Chandler Mayor Jay Tibshraeny and Kenny Evans, the Mayor of Payson, talk about the state of Arizona’s cities and their role in growing the State’s economy.
Ted Simons: Good evening, and welcome to "Arizona Horizon." I'm Ted Simons.
Ted Simons: Arizona's cities and towns play a key part in creating jobs and growing the state's economy. Arizona cities also face challenges concerning water, transit, and other issues. Here to talk about the state of Arizona cities are Chandler mayor Jay Tibshraeny, and Kenny Evans, the mayor of Payson. Good to have you both here. Thanks for joining us. The annual league of cities and towns conference, what goes on here? What's happening?
Jay Tibshraeny: That's a yearly thing we do. All the cities from throughout the state gather, and we have seminars and educational opportunities, but it's also an opportunity for all of us from different parts of the state to interact, talk, maybe share problems, solutions, opportunities, things like that. So it's been a very good conference the last few years I've been back doing that, and I've enjoyed it, and this year was no exception.
Ted Simons: The kind of thing where smaller cities and towns can say here's our problems, let's work on them.
Kenny Evans: Many of the smaller cities and towns obviously have huge challenges before us right now, and relatively small staffs compared to the big cities. So this gives us an opportunity to share ideas and maybe come up with some solutions that we wouldn't have been able to implement otherwise.
Ted Simons: Talk about some of the challenges facing smaller cities and towns in Arizona.
Kenny Evans: You know, rural Arizona is always a leading indicator going into a depression or recession, and they were this time as well. They're also generally a trailing indicator coming out of a recession. So we start earlier and we generally last longer. But our challenges are not unique to us. They are typical of cities and towns across Arizona, it's just that they've been deeper and harder. For instance, our budget we had to cut over 53-percent. So we're operating on 47-percent of the budget we had in 2007. The challenges are there, the same that Jay and the other big cities face, but they're deeper.
Ted Simons: Your big city, though, seems to be on an upswing as far as tech jobs, Intel, and these sorts of things. How do you move that into maybe another city which has an entirely different set of challenges?
Jay Tibshraeny: I don't know how we move what we're doing into another city. When I was Mayor I think we set the stage for a lot of things that are happening now and happened before. My predecessors also did that. You've got some unique circumstances. We've got a good high-tech corridor where Intel is located, where they did the $5 billion expansion that they're currently working on. E-bay, PayPal is located in that corridor. We have three data centers, from large corporations that have located in that corridor. So we've created a good atmosphere for high-tech and for high employment type opportunities in Chandler. How other cities do that, I don't know. That's something they got to work on. But we think we have a pretty good blueprint.
Ted Simons: Indeed, cities as economic engines, one of the focuses we'd like to talk about here. Things are focusing on. For a smaller city and town, still an economic engine for the region. Correct?
Kenny Evans: Absolutely. If you look at the town of Payson as a classic example of what's going on all across rural Arizona, we've been able to bring three major manufacturing facilities to create several hundred jobs to our community. As a result of working closely with those private sector businesses. We now have the third largest manufacturer of target ammunition for military, police departments, etc. in the country. And you say why would they locate in Payson, Arizona? We're not on a railroad, the answer is that the president of the company when interviewed by "Wall Street Journal" said, we looked at the big cities, and what we were looking for was a community, a town that would truly be a partner with us in this enterprise.
Ted Simons: And that is a big deal, to stay -- the state talks about bringing business in, --- but it really does focus down to municipalities.
Jay Tibshraeny: It does. We obviously need good state policy, tax policy, but the rubber hits the road when those companies contact Kenny's office or in my case they contact my office and talk about, here, here's what we want to do, how is your city going to work with us, how is this going to work through the planning and development, and the operational aspect of our company locating in Chandler? So, yeah, ultimately those decisions and how those companies feel are at the local level on how they feel coming away from meeting with you determines whether they'll locate in Arizona and our cities.
Ted Simons: When we talk about economic engines and cities and towns being in the forefront here. Work that dynamic for us with collaborating with the state. Collaborating with the feds on a variety of concerns. How does that work, what are the challenges, what are the benefits?
Jay Tibshraeny: We have to collaborate, and we all have to work together. The feds, I don't work as close with them, but there's obviously things the federal level we need them to do. But the state is a good example. Worked close with our legislative delegation last year, we ran through a bill, senate bill 1442 that will help large employment, large manufacturing companies locate into Arizona by giving certain tax benefits to those companies, and also in the rural areas we have some thresholds for the thrillers. But to do that kind of legislation, you have to have good relationships with the legislature and the governor's office to get that. So it's paramount that we as cities and our legislators work close together, because we're tied at the hip on a lot of this stuff.
Ted Simons: Yet revenue sharing has been a bugaboo in recent years. What's the latest on that?
Kenny Evans: We continue to struggle. The numbers from revenue sharing are down. We continue to fight to protect that revenue stream. But as Jay said, one of the things we've been able to do is develop other avenues to help us keep that economic engine going. As an example, when the governor created the ACA, the Arizona Commerce Authority, in place of the old commerce department, we saw a huge improvement in their attitude toward rural communities and helping us develop a balanced economy across the state of Arizona instead of it all being focused in the state of Maricopa.
Ted Simons: Interesting. Water concerns. Always major in Arizona, obviously we can talk about Chandler in a second, but up in Payson I know you have that Blue Ridge Reservoir, talk to us about that in particular, and water concerns in general for smaller towns.
Kenny Evans: Interestingly enough, we had a unique opportunity to work with our federal representatives in particular with Jon Kyle and with our local officials and with our mining industry. We were able to secure a sustained, long-term water right out of the blue ridge reservoir, about 25 miles north of Payson that will quadruple the amount of total available water in our community. So we've gone from a water starved community to a community that now water is no longer the limiting factor. So it's huge for us. We've been able to get assistance on federal financing on federal grants to help us cover the costs of that reservoir and the pipeline, the 25-mile pipeline to come down the hill. So we're going from a system that was water starved, and that spent a lot of energy pumping water out of the ground, to one that will generate power coming down off the rim as the water comes into the town.
Ted Simons: With a whole new set of challenges in terms of planning I would imagine. That's a different Payson in the future.
Kenny Evans: It is a Payson that's based on having a university in town, on having a very different dynamic.
Ted Simons: Water issues, transit issues. These sorts of things. The challenges there for a bigger community like Chandler.
Jay Tibshraeny: We're in the desert, so all of the valley cities have to address water carefully. Not only to supply it and have enough for your residents, but these businesses that we're talking about locating in Arizona and the valley, are heavily intensive users of water. Intel is a significant user of water. The data centers, for example, significant users of water. So number one you have to have a supply, and you have to be able to expand your water system. But then you have to do things, we recycle all of our wastewater in Chandler and, reuse it in non-potable uses, whether that be landscaping, green belt areas, lakes, water reclamation, things like that. We have to be very innovative with water. The transit system in the valley is improving, and getting better in spite of the economy. We're seeing light rail expand, we're seeing good use on the bus service, and so as we as a metropolitan area grow, and want to attract industry, which we do, and businesses, and good businesses, we have to be able to move people other than in their cars. The transit system and the emphasis we'll put on transit will continue to be at the forefront.
Ted Simons: What are transit issues and concerns for smaller cities and towns away from major freeways and such? Obviously you've got 216 and 87 up there, but just in general for a smaller town?
Kenny Evans: The construction of those have been moving along fairly well. The challenge we have is maintaining those roads and maintaining them in a condition where they're going to provide reliable access to those rural communities. As you saw in the news last night, that can be a major challenge in rural areas. So our area is luckily has a freeway that puts us only 70 minutes away from the valley. But for many of the rural areas, maintaining the infrastructure that is the transportation system becomes a real challenge for them.
Ted Simons: That's a really good point -- maintaining. It's one thing to grow and get all excited and everything is all brand-new, but maintaining all this stuff, that's an issue as well.
Jay Tibshraeny: It costs money. And I think when you have a downturn like we just are coming out of, one of the areas that gets cut in the budgets of the cities and towns throughout the state is maintenance. So right now some of the cities are playing catch-up on maintaining roads and water and sewer. And your lights and on and on. So we at Chandler were pretty good about setting aside one-time money to help fill that gap. But you can't get too far behind on those repairs or you get into costly, costly, costly repairs in the future. So you have to stay up on your maintenance. But it did suffer in the downturn.
Ted Simons: And is it getting better in Payson?
Kenny Evans: It is, but we're as Jay said, one of our challenges is like the old auto mechanic ad on the television for so long, you can pay me now or pay me later. And one of our challenges is we weren't paying all along, so now we're playing catch-up like all the cities across Arizona. That's a real challenge for us.
Ted Simons: All right. We've got to stop it there. Gentlemen, good to have you here, thanks for joining us. We appreciate it.
Jay Tibshraeny: Thank you, Ted.
Kenny Evans: Thank you, Ted.
Jay Tibshraeny:Mayor, Chandler; Kenny Evans:Mayor, Payson;