Ted Simons: Coming up next on "Arizona Horizon," it's our monthly visit with Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton. We'll talk about a variety of issues regarding Arizona's biggest city. Also tonight we'll hear about a strategic plan to address the state's water future. Those stories next on "Arizona Horizon."
Narrator: "Arizona Horizon" is made possible by contributions from the Friends of Eight, members of your Arizona PBS station. Thank you.
Ted Simons: Good evening and welcome to "Arizona Horizon," I'm Ted Simons. Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton visits our studios each month and joins us to discuss issues important to Phoenix, such as police-involved shootings, light-rail expansion and possible political conventions. Joining us is Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton.
Greg Stanton: Happy to be here, I'm a happy mayor. Our Arizona Rattlers won the Arena Bowl over the weekend. Third championship in a row. We are championship title town for the Arena Football League.
Ted Simons: Did they have a parade through town? Are you aware of a parade through town?
Greg Stanton: We have organized a parade Wednesday afternoon at downtown Phoenix. The parade for the world champion Arizona Rattlers.
Ted Simons: All right, there you go. Let's get to other things going on here. A town hall of sorts, a public meeting, a situation -- thoughts on the shooting of this 50-year-old woman, a woman being picked up for mental health issues. She winds up being shot and killed. Give us your thoughts on this. And again, where the city goes forward with something like this.
Greg Stanton: We did have a very important community forum yesterday called Bridging the Gap between the Phoenix Police Department and the community. The more that we can communicate with all people in our community, all the wonderfully diverse elements of our community, leaders in the community, the more the Phoenix Police Department can not only communicate but be as transparent as possible, the better our city will be. I have met with the mother of Michelle Cusso, who was killed about a week and a half ago. I've met with other community leaders very involved in the case. I've spoken with the police chief many times about this matter. The police chief was at the forum yesterday. I am very, very proud of Chief Garcia for the decisions he made in this case. He has moved the investigation to an independent investigation with DPS, Department of Public Safety. That investigation will be reviewed by the county attorney's office. So a request was made by Michelle's mother that we do an independent investigation and the chief has requested that. In addition, he's asked for a full review of our training for our Phoenix police officers as it relates to their interaction with individuals with mental illness, including SMI, serious mental illness. A great city, a great Police Department, a great city is always willing to look in the mirror and say, how can we improve. That's exactly the process we're going through right now.
Ted Simons: Critics will say, seriously mentally ill or otherwise, a 50-year-old woman with a hammer, shot and killed?
Greg Stanton: We have to go through an investigative process. The mother of Michelle did ask for an independent investigation. That's exactly what's occurring. We're trying to get to the bottom of the -- what the facts were. This investigation will not only look at the facts, whether there were any criminal issues that should be reviewed, as well. I -- this chief has appropriately handed it over to DPS and given them the full opportunity to look at this case any way they want to review the case. It's a true independent investigation. And look, our Phoenix police officers obviously have an incredibly difficult job. They actually go out every single day and have to pick up people that have been adjudicated a threat to themselves or others, and take them to the facilities where they can get the treatment they need to better manage their mental health issues. Phoenix Police Department is put in this situation every day. We want to make sure we're doing this in the best way possible, best for the individual being picked up, best for the Phoenix police officers, best for the community as a whole. That's exactly what this review process is going to do. We want to be engaging in best practices in the City of Phoenix. We will look at what other cities do. If there's a better way of doing it we will adopt the best practices.
Ted Simons: If that includes, and obviously the police, they have so many things they need to do and so many things in which public safety is involved. In this particular situation maybe mental health pickups, do you maybe bring someone else along? Do you get someone who's not necessarily -- pure law and order skills, but perhaps has more skills on mental health pickups?
Greg Stanton: Yes. The chief and I have -- I've already met with leaders from the mental health community and they have been very, very supportive of the Phoenix Police Department. They want to make sure, if they have ideas on how to improve the protocols in this regard that they offer the services from community response networks, from our local behavioral health authority here in the region. I know I'm looking for leadership and help from them. And I know Chief Garcia -- I'm so proud of him for being such an open-minded leader, always looking for ways to improve. I know he's very open-minded, as well. We don't want to change policies quickly, we want to make sure we're engaging in best practices. We will be looking to the mental health leadership and community for ideas about how to better handle these situations.
Ted Simons: Last question on this, there's an impression especially in certain parts of the country that police-involved shootings are on the increase and public trust in the Police Departments is on the decrease. As far as it pertains to Phoenix, are you seeing that?
Greg Stanton: Well, look. There is unfortunately always people who are going to distrust law enforcement. And we've seen national headlines about this issue where it's played out unfortunately in a very difficult way in other parts of the country. I can only speak for this city, this chief, this Police Department. And I have full confidence that we are always going to ask the question, can we be doing more to build trust? Can we be reaching out even more to all of the communities of Phoenix? No matter what part of town, no matter what socioeconomic group, every single community, every person in this city needs to feel like law enforcement is there to support them and protect them. If there are ways that we can do it even better, I think we're going to do it better. This chief has asked for a review for the last five years of every single shooting in which there was a death. It was a courageous thing for him to do. We will get information to review each of those cases to find out what can we as a city, as a department, do better for the safety of the officers, for the safety of the citizenry as a whole. These are challenging and tough issues, but not issues we are unwilling to tackle, to ask tough questions about, that's what great cities do.
Ted Simons: Let's move on to light rail. You want to triple light rail. Why?
Greg Stanton: We have to. A great city, if we're going to achieve our goals as a city, particularly our long term economic development goals as a city, we have to be a great multimodal city. That involves not just significantly increasing light rail, but also involves increasing bus service, bus rapid transit, the bikeability of the city, the walkability of the city. You cannot be a car-centric city that's over reliant on automobiles. You have to have as many options for people as possible. Companies looking to move here or expand operations, those forward-thinking cities on the cutting edge of providing the best quality public transportation are cities that are going to get ahead in the future. Phoenix needs to be on the cutting edge.
Ted Simons: We had Councilwoman Thelda Williams on to talk about the ideas. As opposed to where they go, and bus and street improvements are included, let's talk about how the city can afford it. Critics say you can't.
Ted Simons: When Mayor Rimsa was mayor, he took a strong position on transit, he did ask the voters to support a revenue source directly for total transportation, by the way, not just light rail or busses but also bus pullouts so the experience for car riders in the city would be a more pleasant experience, and that was overwhelmingly supported by the people of the City of Phoenix. What we've asked former ADOT director, former secretary of transportation under the Bush administration, Mary Peters, there is not a better transportation leader in the United States of America than Mary Peters. She is leading our citizens committee to give advice to myself and the council about light rail improvements, bus improvements, and street transportation improvements. With the recession we need to do more to catch up with street transit improvements. And she’s going to advice to members of the council on how to finance it. Anything we do would have to go to the City of Phoenix for support. It'll only move forward if people end up supporting it.
Ted Simons: If they don't, I believe that sales tax expires in 2020, correct?
Greg Stanton: Correct.
Ted Simons: If they don't, you can only build about five more miles in the next six years. You're going to have to make a pretty strong case for those voters.
Greg Stanton: If we're not moving forward on transportation, we're moving backwards as a city. If we are not successful in getting a reauthorization of the transit 2000 revenue source, then we are -- light rail is not going go away but the amount of operations will significantly be reduced. Buses won't go away, but the ability of Phoenix, the Centre City, one of the largest cities in America to provide a high quality bus system, will go away. We’re going to have a minimalist system. When it comes to transportation, you're moving forward or the other direction. I believe the people of Phoenix will want to move the city forward.
Ted Simons: Some say when it comes to funding you can either fund this light rail expansion or address aging infrastructure, roads, sewers, waterlines, they all need help now. That also indicates another major American city moving forward.
Greg Stanton: This is a city, when it comes to water infrastructure, we have an excellent water infrastructure. If we need to do more we will do more. This is not a city that is afraid to take on the issue of important infrastructure improvements. On transportation, look, during the worst of the recession the legislature significantly cut back and in fact eliminated her funding. It's started to head in the right direction. We need our friends in the legislature to realize how important street funding is to the entire economy of this state. That her funding, which is street improvement funding for the City of Phoenix, shouldn't be their piggy bank to balance their budget. It's a critically important funding mechanism for the infrastructure of the entire state. So, we're headed in the right direction.
Ted Simons: Last question on this. Critics say taxpayers pay for and subsidize 78% of light rail operations but only 2% to 4% of people in the city, in the region, use the light rail. They don't see the balance there. Do you see the balance there?
Greg Stanton: Light rail has been a massive success, not only from the perspective of those that use light rail, and by the way, ridership is already at2020 levels and beyond. What critics also need to realize, there have been $7 billion of investment along the light rail, the existing line, much of that would not have occurred without it being there. Light rail done right, done well, spurs huge opportunity for the city of Phoenix. The more we can improve public transportation, the more we can expand light-rail. A huge economic development and benefits go along with it. When you recruit companies and entrepreneurs to move to your cities they want to attract people that may not want to use vehicles as their mode of transportation. They want to come to a city that is forward thinking when it comes to transportation. I'm telling you, if we don't move forward we're headed in the wrong direction.
Ted Simons: 2016 Democratic convention, that is real, that is valid? You're going to get a bunch of Democrats, here pounding the pavement at 116-degree heat?
Greg Stanton: If the Democratic National Committee is smart they will choose Phoenix for their 2016 convention. We made a run the Republican convention, as well. Remember, Phoenix was one of the final two cities along with Tampa for the Republican convention 2012. They in part didn’t pick us because of weather. But they had hurricanes in Tampa, they missed a night of the convention, so we're ready for it. We have the hotel infrastructure, convention center infrastructure; US Airways Arena is second to none. We can host a convention of this magnitude and we can do it well. If the Democratic national committee were smart, they would see the Convention Center is right across the street from US Airways Arena. I will personally hold a fan for each delegate that comes. That 50-foot walk will be as cool as possible.
Ted Simons: You might be able to hold a fan, but why would Democrats convene in a red state?
Greg Stanton: Putting aside the politics, this is the right city to host a convention, but we're also a wonderfully diverse city. We are a soon-to-be a majority Latino city. We are one of the highest Native populations in the United States of America. If you want to send a political message here, that your political party supports the diverse communities that make up the United States of America, there is not a better city in the country than Phoenix, AZ to make that statement. So not only is it good politics but they are going to have one heck of a convention. It's going to be a lot of fun and -- convenient. We will put on the best political convention in the history of political conventions if they choose Phoenix. We are ready.
Ted Simons: All right, good to see you.
Greg Stanton: Good to see you.