Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton discusses the top issues of the state’s largest city.
Ted Simons: Coming up next on Arizona Horizon, Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton joins us in the studio to discuss a variety of city issues, and we'll hear from a 90-year-old artist who turns every day objects into social and political statements. Those stories next on Arizona Horizon.
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Ted Simons: Good evening, and welcome to Arizona Horizon. I'm Ted Simons. Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton joins us each month to discuss the latest issues facing the state's largest city, issues that include the quality and safety of elevators at city hall. Here now is Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton.
Ted Simons: Glad you got here, did you take the stairs or use our elevators?
Greg Stanton: I trust the elevators here and at city hall. I did get stuck for 25 minutes yesterday and wasn't sure I was going to get out. I fretted, if I don't get out I will not be on Arizona Horizon tonight.
Ted Simons: Yes. I am sure that that was top -- what is it like to be stuck in an elevator for 25 minutes?
I discovered that maybe I do have Claustrophobia, when you find out the mechanic can't get there, that's what we were told, it would take a half-hour to 45 minutes, the walls close in on you a bit more, so I did get claustrophobic, but my detail, calm, professional, and she made sure that I stayed calm the whole time. 25 minutes, fortunately, the mechanic got there early enough and firefighters got there quickly, and we got out, and I was fretting mostly because I was late to pick up my son for school.
Ted Simons: Yeah. And is there a protocol if you are in -- who is next in line if you are incapacitated? Stuck in an elevator?
Greg Stanton: Well, we voted last Wednesday to elect the advice Mayor of the city, and five days later I'm stuck in an elevator, I don't know if it's a coincidence but the vice Mayor would take over as Mayor if, if the Mayor is incapacitated.
Ted Simons: All right, on we go then, good to have you here and glad you made it safe and sound.
Greg Stanton: Glad to be here.
Ted Simons: Arizona Republic has emails, putting emails regarding the councilman and this land deal business over there, 4-6th Avenue and Fillmore, that whole process now, take us through this, and there was an investigation out of an external review that this no problem here, but there was a problem there.
Greg Stanton: The land you are talking about is a great parcel in downtown phoenix, and there were a lot of developers that wanted to build very exciting projects, including mixed use, and it's unfortunate, what occurred, the city manager recommended that we scrap the original project because it's incredibly important that the public have full confidence that the decisions being made at city hall are made on the merits, and not because of any inappropriate relationships or context. So as a practical matter what's happening right now, is that there is a second process being followed, and we're receiving applications from various developers. It's still a very great sight, a hot site, and I think that the councilman will not be participating in this rfp, has not had any meetings that would raise any, any issues, and so, therefore, the rfp can continue appropriately, and I can't wait to see who is successful and get a great development in the heart of the city.
Ted Simons: Does it concern you that the rules say no contact, you know, with the city employees, council people, and no contact during the bidding process and the email seems to suggest that there was contact.
Greg Stanton: It's important, this is an important lesson for everyone. Members of the council and the community, as a whole. And as elected officials, regardless of the situation, if you have a conflict of interest, you have got to publicly declare that, and not participate in any regard, either meetings inside the city hall or outside the city hall. And you cannot be involved in the case in any -- you have got to avoid it as much as you can, and so, I think what happened here, is the Arizona Republic pointed out there was communication between a consult on a and staff people on behalf of the councilman, and that was inappropriate, and that should not occur because if the elected official has a conflict, yourself and your staff need to stay as far away from it as possible. I don't believe that will impact the second rfp, the request for proposal, that's out on the street now, and I do believe that we're going to get a great project. I've been lucky to be Mayor, when so much exciting activity, new development is happening in the heart of the downtown, and people are discovering downtown phoenix, and how wonderful it is, and new businesses, and new residents, and University students, the biomedical campus, it's an exciting time to be the Mayor, and we're going to move forward in a positive way with regard to the 5th Avenue and Fillmore.
Ted Simons: Will that impact external reviews in the future, considering this saw nothing and there was something?
Greg Stanton: I think that -- well, first off, any time that something happens at the city, we should always try to learn lessons from it, the City of Phoenix is a darn good city, and I talked to my Mayor friends around the country, and man, we have a very, very well run city. We're not perfect but very well run. But, part of being a great city, part of being in the leadership of a great city, is always willing to look at a situation, say how can we improve moving forward, and with these series of incidents that occurred the last two months, my attitude as Mayor is, let's be a stronger organization, as a result, and let's learn how we can do better moving forward.
Ted Simons: Speaking of the Arizona Republic, an OP-ed piece by two councilmen, saying they are getting misleading information from staff and the latest information from Roosevelt row, misinformation, and they cited other, the FAA situation, and they cited the ASU professor that was under investigation, and then got to deal with the -- are they -- are you getting good information from staff?
Greg Stanton: So, the councilman, in wearing our proposal, a strong Mayor, as a result of their critique of the city, look, I'm kidding a bit. You might want to ask them about that. The reality is this -- if you -- we do citizen opinion polls at the city. Every time it comes back, that the citizens of Phoenix somewhere a lot of confidence in their city Government, both they strongly support their elected officials and council and their management. And if you were to take a similar period of time in the past, you could find mistakes made by our professional city staff, and when we make mistakes, we have got to take steps to fix those mistakes.
Ted Simons: Are too many mistakes being made by professional staff?
Greg Stanton: Well, I want to make sure it's clear. That article was an attack on the city manager, Ed zerker, and I want to say on TV, that Ed is a good manager of the City of Phoenix. And he's doing an outstanding job, and I support our city manager. The councilman, obviously, people can speak on their own behalf, whether they want a new city manager as a result of the series of mistakes that they have cited. I would just say for an organization as large as we are, a $3 billion organization with 14,000 employees, you are going to find mistakes if you are searching for them, and those mistakes need to be corrected, and we need to take steps moving forward that they don't happen again. I talked to our city manager regularly, and I have confidence that he understands how serious we need to take it when we make mistakes and we need to fix it, and I believe that he's doing, taking the right steps, and making the right choices, so that we don't make similar mistakes in the future. But you know what's going to happen? There is going to be mistakes in the future. And we're still human beings, and who are human beings who are leading and running the City of Phoenix, so if those Council Members want to spend their time chasing the mistakes and it's a broken, suggesting it's a broken system, I would politely disagree. I believe we have a good form of Government and we have good leadership, both at the Mayor's office and the council office, and in city management, and that the good that we do, certainly, outweighs those mistakes, but we are going to learn from those mistakes, as well.
Ted Simons: When they say these issues, these instance, and again, we had the checks mailed to the city, found in the recycling bin and people not paid over a certain period of time, and talked about the professor, they are saying, undermines the credibility of the city operations, and you say?
Greg Stanton: I say that when mistakes are made, people should ask questions, which is number one, could that have been avoided, and if people did make professional mistakes, have punishment occurred?
Ted Simons: Has punishment occurred for these?
Well I'm in an awkward spot when you ask me that because as the Mayor of the city the one issue that I have to stay away with, unless the councilman want to switch to a strong Mayor form of Government but as long as I am governing in the system I am in I have to stay away from personnel issues. That is the city of the city manager, and that's why I say with this article that, directly attacks the professional city staff, it's a direct attack on the city manager, and I am trying to make sure the point that I get across is, I believe the city manager overall is doing a good job. I supported Ed Zerker, our city manager. If they don't speak for themselves, my question for the city manager is, how are we fixing this mistake? Are we moving forward? And I did both conversations and I believe the appropriate steps were taken so those mistakes don't happen in the future. That's not to say that the mistakes won't happen in the future, just like they are going to happen here on occasion at this station, mistakes will happen in the future, how can we learn and improve from those mistakes, that's what great leaders do.
Ted Simons: What's the idea of a new arena for the coyotes and the suns for the suns for the coyotes? Whatever order you want to put them into? I'm hearing, and we're reading and it has been scuttlebutt for a while that ASU and the coyotes might have something going in Tempe, and the coyotes might have something going on the Indian reservation there, and what's happening?
Greg Stanton: I view the coyotes as a regional asset, and obviously, we're aware of the difficulties that they are having with their current landlord and in the city of Glendale. They made it clear they have only got a year and a half now left on that agreement, with the city of Glendale, and I don't want the coyotes leaving our city and our region to go to Canada or Las Vegas or some other community. We are lucky to have the coyotes here in this community, and I want to make sure that we do all we can to protect that asset, one thing that I could do as the Mayor, as you know, we are beginning the process at the city, of looking at a new arena. We're putting our financial health in order so that we're going to be in a position to be competitive on a new arena. And if, as part of that arena, we're able to bring the coyotes to downtown phoenix, and have a long-term future, for the coyotes, I want to lift that Stanley Cup in downtown phoenix, and I don't want the coyotes to lift that in Las Vegas or some other community in the United States or in Canada, and I have got to do my part as a leader, and that's what the City of Phoenix is doing and my office and myself, are involved in that.
Ted Simons: Are you moving a little faster with the idea that Tempe may have something going here? They might have something happening?
Greg Stanton: I don't want to -- Tempe will have to speak for themselves, and Arizona State will have to speak for themselves, and I believe that the best option for everyone is that if we are going to build a new arena, that we have as many major tenants in that building as possible. Phoenix Suns are is a primary partner, and it's important that the Phoenix Suns have a long and stable future, and in downtown phoenix, and it would be great if we can get the coyotes to be a second player in that arena, so we can get both major sports franchises in downtown phoenix, and stabilize both the futures of both those major organizations. It's important for the community, and by the way, it's important that downtown phoenix has the most competitive building possible so that major concerts and events don't go to one of our suburban communities but come to the heart of this community in downtown phoenix.
Ted Simons: Locations in downtown Phoenix, what are you looking at?
Greg Stanton: I don't want to negotiate that over the air right now, but just say that we're looking at a variety of locations.
Ted Simons: Just give me an idea.
Greg Stanton: It would be close to this.
Greg Stanton: And in the immediate, the immediate vicinity, it's important that the arena, any new arena be right in the, in the heart of downtown.
Ted Simons: Before you go, we only have a minute to a minute and a half left here, the Frank Lloyd Wright House, sounds like no more tours, no more events for the next couple of months, what's happening there?
Greg Stanton: David and Gladys, the ownership of that house, which is an incredible asset that we have in our community, an architectural gem of the national and international repute, I know that because I received the letters from around the globe asking the city don't allow it to be torn down when it was under a threat a couple years ago, of being torn down. They are in active discussions with some educational institutions, and Arizona State University being among them, as to whether or not there might be an arrangement, including the possibility of transfer of ownership to an educational institution. So, we have continued the case and delayed our decision to allow them to have those negotiations, and that's what the community wanted and Arizona State University wanted, and I thought it was the right thing. It's important that the David and Gladys Wright house have a stable future here so that architecture fans can come from across the globe and see this wonderful asset in the heart of our city and arcadia.
Ted Simons: A nice cooling down period, as well?
Greg Stanton: Oh, yeah, of course. Look, I think that everyone has an interest in saving that house. We need to figure out the right plan that does not have a negative impact on the nearby neighborhood to say that house for future generations; it's what we owe the future generations and a historic preservation building for the city.
Ted Simons: Good to see you. Glad you could make it, glad you got out of the elevator.
Greg Stanton: You know Ted, this is my birthday today. And there is no place that I would rather be to celebrate my birthday than here on Arizona Horizon.
Ted Simons: Again, again, that is just so sad. I don't know what to say. Good to see you, Mayor.