Ted Simons: Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton will be in Las Vegas at the invitation of the White House for President Barack Obama's announcement on immigration reform. Mayor Stanton is here every month and hour to discuss issues affecting Phoenix, and the Mayor joins us now. Good to see you, and thanks for joining us.
Mayor Greg Stanton: It's good to be on the show, thank you.
Ted Simons: And you are in Las Vegas for the President's immigration speech, correct?
Mayor Greg Stanton: I will be there on flight early morning, and see the President about noon tomorrow.
Ted Simons: And talk about immigration reform. Talk about the issue in Arizona, and this is, this is, obviously, decisive, and what new is happening.
Mayor Greg Stanton: It seems that good policy and good politics are coming together right at the right time. And there was a big announcement today by the, by the bipartisan group of Senators including our own two Senator, Senator Flake and McCain. I am very proud of them for stepping out to announce some principles in immigration reform which includes comprehensive immigration reform. I don't know what the President is going for announce tomorrow but I expect it will be very much along the same vein. It seems that, that in a very bipartisan way, common sense is going to prevail, and we will see comprehensive immigration reform during this, during this session.
Ted Simons: And what influence can a Mayor have in this debate?
Mayor Greg Stanton: Well, to be frank, I think that people still listen to Mayors and people look at cities and look at Mayors and view us as functional forms of Government. They may have lost confidence in Washington because some of the, some of the craziness that's going on back there, and I think that they look at cities and still say, we have confidence in those folks, and I think that Mayors represent main street America. We represent real business. Mom and Pop business, and I believe strongly that, that good, strong, comprehensive immigration reform is good for our economy. Passage of the Dream Act is going to be great for our economy, and we need to get past the decisiveness and focus on development policy, and immigration reform will help us a lot here in Arizona.
Ted Simons: A recent quote got some attention, and we should never let border security get in the way of the economy. What did you mean by that?
Mayor Greg Stanton: I'll tell you exactly what I meant. Look, we should have good border security policy, but we shouldn’t focus in on border security and not be able to do trade with our friends down in Mexico. We know that Mexico is our number one trade partner, and will grow as our trade partner. There are a lot of jobs here in Arizona, particularly with international trade in Mexico. So as we deal with the difficult issues of immigration. As we focus in on fighting the drug cartels, which are problem, let's not do it in a way that, that does not allow us to grow our economy with increased trade to Mexico. One shouldn't be the opposite of the other. We can accomplish both at the same time, and I think that good comprehensive immigration reform will go long way to help us accomplish that goal.
Ted Simons: Have we not accomplish both here in recent years?
Mayor Greg Stanton: Well, the reality is this, in Arizona, we have a long way to go when it comes to, to increasing trade with Mexico, and in part, it's because of the decisive bills that have been passed. And we have to send a very different message, that's why it's so important that McCain and flake are leading on this effort. That here in Arizona, we're not decisive, we're a welcoming place, and we're focused in on smart priorities, like jobs, economic development and education, and those have to be our priorities moving forward, and trade with Mexico in the economic development opportunities that go along with it. Are really, really important, and we're not going to pass short-term decisive policies that don't help us in the long run, and in helping our economy and creating jobs here in Arizona.
Ted Simons: I know that you have mentioned immigration reform when you were back in Washington. You criticized Washington for inaction on the budget. And what can D.C. do right now? There is gridlock. The Senate goes one way and the house the other. And what point does a Mayor just, basically, say, do your best and come on back home?
Mayor Greg Stanton: Let me talk about, about unfortunate Washington action on two issues. First and foremost is immigration reform. The lack of action back in Washington on this critically important issue, has hurt us back here in Arizona, as frustrated people here in Arizona, has frustrated me for a long period of time. I hope we can get that on the budget. Look, there was some activity on taxes, on New Year’s Day. The so-called fiscal cliff. People need to understand that they did not solve the issue of sequestration. Sequestration, if it goes through, will be devastating to a local economy. Hurting about 50,000 jobs, eliminating 50,000 jobs, including almost 40,000 jobs in defense, in aerospace, and we have to fight t it's not good public policy, it's not good for our economy, and it could send us back into a recession. And we understand that, that cuts have to be made, but the sequestration was never meant to be public policy, but meant to, to scare members of Congress, and unfortunately, they could not get together and reach bipartisan compromise. We still have the looming threat of sequestration hanging over our heads, and I'm a big city Mayor. And I'm going to fight that.
Ted Simons: If they are not scared by that, what's going to work?
Mayor Greg Stanton: I think that they will be scared by that. Once the American people realize what an incredible threat it is to our local economy. Look, the economy is starting to do better. We're crawling out from underneath this terrible recession, we have gone through. We cannot, we cannot allow to do something that would send us back into a recession, so the American people have to have their voices heard, and once people realize the amount of job loss that could be created if it goes through, they are going to hear from Arizona, loud and clear.
Ted Simons: And are you really planning a March on Washington regarding this?
Mayor Greg Stanton: Well, there is a group of Mayor who have gotten together. I chair the sequestration task force through the conference of Mayors, and so yes, we are going to use the bully pulpit we have and speak our minds in Washington. I think Mayors still have a voice. I think people still listen to us. They listen to leadership. We represent Main Street America, and I plan to use that voice to fight for jobs here in Arizona.
Ted Simons: And your critics are saying they listen to you during the campaign, regarding the food tax and how you wanted that ended as soon as possible. It is still there, and we're not seeing it ending any time soon, last going on with that?
Mayor Greg Stanton: I was very frustrated by how the food tax went into place. It was done with 24 hours of notice. And, and I suggest we should try to get rid of the food tax as soon as we can, and let's do it in a balanced way, and make sure it does not hurt the public safety or core services. I asked the city manager to present a budget to the city council, at that includes the food tax and one that doesn't. And now we're going to go through public process as we should, as we always do through the budget process, and allow the public to contact myself and the other members of the, of the council about whether they like the choices that would have to be made. We need to make sure the mistakes made at the beginning don't happen now as we go through this important process.
Ted Simons: I guess the critics would say that does not sound like as soon as possible.
Mayor Greg Stanton: Well, my campaign, how I have governed during my first year as Mayor is what I promised during the course of the campaign. Those, those commitments are very, very important. I committed to support local business, and we have done ton in that regard. I committed to support increased transparency, and we have done a ton, and I committed on pension reform, and we have ballot initiative in March, that will save the city a lot of money, so, I have got strong record on, on keeping my commitments, and I'm, I also have a strong record of doing what I can to support public safety, and to support our bond rating, credit rating, I will do everything that I can to support those issues.
Ted Simons: Is there a problem with the message when people point out that, that if the tax still there, and pay raises are given to city employees, that that's going on, as well. They see problem there, do you?
Mayor Greg Stanton: Here's what I voted on to be frank. I did support the momentums of understanding with our labor groups that, restored the, the pay cut that was implemented a few years ago during the 300 million budget deficit at the city. We have done pay study to look at, at where our city employees rank in terms of our cities, and other jobs, and seeing that our city, in terms of our, our salary structure, is not out of line. We have made commitment with certain jobs that are out of line to, to try to fix that, so we can be competitive in terms of recruiting and retaining the very best employees, and so on the issue of, of working with our labor groups and whether it's a pay raise when you are restoring the cuts made, I want to be as frank as possible.
Ted Simons: But, again, what people say is, you are a politician, and you know how things look and appear. And food tax still in place, and pay raises going on. That, that, that gets a lot of folks riled up.
Mayor Greg Stanton: Again, let me be frank, I asked the city manager to prepare budget with the food tax, I asked the city manager to prepare it without the food tax, and we’re going to go through a public process, we're going to have, record number of public budget hearings, we're going to be taking testimony online, and I will be doing a live online televised budge hearing where people can ask questions. We want, we won awards for how transparency our process is, so it's important that we go through the process, and on that very issue just described, people have full and fair opportunity to, to get their point across, of course.
Ted Simons: How long will that take?
Mayor Greg Stanton: A few months, this will happen over the next three months. We're following the budget timeline. I want to be sure that it goes through more transparency so we have as much public input as possible.
Ted Simons: The pension reform issue hits the ballot when?
Mayor Greg Stanton: In early March. We have voted on the council, we unanimously voted on the city council to put pension reform on the ballot if it is supported by the voters, and I am confident that, that it will be, and it will save the city over 600 million over next 20 to 25 years. Essentially, we're asking our, our city employees, to pay more in order to receive the pension. And so, that's what's going to occur, as employees come into the city, and instead of the current system where right now, it's about a 4-1 disparity in terms of what the employees pay, versus the city pays, and we're going to be asking that to be evened out so it's a partnership at 50-50. We'll save the city general fund, again, hundreds of millions over the next 20, 25 years, and it is smart public policy, and it's good, strong public policy, and it will save the taxpayers a lot of money, the right thing to do.
Ted Simons: Last question, the guns, the issue of background collection and those things, you want background checks improved, increased, and background checks for everyone who buys gun. Again, your Mayor, you are a Mayor of a major city but how much can you move this process along?
Mayor Greg Stanton: Well, again, this is going to be one of the hot issues back in Washington now, by the way, I hope that, that the gun issue and the issue of gun safety doesn't get in the way. We need to move forward with that right now, and now, now the, is the, now is the time. And I believe the universal background checks are good, common sense, and improvements to, to the issue of gun safety. Look, we want to minimize to the extent possible, take common sense approaches. We support the second amendment. I support the second amendment. But universal background check. I think is a good, common sense approach to make sure that we know who is acquiring these weapons. And I think we require it of gun stores, and we ought to make sure that we require it for other gun sales, as well. It makes common sense.
Ted Simons: What about high capacity magazines?
Mayor Greg Stanton: I did sign onto the U.S. conference of Mayors letter to the President, asking for improvements on the issue of gun violence, and gun safety. We want to reduce the amount of gun violence.
Ted Simons: Mayor, good to see and you thanks for joining us.
Mayor Greg Stanton: Great to be here. Thank you.