Today Mesa and Tempe voters are getting a dress rehearsal for November, as they come to the climax for pivotal elections with ramifications far beyond their cities' own borders.
The two form the nexus of the East Valley and have a combined population of nearly 625,000. Mesa faces tall budgetary challenges, and to engineer a stable future has pivotal decisions to make on the Gateway area in the southeast and Waveyard in the northwest. Tempe is on the brink of having an urban, "vertical" northern end which longtime residents won't even recognize, and will likely be sending more traffic up Scottsdale's way.
Mesa could end up with a nearly unrecognizable council, depending on whether recent ex-City Councilman Rex Griswold pulls off an upset over Scott Smith, a neophyte who's managed to get backing from most of the city's political establishment. Phil Austin and Dina Higgins are in the runoff for Griswold's old seat in District 5.
Tempe has four candidates in a runoff for two City Council seats - candidates who have mainly distinguished themselves from each other by how eager they are to cut the city's property tax rate in reaction to rising property values, versus collecting revenue for projects in the transforming city. The contenders have thus ended up on two slates, with incumbent Hut Hutson and Julie Jakubek maintaining the city can accomplish all it needs with a lower rate, while Joel Navarro and Corey Woods aren't so sure.
The results of today's vote, plus the early balloting of the past several weeks, will be important, and we encourage everyone eligible who hasn't voted to make their voices heard.
But what's going to be even more crucial is whether interest in community affairs survives the election season. Just as there are many nationwide issues which won't be easily resolved once we have a new president, elected officials and residents of Mesa and Tempe will have many decisions to make before those cities' future paths become clear.