Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Primary Results Are In - Go Kate!

Ok, so there are still a few ballots to count, but probably not enough to change anything in this election. The only remaining uncounted ballots are early mail-in ballots that were dropped off at the polling places -- mine included -- and provisional ballots. So how'd the candidates do? From the city of Phoenix website (as of last night):

My predictions last week were a little bit off. I honestly can't imagine how this is turning into a runoff between Kate Gallego versus the supposedly well-intentioned campaign with a case of Tourette's. I seriously thought that Robinson would come in 2nd. I'm also a little appalled at our voter turnout, which was the worst of the four districts (2, 4, 6, 8)..... That said, when I see the numbers 2, 4, 6, 8, I can't help but follow up with, "Who do you appreciate?" Well, naturally Kate!!! (and maybe Warren Stewart for running such an ugly, divisive campaign that will surely lose in the general election). So here's the deal: let's show the rest of Phoenix that we care more than they do by delivering Kate a decisive victory in the general election, and let's throw in a high voter turnout for good measure. Sound good?

Saturday, August 24, 2013

District 8, Vote Now, Vote Smart

The time is now upon us, D8 residents. If you haven't yet voted in the city council primary, you can go today (Saturday), or Monday or Tuesday, to one of our city's polling places -- here's an interactive polling place locator -- and cast your preference. If you received an early ballot and are still holding onto it, please don't mail it now, but instead drop it off at a polling location. Here's more info about where and how to vote.

I've attended two of our local candidate forums and have otherwise followed this election by asking several of the candidates to complete a questionnaire for my blog (read their responses here), as well as following others' coverage of this race. My wife Catherine and I have chosen to support our friend, Kate Gallego. I encourage you to do the same -- but only after learning more about the five official candidates and their platforms. Click their names below for links to their campaign websites, and note that the following order is my prediction of popular vote turnout, based purely on my gut instinct about the candidates' support base and campaigns thus far (and maybe a little personal bias between #1 and #2, which will likely be close):

Kate Gallego
Lawerence Robinson
Warren Stewart
Luis Rodriguez
Carolyn T. Lowery

This election should rightfully come down to a choice between Kate Gallego and Lawrence Robinson, who I hope to see in the runoff election if there is one, and here's my reasoning, based on each campaign:

Carolyn T. Lowery

Let's start on a positive note about Carolyn T. Lowery, who has run a purely grassroots campaign and probably doesn't stand a chance of winning. If you attended any of the earlier candidate forums (sadly, she didn't attend the Laveen forum), then you know that this lady is passionate, entertaining, and absolutely deserves a seat at the table. It's hard not to cheer for her and her focus on special communities in district 8 that often lack a voice, like the elderly and the economically disadvantaged. To be clear, she's not just some bleeding heart begging for handouts, but she actually seems to pick up on some important nuances about localized issues that affect neighborhoods. I also appreciated her appeal to voters (paraphrased): "Who knows, maybe you'll decide to take a chance on that nice lady, Carolyn."

Luis Rodriguez

Next we have the Tea Party favorite, Luis Rodriquez, whose campaign message at the candidate forums was essentially, "District 8 is a scary horrible place; get out now, but vote for me first." His campaign will likely take offense to this characterization, as Rodriguez touts his military record, plus his focus on "eliminating red tape" and promoting more sound fiscal policy from the city. In all fairness, I thought he brought up some very solid points about how we could better manage the city's finances -- he sold me on hiring him on city staff to tackle waste, but not as a candidate for council. His message came off more negative than positive and was rife with logical inconsistencies about his perception of the city government's role in managing a city.

Warren Stewart

Speaking of ugliness and negativity.... Who would have suspected that so much would come from the campaign of the only clergy member running in this race?! While the Stewart campaign would very much like to forget these episodes, it's hard not to recall the turmoil unleashed by his supporters over racial politics in District 8, most notably this one that employs ugly racial name-calling and this one featuring Stewart supporter and allegedly corrupt politician, Mary Rose Wilcox. And let's not forget this article that kicked off the unflattering but mostly truthful coverage of south Phoenix, while also highlighting Stewart's work with the "old guard" -- mostly behind closed doors. Sorry, but this campaign seriously fails to connect with younger voters and new transplants to D8, which includes a significant portion of Laveen. Speaking of Laveen and the greater south Phoenix area, did anyone else catch his comment at one of our forums regarding his "first term" on council? Whoa now, settle down there, Mr. Candidate! I'm not sure that you're as entitled to this office as you seem to think. And if it seems that I'm giving too much attention to this candidate, it may be due to the fact that his campaign took almost a week to respond to my May 26th request for comment, only to say that he would follow up a few days later and then never did. That response came from Stewart's campaign director who, according to his corporate filings, lives all the way up north of the 101.... so maybe I was a little hasty in expecting my email to travel that far in the amount of time I expected. Oh well, they didn't want my support anyway I guess -- they certainly haven't been out in the community, asking for it, like the next two candidates have...

Lawrence Robinson

Robinson's campaign is practically synonymous with The RISE of South Phoenix, which is something fierce of a grassroots community group with some very smart, capable, passionate folks involved. I respect these guys and see many more young politicians in the making here -- not to mention at least one kingmaker in the mix, who I presume wishes to remain nameless, but he knows who he is and I'm happy to give him credit if he will accept it. To be clear, I have a good deal of positive sentiment for Robinson and his campaign, which I don't attempt to hide. He's charismatic, he's running a smart campaign, and he's an ideal 2nd place candidate.... After all, as much as I like the guy, I think he's got enough on his plate already.

Shortly after moving here from NY in 2009, Robinson went to work as a staffer for the Democratic caucus in the state house of representatives and later left that position for a teaching role at the private for-profit college, Phoenix School of Law. He also serves on the Roosevelt School Board, although it is not reflected currently on his linkedin profile, and his school district bio reads like a campaign announcement (go ahead and read it for yourself). Do you see where I'm going with this? I might just be a little sensitive to the fact that Robinson ran for school board and then within a month or two of being elected he announced his candidacy for city council. Judging by Robinson's response to questions at public forums (like responding to one question by pointing out that it's his constitutional right to run for another office while serving), he seems to be a little bit sensitive about this topic, too -- as he should be! The Roosevelt School District, like many school districts in political hotbeds like ours, has long been the victim of neglect by self-serving board members with greater political ambitions. Whether this is a fair assessment of Robinson or not, we need to keep him on the defensive about it.

All that said, I generally do like most of Robinson's policy ideas.... except where I think he lacks depth on issues related to economic development, zoning, and real estate. Not to make too little of social issues, but these issues are by far the most critical in a city council district that includes Phoenix's population-growth juggernaut, aka Laveen, as well as the airport, the light rail corridor, and important redevelopment corridors in the downtown and south Phoenix areas.

Kate Gallego

That brings us to Kate. She is a friend and an admirable community leader, and yet I feel that I've failed her up to this point by making myself too busy to publish this post or volunteer, and also by hamstringing myself with a promise to remain somewhat unbiased in the public sphere regarding this election (which I inadvertently extended for far too long). That said, I am quite biased in favor of Kate -- not just because of my wife's and my friendship with her, but also because she's one of the very few people in this world who will indulge me with technical conversations about zoning, economic development, and other such issues. She's also one of the few people in this world who gracefully yet commandingly interrupts my tangential diatribes to keep our discussions on point. But this isn't just about me -- it's about Laveen and District 8, so back to that....

We need someone who understands Laveen and south Phoenix, particularly the more subtle growth dynamics that impact our community, both in contrast with and in light of those other subtle growth dynamics in redevelopment areas like the light rail corridor and downtown. Kate's experience as an economic development professional and her work on PlanPHX have given her an almost unfair advantage over the other candidates in this arena. She brings a well rounded perspective, an impressive resume, and an ability to take charge of issues by dominating the details. She runs a political race against a pastor and a non-practicing attorney, yet she manages to bring home almost every point far more effectively than these silver-tongued wordsmiths -- that's because she knows her stuff! Also, she's been the only candidate to make meaningful contributions to Laveen-specific issues and reliably show up at community meetings/events in Laveen. And remember how I mentioned that she knows how to keep discussions on point? Yeah, that will help tremendously when it comes to fighting for limited resources from the city -- which we need in D8. As far as I'm concerned, we are by far the most important district in the city, and Kate understands this and knows how to leverage it. She will not stand by and let double-speaking buffoons like Sal DiCiccio dominate the discussion.

And back to my personal take for a moment, I can't help but comment that Kate's team wins the contest for door-knocking at the Brennan house. This is notable because a) no one ever bothers to solicit our quiet out-of-the-way street and b) door-knocking is critical when it comes to connecting with people.

And finally, I am in a unique position to comment on another issue: There's at least one Laveen community member who has repeatedly and incorrectly called Kate a "carpetbagger". Ahem, you must be kidding me! I've been talking to Kate and her husband Ruben for at least three or four years about moving to the Laveen-SoMo area from their old downtown condo, also in District 8 (both before and after redistricting, btw). A mutual friend of ours worked masterfully on their behalf to snag them a beautiful home earlier this year, following a lengthy search. The Gallegos, their realtor (my friend Victor Jett Contreras), and I spoke on many occasions about their planned move, and I can promise that they landed right where they wanted to be because they love the area. It's not quite Laveen, but we can't always hit the bullseye. And Kate is the only candidate offering more than lip service about her commitment to Laveen. So it is with pleasure that I announce my endorsement of Kate Gallego and encourage the rest of District 8 to do the same -- especially Laveen.... and downtown.... and SoMo.... and anyone else. Eh, you get the idea. Go Kate!