South Phoenix and Sal DiCiccio’s Constituents Voted to Keep Light Rail

Residents of every Phoenix City Council district voted overwhelmingly to move forward with light rail extensions during last week’s special election, according to data released by officials on Wednesday.

That included people in districts comprising south Phoenix, where small businesses banded with Koch-funded nonprofits to put forth Proposition 105, which would have banned all rail construction in the city.

It also included voters in Republican-leaning districts, such as the Ahwatukee area represented by City Council member Sal DiCiccio, who championed the anti-light rail initiative.

The other initiative pushed by DiCiccio, Proposition 106, which would have dramatically cut city spending to pay down pension debt, also failed overwhelmingly in every City Council district.

In DiCiccio’s district, more than 66 percent of voters rejected Proposition 105, and more than 70 percent voted against Proposition 106, signaling that the outspoken Council member’s political priorities do not align with his constituents.

Addressing Mayor Kate Gallego during a City Council meeting on Wednesday, DiCiccio said: “This was a wipeout, and I think a lot of it had to do with your leadership and your vision for the city of Phoenix.”

Gallego chalked up the victory to faith among residents that city officials have their interests in mind, at least when it comes to budgeting and public transportation. “This is a credit to our city employees and confidence in our budget process,” she said.

Proposition 105 grew out of a movement in south Phoenix to alter or halt a planned light rail extension down South Central Avenue, a corridor of minority-owned shops and restaurants. Business owners said city officials failed to adequately inform them that constructing the line would cut back the number of traffic lanes on the road, which they claimed would lead to fewer customers.

The ballot initiative, drafted last summer with the help of a Koch-connected nonprofit, expanded the scope of the movement, calling for the end of all light rail extensions.

Yet both districts that would be affected by the South Central Light Rail extension voted against the proposition.

More than 64 percent of voters in District 7, represented by City Council member Michael Nowakowski, elected to build more light rail. The vote share was similar in District 8, where just under 64 percent of voters chose to keep transit extensions going.

City Council member Carlos Garcia, who represents District 8, said during Wednesday’s meeting that he hopes the city will “reach out” to his constituent business owners to make sure “that they’re being taken care of” during light rail construction.

Percentage totals of voters supporting light rail outnumbered those against it by more than double digits in every district, with several jurisdictions resulting in differences of two to one.

The district with the biggest gap was District 4, a downtown and central Phoenix area represented by City Council member Laura Pastor. Seventy-eight percent of voters in the district voted to continue light rail construction.

The closest districts were Districts 1 and 2, centrist and right-leaning areas in north Phoenix represented by Council members Thelda Williams and Jim Waring, respectively. Slightly more than 43 percent of voters opposed light rail in District 1. And just under 43 percent of voters opposed light rail in District 2.

Paul Bentz, vice president of public research and opinion for HighGround, said the results in the light rail election matched polling his firm conducted in March 2019. Bentz, who was hired by opponents of Proposition 105, said that nearly every voter group save for Republican males supported light rail construction.

“All along, there was not a base for this,” Bentz said, referring to Proposition 105.

Here are the totals for each district:

District 1 (Williams)

Prop 105
Yes: 10,876 (43.86%)
No: 13,920 (56.14%)

Prop 106
Yes: 9,347 (38.90%)
No: 14,684 (61.10%)

District 2 (Waring)

Prop 105
Yes: 14,614 (42.83%)
No: 19,506 (57.17%)

Prop 106
Yes: 12,627 (38.17%)
No: 20,457 (61.83%)

District 3 (Stark)

Prop 105
Yes: 12,905 (39.98%)
No: 19,370 (60.02%)

Prop 106
Yes: 10,828 (34.45%)
No: 20,599 (65.55%)

District 4 (Pastor)

Prop 105
Yes: 4,132 (21.9%)
No: 14,739 (78.1%)

Prop 106
Yes: 3,835 (20.88%)
No: 14,529 (79.12%)

District 5 (Guardado)

Prop 105
Yes: 4,851 (33.40%)
No: 9,671 (66.6%)

Prop 106
Yes: 4,095 (29.34%)
No: 9,861 (70.66%)

District 6 (DiCiccio)

Prop 105
Yes: 14,616 (35.36%)
No: 26,714 (64.64%)

Prop 106
Yes: 13,454 (33.36%)
No: 26,878 (66.64%)

District 7 (Nowakowski)

Prop 105:
Yes: 4,105 (35.45%)
No: 7,476 (64.55%)

Prop 106:
Yes: 3,416 (30.62%)
No: 7,739 (69.38%)

District 8 (Garcia):

Prop 105
Yes: 6,653 (36.17%)
No: 11,739 (63.83%)

Prop 106
Yes: 5,451 (31%)
No: 12,134 (69%)