For the East Valley election season which ended Tuesday, experience proved to be no virtue. To no one’s surprise, Scott Smith won his first election by easily defeating former City Councilman Rex Griswold in Mesa’s mayoral race, inheriting a city budget that’s $16 million in the red and 460,000 constituents divided on how to tackle it.
The former homebuilder clearly wanted the job, and assembled an unlikely, unbeatable coalition of rank-and-file voters unhappy with the city’s budget and image problems and political veterans who many hold responsible for those problems. We congratulate him, and hope he can be as effective a mayor as he was a campaigner.
To do this, he needs to flesh out what it will take to “build a better Mesa.” His campaign released a list of 10 “first tasks” last month, which offered a useful timeline; Start the search for budget cuts and review the proposed $408 million bond package in June and July, establish a clear policy on illegal immigration from September through December, etc.
What Smith doesn’t offer is any hint of what he would take out of the budget or bond package he expects to change, what he expects from an immigration policy beyond continuing the fight against drop houses and human trafficking, and so on.
Smith maintained all along that Mesa needs stronger leadership. But voters will be asking sooner than later exactly where Smith is taking them.
Tempe voters also gravitated toward novelty, with Vice Mayor Hut Hutson finishing last in Tuesday’s results for the City Council race there.
Eleventh-hour questions about Hutson contacting an ambulance company owner for campaign donations probably didn’t help, but Hutson also finished last in the primary and his fate was likely sealed in early balloting.
Twenty-nine-year-old Corey Woods and 40-year-old Joel Navarro thus head to the council, succeeding with a shared reluctance to lower the property tax rate if it might jeopardize important projects. Tempeans are embracing change, in the council chambers and on the city streets.