As one of the City's strongest voting block, North Central residents have been very involved in selecting our public servants. The NCPHA's goal is to provide fair and balanced information on our candidates in an effort to help you make an informed decision. We have asked both candidates to weigh in on five questions regarding issues that affect North Central.
Please read on for responses from candidate Kate Gallego.
NCPHA: Our City is blessed with having mature, established neighborhoods integrated near our commercial areas. What is your position on developers pushing inappropriate new development in those neighborhoods? Where do you see new development occurring once you are in office?
KG: Our neighborhoods are impressive because they are all so unique. Protecting the character of our neighborhoods is important not only for the beauty of our homes, but for the growth of our economy.
When businesses are considering moving to or expanding in Phoenix, one of the things I pitch to them is how diverse our neighborhoods are. They quickly realize that if their employees want to live in a skyrise downtown, they can, or if they want to live in a historic home just a 15-minute drive from the airport or downtown, they can. It is a real strength we have over other communities in the nation that we are competing with for economic development and investment.
For this reason, I do not oppose dense projects completely, but I do believe they need to be in appropriate locations. The character of the area surrounding a proposal and neighborhood input are both key to my decision-making process.
For example, I met with residents from your area and responded to the overwhelming opposition neighbors had to the Alta Marlette project. Reasonable people can disagree on projects like this, and my opponent and I did disagree on this one. I supported the community and voted against the project. He voted for it.
I believe developers are best served when they view the people who live around proposed projects as stakeholders and as partners, not as an obstacle to overcome. Many of the most controversial projects could have been less contentious if feedback was collected earlier in the planning process.
As for where dense development should go, I believe we should support height and development in the downtown area where we are seeing an increased number of people wanting to live, and we need to support that demand. We also need to be looking along the proposed light rail lines so we are building and developing areas where the light rail currently runs as well as future lines.
NCPHA: Corruption and back room deals have infiltrated our public process. What will you do as mayor to ensure unethical behavior in our City (both paid and volunteer positions) is eliminated?
KG: This is something I saw during my time on the council and motivated me to take steps to change it in whatever way possible.
First, I supported our ethics policy to ensure that our mayor and council can’t accept gifts from lobbyists. Those policies must be enforced, all the way down to the volunteer level. If you are appointed to a commission or a board you must be above reproach.
Second, I was proud to lead on the “ban dark money” voter initiative that passed this last November with 80% of the vote. This initiative shines a light on who is donating to dark money organizations. These organizations are able to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to influence our elections and we don’t know where that money is coming from. This initiative aims to change that, and I’m proud that Phoenix voters supported it.
That voter-approved law is not in effect yet, and over the last few months, the issue of money in Phoenix government has become even more personal. In this race, the voters of Phoenix have been subjected to nearly a half a million dollars in dark money attack ads designed to help my opponent win -- ads that the Arizona Republic fact checkers labeled as totally misleading -- zero stars. When the Arizona Republic endorsed our campaign, they specifically called out my independence as one of the main reasons to support me. I will work for all of Phoenix, not special interests.
NCPHA: How will you reduce the homeless problem in our City?
KG: Homelessness is the biggest social service issue facing our community and we need to respond with an appropriate level of urgency. While there are a number of issues contributing to our homeless problem, the most critical elements in ending homelessness are mental health services and affordable housing.
I want to see more money invested in crisis intervention teams that are trained to respond to specific populations, for example homeless individuals who are struggling with mental health issues or living with dementia, so as a community we can connect those who want help with the services and support they need, eventually getting them into housing and off the streets. I also support creating an Opioid Treatment Court for individuals who experiencing addiction, which would complement the city’s existing specialty court for individuals who are struggling with homelessness.
We must also continue to strengthen the participation of business and non-profit leaders as we all work to end homelessness. The greatest strides we’ve made over the last few years has been through cross-sector partnerships (public, private, non-profit). I’ve asked our business leaders to create a housing and homelessness taskforce to really tackle this problem head-on.
Government must play a role in our community’s efforts to end homelessness, we can’t leave it all to businesses, neighborhood leaders, and hope. We must be creative in how we can increase funding for services that are proven to get people off the streets and into housing.
I have proposed shifting revenue from tourism taxes to properly fund efforts to address the problem. This has been successfully modeled in Portland, Oregon where they make the compelling argument that these investments to reduce homelessness in the community will actually bring in more tourists and revenue over time, making it a more impactful use of those tax dollars than other alternatives.
NCPHA: Traffic, in some areas, is at an all-time high. The City of Phoenix has turned a blind eye to this. What will you do as Mayor to address the traffic and vehicular safety problems?
KG: Traffic and vehicle safety is a major problem in Phoenix. The rate of traffic-related deaths in our community is shocking, and we need to take action to reverse it.
If elected mayor, I will push for the adoption of the Vision Zero initiative to work toward no fatalities or serious injuries on our roads. This initiative has been adopted in nearly 50 cities across the country, and it is time Phoenix joins their ranks. We all deserve to feel safe when we’re walking near, biking, or driving on city streets. That means studying our street designs, taking a hard look at speed limits, and increasing enforcement so that everyone can move through Phoenix safely.
We must then take that information and adopt a clear plan that brings together neighborhood leaders and city departments such as Police, Streets Transportation, and Planning and Development to get to zero fatalities. It is ambitious, but I know it can be done.
We need to invest in smarter technology to move traffic more efficiently. It is so frustrating to sit at a traffic signal while no one goes by in the other direction.
NCPHA: What is your position on illegal immigration? Will you make Phoenix a sanctuary city?
KG: State law prohibits Phoenix from becoming a sanctuary city, it is outside the power of the city council to change that. As a result, both Daniel Valenzuela and I voted to deny a citizen’s petition presented to the council to make our city a sanctuary city.
Immigration, however, is a major issue in our state. While the city doesn’t have a major role to play, it is essential that the federal government stop with the political posturing and act to pass comprehensive immigration reform.