Richardson: Time for change in Tempe - East Valley Tribune: Opinion

Richardson: Time for change in Tempe

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Posted: Thursday, May 15, 2008 12:00 am | Updated: 10:23 pm, Fri Oct 7, 2011.

When I read that Tempe Mayor Hugh Hallman wants to spend $450,000 to redesign the city’s railroad crossings to help reduce noise from trains that run through some of the Tempe’s wealthiest neighborhoods, it made me all warm and fuzzy.

Then when I read that he also wants to spend $400,000 to help refurbish an old adobe home in his north Tempe neighborhood, I got even warmer and fuzzier.

And I really got warm and fuzzy when I read about his championing the moving of an adobe house from Paradise Valley to his neighborhood as part of Tempe’s new sustainability program.

In my warmness and fuzziness, I had to wonder why Tempe needs a sustainability project when Arizona State University already has one?

I calculated that almost $1 million was being sunk into pet projects.

And now its been reported that Tempe cut a check for more than $500,000 to pay for repairs to a broken water pipe. They hope to get paid back by the company that purportedly did the damage. Good luck, Tempe doesn’t have the best track record in its past legal battles.

Throw in the hundreds of thousands of dollars recently paid out to the former city attorney, human resources director, chief of police and two assistant chiefs to work from home or promise not to sue the city, and it’s tax-and-spend time in Tempe.

Tempe faces serious financial problems and is looking at a hiring freeze and cutting $1.8 million dollars from the payroll.

Tempe has become a city of spend, spend, spend. And that’s when the mayor and his ad hoc budget-cutting committee want department heads to come up with a plan to cut their budgets by 15 percent and provide ways they can increase revenue to the city. A nice phrase for an indirect tax increase.

While the mayor says he’s an economist and Vice Mayor Hut Hutson proclaims he’s a money whiz and independent investor, I have to wonder if anyone has any common sense when it comes to spending tax money?

Tempe needs to stay afloat and meet the needs of the entire city, not just the wealthiest, those in the the mayor’s ’hood, and the pig that gobbles up much of Tempe’s resources — downtown. The downtown that’s supposed to support the rest of the city. Yeah right, when pigs fly.

With the City Council election just days away, I have to think that it’s time Tempe city government return to a common sense-based form of government that served the community for decades under former mayors such as Harry Mitchell and council members including Joe Spracale. That same kind of common sense guided the city to become the most copied city in the state, and every neighborhood was part of the city’s foundation, not just those that are wealthy and politically connected. That was then …

There are four candidates competing for the two openings.

Hutson, a retired prison officer, is a member of the mayor’s budget-cutting committee and inner circle.

Julie Jacubek, a Scottsdale-based agent for Allstate Insurance, wants to run Tempe like a business. She and Hutson support Hallman in wanting to cut property taxes by $3 or $4 per month for city residents. She’s received the public endorsement of Hallman. Both candidates getting elected are the key to Hallman’s controlling the council.

Joel Navarro is a Phoenix Fire Department captain. At the Phoenix Fire Department, one of the most respected fire department in the United States, leadership and innovation are second to none. Navarro’s background in mutual aid, inter-city cooperation and firs-hand public safety knowledge could prove to be extremely beneficial in a city where public safety costs have soared.

Tempe doesn’t have the best reputation when it comes to playing well with others. In my March 7 column, “Tempe can’t cut cops’ budget corners,” I wrote about Chandler City Councilman Martin Sepulveda’s efforts to establish a formalized agreement between East Valley cities in the attack on crime. The plan never got off of the ground; Tempe didn’t sign up.

Corey Woods works for the American Lung Association on environmental issues. As an African-American, he has firsthand knowledge of diversity issues and how to meet those needs. No doubt his knowledge of environmental issues would aid a city that is trapped between freeways and where pollution is a way of life.

The choices are clear. More of the same or maybe a return to common sense when it comes to spending and governing.

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