Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton

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Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton makes his monthly appearance on Arizona Horizon to discuss the latest city issues, including his call for a Justice Department investigation of long voting lines.

Ted Simons: Coming up next on "Arizona Horizon" -- Phoenix mayor Greg Stanton talks about long voting lines an the Diamondbacks looking to leave downtown Phoenix. In our update how new FDA guidelines affect an anti-abortion bill awaiting the governor's signature. Those stories next on "Arizona Horizon."

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

Ted Simons: Good evening. Welcome to "Arizona Horizon." I'm Ted Simons. Maricopa County board of supervisors today voted to certify the results of last week's troubled presidential preference election. The board's canvassing vote is usually a formality but this followed an election many consider to be compromised by long lines at polling places. Supervisor Steve Gallardo voted no. In a statement he said the failed execution of the presidential primary election was a national embarrassment for Arizona but also a failure to protect one of the most fundamental and important rights of all, the scope of the breakdown was sweeping and so many serious unanswered questions remain I cannot in good conscience certify these results as true and accurate. After today's certification an attorney for democratic candidate Bernie Sanders said he's considering a challenge to the vote.

Ted Simons: Phoenix mayor Greg Stanton joins us each month to discuss city issue issues which this Monday include long lines at voting places and the Diamondbacks leaving Chase Field. Here now is Phoenix mayor Greg Stanton. Great to see you.

Greg Stanton: Great to see you. Happy to be here.

Ted Simons: You're probably happy not to be standing in a line.

Greg Stanton: Good point.

Ted Simons: What happened?

Greg Stanton: Well, we're still discovering what happened. In fact I have asked for the Department of Justice to come take a look at what happened here. But obviously some horrific decision making made through the election system led to just a fiasco at the election site throughout Maricopa County but particularly acute here in Phoenix. We actually had a smaller number of sites per number of voters than any other location. That's what really not only raised my anger level because nobody should have to wait that long to exercise their most important right, the right to vote, but had a disproportionate impact on the residents of Phoenix, we're a majority-minority city. It raised significant voting rights act implications.

Ted Simons: Do you think this was an attempt to suppress minority voting?

Greg Stanton: Well a lot of people ask me, do you think this was done on purpose? But the Voting Rights Act doesn't matter whether it was done purposely or not. The only issue is did it have a disproportionate impact on people with disabilities, seniors, Latinos, african-americans and other minorities. I don't think there's any question that it did. Who can stand five and six and sometimes seven hours in line to vote if you have a disability it's going to be very, very difficult to do. For many seniors that's impossible. There were no accommodations made for individuals, for food, water, even sitting locations for individuals waiting in those lines. If you just look at where the locations were, you'll see that in the areas of Phoenix where the highest percentage of minority citizens live there were smaller number of voting locations. It clearly had a disproportionate impact. I think that's why it's appropriate for the Department of Justice to look at it.

Ted Simons: What do you want them to do?

Greg Stanton: I want them to examine what happened here in Arizona and if it does rise to the level of having voting rights act implications they need to fix this. The main thing is this never happen again. Not just long lines although stopping those in future elections is incredibly important, not just because of the inconvenience but the impossibility of voting there for so many residents. Think about a single mother with two children. Is she really going to be able to wait with her kids in a five or six hour line? You have effectively taken away the voting rights from that individual. I want the Department of Justice to come in and review our procedures and tell us how we can fix this for the future. How we can insure this never happens again.

Ted Simons: The idea that Phoenix had fewer in proportion fewer polling places than other cities, we talked about this, we have documented it. It's true yet some of the longest lines were not in Phoenix at those polling places but in some suburban places. Again is it necessary to have the Feds look into this?

Greg Stanton: The answer is because there were long lines it was an incompetent fiasco, the entire election process, doesn't mean it doesn't have a disproportionate impact on people with disabilities, with seniors, with Latino residents or African-American residents. If in fact it did and it would be obvious that it did because of the smaller number of voting sites in the areas with the highest percentage of minority citizens that should be reviewed on top of just how we can run our elections in a more competent way so lines are less. The fact that we have problems in one area long lines doesn't mean we should also look at the important voting rights act implications. These are serious, serious issues. They deserve to be reviewed on multiple levels including from the voting rights act perspective. The Department of Justice is well suited to do that and I look forward to their report about how we can make our elections stronger moving forward.

Ted Simons: Back to the original question, do you think it was a concerted effort to suppress minority votes and if so why would that be in place considering Democrats, were voting for Democrats, Republicans were voting for Republicans.

Greg Stanton: Let me be clear. Do I think Helen Purcell purposely tried to suppress the minority vote? No, I don't. If the decisions that she and others in the whole election system made had that impact it almost doesn't matter what the intent was. But look, in Arizona studies have shown consistently that example provisional ballots, more provisional ballots are kicked out of the system here than anywhere else. Does it mean people are less eligible to vote here in Arizona? No. there's an issue there and we ought to take a look at it. You and I have talked about other bills before the legislature which I believe were intended to reduce the number of Latinos participating in that system. Taken as a whole it raises very, very important questions and we ought to be open minded to the answers and to fix our voting system so that we don't have voting rights act issues and we have the opportunity for more people to participate in our system.

Ted Simons: Does it concern you that Helen Purcell on this program and in other venues and even the County that the board of supervisors chairman on this show and other venues said there was a cost-cutting aspect. That the state is not reimbursing for County elections. His instructions to Helen Purcell and the elections folks before this vote made it as frugal as possible.

Greg Stanton: Yes, that obviously is a concern; it's a concern for hundreds and hundreds of thousands of people in Maricopa County who got caught up in that fiasco. I believe that people of both political parties are going to work hard to make sure this fiasco doesn't happen again but I want to be clear it's not just a fiasco in terms of long lines. We have to fix the long line aspect but make sure as we review the fiasco that happened a few weeks ago in our election system that we also look at it from a voting rights aspect. It's important that we give the maximum opportunity for people to vote regardless of whether you're a Latino, African-American, someone with a disability or senior citizen. We want everyone to participate and we ought to improve the system from that aspect as well.

Ted Simons: Were you aware of polling place cutbacks before the vote?

Greg Stanton: Was I aware of it? No, I was not.

Ted Simons: Why weren't you? Was anyone in the city aware of it? One for every 108,000 folks. That's a bad ratio.

Greg Stanton: This is a County election. It's not run by the city of Phoenix. We actually have voting sites in the city of Phoenix. We actually did, believe it or not, reduce the number of polling places. We opened them on Saturdays. Our polling sites, we have many more of them per voter than at the County but we did ultimately decide to reduce the number of sites but kept them open on Saturday, Monday and Tuesday, giving people the maximum opportunity to participate in our city elections. I think it's a smarter strategy. I don't want to say what we did in the city is the perfect solution for Helen Purcell and the County. They need to fix it obviously. Not just to reduce voter lines but also look at it in a way that protects voting rights of all citizens.

Ted Simons: no one raised their hand said I just saw the polling places, we only got a couple here, none over here, maybe somebody should talk to the County about this.

Greg Stanton: That's something we are going to be fixing in the future. They don't have to take our advice but moving forward we're going to offer our advice about how the election system in our community whether it be a County, state, federal election can be improved for the future.

Ted Simons: Diamondbacks making noises about leaving Chase Field, not happy -- we talked about this at length as well. Who is obligated for this 187 odd million dollars maintenance and repair at Chase Field?

Obviously there's a significant dispute between the Diamondbacks and Maricopa County in that regard. The city of Phoenix is not involved in that dispute. I would just say that the Diamondbacks are really important to downtown Phoenix. Those 81 home games are really important not just to the employees at Chase Field but to a lot of the restaurants, bars, art galleries and the other entities that benefit from having so many fun, exciting, vibrant activities. Large crowds coming downtown on so many summer nights. I believe both sides have to have cooler heads. There has to be compromise in resolution of that dispute. I want it resolved in a way where the Diamondbacks make an even longer commitment to downtown Phoenix. I'm aware of happened in Atlanta, where the Atlanta Braves decided to leave downtown and move to the suburbs. I don't want to happen in Phoenix, Arizona. There may be a way for Phoenix to be a part of the solution and as Mayor I'm open minded to having Phoenix be part of the solution if it would help end the dispute. We're not going to take on the burden of capital cost improvements but if there are creative ways we can be a problem solver that's what I do as mayor, that's what the city does. We want them to be long term partners with our downtown, long term partners with the community, hoist that World Series trophy again in downtown Phoenix.

Ted Simons: The idea that the Suns are now looking, coyotes are looking for an arena. Sounds like the Diamondbacks are upset with the arena. Some are suggesting it's the Diamondbacks' way of saying let's get everyone together; we'll go to the voters together or try to find funding that way as opposed to each one individually. You buying that?

Greg Stanton: First off obviously we're at the early stages of our conversations with the Suns and the coyotes about the future of a downtown arena. So I want to make sure that any agreement that is reached has to go to the voters in the city of Phoenix, any agreement as to the future of a new arena will have to be voted on by Phoenix voters. They will be intimately involved in this decision making. But as we move forward in that process we'll make sure that we do what we can to make sure we have any state of the art building not for the sports teams but for all the other associated events. We want to make sure when the best concerts come to down, when the best shows come to town, downtown Phoenix is the best home for those activities. It's really important we stay at the cutting edge in that regard. Obviously we have a unique opportunity to bring a new major league franchise to the coyotes to the heart of the city. If we can do it in an efficient way so we have two major league sports franchises in a single building that would make most sense. In terms of a global solution we're at such an early stage it would be inappropriate for me to say anything subtenant about that.

Ted Simons: But the Diamondbacks themselves say that they bring in $8.2 billion economic activity around the area, that they don't think they are being appreciated. You mentioned concerts and other things. They are saying non baseball events are minimal at best which means fewer revenue fees, less putting back into the stadium capital revenue and such. They say they don't think it's right that they take the brunt on this.

Greg Stanton: The model we have with the Suns where they manage that building has worked out incredibly well for all parties involved. That downtown building punches above its weight when it comes to the sun building. [speaking simultaneously] Downtown Phoenix when the major concerts come to town, they select talking stick resort arena over any of the other facilities in town. Vastly disproportionately because the downtown experience is such a unique, wonderful experience. I think the Diamondbacks would like that same opportunity to better manage Chase Field so many more activities, non-baseball activities, can occur in that building as well. We need to get that building activated and actually the Diamondbacks in that regard are correct.

Ted Simons: Theoretical: it comes to the point where the teams, county, city, will you go to voters and say here's what we need from you?

Greg Stanton: You are so far ahead of curve with that question, Ted, it would be inappropriate for me to say anything substantive.

Ted Simons: It's not out of the question.

Greg Stanton: I would only say this. The Diamondbacks are an incredibly important asset for downtown Phoenix. They are obviously in a very unfortunate public disagreement with Maricopa County as to resolution of payment of capital costs. I as mayor am not going to be involved in any resolution where the city of Phoenix takes on capital costs that are at dispute between the Diamondbacks and the County. However, if there's a creative way where we can be part of that solution, where my taxpayers don't take on additional burden, I wouldn't be the mayor of the city, leader of the city if I didn't keep an open mind to being part of that resolution.

Ted Simons: scale of 1 to 10, one not worried at all, 10 keeping you up ate night, the idea of the Diamondbacks leaving downtown Phoenix.

Greg Stanton: I'm not going to put a specific number on that on this television show.

Ted Simons: How about a 4? How about a 6?

It's something I monitor closely. I'm in regular contact with the team. I have been in regular contact with Maricopa County as well. We have a good working relationship with them as well. Really unfortunate that this dispute went public as it did. If I make too many more comments my ability to be a part of the solution will be compromised and I won't do so on the air, but when we have more to report I'll do it here on "Horizon."

5.5. 4.3. Gimme a number.

Greg Stanton: The chances of the Diamondbacks winning the world series? 8, this season. It's going to be one heck of a good season.

Ted Simons: All right, artful dodge. Thanks so much.

Greg Stanton: Thank you so much.

Greg Stanton: Phoenix Mayor

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