Mesa Mayor John Giles came away last week from the 87th annual United States Conference of Mayors with a prestigious award.
During a conference in which hundreds of mayors gathered to discuss immigration, trade, affordable housing, Census 2020 and jobs, Giles picked up the Outstanding Achievement 2019 Large City Livability Award for the city’s Community Court Program.
The award, picked by former mayors from a pool of 100 contestants, recognizes “mayoral leadership in developing and implementing programs that improve the quality of life in America’s cities, focusing on the leadership, creativity and innovation demonstrated by the mayors,” according to a city release.
The goal of Community Court is to interrupt that cycle of addiction, homelessness and arrest, giving the most desperate of defendants an opportunity to regain their self-esteem and to live productive lives.
The Community Court’s defendants are handed sentences that focus on personal improvement — such as attending alcohol or drug counseling and finding a place to live.
Unlike conventional courts, the Community Court adds “navigators’’— representatives of social service agencies such as Community Bridges and Lutheran Indian Ministries — to help defendants connect with the services they need to improve their lives.
For many, the Mesa Municipal Court program amounts to a court of last resort — possibly their last opportunity to break free from the addiction that has derailed their lives, left them homeless and established an inexorable pattern of repeated arrests.
The arrests — sometimes individuals are arrested as many as 100 or even 200 times — are mostly for crimes of desperation, misdemeanors such as trespassing or shoplifting that are committed by people with nothing to eat and nowhere to go.
“Mesa’s Community Court is creating real change for our residents,” Mayor John Giles said. “It is an honor to be recognized by my peers at USCM.”
Giles also received the Chairman’s Award from the Latino Leaders Network for “outstanding leadership, dedication to inclusion and friendship with the Latino community.:
The Latino Leaders Network is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization dedicated to “Bringing Leaders Together” to establish relationships, build unity and share personal stories since 2004.
“Mesa is diverse, and I believe that our Latino community helps us be a vibrant, interesting and economically robust city,” Giles said.