Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton will deliver his sixth — and what could be his last — State of the City speech Tuesday. He is scheduled to speak before a crowd of hundreds of business and political leaders at the Sheraton hotel in downtown.
The speech is typically the mayor’s most visible platform of the year, and one he’s used to unveil major policy goals before. But the tone of this year’s speech could be different.
While Stanton has almost three years left in his term, he’s widely expected to leave City Hall to run for statewide office in 2018. Stanton has created a committee to run for Arizona secretary of state, against embattled incumbent Michele Reagan. He would face a primary fight on the left from state Sen. Katie Hobbs, D-Phoenix, who has announced she’s running.
That’s why observers will watch Stanton’s speech for what it could indicate about his future ambitions as well as final goals in city office. Here are five things political insiders will be looking for as Stanton takes stage.
(Watch an exclusive live stream of Stanton’s speech at 12:30 p.m. at azcentral.com and follow the conversation online with hashtag #PhxSOTC.)
Framing a legacy
As Stanton looks to his future beyond City Hall, don’t be surprised if he’s eager to tie a bow on his 5-plus–year tenure.
Opponents have often suggested the mayor’s agenda is light on substantive goals and heavy on symbolic gestures. But team Stanton will likely present a version of the story that emphasizes his role in leading Phoenix’s recovery from the economic downturn.
Among the efforts Stanton is keen to mention: convincing voters to pass a tax hike to expand mass transit; opening trade offices and improving business ties with Mexico; cheerleading downtown’s construction boom and cultural renaissance, which was the work of multiple mayors; and passing the city’s first non-discrimination ordinance for LGBT people.
Angling for higher office
Stanton is always quick to contrast liberal-leaning Phoenix with the conservative establishment at the state Capitol. But his attacks on Republican state leaders have amplified in the past year, and the contrast was a theme of his 2016 State of the City speech.
Recently, Stanton has called the Arizona Legislature’s move to expand school vouchers “shockingly irresponsible” and he blasted lawmakers’ efforts to limit citizen initiatives.
Many have seen Stanton’s jabs as preparation for a showdown with Reagan or, perhaps, another Republican state officeholder. Expect the Democratic mayor to again aim to portray his city as a steady, moderate voice of reason in a state governed by extremes.
Navigating Trump and immigration
Stanton has been vocal lately about opposing President Donald Trump on immigration. He recently supported a City Council vote that affirmed the city will not participate in the federal 287(g) program to deputize local police officers for immigration enforcement.
But some liberal activists have criticized Stanton for not doing more to oppose Trump’s policies. In February, he voted along with the council to reject a petition to make Phoenix a “sanctuary city,” a broad term used to describe jurisdictions that don’t comply with federal immigration enforcement. Stanton has said the move would have violated state law, Arizona’s Senate Bill 1070.
Both sides will watch Stanton’s speech to see if the mayor charts a more decisive course for how the city responds to Trump’s executive orders on immigration.
Renewed focus on education
While education largely isn’t a function of cities in Arizona, Stanton has often emphasized the issue. The mayor has championed a range of city efforts to bolster library-course offerings and partner with school districts.
But Stanton’s emphasis on education has increasingly become a critique of state leaders. In denouncing the state’s expansion of school vouchers, he called the program “a backdoor way to defund public education on a massive scale.” He has also stressed that concerns about Arizona’s education system hurt its job growth, so expect his speech to have more strong words on the subject.
Stanton’s past speeches were sprinkled with praise for his council colleagues while opponents get the cold shoulder. The number of shout-outs, or snubs, are often an indicator of the status of his council alliances.
Last year, the noticeable snub went to Councilman Michael Nowakowski, the only Democratic council member Stanton didn’t mention. The snub came after a video surfaced online apparently showing Nowakowski objecting to rights for gay and transgender people.
Who will get praise or the silent treatment this go-around?
Read or Share this story: http://azc.cc/2pg6A9W