Phoenix Mayoral Candidate Debate Results for May 3 2011

phoenix-mayors-debateI attended the first Phoenix mayoral debate featuring all 5 candidates: Eichenauer, Gullett, Mattox, Neeley, Stanton. I had my new IPad2 with me and took notes as each person answered a question posed by moderator Frank Camacho.

The debate, held at Phoenix Theater in downtown Phoenix, was well attended and executed. Hats off to the Citizens for Phoenix for putting together such a valuable event.

READER NOTE:  Below are my notes from the debate. They were written while the candidates spoke and are not the full script of what was said. I’ve noted the general question upfront and then the response, by candidate name. Some the the notes include personal feelings and observations.

Mayoral Candidate Debate Notes

Opening Comments from the candidates:

Eichenauer: doesn’t feel the city council has been responsible. Very short opening statement.

Gullet: feels we need new leadership with new ideas. Pro small business and job creation. Pro police and feels neighborhood safety is vital. Wants a government that doesn’t overspend and lives within its financial means.

Mattox: education is important. Long term high educational standards. Talked warmly about his service on the Phoenix City Council.

Neeley: Read from prepared notes. Nothing about her talk felt authentic. Just words. Felt like she was saying what she thought peopled wanted to hear.

Stanton: A local kid. Looked at the audience. Strong neighborhoods and job growth. Education and job creating a huge priority.

1st Question. Companies relocating to Phoenix want good schools. What will you do to ensure good educational opportunities?

Eichenauer does not think the City has a role in education. Gullet feels we need viable goals. Mattox believes quality schools is vital. City can’t create school policy but they can have strong input. Neely talked about her family going to public schools. Feels we need to make schools more accessible. Wants higher graduation rates. Stanton feels head start funding is important. Wants to use all available resources to improve schools and education as this is imperative to the future of the City and State.

Budget cuts are a strong possibility in the coming years. How would you approach the cuts?

Gullett wants to look for improving efficiencies. Employees need to participate in the solution. We should not raise water rates and taxes. Mattox feels finding waste is important. Reduce costs verses reduce services. Neeley again is reading prepared notes. Says streamlining and wants to do studies on all departments. Stanton does not feel the city is mis-managed but hasn’t looked at the problem long term. Says we shouldn’t do developer give a ways like City North. Eichenauer wants to cut jobs especially in police. Up to 700 jobs could be cut.

City North is often cited as a mistake. What makes development give a ways viable?

Mattox feels City North was a good deal for the city. The suburbs need more attention. Leverage private sector dollars to our benefit and keep competitive. Neeley also feels we must leverage to our overall benefit. Stanton feels tax subsidies should not be used often and only when they provide a strong economic return such as creating higher wage jobs and true economic benefit. Gullett doesn’t want subsidies he wants to reduce overall costs and provide benefits to the largest number of people. Eichenauer won’t do give a ways under any circumstance.

Fiesta Bowl shows ethics problems in city government. How do we keep this from happening in the future?

Neeley tells stories about her childhood. Some travel is needed to promote our City and transparency with lobbyists and votes is needed. Stanton feels the Fiesta Bowl is a sad event. Feels we should televise city meetings. End the culture of entitlement with city leaders. Eichenauer feels the voters need to look into into the background of candidates and not vote for unethical people. Gullet wants night time meetings with Internet and television coverage. Mattox says politicians need to honor their ethics. Neeley says the Fiesta Bowl board of directors (the city council) made mistakes.

Neighbors often feel bullied by developers. How do we keep them from feeling this?

Stanton says zoning cases are very difficult. He feels citizen involvement is paramount and we need to look at long term visions. Don’t let the zoning lobbyists make the decisions. Eichenauer said something I could not make sense of. Gullet says we have to plan for the future and work together with the neighbors and neighborhoods. Maddox says upset neighbors are a zoning concern. He too feels neighborhood involvement and consistency is paramount. Neeley says district 2 is a hotbed of development. She says we need a vision for all of Phoenix.

Should we reduce our police force size since crime has been reduced significantly?

Gullet says strong neighborhood/community based policing is needed. Maddox wants to enhance community police forces. Neely agrees community based policing is vital. Stanton gives credit to our fine police men and woman. Wants to expand community and school services. Eichenauer is all about budgets and wants to reduce police

Do you support funding of the arts?

Maddox does believe in funding the arts. Says it is hard to do during tough budget times. Arts need a lot of private sector funding. Neeley says we don’t have the budget at the City level and we need to turn to corporate sponsors for funding. Stanton says the arts and culture is critically important to a thriving economy. Believes the City needs to support the arts as part of long term economic policy.  Eichenauer is all about budgets and may not support arts if the budget doesn’t support it. Maddox feels art funding should be voted on by the public.

Does the city need as large an economic development department as it currently has?

Neeley say yes as it is key to job development. Says cities need to work together to support job growth. Stanton feels the mayor has a huge role in job creation. Also feels regional job growth is a good thing. Eichenauer says the Economic Growth Development department is unnecessary. Gullett wants economic development needs to be merged with planning to create a unified strategy. Maddox says the department is important and is viable.

Senate bill 1525 puts limits on fees the city can charge a developer. How do you feel about this law?

Stanton says impact fees should be as low as possible while providing the proper balance between cost and services.  Eichenauer says we simply have to follow the laws and deal with. Gullet says we need to keep impact fees low and the law is a result of cities not paying attention. Mattox says those who live in established neighborhoods should not pay for sprawl. Neeley says growth should pays it’s way. We need to reevaluate what is important and cited that home prices are affected by impact fees.

Do you support renewable energy and sustainability projects?

Eichenauer does not believe sustainability is a City issue. Gullet does not believe in subsidies and wants to encourage sustainability. Maddox is a strong proponent of renewable energy sources. City has a LEEDs policy. Neely like sustainability but doesn’t want to mandate it. Stanton is very strong on sustainability. Believes we need to promote mass transit and policies that promote long term sustainability.

CONCLUSIONS:

Frank Comacho did a fine job moderating the debate. Based on public reactions, people seemed to resonate with Wes Gullett and Greg Stanton most. Wes Gullett spoke with good strength and had viable ideas. Greg Stanton is a great speaker and mixed personal stories, ideas and thoughts with warmth and candor.  Claude Maddox came across as confident and warm as well. Neely, to me, came off as canned. The group behind me commented on her use of notes to answer each question as if she didn’t didn’t know what to say.

I asked about 20 people who they thought won the debate. The winner, by a close margin was Greg Stanton, followed by Wes Gullett. Claude Maddox came in next and Neely in 4th. Eichenauer didn’t get any votes from those I interviewed.

Hope this has been of help to you as we get closer to voting for the next Mayor of Phoenix.

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