Currently, only one incumbent running for re-election to the Phoenix City Council faces opposition in the Aug. 29 election.
Fixing Phoenix’s looming budget deficit, hiring more police officers and repairing cracking city streets.
Those are some of the issues at the forefront of the campaign for City Council in east Phoenix. An election campaign is underway to select a representative for about 180,000 residents in District 6.
Two candidates are vying for the seat in the Aug. 29 race: incumbent Councilman Sal DiCiccio, a real-estate developer who’s served more than 13 years on the council; and Kevin Patterson, executive development director for Banner Health.
Early voting starts Aug. 2. Most voters will receive mail-in ballots that week.
Four council seats are up for re-election this summer, but only DiCiccio faces an opponent. The other incumbents up for re-election are Jim Waring, District 2; Laura Pastor, District, 4; and Kate Gallego, District 8.
That means all eyes are on the District 6 council race. The area is one of the city’s most politically active and encompasses Ahwatukee Foothills, Arcadia, Biltmore and other parts of central and east Phoenix. It traditionally leans conservative, but can be a wild card in city elections.
POLITICAL INSIDER: DiCiccio has $540K edge in east Phoenix race
The Arizona Republic recently asked DiCiccio and Patterson to respond to a questionnaire about issues affecting the city. Some questions were submitted by residents via Facebook.
Highlights of the candidates’ responses are below.
QUESTION: Phoenix plans to hire about 219 more police officers this fiscal year, growing its force to 3,125 sworn personnel. But that hiring target is still far below the pre-recession peak of 3,375 officers.
Does the city need to hire more officers than already planned? If so, how many, how soon and how would you pay for them?
SAL DICICCIO: We must hire more police and hire them soon. Response times are near historic highs. The plan I pushed for and voted for — to hire 500 more officers — is in effect and will make a difference, but we still need hundreds more first responders.
We need a minimum of 3,400 sworn officers to ensure safety in our community. This must be our first priority. I have made the focus of hiring more police a top priority. While some on the council voted to waste $9.875 million to study trash, and over $5 million for lobbyist, PR, and membership dues, I kept the focus on core strategic functions like police.
You have my commitment to continue the focus on making sure we take care of your critical needs first.
KEVIN PATTERSON: I support the most recent city of Phoenix budget that added 219 more police and some specialist positions to our depleted force. Hiring police is not an overnight process; recruitment, proper training, integration into the force, these all can take years.
Phoenix needs to be strategic and targeted about how it grows its police force while also living within our financial means.
Q: Phoenix faces the prospect of a $43 million to $64 million deficit next year. What would you do to stop the city’s recurring budget deficits?
PATTERSON: One of the biggest problems I have seen with the city of Phoenix budget are multiyear and multimillion-dollar taxpayer giveaways to developers in our city who don’t commit to affordable housing. The recent Roosevelt Row project will receive $9 million in taxpayer dollars, but only has 5 percent affordable-housing renter units.
I firmly believe that if we are more strategic about how we use our city authority to develop, then this budget deficit will begin to close.
DICICCIO: My plan for fiscal accountability starts with a comprehensive strategic plan. This plan offers the right solution for permanently solving our structural deficit. We must start by prioritizing city functions from most important (public safety and roads are at the top of the list) to least important — public relations and membership dues.
Then we need to lay out our budget, figure out how much each item costs, start at the top, and when the money runs out, stop spending. The fact that Phoenix has record high revenues, but is still running a structural deficit in our budget, is simply inexcusable.
Q: Councilman DiCiccio has talked about the need for the City Council to adopt a strategic plan that outlines spending priorities. What are three strategic functions the city should trim to reduce its general-fund deficit and how much would those cuts save? If no cuts are necessary, please explain why.
DICICCIO: There are a lot more than three. First, the focus must be on non-strategic functions. Second, the structural deficit is systemic and deep and requires a review of all functions — and isn’t something that can be broken down into a few paragraphs.
1. Stop government waste on lobbying, trade association dues, unnecessary travel, consultants and big developer giveaways.
2. Competitively bid out non-strategic functions, such as changing the oil on city-owned vehicles. The average cost per city employee is now more than $110,000 per year.
3. The Housing Department is building affordable apartments at a cost of $281,000 per unit (total cost: $32 million) — where we had bids at $150,000 per unit. Extremely excessive given the fact that the average cost for a single-family home is around $200,000.
PATTERSON: I completely agree that the city needs a strategic plan to outline our spending priorities, but despite his loud rhetoric, Councilman DiCiccio himself has not unveiled a real plan for more than a decade on the council.
I believe that by increasing efficiency, reducing waste, and being transparent with taxpayers about how we are spending their money, we can bring a higher return on investment with our multibillion-dollar budget. As one resident told me, we need a “real vision and real leadership in District 6.”
Q: What are your views on climate change and sustainability? What ordinances/policies do you think the city needs in order to meet its environmental goals?
PATTERSON: Climate change is a real threat to our city, as Arizona grows hotter and hotter each year. What we often fail to realize about climate change is that it is a major economic opportunity for Phoenix; other cities like Chattanooga and Denver have integrated sustainability into their economic development departments, and have reaped the benefits. The city of Phoenix has adopted aggressive sustainability goals, and I will fight to meet them and a build a more sustainable city.
DICICCIO: I have been one of the leaders pushing for intelligent, sustainable management of our water resources. We just recently concluded a major deal with the Gila River Indian Community that will preserve more than 13 billion gallons of water in Lake Mead to help forestall future shortages.
We need to do everything possible to expand on this agreement and other water-saving measures to ensure that Phoenix has the water we’re going to need now and long into the future to protect our quality of life and the viability of our city.
Q: How important is political-party affiliation to your campaign and should it be a factor in this election?
DICICCIO: This is a non-partisan election. I help anyone who needs assistance, and my door is open to everyone regardless of party affiliation. Everyone knows that I am focused on fiscal accountability. I will continue to fight to protect the hard-working taxpayers of Phoenix.
Given the structural deficit, my role on the Council — as the taxpayer watchdog — is more important than ever. We face enormous issues related to our pension costs, structural deficit, hotel debt, government waste and more. My focus is to tackle these issues head-on, that’s what I do.
PATTERSON: I spoke with a woman in the district recently and asked her about what issues really mattered to her with the city. She didn’t ask if I was a Republican or a Democrat, a progressive or a conservative. She told me that what she really cared about was whether or not there were speed bumps by her children’s schools, so that she could have peace of mind that her children were safe when they were at school. Our children’s safety shouldn’t be a partisan issue, and neither is this race.
Q: In terms of economic revitalization, what areas of the district need the most focus and how would you bring redevelopment?
PATTERSON: This district is so diverse, each neighborhood has truly different needs. In Arcadia, it’s about the new “McMansions” that have sprung up in neighborhoods, changing property values for longtime residents. For Ahwatukee, it’s about finally solving the Lakes and now Club West golf course issues so that blight doesn’t creep into neighborhoods. No matter what, we need smart, responsible growth, and that is the centerpiece of my campaign.
DICICCIO: Infrastructure is critical. From Arcadia to North Central, I have taken significant steps to address this challenge. In the next few years a big part of my district will have every road repaved. We must continue to work together with our neighborhood groups and community leaders to maximize the value of the resources we are putting in place and address new challenges as they arise. My district has seen the highest level of home improvements and reinvestment of any area in the city — a great sign of how strongly people feel about our community.
Q: What specific street improvements or other transportation projects would be your immediate priority for the district?
DICICCIO: We’ve been working with the leaders of the Arcadia Mountain Neighborhood Association planning a series of improvements — bike lanes, sidewalks, etc. — for 56th Street, and particularly around the intersection at 56th Street and Indian School (Road).
Children walking and biking to school in this area are simply not safe near our roads. The repaving of Northern (Avenue), Camelback and Indian School roads will make a big difference in the quality of life for our residents. I am also working with the cycling community to bring a first in the nation high-speed cycling path.
PATTERSON: Our district needs someone who will advocate for Proposition 104 dollars to be spent revitalizing our streets, expanding light rail and bus routes/hours, and making Phoenix a walkable, bike-friendly city.
Ahwatukee residents have told me they need more speed bumps to ensure safety, and Arcadia residents want their roads to be in better condition. District 6 is currently underrepresented in these discussions because our current councilman has ostracized himself from his colleagues. Just like economic development and spending, we need a strategic plan for transportation in District 6.
Q: What would you do to make city streets friendlier/safer for pedestrians and bicyclists?
PATTERSON: I know that many citizens want to be able to walk and bike safely through their neighborhoods and downtown. Unfortunately, they are often at risk from drivers who don’t always understand the new bike lanes and traffic patterns in the city. Citizen education on the proper use of these new pathways is important for the safety of our residents.
DICICCIO: I have a great working relationship with the cycling community, and have made a significant commitment to work with them to improve our quality of life. Many of the improvements needed to ensure our pedestrians and bicyclists are safe are already underway as part of Phoenix’s Transportation 2050 Master Plan — new bike lanes, sidewalks and crossing signals are going in all over town. Additionally, my office has worked diligently with members of the cycling community to add a dedicated high-speed cycling path in the district.
Q: Would you support taxpayer funding being used to help build a new sports arena for the Phoenix Suns or another team?
DICICCIO: 1. Opposed to building a new arena.
2. The current location has been exceptional and it is where we should keep our Suns. The current lease agreement with the Suns requires Phoenix to address functional and economic obsolescence and improvements to that facility. As Phoenix has done in the past, I am supportive of renovating our current arena. With a renovation, we should also negotiate a lease extension so that those monies are not wasted on a short-term lease. It is hard to believe, but the arena is now more than 27 years old.
PATTERSON: No details regarding this project have yet been released, and the city recently signed a new contract to see if renovating the arena will be more positive for the city. I cannot comment on anything that I do not have all the details on.
Q: Would you support expanding the number of City Council districts during the next redistricting process so Phoenix has more than eight council members, like many other large cities?
PATTERSON: I support any process that increases citizen access to their elected representatives, and encourages a more democratic process in the city. District 6 itself is a prime example of gerrymandering of a city district, which is also unacceptable. I am happy to review the details of any proposal that meets these criteria.
DICICCIO: I am not totally convinced that adding more politicians and spending more money on them is that great of an idea. Depending on the details, I will keep an open mind.
Meet the candidates
Career: District 6 City Council member (has served more than 13 years on the council), real-estate developer.
Education: Bachelor’s degree in business from Arizona State University.
Career: Executive development director for Banner Health.
Education: Bachelor’s of science in business management and a master’s of science in psychology from the University of Phoenix.
How to vote
Only voters in districts 2, 4, 6 and 8 can participate in the Aug. 29 election for City Council.
The vast majority of voters who participate in city elections cast a ballot by mail, typically about 90 percent or more. Voters on the permanent early-voting will begin receiving their mail-in ballots Aug. 3.
In-person early voting starts Aug. 2 at the City Clerk’s Office in City Hall, 200 W. Washington St. (15th floor).
This election will be conducted by the city, not the county. That means voters who cast a ballot in person must do so at a city voting center, not their regular county polling place.
City voting centers will be open on Aug. 26, 28 and 29. For locations and times, visit www.phoenix.gov/cityclerk or call 602-261-8683.
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