Mesa City Councilwoman Janie Thom voted to support a residential subdivision in the Williams Gateway Airport flight path less than three weeks after a homebuilders lobbying group launched a campaign to support her re-election bid.
The Home Builders Association of Central Arizona created a political committee, Citizens for Responsible Government, on Feb. 3 — a day after the case was first discussed by the council.
The independent expenditures committee, which cannot consult with Thom, has sent one mailer to District 6 voters asking them to vote March 14 for Thom over challenger Scott Somers.
In September, Thom received an $1,800 contribution from the association and a $370 contribution from Wilford Cardon, whose company owns the land that benefited from Thom’s vote.
Both Thom and the association denied there was any connection between their financial support for her and her decision on Tuesday. The vote allows residential homes in an area where homebuilders had been shut out by Thom — and other council members — who until now had consistently voted to preserve the land for future employment uses.
Thom said she had received the campaign mailer but did not know the association’s money was funding it.
“We worked with her for a few years and found her to be a solid voice for the business community,” said Lauren Barnett, deputy director of the association.
On Tuesday, Thom and Councilman Tom Rawles voted against rezoning 75 acres northeast of Ellsworth and Elliot roads from oneacre residential to commercial and employment uses. The action, approved 5-2, required six yes votes because of a legal protest.
The land had been zoned for one-acre home sites since it was annexed by Mesa in 1990. Cornerstone Homes, which is buying the land from Cardon, was ready to submit a plan for a 52-home subdivision when Mesa initiated the zoning request to stop their plan. Thom said she disapproved of the way the city handled the situation.
On Thursday, Mayor Keno Hawker sent a letter to Thom asking her to reconsider her vote, which Thom called a political ploy designed to promote her opponent, strongly supported by Hawker.
Somers said he questions why Thom would say she is for protecting Williams Gateway for future job growth and then vote against the zoning.
“We have outside special interests coming in and that really concerns me,” Somers said.
Somers, a Phoenix firefighter, did not receive contributions from the association or Cardon, but according to his latest filing had raised $21,908 — nearly twice as much as Thom’s $11,963 — with strong support from police and fire unions.