If there’s a burning issue that’s ignited the public’s passion in the race for Tempe City Council, it’s been lost on the five candidates.
The campaign for three seats on the council isn’t defined by any big issue, controversy or personality clash.
Rather, the five candidates are appealing to voters on their personal leadership abilities or activism.
Incumbents Len Copple and Ben Arredondo say Tempe’s headed in the right direction, in part because they’ve been on the council. Challengers Shana Ellis, Onnie Shekerjian and Corey Woods say they offer a fresh voice, though they have levied mild criticisms at a few proposals for new programs or approaches. One area that has illuminated differences is a proposed topless club on McClintock Drive in north Tempe.
In a recent debate, Arredondo and Shekerjian said they oppose that kind of business and would vote against it.
That has since triggered some criticism from opponents who note the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled the First Amendment protects adult businesses.
Communities can restrict them to industrial areas and place other requirements on them without effectively banning them.
Arredondo said in a subsequent interview that his opposition wasn’t necessarily absolute. He said he’d explore legal strategies to justify a vote against it.
“I know about the freedom. I know about the Constitution,” Arredondo said. “But I’m going to vote for the community.”
Shekerjian said she believes studies of topless clubs show they lead to higher divorce rates and more spousal abuse. She said her vote might end up being a lone protest vote.
“I’m really torn because I do support constitutional rights but I don’t want to encourage them to come in,” Shekerjian said.
Copple, a retired attorney, scoffed at the idea of pledging to vote against an adult business regardless of the specifics.
“I think that’s irresponsible,” Copple said.
The city would open itself up to a lawsuit if the council voted against a business that met rules the city has in place, such as setbacks from neighborhoods and other legal requirements.
Tempe has severely limited the places adult businesses can go to just two small industrial areas, he said.
Copple said he doesn’t want the business and will look for legally justified ways to stop it.
Ellis also said she doesn’t want the club but would need legal justification to avoid a lawsuit.
“People aren’t electing me to vote purely on my emotions,” she said.
Woods said he couldn’t prejudge the issue because there’s no formal proposal.
“I’m not going to impose my morality on the city of Tempe,” Woods said.