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By Anonymous Mike, pseudonymously.

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Monday, September 10, 2007
The Argument Against Phil Gordon

Phil Gordon is going to win re-election tomorrow as Mayor of Phoenix. It's never smart to get in the way of a juggernaut and say he shouldn't be re-elected, but I'll take a crack at it.

First of all I want to say that Phil Gordon is a pretty decent guy and all-in-all not a bad mayor. We know he won't steal the family silver, be caught smoking crack with women of ill-repute, or any other scandalous mischief involving a "wide stance." We know that Phoenix will be fairly well-run over the next 4 years; the garbage will be collected, the police won't be shaking down donut shops, and our streets won't be overrun by packs of wild dogs.

Such a man, based on that criteria alone, is worthy of re-election. Certainly the local media thinks so if only because I bet 99% of Phoenix residents have no idea if his opponent, Steve Lory, is actually a real person or not.

Let me try to give an argument, no not about the existence of Mr. Lory, but why we shouldn't give Gordon 4 more years.

First let's look at Phoenix itself. I'm also willing to bet that no one moved here for the 24/7 night-life or a neat-o downtown; those who wanted that moved to Chicago or New York. You come here to raise a family, the climate, to live in the Southwest... not so you could live a car-free existence. After all you don't move to New York for the wide-open vistas and to have a 2-car garage. Horses for courses as they say.

I'm willing to bet that most Phoenicians aren't looking for excitement from their municipal government but rather want safe street and good city management. Call it Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs for Local Government but if you cannot get the basics right then you aren't going to be able to do the extras. Put another way to my good friends, if you cannot make a good donut then it doesn't matter how delicious your filling will be.

Safe streets. As Robert Robb reported yesterday, while Phoenix may have a violent crime rate 21% below the big-city average it has a property crime rate that was 28% above. Yet Robb reports that Gordon refuses to address the issue publicaly. Also while violent crimes may be below the big city average, the overall numbers of such crimes have been trending upwards under Gordon's Administration.

Well-managed government. At the same time violent crime has been increasing and property crime remains above-average, Gordon has done little to fight the problem. Ratio of residents to sworn officers has declined approximately 12% since 1999. The last 2 years of that drop has occurred while the city budget has increased by more than 30%.

So if the money hasn't gone to increase the police where has it gone? In part it went downtown. The recent bond election allocated a lion's share of the money to downtown projects highlighted by the strange decision of Phoenix to build a campus for a state supported university. If you go through the debates of the bond committee that dealt with police projects, you find the participants trying to find ways of funding needed police substations in the northeast and southwest parts of the city. These are the high growth areas of the city which lie upwards of 20 miles from the downtown area; with the exception of sporting events what are the odds of these people riding the light rail or even visiting downtown? Yet vitally needed projects in those far-flung areas went on hold to pay for ASU Downtown and other projects which those residents will rarely visit.

The other part of a well-managed city involves light rail. I know Mayor Gordon wasn't responsible for either the initial starter line or for the extensions approved in 2004 but he is mayor while the first part of the system is being built. I've been beating this topic to death and I will continue to beat it into the next life, but light rail whether it's an operational success or not will fundamentally change the way businesses operate along its route due to its partial blocking of vehicular access. Go in to the retail outlets along Central and Camelback, especially those which aren't on corners where there are stop lights, and they are pessimistic about survival. Some aren't going to make it until the end of construction and those who do are hoping, praying is more like it, that the light rail will make up for the business they will no longer get into their parking lot. In fact one owner said very bluntly "I don't know one person on this street who thinks light rail is a good thing."

In other words the shoe is going to drop and drop hard and that soon-to-be empty Target at 7th Ave. & Camelback is going to be the first of many shuttered storefronts. Some of them, especially on Central close to downtown where there are condo developments will be filled by new businesses, but I doubt as you move away from that core that there will be many rushing to fill the void.

So when December 2008 comes around and Mayor Gordon takes the inaugural ride on the light rail system, I am willing to bet he will see a devastated commercial district along the majority its route; a phenomena that will take years for it to recover. Publicly he will say it is a surprise and point to all of his past efforts with Valley Metro to help those businesses. Privately he will know it's a feature, and not a bug, of the system.

So the argument against 4 more years is not that Mayor Gordon is a bad guy. It's not he has had made catastrophically made decisions. The argument is that he has ignored developing problems, stuffed them under the rug so that someone else will have to deal with them after 2011. The argument is that he has ignored the basics of good government that we have taken for granted in Phoenix, ignored a rising crime rate by not giving the police the resources that it needs, and overseen a rapid rise in spending while calling for new taxes. He has sustained and deepened the effort to take money out of the outlying areas through tax breaks and bond projects and direct them toward quixotic projects downtown.

That's not good management, that's not good leadership, that's not a good reason to give him 4 more years.