Over the last several months, local, state, and national conservative groups led by Phoenix City Councilman Sal DiCiccio, the American Free Enterprise Club (which has ties to the Koch Brothers), and the Responsible Budget Committee (which has links to reactionary supporters in Utah and California) united with some residents and business owners in South Phoenix scared of the light rail system in an attempt to:
- Stop Light Rail Expansion in Phoenix
- Increase what the city of Phoenix paid into its employee pension plan making it difficult to spend monies on vital city services like libraries and city parks.
These conservative elements banded together and were able to get two Propositions 105 and 106 on an August 27 ballot.
Proposition 105 dealt with stopping the expansion of light rail.
Proposition 106 provided for putting more funds into serving the pension debt of Phoenix employees at the expense of other vital city services. It also would have handicapped Phoenician Leaders with its proposed funding requirements if a recession should occur.
Fortunately for Phoenix, the great majority of its residents, realizing the benefits of light rail to the communities it operates in and the vital need of local libraries and well kept city parks, did not subscribe to the reactionary arguments put forward by the conservative supporters of these two propositions.
A strong grassroots campaign coupled with the committed leadership of noted civic leaders like Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego and Representative (former Phoenix Mayor) Greg Stanton helped steer both Propositions to decisive defeats.
Reacting to the ballot outcome, Mayor Gallego released a statement, relaying that:
“From the outset, it was clear that Propositions 105 and 106 were about far more than a difference in opinion–it was more fundamental than that. This election was about what Phoenicians want our city, the fastest-growing in the country, to be. Residents broke records when they showed up and declared that they want a community with robust transportation options and investment in our parks, libraries, and city services.
We are a global city where students, families, visitors, and people of all ages and abilities can have assured access to a multi-modal transportation system that connects every corner of our community. Light rail expansion is not stopping–not today, not tomorrow. This campaign was never about one track of rail. It was about equity for our entire city and voters delivered on that promise.
This is not the first time that outside influences have sought to mislead Phoenix voters in the pursuit of their own vested interests–and I doubt it will be the last. However, the broad coalition that came together to defeat these propositions was unprecedented in our city’s history and representative of the people who reside in our beautiful community. We are a diverse city made up of residents willing to fight for our future and who refuse to let our trajectory be dictated by anyone other than Phoenicians.
Today we can celebrate our investment, our city, and our residents. We will have to step up to protect our city again in the future but we should be encouraged that, together, we continue to move forward.”
In a response to followup question to what happens now with the defeat of the two propositions, Annie McGraw, the Mayors Communication Director said that:
“With the light rail, we are working on both the South Central and Northwest extension and eventually we would like to see the entire valley connected.”
Ms. McGraw also stated that Phoenix libraries will add back Sunday operating hours starting on September 22.
Propositions 105 and 106 rightly went down to defeat on August 27.
Phoenician Leaders are pursuing a forward agenda that creates the infrastructure Phoenix needs to thrive in the Twenty First Century that will benefit all of its residents.
City Leaders are also prudently shaping a forward looking budget that invests in people, parks, and libraries.
They are also creating a budget that honors the cities obligations to its pension fund.
Civic Officers should consider the needs of residents and businesses that live in the vicinity of light rail expansion and should take steps to mitigate any transition hardships they may face in these areas.
That is only right and will help when other projects designed to move Phoenix forward need public support.
Featured Image from Allstate