City Council election ends Tuesday - East Valley Tribune: Ahwatukee Foothills

City Council election ends Tuesday

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Posted: Friday, August 23, 2013 4:54 pm | Updated: 3:36 pm, Mon Jan 13, 2014.

This Tuesday, Aug. 27, will be the final day to vote in the Phoenix City Council election.

Current City Councilman Sal DiCiccio is running against local business woman Karlene Keogh Parks in District 6.

The campaign has been full of mudslinging, especially from union groups hoping to oust DiCiccio, who has been pushing a tough reform agenda for years. DiCiccio said he has more reforms in mind and doesn’t plan to stop until Phoenix is the best city in the country. He is being endorsed by the Greater Phoenix Chamber of Commerce.

Keogh Parks has the unions on her side. She’s endorsed by firefighters and police officers. This is her first time running for public office, but Keogh Parks believes she’s been active enough in the community to understand the issues the city is facing.

Now time is running out for voters to make their final decision. Voters can cast ballots in person at any of the city’s 18 voting centers from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Monday, Aug. 26 and from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Election Day Tuesday, Aug. 27. Identification is required at the voting centers.

The City Clerk Department will also operate a voter information telephone line to assist voters with information about the election or voting locations. The number is (602) 261-8683.

The closest voting center to Ahwatukee Foothills is the Pecos Community Center, 17010 S. 48th St.

DiCiccio and Keogh Parks both took part in a debate in Ahwatukee Foothills on July 24. Here are the candidate’s responses to some questions that were left out of the debate:

Q: Police and fire are very important to this community. How do you plan to support public safety?

Keogh Parks: I have been endorsed by Arizona’s police officers and firefighters for my strong stance on public safety issues and I am proud to have the trust and support of the men and women who serve as our first responders. They understand that my mission on the council will be to make sure that critical city services remain strong and that we provide our heroes with the tools they need to keep citizens safe.

I disagree with Councilman DiCiccio’s vote against the budget that put 18 new public safety officers on the streets for the first time in years. And, I was even more disheartened when he sent out mass emails touting the hire of the very officers he had voted against. He talks about reducing crime, but crime is up and violent crime has increased dramatically. Ninety-seven percent of our police officers believe they haven’t been given the tools they need to do the job right.

DiCiccio: I have always been a strong supporter of our rank and file public safety personnel and my record proves it. Phoenix has more than enough money to dedicate to public safety if it sets its priorities correctly. According to a staff report from May of this year, the pay raises in the 2013 budget could have hired more than 350 new police officers to patrol our neighborhoods.

Councilman Waring and I proposed a plan for increased fiscal accountability by eliminating the food tax for pay raise scheme, the $3.7 million payment to government unions for release time, the $2.9 million PR budget, the $1.3 million in city lobbying contracts, and the $1 million in intergovernmental association dues. Any of this money could have been better used to hire more police, fund programs ending domestic violence, after-school programs, senior services, and libraries.

Q: Specifically what cuts would you make to the budget?

DiCiccio: The food tax for pay raise scheme must end. The promise that it would go to police and fire is now proven false. The $137 million went to pay raises and bonuses since the food tax was forced on the public. The city manager laid out a plan this month to eliminate half the food tax by January 2014 without hurting public safety, no reduction in city services, and maintaining our AAA bond rating. Working with Councilmembers Thelda Williams and Michael Nowakowski, we created a plan to begin phasing out this regressive tax without impacting public safety.

My opponent supports giving $3.7 million to government unions to fund union activity. This is wrong and this money should be used for domestic violence programs, senior programs, after-school programs, and enhance other services for the public. Other areas for the budget axe include the $2.9 million PR budget, the $1.3 million in city lobbying contracts, and the $1 million spent on dues for various governmental associations. All these monies must be better allocated for the public’s benefit.

Keogh Parks: As a longtime business owner, I believe the city of Phoenix should never hold on to taxpayer dollars that are not necessary to perform the basic functions of government. I support phasing out the food tax early and have called for a thorough examination of the city’s budget to identify redundancies and inefficiencies.

Q: What programs would you like to see receive more funding?

Keogh Parks: This is an area where Councilman DiCiccio and I have very different priorities. I would put maintaining public safety at the very top of Phoenix’s agenda. We are operating with a police force that has been reduced by 400 officers and, not surprisingly, crime is rising. According to the Phoenix Police Department, violent crime has risen by 30 percent since this time last year. This means our streets are less safe, emergency response times are increased and the risk to our officers is greater. I strongly believe that public safety is not the place to cut corners.

DiCiccio: Programs aimed at ending domestic violence and homelessness are two areas that need additional funding. The funding should be directed as block grants to organizations already providing and helping people. Working with Councilwoman Thelda Williams and Councilman Michael Nowakowski, the community fighting domestic violence, and the O’Connor House, we helped create the best model in the nation for ending domestic violence. I am very proud of the work we accomplished. The plan Councilman Waring and I put forward provided funding for more police, domestic violence, homelessness and increased services for our public.

Q: What is your perspective on the role of city government?

DiCiccio: City governments must keep their focus in two areas:

1. Job creation: We need businesses to hire today — not months from now. Working with Councilman Tom Simplot, I co-chaired a committee that cut red tape and streamlined our operations. Businesses in Phoenix can now hire in less than 24 hours, while it still takes four to six months to start hiring in surrounding cities and across the country. We implemented 24-hour permits and inspections and eliminated outdated permits. The most important thing government can do for job creation is get out of the way. By the end of the year this will be even faster with online permitting. We live in a global economy and compete in a global market. We must be smarter, better and faster than our competitors. Being better is no longer good enough: we must be the best. Phoenix must lead the nation in everything we do, from answering phones to job creation.

2. Fiscal accountability: We have cut more than $79 million in government waste, have had no water/sewer rate increase in three years, no property tax rate increase in four years, and have the highest rainy day fund in Phoenix history with $43 million. Hardworking taxpayers expect us to maximize every dollar.

The next big issues are why the government unions and my opponent have attempted an all-out character assassination, spending over $700,000 to defeat me and stop my fiscal reforms meant to protect you and your family. We know what the path to Detroit looks like and the government unions are working overtime to keep us on that path. I am working overtime to change our direction. Here are some facts that should help you see the bigger picture:

• $2.4 billion — City of Phoenix’s unfunded pension debt (we don’t have the money to pay for this).

• $8.5 million — Vacation and sick leave paid to retiring city of Phoenix employees in 2012.

• 12 million hours — Accrued vacation and sick leave for Phoenix employees still owed (Phoenix allows staff to roll over year after year unused time off).

• 40.5 — The days off an entry-level employee gets their first year at work (it goes up from there).

• $105,000 — Average compensation for over 14,000 employees at Phoenix.

• $283 million — What Phoenix paid out in total retirement costs in 2013.

• $1.1 billion — Phoenix annual general fund budget.

• $137 million — Amount of pay raises doled out since the food tax was forced on the public.

• $700,000 and $100,000 pension — Amounts 10 individuals took at retirement and THEN started their pensions in 2011.

Keogh Parks: As a business owner and former board member of the Arizona Chamber of Commerce, I firmly believe that the public sector doesn’t create jobs — the private sector does. However, that doesn’t mean that the city can’t help tremendously. We can help businesses by reducing red tape and unnecessary regulations, encouraging entrepreneurship, and facilitating an open line of communication with the business community. We can also help to make our city more attractive for new businesses by standing up clearly against all forms of discrimination. This is a clear difference between my opponent and I, I don’t believe in allowing workplace discrimination based upon sexual orientation or any other factor in any circumstance. Drawing a line in the sand on this issue will only contribute to helping to make Phoenix a world-class city.

Q: Specific question to Keogh Parks: Some have questioned your level of experience in city politics. What specific city issues have you been involved in that have prepared you for this position?

A: As a long-time business owner, the first woman to chair the Boys and Girls Club of Metropolitan Phoenix, former president of the Civic Improvement Corporation, and a member of the board of directors for the Arizona Chamber of Commerce, I understand that it is the responsibility of the City Council to help attract jobs and businesses. My priorities when elected to City Council include expanding light rail, investment in downtown revival and making sure that our city has enough public safety officers on the street.

As co-chair of Mayor Greg Stanton’s Transition Committee on Ethics Reform, I absolutely agree with the need for comprehensive ethics reform. I believe strongly that we need more transparency and accountability at City Hall and I’m not waiting for Election Day to make changes. I am accepting no campaign money from city lobbyists and have pledged to appoint no lobbyists to city boards and commissions.

Specific question to DiCiccio: How much do you stand to gain financially if the South Mountain freeway is built?

A: My opponent and the government unions have been using this issue as an excuse for a smear campaign to defeat me and stop my fiscal reforms.

Here are the facts:

1. Phoenix has absolutely no say on the Pecos alignment. None. The City Attorney has said there has not been and is no conflict of interest.

2. Even though Phoenix has no say, I have been actively working with our community to stop the Pecos alignment for over 16 years and my record proves it.

3. You cannot make money on something you oppose.

4. If the freeway gets built on Pecos it will cost taxpayers an additional $250 million to cut through South Mountain Park, it will destroy 250 homes, businesses and a church, and will end up having a negative impact on our entire community. Many of us moved here wanting to live in a cul-de-sac, and we enjoy the quality of life of having South Mountain undisturbed.

Here is something we do know. While I and many other have been working on this issue for over 16 years, my opponent attended only one meeting in over 16 years — and she came in late to that meeting. On Aug. 28, the day after this election, she will be nowhere to be found but will have left behind harmful accusations meant to divide our community. Contrast this with my record. As some community leaders put it:

— “Sal has been an integral part of helping to protect our neighborhood. He has been a true leader by working closely with our community on finding alternatives for the South Mountain Freeway,” Chad Blostone, South Mountain Citizens Advisory Team member.

— “Sal stood up for Ahwatukee. He worked very hard to bring together alternative solutions for the freeway. I was proud to work with someone so committed to the community,” Mike Hinz, South Mountain Citizens Advisory Team member, HOA board member.

My leadership and dedication to Ahwatukee — our community — is unquestioned. I have been active in our community for the past 27 years.

Here are just a few things I worked on and got accomplished for our community: I helped secure private donations to open our first senior center, police substation, community pool, and Telegraph Pass. I helped the very first Ahwatukee Foothills Chamber of Commerce, and in 2009 helped them raise over $7,500 for the Red, White and Boom. I have walked door-to-door to local businesses with chamber representatives. I helped increase our neighborhood police patrols, with 48 officers now assigned to our community. I helped get the first landscaping completed on the Warner-Elliot Loop and on Pecos Road. I have remained committed to the community’s youth, having raised private donations for after-school programs, appointed the first student to the Ahwatukee Foothills Village Planning Committee, and been active in helping stop fee increases on our Little League and Pony League kids’ baseball teams. I have been actively involved in the Saving the Lakes organization and helped bring all our Homeowners Associations together to solve the long-term water problem for our communities.

When a storm hit our community hard last month, I helped assemble the city team that got the cleanup started immediately, and organized a volunteer clean up that weekend. I helped open most major trailheads in our community, and put together the plan to solve the parking problem at the 19th Avenue trailhead. And when Lagos Elementary was facing the shut down of its after-school program, I helped raise private donations that gave our children a guaranteed safe place after school. Why would I not be involved in fighting the Pecos alignment, the No. 1 issue facing our community? That would not be consistent with my decades-long history of involvement in our community.

• Contact writer: (480) 898-7914 or ahurtado@ahwatukee.com.

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