Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton updates us on the latest issues from the state’s largest city.
Ted Simons: Coming up next on Arizona Horizon, Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton will talk about city issues, including the recent bus strike, and we'll get our weekly legislative update with the Arizona Capitol Times. That's next on Arizona Horizon.
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Ted Simons: Good evening and welcome to Arizona Horizon. I'm Ted Simons. Arizona's state land trust will pay a record 105 million to Arizona schools in the next fiscal year. That's a 12% jump over the previous year. The money comes from earnings on investments made from state land sales. And venture capital deals in the U.S. increased last year, but not in Arizona. Nationally, venture capital investments hit close to 60 billion, but Arizona's share was just .2 of a percent of that total, with 28 transactions resulting in $114 million. Both numbers a drop from the previous year. California led all states in venture capital deals. And the Arizona court of appeals has ruled that giving police permission for unconditional searches of vehicles includes allowing the use of drug-sniffing dogs. The court upheld a woman's convictions for drug possession and other charges. The woman argued that she did not consent to the search by a drug-sniffing dog but the court ruled it is common knowledge that police use dogs in searches. Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton joins us to discuss a variety of city issues, including the recent city bus strike. Here now, joining us is Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton. Good to see you.
Greg Stanton: Thanks for having me. The highlight of my month, every month, right here.
Ted Simons: I am sorry to hear that. We'll get to the strike in a second here, but I want to get, we talk a lot about public policy here. The state of the state address took a sharp shot a cities and municipalities, suggesting that shared revenue could be threatening cities with not getting shared revenue or changing that formula in some way, shape, or form. How do you respond?
Greg Stanton: I like Governor Ducey. He and I are friends. We just taped a PSA together supporting Big Brothers and Big Sisters, so we work together as often as we can. But, when we disagree, we really disagree. On this one, I have a significant disagreement with the Governor. It is inappropriate to use the threat of taking away shared revenues, which is city money, away from the cities because you happen to disagree with one public policy that we adopt or another. Phoenix is proud that we have taken a leadership role in passing progressive smart public policies that not all the other cities have passed. Let me give you an example. We passed comprehensive protections for LGBT community in employment, so when the Governor threatens to take away our state shared revenue by the creation of what he called a patchwork of employment laws, we have done it by protecting our lesbian-gay community from employment discrimination. We have crossed that threshold, if you will. It's completely inappropriate, just because you happen to dislike one public policy or another to threaten state-shared revenue. That's not the state's money. That's the city's money that we have agreed to allow them to distribute for efficiency purposes, so it's easier on taxpayers, but if they are going to threaten to take away the state share revenue, we're going to have a good donnybrook on our hands.
Ted Simons: He suggests if all the cities, if you got a great idea, Tucson has a different one, and Flagstaff, and Eloy and Yuma, everyone is running around with this patchwork of ideas, that it's inconsistent as far as the state is concerned and inconsistent as far as attracting and retaining business is concerned.
Greg Stanton: And I would politely disagree with the Governor on this issue. Politely, yet strongly disagree. Look, the City of Phoenix has taken a leadership role on human rights. We have taken a leadership role on sustainability, where we have passed laws that reflect the values of the community that I am blessed to lead. Phoenix was the first city, one of the first cities in the country to pass a paid Martin Luther King Jr. holiday, well before the fate of Arizona passed it, and then took it away. There is a great tradition of leadership among the cities and often, where cities lead, other cities follow, and then eventually the State of Arizona follows, as well. We ought to be supporting local control. That's what we're trying to stand for, is that the values that people who live in Phoenix hold, and Tempe, and Tucson, and Flagstaff, maybe different than other cities, and our ordinances ought to reflect that, and we should not make public policy under that reflective values of the community, under threat of having our own money being taken away. That's not the way public policy should be done. And if the Governor or anyone else wants to get into a battle, we can have a great debate and right here on this show, but using state share revenue as a threat is simply unacceptable, and the City of Phoenix and the cities across the state, will have to stand up and fight and say, that's wrong.
Ted Simons: When you say donnybrook, what are you saying?
Greg Stanton: Well, we'll have to fight it on all fronts. We'll have to fight it on the legal side of it because legally you cannot take away state share revenue from the cities. It is our money, so the threat is both legally wrong, but I think it's actually morally wrong. We're a separate level, and we have the right to pass ordinances and laws that reflect our values, communities. If the legislature or anyone else at the state believes the city ought to be run a certain way, I have an idea, run for Mayor. It's a great job. Come on and pass ordinances you believe are in the best interests of this community. In the meantime as long as I'm Mayor, I am going to lead the city in the direction that I believe the voters have expected me to do, and that should not be done under a threat of loss of state shared revenues.
Ted Simons: Since we're speaking about the Governor, he never fails to mention Uber as a great success as far as his term is concerned. And the idea of using Uber at the airport is a wonderful thing. Agree?
Greg Stanton: Well, I, actually, admire the governor for being a supporter of the sharing economy, including ride-sharing companies like Uber. In fact, before he was Governor, Uber came to me and asked that we no longer work with the department of weights and measures under Governor Brewer's administration to kind of engage in law enforcement against those drivers while they were working out the issues. I'm a supporter of the sharing economy, but here's what I stand for. At the airport, if you are going to provide transportation services, you have to provide them to people with disabilities. And the whole concept of Uber is that whenever driver happens to be in the neighborhood, picks up that person, if they are in a wheelchair, we don't leave that person out in the cold. That's not our values as a city. I don't think that it's the State of Arizona values, either, so what I have required is that any of the ride sharing companies that want to operate the airport, make sure that they have a system in place, that all people can be serviced, including and especially, people with disabilities, who may happen to be in wheelchairs. That's the requirement that we have for other transportation companies at the airport, and that's what I believe in, and that's what we're working on. I think we will announce an exciting announcement in the near future where the ride sharing companies are going to agree, that if you do business at the airport, they are going to provide that very important service, but do so in a way in which we don't leave people with disabilities behind. Those are not Phoenix values, and I won't allow that at my airport.
Ted Simons: And do you anticipate a fight on that? Companies may be sounding good now, but I mean, are you anticipating agreement here?
Greg Stanton: Well, when you say agreement, I don't think that the companies are excited about being required to provide services to all people, but I believe that the American Disabilities act, which is one of the great laws in American history, where people, you know, construction companies and others, complained about it saying how unfair it was, and where you have to make buildings accessible on only a small percentage of the people have disabilities, we have gotten over that. I think in history, will show that the American Disabilities act is one of the great laws that was signed by President Bush, same thing now, now, it's my time in leadership, and if I am going to allow transportation companies at the airport, they have to provide services to everyone. I believe in that, that's something that I am passionate about, and one thing that I am going to stand for as Mayor of the city.
Ted Simons: If that means everyone gets less service, there are fewer Uber drivers out there, a lot of folks are saying I cannot do this, and the entire enterprise suffers, you say?
Greg Stanton: Well, actually, we're smarter than that. Uber drivers won't suffer in any regard. What would be the requirement is that the ride share companies pay into a van service, so that if the driver who shows up cannot take the person there because they have a disability, there is a backup vehicle that will be there, that is wheelchair access within a short period of time, it's a very reasonable solution. So, the person who may be living in a wheelchair may not get the first car that comes but a car shortly thereafter. And actually, Uber is working very closely with myself and the City of Phoenix to move forward with this and I do believe that the other ride-sharing companies will follow, so when Uber, when we make that great announcement, that Uber services will be available at the airport, they won't be available for some, that service will be available for all. And that's the value that I want to stand for, as Mayor.
Ted Simons: We're talking transportation. Let's get to the bus strike, and I mean, it sounds as though, the issues, better bathrooms, a better method of payment, the email rules of discipline, goodness, gracious, why weren't these things worked out before the NCAA title game and all that who-ha?
Greg Stanton: Let me address the last issue. There is a lot of discussion about whether or not the bus strike would affect the college football championship or not. I have got to be honest with you. That was the least of my concerns. My concern was how would it affect somebody that needs to take the bus to get to their job or that student that needs to take the bus to get to their high school classroom, or college classroom? Let's be honest, that has a bigger impact on their lives in, and the future of the city than a college football game. We need to get our priorities straight. That being said the bus strike is devastating to people that utilize that service to get to education, and jobs. Look, my role as Mayor, since we don't run the bus system. We have a company that runs that bus system. My role is to use the bully pulpit of my office to serve and kind in a mediator role, so it's hard to pass judgment. My job is to bang heads on both sides, and say, get to compromise, and get the yes so that we can provide this service. And thankfully in all my years as Mayor, I have had a few of these -- this is not my first rodeo, and we've been able to resolve them within a reasonable period of time. So we don't have a month long period strike like other communities have had, we have kept our strike, our work stoppages at a very small amount of time, and we have gotten back to providing that important service.
Ted Simons: If the best you can do is bang heads, and this is the private business here, and running it for the city, should the city just not get back into the business of running the buses?
Greg Stanton: Well, you raise an interesting question, and that's a fair debate and discussion that we should have. At the end of the day, we have never directly run the bus system here in the City of Phoenix. It's always been a service that we have worked with companies to provide. I think that the important thing is that we picked the right companies, and we make sure that we have a contract level that will allow those companies to pay good wages and benefits to those employees, and the reason why we do that is we want talented people to become bus drivers so people can have the safest ride possible so as long as the City of Phoenix works with the right companies, and allow them to pay good wages and provide good benefits to those drivers, I think the system will work. There is going to be work stoppages in the future, and I hope whoever -- there is my last work stoppage because the contracts extend beyond my time as Mayor. I am proud of the work that we have done, and I have always had an attitude of I am not going to avoid these things but roll up my sleeves and get actively involved, and I think my involvement has made a positive difference to shorten these work stoppages, and I hope that that's a tradition that continues in the City of Phoenix.
Ted Simons: I can't let you go without talking about a recent story regarding security detail, full records of your security detail. They are not there. They have not been there for a while, and people want to -- they want to know why. Why aren't those full security detailed records available?
Greg Stanton: This question, I get asked all the time, and I am 100% consistent. The people who work on the security detail covering the Mayor, just like the security detail covering the attorney general or the county attorney or the Governor, they work for law enforcement. They, actually, don't work for me. That decision is solely made by the Phoenix Police Department, and I respect that department is doing what they believe is in the best interest of the safety. Not only mine and my family's safety but the community safety, as well. And on a personal level, I don't particularly care. If somebody wants a track where I am going, they will realize what a ridiculous 16 to 18-hour schedule I have every day, but I love it because I am the Mayor, so I personally don't have -- I don't believe one way or another that the records should or should not be kept. Just like I don't say how many officers they should send out to investigate a crime, I don't tell them how to do their business in terms of the job of the security detail for the Mayor. That would be crossing a line that I should not cross.
Ted Simons: Do you think that it is a good idea, though, that the city stopped maintaining logs for this activity?
Greg Stanton: Well, issue if the police chief, I am sure that you have him on, on occasion, were to explain why, I think that he would say the reason they did that was for ultimately, a security-related purpose. And that certainly, they know where they are taking me, and from meeting to meeting or community event to community event, and whether they should keep the logs or not, I really believe is a public safety question, and should be left to public safety professionals. As an elected official, I don't care one way or another, and I told the police chief, if you change your mind and believe it's ok, you are not going to get a complaint from me.
Ted Simons: You understand that people are concerned that trips are being included here, that that's the concern? It's not transparent.
Greg Stanton: Well, I think that the reality is that if the members of the security detail were sitting here, more importantly, the police chief was here, they would tell you their job is to provide security for me and my family, all the time. Which means that yes, do I take my children to school? And I do homework in the car while -- well, while I take them to school with my son and daughter? I do, do I take them to doctor's appointments? Yes, I do because that's what we do as parents, throughout the day. Again, my own personal opinion is, if the police believe that they can keep those security logs without creating an issue, they should. But ultimately, it is a Phoenix Police Department function, and they are not my employees, and they are employees of the Chief Yahner and the police department and I defer to their judgment when it comes to safety issues.
Ted Simons: I lied, one more.
Greg Stanton: Ok.
Ted Simons: Scott Smith is a valid metro interim leader, and what are your thoughts there? Is he qualified? He's the former Mayor of Mesa and you are the Mayor of Phoenix, and that's fine, and running the valley metro is a different ball game?
Greg Stanton: Mayor Smith and I are personal friends, and I like him and we work together for many years, and he's only going to be there for a short period of time, and the Valley Metro Board is going to immediately go into search for a permanent CEO. I do believe that the permanent CEO of Valley Metro Rail should be someone with significant experience, running for Government operations, and experience in the field of transportation. Here's why. The City of Phoenix just passed Proposition 104. The vast majority of the resources that are going to be running through that organization come from the taxpayers of the City of Phoenix, and I am passionate that we get our light rail advancements going as quickly as possible, and having someone with the experience, project management, to see that it gets done on-time on the budget, and that we get the appropriate resources from Washington is a skill set that I will be looking for, so I look forward to working with the Mayor during the short period of time that he's there, but more importantly, that we get the right CEO there for the permanent position. What happened there is simply unacceptable.
Ted Simons: I was going to ask about that. Has anyone action taken place? Are they looking at oversight regulations? Auditing? Something to make sure that the next person who takes that job doesn't, apparently, allegedly, abuse spending privileges and benefits?
Greg Stanton: The answer is, yes. And of course, they have to. Look, the reality is, is that we, as a community, have lenders a lot about the amount of oversight necessary. We need to hire good, ethical people that don't engage in inappropriate behavior, fraudulent behavior. There is two audits going on right now so we will get a lot of information, but the reality is you could be just as effective without going to Ruth Chris steakhouse or whatever restaurant you are going to on a regular basis, you don't need that to be an effective leader running an organization like Valley Metro. You have to be active in the community, and you have got to be out there, but you can also do so in a more humble way and be more effective, and that style has to be a characteristic of the next permanent CEO of Valley Metro.
Ted Simons: Got to stop you there. Good to see you. Thanks for joining us.
Greg Stanton: Always my highlight every month. I love coming on.
Ted Simons: I am sorry to hear that. [Laughter]
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