Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego Talks About 2021 and What She is Looking Forward to in 2022

2021 was both a rewarding and challenging year for Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego, the Phoenix City Council, and local residents.

The fifth largest city in the country made gains in rising economic growth and business expansion, combatting the Coronavirus, becoming a Mecca for Bioscience and Future Technologies, and emerging as a leader in sustainability-clean energy initiatives.

While the above developments will tremendously benefit local residents, Phoenix has also had to contend with a rising homelessness population and ensuring a smoother transition to normal from the worst days of the COVID 19 Pandemic, including making sure first responders like all members of law enforcement and firefighters are vaccinated.

Mayor Gallego graciously took the time to discuss the progress made in 2021, the challenges still to be met, and major priorities for Phoenix in 2022.

The questions and her responses are below.

1) What would you say were your and the City Council’s three major/most important accomplishments during 2021?

“Three top actions from the past year include response to COVID – especially as it pertains to helping families, small businesses, and workers; climate actions; and securing TSMC’s supply chain operations in Phoenix.

On COVID:

We have taken a strategic approach to distribution of federal funds allocated through the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA), which has allowed us to address homelessness, help families, and get displaced workers into new careers.

Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego with Members of the Issac School District and Ray Arvizu
  • JOBS. Members of our communities lost jobs when businesses shut down or closed because of the covid-caused slowdown. Council approved $ ten million for workforce training, as well as ‘wrap-around’ services – like childcare – that remove barriers for job seekers.

 

  • SMALL and MICRO BUSINESSES. More than $ eight million assists small and micro businesses still struggling from the after-effects of pandemic shutdowns and slowdowns. Another $2.75 million to stabilize arts and culture organizations, so they could resume sustainable operations. Many businesses are ready to re-engage but can’t find the employees they need. An additional $2 million helps small operations to find, train, and retain employees.
  • VACCINATION. Invested $ five million in education, outreach, and incentives to encourage vaccine uptake. Funds were used to adapt mobile vans to offer both testing and vaccination so we could reach those who could not easily drive to a vaccination site or who had trouble taking time off from work.
  • ASSISTANCE FOR VULNERABLE POPULATIONS. A total of $28 million went to help struggling families with utilities, rent and mortgage. Another $31.5 million to assist individuals, families and military veterans experiencing homelessness, mental health care assistance, and heat respite facilities. This includes the recent unveiling of the new USVETS Home off I-17 and Cactus, which will provide housing for more than 152 military veterans experiencing homelessness and serve up to 50 others in need of transitional housing.

COVID has been painful and hard for all of us. By lifting up families who have been hurt the most, we can better meet the needs of everyone in our community.

On Climate:

Throughout my time in office, I have fostered investments in cooling solutions, including the nation’s first, publicly funded Office of Heat Response and Mitigation, and advancing the city’s tree and shade plans. The city recently adopted an accelerated comprehensive Climate Action Plan with a new goal to be net-zero by 2050, with 50% ghg emissions reductions by 2030.

We are growing the jobs important to a sustainable future for the health of our city and for the families proud to call Phoenix home. These efforts demonstrate our community is an innovative leader in climate and sustainability, and our goal is to be the most carbon neutral and water wise desert city on the planet.

Phoenix mayor Kate Gallego shows off a roof fitted with solar panels Photo from AARP

The City takes a comprehensive approach that includes water conservation and heat mitigation strategies, such as development of 100 Cool Corridors by 2030 that will include native and desert-adapted trees, and will use data to identify the greatest need with a focus on low-income and heat vulnerable communities.

It was an honor to bring Phoenix’ innovation and best practices on climate and sustainable solutions to the multiple audiences, including global climate leaders, during COP26 (Conference of the Parties 26), also known as the United Nations Climate Conference, held in Glasgow, Scotland.  In conversations, panels, and discussions across a broad range of topics, I shared the innovation coming from Phoenix and how we are using data to accelerate climate action, water conservation, green jobs, and green investments.  One thing was clear at COP26, cities must lead this effort of change.

Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego taking an electric train to the Glasgow Climate Summit.

In Glasgow, I was named Public Sector Co-chair of the 50 Liter Home Coalition (50L Home), a collaborative of private, public, and civic leaders who aim to reinvent the future of urban water use through innovations that reduce carbon emissions and promote water security for all. 

Additionally, I serve as North American Vice-chair of C40 Cities, a group comprised of 30 mayors, half from the global north and half from the global south. I am also co-chair of Climate Mayors, and chair of the Jobs, Education, and Workforce Committee of the U.S. Conference of Mayors.

On the Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Corporation (TSMC:)

As a strong advocate for smart business growth and investment, I am pleased to have helped land the $12 billion business development deal – the largest in the city’s history – to bring Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Corporation (TSMC) to Phoenix.  This project has further positioned Phoenix as a global leader in sustainable semiconductor manufacturing and advanced sciences with several of TSMC’s supply chain securing operations in the region.

My experience from working in economic development at SRP, our local electric and power utility, allowed me to answer serious questions about water surety, line siting, power availability and security, each critical to a semiconductor manufacturing operation, but also to the entire ecosystem of suppliers and vendors that we look forward to welcoming.  Many big city mayors are lawyers, but in this case my unusual background of having worked in economic development came in handy. I also had experience with talent attraction. The demand for workforce is a familiar story across all sectors today, but ensuring top talent demanded we make connections with school districts, universities, and training centers.  Additionally, we had to address housing availability and connect with our Mandarin speaking community so that our new residents are welcome to this new home. I want the workers and global clients of TSMC to understand how excited we are to have them in Phoenix and to engage with the wonderful quality of life we enjoy here.

2) In your opinion, what were at least two initiatives you and the City Council championed in 2021 that will benefit Phoenix residents the most? 

“Many of the climate actions we’re taking are important for our residents, including developing a comprehensive and accessible light rail system, and this is also very important to businesses who are looking to move to Phoenix. Chris Camacho’s team at GPEC understands the value of these industries and has been instrumental in their choosing Phoenix and Arizona as their home.

Mayor Kate Gallego with Phoenix Councilwoman Yassamin Ansari. Photo from Office of Mayor Kate Gallego

 The City of Phoenix’ updated Climate Action Plan accelerates our net-zero emissions and ghg reduction goals. We are working with C40 cities to conduct modeling of our proposed climate actions. Our net-zero goal is community-wide, not just for city operations, so it will take a cross-sector full court press to achieve it.”

3) What are at least two outstanding challenges from 2021 that you wish would have been taken care of or not want to linger until 2022?

A) “COVID is not over, and the Delta and Omicron variants prove that point. This virus continues to evolve, and there will be more variants.  We should be listening to the overwhelming majority of medical professionals and scientists who have proven the vaccines are safe and effective. It’s worth noting that in addition to medical professionals and scientists, 73% of Americans agree that “vaccines are the best way to protect Americans from COVID-19” [source: Pew Resource Center, 9/16/21].

The most painful data point to me is this one: 24 City of Phoenix employees have died of COVID-19. I’ve gone to too many funerals and watched children who have lost a parent. A person who is no longer there to celebrate birthdays; one less person to hug a child when there’s a skinned knee. It is heartbreaking.

We have vaccines that are safe, effective, and free.  Get vaccinated.

 

B) Homelessness continues to escalate and impact individuals and families. For the first time, local and tribal governments have rallied around a single plan to respond to homelessness in the region. “Pathways Home, the Regional Homelessness Action Plan for Local and Tribal Governments,” was approved last week by the Maricopa Association of Governments (MAG) Regional Council.

Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego and delegation at the dedication of a housing facility to assist Homeless Veterans


We have taken an important first step, but there is much more to be done. Our success demands we collectively measure and cooperatively implement improvements, commit to infrastructure investments, and include an array of choices with equitable access. I look forward to working with my regional partners in tackling this crisis.”

 

 

 

4) What are your two or three major municipal priorities for 2022? Please explain. 

 “I am very excited for some of the investments we will be making to improve life for Phoenicians. We are going to make upgrades to the airport that should make it easier to get to the airport and shorten wait times on the tarmac.

 We are going to make major investments in training workforce in key areas such as advanced manufacturing, electric vehicles, and healthcare. I know a lot of people are making decisions about where they want to work, and the city wants our residents to have rewarding career options in our community. 

 My work on infrastructure and climate lays an important foundation for the future of Phoenix. I have shared with global leaders and policy makers the aggressive approach Phoenix is taking on circular economy, clean light rail construction, electric vehicle manufacturing, and others, and to how these approaches will grow good paying, green jobs. Now, with President Biden’s infrastructure plan, Phoenix is at the forefront of climate mitigation with EVs, trees, and transit. It will mean better and safer transportation, streets and bridges, and, most importantly, it means JOBS. We are building a Phoenix that works for everyone and raising the quality of life for all Phoenicians.”

5) Is there anything not covered in the first four questions that you would like the reader to know? Please explain. 

“Biosciences:

CBRE ranks Phoenix as the top market for job growth and the fifth-best emerging market for life science jobs. That puts us high in the company of the staid science markets. We have three of the top U.S. News & World Report cancer centers, the Norton Thoracic center leads the world in heart-lung transplants, Mayo Clinic has invested in its largest single expansion to house its medical school and research capabilities, Creighton University opened its new medical school, and Translational Genomics Research Institute and the International Genomics Consortium are both based in Phoenix.

  • There are plans for 4.5 million square feet of new primary bioscience and healthcare facilities in the city of Phoenix Biomedical Campus (PBC).
  • Those facilities represent $3 billion in capital investment and 7,000 new jobs.
  • More than 1.5 million square feet are under construction right now.”

 

“I want to wish everyone in Phoenix and Arizona a happy holiday season and resilient year ahead in 2022.”

Mayor Kate Gallego at the Arizona Public Service Light Parade.

 


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