Ted Simons: Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton visits the "Arizona Horizon" set each month to discuss issues in the state's largest city, Phoenix.
Mayor Greg Stanton: I love it, thanks for having me on today.
Mayor Greg Stanton: A lot of things to address in the State of the City address. One of the quotes I thought was interesting. “Our challenges aren't cyclical, they’ve been building over the decades.” What are these challenges facing Phoenix?
Mayor Greg Stanton: I appreciate you talking about state of city speech. We're at a very exciting time with our city, but only if we make the right choices, and look in the mirror and be honest with ourselves. I think it's critically important to understand we can no longer have the economy that is overly reliant on real estate and construction. In the new economy, the modern and international economy, we have to change the way we do business. So some of our challenges that we have, we have to realize that if we're going advance the city -- and that's exactly what I want to do as mayor -- we have to look at things a little more differently. Build a more innovative economy, focus on international trade, building an export economy, makes sure we have the right built including transportation and lightrail. The idea, the way we did things in the past have to change going forward.
Ted Simons: Can you force that change? How do you end the dependence on construction? Can you change that?
Mayor Greg Stanton: We have to build the right kind of economy, that's the main thing. The reality is in too many ways we would grow so fast on the outskirts of town, and hope we could create jobs and pay for the mortgage. We need a strong highly educated workforce so instruction, which is based on having such a strong economy, rather than the other way around. We need more people graduating from high school and moving on to college with careers here in Phoenix. We need to advance in the industries of science, technology, engineering, arts and math. These can’t just be words that we speak, they have to be actions we have to take. We have to advance on these actions.
Ted Simons: How can a city improve a lagging college graduation rate? What can a city do?
Mayor Greg Stanton: Number one, we need to make sure all of our young people are reading by third grade. There's not a better indicator of future success than early childhood education. We have a whole initiative, Phoenix is partnering with the Arizona Diamondbacks for a program ‘Read on Phoenix.’ We're employing many volunteers, and our libraries. Employing AARP, our older experienced citizens to say, hey, we need you now more than ever. That experience that you have, bring it to the classroom, bring it to the after-school programs to help with this issue of reading by third grade. We're going to work with all of our School Districts, including especially Phoenix Union High School district, to make sure that particularly our fast-growing Latino youth population has the skills and support they need to graduate college ready, and then move on to college and have the skills they need to graduate within a four or five-year period. There is a lot of things that the city can do, and we are going to do it.
Ted Simons: You also talk about creating ideas-based economy. What does that mean and how, again, can a city push entrepreneurs, push big ideas?
Mayor Greg Stanton: You need to send a message that we are an entrepreneurial-friendly community. Do all you can to support incubators, co-working spaces. This is the work environment entrepreneurs want to work in We're partnering with cahoots in downtown Phoenix, C-spot, Maricopa County community colleges, has a great incubator called CEI. We also need the innovative infrastructure. It's a reason why our success in bringing Google Fiber to this community, and executed on Google Fiber bringing super high speed internet 100 times faster than current speeds, is incredibly important. You're going to have the innovation infrastructure so that your business can succeed.
Ted Simons: How do you get that message out when the state might be sending different kind of a messages in a variety of ways? I keep going back to this. How can a city do all this when it's surrounded by the State?
Mayor Greg Stanton: First off, cities need to lead. That's exactly what I plan and have done as mayor, whether it's sending a message that every single person in your community is full supportive, we did that when we passed fully comprehensive nondiscrimination ordinance providing additional support for disabled stains LGBT citizens in our community. I thought the state unfortunately started to head in the wrong direction, and thank goodness the Governor vetoed SB 1062. At the City of Phoenix, we understand that supporting every single person in our city is necessary to advance our economy. It's what business leaders, it's what large corporations -- it's what entrepreneurs expect. They spoke with one voice when the business community, both locally and nationally asked our governor for a veto. That's just one example of many where the city of Phoenix, as the largest city and a forward-thinking city, need to lead the state. Trade with Mexico is another example. I think in many ways the state of Arizona was heading in the wrong direction, relative to our policy supporting our diversity within our communities and in many ways turning our back to Mexico. Phoenix has made it clear, we're going to advance the relationship and open up a trade office. The state of Arizona is going to be our full partner on it. The state has come along to be our partner and I couldn't be more excited.
Ted Simons: You want to double all exports in 5 years, and double all in 10 years with Mexico. Why does Phoenix lag behind other border cities in the area? What's been going on?
Mayor Greg Stanton: Mexico is already our number one trading partner. Exports are going up to Mexico, imports from Mexico are going up, as well. The truth is we're behind. We're behind Texas; we're behind California, some of our competitive communities. I would say it hasn't been as much of a priority as it should be. With me as mayor it'll be at the very top of the list when it comes to advancing our economy, creating jobs in our local ecnomy. We need to improve the infrastructure at the border itself. To be perfectly honest, we need to stop passing laws that send a message that we're a divisive community. Never forget that tourism and shopping, folks from Mexico visiting our community is a critically important part of our economy. When you pass laws that send the wrong message, those individual will vote with their feet, if you will, to go to other locations. I think right now the city is leading, the state is being much smarter about their relationship with Mexico. I went down in Mexico City just last week, in the last few days with Speaker of the House Andy Tobin. He and I are full partners on this effort. I believe we're heading in a very good direction. Phoenix and the state, though we are behind now, will catch up very quickly.
Ted Simons: Can you catch up and send a good message with a budget shortfall of 37 some odd million dollars? How did that deficit happen?
Mayor Greg Stanton: Budget challenges should never divert you from your longer term goals. The number one thing we can do to change things is to build a stronger economy, a longer term more durable economy. That's exactly what the leadership I'm trying to provide at the city is to build that economy. Look, we are in a short-term deficit situation. The city manager has proposed a budget that is reflective of that. We are now entering an important phase of this budget process where we're going to be taking that on the road. I am proud of how the City of Phoenix goes through a very open and transparent budget process. I would put our process against any process in the country, or any city across the country. We're going to take the budget proposal the city manager has put forward. I, as mayor, will do what I need to do, which is to listen to people's idea and concerns. Obviously in May we will actually vote upon that budget. The reality is, is that revenue projections didn't equal what the reality is and that's a challenging thing. Myself and form Vice-mayor Bill Gates wrote a memo to our city manager asking that we look into the way we do budgeting and make sure we improve upon that --
Ted Simons: I was going to ask, the projections didn't pan out by a long shot here. What happened there?
Mayor Greg Stanton: We're going to get to the bottom of that, to be perfectly frank. We've asked our new city manager, Ed is a great guy, unanimously supported by the City Council. He is an honest and ethical individual, I believe he has the trust of the community, the trust of city employees, the trust of labor groups and he certainly has my trust. I have tasked him with coming up with a better process that do these budging forcast. I'm confident he will come up with an improved process.
Ted Simons: Employee pay cuts, city positions eliminated, swimming pools and maybe senior centers closed, maybe code enforcement affected. Those things are all likely, aren't they?
Mayor Greg Stanton: I've got to be honest about something. Anything to do with employee compensation or benefits is right now being negotiated by our city manager with our employee labor groups. Until they reach agreement -- and I believe they will reach agreement -- I don't want to prejudge any changes in that regard. It's important to note that the proposed budget does not include any changes to employee compensation. It would be inappropriate for the city manager to include any changes to employee compensation until they have been agreed to. We have a meet and confer process. We have a long term trust relationship with our labor groups. We've got to continue on that path.
Ted Simons: The other factors, swimming pools and such likely to be closed, you might see some code enforcement stuff. Critics are saying projection is one thing but the city has been simply overspending.
Mayor Greg Stanton: Well, often it comes up, the issue of pension and other types of long term compensation. When I game mayor we took some immediate and strong steps to reform the pension system. We put pension on the ballot;It was overwhelmingly supported. 80%. The increase in terms of saving from that will increase over time. We passed significant pension spiking reform. You define those two it's going to save over $800 million. We have tough decisions we need to make in the short run. I won't prejudge those decisions because we haven't gone through the public process. My number one job as mayor is to listen to the people of the city of Phoenix. This city had almost a $300 million budget deficit just a few years ago. Working with the community and our employees we were able to get through those tough times. These are short-term challenges; we will do exactly the same processes. Work with the community and in partnership with our labor groups and we will come up with a budget that minimizes the impact on public safety, minimizes the impact on our core city services. That's been my values and ethics my entire time in public life.
Ted Simons: And very quickly, look at ways those deficits got there and make them not -- don't do that again.
Mayor Greg Stanton: We have to look both short term and long term. That's exactly what we're asking our city management to do. As mayor and council, we don't have a budget office, our former government is such that the budget conversation really happens with the city management. Ultimately the buck stops with me. Ultimately the mayor and counsel are the ones that will vote on this particular budget. People want to kind of get to the end of the story at the beginning but the truth is we have to go through this incredibly important process.
Ted Simons: Mayor, thanks for joining us.
Mayor Greg Stanton:As always, my pleasure.