On a trip to Washington D.C. last week, Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego took time to talk about the city’s infrastructure plans with the Hill’s Bob Cusack. Connected with the theme of infrastructure projects, Mayor Gallego discussed how the fifth largest city in the country was preparing for the Super Bowl, using innovative methods to spread electric charging stations (a Rhino charging area at the Phoenix Zoo) and water conservation (brewing beer with reclaimed water,) and working with the Biden Administration.
Introduced by Mr. Cusack as the Mayor of Phoenix who has ideas on “how to make Phoenix the most sustainable desert city and how infrastructure money can help achieve that goal,” the Hill telejournalist first asked Mayor Gallego what are the infrastructure priorities for Phoenix and how does the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law Help Phoenix?
The Mayor responded by stating “we are the fastest growing city in the United States, the fifth largest city, and we’re doing that in a desert environment where we have to make sure we have a sustainable water supply. We also think a lot about our transportation system and being Phoenix, we want to make sure Phoenix does not get any hotter than it already is…We’re making a big push on electric vehicles which we think is a technology that makes sense for us from an air quality perspective…We’ve been dubbed the electric valley because of all those (EV) companies coming together…”
She also talked about the ability of Superbowl attendees next winter having the opportunity to go from event to event in an autonomous electric vehicle.
Cusack then asked about the City’s Cool Pavements program.
Mayor Gallego explained that Phoenix is the first city to create an office of heat response and mitigation that is now a permanent part of the city government that asks the question: “how can we think smart about heat.”
She then relayed that the Cool Pavement Program is “a lighter colored coating on the streets. It’s reflective.” She compared it to like what happens if a person wears a black tee shirt when it is hot. She also cited data from Arizona State that said it is 10 to 12 degrees cooler with the new pavement and said that while some residents wondered about the color change, many others have asked when are you going to change the pavement in my neighborhood so the children can play more comfortably.
The Hill reporter then asked about the Superbowl and what the attendees will find in Phoenix.
The Mayor replied that “we will be powering it with clean renewable energy which makes sense because we are one of the sunniest regions in the country.”
She also said it will be the busiest day at Phoenix Sky Harbor and Phoenix transit and that all pending light rail construction expansion must be done before the Super Bowl parties.
Cusack then asked what Phoenix was going to get from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law?
Mayor Gallego touted the partnership to modernize Phoenix Sky Harbor including making it faster for planes to take off after leaving the terminal. She discussed a major riverfront redevelopment grant adjacent to the Salt River. She also referenced a recent grant for the City Bus system to go toward no/low emissions “which helps us with the electric valley vision.”
When asked about the City’s plans for electric vehicles, the Mayor talked out the Electrification Plan passed unanimously (which blew the reporter’s mind,) last summer, saying “EV’s is one the areas where in Arizona, we’ve come together across party lines…We’re looking at 280,000 electric vehicles in just Phoenix by 2030…We’re mapping out our city and figuring out where we can put in public charging. She praised the Phoenix Zoo for its innovative Rhino Charging Station.
On setting priorities for the City’s infrastructure needs, Mayor Gallego responded by commenting that the federal government, with infrastructure Tsar Mitch Landrieu, has been great at reaching out and asking what is most important to Phoenix.
She then relayed that one of the biggest economic engines: Modernizing Phoenix Sky Harbor was a major priority because it is one of the ten busiest airports for take-offs and landings. Investing in that was important to “the economic well-being of the region.”
Mayor Gallego also indicated that reducing vehicle emissions with high concentrations of air pollution is another priority that “helps us push clean energy vehicles and the industries of the future.”
Water supply was another area that the Mayor said: “has to be at the top of the list.” Citing the dependency on the Colorado River, the monies from the Infrastructure Law and the Inflation Reduction Act Drought provisions is important to meeting needs in that area.
When asked how bad the water shortage in Phoenix, Mayor Gallego replied “We do have a 100-year water supply but we are trying to invest in water reuse and other technologies while also having fun like a recent micro-brewing challenge where all the breweries created beer with reclaimed water.”
She also recounted how now King Charles III, in conversations with the Mayor while he was a Prince, really applauded that beer with reclaimed water initiative.
With regard to labor issues, the Mayor conveyed how the city has partnered with community colleges to make sure we had people ready to fill jobs in the growing semiconductor industry. She also brought up how the city is currently experiencing a lifeguard shortage.
On working with the White House on Infrastructure matters, she said that her team works very closely with the Executive Branch. Mayor Gallego then offered that this is an “administration that values mayors. There are so many mayors in leadership positions including the cabinet and the position Mayor Landrieu has…We’ll bring a problem to them and they’ll look for solutions.”
In what must have seemed like a trick question at first to the Mayor, Cusack asked Ms. Gallego how communication with the Trump Administration to the Biden one. She replied that “we had a real challenge with the Trump administration” like living arrangements for migrants that they were not forthcoming on.
With regards to the current Administration, the Phoenix Mayor commented that “The Biden Administration communicates so often that you have three opportunities a week to get in a conversation with them…there’s always an opportunity to jump on ZOOM and get an update from the White House which is very refreshing and it’s just been nice. Every time we come to D.C. and present a problem. We learn about a new solution so that’s refreshing.”
After the interview, Mayor Gallego posted on social media:
— Mayor Kate Gallego (@MayorGallego) September 14, 2022
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