Mesa Election guide: Change is guaranteed - East Valley Tribune: News

Mesa Election guide: Change is guaranteed

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Posted: Sunday, March 9, 2008 3:09 am | Updated: 9:07 pm, Fri Oct 7, 2011.

Mesa’s Tuesday election is shaping up to be one of the most notable races in the city’s history. Four of six City Council seats will be occupied by someone new and the city will have a new mayor.

Most love Mesa, but some feel it's 'off track'

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Among the possibilities: the city’s first Hispanic council member, an all-male council for the first time in years, Mesa’s second female mayor, and several political newcomers.

In its first month in office, this new group will be responsible for examining the city’s first property tax since 1947 and other issues headed for a November ballot.

They also will inherit a city wracked by financial crises, divided between a growing east side and an aging west side, and immersed in a debate about illegal immigration.

With more than 33,000 early ballots already in, total voter turnout is promising to be one of the highest Mesa’s ever seen.


Matt Tolman

Age: 41

Education: Bachelor’s degree, political science, Arizona State University

Occupation: Owner of JMT Management, a property management company; owns area coin laundry businesses

Community involvement: Boy Scout leader; chairman, Republican Legislative District 18; Little League coach; vice chairman, Arizona State Republican Party


• Streamline government, says that Mesa has a “spending not a revenue problem.”

• Opposes city bond package that would create secondary property tax.

• Give all police officers authority to question someone’s immigration status.

Dave Richins

Age: 38

Education: Studied sustainable development at Prescott College, no degree

Occupation: Executive director, West Mesa Community Development Corp., a nonprofit based on neighborhood improvement

Community involvement: Board of directors, Mesa Historical Museum; Mesa Community College Commission on Excellence in Education; volunteer leader, Boy Scouts of America; Mesa Public Schools Career and Technical Advisory Board


• Revitalize aging west Mesa.

• Question those suspected of being illegal immigrants in the field and in jails.

• Extend light rail and help set up a framework to build mixed-use developments along the rail line.


Alex Finter

Age: 47

Education: Mesa Community College, University of Phoenix, no degree.

Occupation: Worldwide Investments.

Community involvement: Vice chairman, Planning and Zoning Board; vice president, Mesa Public Safety Foundation; chairman, Disabilities Committee, Human Relations advisory board.


• Make public safety a priority.

• Revisit recommendations on how to fund city services.

• Finance proposed bond projects a different way, such as via a sales tax increase.

• Find creative ways to maintain city services such as using temporary fire stations.

Manny Cortez

Age: 70

Occupation: Owner, Cortez Electric.

Community involvement: Youth coach, 49 years; Irving School PTO and classroom/events volunteer; Community Bridges (formerly EVAC); Mesa Mayor’s Advisory Group; Mesa Day Labor Task Force; Crime Prevention and Gang Prevention Board; Mesa Citizen Police Academy; Mesa Parks and Recreation Board; Mesa Association of Hispanic Citizens; Martin Luther King Committee.


• Support the proposed bond issues and associated property tax.

• Do not sell the city electric department.

• Use incentives fairly.

• Focus on quality of life — parks, streets, safety.


Dennis Kavanaugh

Age: 54

Education: B.A, political science, 1975, Saint Louis University; J.D., 1978, Arizona State University College of Law

Occupation: Lawyer, Day Kavanaugh PC

Community involvement: Chairman, Banner Desert Hospital Community Advisory Board; chairman, Mesa Arts Center Foundation; vice president, Child Crisis Center; member, Mesa Community College Commission on Excellence; past chairman, Mesa Historical Society; board member, National Association of State Arts Assemblies; board member, West Mesa Community Development Corp.; Mesa City Council, vice mayor


• Update streets and lighting in Fiesta District.

• Ask residents to re-examine primary property tax — possibly for limited purposes such as police and fire.

• Pass proposed bond projects and look at using tax revenue to pay for past bond debt.

• Work as coordinator with businesses to help reinvestment.

Mark Yarbrough

Age: 34

Education: Gateway Community College, no degree

Occupation: Director of operations, Andiamo Telecom

Community involvement: President, vice president, Crismon PTA; president, vice president, Mesa American Little League; volunteer staff, Little League Baseball; AZ District 7 member; Mesa Youth Sports Coalition member; Mesa Parent Youth Athletic Association


• Restore trust in government with open communication.

• Pass the bond projects, but do not use the secondary property tax to pay for past bonds.

• Work with businesses to solve blight.

• Wait to extend light rail to determine how many people use it.


Phil Austin

Age: 57

Education: Law school graduate, University of California, Berkeley

Occupation: Private law practice, Law Offices of Phillip A. Austin

Community involvement: Member, Mesa Community College Commission on Excellence; president, Mesa Association of Hispanic Citizens; member, A.T. Still University Development Board; governing board member, Mesa General Hospital; Citizen Advisory Committee member, University of Arizona/Arizona State University Medical School, Phoenix


• Re-examine efficiency of city departments.

• Examine option of privatizing city services in fields such as the arts.

• Make public safety the top priority.

• Open illegal immigration dialogue to promote understanding of issues.

Dina Higgins

Age: 47

Education: Bachelor of Science, mechanical engineering, Michigan Technological University

Occupation: Former automotive safety engineer, currently a math tutor and substitute high school teacher

Community involvement: Past chairwoman, Mesa Board of Adjustment; chairwoman-elect, Mesa Leadership Training and Development board; co-chairwoman, Citrus Area Homeowners; director, Church Leadership Team; planning team member, Citrus Sub Area Plan; neighborhood representative, Planning Code Redesign Focus Group


• Revisit the Mesa 2025 Financing the Future Report.

• Encourage sales and marketing team to promote Mesa.

• Form citizen advisory boards to discuss $408 million bond projects.

• Create east Mesa version of Mesa Community Development Corp.

Vern Mathern

Age: 68

Education: Bachelor of Science, biology, agriculture, pre-veterinary medicine, North Dakota State University; Master of Science, systems management, University of Southern California

Occupation: Retired from The Boeing Company in August 2005

Community involvement: Former chairman, Mesa Transportation Advisory Board; former member, Mesa Economic Development Advisory Board; member, Mesa Arts Center Foundation Board; member, East Valley Partnership; former president, Alta Mesa Townhomes Association; annual fundraiser, Art on the Move


• Promote arts and culture.

• Focus on transportation and economic development.

• Brand Mesa as a quality-of-life city.

• Use seniors’ time and talent at schools, colleges and libraries to reduce budget deficit.


Scott Smith

Age: 51

Education: Bachelor’s degree, accounting, Brigham Young University; Master of Business, Arizona State University; law degree, ASU

Occupation: Former homebuilder and head of Great Western Homes. Executive with K. Hovnanian Homes, which purchased Great Western.

Community involvement: Past campaign chairman, Mesa United Way; board member, East Valley Partnership


• Immigration — Said the city “should meet the immigration issue head on.” Said the city lacks a clear direction on what its immigration policy is.

• City bonds — Said the city has real needs in public safety and that bonds should support them. Said current $408 million proposal should be reviewed.

•Solutions to the city’s budget problems — Said short-term and long-term problems exist. Advocates selling land, managing city efficiently and promoting economic development.

Claudia Walters

Age: 54

Education: Bachelor of Science in marriage, family and human development, Brigham Young University; teacher certification program, BYU

Occupation: Co-founder, C&S Investment Properties; founding administrator, Arizona Business and Education Coalition; consultant

Community involvement: vice mayor, City Council; Mesa Public Schools Board; National League of Cities and Towns; board member, Mesa United Way


• Immigration — Criminal illegal aliens should be the city’s top priority. Needs to work in cooperation with federal government with limited city resources.

• City bonds — Supports the $408 million package for police, fire and roads. Considers them core government services that would be cut without bonds.

• Solutions to city’s budget problems — Said City Council already froze most hiring. Said tough decisions await about what to defer.

Rex Griswold

Age: 55

Education: Graduate, Cornell University

Occupation: Restaurant consultant. Owns the building at Anzio Landing, a business he built and operated in east Mesa.

Community involvement: Mesa City Council, resigned to run for mayor; Junior Achievement of Arizona; Baseline Rotary; Mesa Chamber of Commerce


• Immigration — Advocates pursuing funds to train officers and jailers to ask about immigration status of criminal suspects. Says city needs to continue to work with Immigration Customs and Enforcement.

• City bonds — Says Mesa residents should have the opportunity to decide a $408 million bond package focused on public safety and road work.

• Solutions to city budget problems — Criticizes the city’s financing structure that relies heavily on sales tax. Says city should reform spending policies. Says he has balanced a budget within tight budget constraints.


Home rule

Called Question 1 on the ballot, a “yes” vote on the issue would allow the city to extend an exception to a state-imposed spending cap currently used in many East Valley cities.

A “no” vote on the question would lead Mesa to slash $100 million from its budget, which would impact a cross section of Mesa’s services, including police and fire services.

Prop. 300

The initiative concerns a developer versus neighborhood residents issue in east Mesa. The City Council approved a zoning change allowing an industrial park to be built by Dove Communities near Germann and Ellsworth roads and adjacent to a neighborhood named Queens Park.

A “yes” vote on the proposition would allow that zoning change approved by the city in the area south of the airport envisioned for industrial development.

A “no” vote would overturn the zoning change and help preserve the rural quality of the Queens Park neighborhood.

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