Mesa’s economic future is unsure. The city doesn’t spend enough time marketing itself. West Mesa is showing signs of deterioration. The residents of Mesa’s District 3 shared those and other concerns Tuesday with people they hope will have solutions — candidates for mayor and City Council.
It was the first formal occasion for residents to hear from District 3’s two council candidates, Dennis Kavanaugh and Mark Yarbrough.
Dobson Ranch resident and former planning director Frank Mizner cited issues with restaurants in the area closing, a lack of manpower in code compliance enforcement, and the risk of devolving into “two Mesas,” east and west.
“I find myself saying 'I live in Dobson Ranch’ instead of Mesa,” Mizner said.
Other questions touched on specific sites in District 3, such as the area near Fiesta Mall.
“Like that atrocity at the northwest corner of Southern and Alma School,” said Marlborough Mesa neighborhood resident Linda Starr. “I can’t tell you how it pains me to see it every time I drive by.”
The corner of Southern Avenue and Alma School Road has been vacant for months and is now surrounded by a chain-link fence.
The candidates assured residents they share their concerns.
Tone and attitude at the city level can help in policymaking, Kavanaugh said.
“I would start with a positive attitude,” he said. “I think we have a great community with a wonderful past.”
Kavanaugh was part of the original conversation to revitalize the Fiesta area along Southern Avenue between Dobson and Alma School roads, and would promote the city’s efforts to continue that.
Yarbrough suggested that City Council members should be out talking to developers and persuading them to come to Mesa.
The mayoral candidates also added their opinions on the development near Fiesta Mall.
Claudia Walters noted TGI Friday’s on Longmore had closed, but asked the crowd whether they had heard of the same restaurant closing in Chandler.
“It’s normal for an area to go through redevelopment,” she said.
Former District 5 Councilman Rex Griswold cited redevelopment efforts by Banner Desert Medical Center, Westcor and Mesa Community College.
He said owners of property like that at Alma School Road and Southern Avenue are absentee landlords and should be held accountable.
“They are the linchpins of the whole area,” he said.
Former developer Scott Smith said that he has worked all over the Valley, and that developers receive mixed messages from the city.
“The perception among business people is that dealing with Mesa is negative,” Smith said.
Yarbrough said all of the candidates want Mesa to be great, but differ on the path.
“I would try a different route and be more proactive,” he said. “We need people on the council with energy.”
Yarbrough’s community experience comes from Mesa Little League and parent-teacher organizations.
The Mesa native, 34, is director of operations at a Scottsdale communications company and has a background in information technology and computer programming.
Kavanaugh served on the Mesa City Council from 1996 to 2004, serving as vice mayor for two of those years. He was born in St. Louis in 1953.
He is a partner in the Mesa law firm Day Kavanaugh P.C., specializing in workers’ compensation and Social Security disability law.
Yarbrough and Kavanaugh differed on how to use proposed secondary property taxes.
Residents will vote on two bond projects in November that would be funded with a secondary property tax, a dedicated revenue stream that would only pay for bond measures.
The city has the option to apply the tax revenue to existing bond measures as well, something Kavanaugh said should be considered.
“All revenues available should be on the table,” he said.
But Yarbrough said he wouldn’t support that move, since Mesa voters didn’t approve such a method.
“Enough tricks from the City Council,” he said. “We need to be upfront and honest.”
• District 5 and mayor forum — noon to 1:30 p.m. today, MCC Red Mountain, 7110 E. McKellips Road
• District 1 and mayor forum — 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. Thursday, Westwood High School, 945 W. Eighth St.
• District 4 and mayor forum — 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. Jan. 30, Mesa Southwest Museum, 53 N. Macdonald
• District 6 and mayor forum — 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. Jan. 31, Jefferson Elementary School, 120 S. Jefferson