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Message from Councilman Bill Gates

Dear Council District 3 Residents and Friends:

It is my honor and pleasure to serve as your Phoenix City Councilman in Council District 3 and I look forward to our future work together.  I enjoy meeting with residents; neighborhood and block watch groups; students and schools; and civic and business organizations to learn about their important issues and exchange ideas. 

My staff (Greg Montes and Jessica Amend) and I are committed to providing the residents of District 3 the very best constituent service from the city of Phoenix.  I trust you have received a pleasant call, a friendly e-mail, an important listening ear, or a welcome smile at an event from us in response to your questions, concerns, or comments.

My focus areas for District 3 will continue to be fiscal responsibility, economic development, fighting blight and improving public safety.  I voted against the 2 percent food tax, 9 percent water rate increase, and stormwater fee increase.  I spearheaded the effort in 2010 to maintain the property tax rate at $1.82 per $100 of assessed valuation.  The property tax rate vote was critical, as a taxpayer who owns a $200,000 home will see his or her property tax bill for the city of Phoenix reduced by $146 or 40 percent from $364 to $218 over the next two fiscal years.  We made this a reality by delaying $200 million of 2006 Bond Program city capital improvement projects.

Despite the downturn, there is good news to report in the last year as the Sunnyslope Neighborhood Police Station opened in September 2009 just north of Mountain View Park to enhance safety in the area, the Sears Outlet Store opened at 32nd Street and Cactus in a portion of the vacant Super Kmart location, and the Paradise Valley Mall welcomed a Costco store and the Picture Show movie theatre.  Finally, Fry’s opened its flagship grocery store at Shea and Tatum Boulevards, adding 250 new jobs to District 3.

In the economic development area, we are working to revitalize a vacant strip center and building space to spur retail and small business redevelopment in Sunnyslope and along 32nd Street and Cave Creek Road.  We have held roundtable meetings with businesses, property owners, real estate brokers, and neighborhood activists.  At these meetings with small businesses, I have heard about how difficult it can be to do business in the city of Phoenix.  I have heard about the red tape that exists at City Hall.  This cannot continue.  I am fighting to establish a small business advocate at City Hall who will be able to cut through the red tape.  Now more than ever, Phoenix must be small business friendly.  It will be the small businesses of this city that will carry us out of this bad economy.

I am also working to establish Phoenix as the solar capital of the world.  I have met with several key solar industry stakeholders to examine opportunities for solar-related economic development to attract and retain businesses, spur solar demand, and create jobs in this emerging industry. I have voted to approve several solar initiatives including lowering permit fees for residential solar panel installations.  I also testified at an Arizona Corporation Commission public hearing in 2010 to advocate in support of solar service agreements to make solar panels more affordable for local governments, schools, and non-profits to lower energy costs.  I have insisted that Sky Harbor International Airport develop solar installations to provide power for the new Sky Train, which will link the airport with the light rail system.  

We are currently partnering with the non-profit SmartPower and APS on the Sunnyslope Solar Challenge.  Under this program, a public building will receive a 1 kW solar panel free of charge for every 100 homes in Sunnyslope that places solar panels on their rooftops or installs solar water heaters.  The challenge, which will run through the end of 2011, is timed to coincide with the Sunnyslope Centennial.  If the residents of Sunnyslope attain the goal of 500 solarized homes, we will receive 5kWs of solar panels to place on the rooftops of public buildings in Sunnyslope.  I will continue to push forward these projects and others to help make Phoenix the solar capital of the world.   

My staff and I work closely with our Neighborhood Services and Police staff to keep neighborhoods clean and safe and address issues and complaints you share.  Prompt graffiti removal and addressing commercial property vacancies will help reduce blight.  Opening the new Sunnyslope Neighborhood Police Station and my regular dialogue with Police about your concerns are helping to enhance neighborhood safety.  As you may be aware, crime rates are at a 20-year low in the city of Phoenix.  I thank our Block Watches and the Phoenix Neighborhood Patrol members in District 3 for all of their hard work and cooperation with the finest Police Department in the United States. 

The economic downturn has had an adverse impact on city of Phoenix revenues. In early 2010, the City Manager announced that the city of Phoenix was facing a $277 million budget deficit.  Despite this daunting shortfall, the city of Phoenix balanced its General Fund budget through June 30, 2011.  The city used a myriad of methods to balance the budget including employee wage and benefit concessions, innovation and efficiency savings, a food tax (which I voted against), and service and staff reductions (my office staff was cut from four to two positions).  I thank the thousands of residents who provided feedback during our community budget process by attending budget hearings, calling, writing letters and sending e-mails.  Your valuable input and insight helped shape my decisions throughout the process and helped ensure that service impacts were minimal. 

I am proud to chair the City Council's new Finance, Efficiency and Innovation Subcommittee, which has recommended and full City Council has approved more than $7 million in savings and efficiencies.  These have included city department and function consolidations ($1,425,000); improved revenue collections ($900,00); streamlining the city's Reserve-A-Ride program ($860,000); re-bidding of life insurance contracts ($511,000); relocating the Public Works Department to City Hall ($250,000); liability insurance premium savings ($169,000); eliminating paper pay stubs ($85,000); and professional services contractors voluntary 3 percent contract reduction ($785,000). 

The purpose of this subcommittee is to create a leaner, more efficient city government by reviewing and taking action on recommendations from the city's Innovation and Efficiency Task Force, which is comprised of city staff and business leaders from the private sector.  We have just begun this effort.  The next phase of this process is to flatten the organization at City Hall by shedding levels of middle management.  Further, we will be applying the private sector philosophies of Six Sigma and Lean Management to City Hall to become more efficient.  What does this mean to you?  It means that the city of Phoenix can perform services for you at a lower cost.  We should demand that from our city of Phoenix government.

Transparency in government and public participation are very important to me.  I want to know your ideas and opinions and I want you to be able to stay informed about what is happening at City Hall.  I have held many forums with residents, business owners, neighborhood associations, block watches, high school government classes and others.  I hold monthly coffee chats at various locations around District 3 and office hours in the evening hours in District 3.  Our city will improve and become the place you want it to be if we talk, debate, roll up our sleeves and work together.  Thank you for the honor of serving as your Councilman.

Please contact me at 602-262-7441 or council.district.3@phoenix.gov.