Phoenix City Council District 7

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Phoenix voters go to the polls to vote on the District 7 runoff race on November 6. Hear from candidates Laura Pastor and Michael Nowakowski, as they talk about their position on issues affecting the district.

Richard Ruelas:
Good evening. I'm Richard Ruelas in for Jose Cardenas. Tonight on Horizonte, candidates for Phoenix City Council District 7 discuss their position on issues facing their district. A debate between the candidates coming up on "Horizonte."

Announcer:
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Richard Ruelas:
Phoenix's District 7 race will be decided by voters in a November 6 the runoff election. The district stretches from South Mountain to the downtown area and extends west to include Laveen and parts of Maryvale. One of the candidates vying for the council seat is Michael Nowakowski. Michael is the general manager of the Radio Campesina, a local nonprofit Spanish radio station. The other candidate is Laura Pastor. Laura is the daughter of U.S. Congressman Ed Pastor. Currently she is director of the Achieving a College Education Scholarship program at South Mountain Community College.

Richard Ruelas:
Thanks for joining us this evening. The structure that the debate will have will be opening statements. We will start Michael with you for a minute.

Michael Nowakowski:
First of all, I want to thank you for having us on, and I am the candidate that is going to be enforcing law and protecting our neighborhoods. I have served on the Police Chief Advisory board for 16 years. I one of the founding members for the graffiti task force back in 1993. And I don't know if you remember leap, but I was also one of the youngest leap presidents or chairpersons for the community council. I feel that I have the experience. I have the knowledge that I can take District 7 to the next level. I have been walking the neighborhoods, listening to concerns. That's where we got the theme Enforcing Law and Protecting Neighborhoods because that's what people are saying, ‘Michael these are the main concerns. We need your help. We need to make sure our neighborhoods are protected.'

Richard Ruelas:
Thank you. Laura Pastor.

Laura Pastor:
Good evening, I am running for city council to make a difference, and invest in a community that I was raised in. The only time I have left my community, District 7, was to receive a master's in Public Administration and get administrative experience in Chicago - other than that I have taught in the Roosevelt School District and the Isac School District. I continue to work in the district by becoming an outreach director and working with South Mountain and Laveen students. I work with Carl Hayden students on the west side. I feel my experience and background and energy and ideas I have will get me to the next level. I also want to say that protecting neighborhoods, strong neighborhoods and protecting neighborhoods is what is it is all about. It's oing back to the grass roots, being in the neighborhoods and building a safe area for families and children. That is why I am running, someone with integrity, hard work, energy, vote for Laura Pastor.

Richard Ruelas:
Thank you and we will start with questions. The first question to you, Laura, essentially you are on a job interview here. Why do you want this job? It comes with a lot of public scrutiny, headaches, why do you want this job?

Laura Pastor:
You're right, it does come with a lot of scrutiny. I have experienced that for the last six months. I feel I can represent the district at all levels and to be a voice for the district. What I mean by that is, I have grown up in the historic area, worked in South Phoenix and Laveen, and now west side and Maryville. So I have the experience that is needed to represent that area. It's a diverse area, socioeconomic diversity, issue-wise, I understand the needs of the community. I hit, I have been knocking on over 30,000 doors. I started the day, I have been knocking, heard the concerns, neighborhood coffees all over the districts and understand the needs.

Richard Ruelas:
Michael, same to you, why do you want this job?

Michael Nowakowski:
Richard, I have sat on all kinds of boards and commissions, and you spend hundreds of hours of your time away from your family, loved ones, and you make these recommendation and sometimes these recommendations go to deaf ears. I want to make sure if we are going to put people on boards, commissions, have people volunteer their time away from loved ones, families, that you will have a council person who will listen to their concerns and take the input and make sure we implement all of that. It is sad that we have a council person that is in right now that receives hundreds and hundreds of calls, and he doesn't return them. I think there is a lack of community service. There is a lack of involvement from the community with the council. I want to create a way that we can take city hall away from the 11th floor and actually bring my office to the community, bring it into the neighborhoods. Bring it into the historic district. Bring it into Laveen. Bring it in to the community. We need to be present to the people.

Richard Ruelas:
When you talk about a councilman that is not returning community calls, is that the current occupant of the seat?

Michael Nowakowski:
Exactly.

Richard Ruelas:
Have you found constituents unhappy with his performance so far? Is that part of the reason you decided to run?

Michael Nowakowski:
Absolutely. When Doug started back about 14 years ago, we only heard great things about him. He was involved with our community, very involved with different projects that I was involved with. Over the last five years, Doug has kind of disappeared. That is one of the reasons I am running. I have been hearing complaints from the different villages especially in Laveen and the historic district that Doug is not present. That we're appointing individuals from special interest groups on these boards and commissions and they're not really listening to the concerns of the communities. That we're having these high rise buildings being built in the historic district that people don't want. We have spot zoning going on. We have Laveen that is changing overnight. And we need to save the Laveen that we know.

Richard Ruelas:
Laura, is the performance of councilman Linder any of the motivation for you to run?

Laura Pastor:
Actually it isn't. My motivation to run is to be there to represent the district and hear the needs of the community. Through my whole experience, at this moment, I am receiving constituent calls. Many people at the time didn't realize there was a runoff. I started receiving calls from all over the place, all over the district, saying I need this. I need that. I say, I'm still in the race. Please vote for me. I will be there after November 6th.

Richard Ruelas:
People thought it was over?

Laura Pastor:
Right. People thought it was over. We had to go back out and educate the community that it wasn't over, that there is a run-off happening and that November 6th is an important date.

Richard Ruelas:
Michael mentioned historic buildings. What are your thoughts on the downtown -- it is an odd district.

Laura Pastor:
Yes, it is.

Richard Ruelas:
What are your thoughts on the downtown density issues, high rise issues and the historic Willow and Encanto Village neighborhoods?

Laura Pastor:
I happened to sit on the Encanto Village. I see those items come across the table. We have to learn to balance preserving our neighborhoods and also looking at the density issue. Central City, which is from downtown all of the way up to McDowell is designated for high density. That area is designated for high density. It's part of the general plan. That's where high density is going to be placed due to the light rail. And so I really think that we have to stick to the general plan and the central city plan and all of the different village plans that are in place and be an honorum. We ask constituents, neighbors to participate in designing these plans. We ask city employees to help also. We need to stick true to those plans.

Richard Ruelas:
Michael, is the general plan good enough for the historic neighborhoods?

Michael Nowakowski:
You know, absolutely. You know what the problem is that we have investors going in there and they're doing spot zoning, basically allow one condo to come in, or one high rise, all of the sudden that opens the doors for all different condos, high rises, stuff like that. That is one of the key things happening right now in downtown is that whole spot zoning, and in the Laveen area we have an overlay. People aren't respecting that overlay. As long as we respect the hundreds and hundreds of hours that those volunteers I was talking to earlier, that's the problem. We are not respecting those individuals that sit on the boards and commissions that create the master plan and overlays. We need people in council that will respect it.

Richard Ruelas:
On a related issue, would you have voted for the city north plan or the square one plan, the idea being city subsidies, cities helping out developers build these power centers that bring in all of this retail?

Michael Nowakowski:
It depends on the neighborhoods. It depends on the situation. I wasn't a part of the negotiation, so I am not sure of all of the things going behind the scenes. In principle, I think it is wrong if we're going to supply, use tax dollars to allow individuals to have these high rises and luxury malls and all of that. I think they need to be quality jobs in neighborhoods that really need it. We're talking about south Phoenix, Maryville, if we can entice quality businesses to go into the neighborhoods that need picking up, absolutely. In the neighborhoods that don't need it, I don't think so. We need to be smart with tax dollars.

Richard Ruelas.
Just to be clear before we move on. Do you think these areas City north that Washington, First Street project, are those areas that needed development?

Michael Nowakowski:
No.

Richard Ruelas:
And Laura, what were your thoughts, would you have voted for those two projects?

Laura Pastor:
No, I wouldn't have. I will tell you why. It all depends on the development and what is needed in the area. City north I would not have voted for that. What I have to say is that where incentives are needed is in small business. 70% of district 7 is small business, family owned, and due to the light rail at this moment, I believe those businesses have to have incentives. Not necessarily receiving a loan and paying it back at a small interest rate, really an incentive to stay open and help them stay open and bring customers in, especially experiencing light rail.

Richard Ruelas:
What is the vision for downtown as we move forward?

Laura Pastor:
To become vibrant, alive. To draw people to downtown. Make it an area, a city where people want to go downtown. I have lived here all of my life. Downtown is basically really dead at night unless there is a sporting event. I want it to be a downtown where everybody is visiting, festivals, activities, artwork, culture --

Richard Ruelas:
Which is a great vision. Does a council have a role in --

Laura Pastor:
Yes, they do. I think they have a role in studying the vision and leading it, taking the charge, leading it, working with small business. Provide economic development. There is many things that the city can do.

Richard Ruelas:
Michael to you, your vision for downtown and the role the city council should play in that?

Michael Nowakowski:
You know, Rich, the reason we have Downtown ASU is because we land bake. We were land baking for Cardinal Stadium and that fell through and the city of Glendale got that. We need to start thinking smart. We need to start land banking before outside investors come in and start buying up all the property. Once you start land bank, you have that negotiation, the key to bring in quality businesses. You know big corporations that will bring Phoenix up to the next level. I think that is one of the ways to help those individuals that are on that light rail right now. I feel sorry for all of those small businesses that Laura was speaking about. How can we help them during these growing pains? A lot of them are actually closing up shop and filing bankruptcy and stuff, and that's our fault. We need to help the businesses.

Richard Ruelas:
You mentioned ASU Downtown, small businesses did have to close, a dry cleaner a bar called the Newsroom which I think a lot of Republic employees enjoyed -- did you think that was a good tradeoff to get ASU downtown?

Michael Nowakowski:
I think it was a good tradeoff, but at the same time we need to make sure that the businesses are taken care of, placed in different locations where they will not be hurting in the future. We need to sit down and talk. That is the type of council person I will be. A person that will bring in all of the different parties and talk about it and what's good. We will have the small business say, you know what, this is a better deal for me to move on. I think talking you can make things happen.

Richard Ruelas:
ASU downtown, a good trade-off….a good use of the city's power?

Laura Pastor:
I do. I lived in Chicago for four years, and universities were downtown. Students were downtown. That's what kept business open. And also brought business in, and I do. What I think was wrong is in the way we did it, the way we went about it, and I think you see that evident in prop 207. The eminent domain and so now you're going to see in the future what's going to happen for that. But I do -- it is the way we communicated to the small businesses, and I know many that were hurt by it. I actually had family that was -- that the land was taken and didn't receive enough money for it.

Richard Ruelas:
Again, the district being so filled with different types of populations, we get to talk about a lot of things, one of them being education. The district would encompass some areas of town that do not have some of the best test scores. What role does the city have in improving education and improving some of the test scores in Phoenix?

Laura Pastor:
As an educator, I believe we're the 5th largest city, city should have a role or voice in this. One way of improving the educational piece is our after school programs. We provide after-school programs at the majority of the school and to look at the programs and evaluate it and see if we're meeting the needs and goals of the school district. Instead of some activities, a science activity where it incorporates reading, math. A language activity where it incorporates a different language. It all depends on what the activity is, but it should follow the standards of the -- curriculum standard so that it is being re-enforced, and time for recess, kickball, working with one another, demonstrating those type of qualities that kids need.

Richard Ruelas:
Michael, the city's role in education?

Michael Nowakowski: Creating partnerships with the different school boards. We have a great working relationship with Cesar Chavez High School. They use our soccer fields, baseball fields, library, and in exchanges they let the parks and rec directors have an office on their school campus where the kids are, and then we have an after-school program where they're using their gym and all of their equipment. There are resources out there that the school boards have. Resources that the city of Phoenix have, and creating those partnerships, that's what we need to do. We need to make sure that these schools are safe places for our kids. So kids aren't threatened or feel that they don't belong. How do we create safe environments also?

Richard Ruelas:
You had a quick comment?

Laura Pastor:
Yeah, District 7, over 13 school districts. It ranges from the largest, Roosevelt, all of the way to the smallest on the west side. The school districts range in District 7.

Richard Ruelas:
Okay. Getting to another issue where the city's role is sort of up for debate, a huge issue, immigration. There is some discussion about whether Phoenix police officers, what role they should take in enforcing the law. Michael, as a city council person, how would you advise Phoenix officers to deal with immigration law?

Michael Nowakowski:
I continue to serve on the police chief advisory board. I support the police chief 100%. I don't think we should be using our resources going after the guy selling popsicles - we should be going after criminals…we should be going after the bad guys and I think we need to look at the wisest way to use our resources. The other thing I is we need to start using high technology in an effective way. The police officers are in their police cars, we have computers there, but they can't type out the reports there. They have to go back to the precincts. How can we secure a line from the police car to the precinct where they don't have to waste that time? Using technology in the wisest. It doesn't matter if you are here legally, illegally, if you break the law, you have to pay the price and go to jail.

Richard Rueals:
I was just thinking, your campaign slogan, protecting our neighborhoods and enforcing the law. Do you think enforcing the law sends an impression to a voter that you do support some of the sanctions or some notion that officers should enforce immigration law or get involved in that?

Michael Nowakowski: You know, I am working for the Spanish speaking station and we listen to the concerns, and a lot of the first generation immigrants are concerned that their neighborhoods aren't safe. They have the same concerns of any other citizen. I think it is about stopping drug traffickers from Mexico. Stopping the human smugglers coming in, and the safe houses in the neighborhoods where you have shoot-outs. It is crazy. The message is clear. I've knocked on the doors. That's where I got the message from. It is not from a consultant group. It is knocking on doors and asking individuals what are their concerns and that was it, enforcing the law and protecting our neighborhoods.

Richard Ruelas: And real briefly before we go to you Laura, do you think your position as general manager of Radio Campesina - might be a detriment to some voters especially in the non-Latino heavy areas of town who might see you as being too Latino for the district's good?

Michael Nowakowski:
You know the founder of Radio Campesina happens to be Cesar Chavez -- when I first met Caesar Chavez, I walked in the room - I had the same impression, we will walk into a room of Latino leaders. But it was a diverse group of individuals. People from all different walks of life. That is what Radio Campesina is about, taking care of the whole community. We cater to Spanish speaking, but it is really taking care of the community.

Richard Ruelas:
Laura, How do feel about officers should enforce immigration law.

Laura Pastor:
I don't think they should. Number one priority public safety and balancing officer safety. Those are the two priorities we need to look at. From there we know that the immigration system is broken. We need to look at it and see how we're able to assist in it, but that is a bigger -- it is such a complex issue that there are different parts of it that are major. We can't solve it. The city can't solve it. The federal government needs to solve it. On top of that, city, state, and county can come together to say here are some of our solutions.

Richard Ruelas:
Real briefly, as we head through and there is still a lot of ground to cover and very little time. Michael has made hay about the payday loan industry. Do you support payday loan centers? What should the city's role be in regulating payday loan centers?

Laura Pastor:
First of all, the city cannot regulate payday loan centers, and that was the debate. The state legislature is the only entity that can regulate payday loans. I do not support payday loans. I do not advocate for payday loans to come on every corner of the neighborhood. It is very clear in the neighborhood that they understand where --

Richard Ruelas:
What did you think your vote meant?

Laura Pastor:
It was a land use issue. It was changing language in a text amendment. We cannot enforce that.

Richard Ruelas:
And, Michael, obviously the campaign is let it be known that you believe that your opponent supports the payday loan industry. In some of the mailings which have been rather pointed have called her in the pocket of several lobbyists. Are you philosophically opposed to political candidates taking lobbyist donations, is it particular to Laura or is it an overarching issue?

Michael Nowakowski:
You know, Richard, it's kind of odd that we're running for city council in the City of Phoenix and we're having all kinds of interest groups from Washington D.C. to California that is investing in Phoenix. You have to ask the question, why are these individuals investing in District 7 in the city council race here in Phoenix? I think that once you start to accept money from special interest groups, they're going to want something back in return. My thing is community interest first, special interest groups after.

Richard Ruelas:
So it's specific to this race, Laura, can you explain why so many --

Laura Pastor:
I am not sure what he means by special interests. I have friends that happen to be lobbyists. I grew up in that world. So they're friends of mine that happen to be lobbyists. Ronnie Lopez happens to be a lobbyist, I grew up with him. I don't understand what the issue is. What I want to say is not an understanding of the issue and I'm getting hit left and right about it, at this moment there is an independent expenditure for Michael out of New York for I would call that a special interest. We have UFW people walking the doors out of California for Michael. I don't know what he considers special interest.

Richard Ruelas:
We might dispense with the closing just to delve into this a little further. I guess the public would have to then believe these lobbyists are your friends and they're not coming to you with cash because of who your father is.

Laura Pastor:
Right. Let me explain something. Whoever has given to me, who hasn't given to me, who has voted or who hasn't voted for me, I'm the same person. My door will always be open. They are more than welcome to come in and talk about the issue, and I am there to listen. And I am there to advocate for people in District 7. You're not getting a different Laura.

Richard Ruelas:
And Michael, briefly --

Michael Nowakowski:
It is outrageous, we need some type of term limits, financial limits. It is crazy that you are raising over $300,000 for a city council race. We have good individuals that sit on boards and commissions that want to give back to the community but there is no way that they will be able to raise four times their salary to run for office. We need to create some type of limits on who we accept moneys from and what are people from outside of our state getting involved with the little city council race here in Phoenix? Ronnie Lopez is a great person. A leader within our community. We have oil tycoons, mining people -- no business in Laveen, in the historic district, unless they are going to start to mine in South Mountain or something like that. We need to look at what their concern is, why they're donating for a campaign --

Richard Ruelas:
This is a beauty of live TV. Is there a minute left in the show, 30 seconds left in the show? Sorry about that. There is a lot more and hopefully we will be able to speak either way there is a Latino representative for the district probably should make you both proud. That is Horizonte for this Thursday in for Jose Cardenas. Thank you for watching. Have a good evening.

Announcer:
If you have questions or comments, please write to the addresses on the screen. Your comments may be used on a future edition of Horizonte.

Michael Nowakowski: General Manager, Radio Campesina ;

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