By Bill Richardson
The signs are up and the campaign to get elected to the Tempe City Council is on.
For those of us who live in Tempe and had hoped for a giant breath of fresh air to arrive after the ex-mayor Hugh Hallman left city hall two-years ago, we’re still waiting. Real change has yet to arrive: High crime, high taxes and reduced city services are still the Tempe way.
Mayor Mark Mitchell squeaked out a win over the Hallman candidate by only a couple hundred votes; not what you would call an overwhelming victory. A win is a win but not having a wealth of popular support in a city dominated by career politician Hallman and his henchmen for nearly a decade has made reform still a distant dream.
Hallman and company, including his loyal followers on the city council, gave Tempe higher taxes, fewer services and a crime problem that has escaped remedies by the current police leadership team brought on during the Hallman years. Tempe is still struggling with the extra crime rate that according to the 2013 FBI Uniform Crime Reports is double Scottsdale’s and 50-percent higher than Mesa’s.
Tempe continues to blame Arizona State University for its serious crime woes even though ASU has its own police force and university crime problems are recorded separately from ASU’s by the feds.
Beyond high taxes and high crime, there’s still a cloud of question hovering over city hall from a long list of shenanigans and the FBI undercover investigation that netted longtime council member turned convicted felon Ben Arredondo.
City council members Robin Arredondo-Savage, Joel Navarro and Corey Woods were mentioned as being present during one of the meetings with Arredondo and the FBI undercover agents posing as crooks. Arredondo, who moved from the city council to the state legislature, reportedly told the FBI agents wanting to do business in Tempe, “You guys will ask, you guys will have. I don’t know how else to say it. We’ll be just fine because not only [are we] covered at the city, we’re covered now at the state.” (link)
Arredondo-Savage, Navarro and Woods were never charged with a crime.
With three city council seats open in the next election maybe change will finally come? Then again, maybe it won’t if there isn’t a change in the face of the city council.
The two incumbents who were part of the Hallman council hope to keep their seats of power and influence.
Shana Ellis a two-term member wants to stay, as does one termer Arredondo-Savage. Onnie Shekerjian is not running for re-election. Wanting to replace Arredondo-Savage and Ellis and fill the one open seat are Lauren Kuby, Matt Papke, Ernesto Fonseca, David Schapira and Dick Foreman.
For the first time in a long time Tempe voters have a real choice about the future of the city. Without term limits and a flood of fresh blood, the Tempe City Council has become more like private clique catering to special interests than an elected body of innovative and inspiring leadership residents and business owners can believe and trust.
So will voters stick with the incumbents that have helped take Tempe to where it is? Or will they elect new members to the council who can help take Tempe in a new direction to wipe out the failures of the past and restore trust in local elected officials that has been stolen from voters thanks to scandal and an array of and cozy deals generated out of Tempe’s “tax and spend” city hall?
Retired Mesa master police officer Bill Richardson lives in the East Valley and can be reached at bill[dot]richardson[at]cox[dot]net.