Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton

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Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton makes his monthly appearance on Arizona Horizon to talk about issues relevant to the state’s largest city.

Ted Simons: Coming up next on Arizona Horizon, Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton joins us for his monthly discussion on city issues. And we'll hear about ways to become more financially literate. Those stories next on Arizona Horizon.

Video: Arizona Horizon is made possible by contributions from the friends of Eight, members of your Arizona PBS station. Thank you.

Ted Simons: Good evening and welcome to Arizona Horizon. I'm Ted Simons. Air traffic noise from sky harbor is still a major issue with many Phoenix residents, here to talk about that and more is Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton. Good to see you.

Greg Stanton: Great to be here, as always.

Ted Simons: Let's get right to it, are you going to sue the FAA over this noise?

Greg Stanton: There IS a likelihood we are headed in that direction. It has been a disappointing set of circumstances. First the FAA did implement this new departure procedure out of sky harbor, westbound, that put these planes right over people's heads in central Phoenix at a very low altitude. It's really disrupted the quality of life for people in our neighborhoods, and by the way, both north of Washington and south of Washington, as well, in the Laveen area, so both many of the historic neighborhoods as well as the Laveen area, in good faith, we were offered the opportunity to join a working group as the FAA tried to find out alternative routes that would have had less impact on the quality of life. We did actively participate. Congressman Ed Pastor volunteered his time to represent the people of Phoenix on that working group, and despite our efforts, the FAA did not, in my opinion, in good faith, really take into account the concerns of Phoenix and the neighborhoods of Phoenix, and so we decided not to continue down the path that was obviously not heading towards a positive resolution. We have had some additional exchanges of letters back and forth, and unfortunately, we're going to have to look for a different venue to work out the disagreement, and it looks like the court of law is the high likelihood about how we will resolve this.

Ted Simons: What remedy would the city be suing for?

Greg Stanton: Well, first off, we believe that the FAA did not follow the required procedures before implementing the new departure procedure. They were allowed what's called a categorical exclusion, but it was -- which means they did not have to go through any public meetings. This was done without any public input, as would normally require, the only way to get an exclusion is if the FAA were to assert that there would be little or no impact on neighborhoods, around sky harbor, and obviously, that's not true, and also, they had a representative with little or no impact on historic neighborhoods, through this state historic preservation office. They made that representation, and obviously, that was not an accurate representation so we believe that there were strong legal arguments that they did not follow the proper procedures. We provided a remedy. I know that this next gen procedure, which is going on around the country, which is the departure procedure at Sky Harbor, is a part of next gen. The procedures should follow, we believe, a public process. They want to go to satellite-based guidance for the planes as opposed to ground based. You can go back to the old location for the turns, using satellite technology, so we can accommodate the FAA and their needs, but do so in a way that would not have the dramatic negative impact on Phoenix neighborhoods, so this is not a good spot but that's my job as Mayor is to stand up for the people.

Ted Simons: Did the FAA propose slower speeds and a higher climb rate, and if so, what's wrong with that?

Greg Stanton: That would not have -- yes, that is one option that they have provided, we looked at that and said, you know, as long as you are turning at the current location, that's not a reasonable option in terms of reducing the impact on those neighborhoods. We appreciate the fact that the FAA was willing to at least provide some options. Look, the FAA is a large mega-bureaucracy. I try not to demonize the FAA, those are professionals who were trying to do their job but mistakes were made that led to this significant, negative impact on Phoenix neighborhoods, and therefore, action needs to be taken by the City of Phoenix.

Ted Simons: Can you work with individual airlines? Maybe on a voluntary basis?

Greg Stanton: As well, we should. Look, we're looking at a range of options to solve this dispute. Using a court of law as one venue to resolve that, it's just one option among many. Of course, we have and will be talking to the leadership of the major airlines flying in and out of Sky Harbor. Of course, we're going to be working with our congressional delegation and delegates around the country of similarly situated neighborhoods to form a coalition. Our congressman representing both Laveen and the historic neighborhoods has helped to form a quiet skies coalition caucus, if you will, among Congress-members, so this needs to be discussed as part of the FAA reappropriation process. Reauthorization process. As they go through their approval process, of course, the members of Congress should ask difficult questions about whether or not they did involve the community before they made this important decision. This is part of a multi-faceted strategy, but litigation, at this point, needs to be significantly looked at as part of that strategy.

Ted Simons: Last question, the entire council onboard with litigation?

Greg Stanton: Well, I don't want to say what goes on behind closed doors relative to executive session. That privilege, attorney-client privilege is held by all the Council Members, so I'll let each council member speak for him or herself on this issue. I do know, I work closely with the Council Members of the districts most affected, councilman Pastor and I would just say that the strategy that the multi-faceted strategy that I described, including getting testimony on what's called the metroplex process, which is a much larger look at the entire United States, and the departure and arrival procedures at various airports, making sure that Phoenix is protected, I am working very closely with those city council members, and I have a high level of confidence that we are representing the will of the people of Phoenix.

Ted Simons: All right, a municipal I.D. card, what's that all about?

Greg Stanton: Well, there was a group that came to the city and said that hey, you know you are very inefficient in the number of cards that you authorized. If you were a citizen of the City of Phoenix and an active citizen, you may have to get a separate card to check out books from the library, to go to the senior center, to go to the youth center, and utilize public transportation. Look at this. See, I brought this for the viewers to look at, this is the number of cars that a citizen of Phoenix could have to utilize in order to fully participate. Obviously, that's too many, so, a group of citizens came to us and said, you ought to look at being much more efficient. Mayor, you talk about efficiency and government. Well, here's another way that you can look at that, so, we did authorize our city staff, what's called the eight-hour rule to go beyond eight hours of research and analysis about ways that we could consolidate in to a single card. There's been some controversy associated with it because some people said, wait a minute, aren't you trying to violate federal immigration of law, if private sector entities were to utilize that card? As a form of identification? Let me tell you what this card is not. It is not Federal I.D. It doesn't give any person in the City of Phoenix any legal status that they would not have under federal law. It cannot be used as state I.D. because state law, actually, bans that activity. One of the things that we'll be researching is whether a private bank might use this card to allow a person here in Phoenix to open up a bank account. Could it be used by domestic violence shelter as someone checking into a domestic violence shelter as a form of I.D.? Obviously, we're not going to violate state or federal law. We can't and we should not do so. But, should we research options for people? That's what we authorize the staff to do, and by the way, my position is, it needs to be done in a cost neutral way. It should not add cost to the City of Phoenix, when you build efficiencies, it should not add cost, and that's one of the criteria. I am in favor of it.

Ted Simons: There are some that say it's a nice plan for a city service car but has gotten hijacked by those who want it as some form of identification. Will photographs be allowed? What kind of documentation or information will be on those cards?

Greg Stanton: Well, that's what we are researching. But I want assure everybody, some people are trying to hijack this to make it something that it is completely not about. This is not about changing federal immigration law. It's not about changing the state law. I know people want to utilize this discussion about whether we can create efficiencies by having a municipal services card to deal with the fights that they wanted to have for immigration law. This is not the proper forum to do that. And this will not change anyone's legal status. It cannot be used as a Federal I.D. card. It cannot be used as a State I.D. card. Will some private entities want to use this card for their purposes? We don't know. We're going to research that and see. And I'm talking about private banks that may want to utilize there so individuals can open a bank account which we want to encourage. Could it be used by nonprofits for their services could it be used by local first Arizona to give discounts --

Ted Simons: Could it be an alternative photo I.D.?

Greg Stanton: It won't be any kind of alternative form of I.D. that would be in violation of Federal law or of state law. But, the point of what we took -- did the other night was to authorize our professional city staff to come back to the council and the community with information on options. I don't know if we will move forward with this or not, I don't know if we can meet my requirement that it be cost neutral. But, should we shut it down before we have the opportunity to gather information and provide important information to the Mayor and council? I said no, we should provide that information to myself, and to members of the council, and to the community so that if we decide to move forward with any kind of an efficiencies in the municipal services card, we do so with full information.

Ted Simons: Is the city going to sell the Sheraton?

Greg Stanton: I sure hope so. We are refinancing debt on the Sheraton downtown, starting this January 1st, 2016, and we can sell that hotel without penalty under the original bond covenants that were made in order to construct that hotel. And yes, it's important that the city did the right thing by having that hotel built. It has been an asset for the city as we continue to increase convention business as we chase after the highest profile events like the Super Bowl, like the College Football Championship, which is coming to our city next year. Major, either political conventions or other great conventions that we've been chasing after, you need the hotel room space in downtown. It has been a very good investment. Ultimately the city doesn't want to be long-term in the hotel business, so selling that makes a lot of sense for the city.

Ted Simons: Some would say it hasn't been a good investment to the tune of $330 million still owed, the value could be somewhere around 200 million, something like that, and that means big losses to the city, and not only that, but it's hurting this effort to keep the Suns downtown, and that's the reason you want to sell to keep the Suns downtown and get the Albatross off the neck.

Greg Stanton: The reason the city should sell the hotel, at least if it makes good business sense for the City of Phoenix is because long-term, the plan was always for the city to build the hotel, and to get it started as a huge infrastructure asset for the people, but the intent was always to sell it to the private sector. We made this initial investment. We built this infrastructure. It has been important infrastructure, so that we can succeed in the visitor business, the hotel, and the convention business, which as a city we need to be a leader in the convention business. Obviously, we're going to make a smart business decision at the time that we want to sell this hotel. And that business decision is being made for the good of the people of Phoenix, and frankly, what happens with the Suns, the Mercury, the other professional teams, the awesome Rattlers, the world champion Rattlers that play, soon to be Talking Stick Arena. We'll be in conversations with them. We'll have good conversations with them, above conversation with them, but selling the hotel, is a good business decision for the City of Phoenix. Unrelated to those other conversations.

Ted Simons: Those conversations would be a whole lot better if you don't have to worry about 30 some odd million losing on the hotel when you can pump that money into keeping the Suns downtown, correct?

Greg Stanton: Look, the City of Phoenix owns the current facility for the US Airways, for the Phoenix Suns, Mercury, Rattlers and the great concerts that happen. We keep talking about the Suns, and it's important to note that the number of activities that occur downtown, as a result of having that arena in the heart of the city. It's awesome. It's not just the Suns, although I wish them well. I'm a fan, but I am also a fan of the Mercury, Rattlers, and I love the fact that the team has operated that arena in a way that we are competitive for the best concerts when they come to town. You check it out, how many of those concerts come up to Downtown Phoenix, as opposed to other venues, so having a venue of that importance and magnitude in the heart of the city is very important. I don't want to reveal conversations that have occurred. It would be inappropriate to do so. Other than to say that I am committed to having a facility of the highest magnitude that can host those events in the heart of our city, and I know the team is committed, so we'll have positive conversations. The selling of the hotel, I know some people have tried to relate the two, the selling of the hotel makes business sense for the City of Phoenix. It's the right thing to do and I support doing so. That's unrelated to the sporting teams.

Ted Simons: Last, so it's unrelated. Even though you are going to save the losses that you could put over to the other side.

Greg Stanton: And any time that the city is able to sell an asset that belongs in the private sector, it's good for the city, and good for lots of priorities of the City of Phoenix, and -- but I think that some people have tried to directly relate the sale of the hotel, simply because we can do something for the sporting event. That's not true. The decision of the hotel needs to and must stand on its own merits, and that's how I analyze it as Mayor of Phoenix.

Ted Simons: Last point on the Sheraton and for you, was it wise? There are those who say that it was not wise for the city to get into the hotel business. Lost a lot of money and you are going to lose it once you get this sold, and if the market wanted a hotel downtown, there would be a hotel like that downtown. You respond.

Greg Stanton: It was an important infrastructure investment for the City of Phoenix. It has allowed us -- you talk about the activity that is happening in the heart of the city, open up The Republic yesterday about how much of the development activity is happening in the heart of the city. Making the City of Phoenix a place where we could compete for the best conventions from around the country, and allow us to compete for events at the highest magnitude, including the Super Bowl and other major sporting events. It can only be done if you have the right infrastructure in your downtown. That includes convention center, that includes lightrail. That includes amenities such as restaurants and sporting locations like US Airways Arena, soon to be Talking Stick, and you have to have the right kind of hotel rooms. That's good infrastructure investment for the city, and it was a good investment.

Ted Simons: All right, good to see you and thanks for being here.

Greg Stanton: Thank you.

Greg Stanton:Mayor, Phoenix;

Financial Literacy

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