Let’s be honest: Endorsements, campaign ads, and padded resumes are spectacularly useless when Election Day comes around.
In Phoenix, that day is less than two weeks away. On March 12, Phoenicians get to pick a new mayor and, if they live in District 5 or District 8, a new City Council member.
To help voters cut through the fluff, Phoenix New Times sent the same questionnaire to serious candidates, i.e. those who are certified and have raised money.
Sadly, several chose not to respond (if you’re reading this, candidate, our offer still stands), thereby landing themselves in Coward’s Corner:
• Future Mayor Kate Gallego
• Firefighter/not-future-mayor Daniel Valenzuela
• District 5 hopeful Betty Guardado
• District 5 incumbent Vania Guevara
• District 8 hopeful Michael Johnson
• District 8 hopeful Onesimus A. Strachan
• District 8 hopeful Warren Stewart, Jr.
All the responses we received came from candidates in District 8, the most crowded race. They have been lightly edited for clarity and length.
1. Should there be a civilian review board for police shootings and other serious uses of force?
Gilbert Arvizu: I believe a civilian review board would certainly help mend any broken ties between our police and the community. Like many existing boards and commissions, a civilian review board can make recommendations to the Phoenix City Council for consideration. This would ensure active community engagement and communication.
Carlos Garcia: Yes, absolutely, and the civilian review board should have subpoena and firing power.
Lawrence Robinson: Yes. Officer-involved shootings have increased at an alarming rate. A civilian review board, alongside training officers on interacting with residents experiencing crisis or mental health impairments, and implicit bias training, is a step toward establishing better relationships and safe interactions between our police and our communities.
Camaron Stevenson: Yes. I also want the civilian review board to be granted subpoena power. The review board should also be utilized in cases of police discrimination against members of marginalized communities.
2. Do you support the South Central light-rail expansion? What about light-rail expansion in the rest of the Valley?
Arvizu: I support the South Central light-rail expansion. I am willing to review planned extensions in other parts of the Valley and consult with the representative of those districts.
Garcia: Yes, done responsibly and with inclusion and protections for communities/small businesses from impacted areas.
Robinson: Yes. Light rail is a critical step toward supporting a multi-modal mass-transit system connecting our neighborhoods and our economy, especially as Phoenix continues to grow. Moreover, increased access to light-rail means fewer cars congesting our streets and polluting our air, creating a healthier Phoenix for everyone.
Stevenson: Yes. I support further transit expansion as well (light rail, bus, shuttle, etc.), but I would like the process to be more transparent and accessible to the public.
3. Do you support reducing speed limits in Phoenix to make the city safer for cyclists, pedestrians, and scooterists?
Arvizu: I am willing to sit down with city staff and community leaders to find solutions to increase the safety of our pedestrians, cyclists, and scooterists. [WAFFLE ALERT]
Garcia: I support green space and specific lanes to keep cyclists, pedestrians, and scooterists safe. [WAFFLE ALERT]
Robinson: Yes. I strongly support more transit options for Phoenicians. Reducing speed limits to
ensure greater safety encourages more people to ride, walk, and run, which will create a cleaner environment and safer roads.
4. Would you support an ordinance decriminalizing marijuana?
Arvizu: Yes … We would not need to spend time on such an ordinance if the State created a recreational component of marijuana and taxed it reasonably. The increase in revenue can be used for a variety of needs: the public safety pension debt, education, and water infrastructure.
Robinson: Yes. We should not penalize individuals who commit victimless crime when the alternative would mean relying on policies that disproportionately affect people of color, the working class, and the young.
Stevenson: Yes. I think a felony charge should be replaced with a $75 citation, and that the funds received from that citation should be used to aid those suffering from opioid addiction and to combat the opioid crisis in the city.
5. Should Phoenix offer developers incentives to build affordable housing? If so, what kind?
Arvizu: I believe that the private sector and community-based organizations need to work together to combat health care and housing. The only incentive to developers and the private sector should be healthier communities. I will lead the charge to bring increased private sector investment to the city of Phoenix. [WAFFLE ALERT]
Garcia: Yes, beyond incentives, developers should be required to support affordable housing.
Robinson: Yes, when it is part of the overall strategy to ensure maximum benefit for city investments. I support more affordable housing. Housing costs are out of control for many working families. Developers should be incentivized to offer affordable options.
Stevenson: Yes. Incentives I would like to enact are increased unit allowances, reduced parking requirements, and tax abatement. I would also like to institute a Vacancy Tax on certain units that are vacant for more than half of the year due to high rental prices.
6. Gallego or Valenzuela for mayor?
Robinson: I have not made a public endorsement in this race
7. Yes or no: Considering climate change, do you think Phoenix will be still habitable by 2050?
Arvizu: According to recent estimates, no. I do have faith and hope that the human race can overcome the threat of global doom by committing to reduce our carbon footprint.
Garcia: Yes, the way that’s possible is if we take decisive bold action to address climate change now.
Robinson: Climate change is a dramatic threat to all communities. We need to take immediate action by creating innovative solutions to ensure Phoenix is a city where people can stay and build a future. I earned the support of the Sierra Club because of my track record of advocating for such solutions. [WAFFLE ALERT]
Stevenson: Yes, but only if we create more green spaces, reduce our carbon footprint, and develop more shaded spaces.
8. Nowakowski: Yes or no? (Michael Nowakowski, the District 7 incumbent, faces a special recall election in May.)
Arvizu: [Five sentences defending Nowakowski] We will let the voters of District 7 decide.
Garcia: [Did not answer]
Robinson: Ultimately, it is for the voters of District 7 to decide.
Stevenson: Yes, I think he should be recalled. No, I do not think he should be a member of the City Council.
9. Yes or no: Should the Talking Stick Resort Arena renovations be put to a public vote?
Arvizu: If we want the funds to be used elsewhere, there should be another public vote. What fund will be used for the mortgage on the arena if we use the tourism tax funds elsewhere? [WAFFLE ALERT]
Robinson: No. In our representative form of government, leaders are elected to study complicated issues and make decisions like this one – and they should be held accountable for those decisions.
Stevenson: The negotiation process should be more transparent (arena renovation assessment made public, more accessible public forums, etc.), but I think the decision should be made by the City Council after all the council’s seats are permanently filled.
10. What desert flora or fauna do you most identify with?
Arvizu: I enjoy the biodiversity of our cacti. It symbolizes the diversity of the city of Phoenix.
11. Favorite restaurant in your district?
Arvizu: This is tough, though I will say I can eat Pete’s Fish and Chips every day if I were not disciplined.
Garcia: Hola Cabrito.
12. Finish this sentence: Joe Arpaio …
Arvizu: … crashed and burned.
Garcia: … so 1990, a relic of bigotry, glad he’s gone, moving on to better things.
Robinson: … belongs in jail.
Stevenson: … needs to be held accountable for his criminal behavior and human-rights violations.
13. What was Greg Stanton’s greatest failure as Phoenix mayor?
Arvizu: Not so much a failure, but declaring a victory too early on ending veterans’ homelessness. I appreciate his willingness to address the issue, and I will continue to use my social services background to address the rising homeless population.
Garcia: Failed to stand up to Trump.
Robinson: Mayor Stanton developed a consistent record of answering goofy questions posed by the Phoenix New Times.
14. When was the last time you took the bus or the light rail?
Arvizu: I took the light rail last month to a meeting downtown about redeveloping the Rio Salado. I take the light rail about twice a month; will probably take it weekly to City Hall if elected.
Robinson: February 8, before the Suns versus Golden State game.
Stevenson: Last night.
15. Does your home have a grass lawn?
Arvizu: Half grass/weeds and half desert. Weeds are currently the bane of my existence. Did you know North America had no known weeds until the Europeans brought them over with their flora? THANKS, EUROPEANS. WE WERE FINE WITH OUR HYPOALLERGENIC FLORA.
Robinson: Not since I purchased it.
16. Bashas’, Safeway, or Fry’s?
Arvizu: All are exceptional stores, thought I am looking forward to taking the light rail to the new Fry’s downtown.
Robinson: Fry’s, because it’s a union store and my neighborhood store.
Stevenson: Bashas’ because it’s local, Safeway because it’s the better version of Albertsons, and Fry’s because it’s home of the triple coupon. [WAFFLE ALERT]
17. Worst city in the Valley?
Arvizu: The name of Gilbert, Arizona seems odd to me.
Robinson: Tent City.
Stevenson: That’s a loaded question. But everyone knows it’s Apache Junction.
18. Do Christmas trees belong on Camelback Mountain?
Arvizu: Where do the Christmas trees come from? How do they get there? These are the REAL questions.
Garcia: I heart South Mountain.
Robinson: While they’re more native to Flagstaff than Phoenix, I think if a hiker is willing to hike a Christmas tree up to the top of Camelback, then they might as well belong there, too.
Stevenson: Christmas trees belong wherever the Spirit of Christmas is in abundance.
19. What’s your favorite intersection in Phoenix and why?
Arvizu: After growing up in downtown Phoenix, I spent my junior high and high school years in north Phoenix near Central Avenue and Glendale Road. Murphy’s Bridle Path reminds me of easier times when my group of friends and I notoriously toilet-papered dozens of houses in that area from 2006 to 2010.
Garcia: 24th Street and McDowell Road, because La Barquita is my second-favorite restaurant and I could only pick one before.
Robinson: The one we’re currently at: Will we work together and become the best city in the nation for anyone to get ahead or will we be overwhelmed by tough challenges and tribalism? It’s an easy decision as to what direction to take.
Stevenson: Heading west at sunset on 48th Street and McDowell Road. You drive through a relatively calm and peaceful Papago Park, and just on the horizon is the silhouette of downtown Phoenix.
20. What were the Phoenix Lights?
Arvizu: Extraterrestrial life who analyzed the human species and decided not to engage. Good call, aliens. Good call.
Garcia: Beings from another planet heard we had the best tacos in the universe.
Robinson: Well, could be the UFO sightings or the music festival — not that the two are mutually exclusive…
Stevenson: The Phoenix Lights was a mysterious flying object that was spotted multiple times over Phoenix (as well as a few other places). The military provided explanations for the object, but The Phoenix Lights… We Are Not Alone documentary provides and alternative answer (spoiler: aliens).