Tempe’s Giuliano era comes to an end - East Valley Tribune: News

Tempe’s Giuliano era comes to an end

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Posted: Tuesday, July 13, 2004 5:46 am | Updated: 5:01 pm, Thu Oct 6, 2011.

The only thing left to do is find a publisher for his memoirs.

Tempe Mayor Neil Giuliano said he is ready to step down Thursday, marking the first time in a decade that Tempe will have a new mayor.

"An overwhelming percentage of things that I had hoped to accomplish have been accomplished," Giuliano said. "So I really don’t leave with any regrets or any sense of trying to hold on to anything."

During the past 10 years he guided the city through rapidly changing and ambitious times. He oversaw creation of Tempe Town Lake, fought off an effort to recall him from office and lost the Arizona Cardinals and Tostitos Fiesta Bowl to Glendale.

With the coming of light rail, high-rise apartments and further development around the lake, his supporters say Giuliano has moved the city in the right direction.

But critics say the price of his vision has cost the city its identity while draining its coffers.

Leading the only landlocked city in the East Valley, Giuliano worked to attract more people to live downtown by supporting projects such as the Mill. Featuring loft-style apartments as well as retail, the project was the first major attempt to bring people downtown to live.

However, the council just approved the city’s most ambitious residential project. Construction of four highrise buildings will bring more than 700 condominium owners to the downtown area.

"I think we have created the only truly residential downtown area in Arizona," Giuliano said. He went on say that Tempe is to Phoenix what Palo Alto is to San Francisco.

But, Rich Bank, former president of the Citizens for Fair Non-Smoking Laws, criticized Giuliano for changing the identity of the city.

"He has been responsible for the Manhattanization of Tempe," Bank said. "If they think traffic is bad now, just wait a few years," he said.

Besides the downtown development, many involved in Tempe politics say Giuliano will forever be remembered as the mayor who filled the lake.

It was former Mayor Harry Mitchell who envisioned the Tempe Town Lake, but it was Giuliano who built it. However, the lake has not come without its critiques and critics.

Dan Durrenberger, a longtime friend of Giuliano, said he supported construction of the lake, but has been disappointed with the slow pace of development.

He did add that having a lake was better than not having one.

Giuliano defended the pace of lake development, saying it will continue to move forward and that more projects are being planned.

"The lake is not even five years old and we have private-sector projects on both sides, so I think it’s well on it’s way to being what we all envisioned it to be," Giuliano said.

But beyond the politics, and beyond his vision for the city, Giuliano will also be remembered as the first openly gay mayor of the East Valley.

Faced with the threat of being "outted," Giuliano ended years of speculation in 1996 when he announced in the Tribune that he is gay.

While he claims his lifestyle eventually led to an attempt in 2001 to recall him, Giuliano said it never tainted his decision making.

"I don’t think my lifestyle ever interfered with my ability to govern," he said.

Durrenberger said Giuliano never saw himself as a gay mayor. "He always saw himself as a gay man who became mayor," he added.

But Gene Ganssle, who ran in the 2001 mayoral recall election, said Giuliano attempted to exploit his homosexuality for political gain.

He said it was Giuliano who made an issue of his gay lifestyle in 2001 and not his campaign.

But on Sept. 11, 2001, while the country was coping with the horrors of terrorism, Ganssle lost the recall in a landslide. Giuliano was reelected with nearly 70 percent of the vote.

Three years later, Ganssle, a professional actor, said he is happy to see the Giuliano era come to an end.

From the Brickyard on Mill to the Hayden Flour Mill, Ganssle said the retiring mayor was responsible for leading the city into a series of failed land development deals, costing taxpayers millions of dollars.

"He is in the pockets of developers around town," Ganssle said.

However, Giuliano defended his fiscal record, saying he expects the city will have a surplus this year. But recent reports are forecasting near-record shortfalls.

"Those deficits are on paper, they’re not real," he said, adding that projections showing the city running $7 million in shortfalls within the next few years are based on a worst-case scenario.

"We have never spent beyond our capacity," he said.

Swearing in

Tempe mayor: Mayor-elect Hugh Hallman will be sworn in at 6 p.m. Thursday in the City Council chambers, 31 E. Fifth Street, Tempe.

Tempe council: Council members Barb Carter and Mark Mitchell and council member-elect Hut Hutson also will be sworn in.

Reception: A reception to honor the new mayor and council members will follow the meeting.

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