The first six months of 2022 have been busy for Mayor Kate Gallego and the Phoenix City Council.
While continuing to steer the fifth largest city in the nation through the hardships of the Coronavirus, the Mayor and City Council have also made strides in modernizing Phoenix infrastructure, aiding the homeless and disadvantaged, and making the city a Bioscience and Sustainability beacon for the Southwest region.
They also made Juneteenth a City Holiday and recently made investments in the city’s arts and cultural programs.
Mayor Gallego graciously took the time to discuss the first six months of 2022 and her goals for the rest of the year.
The questions and her responses are below.
- Please tell the readers, at least three policy accomplishments you are proudest of since the beginning of 2022. Please explain.
“2022 has been an amazing year for investments in affordable housing and fighting homelessness. We for the first time ever approved a regional plan on fighting homelessness at the county level. In the past, it had really been cities on their own. The city in partnership with the federal government was able to just allocate 70 million in American Rescue Plan dollars to address the housing issues. We have very exciting partnerships with nonprofits on hotels to housing on more case workers and on mental and so all of that has felt very exciting for us in terms of making concrete investments.
We’ve also been very effective at emergency rental assistance money, such that we’ve even gotten reallocated dollars from other jurisdictions to try to get out into the community. It’s never perfect. We still have a lot of work to do, but I think it’s worth reflecting on how far we’ve come.
We’ve also made important strides in how we help connect people with jobs. We have a great partnership with our community college that has been very effective and we competed against hundreds of cities globally to win the Bloomberg Mayor’s challenge for our mobile career unit. The mobile career unit goes out into the community and provides workforce counseling, job interview opportunities. And more, I got to go out and interview for a job at the Renaissance hotel remotely. I think one of the things we learned from COVID is that a lot of people don’t want to come to central facilities to get services, but if we’re at your church or your kid’s school, they’re willing to give us a shot.
It’s also been a big year for global Phoenix. We were able to restore our nonstop service from the airport. To Europe, we were able to invest in refugee assistance at the budget so we can be in our budget. So, we can be more welcoming to people who are coming to our community. And we got major overseas investment, including electric vehicle companies, advanced transportation companies, and more so it was just a year when I felt really connected to so much of the world, both in serving people in crisis as well as economic development.”
- What has been the single greatest highlight of 2022 for you so far?
“I would say for me, it’s been the big steps forward on the transportation system here. Working with my fellow mayors, we unanimously approved and then got the legislature to approve a county transportation plan that’ll make sure we can have robust bus service investments in innovation and so much more. We are investing in expanding our light rail system and we brought innovative companies to downtown at the airport that do autonomous transportation, which could be really life changing for people, for whom driving themselves does not make sense as well as maybe getting it to be that we really change how car ownership needs to work and hopefully more dollars in more people’s pockets.”
- Please tell the readers, what are at least three policy challenges goals you would like to address in the second half of 2022. Please explain.
“The city of Phoenix has started the process for a general obligation bond. During the latter half of 2022, we’ll be developing a plan to allocate about $500 million in our community that could go to new parks, facilities, fire stations, new libraries. We’re really looking forward to engaging our community around that process.
We should have a very significant deployment of our community assistance program, which sends clinicians, social workers, and peer counselors to respond to some 911 calls that today might go to police and fire. That will be a really important implementation.
We will also have the county transportation vision going to the voter. So that’ll be something I’ll be working on a lot leading up to the election.”
A quick follow up on the electrification plan: You and the council will be working on getting that off the drawing board and starting to set up this year as well?
“Absolutely. We are making significant investments in city infrastructure so we hope to see more libraries, parks, and other similar facilities with charging capabilities and stations. We are trying to get our fair share of federal dollars and we’re also looking at unique opportunities for Phoenix like the role electric vehicles will play when we host super bowl events.”
- What has been one area or incident 2022 that you wish you could have a do over? Please explain.
“I would say child drownings (There have been six in Phoenix this year) We are losing too many kids in pools in Phoenix and we’ve tried to do nonprofit partnerships, communication messages, but I feel like we just haven’t got it and it’s just so heartbreaking for everyone and so preventable, but we can’t quite seem to figure out how to solve that challenge Just one drowning is too many. The goal is to always have zero.”
- Is there anyone on your staff/team you would like to salute for their positive contributions to advancing yours and the council’s goals?
“For the city, I would shout out Clark Princell who’s my chief of staff right now and is balancing so many different roles, including new fatherhood. He’s done a great job moving our policy agenda forward and celebrating the great team that I have.”
- Is there anything not covered in the first five questions that you would like the readers to know about your tenure as Phoenix Mayor for the first six months of 2022? Please explain.
“One area that I try to talk about as much as possible is that we are in a long-term drought and we are trying to get smarter with our water use.
We appreciate all the partnerships our residents and businesses can make and using water responsibly.
We are part of now a major Western dialogue about the future of the Colorado River and I think about water in just about every decision that I am making.
This is something that’s key to the future of Phoenix.
We have to plan ahead and recognize that long term climate change is with us.”
Based on that, did you have anything you wanted to say on the bipartisan water deal concluded the legislature last week?
“I am very glad that they invested in the conservation programs. I do have some concerns, including the fact that some of the tools are very difficult for a city like Phoenix to access. I represent 20% of Arizona’s population and it would be nice if we had good access to the all of the financial tools there. We have some larger cities like ours that face more roadblocks.”