Talking with John Giles and Danny Ray, it is immediately obvious that neither man previously saw himself where the two find themselves now, campaigning for the office of mayor in Mesa. And yet, in a few short weeks, the residents of Mesa must choose between the two of them to replace interim Mayor Alex Finter and lead the City Council.
Ray, a general contractor and father of six, wastes no time making his position clear — less debt, lower taxes and less government control over the daily lives of citizens as well as the ins and outs of local business. Mesa’s greatest challenge, to hear him tell it, is getting the City Council out of the way and encouraging citizens to get involved in mandating municipal strategy. He does make some legitimate points that ring true with the conservative population of Mesa. The city’s accrual of bonded debt has accelerated rapidly and, according to the current bond proposal, will continue to do so. He claims that this issue is the most worrisome to many people with whom he has spoken.
But how does Ray plan to do the things he talks about? Encouraging citizen involvement is always admirable but that doesn’t equate to laying out a demonstrable plan of action, which voters expect to see before they approve a candidate for office. Like it or not, politicians are elected to carry out a plan they advertise during the campaign season. Ray talks about concepts but doesn’t offer concrete solutions. At times, members of our editorial board questioned if Ray fully understands the issues he is talking about or the process that most well-run cities use to fund infrastructure.
Giles, a lawyer and former City Council member, said that he wants to be the “Scott Smith-esque” mayor that Mesa needs to continue the good work of its former leader. His talking points are fairly simple — what the city has been doing is working and he intends to take the pattern that has worked in the Gateway area to Falcon Field, the Fiesta district, Main Street, and then to other areas of the city. Bringing in more big businesses and creating jobs in areas where big-box retailers have failed is No. 1 on his agenda.
On the other hand, Giles seems confused, himself, about exactly what to do in terms of economic development in the coming light-rail corridor. While claiming that the city needs more jobs for its current residents and not more low-income housing to attract more residents, he points out what great strides are being made in Tempe to build apartment buildings along the light rail, and how the same could be done along Apache in Mesa. Which is it — more business growth or more housing? Giles tries, in a very apparent way, to come across as a man of the people, while his vision for the city seems more focused on the development of the large businesses he wants to bring into town.
In summary, the choice is a difficult one. The two options amount to a candidate with no plan vs. a candidate whose plan may or may not be flawed, depending on one’s point of view. It is the terrible conundrum common in cities of our size — there is no Greg Stanton, no John McCain, and no grand orator with both experience and a lightning-rod plan of action to support or oppose. In the end, voting for a candidate for local office can easily become a gamble on the more promising of two unknowns. Each voter must make a very real and serious decision for his or her self.
We cannot support a candidate who describes grand concepts but lacks the apparent experience and knowledge to transform these ideas into reality. Perhaps, after a term on the City Council, Ray might convince us that he can implement his vision for the city. Our endorsement must go to Giles with the addendum that, to truly succeed, he must put more focus on issues that matter to the working classes of Mesa. Hopefully, he will take heed and do so, if elected.