Kate Gallego, the new Phoenix city councilwoman-elect for District 8, talks about her plans for her term in office.
José Cárdenas: Good evening. I'm José Cárdenas. We'll talk to the new Phoenix city councilwoman elect for district about her plans for her term in office and learn about services helping promote strong family environment. All next on Horizonte. Thank you for joining us. Economic development strategist Kate Gallego defeated reverend Warren Stewart in a contentious race that first went to vote nears late August and then ended in a runoff election in November. She is the first woman to represent District 8. Thanks for being here. Don't want to spend much time on the campaign because it's over. You're the councilwoman elect, but there was so much of a focus on whether the district should be represented by somebody who was African-American. It didn't seem like there was much discussion or seemed to be drowned out of some of the issues. Tell us about the issues that you didn't think got covered enough because of this focus on the race question.
Kate Gallego: My background is in economic development. District 8 is enormously important for people. It's one of our major economic engines and has the potential to offer so much more. District 8 is home to the airport, railyard, many of the areas near downtown Phoenix that have the potential to grow. We have a very small downtown in comparison to other cities of our size. Very few people living in the downtown area again in comparison to other cities of our size. I think it's important that we have that core. Young people really look to downtowns when they first finish their studies. They like being around other young people, things to do, great arts and culture. Downtowns are such an important incubator of great ideas, of entrepreneurs, so many young people when they decide where to live first look for what city to live in before they apply for jobs. We want to make sure that all our best and brightest stay here because it has so much to offer. I'm very excited about the potential of continuing the progress we have made in downtown and reinvesting in some areas like the warehouse district, which is a hot bed of entrepreneurs. Has already come up with many of our great technology companies as well as some of the arts progress that's been happening.
José Cárdenas: Let's talk about the district itself. I want to talk about your background, then some of the issues that are facing not only this district but the city of Phoenix. What you see is your priorities. Physically if somebody looks at a map of the district it looks like a J, a chunk of downtown, then it goes east then west, out to Laveen?
Kate Gallego: Yes. It goes to 48th and Osborne, goes to include the airport area, downtown basically east of 3rd street, so the baseball stadium is within the boundaries of District 8. It heads toward South Mountain. It's mostly south of baseline. It's enormously diverse.
José Cárdenas: People who view it as south Phoenix, that's incorrect.
Kate Gallego: That is incorrect. Councilman Georgetown son developed the I Love District 8 slogan. You have to call it District 8. There's no other way to describe it that's accurate. People in Laveen do not identify as being residents of south Phoenix. People in Green Gables along Thomas do not think of themselves in south Phoenix.
José Cárdenas: It's geographically and ethnically diverse as well.
Kate Gallego: It's an enormously diverse district. Majority Latino district.
José Cárdenas: You have more than 20 languages spoken?
Kate Gallego: More than 20 languages. It has the area around the airport which includes many of our refugee populations. It has the best Ethiopian food in Phoenix in District 8. It has the Chinese cultural center, very diverse Asian populations. It's the best dining as well in Phoenix.
José Cárdenas: You made several references in your opening remarks to the warehouse district. For those people not familiar with that how would you describe it?
Kate Gallego: If you have been to the baseball stadium you know there's the rail tracks right there. We had many historic warehouses in that area, centers for industries like produce and many of those buildings have been preserved and are seeing new uses.
José Cárdenas: It's very much an area in transition.
Kate Gallego: yes.
José Cárdenas: Transition to what?
Kate Gallego: An area that has a lot of history and many important areas including Post 41 of the American legion, which is very important to the Latino community. It also has many Tech companies and we just learned that ASU School of Fine Arts is going to be bringing in about half its program.
José Cárdenas: You got other arts activities going on?
Kate Gallego: People know Bentley galleries and other institutions in the area.
José Cárdenas: There's a lot of potential for the district. I want to talk about that, but what do you see as the most pressing issues?
Kate Gallego: Well, I think economic development is still top of mind for so many people in District 8. People are still hurting. There's a lot of people who speak to me, say I did everything right, I got my degree, I have been working hard and I still can't find a good job to take care of my family. There's a lot of concern people in district don't get their fair share of investment from the city of Phoenix. When they are attracting new employers or deciding where to put the next dog park District 8 isn't as high on the list as it should be.
José Cárdenas: Tell us about yourself.
Kate Gallego: I have a background in economic development. I work at the Salt River Project, helping businesses that want to grow in Phoenix or to locate in Phoenix from elsewhere. Particularly power and water are an important part of their decision to come to Phoenix. That's true of many technology companies.
José Cárdenas: Let's talk about what you'll be doing when you join the council in January. Some of the issues that the council has been dealing with, various stages of resolution. Pension spiking, the food tax. Where are you on those issues?
Kate Gallego: On pension spiking I think it's ridiculous if your cell phone bill is becoming part of the calculation of what your pension should be. I have never made six figures, so people making that in a pension seems unsustainable.
José Cárdenas: So are you going to get rid of the compromise that seems to have been reached?
Kate Gallego: I think we need to address it when we negotiate the labor contracts to make sure if you're taking something away from employees it's part of a comprehensive negotiation. We're not changing the bill midway through.
José Cárdenas: What about the food tax?
Kate Gallego: I supported the compromise which will end the food tax. It's very regressive to tax food. Food is enormously important and we have many people including in District 8 for whom it really does make a difference in their daily --
José Cárdenas: You've talked about the activities that are going to be your primary focus, some of your priorities, one of them being the reinvestment I think you put it in South Mountain Park and the extension of light-rail. What can you do in those areas?
Kate Gallego: Right now light-rail does not serve south Phoenix and it has some of the most transit dependent areas of the city, so people who don't have a car and who use mass transportation to get to work, we need to make sure as a city when we do our long term planning we think about light-rail and if we can do things like get more people living along the corridor that will help us become more competitive for federal funding because they really want to help people get to work. They want to invest in areas where the light-rail will have the most impact from an economic development potential from an environmental impact as well from really helping people who don't have alternatives.
José Cárdenas: Let's talk about the Phoenix city council you'll be a part of. In many ways you're literally changing the look of the council. You're the first woman from District 8, you're the second democratic woman. This will be a majority -- I realize council is nonpartisan but majority of Democrats. How does all that come together? What do you see going forward in terms of what this council can do over the next several years?
Kate Gallego: I think it's an exciting time for the city of Phoenix. We have been leading on a variety of issues whether it be serving our veterans, to becoming a more sustainable desert city. We have a lot of potential. In general we have a council who sees eye to eye on most issues. I come from the democratic side of the spectrum but have had great conversations with my Republican colleagues about things like economic development, the airport is in the district, and a lot of people have said we need more international ties so if we can have things like regular flights to Asia that will really help our economy as well as theirs and support economic development. On those issues I found across the spectrum the city council sees eye to eye.
José Cárdenas: So you expect a fair amount of collaboration?
Kate Gallego: I do think so. I think there will be hot button social issues where we'll see a lot of headlines, but on most of the substance, most votes we see eye to eye.
José Cárdenas: Thank you so much for joining us. Again, congratulations on your election.
Kate Gallego: Great to be with you.
Kate Gallego:District 8, Phoenix City Council;