Mayor Greg Stanton's State of the City Address - April 11, 2012

Greg Stanton for News Releases

Caption:     Mayor Greg Stanton

Thank you.

Welcome to everyone in the room here today.

And welcome to those watching on the Internet -- as we live stream the State of the City for the first time.

Thanks to my wonderful wife Nicole for your support, encouragement, patience and for being such a dedicated mom to our two young children, Trevor and Violet.

As Mayor -- I have great teammates on the Phoenix city council -- each has entered public service for all the right reasons and each deserves recognition for what they do for our city – Vice Mayor Michael Johnson, Councilwoman Thelda Williams, and Councilmen Sal DiCiccio, Bill Gates, Michael Nowakowski, Tom Simplot, Daniel Valenzuela, and Jim Waring.

As Mayor -- I stand on the shoulders of great Mayors who came before me -- John Driggs, Terry Goddard, Paul Johnson, Skip Rimsza, and Phil Gordon. Each of you has an outstanding legacy.

To the Greater Phoenix Chamber of Commerce– thank you for hosting today, and for being such strong leaders for our community.

I want to give a very special welcome to someone. I believe our city needs a renewed commitment to community policing. The people of our city are safest when the Police Department has great relationships with neighborhood leaders, local businesses, schools and churches.

That's why when I became Mayor, I knew we needed a Police Chief who shares these values. I believe we found that person. Lets give a big Phoenix welcome to our new police chief, Daniel Garcia and his wife, Irma. Chief, you're going to love this place.

Today, in the City of Phoenix - I'm pleased to report, we have a gimmick-free balanced budget.

We have maintained our AAA bond rating -- even during these difficult times while some cities have been down-graded.  We have used that Triple A bond-rating to re-finance debt and we have saved nearly 200 million dollars over 5 years.

And for the first time in five years – we will be increasing services to the people of Phoenix, including more resources for public safety, extending, library hours, expanding, the swimming season at our public pools and increasing programming at parks, youth recreation and senior centers.  And we'll even be increasing essential grants for our arts organizations.

A lot of people deserve credit, but I want to acknowledge the dedication of our city leaders, the hard work of our city manager David Cavazos, the partnership with our city labor organizations, and the incredible professionalism of our 14,000 city employees. I owe a big thank you to each and every one of them.  They have worked hard through this economic storm of epic proportions.

So today I announce, the state of our city is strong and getting stronger.  But we still face incredible challenges!

Today marks my 100th day as Mayor and 100 days ago, I said, "Phoenix is at a crossroads".  We could continue to go down the road in which our economy was overly dependent on sprawl. Or -- we could break the boom or bust cycle and build a diverse, sustainable economy.  One that creates technology-based jobs.  Green jobs.  Bioscience and health care jobs.

We are making the right choices and we are making progress every day.

But that's not enough.

That's not enough because no matter what we do as an individual city there will always be a glass ceiling on our success unless our regional partners and Arizona make the right choices too. We need to make real changes to our economy and schools.  Big changes.

And the truth is Arizona is falling short. Other states and regions are making the smart investments – and some are pulling away from us.  We're in a race against time and our margin for error is slim.

We cannot afford to sit idly by.

It is time for action. And where others have fallen short Phoenix will lead.  We'll work with our regional partners not to do just what's good for Phoenix but what's good for all of us. The reality of today's world is that Phoenix can't rise if Scottsdale falls.  And Peoria can't move forward if we fall behind.  We're all in this together.  And I refuse to look back and lament the things we should have done. Instead, we will do them.

Take high-wage jobs.

You hear me talk a lot about them, and how central they are to achieving a diverse, sustainable economy. I will work relentlessly to attract these kinds of jobs to our city and region while fiercely protecting the ones we have.  Arizona companies have the 5th highest amount of defense contracts in the country led by companies like Honeywell, Boeing, Raytheon, Lockheed Martin, and General Dynamics.  Those contracts create high-wage jobs.  

But because of partisan politics in Washington those great jobs are at risk.

Arizona's economy and our nation's security face a serious threat from the Federal Government's failure to deal with looming, indiscriminate cuts to Pentagon programs.  But bearing the biggest brunt of these cuts will be our defense companies and the Arizonans they employ.

Together with other mayors from around the country I'll be leading a national task force charged with moving beyond partisan gridlock.  We will propose a way forward that prevents economic harm to our communities, protects jobs and ensures our military can protect our nation.  I am honored to have the support of Senator John McCain, who is fighting in Washington to protect our Armed Forces from sequester cuts and who clearly recognizes the need for city mayors to work with Washington to protect critical defense jobs.

These contracts and the high-wage jobs they bring are central to our long-term economic development in Arizona.  We know what must be done. And now we are leading to make sure it does get done.

Knowing the importance of high-wage jobs is why our city has invested in bioscience over the last ten years.

And our leadership has paid off.  Because in Arizona, in a tough economy, bioscience jobs have grown by a third – faster than any other region in the nation. These are just the type of high-wage, research-based jobs we need.  And we're going to continue that investment. In January, I announced the exciting collaboration of the Mayo Clinic, ASU and our city to bring the biosciences to north Phoenix in our city's second major biomedical campus.  

I can report to you today the City Council gave its unanimous support to this innovative partnership.  We are moving forward.  It is exactly the kind of bipartisan leadership our city needs.

Thank you in advance to Arizona State Land Department Commissioner Maria Baier, our former colleague because this project's success depends on your leadership support.  

And because our city will lead in fostering innovative partnerships, our state will lead our nation in the health sciences.

In July, the $135 million dollar U of A Health Science Education Building will open its doors allowing the Medical school to more than double its current class size.  And construction will soon begin on the U of A Cancer Center on the downtown bio-medical campus.

With all of those U of A-trained doctors walking around downtown, it's probably time to attract a few more ASU-trained lawyers to the heart of the city.

Because as the home to government, the court system and private law firms, downtown is where any great Law School belongs.  That's why I am committed to doing all I can to bring ASU's Law School to downtown Phoenix.

It is often said that Arizona should lead the nation in solar and other renewable energies. And let me tell you - Phoenix is showing our state and nation how public-private partnerships can expand the use of solar energy.

Through Solar Phoenix One, $25 million dollars was invested to place solar panels on hundreds of Phoenix homes, allowing home owners considerable savings on their energy bills.

Solar Phoenix Two will be even bigger, and Energy Secretary Steven Chu will be here when we launch it next month. This initiative will help 1,400 more homeowners to place solar panels on their homes. We're creating the model so that every city and every state that wants to embrace solar energy knows how to do it.  This can change our country's energy future but it couldn't happen without support from forward-thinking private sector partners. I want to thank Craig Robb and National Bank of Arizona for their commitment to this initiative as we work together to build a more sustainable economy.

This may be a big step – but it's just a first step.

By the end of 2012 Phoenix will double the amount of solar cells on city buildings.  This is in addition to the Rental Car Center at Sky Harbor Airport that opened earlier this year with one of the largest solar arrays of its kind in the country.

We are leading the way. And we will continue to join the best and brightest in our community to push the envelope and build a brighter energy future.

To become a true national leader in green and sustainable industries sustainable thinking must become a fundamental part of our culture and permeate all of our thinking at the city of Phoenix.

Which is why, as promised I have appointed a Sustainability Advocate to work directly with me in the Mayor's Office.  And why we convened a community-based Sustainability Advisory Committee.  We are integrating sustainable strategies into our everyday operations and long-term decision-making.  Sustainable thinking can provide solutions to some of our city's most vexing challenges.  Like the numerous vacant lots all around Phoenix that mar our landscape.

Vacant lots are a minus for our city. They hurt the morale of neighborhoods and too often become targets for vandalism and graffiti.  But by working creatively with local non-profits and the business community we can turn them into a plus.

And today, I am thrilled to announce that through a partnership with the Baron Collier Company that is exactly what we are going to do with the 15-acre vacant lot located at one of the highest profile intersections in our entire city the north-east corner of Central and Indian School. The Barron Collier Company is generously offering interim use of their property to allow us to showcase sustainable innovations that range from public gardens to urban farming and other great projects.

In six months, the lot that currently stands vacant will be a blooming example of what we can achieve through new approaches and public-private partnerships.

And it will be just the beginning.  This will be a template for success that will be replicated around our city and our region.  And by taking steps like this, thinking creatively and trying new things, our city will lead our region and our region will lead our state.

And why does it even matter that our city leads? And that our region leads?

It's  because every day we compete in a global economy, and by leading, we are best positioned to successfully compete.

Developing strong international and trade relationships are central to helping us meet that end.

Mexico is Arizona's largest international trading partner, but over the last few years, our economic relationship has become strained.  Today, Texas is seizing economic opportunities that we've allowed to pass us by. That's unacceptable to me.  If we've learned one thing these last few years it's that short-term, divisive politics are bad for Arizona business.

I won't engage in it, and neither will the city I lead.  One of my first acts as Mayor was to travel to Mexico to meet with business and government officials to send them an important message from our city:

We are ready to do business with you.

And I will go to Mexico, again, and again, Consul General Trevino, because increasing trade with Mexico is crucial to our long-term economic success.

And now -- let's talk a little more about business.

Because -- supporting our existing businesses is at the heart of our economic development and every day we are taking steps to lead Phoenix businesses to success so in turn they can lead our city and region down the same path.

We are minimizing the barriers to conducting business accelerating our permitting process because we know time is money and taking advantage of modern technology by creating electronic permit applications.

We will soon open a state-of-the-art job training center to help build a world-class work force for Phoenix businesses.

And by the recent change to our city purchasing system to give a preference to local businesses on contracts  up to 50,000 dollars, we will provide a significant boost to our local economy.  And Phoenix defined local not in a parochial way.  Instead -- we defined it as any business in Maricopa County. Because we know that when businesses in the city of Gilbert do well, Phoenix also does well. And when Avondale businesses succeed, Phoenix succeeds - too.

And I challenge every city, every town and every school district to adopt an ordinance for buying local and define local as our entire region.  We will sink or swim as a region – so let's build one another up as a region.

We can see the strength of our local businesses when we look downtown.

And we have seen remarkable growth in our downtown area, with large structures and new venues.  But now, going forward, we can't simply adopt a superblock mentality for our downtown.  We must focus our energies on attracting more people and events to our downtown to create a more modern, more lively center city. And let's be honest.

The most exciting things happening in our downtown right now are led by committed local talent.  

Like -- Film Bar thanks to Kelly Aubey.

Like –the Crescent Ballroom, thanks to Charlie Levy.

Like -- Linda Torres of ALAC and the creative downtown business owners 

and entrepreneurs behind Roosevelt Row and Food Truck Fridays.

Today, I am calling for the formation of a new downtown organization that will bring fresh minds and new ideas into positions of leadership and bring new life and energy to our downtown.  And I urge the Downtown Phoenix Partnership and the Phoenix Community Alliance to become a part of this organization.

Let's capture the creative minds leading the exciting things in our downtown.  We need their leadership as we move forward.
We should all understand that new life and energy downtown won't be possible without our region's investment in a more sustainable transportation infrastructure.

Some said mass transit could never work in a desert city.  But nearly a quarter of a million people ride metro us and light rail every day.  We have built a system that connects people to jobs and entertainment fosters cultural hubs and creates new opportunities for more sophisticated development.

We cannot be a great city without a great transportation system, and our current system needs to grow.  As your Mayor, I will support public transit whole heartedly including expansion of rail, bus, and multimodal forms of transportation - especially walkability and bikeability.

Remembering that strong schools are central to leading our city and region toward a sustainable, diverse economy, there are few areas where our leadership is needed more than in education.

Arizona has failed to make education the priority it must be - and so now Phoenix will lead.

We will work round the clock to find every way possible to support our schools.  It's exactly why I have  appointed an Advocate for Education in the Mayor's office.   This is a new idea, and just another example of how we are breaking the bonds of the status quo to get things done.

I said I'd fight to reinstate the Office of Education to the City of Phoenix, and that's what's in the proposed budget, starting July 1st.

And we will lead the fight for federal dollars for early childhood learning and math, science and arts education.

And I am proud that we have been working with Helios Education Foundation and West Ed to formalize my plan for the Arizona Mayors' Education Roundtable.  The roundtable is going to put Mayors from around the state front and center in the fight to support our schools.  Because Mayors know - as our schools go, so goes the future of our cities.

I want to recognize the other mayors who serve with me because they understand the urgency of the moment:

Tucson Mayor Jonathan Rothschild, Avondale Mayor Marie Lopez Rogers, Flagstaff Mayor Sara Presler, Gilbert Mayor John Lewis, and Mesa Mayor Scott Smith.

And none of our efforts to strengthen education can be successful if our kids can't go to school in an environment free of intimidation, harassment or violence.  Nicole -- that's why your leadership on anti-bullying is so essential for the future of our city.

Our city must protect the safety of all residents.

This means doing the right thing for the homeless men, women, and children who live on our city streets.

Starting on July 1st we will have in the mayor's office for the first time an Advocate for Ending Homelessness  who will use the stature and resources of our mayor's office to fight to end chronic homelessness in our city and reduce the time on the street for those who experience temporary homelessness.  Phoenix must be a city with a heart.

Ending homelessness is just one of the many challenges we must tackle head on as we travel beyond our current crossroads and build a robust and sustainable 21st-century economy for our city.

We will craft a regional approach that lifts us all up and solidifies our diverse, sustainable economy.  We will strengthen local business, create new jobs, and attract new industry.  We will work tirelessly to have schools and universities that are among the best in our nation and around the world.

We can only succeed together.

And as your Mayor, I promise:

I will never stop reaching.

I will never accept something because that's the way it's always been done.  

I will always search for the right solution.

I will always demand new and innovative thinking.

We must always have the courage to take on big challenges.

Always press forward.

Always strive.

Because our future is right in front of us, and it is ours to define.

Now let's go out and get it.

Thank you.