Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton makes his monthly appearance on Arizona Horizon to discuss top city issues.
Ted Simons: Good evening and welcome to "Arizona Horizon," I'm Ted Simons. Every month Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton joins to us discuss a variety of issues impacting the state's largest city, and here is Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton.
Ted Simons: Good to see you.
Mayor Greg Stanton: Always good to be on.
Ted Simons: Things likes tourism impacting Phoenix, what do you see?
Mayor Greg Stanton: I think it's a great day for Phoenix and Arizona. The federal court overturned our ban on marriage equality. Any time civil rights advances, it's not just a win for the LGBT community, it's a win for everyone when civil rights advances. I'm excited about that and also excited from a business perspective. Thousands and thousands of couples will no longer have to leave to get married out of state, they can have their beautiful weddings right here in Phoenix. Thousands and thousands of couples from around the world can visit Phoenix and have their destination weddings here. Is there a more beautiful location to have a wedding? Sedona, you name it, there are so many great locations we're going to take advantage of that business. We have a great tourism industry. It really was a victory for love. The love of these couples, some together for decades, now to have the State of Arizona fully recognize their relationship. For me a great day in Arizona.
Ted Simons: For others, they say the court overstepped its bounds. Respond to that.
Mayor Greg Stanton: The court upheld the United States Constitution, as it did already in 50 other states. We're hardly the first state in the union that made marriage equality the state of the law in our community. It's great that our state doesn't fall behind when it comes to civil rights and businesses that go along with business opportunities that go along with marriage equality. They were interpreting the United States Constitution, saying equality means equality. I understand it's controversial, I respect people who disagree, but I do respectfully disagree. I think marriage equality is the right step for Phoenix and Arizona.
Ted Simons: New FAA flight rules over parts of Phoenix, including some historic districts, have some of your residents up in arms. What's going on out there?
Mayor Greg Stanton: We are so blessed to have Sky Harbor Airport as an urban airport just a few minutes away from downtown. The FAA changed the laws so they didn't have to have public hearings, which is really unfortunate. They changed a departure procedure to create more noise over our Central Phoenix neighborhoods. Hundreds of historical neighborhood residents attended the meeting and made a very strong case to the FAA that the policy they adopted was the wrong policy. The FAA indicated by their own analysis, it should not have had the impact on the neighborhoods. Their number crunching was wrong and they will be back to us in 30 days. We don't want litigation if we can avoid it. Good minds can reach a reasonable compromise, but in a way that doesn't have such a negative impact on our Central Phoenix neighborhoods.
Ted Simons: Are you buying that safety and efficiency are the reasons? What were the safety concerns and the efficiency concerns before?
Mayor Greg Stanton: Sky Harbor International Airport is an incredibly safe airport; thank God it's the safest in the world. I don't want to be a sceptic of the FAA; I want to work with the FAA to get to the right resolution. Neighborhood leaders coming to the table in a very professional, well-researched way with reasonable compromises presented to the FAA. The FAA listening to the people of Central Phoenix, understanding that by their own terms it was not supposed to have this negative impact when they implemented this new procedure. Now that they know the facts, I believe they can get a new takeoff procedure that will still be efficient, but not in a way that has such a negative impact on our Central Phoenix neighborhoods.
Ted Simons: There is a timetable on when they might change the flight pattern?
Mayor Greg Stanton: The Representative of the FAA at the meeting indicated they would provide information back to us within 30 days as to whether or not they are going to be changing this departure procedure. Again, I like to give people the benefit of doubt. I think it was an excellent meeting, everybody came to the table in the spirit of compromise. I believe the right thing will be done.
Ted Simons: They are not happy about that, nor should they be.
Mayor Greg Stanton: If I was in the same situation, I'd do the same thing they are doing, raise my voice and come to the table with a reasonable compromise.
Ted Simons: Sky Harbor is going through another round of renovations? What's happening out there?
Mayor Greg Stanton: The City Council a year ago approved a $600 million massive improvement to terminal 3, as you know Sky Harbor is growing. We've had a record number of landings and takeoffs at Sky Harbor, business is booming. That's a number one indicator that our economy is going the right direction, the amount of business going at Sky Harbor. We want to make sure we develop an airport that keeps up with that growth. We have to have a growing and efficient airport to make it as easy as possible for passengers to come in with the best experience. We broke indict three different contracts, just in case. I think it was the responsible this I think to do to break it into three steps, each of which are excellent projects in their own right, in case the traffic goes down a little bit. We did approve $100 million plus a portion of that contract and we are in business at Sky Harbor Airport terminal 3 improvements.
Ted Simons: The project was delayed, why was that? Critics were saying the council was pushing for union contractors and the delay cost money.
Mayor Greg Stanton: Whenever my councilmembers ask for a delay on a project, I'm going to give them the benefit of the doubt. That's whether it's somebody who's supported me on the council or generally critical of me on the council. It's a five-year construction period. There's going to be a five-year time where the reality is, my colleague on the City Council was able to get the information he wanted. He voted for it, it was unanimously voted for by the City Council. I have every confidence that there will be no additional costs to the City of Phoenix, and we couldn't be more excited that we're advancing terminal 3 at Sky Harbor.
Ted Simons: That wasn't a push for union contractors?
Mayor Greg Stanton: No, it was not a push for union contractors. There is an issue at the City of Phoenix as every major government entity, when you do a contract, what should be the nature of the contractors, the subcontractors, et cetera. In this case a member had serious questions and when he got the answer he was supportive of it. From Day One I was prepared to vote for it but I'm going give my colleagues on the City Council the space they need so they have the information by which they can make the decisions.
Ted Simons: The Colorado River water, I think $5 million a year, what exactly is that? How does the relating to store Colorado River water in Tucson?
Mayor Greg Stanton: The City is taking a strong leadership role on the issue of water. Planning for drought, future drought conditions, planning to be sure we protect our water rights moving toward the future. We're fearful if we don't use it, we'll lose it. A partnership with Tucson, they are going store our water and give you tax credit if the drought continues. We have access to the Colorado River water. We use a higher percentage of our water. We've created over a $5 million fund, we're going do much more groundwater storage. Partnering with entities with existing wells like SRP to use existing infrastructure to better store our water. We'll do a lot more on conservation and encourage conservation of water. Instead of just spending money to deliver water and create infrastructure for future water growth, now because of the drought conditions responsible leadership is going invest in conservation and developing water rights. That's what we're doing with the Colorado River resiliency fund.
Ted Simons: How difficult will it be to expand water facilities down there? Are you going help, and how much?
Mayor Greg Stanton: Any agreement we do with the city of Tucson, we'll make sure it benefits both the people of Tucson and the City of Phoenix. We're not going to do any sort of a giveaway. When it comes to water, water planning, planning for drought, protecting our water rights, we are all in this together. Both the large cities in the state and agricultural urban interests. You think of them, some disagreeing, we are all in this together. The people watching this show at home need to know the city is going to partner to agriculture interests to protect the law enforcement term water position, water planning in the state of Arizona. Our greatest threat is losing water rights to other states.
Ted Simons: Can't get you out of here without talking about prop 487. You're thoughts on that is correct again, for those saying it's not going affect police and fire, now we're hearing it could affect police. Retirement pension. What is prop 487? And what are your thoughts here?
Mayor Greg Stanton: Prop 487, unfortunately, if passed would be very, very expensive. It would cost hundreds of millions as we transition to a 401K. We would need some kind of city match for it. We have to replace the source of income and we still have the unfunded liability. It's going to cost tens of millions in a way that says that the city could no longer donate to police and fire pension through PSPRF, the statewide public safety fund. I know what they say, the city can't get out of the public safety pension fund, and some court of law will say that later on. My question is, why don't you write the initiative right in the first place? We drafted this in a way that puts us at risk and we hope some court of law fixes it, just dismiss you went get you like a federal judge or a state judge. That's not going save you. That's why I oppose it so strongly.
Ted Simons: The other side says the public safety personnel are exempt; it's listed explicitly that they are exempt. The state discussion says they can't meet you, are absolutely wrong on that?
Mayor Greg Stanton: They put in the preamble it wouldn't attend. The exact opposite effect would occur if 487 passes. It specifically says if we donate to the city pension we can't donate to any other pension. They have fallen back on a different argument. Don't worry, some judge is going save you. In my time in public leadership, don't count a City Council vote in advance of what's going to happen, and don't count on some judge to save you when you do something wrong. That's why no on 487 is the correct vote in this situation.
Ted Simons: Yet the other side says it's bringing benefits more in line with the private sector, something's got to be done.
Mayor Greg Stanton: They must not have been paying attention. We have passed significant reforms in the City of Phoenix. New employees have to pay about triple the amount of existing employees and the retirement age is significantly higher going forward. This council has done the heavy lifting over forward. Things that used to be pensionable are no longer pensionable. 487 would go further. They will claw back and take away benefits from employees. We have passed tough pension reform in the city of Phoenix. We are always going to be open minded to reform.
Ted Simons: If you take away approved benefits that puts us back for years to come. The City of Phoenix have done the heavy lifting for the ballot box. They say it'll save taxpayers' money. $31 million the first year, $395 million over 20 years.
Mayor Greg Stanton: That is the tooth fairy-type math. The only way to accomplish those savings is if we eliminate the deferred comp. If we go to a 401(k) and have zero dollars match, do you want the City of Phoenix to be the lowest wage in town? We'll save a lot of money but it won't be doing right by the people of Phoenix. Police, fire, parks and recreation, libraries, those are important services. If you think government workers should have their compensations slashed, that's one thing. I disagree. I think we have to have fairly compensated city employees. Is it the right thing? I think the answer is no. The only way we save money is if we -- I don't think that's the right direction for us to go.
Ted Simons: I think I know where you stand on 487. Thanks for joining us.