It has been a little over 100 days since Kate Gallego, after defeating Daniel Valenzuela in a run-off election, took the oath to serve as the Mayor of the fifth-largest city in the country.
In that time, Mayor Gallego has worked tirelessly to advance a forward agenda for Phoenix while presiding over a growing city that is fast becoming a major transportation, scientific-technological, and cultural center.
She continually reaches out to constituents and city stakeholders, soliciting their input and hearing their concerns. She has even sought to heal by apologizing to an African American Family for the overzealous treatment they received from Phoenix Law Enforcement after a little girl accidentally took a doll from a store.
She has been a consistent advocate for Phoenix and all it has to offer.
The Mayor was gracious to take some time and comment on how her first 100 days have proceeded.
The questions and Mayor Gallego’s responses are below.
1) Please describe your experience as Mayor of Phoenix since you have taken office.
I became Mayor of Phoenix, the fastest growing city in the nation, at one the most fascinating points in our storied city’s history. Not only are we gaining hundreds of new residents every week, we are an economic hub, leading in areas such as cutting-edge medical care and tech startups. We are also the biggest city in the country led by a mom-majority council, lending our city’s leaders a unique perspective on the direction of our city. In my four months in office, we have already added hundreds of new head start slots for our city’s children, nursing pods for mothers who need to breastfeed at Sky Harbor and we are in the middle of what will be the busiest street paving season in our city’s history. Our ability to accomplish this much in this short a period of time gives me great excitement about our future.
2) To what extent has your leadership-executive team/staff helped you make the adjustment from the City Council to the Mayors office? Please explain.
I am confident I have the very best team working on behalf of Phoenix by my side. This extends beyond just my office. Our city employees are committed to this city and its success. I am consistently amazed at the dedication of our city’s public servants and feel extremely humbled to be able to work side-by-side with them to find solutions to problems and put our city on a path to a brighter future. My team in the mayor’s office comes from a wide variety of backgrounds including individuals who have served multiple mayors, people with expertise in nonprofits, and people whose passion is direct service. I tend to really like to get into the details of policy issues, and one of the biggest challenges is that there are way more issues coming across my desk than when I was on the city council. I am lucky to have a team who helps me keep multiple balls moving forward.
3) Recognizing that this is only the fourth month of your term, please describe the progress in accomplishing the goals you set forth in your campaign to help Phoenix citizens and move the city forward.
Two of the biggest issues of my campaign were my support for the continued growth of our city’s light rail and my push to end the practice of dark money spending in city elections. Since taking office I have continued to champion our city’s light rail in all forums. This is of special significance as we head into an August election with a proposition that is looking to effectively end light rail in our city. Our innovative and inclusive light rail system was just recognized by the federal government with an allocation of over $100 million dollars for our South Central light rail extension. I am confident we will see the success of the South Central light-rail extension, and I will continue to push for the light rail’s expansion.
Throughout my time on Council and during my campaign, I fought against the corrupting influence of dark money in city politics. During my campaign, I was the victim of shameless dark money spends by opponents who attacked me for a position they themselves actually held. It was politicking at its worst. On July 3, our city’s dark money charter amendment was signed by the Governor. Our residents passed this charter amendment with over 85 percent of the vote, and we can now look toward a future where city elections have greater transparency and afford more clarity to voters about who is trying to influence elections.
4) To what extent have you been able to establish strong relationships with the other leading stakeholders that help lead Phoenix (City Council, City Staff and Agencies like Police and Fire, Public Advocacy and Civic Minded Groups for example)
I have long maintained a strong relationship with our city staff and agencies. They are professional public servants who have dedicated their lives to our city. While we are a council of nine individuals with different opinions and viewpoints, I have tried and will continue to search for common ground amongst us to ensure our city’s success.
5) Please describe your position on Proposition 105 (Light Rail Expansion) coming up for voter consideration on August 27.
Prop 105 is an initiative being pushed by a small group of people. We expect it to be funded by out-of-state dark money groups with a vested interest in seeing public transportation infrastructure fail. The South Central light rail extension has been more than ten years in the making including collecting extensive public input. Voters have voted not once, not twice, but three times in favor of light rail and I am confident they will do so again in August. Investing in Phoenix’s light rail system means that the thousands of workers, students, and families who ride light rail every day will have expanded transit access, creating new opportunities for our residents. As a world-class city, and the fastest growing city in the nation, Phoenix light rail’s continued growth is crucial to our city’s success. With more than $11 billion dollars of economic development along the light rail, there is no doubt that the light rail creates immense opportunity for both our city and our residents. If Prop 105 passes it would not only derail all of this progress it would mean the hundreds of millions of dollars set aside for this project by the federal government would go to other cities and states and Phoenix would be left with nothing. This is why the no campaign for this proposition has garnered broad support from across the region.
6) Please describe your position on Proposition 106 (Responsible Budget) coming up for voter consideration on August 27.
Prop 106 is an investment cap initiative that will ensure the city can no longer invest in our future. It will mean massive cuts to areas such as libraries and after-school programs. To get this funding back once it is cut will take generations. This is yet another proposition pushed by a small group of special interests. These are the same groups who continue to try and chip away at local autonomy, hurting our residents in the process. The proposition itself is poorly written and confusing. Were it to pass, it would be held up in the courts for years because of the chaos with which it was written. Prop 106 is bad for Phoenix and bad for residents.
7) To what extent are you satisfied with the action plan proposed by Phoenix Police Chief Jeri Williams in addressing officer accountability? Please explain.
The Phoenix City Council has worked with Chief Williams to make important changes including speeding up the deployment of body cameras and moving toward problem-solving based training instead of military style-training. At the July 2 policy meeting, Phoenix Police Chief Williams presented a five-point action plan that included important additional changes such as investing in a best-in-class early intervention system to help our officers as soon as we see signs that they need outside intervention. The city council is also studying best practices in civilian oversight. We are committed to having the best police department possible, and we will be constantly investing in improvements. This is not easy work, but it is incredibly important.