Mesa’s Debt Bomb, thanks to former Mayor Scott Smith

By Gene Dufoe

This brief study of the City of Mesa FY2014/15 Budget has been compiled by Mesa resident Gene Dufoe. Mr. Dufoe is a retired Boeing engineer/manager who possesses the following degrees: BSAE, MSAE, and an MBA with an emphasis in Finance. He is a Precinct Committeeman in LD25. Dufoe supports Danny Ray for Mayor of Mesa, Dr. Ralph Heap for the LD25 Senate seat presently held by Bob Worsley, and Diane Douglas for Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction.

Note:  There are four utility system revenue bond authorization questions on the November 2014 ballot, one each for Water, Wastewater, Natural Gas, and Electric.  Total will be $580,000,000.  See the City Council Resolution

LOOKING AT THE CITY OF MESA BUDGET FOR THIS FISCAL YEAR 2014-2015

Normally, the City of Mesa publicizes only the millions of dollars of Total General Obligation Bonds, Total Utility Systems Revenue Bonds, Total Street and Highway User Revenue Bonds, and Total Excise Tax Obligations outstanding, not the total bonds obligation or the interest obligation.  However, both need to be exposed.  The City of Mesa Total Bonds outstanding is $1,710,800,001 for FY2013/2014 vs. $1,220,778,673 for FY2008/09.

The scheduled interest to be paid through 2037/38 is $302,539,619 for only the General Obligation Bonds issued during Scott Smith’s administration.  This is nearly three times greater than was paid on the General Obligation Bonds issued under the previous administrations.  The comparison of the Utility Revenue Bonds is even worse, $71,360,274 vs. $327,537,942, or 4.6 times greater.

During Mayor Hawker’s service from 2000 to 2008, several bond issues were refinanced from earlier administrations, and the total interest paid was only a fraction of the repaid principal.  However, the financial situation of Mayor Smith’s term of office from 2008 to his recent resignation in June, 2014, has placed the City of Mesa in worsening financial terms for the future.

Without considering the interest on the General Obligation Bonds, Utility Revenue Bonds, Street & Highway User Revenue Bonds, and Excise Tax Obligations, nearly $500,000,000 of additional bonds have been approved during Mayor Smith’s period of service.  Interest on the General Obligation and Utility Revenue Bonds will add $630,000,000 through 2037-38, totaling more than $1.1 BILLION additional debt added during Mayor Smith’s time in office.  The interest on the $114,650,000 Street and Highway User Bonds and the $216,115,000 Total Excise Tax Obligations outstanding in FY2013-14 will add to the $630,000,000 interest total; however, the exact amounts were not readily available.

In addition to those bonds outstanding (and the bonds which have been authorized, but not yet sold), the Proposed Five-Year Capital Improvement Program has $680,392,701 which needs future authorization.  These proposed bonds, needing future authorization, will likely be voted on in the next 3-4 years.  Per the FY2014/15 Final Budget Summary, the City is not obligated to a project by inclusion within the CIP.  Each project is considered individually by the City Council during the year.

The reason that the interest scheduled was so much higher during Mayor Smith’s years in office is that both the length of the bonds were extended, and the payment of principal was also substantially delayed until the last years of the bond life.  For example, under the previous mayor, $11,705,000 2005 General Obligation Bond life was 18 years and the total interest scheduled was $4,128,700 or Total Interest Paid/Principal Repaid = 36.9%.

However, under Mayor Smith, the $30,865,000 2010 General Obligation bond life was 20 years, the total interest scheduled to be paid is $26,416,950 and Total Interest Paid/Principal Repaid = 85.59%.  The reason was no principal was scheduled for the first 9 years, principal payments of $1,115,000 to $2,500,000 were scheduled for the tenth to the nineteenth years, and in the twentieth year, the principal payment of $13,225,000 was scheduled.  The Total Interest Paid/Principal Repaid = 85.6%.

However, that is NOT the worst.  The Utility Revenue Bonds which are paid by the City of Mesa residents through the Secondary Property Tax and the monthly utility bills are managed by the City of Mesa’s business portion, called Enterprise Fund.  The Enterprise Fund transferred $173,606,136 to other current obligations of the city, per the City of Mesa Summary of Estimated Revenues and Expenditures, FY2014/15.

For the $50,380,000 2010 Utility Systems Revenue Bonds, the City of Mesa has scheduled interest payments of $3,073,280 annually for 24 years with no principal payments for the first 23 years with the entire principal scheduled $50,380,000 for the 24th year.  The total interest scheduled is $73,380,000.  The ratio of Total Interest Paid/Principal repaid = 134.2%.

Slightly less bad for the taxpayers are the $36,385,000 2014 Utility Systems Revenue bonds in which the City of Mesa has scheduled estimated interest payments of $1,819,250 annually for the first 23 years with no principal payments for the first 22 years; principal payments of $20,000,000 in the 23rd year and scheduled interest payment of $829,250 and principal payment of $16,385,000 in the 24th year.  Total interest $42,620,000.  The ratio of Total Interest Paid/Principal repaid = 117.43%.

If the voters do not approve the State Imposed Expenditure Limitation Home Rule Continuation, then the City of Mesa will need to eliminate $184 million from the budget, starting with FY2015-16.  The one-time override alternative allows for exceeding the state imposed expenditure limitation for one fiscal year.  If the State Auditor General determines a city has exceeded the expenditure limitation, a portion of its share of the state income tax allocation is withheld.   The penalty is assessed as follows:

Exceeding by less than 5% – penalty will equal to amount of the excess.

Exceeding by more than 5%, but less than 10% – penalty will be three times the excess.

Exceeding by more than 10% – penalty will be five times the excess or 1/3 of the state income tax allocation, whichever is less.  If the State limitation has been exceeded by more than 10%, the expected penalty to apply to FY2014/15 would be $17.7M (based on one-third of the FY2014/15 state-shared revenue).

The FY2014/15 budget does not allow the City to address the backlog of needs considered to be lifecycle or infrastructure replacements.

The contributions to the vehicle replacement fund do not address the full annual need nor do they allow for a reserve balance to mitigate future years where needs may spike.

The aging of buildings, technology, equipment, etc., requires scheduled upgrades/replacement.

A special commission of private-sector, public-sector, and retired personnel should be formed to make recommendations to the Mayor and the City Council for actions to be taken.  It is time for the City of Mesa to cut all but the absolutely essential services and reduce the city payroll, plus have active and retired city employees pay a larger portion of their medical, dental, and vision expenses.  By contrast, most private business employees pay a high percentage of medical, dental, and vision expenses; retirees have paid for their entire medical, dental, and vision expenses for many years.  Recommendations for the Arizona State Retirement System, Public Safety Personnel Retirement System, and Elected Officials Retirement Plan should also be considered.  Privatization of some or all of the services provided by the Enterprise Fund should be part of any such study.

References

  1. City of Mesa Executive Budget Plan 2014/15 & FY2014/15 Community Report Average Homeowner’s Cost Comparison
  2. Secondary Property Tax – Resolution No. 10478
  3. FY2014/15 Legal Budget – Resolution No. 10473
  4. FY2014/15 Capital Improvement Program – Resolution No. 10472
  5. FY2014/15 Final Budget City Council Report
  6. FY2014/15 Final Budget Summary
  7. FY2014/15 Home Rule – State Imposed Expenditure Limitation – Home Rule Continuation Presentation
  8. FY2008/09 Community Report Average Homeowner’s Annual Cost Comparison
  9. FY2008/09 Tentative Five-Year Capital Improvement Program
  10. FY2008/09 Final Budget City Council Report
  11. Pledged Debt Analysis For Continuation of Impact Fees City of Mesa, Arizona, prepared by Duncan Associates, April 16, 2013
  12. Preliminary Official Statement dated May 15, 2014; $37,550,000 City of Mesa, Arizona, General Obligation Bonds Series 2014, APPENDIX B
See Also Questions from Mr. Dufoe and answers from Ryan Wimmer, Mesa’s Office of Management and Budget:

1.  General Obligation Bonds (refunding) What was the bond rating for the City of Mesa GO refunding bonds over the past six years?  When are the annual bond principal installments being redeemed and at what interest rate?

Series

2002       OS: http://emma.msrb.org/MS191242-MS166550-MD322389.pdf (see page 13 for ratings and the cover page for principal maturity and interest rates)

2004       OS: http://emma.msrb.org/MS217101-MS192409-MD373504.pdf (see page 14 for ratings and the second cover page for principal maturity and interest rates)

2006       OS: http://emma.msrb.org/MS52419-MS223977-MS616035.pdf (see page 13 for ratings and the second cover page for principal maturity and interest rates)

2012       OS: http://emma.msrb.org/EP609526-EP476667-EP877042.pdf (see page 11 for ratings and the cover page for principal maturity and interest rates)

2013       OS: http://emma.msrb.org/EA522649-EA407230-EA804180.pdf (see page 11 for ratings and the cover page for principal maturity and interest rates)

2.  The General Obligation bonds (Various Purpose) are as follows:

What was the bond rating for the City of Mesa Bonds – Various Purpose bonds when issued?  When are the bond annual bond principal installments being redeemed and at what interest rate?

2005       OS: http://emma.msrb.org/MS236093-MS211401-MD411149.pdf (see page 12 for ratings and the cover page for principal maturity and interest rates)

2006       OS: http://emma.msrb.org/MS52250-MS223608-MS615968.pdf (see page 12 for ratings and the cover page for principal maturity and interest rates)

2007       OS: http://emma.msrb.org/MS259729-MS235037-MD458462.pdf (see page 12 for ratings and the cover page for principal maturity and interest rates)

2008       OS: http://emma.msrb.org/MS270908-MS267339-MD528351.pdf (see page 11 for ratings and the cover page for principal maturity and interest rates)

2009       OS: http://emma.msrb.org/MS281039-MS280291-MD568491.pdf (see page 10 for ratings and the cover page for principal maturity and interest rates)

2010       OS: http://emma.msrb.org/EP431918-EP339205-EP735523.pdf (see page 10 for ratings and the cover page for principal maturity and interest rates)

2011       OS: http://emma.msrb.org/ER460776-ER359128-ER755820.pdf (see page 8 for ratings and the cover page for principal maturity and interest rates)

2012       OS: http://emma.msrb.org/EP644009-EP503264-EP904180.pdf (see page 10 for ratings and the cover page for principal maturity and interest rates)

2013       OS: http://emma.msrb.org/ER666235-ER517392-ER919995.pdf (see page 8 for ratings and the cover page for principal maturity and interest rates).

3.  Utility Systems Revenue Bonds (refunding) What was the bond rating for the City of Mesa Utility refunding bonds over the past six years?  When are the annual bond principal installments being redeemed and at what interest rate?

2002       OS: http://emma.msrb.org/MS188305-MS163613-MD316547.pdf (see page 13 for ratings and the cover page for principal maturity and interest rates)

2002A    OS: http://emma.msrb.org/MS197504-MS172812-MD334877.pdf (see page 14 for ratings and the cover page for principal maturity and interest rates)

2004       OS: http://emma.msrb.org/MS217102-MS192410-MD373506.pdf (see page 12 for ratings and the cover page for principal maturity and interest rates)

2006 (both issues)  OS: http://emma.msrb.org/MS52416-MS223973-MS616031.pdf (see page 12 for ratings and the cover page for principal maturity and interest rates)

OS: http://emma.msrb.org/MS254547-MS229855-MD448008.pdf (see page 13 for ratings and the second cover page for principal maturity and interest rates)

2008       OS: http://emma.msrb.org/MS270955-MS267402-MD528506.pdf (see page 11 for ratings and the cover page for principal maturity and interest rates)

2012       OS: http://emma.msrb.org/EP608885-EP476146-EP876514.pdf (see page 10 for ratings and the second cover page for principal maturity and interest rates)

2012 Taxable Refunding.  OS: http://emma.msrb.org/EP615721-EP481744-EP882241.pdf (see page 11 for ratings and the second cover page for principal maturity and interest rates).

4.  Utility Systems Revenue Bonds (Utility Improvement) What was the bond rating for the City of Mesa Utility Improvement bonds when issued?  When are the bond annual bond principal installments being redeemed and at what interest rate?

2002       OS: http://emma.msrb.org/MS188116-MS163424-MD316173.pdf (see page 12 for ratings and the cover page for principal maturity and interest rates)

2003       OS: http://emma.msrb.org/MS203914-MS179222-MD347345.pdf (see page 12 for ratings and the cover page for principal maturity and interest rates)

2004       OS: http://emma.msrb.org/MS222295-MS197603-MD383623.pdf (see page 10 for ratings and the cover page for principal maturity and interest rates)

2005       OS: http://emma.msrb.org/MS235923-MS211231-MD410807.pdf (see page 10 for ratings and the cover page for principal maturity and interest rates)

2006       OS: http://emma.msrb.org/MS52220-MS223454-MS615938.pdf (see page 11 for ratings and the cover page for principal maturity and interest rates)

2007       OS: http://emma.msrb.org/MS259549-MS234857-MD458102.pdf (see page 10 for ratings and the cover page for principal maturity and interest rates)

2008       OS: http://emma.msrb.org/MS270681-MS267070-MD527833.pdf (see page 10 for ratings and the cover page for principal maturity and interest rates)

2009       OS: http://emma.msrb.org/MS281167-MS280466-MD568877.pdf (see page 9 for ratings and the cover page for principal maturity and interest rates)

2009 WIFA Loans – WIFA loans are not rated by the rating agencies.  Redemption schedules are attached.   (See 2009 WIFA loans.)

2010       OS: http://emma.msrb.org/EP431713-EP339023-EP735345.pdf (see page 11 for ratings and the cover page for principal maturity and interest rates)

2012       OS: http://emma.msrb.org/EP643903-EP503173-EP904086.pdf (see page 10 for ratings and the second cover page for principal maturity and interest rates)

2013       OS: http://emma.msrb.org/ER666086-ER517255-ER919851.pdf (see page 10 for ratings and the cover page for principal maturity and interest rates)

2014       OS: http://emma.msrb.org/EP820778-EP635288-EP1036999.pdf (see page 10 for ratings and the cover page for principal maturity and interest rates).

5.  Street and Highway User Revenue Bonds (refunding) What was the bond rating for the City of Mesa Street and Highway User Revenue Refunding Bonds over the past six years?  When is the annual bond principal installments being redeemed and at what interest rate?

2004       OS: http://emma.msrb.org/MS217103-MS192411-MD373508.pdf (see page 14 for ratings and the cover page for principal maturity and interest rates)

2005       OS: http://emma.msrb.org/MS230312-MS205620-MD399580.pdf (see page 11 for ratings and the cover page for principal maturity and interest rates)

2012       OS: http://emma.msrb.org/EP608850-EP476109-EP876480.pdf (see page 11 for ratings and the cover page for principal maturity and interest rates)

2013       OS: http://emma.msrb.org/EP759947-EP589453-EP990970.pdf (see page 10 for ratings and the cover page for principal maturity and interest rates).

6.  Street and Highway User Revenue Bonds (Street Improvement) What was the bond rating for the City of Mesa Street Improvement bonds when issued?  When is the annual bond principal installments being redeemed and at what interest rate?

2003       OS: http://emma.msrb.org/MS203840-MS179148-MD347197.pdf (see page 13 for ratings and the cover page for principal maturity and interest rates)

2004       OS: http://emma.msrb.org/MS222376-MS197684-MD383785.pdf (see page 11 for ratings and the cover page for principal maturity and interest rates)

2005       OS: http://emma.msrb.org/MS236032-MS211340-MD411027.pdf (see page 10 for ratings and the cover page for principal maturity and interest rates)

2006       OS: http://emma.msrb.org/MS52253-MS223605-MS615966.pdf (see page 10 for ratings and the cover page for principal maturity and interest rates)

2007       OS: http://emma.msrb.org/MS259518-MS234826-MD458040.pdf (see page 11 for ratings and the cover page for principal maturity and interest rates).

7.  Excise Tax Obligations Outstanding

Were the 2010 Highway Project Advancement Notes redeemed at the July 1, 2014, optional redemption date at par? Yes.

What was the bond rating for the 2010 and 2011A City of Mesa Highway Project Advancement Notes since they were issued?

2010 – OS: http://emma.msrb.org/EP430767-EP338370-EP734691.pdf (see page 10)

2011A – OS: http://emma.msrb.org/EP571936-EP448917-EP848828.pdf (see page 14).

What was the bond rating for the Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport Authority obligations when they were issued?

OS: http://emma.msrb.org/ER583308-ER453122-ER855821.pdf (see page 15)

What is the rating, purpose, refunding, and interest rate paid on the Excise Tax Revenue Obligations issued in 2013?

OS: http://emma.msrb.org/EP751300-EP583298-EP984886.pdf (see page 13 for ratings, the second cover page for interest rates, and “Optional Redemption” on pages 2 and 3 for refunding provisions)

Regarding the purpose, from the cover page:

The City of Mesa, Arizona (the “City”) Excise Tax Revenue Obligations, Series 2013 (the “Obligations”) will be executed and delivered in the principal amount of $94,060,000 for the purpose of providing funds to (i) acquire and construct the Project (as defined herein) and (ii) pay costs of execution and delivery of the Obligations.

See “The Obligations” on page 2 and “The Project” on page 4.

8.  Have any of the overlapping jurisdictions informed the City of Mesa that they were in danger of not meeting their bonded debt obligations under the “Direct and Overlapping General Obligation Bonded Debt Outstanding” category? No.

9.  What is the schedule of planned sales of any authorized, but not issued, City of Mesa General Obligation bonds, Utility System Revenue bonds, Street and Highway User Revenue bonds or Excise Tax Obligations notes since 2013?

General Obligation and Utility System forecasted issuances are attached.  (SeeAuthorized Bonds – Issuance Forecast.)  There are currently no plans to issue Street and Highway User Revenue or Excise Tax bonds.

Have there been any additional refunding issues replacing series issues since 2013? No.

10.  Are there be any City of Mesa General Obligation Bonds issues, Utility System Revenue Bonds issues, Street and Highway User Revenue Bonds issues or Excise Tax Obligation notes to be submitted to the voters on the November, 2014 ballot?

There are four utility system revenue bond authorization questions on the November 2014 ballot, one each for Water, Wastewater, Natural Gas, and Electric.  See the City Council resolution at: http://mesa.legistar.com/LegislationDetail.aspx?ID=1821143&GUID=DB2A249F-5A7B-459F-A506-2A6379B8B9EC.

Scott Smith’s Pursuit of Big Pay Raises

At a time when millions of Arizonans have struggled to make ends meet through the Great Recession, there’s one gubernatorial candidate who’s been indifferent to the plight of his paycheck-to-paycheck neighbors.

Former mayor of Mesa Scott Smith, whose net worth still remains undisclosed (although we know it’s well over $100K), pushed hard twice while mayor of Mesa to increase his pay and the pay of his fellow council members.

Prior to the increase, the charter for the city of Mesa locked in the mayor’s compensation at $33,600/year with a $1,800/year vehicle allowance and $960/year phone allowance. To change that compensation, the mayor and council are required to vote rather than send the issue to voters.

Smith made the first push to increase his salary on December 10, 2012 during a regular session of the mayor and council. In the video, Smith argues for increasing his pay and not to reject the recommendations of an independent commission.

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During that first attempt, he asks the council to support him for the 118% pay raise and allowance increase of 122%. As the video shows, Smith’s temperament reveals a man on a mission to make more money as mayor.

If you haven’t worked out the math yet, the 118% pay raise would take the mayor’s salary to $73,300/year and the vehicle allowance to $6,600/year. Keep in mind, this is for a part-time mayor and council.

During the first attempt, the vote fails with Smith visibly upset that the council turned down his request.

One year later, On December 9, 2013, Smith makes the push to hike his salary once again using the same commission recommendations. He chides the council, “it was right a year ago and it’s right now.” This time Smith is successful in pressuring the council to raise his and their pay.

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The Mesa Charter is amended with the new and outrageous increases but what the average citizen never sees (unless they watch the December 9, 2013 video) is that the mayor and council also voted to make themselves eligible for benefits “consistent with those provided to executive level City employees.” So now in addition to the pay raise, Mesa’s mayor and council are now receiving the same benefits as senior city management.

Mesa Mayor & Council Compensation Footnotes

One comment that sticks out during the debate, is that Smith notes that Mesa is the 38th largest city in the country and its mayor and council deserve to be compensated as such.

Given Mesa’s population is ranked between Tucson and Chandler, we reviewed their compensation rates to see if Mesa ball parked itself proportionally on elected official compensation rates.

Tucson, which is the second largest city in Arizona, compensates its mayor at $42,000/year. Chandler, ranked as the fourth largest city, pays its top elected executive $49,500/year. Mesa ranked third, is well above the Arizona cities above and below it by $23,800.

But we also took it a step further and looked at Mesa in terms of its population ranking among other US cities. Just above Mesa is Kansas City, Missouri which pays its mayor $123,156/year. Right below Mesa, is Virginia Beach whose mayor makes $10,000/year. Quite a variation but more like comparing apples to oranges.

Finally, we reviewed 2012 US Census data to see what the average median income is for the city of Mesa. According to this latest data, the average family in Mesa earns $47,256/year.

For the mayor of Mesa to relentlessly push for a dramatic pay raise during a time when many Mesa citizens remain in financial hardship due to reductions in salaries, hours or even job loss, anyone can see that Smith’s crusade to raise the mayor and council’s salary was not the right thing to do.

Arizona voters are worried that this style of governance will be more of the same business-as-usual. Conservatives reformers are trying to put an end to runaway spending, backroom union deals and corporate cronyism. Scott Smith’s style of management proves he’ll push the former and disturbingly his own self-interest no matter what it cost the citizens he’s supposed to serve.

Tony Rivero: Cell Phone Carriers’ Back Room Deal Could Cost 10,000 Lives a Year

By Peoria City Councilman Tony Rivero

Tony Rivero

Peoria Councilman Tony Rivero

Many people would be surprised to find out that emergency dispatchers often can’t locate them if they dial 9-1-1 from a wireless phone. Earlier this year, the FCC proposed a rule to update their standards, which they estimate could save 10,000 lives a year. This proposed rule will help 9-1-1 professionals and emergency responders locate wireless callers more quickly and accurately.

While modernizing the existing FCC standards to correct these clear flaws in our current system seems like a no-brainer to law enforcement and public safety officials, the cell phone carriers are working on a backroom deal with the Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials (APCO), a public safety trade association, to delay this lifesaving rule.

People call 9-1-1 because they are in desperate need of help. All too often, these individuals are in medical distress, a victim of a crime in progress, unsure of their location, or otherwise unable to communicate. The time lost as first responders try to locate callers often leads to tragic outcomes of those emergencies.  We cannot allow another insider deal to delay the FCC’s original proposed rule by years, costing thousands of additional lives.

While we have had so many technological advances in the way we communicate, our ability to find 9-1-1 callers has not kept pace.  Luckily, the technology to correct this problem exists today, and the FCC’s proposed rule outlines a realistic two-year path to location accuracy for all wireless 9-1-1 calls.

We’re accustomed to backroom Washington deals costing us taxpayer money, but the cost of thousands of lives is unacceptable.  We need to tell the FCC to stand firm and reject any carrier-backed deal that would delay or alter the provisions of this lifesaving rule as it was proposed, so our law enforcement officers and first responders can stop searching for callers and get back to saving lives.

Tony Rivero currently serves on the Peoria City Council and is a candidate for the Arizona House of Representatives in Legislative District 21. Find out more about Tony at TonyRivero.com.

Tempe’s Private Little Fiscal Cliff

By Michael Gibbs

Lemmings

What Tempe Council believes

I can’t think of the right adjective to use. Discouraged? Shocked? Appalled? Dismayed? Incredulous? That’s how this week’s Tempe City Council candidate forum left me feeling.

At one point candidate Matt Papke responded to a question by expressing concern about the city’s finances. Several current members of the council dismissed the issue by telling the audience that, by law, the budget has to be balanced. The attitude went beyond nonchalant–they implied that the city’s debt is a GOOD thing.

When Papke showed that in the last ten years alone Tempe’s debt has increased three-fold to nearly three quarters of a billion dollars his opponents made fun of him and one even asked if he had a mortgage on his house. Another stated flatly that you cannot run a city without incurring debt.

It’s this kind of thinking that has driven the entire nation to a $17 trillion dollar deficit, the only difference being that Tempe doesn’t have a printing press in the basement to make more dollars! No wonder Tempe is digging an ever deeper hole despite having the highest property taxes in the valley–it’s run by a bunch of profligates with no regard for their fiscal responsibilities. The spendthrifts in Detroit must be very proud to have Tempe following in their footsteps.

Danny Ray’s Campaign Piece Provokes Questions on the Gubernatorial Race

Yesterday I was visited by a member of Danny Ray’s campaign team here in northeast Mesa and was provided with this piece of campaign literature.

Danny Ray for Mayor Mesa

Of course, I’ve watched the voters of Mesa authorize the mayor and council to take the city deeper into debt through bond elections – against my advocacy and wishes.

But what really provoked my interest was who has been in leadership over the years approving increases in the budget and amount of debt.

Having been the former Communications & Outreach Director for AFP-Arizona, I jumped over to the local government scorecard put out by the Americans for Prosperity Foundation – Arizona to refresh my memory on how the City of Mesa scored. Here’s a screenshot of their performance from 2008-present:

AFPFCityMesaScorecard

 

As you can see, no one on the current council scored anywhere close to taxpayer-friendly. This confirms what Danny Ray has been campaigning on but it also reveals something about the former mayor and his effort to get a promotion to Arizona Governor.

While I like the fact that Danny Ray seems to be an anti-establishment candidate, I’m now wondering just who took Mesa in the direction its currently going and how that might be injected into the gubernatorial race.

Just sayin’

Phoenix Earns High Marks From NFIB

City judged one of five best in nation for welcoming small business

In an e-newsletter to its more than 330,000 members nationwide today, including 7,000 in Arizona, the National Federation of Independent Business, America’s voice of small business, ranked Phoenix as one of the top five cities in the country “Opening Their Doors to Small Business.”

“Phoenix’s rebounding economy, favorable climate and entrepreneurial culture attracts many transplanted residents,” said the NFIB article. “Two years ago, the Phoenix City Council implemented reforms that shifted a significant portion of city permitting and inspection functions to the private sector and created 24-hour turnarounds for projects such as city and building permits that used to take four to six months. With quicker turnarounds, doing business in Phoenix has become faster and more convenient.”

Noted Farrell Quinlan, NFIB’s Arizona state director, “The majority of people starting small businesses and prospering here were born somewhere else. That kind of new blood and vitality means opportunities in Phoenix aren’t encumbered by an old-boys network.”

In a news release issued by Mayor Greg Stanton, he said, “This ranking is a testament to the actions we’re taking to lift small and local businesses. We’re moving in a new economic direction – one that creates real opportunity for business owners and entrepreneurs.”

sal diciccio council chambers

Phoenix City Councilman Sal DiCiccio

City Councilman Sal DiCiccio added, “This puts Phoenix in a position to compete in the global economy, making us faster, smarter and better than our competitor cities. Getting 24-hour permitting and the ability to submit plans online allows businesses to open today, not months from now. The Mayor and Council recognized that it grows our economy faster when we help businesses take off quickly.”

DiCiccio, a longtime NFIB member, led the 125-member Ad Hoc Development Task Force that produced the reform recommendations for how to streamline the city’s permit process.

Phoenix has also been helped by a better state climate, Quinlan pointed out. “The state has been a leader in low tax rates and regulatory reform. For instance, Arizona simplifies the process state agencies must follow when creating rules and regulations they impose on Arizona businesses. That leadership ensures government serves as a facilitator of economic dynamism rather than a frustrator of job creation.”

Other cities making the top five list were Caspar, Wyoming; Jackson, Mississippi; Las Vegas, Nevada; and Orlando, Florida.

For more than 70 years, the National Federation of Independent Business has been the Voice of Small Business, taking the message from Main Street to the halls of Congress and all 50 state legislatures. NFIB annually surveys its members on state and federal issues vital to their survival as America’s economic engine and biggest creator of jobs. NFIB’s educational mission is to remind policymakers that small businesses are not smaller versions of bigger businesses; they have very different challenges and priorities.

Scottsdale Mayor Jim Lane Endorses Jay Lawrence for Arizona House

Jay Lawrence

(SCOTTSDALE) – In yet another major endorsement, Republican Jay Lawrence announced today that he has earned the support of Scottsdale Mayor Jim Lane. Lawrence, who is seeking an open seat in Legislative District 23, plans to succeed State Representative John Kavanagh in the Arizona House.
 
In his endorsement, Mayor Jim Lane noted:  “Jay Lawrence has been a tremendous servant to the private sector for many years. Now that he’s made the commitment to serve the public, he has my full support to represent and advocate for the best interest of Scottsdale, the District and the State. I know Jay is dedicated to Arizona and will serve our community well. I also believe we are electing a gentleman with impeccable conservative credentials who will do the right thing by his constituents and the State of Arizona.”
 
Mayor Jim Lane, who has been a Scottsdale resident for over 40 years, also remarked on his friendship with Lawrence, “I’ve been a fan and friend of Jay Lawrence for many years and look forward to cheering him on in this next chapter of a very successful career. It will also be a pleasure working with him on issues to make Scottsdale and Arizona an even better place to live.”

Mayor Lane’s endorsement now joins fellow Legislative District 23 Mayor Linda Kavanagh (Fountain Hills), along with U.S. Congressman Matt Salmon, Dr. C.T. Wright, LD 23 State Representative John Kavanagh, and others.  For a complete list of endorsements, please visit www.LD23JayLawrence.com.

Rep Matt Salmon Endorses Emilena Turley for Queen Creek Town Council

Queen Creek, AZ-  U.S. Congressman Matt Salmon endorsed Emilena Turley in her race for Queen Creek Town Council today.  

SalmonTurley“I am excited to endorse Emilena Turley for Queen Creek Town Council.  She has the right blend of business background, conservative values and real world experience that are needed  now in the council.  She will be a great asset to the town, and to the people and families that call Queen Creek home.” said Representative Matt Salmon 

As the campaign moves into the summer, Emilena Turley’s campaign will continue to meet voters, and spread her message of business growth, fiscal responsibility, open communication and family values.  “I am honored to receive Representative Salmon’s endorsement, he is a leader that I look up to, and his support of my race means so much,”. said Emilena Turley. 

For more information please visit Emilena Turley’s website at www.emilenaturley.com

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Emilena Turley was born in Chandler, Arizona in 1972 and graduated from Mountain View High School in Mesa.  She attended Phoenix College and received an AAS in Legal Secretarial Studies.  Emilena is currently an independent paralegal, where she works with attorneys throughout the East Valley.  Emilena is married to Aaron Turley, a software engineer and together, they have 8 children.  Emilena and her family moved to Queen Creek in 2010 because they love the small town feel and tight knit sense of community that it offers.

Bill Richardson: Much is at stake in the Tempe City Council race

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.

Tempe Council Candidate Matthew Papke Leads The Pack In Cash On Hand

On the verge of the deadline to file for Tempe City Council tomorrow – Wednesday, May 28th – the number of candidates who have qualified for the ballot (pending any challenges) has increased to four. The list now includes left-wing activist Lauren Kuby, current council member, Robin Arredondo-Savage, Ernesto Fonseca and independent conservative activist, Matthew Papke. Both Kuby and Papke qualified for the ballot early in the process.

While Kuby may be the current favorite among liberal political circles, her latest campaign finance report reveals she is running third place when it comes to cash on hand. Slightly ahead of her is Arredondo-Savage who is seeking re-election and obviously holds an incumbent advantage.

But what is most surprising is the fundraising capacity of Matthew Papke who dwarfs his rivals with cash on hand. The non-establishment political newcomer has apparently caught lightning in a bottle raising a total of $65,742 since entering the race from a widespread base of support. According to his latest finance report, he currently has nearly $50,000 cash on hand.

What’s even more interesting is that this former US Marine is flying below the radar of both local reporters and the Republican establishment – probably because all eyes are focused on the ninth congressional district, statewide races and the multitude of legislative races.

Papke, who recently became a new father, is well-invested in the community having grown up in Tempe and now working among fellow Tempeans. His platform includes reducing the level of crime in Tempe – currently, the highest in the east valley; balancing the city budget and eliminating the tax on food (Mesa is the only east valley community with no tax on food).

Other candidates seeking the three available seats include current council member Shana Ellis, former legislator David Schapira, Republican Dick Foreman and Ernesto Fonseca.

Here are the current cash on hand tallies in the City of Tempe Council race:

Matthew Papke:    $49,034
Robin Arredondo-Savage:    $31,350
Lauren Kuby:    $30,030
Shana Ellis:    $25,124
David Schapira:    $7,232
Dick Foreman:    $3,441
Ernesto Fonseca:    $550