In the runoff race to become the next Mayor of Phoenix, former Councilman Daniel Valenzuela has brought on former McCain campaign advisors in an attempt to draw Republican support to make up the 19 point deficit in his second-place finish to former Councilwoman Kate Gallego last November.
Goals and vision for Phoenix
As a council member and potential mayor, Valenzuela sees Phoenix as a great city that he wants to help make greater and more safe, inclusive, and prosperous for the children and next generations to follow. His immediate goals if elected mayor would be expanding educational opportunities, promoting equality and economic progress, and ensuring safe communities and neighborhoods. To accomplish these goals, Councilman Valenzuela would address the public policy arenas described later in the piece.
With popular Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton resigning his office and now serving Arizona’s Ninth Congressional District, a special non-partisan election was held in November to elect his successor. In a four-way race, Gallego received 45 percent of the vote and had a 19-point lead over her closest contender, Councilman Daniel Valenzuela.
The Blog For Arizona profiled both candidates in June and interviewed both on their positions on the issues and their vision for moving Phoenix forward. This piece describes Councilmember Valenzuela’s goals and vision for the fifth largest city in the country.
Who is Daniel Valenzuela?
Daniel Valenzuela is the epitome of the American Dream, overcoming adversity as a boy and working hard to serve others as both a fireman and a member of the Phoenix City Council.
A child of six, Councilman Valenzuela’s families struggled as he grew up, going to 13 schools with his mother mostly raising the children on her own, working two jobs at times with periodic assistance from their church and the local Boys and Girls Club. Valenzuela also took on summer jobs as a teenager to help his family. The hard work of his mother would lead to physical and mental fatigue resulting in a collapse that required the attention of firemen first responders. This experience inspired Valenzuela, giving him direction, to join the Glendale Fire Department.
Since joining the Fire Department, he has become a proud husband and father of four children.
Motivated with a passion to serve, Valenzuela ran for and won the first of his two terms to the Phoenix City Council in 2011, promoting an agenda of “safe neighborhoods, good schools, and good paying jobs.” In his capacity as a member of the City Council, Valenzuela has assumed the following duties.
- Vice-Mayor of the City of Phoenix.
- Chairperson, Downtown, Aviation, Economy, and Innovation Sub-committee – the City Council’s economic development and job creation arm.
- Member, City Council Sustainability, Housing, Efficiency and Neighborhoods, Parks, Arts, Education and Equality subcommittee, and Transportation and Infrastructure subcommittee.
- Board of Directors, Western Maricopa County Coalition (WESTMARC).
- Executive Committee, Arizona League of Cities and Towns.
- National League of Cities Community and Economic Development Advocacy Committee.
He has also served on various boards and committees. These include serving on:
- Board of Directors, Arizona Legal Women, and Youth Services
- Board of Directors, Big Brothers and Big Sisters of Phoenix and Central Arizona
- Member, Valley of the Sun United Way Ending Hunger Leadership Council
- Board of Directors, StartUpAZ Foundation
- Board of Directors, Co+HOOTS Foundation
- Maryvale High School Early Childhood Education Advisory Board
- Former Member, City of Phoenix Maryvale Village Planning Committee
- Board of Directors, Friends of Phoenix Public Art
- Former Board Member, Phoenix Center for the Arts
- Board Member, Release the Fear
- Graduate, Valley Leadership, Class 35
- Graduate, Valle del Sol Hispanic Leadership Institute
As a Phoenix City Council member, he has helped take the lead in:
- Helping enact the City of Phoenix Anti Discrimination Ordinance.
- Revamping the city budget so a hiring freeze instituted by the city could be done away with.
- “Sponsoring Economic Development and Job Creation” as Chair of the Council’s Aviation and Innovation Subcommittee.
- “Creating the Code PHX” program which provides S.T.E.M. training at “Phoenix Community Centers and Libraries.”
- Campaigning for all Education bond and funding measures.
- Participating in CO+HOOTs by sponsoring a “global entrepreneur exchange program.”
- Partnering with Arizona State University and the Burton Barr Library in creating the Hive Program, which has served as a beacon for aspiring entrepreneurs to come together and launch startups.
- Hiring more police and firefighters to ensure greater public safety. He has also developed a partnership with Grand Canyon University to help advance that agenda.
- Supporting transportation modernization such as increased road pavement, increased light rail access, and more hours for bus service.
Through his tenure on the City Council, Council member Valenzuela has received recognition from various organizations. These include being a recipient of The IMPACT Award from the Greater Phoenix Chamber of Commerce; selected as one of the 40 under 40 by the Phoenix Business Journal; and the Civic Leadership Award for the MENTAL Group.
Valenzuela has amassed close to 100 endorsements in his quest to become mayor. These include the blessings of former Phoenix Mayors Paul Johnson, Phil Gordon, and Skip Rimsza, former Attorney General Grant Woods, State Senate Minority Leader Katie Hobbs, Phoenix Councilwomen Laura Pastor and Debra Stark, former Representative Ed Pastor, and sports magnate Jerry Colangelo (who is also serving as one of his campaign co-chairs). He has also secured the endorsements of the following unions:
- Professional Firefighters of Arizona
- United Food & Commercial Workers Local 99
- Sheet Metal, Air, Rail, and Transportation Workers Local 359
- AFSCME PEOPLE
- Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1433
- American Federation of Teachers
- Unite Here Local 11
- Arizona Police Association
Council member Valenzuela wants to become Mayor of Phoenix so he can “continue his record of progressive leadership,” with an emphasis on expanding educational opportunities, promoting equality and economic progress, and ensuring safe communities and neighborhoods. He thinks a successful mayor needs to have the mindset of serving the people, a coalition builder, and a problem solver. He also feels a progressive mayor needs to be a dreamer, always looking for ideas and ways to make life better for the people in the community.
Commenting, “We all have a stake in strong schools,” Councilmember Valenzuela chastises our state leaders for not making education a priority. He believes that we all have to make sure that everyone, regardless of where they live, deserves a high-quality education. Citing his support of every bonding and funding measure put forth in the city along with his role in creating programs like the S.T.E.M. focused CodePHX, he presents himself as the strongest candidate to promote education in this race.
Although not in his control should he be elected Mayor, Valenzuela believes that University and Community College Tuition should be, according to the state constitution, “as close to free as possible” for students, including Dreamers.
Training a Workforce for the Future
Stating that “we need more of our workforce to get the world-class education and in-demand technical skills” so that companies will be attracted to bringing their physical plants to the city and state, he wants to improve on developing our talent from within the city boundaries, improving the college graduation rate in the area and ensuring that there is a job for every high school and college graduate that meets their aptitude and career goals. (He did not respond to a follow-up question on strategies to better train workers.)
The Economy and Jobs
One of the most important aspects of Councilmember Valenzuela’s program are his ideas to invest in the Phoenix Economy and Workforce. Some of these ideas, in his own words, include:
- “Making strategic investments in the Phoenix business ecosystem and infrastructure that will keep companies in high-wage, high-growth, and high-tech sectors.”
- “Making it easier to scale up businesses by increasing capital investment available to successful startups and growing business ventures, and continuously streamlining our business services.”
- “Investing in world-class infrastructure and reclaim neglected parts of the city to include them in Phoenix’s economic growth, while creating appealing new places to live, work, and play.”
- “Work to ensure that our growth translates into greater economic opportunity and quality of life for all our citizens…. by increasing the per capita income of Phoenix residents by generating more and higher-paying jobs, and the workforce with the skills and knowledge to sustain them.”
A proponent of solar energy while a Councilmember, he has supported efforts to make the city more solar-friendly advocates the plan to make Phoenix Carbon Neutral by 2060.
Minimum or Living Wage
He is proud of his helping lead the way for the passage of Proposition 206 that raised the minimum wage and his support for union labor. (He did not respond to a follow-up question that asked if the City of Phoenix should have the power to raise the minimum wage for its residents as Seattle and San Francisco did.)
Valenzuela is pleased with the infrastructure advances made in the city over the last ten years ranging from the installation of light rail to the arrival of schools specializing in the Biomedical Industry.
Saying it is important that “one of the primary responsibilities of city government is to ensure that citizens and businesses have access to safe and reliable infrastructure – from light rail and airports to water pipes and roads,” he plans to build on these advances by:
- “Ensuring that developable sites are properly zoned and ready for construction.”
- “Leveraging our Strategic Economic Development (EDV) Fund to help finance upfront infrastructure costs, while enabling growth to directly pay for itself.”
- “Reclaiming Our River – The Rio Salado Project. The vision of this project is to restore 45 miles or more of the Salt River from the Granite Reef Dam in Mesa, through Tempe Town Lake, to the Tres Rios Wetlands in the West Valley, to meet the Gila and Agua Fria Rivers. The Rio Salado Project has the potential to transform the Phoenix landscape and way of life, bringing scenic beauty, new trails and recreation, economic development opportunities, and ecosystem restoration.”
- Negotiating to provide direct flight service to China, Phoenix’s third largest export market.”
- (He did not respond to follow up questions asking for his views on the expansion of High-Speed Rail, Broadband and Cultural Centers like the theaters and symphony.)
Councilmember Valenzuela supports the notion that all the residents in Phoenix should have access to quality and affordable healthcare. He is receptive to the idea that the people in Phoenix should be allowed to buy into the health insurance program the City offers its employees as well as other avenues that are available to them.
The Poor and Homeless
Citing his own personal experiences as a youth, he wants to reduce it by forging public-private partnerships coupled with aligning with Mayors in other localities. He recommends expansion of programs like Homeless Navigators that help the homeless connect to city services as an example of what could be done to address the issue.
When considering programs to move Phoenix forward, Valenzuela will first consider if it is good for strengthening the neighborhood and by extension the city before proceeding. He wants all the communities in Phoenix to be clean, safe, inclusive, and devoid of crime with strong schools serving as the anchor to strong neighborhoods. Graffiti should be removed and all buildings and homes should be up to code.
Guns and Public Safety
Councilmember Valenzuela endorses sensible gun safety measures that include mandatory background checks for all purchases that will prohibit people such as domestic abusers and the mentally ill from procuring firearms. He also advocates not allowing guns in schools and government buildings and investments in gun safety technology and legislation requiring the secure storage of weapons.
He “supports all efforts to bring about Federal comprehensive immigration reform.” Responding solely to meaningless chants of a base of political supporters on the issue of “border security” do little and in fact only serve to fuel the fires of the contentious immigration debate. I support reasonable border security measures that are a part of a comprehensive program that provides a path to citizenship for those already in the country, addresses the issue of Dreamers and their families, and provides for stability of our overall immigration policies going into the future. Until that time, we cannot allow the inactions by the Federal to discriminate in the delivery of services on the basis of race, national origin, and ethnicity or immigration status.
The Equal Rights Amendment
While not under his control should he be elected as Mayor, Valenzuela supports the passage of the Equal Rights Amendment and ensuring that all men and women, under the City Equal Pay Ordinance he supported, receive equal pay for the same job with the same experience.
Councilmember Valenzuela condemns the approaches and methods of former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio and President Trump in combatting illegal immigration. He “supports all (humane) efforts to bring about Federal comprehensive immigration reform. But until that time, we cannot allow the inactions by the Federal government to discriminate in the delivery of services on the basis of race, national origin, and ethnicity or immigration status.”
He supports equal rights for members of the LGBTQ community and is proud of his record supporting local ordinance measures as a Councilmember that created and expanded those rights. Furthermore, he was instrumental in securing medical services for LGBTQ members in the cities PPO medical plan and supports efforts to prevent their discrimination in employment, housing, and “public accommodation.”
A Woman’s Right to Choose.
He supports a woman’s right to choose.
He believes that all campaign donations and “independent expenditure committees” for candidates and ballot initiatives should be disclosed. He also supports the initiatives (Outlaw Dirty Money and a proposed local Phoenix Ordinance) to make sure this becomes law.
Suing the Trump Administration over the 2020 Census Questionnaire
He supports the legal action against the Trump Administration for its reinstallation of a question not seen on a census questionnaire since the 1950’s. He contends that Phoenix’s, and Arizona’s, economic and political landscape would be adversely affected with the loss of about $107 million dollars in federal funding and possible electoral votes as the state is becoming increasingly purple.
Councilmember Valenzuela, with a well-financed campaign infrastructure, plans to launch an all-out mayoral campaign that ignores no area or resident of the city. He plans to make deeper inroads into the Latino, Labor, Civic, and LGBTQ communities in spreading his message, which he sees as building on the progressive traditions, exhibited in the mayor’s office in the last 15 years.
Despite his apparent shift to the center-right with the retention of McCain advisors to lead his campaign, Councilmember Valenzuela presents a predominantly progressive and inclusive message that should appeal to the great majority of Phoenix residents. Even with his recruitment of McCain-Republican operatives to his team, voters should also review his considerable record as a leader who has demonstrated, through his past actions, a problem solving, consensus building, inclusive, and progressive agenda that will move Phoenix forward. This is a mayoral candidate that warrants serious consideration in November.