Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton makes his monthly appearance on Arizona Horizon to talk about issues relevant to the state’s largest city.
Ted Simons: Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton joins us each month to talk about the issues facing Arizona's biggest city like, for example, the current controversy surrounding police chief Daniel Garcia. Here now is Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton. Good to have you here.
Greg Stanton: Thanks for having me.
Ted Simons: Let's talk about this situation. The police unions, no confidence in the chief. Your thoughts?
Greg Stanton: Well, the police union on the issue of PTSD, which was the impetus for the concern that they have raised in a public way, I think that they are onto something. I think that they sent a detailed letter to myself and the city manager asking that we look into this situation involving officer tiger, and whether our policies were strong enough in terms of supporting the police officers. Many of whom because of the traumatic experiences that they deal with on a day-to-day basis do experience PTSI, post-traumatic stress injury, and whether we're doing enough, and I think that, we have learned so much as a society from our military Veterans who have come home from combat situations and have PTSI, and we're doing a better job -- we did not for a long time, but now we're doing a better job, and I think that we, as a city, need to learn the lessons and better apply them to support the police officers and is firefighters. So the issue the union brought up most recently, and I worked with those officers, they brought up important issues, and I told the city manager, it's something we have got to work on, and we have put together an important task force, including representatives of Phoenix law enforcement association and including representatives of the firefighters to make sure we have the best policies and procedures in place to support our police officers, firefighters that deal often in traumatic situations.
Ted Simons: With that in mind, do you think that Chief Garcia handled it properly?
Greg Stanton: I think we need to look at that, examine it and see if we can improve upon it. The chief has taken a position on discipline in which he wants to make sure that he has instilled so much discipline in the force, itself. I think in leadership, any time that there is no flexibility in the policy, you don't take a look at the context under which the decisions are made, that sometimes, the right result doesn't always occur. I don't want to look back on a decision and say he made this right decision and that wrong one. I want to say, are we doing all that we can moving forward to better support our police officers and our firefighters, and I think that we can learn a lot of lessons from the tragic circumstances involving officer tiger's death about how we can better support our police officers and our firefighters. Officer tiger was a hero in my mind. He served the citizens of Phoenix very, very well. He dealt with a difficult personal circumstance in PTSI, and I think that we can do better in the future, and I think that we will, and that's the lesson that we're going to learn, and a great city and leaders, always try to look from the mirror and say how can we do better moving forward?
Ted Simons: One of the Chief's quotes was no officer can stand behind mental health issues or substance abuse issues as a defense on criminal violations, do you agree with that?
Greg Stanton: I don't think that we should ever take, in a position that one side always applies or the other side always applies. Good leaders always look at the context under which decisions are made. The context and the circumstances before making the decision. So, on that particular issue, I would just say that great leaders should look at the circumstances before making a final determination, and I know that moving forward, we, as a city, not just the police chief, but we, as a city are going to do better when we move forward.
Ted Simons: Do you think the chief is a great leader?
Greg Stanton: I think he has come in and been a good leader of the department during the time that he's been there, and every leader, myself included, always needs to say how can we improve. What can we change about our own styles. Can we be more collaborative? You need to make sure that you are working with not only the law enforcement officers, in this case, through their, their labor organizations, PPLSA, which represents the sergeant lieutenants, and community and saying can I be doing a better job. I think that the department and chief will be going through that process, and by the way, we should all be going through that process. There should always be a scan sense of self improvement and doing better. Nobody in our city or in our community should sort of rest on any, any laurels. We always have to be looking forward and saying, let's do better in the future.
Ted Simons: And the sideway angle here, some are concerned that the officer returns to duty after reports of drinking and depression. Does that concern you?
Greg Stanton: Look, we are a big city. We have a very large police department. We have 14,000 city employees. Many of those employees may be going through challenges in their lives. In some cases, the challenges are brought on because the circumstances, traumatic circumstances that they have experienced, while on duty, as a police officer, arrest a firefighter or other city employees. It's the reason why we have to be looking in ourselves and saying, can we do more to support our officers? Meaning, do we have the right services to help our employees that are going through challenging situations? Are people around our officers better trained to get the signals that maybe a police officer is going through a very, very difficult and challenging time in our lives? We want to provide support for our police officers, support for our firefighters, support for our city employees. So, I don't want to cast judgment on any city employee. The question that I want to ask is, how can we do more to be supportive because they provide great service to the people of the city. How can we be more supportive moving forward?
Ted Simons: But, before I simply asking the question, some would say, and some have argued that the city turn, and the chief in particular, but the city, in general, turned backs to Officer Tiger, turned their backs to officer tiger, I think has been the quote. How do you respond?
Greg Stanton: I think with regard to Officer Tiger, again, he was an officer who served the citizens of Phoenix well. He had challenges in his life. We all have challenges in our lives at times. The question is, what can we, as a city, do moving forward to better see the signs some may be going through difficult circumstances, not only supervisors but co-workers, and asking for help is not a sign of weakness but just the opposite. But, asking for help is only part of it. We need to make sure that we, as a city, are providing the help that they need. My goal in a situation with an officer that is going through a difficult time is to get him or her the support that they need and get them back out on the streets where they are, where they can go on and help the citizens of the City of Phoenix. That's the question that I want to ask moving forward.
Ted Simons: One member of the city council says that the chief should be fired. Do you believe that the chief should be fired?
Greg Stanton: I would recommend to review the charter. If you are aware of the legal requirements the one person that can hire or fire is the city manager, it's not appropriate for the Mayor or the members of the council to advocate for the hiring of the person or firing of a person. That is in our charter, which is like the constitution of our city. We have to be -- the law applies to us. We are not above the law. We are not, as elected officials, we are not above the charter under which we are governed. I would follow the charter, which means that I have hired a great city manager, Ed Zerker, and he's the person under the charter who makes personnel decisions, and it's not appropriate for me to say that any person, whether it's the police chief or any line employee, should be hired or fired. That is our form of government.
Ted Simons: Is it safe to say that it might be time to consider changes? Other changes? You name the changes.
Greg Stanton: Well, I think that's the process that we are going through. As you know the city manager at my request, and I am sure other members of the council request, asked that we look at this issue about providing better support for the police officers and firefighters, particularly those that have dealt with traumatic circumstances. The particular issue that has created a lot of the discussion about the department, the facts surrounding the officer's death, and the questions that are still being asked about that, those are all good questions. Fair questions, and we, as a city, have to answer those in the right way, and I believe we will. What I mean by that is, we will improve our systems to better support the police officers and is firefighters in the City of Phoenix?
Ted Simons: Last question, is it safe to say that you are concerned that so many rank files are upset with the chief of police.
Greg Stanton: Yes. I believe that I want my police officers, my firefighters all the employees of the City of Phoenix, to provide the best work product that you can, having confidence in management is important. And we need to work hard to make sure that we first and foremost have the trust of the community, the citizens of the city, but also, have the trust of the city employees, including and especially police officers and firefighters. I want to make sure I don't leave this portion of the enter without something specific being said, and that is I know those police officers. I know our firefighters. No matter how any individual police officer may feel about the chief, the city manager, or myself, they are going to go out on the street and perform services at the highest level. These are incredible professionals, so I don't want anyone watching at home to think that because there is some turbulence within our police department, that will, in any way, result less than the as we best police services on the streets. We have the best police department in the country. We are blessed with that. That's not going to change because there is turbulence between the rank and file officers and our chief right now.
Ted Simons: Before I let you go, one more thing here. This parking situation, what's going on a lot of folks are grumbling about this, some folks are happy with it, and some of these business, but everyone is confused, and everyone has got a gripe. What's going on?
Greg Stanton: There have been some changes with regard to the policy in downtown parking. Look, if you are a small business, you have a few spots in front of you, maybe a pizza place, a restaurant, and there is a sporting event going on, and someone has a choice whether to pay for $20 or $30 or park for free in front of your business, you know what choice they will make and you know what devastating impact that would have on that business. The city adopted market race pricing. I know because some nights we're going to charge more for downtown parking, if Paul McCartney is playing at US Airways arena, the spots around the arena are probably going to be more expensive than on nights where there is no activity going on. At the US Airways arena, but the other thing the price will go down, because of the technology, the static technology that we had in place, it was $1.50, well now, because we have these credit card machines, the price can be changed based upon the level of activity, and in many case, if it's a slow night, instead of charging $1.50, the price will go down to 75 cents per hour, so the concept is to engage in market race pricing, who support the small businesses who get hurt if people park for too long. The city council approved cell phone payment which means instead of, if your meter runs out, instead of having to leave the restaurant in order to feed the meter; you are going to be able to do it via telephone. So, the technology is really going to -- it has advanced, and it will make it more convenient.
Ted Simons: And quickly on this, though, it sounds -- if I'm going to pick up a pizza, I don't know if Paul McCartney is playing. How do you make that certainty there for the customers and for the businesses because again, some businesses say, I don't care that Paul is playing. My customers don't want to pay that price.
Greg Stanton: In a perfect world we would make parking free or as close to it as possible. But, that, that -- if you are going to pick up that pizza, from that restaurant, you want to be sure that there is a spot that's available in front of the restaurant. If it's taken up, that customer is probably going to take his or her business someplace else. So, there is never a, a puzzle, if you will, probably more complicated than getting downtown parking right. As Mayor and the majority of the council, we want to do what we can to better support local, small business in the downtown area. That's what going to marketplace pricing was all about. It has been done in other cities. It is a little confusing at first but in terms of the getting the turnover, so the small businesses can better conduct seed, I think it's the right direction to go in.
Ted Simons: And market rate has started or will?
Greg Stanton: Yes, so we have started the extended hours, and for a long time we just did an education effort, but no, that policy is beginning right now at the, at the City of Phoenix, with technology, by the way, with the ability to use your cell phone in the near future, not only can you pay with your phone, but you can get a lot more information about the availability of spots.
Ted Simons: If he's playing or not.
Greg Stanton: So before you head downtown, you will be able to know what the cost of parking is, and so again, I think that market race is the right streaming.
Ted Simons: Mayor, good to have you here and thanks for joining us.
Greg Stanton: Thank you, Ted.
Greg Stanton:Mayor, Phoenix;