By a number of objective measures, Gilbert is a rather nice place to live and to raise a family. Relatively safe, upscale and wealthy, Gilbert has developed a statewide and national reputation over the past decade as the best type of a modern, booming community.
One interesting question leading into the March 10 municipal election is whether Mayor Steve Berman can take credit for the town’s transformation, or has Gilbert made progress despite Berman’s eight years in office.
As Berman is seeking re-election to his third straight term, he obviously wants to be closely tied with Gilbert’s most up-lifting moments including a lower property tax rate, less crime, a regional shopping mall, three new hospitals and a shiny new freeway.
“If you look around the community and like what you see, I probably had something to do with that,” Berman said during a candidate forum Tuesday sponsored by the Tribune Editorial Board.
However, Berman wants to limit such association when the discussion turns to negative issues from the urgency to shrink Gilbert’s budget because of the recession to cost overruns while building the Big League Dreams ball fields to his use of an auto dealer’s pickup on temporary loan at no charge to the town.
When opposing candidates and critics make these points, Berman typically deflects by saying he’s just one vote of seven on the Town Council or he relied on the research and advice of the municipal staff.
If Berman wants to be praised for all of the good things in Gilbert, he has to take an equal amount of blame for what has gone wrong. It will be up to the voters to decide if the balance scale tips toward keeping him in office or to replacing with one of those challengers — Eric Hurley, John Lewis, Dave Petersen or Don Skousen.