Phoenix Mayoral Debate

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Hear the three candidates running for mayor of Phoenix debate issues impacting the city. Current mayor Greg Stanton will debate his two challengers, businesswoman Anna Maria Brennan and Matt Jette, a teacher who ran for governor in 2010.

TED SIMONS: Coming up next on "Arizona Horizon," an election special. Three candidates running for mayor of Phoenix debate the issues. A Phoenix mayoral debate next on "Arizona Horizon."

NARRATOR: "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. Tonight's show is a debate. We'll hear from the three candidates running for mayor of Phoenix. As with all of "Arizona Horizon's" debates, this is not a formal exercise. It's an open exchange of ideas, an opportunity for give-and-take between candidates for mayor of the state's largest city. As such, interjections and even interruptions are allowed, provided that all sides get a fair shake. We'll do our best to see that that happens. Three candidates are competing to be Phoenix's mayor. They are, in alphabetical order: Businesswoman Anna Brennan. Teacher Matt Jette. And current mayor, running for re-election, Greg Stanton. Each candidate will have one minute for opening and closing statements. Earlier, we drew numbers to see who goes first, and that honor goes to Matt Jette.

MATT JETTE: Thank you, Ted. What follows is a debate, hopefully not dominated by ambiguity or political sound bites to win an election or win political favor from the media. On the one side you will have a Republican, she's going to talk about 104 and how it's bad for Phoenix because it raises your taxes. She may even talk about illegal immigration or abortion. She's certainly going to quote Ronald Reagan at some point. On the other side a Democrat who's also going to talk about or about 104 how good it is for the valley because it brings investment to Phoenix. He may also talk about how strong he is because he's going to be suing the FAA or appealing the court ruling on pension spiking. If you want more, expect better or just are plain tired of our candidates becoming simple or petty, and our politics or our issues becoming more pressing and important, then I'm your candidate, Matt Jette and I thank you for this time and wonderful opportunity.

TED SIMONS: Thank you very much. For the next opening statement we turn to Mayor Greg Stanton.

GREG STANTON: Alright Ted thanks for hosting tonight's debate and I'm looking forward to it. A good discussion about the future of our city with Anna and Matt and really dive into the details. Look, as mayor of Phoenix I've had a relentless effort, a relentless effort to build a more innovative export-based economy and let me tell you why. No longer can we deal with the ebbs and flows of the Phoenix economy, one that's been over reliant on growth in real estate. We've been smart in our investments, investments in the biosciences, investments in higher education; we try to pull ourselves out of the recession so that we don't feel the negative effects as badly as Phoenix has in the past. We've done so with smart fiscal management, maintaining the highest credit rating of any of the largest six cities in the country, and we've always balanced our budget. So I look forward to another four years as mayor of the city of Phoenix and I look forward to tonight's debate.

TED SIMONS: Alright thank you very much. And now, let's go to Anna Brennan.

ANNA BRENNAN: Thank you. And good evening. My name is Anna Brennan and I'm running for mayor for two very important reasons: The overworked, overtaxed, unrepresented everyday people. Secondly, I'm running to secure a safer and more prosperous Phoenix. Like you, I'm an everyday Phoenician, a registered nurse and business owner. Small businesses are the fuel to our economy and what you'll hear Greg say who is a lawyer slash politician, that he knows better than you or I the bread and butter of the American economy when it comes to things that will stimulate the economy. The fact is that 90% of the American economy is fueled by small business. I'm here to represent you; your vote is your voice. Thank you.

TED SIMONS: Thank you. Thank you all. All right, let's get started here Matt, we'll start with you. Why do you want to be mayor of Phoenix and what makes you qualified to be mayor of Phoenix?

MATT JETTE: I think it's a great question. One great to start off with. The most important idea for Phoenix is a branding issue. We're the sixth largest city in the country but yet we don't know what Phoenix actually is. When I first moved here, it felt like Phoenix had no soul. We need to build a core industry, we do need industry and I agree with you but we need it bigger and my qualifications for Phoenix like you Anna, I do come from every day, I've been on welfare, I've been a teacher, I've been in private business, I started nonprofits, I know what it takes to lift up a group of people, including the city of Phoenix.

TED SIMONS: Anna, why are you qualified to be mayor of Phoenix?

ANNA BRENNAN: Well, that's one of the things that's most important, for everyday Americans to realize. We are government by the people and for the people. It's not a cliché. I came from the school of hard knocks. As an immigrant I came to this country not speaking English and I learned through the struggles what creates the American dream. So through that I'm out there working, small business, I see the struggles of America. I face it every day and yet when you look at our current politicians, there's that certain disconnect and when I say disconnect, again, we don't hail and reward small business, it's all the big businesses and that's all that's important to us. And yet we need a voice for the taxpayer, for the hard-working Phoenician.

TED SIMONS: Mayor, you are mayor. Why do you want to remain mayor?

GREG STANTON: Well, I grew up in this city. I grew up in West Phoenix in a working class family. My dad sold shoes at the J.C. penney. He was able to put four kids through college and I was lucky enough to go to law school based on that working person's salary and I came back to Phoenix to start my family, to try to give back to this community. I believe that Phoenix, Arizona, is well positioned to take its rightful place among the leading cities in the United States of America. We have to make smarter choices, again investing in the right types of technology, innovation, investing in higher education as the city of Phoenix; we'll continue to do so under my leadership as mayor. So I believe in this city. I love this city, it's the reason why I'm raising my family here and I'm trying to present a very positive vision for the future of our city. We've got to make smarter choices moving forward. That's what I've tried to do as mayor and will continue to do so if lucky enough to be reelected.

TED SIMONS: Matt just said though it seems like Phoenix doesn't have a soul. Valid?

GREG STANTON: That is not valid. You go -- Phoenix has I would politely argue many souls. We're wonderfully diverse in this city. So go to our Native American community, for example. They represent the soul of the city. Our Latino community, our African-American community - go to the arts district at Roosevelt Row. Head to south Phoenix. You're going to see places with I would politely argue a heck of a lot of soul and I'm trying to do all I can to highlight those areas. They're hugely beneficial to our city and the future of our city. So I politely argue that Phoenix has many souls. We are a great city, not one without a soul.

TED SIMONS: Respond, please.

MATT JETTE: This doesn't make any sense. Every city has a soul then on that regard. Every city has diversity, Greg. What we're talking about here is me thinking of Boston, New York, Atlanta, Seattle, Chicago, they have an identity. Phoenix does not have an identity, except let's move to the valley of the sun. Alright, that's as simple as there is to it. I agree with you we need diversity but we shouldn't be doing diversity in a debate as if it should be applauded. It should be expected. Phoenix as you mentioned, in a previous conversation you had a couple of months ago, Phoenix after 12 years in office still isn't competitive. What are we waiting for? We need a new plan to put Phoenix on the map.

GREG STANTON: Let me politely respond to that and Phoenix, better than any other city in the United States of America, is a place of opportunity, a city where we don't ask the question why do something, we ask the question why not do something? This is a city where there's not much of an old boy network, that any person watching this, they or their family member or children can achieve any of their goals. We have so many people who have moved from other parts of the country. That is the strength of our community and the lack of you know, an old boy network, if you will, is one of our biggest advantages. I'm the beneficiary of it. I wouldn't be mayor of the city if that was the case. I would politely argue that is one of our --

ANNA BRENNAN: Can I interject so I get a little bit of time. The problem that we're facing today and that's why Greg has opponents is because what we're doing is we are trying to plan for something that is Greg's vision and not necessarily the vision of the people. We have forgotten that there are people out there that one, for example, is proposition 104. In proposition 104, you're not considering all of Phoenix. You're not considering the detrimental effects to our economy. With proposition 104, what's happening is that you're going to ram through this for special interest groups, even though it will hurt our economy in the end. Even though that when you talk about sustainability, the number one salient point in being sustainable is fiscal sustainability and this proposition 104 is going to be a train wreck for the city of Phoenix.

MATT JETTE: I think we'll get to proposition 104 but I have to go back to one point and that is you can't put food on the table merely because you don't have a good old boy network, you can't pat yourself on the back and say ‘hey everybody we don't have a good old boy network here' and put food on the table. What is the average per capita income in Phoenix Greg as compared to other cities? Do you know what the ranking is here in Phoenix?

GREG STATION: Go ahead and answer the question, please.

MATT JETTE: 59th, 59th with the 6th largest city in the country. The 59th ranked in per capita income. Do you know how much a loaf of bread is? You say you come from a working hard family. What's the price of a loaf of bread or gallon of milk?

ANNA BRENNAN: Depends which one you want, organic, nonorganic, a buck 99 to 5 dollars.

TED SIMONS: Your point.

MATT JETTE: My point is we have two individuals, one Republican, one democrat, and you say you represent the people, right, but the process has abandoned them. Right you need to know what the people are going through day in and day out and I know Greg you pretend to be homeless for a night or you've been on food stamps for a week, it's called a diet. It's not really being, understanding what they are.

TED SIMONS: He also said this was a place of opportunity. Is it not a place of opportunity?

MATT JETTE: Every city can say they're a place of opportunity. What does that mean?

TED SIMONS: Is it or is it not?

MATT JETTE: I think it could be so much better. I do not agree with prop 104, not because it's not a good idea. I appreciate doing public transportation but it needs to be much bigger, it needs to go all the way to the entire city of Phoenix, not just six blocks. If you really want to be the city of opportunity, the people of Phoenix need to know what you're doing. Most people just north of the six boxes have no idea what you have done, Greg. You may be the greatest mayor but no one knows.

GREG STANTON: Let me politely respond to those things. Look in terms of the vision for the future, I actually think a vision of the future that involves building a more innovative economy, a more competitive economy, this is an international economy that is hypercompetitive and we need to better position Phoenix to compete in that international economy, focusing on innovation and creating a higher-educated workforce. It's not just me saying that, talk to the greater Phoenix chamber of commerce, talk to the greater Phoenix economic council, these are organizations that focus relentlessly on improving our economy and they will tell you that that focus, building innovation, export-based economy, focus one education, is the right vision for the future and with regard to prop 104 because I think we're going to talk about that as we should, as you know, when the people of the city of Phoenix support 104, when it passes next month, it's going to bring light rail to south Phoenix, to Maryville, to metro center, to Paradise Valley Mall in north Phoenix, to Grand Canyon University.

ANNA BRENNAN: There's a problem with that. There's a problem with prop 104. Have you looked and seen and studied light rail in other cities - especially cities of our population size and cities of our footprint? 516 square feet is the size of Phoenix. We're going to put a 35 year tax that in 35 years maybe will have 50 miles of light rail? That's not looking out for every Phoenician. That's just looking out for the central core.

TED SIMONS: Let him respond.

GREG STANTON: Let me finish the point before you interjected. The point I was making is the suggestion that this transportation plan only benefits one area. I think it's inaccurate. Not only puts the light rail that's described but we're going to significantly increase the bus system, which is going to cover every square mile of the city of Phoenix. We're going to significantly improve dial a ride services when benefits people with disabilities, living with wheelchairs, maybe people who choose not to drive because they've reached a certain age and they don't feel comfortable still driving. That provides mobility independence for tens of thousands of people that need it every single day to get them the education, to get them to doctor's appointments, to get them even to the grocery store. A thousand miles of bike lanes are going to benefit everyone. The point I'm trying to make is this is a plan with street improvements. It's going to benefit people all across the city and we could debate the merits of it but certainly to suggest it benefits six blocks is inaccurate.

MATT JETTE: I'm not arguing that it doesn't benefit some people, Greg. I'm saying it's just too small of an idea. You want the sixth largest city to be on the map, it needs to be bigger. You need the light rail to go all the way up 51 to Happy Valley or Desert Ridge. You need to develop the entire city. I'm against 104 not because I don't believe in public transportation or light rail. I think what you've done there is fantastic. I think it's just too small. I think we've got to think bigger and that's why I think the residents of Phoenix want.

ANNA BRENNAN: That's exactly where we're not listening to the city of Phoenix. You're listening just to the core; we're talking about again a city that is much larger than central Phoenix. And we had transportation taxed 2000. It promised to do all the things that you're saying it's doing. It's not even scheduled to sense it for another five years and yet here we are again, we're going to tax and tax some more so that the bread and butter of our economy, which is the small business can't flourish and can't carry our economy and that's the problem that I want to be the voice of those people.
TED SIMONS: Anna, has light rail been good for Phoenix or bad for Phoenix?
ANNA BRENNAN: Well, based on what you see, it was great for that one time, the Super Bowl. Other than that, it doesn't carry its weight. It hasn't taken traffic or congestion off the streets. We say it's caused an economic boom of 7 billion dollars but not really. What it did was take out existing businesses, destroy historical neighborhoods to put in something new that's going to service one percent of the population.

TED SIMONS: Would Phoenix be in better shape right now if light rail had not been implemented?
ANNA BRENNAN: I completely agree because the working class needs buses that go to them. It's not about just going down to the sports stadiums. It's about having a place and a way to get to work.

MATT JETTE: Anna, come on. Every city needs a light rail or bus. They need public transportation. They need the infrastructure, right?

ANNA BRENNAN: Every city needs to go bankrupt is what you're saying.
MATT JETTE: No city's going to go bankrupt merely because you put people like Greg said who wake up, go home and they go to work. Nobody's going to go bankrupt over that. You are actually saying a signal for business to come in. Greg and I disagree on the size of it but you certainly need an infrastructure. You can't just rely on roads and buses.

ANNA BRENNAN: Then excuse me, how you can tout that as being the transportation of the future when we got get rid of it in 1958. Why don't we lead the open market?

MATT JETTE: We're not the Jetsons. We can't wait for flying cars to come along.

ANNA BRENNAN: Why not? What's wrong?

MATT JETTE: Why not? It's not a cartoon. The fact is you need infrastructure and public transportation. If I wake up in Happy Valley and I want to see a game, there should be light rail or something I can come back on. You want to decrease congestion and pollution; you need it to reach everywhere, not just a small area. Do I think it's a good step? Yeah, Greg, I think it's a good step but that's my point is.

GREG STANTON: Let me jump in and make some additional points obviously, that may disagree with some of the other folks at the table about the benefit of light rail and public transportation writ large. Look, any great city has to do a truly multimodal city. Anyone that tries to present a false adversarial relationship between cars and buses and light rail I think is not looking forward into the future. A great city has to be a place where you can use your car to get to work or education if you want but also you have to have other options, including light rail, including buses, including dial a ride, including bus rapid transit, including local circulators. It has to be a bikeable and walkable city. Don't create false choices and make no mistake, never underestimate the direct connection between higher education achievement and public transportation. Over 30 percent of the daily rides on our light rail system are people going to higher education, trying to achieve a higher education. For people that can't afford a car that may be their life line, the difference between whether they're able to achieve a higher education or not. It's critically important for the future of our economy.

TED SIMONS: I want to talk about the budget here. It's balanced but really it's only balanced for this year, it's balanced by delaying payments to pension funds and these sorts of things. Maybe 30 some odd, 40 some odd million dollars in the hole next year, what would you do to balance the budget?
ANNA BRENNAN: One thing is I wouldn't take out a credit card as what we did now, to say that we are balanced in an election year and that's in essence what we did. We wanted to have a balanced budget so we extended the payments for another 20 years or so. So instead of costing the city 20 million, it's costing us over 60 million. The things I would do as mayor is go and in cut the waste. We know, we all know, that there's a ton of waste in government and you hear it every day.

TED SIMONS: 30 plus million dollars of waste?



ANNA BRENNAN: Easily, yes. Right now, we are in the hotel business. We are in it for 338 million, which if we sold it at a lost we would get our money out and not be wasting 8 million dollars a year just to keep that up. There's money there.

MATT JETTE: I wish we would have a debate where the Republican wouldn't mention decreasing taxes as the only option and the Democrat wouldn't just mention education as the only other option.
ANNA BRENNAN: I didn't say decreasing taxes. I said getting rid of waste.

MATT JETTE: Okay. So you're going to cut government?

ANNA BRENNAN: Look, there's a right to cut government. I was with some police officers -

TED SIMONS: I need to interject here because if you're going to cut government, we need to know what you're going to cut.

ANNA BRENNAN: The administrative bloat. I would be one of the first ones to say do we need a mayor or deputy city manager? Do we need this highly numbered administrative government, that's the problem and I say cutting it.

TED SIMONS: How would you balance the budget?

MATT JETTE: We've got to go back to the main problem. The main problem is in a pluralistic state like Arizona is. We designed the mayor to be somewhat weak. That's why we have a city manager right because when the state was founded and the city. The problem with government isn't the fact that it's too big or too limited or whatever the case may be. The problem is it's treated like every other organization. People attach, detach and reattach themselves to government and it becomes a ball to be kicked around. We need to balance the budget, you're going to have to find one new revenue streams, you may have to and the prop 104 is a tax revenue stream. It allows us to pay. However, it needs to be an investment. That's why I think people are tired of it, the wrong investments for the city of Phoenix.

TED SIMONS: We've only got a couple of minutes left. How is that budget going to get balanced?

GREG STANTON: Just a few years ago people thought in this budget year we would have a 30 plus million dollars deficit and that's when we rolled up our sleeves and get to work. Here's how we solved it this year is exactly how we're going to solve the budget issues moving forward into the future. First, innovation efficiency. Councilman Bill Gates and I support him completely, he's got the votes of the council, has done an incredibly good job of looking for ways that we can be more efficient in our government, saving over 100 million dollars in the last few years. Pension reform that we've engaged in, I've been on the show many times and we've had a lot of discussion about the pension reform that's occurred at the city. The steps we've taken. Pension reform and pension spiking changes have resulted in savings of over $800 million. We have a smaller government now than we've had in plus years. Obviously, we're now looking to the state legislature on the very difficult issue of public safety pension reform. I would politely argue if they used the model that we follow at the city of Phoenix, that's saved $800 million; it will go a long way to deal with those issues.

MATT JETTE: It shouldn't be the goal of government. Effectiveness should be the goal. On the pension spiking, you approved the pay raise for the previous city manager. You're the primary responsible party for pension problems right now. So to sit there and say we've done a great job, you're part of the problem here.

TED SIMONS: We've got about 30 seconds left. How do you respond?

ANNA BRENNAN: And I agree that's it. We talk a lot how we're going to fix things but we never get anything done and that's where the taxpayer and the everyday Phoenician is tired of it. We hear about it and nothing gets done until another election year and I listened to the election debate and it was the same promises, false promises and no delivery.

TED SIMONS: All right, we've got to stop it right there. Each candidate will now give a one-minute closing statement and going in reverse order of the opening remarks, we start with Anna Brennan.

ANNA BRENNAN: So my name is Anna Brennan and I would like to be your voice. [Speaking Spanish] To my fellow Phoenicians, we've heard this over and over again. I listened to the debates of 2011. There are so many promises and so many broken promises and if you want your voice to be heard, I ask you to please call me, e-mail me, (480)280-9238, and I look forward to discussing any issue with you. Thank you.

TED SIMONS: All right. Thank you very much. For our next closing statement we turn to Mayor Greg Stanton.

GREG STANTON: Alright, thanks again Ted for doing a great job. I want to thank Anna and Matt for a good strong healthy debate here tonight. Look I'm asking for the support of the people of Phoenix to continue our positive momentum in the city of Phoenix. We're going to continue to build a more innovative economy, a more export-based economy. We're going to position Phoenix so they can compete excite successfully in this hypercompetitive international economy that we are facing. So I respectfully ask for your support for four more years as mayor. I also ask for your support for proposition 104. We've had a good debate about it tonight. We've had $7 billion of investment as a result of previous decisions, very smart decisions from the people of the city of Phoenix to advance on public transportation, light rail, buses, street improvements, etc. We've got to continue that positive momentum. When you vote yes on prop 104 you're going to put this economy in the right direction, increase the amount of light rail, bus service, dial a ride, street improvements and bike ability and I respectfully ask for your support for proposition 104. Thank you very much.

TED SIMONS: Thank you very much. And we turn now to Matt Jette.

MATT JETTE: Thank you for a lively debate. I know you're frustrated and confused and disappointed in the political process. I'm just asking you to hang in there. The question today isn't whether or not you are better off today than you were four years ago. The question is whether or not you like where you are today because if you elect one of those two individuals that are exactly where you will be at best four years from now. If you're a Republican or conservative, you vote that way, you have your candidate. If you're a democrat, liberal and you vote that way, you have your candidate. I'm asking the silent majority to silence those primarily responsible for the undoing of the very political process to which you are still engaged in. My name is Matt Jette and I hope I have convinced you to vote as well as vote for me for mayor of Phoenix. Thank you.

TED SIMONS: All right, candidates thank you very much. Good debate, good to have you all here. And that is it for now. I'm Ted Simons. Thank you so much for joining us. You have a great evening.

Anna Maria Brennan:businesswoman,Matt Jette:a teacher who ran for governor in 2010

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