people surrounded by desert. Down the center, a lush, multi-lane main drag with large eucalyptus trees on both sides and a lot of very green grass with many hundreds of floral plantings. None of which were there before the place was built. A manmade oasis.
Verrado central area - such as it is - is much like an old Mexican town with a tree-covered main square and small, mostly windowless shops behind white stucco walls on about half a block. Boutique shopping. No neon signs. Narrow residential streets with old replica lighting.
Main part of the village is row after row of - what else - two and three-story row houses. Small, lush, green lawns and more flowers and shrubs, many not native to Arizona. No garages can be seen. Golf carts parked everywhere. And, of course, a beautifully-kept, championship golf course with manicured greens and fairways.
About a mile away is the rest of Verrado. Mostly multi-story, single family houses on neatly kept, narrow streets. A mile East is the new high school, a huge, multi-story, brick edifice surrounded by several types of sports fields with, again, lush green grass.
Now, 33 barren, desert miles due North of Buckeye (remember Buckeye?) Dell Webb’s Sun City Festival, a fast-growing, somewhat isolated community of about 27,000. Single-family housing on the East side of the main drag and 55+ retired on the West side. Well-kept golf courses on the retired side with water amenities and lots of palm trees. A few years ago, nothing there. Not one thing. Just more seemingly endless, flat, cactus-covered desert. Now, seemingly endless construction
No commercial businesses in Festival. Just a Shell station near the main entrance. It’s 12 long desert miles to the nearest civilization for groceries, health care and other shopping. And, again 33 desert miles from Buckeye.
“So what,” you ask? “What’s your point, Rainey?”
The point is this. All of the above - all of it - is Buckeye, Arizona. Go back and look at the mileage distances again. And, the old City of Buckeye furnishes no discernable services i.e. water, sewer, fire, law enforcement. In fact, Buckeye has no law enforcement!
From downtown Buckeye to Verrado is 18 miles North. And to Festival, another 15 miles due North above Verrado. All flat, barren desert between. But, it’s all the “city” of Buckeye!
Suppose you live in Pocatello, Idaho. You decide to annex like Buckeye has. Well, you go South to Lava Hot Springs, and Inkom, North to Blackfoot, West to Arco, Aberdeen and American Falls. Now you’ve got Pocatello - “fastest growing city” in Idaho.
Or, maybe you live in Forest Grove, Oregon. Again, your city council decides to annex Carlton, McMinville, Wilsonville, Kaiser, Dallas and Woodburn out near I-5. “Fastest growing city” in Oregon.
That’s our Buckeye! The U.S. Census Bureau calls it “the fastest growing city in America.”
Around these parts, Stranger, we call it, “the Buckeye fraud.”