Mayor Greg Stanton

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Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton discusses the latest issues regarding his city in his regular appearance on Arizona Horizon.

TED SIMONS: Each month Phoenix mayor Greg Stanton joins us in studio to discuss the latest issues facing the city. Here now is Mayor Greg Stanton. Good to see you again. Thanks for joining us.

GREG STANTON: Happy to be on. Thanks for having me.

TED SIMONS: A couple of things to hit on. Valley Metro Steve Banta, resigning abruptly. What's going on there?

GREG STANTON: First off, I appreciate the fact that he made that very difficult decision. I've had a chance to work closely with Steve over the last six years. Strong transportation -- city of Phoenix overwhelmingly supported proposition 104 expanding light rail, bus service and dial a ride throughout the city, obviously there he was confronted with some information, I think he made a very important decision that was to resign at this time. I appreciate that decision. It was a difficult one. But overall we had a very good working relationship. I think Steve Banta did a good job operating the multimodal system throughout the valley. City of Phoenix worked closely with valley Metro rail.

TED SIMONS: Arizona republic reporting that he resigned because big money was spent on taxpayer dime. Everything from expensive hotels, flying first class, booze, the whole nine yards. With that information out there, he resigns. Should he have resigned?

GREG STANTON: I think under the circumstances making that choice was the right decision. I know it must have been a very difficult decision for him but I think it is the right decision under the circumstances. The job itself in terms of running this very important public transportation system throughout the valley, light rail system, much of the bus system, Phoenix runs their own bus system, but we do so in partnership with valley Metro. I think Steve did do a very good job under the circumstances. I think he made the right choice.

TED SIMONS: He defended the spending, a cost of doing business, he was reimbursed for actions that quote served the best interest of the valley's transit system. Do you agree with that?

GREG STANTON: I don't want to talk about the particulars, I'm not sure I have all of the particularities. Any time you are a steward of the public trust, public purse, you have to operate in as fiscally prudent way as possible. Occasionally you have to travel to important conferences. Occasionally meeting someone for a lunch or dinner is part of the job. I think you have to use good judgment when you do so. Again, I'm not aware of all of the particularities and in light of what's been reported -- Steve, I think he did make the right choice.

TED SIMONS: In light of the reports, how much oversight do the boards have over these types of folks, these types of situations?

GREG STANTON: Well, I think we're going to have to learn from that and make some important changes moving forward. Steve was able to kind of combine the bus service system, which used to be called RPTA with the valley Metro rail, the light rail system, into a single system to eliminate a lot of overlap that had occurred. As a result, he was overseen by two separate boards. And it was sort of an awkward relationship at best. I think one thing we have learned from the system is that you have to have appropriate checks and balances. To the extent that he was the boss of the organization and people underneath him had to sign off on certain things and may not have the proper oversight, I think that moving forward, the cities that make up the board, representatives on the board, we should do more direct oversight over some of the spending that goes on there and the reason is not so that we can look over someone's shoulder, but it is just good checks and balances. We have it at the city of Phoenix. I think most governmental agencies have the right kind of oversight and checks and balances. To the extent that the valley Metro system didn't have those in place, we have to make sure moving forward that they are appropriately in place.

TED SIMONS: And finding the right person for the job to replace Steve Banta, someone a little more high profile, out there in the public?

GREG STANTON: First off I think that the board should do a national search to find someone. We have talented people here in the community. But, yes, head of the regional multimodal transportation system should be a very high-profile system in this community. Certainly as mayor of the largest participant in that system, both on the rail and bus side, I think it should be a very very high profile system that can articulate well why public transportation investment is so important for the future of our city and the future of our community.

TED SIMONS: That could be an improvement along those lines.

GREG STANTON: I think so. I think that having a well-respected, high-profile person will help to advance the cause and that would be a good thing for public transportation here in the valley of the sun.

TED SIMONS: Efforts to slow Syrian refugees to Arizona. It sounds like you're opposed to what the governor in the state is talking about and a lot of public opinion seems to be and that is slow down the process, we don't know who these people are. You don't agree.

GREG STANTON: First off, I think that the refugee resettlement program in the United States of America and here in Phoenix has been a hugely successful program, one we ought to be bragging about how we have successfully taken people from war-torn countries, escaping violence, bringing families to this community and how we have successfully integrated them into our community. We are the melting pod of the world, and we are the beacon of light and we should be that moving forward. We've successfully had refugee resettlement programs from Sudan, Somalia, Iraq obviously Syria as well, from places all over the globe. Here is what I think. I think that any changes to that program shouldn't be driven by politics or politicians. It should be driven by decisions by the intelligence officials and people in the security apparatus, if you will. If they have a particularized concern, we ought to make sure that we vet that concern. What I don't want is to take a tragedy, what happened in Paris, and politicize the refugee resettlement program. Security decisions should be made by security professionals, not by politicians who may be trying to react too quickly to a very, very tragic situation. We all want to defeat ISIS. ISIS is a cancer on this earth and has to be defeated. But wewe don't want to misplace our desire to defeat ISIS and what they represent and the violence that they represent by changing a very successful refugee resettlement program throughout the United States and here in Phoenix.

TED SIMONS: Many will say obviously, among the top states as far as refugees are concerned. But that was then. This is now. That things do change. That is their argument. Do they have a point?

GREG STANTON: Well, they have a point in this regard. We should always be looking to improve all of our governmental programs including the refugee resettlement program. And if we have particularized information and our intelligence officials and security officials believe that it should be changed, we should do so. What we don't want to do is have it be done in a hyper-political way. Let professionals do their job and that is who I am going to defer any judgment on. In the meantime, I want to make sure that people understand that Phoenix is a very welcoming community to immigrants. It's a very welcoming community for refugee -- there is a reason why Phoenix is considered an excellent model for the refugee resettlement program. I love the fact that the faith community here locally has reached out their arms and welcomed refugees from around the world. We couldn't be considered one of the top communities if the faith community, the army of compassion, if you will, haven't done such a good job. We have great nonprofits, like the international rescue committee that do such a wonderful job. I don't want to lose that reputation. It is important to our city.

TED SIMONS: Last point on this. You do understand the concerns of those who say tighten it up, take a pause in the whole procedure. Do you understand?

GREG STANTON: Absolutely, of course, and we should always be looking to improve any program that either federal, state or city program. But, again we don't want to change a program because of a quick political reaction because of the tragic situation in France. Let the security professionals give that advice and obviously as the leader of a major American city, I will follow that. But I don't want to overreact in a political way. We have a great refugee resettlement program. We should brag about that. It's one of the great things about the city that we are so welcoming to people from around the globe that are escaping war and strife and we want to be a beacon of light, if you will.

TED SIMONS: Mayor, we have to stop it right there. Thank you so much for joining us.

GREG STANTON: Happy Thanksgiving to you.

TED SIMONS: Thank you.

Greg Stanton: City of Phoenix Mayor

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