At the Nov. 1 Mesa City Council meeting, Mayor John Giles asked his colleagues to vote on a dozen items lumped together.
“The motion passes unanimously,” he said after he and the six council representatives cast their votes.
That 7-0 score was dutifully recorded in the minutes –as it has hundreds of times in 2021.
Indeed, with little disagreement or discord evidenced, the two most common words on Mesa City Council minutes: “carried unanimously.”
As is the case elsewhere, elected city representatives control the taxes, ordinances and various local regulations proposed by managers of various departments.
But few cities seem to be as harmonious as Mesa, where Council in 2021 approved everything City Manager Chris Brady put before it.
And, almost always, those approvals were without a single no vote.
Last week, a motion to increase salaries of the mayor and city council members “carried unanimously.”
In June, Mesa City Council approved – unanimously, a record $2.1 billion budget, with across-the-board raises of 2-3 percent for all 3,562 employees, plus another $2,000 bonus for all employees in January. The action followed a similar raise-plus-bonus for employees that kicked off this calendar year.
Council meetings are open to the public and carried live on the city’s Facebook page. One resident had a snarky comment to describe the meetings: “Pep rallies for city employees.”
Council members declined to provide examples of times they voted no during 2021. Vice Mayor Jenn Duff was the only one to give a direct answer: “I voted ‘no’ once this year thus far,” she said.
Other council members refused to give specific answers, instead referring the Tribune to the meeting minutes, which record votes from all of the public meetings.
A review of the minutes show “no” votes to be as few and far between as ice-skating rinks in Mesa.
Mark Freeman voted no three times. Kevin Thompson entered two no votes. Julie Spilsbury voted no once. Francisco Heredia and David Luna voted yes every time.
Giles also did not record any no votes.
The Tribune asked the mayor how he would answer someone who says “Giles is just a ‘yes man’ who approves anything Brady wants.”
“When something comes before council for a vote at a meeting,” Giles replied, “that is not the first time the issue is being discussed. Many items on our agendas have spent months, if not years, getting to the point of a council vote.
“Staff and constituent meetings, board and committee meetings, community feedback, staff presentations and recommendations, council feedback, research and discussions all inform decisions made at council meetings.”
The review by the Tribune showed in 2021, Mesa City Council voted unanimously at least 500 times.
There were only four agenda items that received no votes. The most votes against an individual item was two, which happened twice.
“Most of the time we resolve matters during study sessions to reach consensus for council vote,” Duff noted. “Occasionally, this does not occur.”
Most study sessions are cordial,
jovial events, filled with inside jokes and chuckles.
There were a few notable exceptions, primarily passionate meetings regarding the city’s first Non Discrimination Ordinance.
Mesa’s legislative year began with a Jan. 11 City Council meeting.
According to the meeting minutes, “Mayor Giles summarized this year’s goals as having an ongoing effective pandemic response, as well as focusing on education, equality, and the environment.”
After Luna made a motion to elect Duff vice mayor, Heredia seconded it.
Council then made its first unanimous vote of the year. Next, 20 agenda items were lumped into the “consent agenda” and approved unanimously.
The speedy, less-than-30-minute meeting with little discourse set the tone
At the next meeting, 14 items were approved unanimously, although Freeman and Spilsbury voted against tobacco store Nicotine Source receiving a liquor license.
On Feb. 8, 19 agenda items received unanimous approval.
At the next council meeting, 29 items sailed through with nary a no vote. The lone exception was Thompson’s no on setting a public hearing on the NDO.
On March 1, Thompson and Freeman voted against the NDO, which passed 5-2.
Also at the March 1 meeting, City Council unanimously approved 17 items, including a change to allow a three-story office building and parking garage on West Bass Pro Drive that neighbors vehemently opposed.
“Councilmember Freeman remarked that he has looked at the issues and met with property owners and he understands their concerns,” according to the minutes, which goes on to note Freeman moved to approve the ordinance change.
Twenty items “carried unanimously” at the March 15 meeting.
The April 5 meeting, the first of the year with council members gathering in person, featured 43 unanimous votes. Two weeks later, 37 items were approved without a no vote.
Thirty-five unanimous votes took place at the May 3 meeting, followed by 41 unanimous votes two weeks later.
At the May 17 meeting, Duff objected to and voted against an $800 million “mega data center” adjacent to Eastmark that was later revealed to be planned for Facebook.
She was the only vote against the
request “Approving and authorizing the city manager to enter into a development agreement and sustainable water service agreement with Redale LLC,
for the development of approximately 396 acres of property generally located at the southeast corner of Elliot and Ellsworth roads.”
At the June 7 meeting, 32 items received unanimous approval, including a zoning change allowing for sports fields near McKellips and Country Club.
Again, neighbors lined up to voice opposition to the project. Freeman thanked the residents for their participation (Giles recognized Freeman as “a zealous advocate for the Lehi community”) before voting against their wishes.
Twenty-nine items, including the Cannon Beach development at Power and Warner roads, won unanimous approval at the June 21 meeting.
An amendment to the ordinance regulating marjiuna facilities and 22 other items were approved unanimously July 1.
Twenty-eight items, including a development agreement with El Dorado Elliot 128 on East Elliott Avenue, sailed through unanimously July 8.
An industrial park on Sossaman and Warner roads and 43 other items won unanimous approval Aug. 23.
A week later, City Council members all voted for a new Massage and Bodywork Establishment Operations ordinance and two dozen other agenda items.
On Sept. 13, City Council unanimously approved a $300,000 annual canopy contract and 21 other items during a 13-minute meeting.
A week later, it took only 7 minutes for council to approve 17 items, including the $6.9 million sale of city-owned land on North Stapley Drive and East Main Street to Country Creek Multifamily. The bulk of the meeting was made up of the reading of the agenda items.
Twenty-two items whooshed through in 17 minutes at the Oct. 4 meeting. Unanimous approvals ranged from $11,000 for Mesa Arts Center “VIP chairs” to $4.3 million for the Warner Road Lift Station Project contract.
On Oct. 18, City Council voted without discord on 34 agenda items, including a $6.4 million concrete installation and repair contract.
A request for a liquor license by the Beer Research Institute for its new downtown taproom and arcade and two dozen other agenda items were unanimously approved Nov. 1.
On Nov. 1, a raise for Brady and 24 other agenda items “carried unanimously.”
Thompson did vote against a public hearing to establish city business licenses.
But two weeks later, Thompson voted in favor of the city charging fees for business licenses; this time, Freeman was the lone vote against it.
At the Nov. 15 meeting, 48 agenda “carried unanimously.”
The “perfect record” of 2021 still may be broken, as the last Mesa City Council meetings of the year are scheduled for Dec. 1 and 8.