Thursday night I attended a Mayoral Debate put on by my pals from the Downtown Voices Coalition and held at the Lexington Hotel in downtown Phoenix. It was good to see a packed house with both familiar, and new faces.
If you aren't yet registered to vote (or have moved), before you continue reading my words, please do it right now, right HERE. People not voting, or for some reason thinking their vote doesn't matter, are part of the reason we're in this mess with our State. The deadline to register is August 1st, so DO IT.
The candidates in attendance were: Wes Gullett, Jennifer Wright (AKA, I ape Sarah Palin - referred to from here on out as SP2) Greg Stanton, Peggy Neely, and Claude Mattox.
Some of them had done their homework to tell those of us in attendance what we wanted to hear, and some of them (okay, just SP2) hadn't.
The downtown community is strong. We tend to be involved, vocal, passionate, and care about preserving what history hasn't been razed by greed and corruption. We're getting stronger as different groups have joined forces to work together. Power in numbers...
Back to the debate.
As Mrs. Roosevelt's quote above reflects, not much has changed in the world of politics, and generalities and circle speak are the main entree' during any election cycle.
All of the candidates had some great things to say that struck chords with this particular crowd. (Except for SP2 who mainly said things that made the audience hiss, moan, and eye roll). This forum also made me realize the importance of attending another one, outside of my "crowd," to see how all of the candidates shift and morph to different audiences. It's on my "to do" list, as I have a strong curiosity gene.
So here were some of the good comments (again, from everyone except SP2):
- Mattox mentioned TOD
- Gullett made a comment about jobs following smart people
- Neely made a comment about no more parking lots downtown
- Mattox made a comment about hiring an urban planner
- Gullett mentioned adaptive reuse, community gardens and pocket parks
- Stanton made a comment about the importance of street level design
- Palinisms were thrown around left and right by SP2
- Stanton said CityScape was poorly designed (bonus points)
- Gullett made a comment about the community and residents getting what we want from developers, focusing on small business, and buying locally
- Stanton made a comment about supporting Local First and adaptive reuse
Top Palinism by SP2 - "There should be no government control or public funding for arts & culture." (Her children apparently never enjoy such things as public libraries...) Ick.
Favorite question to candidates:
"When was the last time you rode the light rail, and where did you ride it to?"Only good answer - Stanton, who had ridden the light rail to the debate. (SP2 had of course never ridden it at all. No surprise there.)
So... Were my questions answered? Hardly, though I know who I will be voting for because I think he will do the best job at putting his money where his mouth is.
Yes Phoenix is big and sprawling, but downtown is the city's soul. It's our heartbeat. It's the dressed out turkey on the Thanksgiving dinner table. Everything surrounding it is the fixins', which makes those things/places important, but dinner would be screwed if grandma burned the frickin' turkey.
Our next Mayor should understand that. The Mayor can only understand that by living it, breathing it, taking the turkey's temperature, and riding the damn light rail more than once or twice a year. We need someone who can roll up their sleeves, get shit done, and re-engage this community. Phil seemed to be doing an okay job at this for awhile, but then seemed to go sort of MIA mid dinner. Nobody likes the person who texts at the dinner table and doesn't help clear the table.
The generalities though are still under my skin. It reminds me of the green industry where everyone learns a few token phrases and acronyms then orders free Vista Print business cards touting themselves to be a green "expert." Blech. Anyone with half a brain can do that. (Except for SP2 in this case who obviously didn't even spend 5 minutes doing her homework to not sound like an idiot with this particular audience. I would also pay $ to have her hug a homeless person just to see her expression, but that's beside the point...)
So these would be MY very specific questions to all of the candidates - except for that one, because I drink coffee, not tea.
- Would you take the lead in having the city become the leader (example: Minneapolis) to really promote public transport and walkability, by closing down at least one main thoroughfare in downtown to cars and only allowing buses, bikes and public transport?
- Would you put some kind of mandated city policy in place to demand the use of pervious concrete vs. asphalt in all future projects to minimize urban heat island effect?
- Would you set and achieve the goal of planting x amount of trees in the next 1-4 years?
- Would you work on and help enforce the codes regarding our historic buildings?
- Would you involve and engage the citizens of downtown by having meetings and seeking knowledge from local experts first before seeking outside assistance?
- Would you support the use of creative temporary projects on vacant city lots?
- Would you help the city implement an integrated vegetation management plan for the health of the residents to stop using harmful chemicals, and an integrated pest management plan for all city owned buildings?
- Would you get serious about bike safety, bike lanes, and signs and strategies to protect both bicycle riders and pedestrians?
- Would you speak out on land/building banking and penalize those who are harming our economy?
- How would you change the extreme difference in funding between say, a Paradise Valley public school, and a downtown Phoenix public school? "No child left behind - unless you're poor." (And I can speak on this topic from our own experience.)
- Would you vigorously pursue the sustainability industry to bring new ventures/green jobs to Phoenix? How would you do this?
- Would you stand behind the importance of beautification and public spaces with visual interest? i.e. Making it easier with less red tape for community organizations to create public art pieces/projects, etc.
- Would you help promote our art community? How would you do this?
- Would you promote utilizing solar and renewable energy practices in the city?
- Will you develop a sustainability initiative for your own office?
- Would you promote vibrancy by supporting short-term use of vacant city owned buildings to be used in creative ways, i.e. pop-up galleries, performance art spaces, etc.?
So there you have it folks. My interpretation, thoughts, and questions on this particular Phoenix Mayoral forum/debate. Please get involved with your community. No matter where you live, or how busy you think you are. Your vote will count in this election and stands to have an impact on not only us, but future generations as well. Which way will we turn? Left, or right? But hopefully not toward SP2, or I'd seriously have to move. Between the Crypt Keeper, Yosemite Sam, and Darth Vader, I'm already up to my eyeballs in AZ villains...
Over and out.