Tempe City Council Candidates Question of the Week

Background: In 2020, the 1/10th of 1% sales tax that was passed to fund the Tempe Center for the Arts will sunset. Since the TCA continues to loose money and appears to be unable to create a viable and sustainable plan for both fundraising and programming to at least achieve a breakeven budget, there is a discussion to launch another ballot initiative to extend the tax maybe indefinitely.

Question 9:

Since the Tempe City Council has in the past fulfilled its pledge to sunset temporary sales taxes, will you be in favor of a voter-approved extension of the TCA tax given the past and present ongoing losses being incurred by the Tempe Center for the Arts?

Stanley Nicpon
Tempe


Matthew Papke
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It is about accountability. Take this excerpt from a recent article relating to a found $1.5MM. “It looks like Ken Jones and Andrew Ching set the council up to look like the fools they are.”Hotchy Kiene, chairman of the commission and arts commissioner David Kephart told the The Republic they were aware that the fund had a $1.5 million savings, but they said the city, not the commission, controls the fund’s budget.” Commissioner David Lucier was surprised to learn of the unused money. ”I certainly was not aware we have a million dollars in the (account)” he said.” (full article)

Clearly something is amiss here. Should the tax payers suffer the expenses to support an Art’s Center that is unable to reconcile it’s books properly?

In 2012 the expenses for the Art Center were $8.5MM the revenue generate was $782,000 from services. True there was a large principle payment made to the fund, but the operating costs far exceed revenues generated. $1.4MM was spent on interest on the debt and $2.5MM in community service costs aka (operating costs). (page 126)

I would vote no at this time to renewing a tax on a project that shows no promise at breaking even at this point. It is time to start treating the public’s money like we would our own. At this time the Arts Center seems like a very bad financial investment. At the very least there should be management shake ups and a restructuring, just like would take place in the real world.

There are those who will say I dislike art. They are wrong. Come to my house, you will find a variety of musical instruments and many pieces of art, additionally I study and practice traditional arts daily. What I do dislike is abuse of the public trust and tax base. If we are able to turn the TCA around I would be happy to be a part of that, but the sunset should be upheld and the TCA should stand on it’s own, via public usage or charitable contributions or any combination thereof.



Shana Ellis
shana ellis

If requested, I am in favor of putting an item on the ballot to ask the Tempe citizens if they would support extending the tax for the Tempe Center for Arts. The tax originally was voter approved. Any extension of that tax should be brought back to the voters. I would support putting that question on the ballot.



Dick Foreman

Dick Foreman

No, I am not in favor of a permanent tax increase.  There are several reasons.  First of all, boutique or “vanity” taxes applied to our sales tax or other revenue streams are very poor tax policy.  Every group has wonderful arguments about why they are special and should not have to compete in front of the public in open meeting for their needs to be met in the context of the entire budget.  But that’s precisely what should happen to ensure we have the most thoughtful discussion and make the touch choices in front of all Tempe.  No backroom deals.

For example, I could point out that there are absolutely critical needs in our senior and elderly community, and many programs for our youth would certainly fit this argument.  Sidebar revenue streams for job creation, parks, alley clean-up or additional neighborhood safety are all, equally valuable discussions, persuasive and valid for vanity taxes.  I would oppose each and every one of those.  In my lengthy experience with taxes, bad policy does not make up for scratching political itches.  It simply remains bad policy.

We need to get away from these “vanity” proposals in Tempe.  They simply reduce the General Fund Revenue stream and tie the hands of future councils whether that particular revenue stream is actually needed at the level it funds or not and in spite of all future exigencies that might arise.  I’ve seen this unfortunate phenomenon, in spite of the best of intentions, with state parks monies devoted to building a certain amount of new trails every year.  When the state went in to the great recession, building new hiking trails had a protected revenue stream even though most any policy maker would have rather not cut so deeply into education funding to balance the budget.  We could have done with a lot more funding for a real crisis, our children’s educational needs, before hacking away in the desert to build a new trail. The more vanity we bring in to our tax structure, the more limitations we have in the future to fairly assess and fund the needs in our community.

An equally important part of your question is the “deal” made with voters.  When we tell voters that a tax will be “temporary” we must not go back on our word.  How can any policy maker then, in the future, especially if dealing with a true crisis in budget management, assures that a “temporary” tax is all we need and the voter says, “yeah, sure, just like the last time.”

Trust is so important, especially in taxation.  Say what you mean, mean what you say, never misrepresent, no matter how popular the cause.  That is not the issue.  So, for example, I don’t need a public opinion survey that says Tempeans support the Tempe Center for the Arts and might consider extending the temporary tax.  My deal is, we told Tempe we wouldn’t do that.  Indeed, politics is not always convenient.  But trust, to me, is not negotiable.  Politics is not always doing what most people want in a snapshot of time.  Leadership is knowing the difference.

And finally, as far as being absolutely committed and a supporter of the TCA Foundation and it’s future endeavors, I’m “all in.”  But this needs to be an effort in harmony with our city budget, our city staff and our community supporters and volunteers, not an admission that we have failed to manage the revenue stream already so generously provided by our taxpayers with the result being, “well, we failed to secure our future with what we received, let’s do this again!”



Robin Arredondo-Savage
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The Tempe Center for the Arts (TCA) is a modern art center by Tempe Town Lake with a varied performing arts schedule, gallery, art education and a beautiful special events venue. It is one of my favorite places in Tempe. Our Community Services Department is in the process of creating an Arts Master Plan that will include the TCA. This will be helpful in guiding future operations, programming, marketing and funding to help ensure a healthy and vibrant community arts center.

Our voters passed the initial arts tax, so I support referring a question to the ballot to ask our residents if they want to continue it. However, I believe that both City Council and Staff have a responsibility to first analyze the existing programming, identify new, creative funding streams and look for ways to streamline operations. The Arts can many times be similar to Transportation: they are both usually subsidized to some extent if they are to remain truly viable. In this new day in age though, we have to focus on being more creative when it comes to sources of revenue. Just simply looking to our general fund or asking for new taxes should not be the primary option. Grants and public-private partnerships must be explored to assist with funding. Overall, a true, innovative strategic Arts plan can ensure that the TCA remains a crown jewel for all Tempe residents and visitors for decades to come.



Lauren Kuby

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It’s interesting to note that the City does not make a profit on our parks and recreation, yet budgetary support for the parks is unquestioned. We should also note that Chandler and Mesa have similar sized centers for the arts, and It is uncommon for such centers to be self-sustaining.

Businesses looking to locate in a given city examine at a host of factors, including schools, parks, neighborhoods, and, yes, cultural amenities. Although we need to continually evaluate and improve costs of operation, the net gain and value to our community is worth the cost of supporting TCA’s wide and varied programming.

The number and variety of performances and events at TCA are growing from year to year. In fiscal Year 2014 alone, TCA hosted 919 events attended by over 184K visitors and brought in over $695K in revenue. Here are the metrics:

• 535 performance events (including 129 school matinees)
• 292 business events
• 56 social events
• 36 gallery events
• 100 concerts

A 2012 survey conducted by the Behavior Research Center confirmed the value of TCA’s role in the community and found that most Tempe residents support making permanent the sales tax that funds the TCA. So yes, I would favor a voter-approved extension of the TCA tax if need be.

There is a current RFP out to craft a Master Plan for TCA; it will help our residents to decide upon concrete plans for the generating additional revenue and supporting the arts. With an improving economy and sustainable solutions to consider such as selling the naming rights to create revenue and expanding and enhancing the programming, we may not need to extend the tax. One thing is clear: the arts are essential to Tempe and our growing status as world-class city.



If you have a question please email it to: editor@tempethoughts.com

Cost/Benefit Sharing…Who Pays?

I have not written a policy paper in some time.  The reason is simple, most of what I do on Tempe City Council is fact specific and not overarching “policy/government theory” in nature.  However, of late, a “policy theory” has emerged, that being, who should pay the burden for the benefit?

If it is a private benefit, I believe, the person who benefits from the purely private benefit should pay 100% of the cost.  For example, I want a TV that I am going to put in my living room.  I think we can all agree I should be the one to pay 100% of the cost of that TV when I buy it at the store.

If, however, it is a totally public benefit, I believe 100% of the public should share the cost.  Clean tap water in your house, assuming everyone has it, everyone likes it, everyone wants it, and everyone drinks it, would be a 100% public benefit.  Under this example, everyone should pay the cost of producing clean drinking water and delivering it to homes.

Of course, it does not take much thinking to realize that there is no purely private or purely public benefit.  TV’s run on electricity, create waste for landfills, are produced by labor, generate pollution, and have a host of secondary effects.  So, while it may seem a purely private benefit, there are secondary public benefits (or detriments) by having things done a certain way.

Likewise, in the drinking water example, each buyer of tap water may have a different standard for how clean they want their water to be, and yet, they are paying the costs that the cleanest water consumer (or, in this case, the EPA) sets.  They are paying for a benefit beyond that which they value.

The entire field of pure public benefit vs. pure private benefit quickly disappears and everything turns into shades of gray.  Public parks in south Tempe are not typically used by those in north Tempe, yet everyone funds the park.  The orbit busses run in north Tempe only, yet people in south Tempe pay for them as well.  Couples without children pay property taxes to schools they will never use.

Truthfully, about 1/4 of all council emails I have received in the last 3-6 months fall into the “why am I paying for something I don’t use?” category.  The answer to “why?” is a combination of factors that include (1) tradition, (2) public vs. private benefit analysis, and (3) the “rising tides lift all boats” theory.

In a perfect world we might accurately know the public vs. private benefit ratio of every government action and appropriately bill in a correct % individuals based on the % of the benefit they receive.  This is, of course, impossible in most instances.  Clearly, those who have children attending a strong public school receive a greater direct benefit, but those who have an educated workforce, less associated crime, and lower unemployment rates down the road also receive a secondary benefit.  For that matter, cities that hire away the best and brightest to work in their community get a benefit from the children we educated; should we send them a bill?

Tradition plays a role as well.  Roads on the west coast have always been paid by the general public through taxes.  We could, however, equip every car, bike, and person with a mileage tracker, determine the cost they put on the transportation system by going somewhere, and bill them at the end of the month for their “road cost” they produced.  We do not do that.  Most people do not suggest we should do that.  For that matter, we do not charge a private toll road fee for driving the I-10 from Phoenix to Tucson, even though most of the public rarely drives that road.

The problem is complex, but the answer is simple in how I deal with this issue.  When it comes to determining who pays for police, fire, water, parks, roads, the arts, the town lake, public transportation, and a host of other things; I make educated estimates.  I do my best to think of the direct public vs. private benefit, while taking into account secondary costs and benefits, and I make an educated guess.  A guess which, I freely admit, could be wrong and to which reasonable minds could differ.

The town lake has a disproportionate benefit to developers and residents near the lake.  I agree with the council policy of having land owners near the lake pay a lake assessment fee to help pay for the lake on top of their usual taxes.  I disagree with having residents within a 1 mile radius pay that same special fee.  (However, the increased property taxes caused by being near the lake may mean they actually do pay more.)  I agree with having properties that have the police out because of repeated crime (or loud parties) pay a greater share of the cost of paying that officers salary.  That said, clearly, the entire city benefits by having a less crime friendly environment.

I could list additional examples, dozens of examples…the point I am trying to make is simple.  First, I do have a philosophical underpinning for my decisions; the public pays for public things, the private pays for private things.  Second, it is a very gray and complicated area and I understand reasonable minds can differ on the public vs. private benefit ratios.  Third, I am working from best guesses and imperfect information.  If we disagree, it does not mean I dislike you, your neighborhood, or do not care about your concerns.  It simply means I am weighing things differently than you and, very likely, with less bias.

In short, be kind, I am doing my best.

~Kolby Granville, Tempe City Council

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Termination of City Manager

I have had a fair number of people ask me about my vote regarding the termination of City Manager Charlie Meyer.  The vote was held on January 28, 2013 at a Special Council meeting.  The vote was 5-2 to terminate.  I voted NOT to terminate.  If you don’t much about this, a pretty good news story can be read here.

So, in an effort to answer the question just once, I’ve posted my explanation at the meeting of why I voted to keep the city manager on Youtube.  You can view it here.

Feel free to email me directly if you would like to discuss it further.  kolby_granville@tempe.gov

~Kolby

A Useful Summary

From time to time a useful piece of information comes across my desk as a Tempe city council member.  One that is both well researched, informative, and easy to read.  One that explains what is actually happening (or has happened).  One that doesn’t rely on random quotes from random people.

One such document related to employee compensation cuts during the recession just came across my desk.  Thought I would share.  Agree or disagree, it’s nice when we all start off the discussion from correct data.

Here is the link.

~Kolby Granville

Small business owners should support Kyrsten Sinema for Congress

As a small business owner I have some serious concerns with Vernon Parker’s “jobs plan.” I use quotes because, to me, his proposals don’t seem like a plan at all, but merely a doubling down on the status quo. I think most will agree that the top-down approach simply hasn’t worked for the benefit of our nation. A system that is rigged for those who’ve already made it, at the expense of opportunity for everyone else is not only wrong; it makes zero long-term economic sense. Parker’s status quo is not a path to prosperity.

More specifically, I’m concerned with the cornerstone of Parker’s plan. The Earth-shattering new idea from the Parker camp is simply to extend the Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans and that will somehow create jobs tomorrow that it didn’t create yesterday. Underwhelmed? Me, too. As if those tax cuts have somehow served us well over the last decade, Parker’s backing of their extension as a “jobs plan” reveals a severe poverty of new ideas from the Republican nominee in Congressional District Nine. The extension of the Bush tax cuts that have ballooned our deficit, and can’t be said to have created a single job might be a Tea Party favorite, but it’s completely out of touch with where the nation is in 2012, as well as with the constituents Sinema and Parker are running to represent.

Kyrsten Sinema’s plan would eliminate the tax cuts for the top 2% and use that money to reinvest in small businesses on right here on Main Street, not fund the excesses of Wall Street. In her plan, Kyrsten mentions small business 28 times, which to me shows that she understands that it is local small businesses that drive our economy. In fact, 60% of new jobs come from the small businesses Kyrsten’s plan would benefit, and the last decade has proven that the corporate welfare Parker advocates isn’t a viable economic model.

In comparison, Vernon Parker only mentions small businesses once in his entire “jobs plan,” when he brushed off yet another stale idea from his Tea Party playbook, the elimination of the estate tax as a driver of economic growth. Is there anyone not named Grover Norquist that still believes that? In the light of small business, the juxtaposition between Kyrsten and Vernon couldn’t be more staggering. Sinema gets it, Parker does not.

Look, I’ve on only touched a couple aspects of each candidate’s jobs plan, I know that. I encourage you to take a look for yourself, and make your own decision. You can find Parker’s “plan” here, and Sinema’s here. Take a look for yourself, and I think a throughout review of both proposals will lead you to the same conclusions I have arrived. Sinema is putting herself out there and advocating for new ideas and new approaches for remedying our tough economy, whereas Parker is simply running a template campaign that might have worked in 2010, but will fall short this time around. In this, Sinema is showing that she is ready for real leadership, Parker’s unwillingness to offer new ideas (or even debate his old ones) has exposed him as a deficient candidate.

Kyrsten always says that to change Washington, we need to change the people we send there, and she’s absolutely right. But I believe that to really change Washington we need to a change not only people, but the ideas we consider. Both Parker and Sinema would be new faces in D.C., but only Sinema has shown a willingness to consider new approaches. We’ve had 30 years of stale ideas and old debates.

We need new leadership, new ideas, and a new national debate about our nation’s priorities. That’s why I’m backing Kyrsten Sinema for Congress and hope you will, too.

Multi-Mode Transportation

Land is a finite resource.  Every country and community in the world will run out of it given a long enough timeline.  Or, at the very least, the barriers to making the land habitable will rise to a point that is infinitely cost prohibitive.  One only need look at Manhattan, San Francisco, or Singapore to see the end game.  Or, look at the stretch of freeway between Los Angeles and San Diego to understand the middle view that leads to the end game.

The question is what do we do now so that when this future certain date comes, we have created the most habitable environment to work, live, and raise children?  In my opinion, the solution is taking active steps to preserve open space, to create false barriers that limit sprawl, and to create economic models that make upward growth the relatively less expensive alternative.

This density model, however, is in direct conflict with the car culture that currently exists.  Try driving in Los Angeles and you will immediately know what I mean.  As buildings go higher, freeways must become ever wider until, finally, no freeway is wide enough.  Los Angeles has 14 lane freeways that are parking lots, even on weekends.  The “Big Dig” in Boston proved to be a largely cost prohibitive and logistical nightmare of putting seven miles of freeway underground.

This leaves only one option, cities with robust public transportation, dedicated bike lanes, and walkable communities of mixed use (stores on the first floor, condos and office space above) buildings.  This also means the planning and subsidization of these projects, by government.  All transportation is subsidized.  The gas tax pays for road repairs and construction.  Government uses its power of eminent domain to buy land from individuals and build freeways.  The true cost of gas, through pollution, is cost shifted from the user to society as a whole.

Tempe, in large part, has embraced this model for the future.  Tempe recently ranked 18th in the nation on a list of most bike friendly cities in the world.  (Scottsdale was 15th, Tucson was 12th.)  Most of the development planned for north of Broadway Road are mixed use buildings of some height.  Tempe is a regional leader in promoting public transportation via the Orbit busses, bussing in general, and light rail.  I am not arguing desire, I am arguing scale.  Cleary, there is a sustained effort and understanding in Tempe among some for a bike-able, walk-able, community.  But, as a friend of mine is fond of saying, “Being the tallest jockey in the room isn’t saying much.”  We can do better.

Truthfully, I have not yet settled on the details of the best ways to help Tempe be a more livable city, both now and in the future.  I have ideas…some of which may be right, some of which may be wrong, and some of which may change over time as new information is gathered.  It is, frankly, too early on to discuss details, but I did want to at least set out the philosophy that informs my decisions.

And finally, while the purpose of this paper is not the interplay between urban growth and established suburban communities, I want to at least briefly address this, lest someone think I am advocating for density creep into single family home areas.  I am not.

There is a critical respect that must be given to the general plan and to those that have bought and paid for a suburban lifestyle with the expectation it will remain for the rest of their lives.  It is the height of disrespect to disrupt that existing choice; to breach that sacred promise of community continuity, and that is not something I would ever vote to do.

I invite you to email me your thoughts about multi-mode transportation, the balance between urban and suburban needs, and the best methods to “future proof” our community and the valley.

The Good, the Bad and the Money

What Tempe city candidates raised in 2012.

I recently came across an article (link here) about the final total for money raised by candidates in the 2012 Tempe City elections. I’m a pretty visual person, so numbers mean more to me on a chart, so let’s take a quick look at what the final totals show.

 

 

These are the numbers presented in the article and as noted, I’ve included any money that was carried over from previous campaigns where appropriate. In the end, this is the amount of money each candidate had at their disposal for the 2012 election cycle. The “MFI” on the end? That’s the current amount of a family’s median household income in Tempe. I didn’t include it for any editorial purposes except to give some frame of reference for the amounts we’re looking at in this chart. It seems most council candidates are in the $50K-$80K range and the two final mayoral candidates really broke new ground for fundraising. Of course, there’s more to every story.

 

Now, here’s the vote totals for each candidate. Note I only used the general election totals for Monti, Mitchell, Foreman and Granville. Why? Any of them could have won outright in the primary and most of their voters are logically the same between the two elections. I tend to view your effectiveness (or ineffectiveness) on the number of votes you received in the election that either won you your office or kicked you out of the running. The point of doing this of course is to see what the cost per vote then is…

 

I think it would amaze anyone that it cost over $15 per vote to get elected mayor of Tempe. (Perhaps more so than the fact both candidates practically raising as many dollars as there are Tempe residents.) To me, there is one more compelling observation from this chart. Corey Woods (the highest vote getter in either the primary or general election) spent the second lowest amount on his votes. Why and how are topics for another story. But it shows that money isn’t necessarily the key to winning in Tempe. And finally…

 

One of the most curious parts of the article is noting the amount of money candidates spent themselves on their campaigns. It appears the three incumbents didn’t need to do this because they had money left over from previous campaigns (and had the name ID which provided immediate fundraising muscle). But I am shocked by the amount of money candidates personally invested in some of these races. Of particular interest is newly elected Councilman Kolby Granville who apparently chipped in a whopping 64% of his total campaign account (to the tune of $53,423). I have no problems with people spending their money as they wish – even when it comes to campaigns. I am somewhat concerned though when that percentage is over two thirds of their campaign total funding. And in this case, nearly more than the median family income in Tempe.  But most of all, it is troubling that a candidate who talked about “refusing all special-interest money” (link here) would instead, accept perhaps the single biggest special interest contribution in the history of Tempe City politics. The “special-interest” in this case being the candidate himself.

Elected Official Compensation

Now that I have been sworn in the issue of elected official compensation has been on my mind.  First, to set the record straight on what I receive for being elected to Tempe City Council.

For serving on Council, I am paid $27,747 per year.  I was offered a parking space, but declined.  I was offered an internet connection at home, but declined. I was offered health insurance, but declined because the health insurance at my regular job is, frankly, better.  I was offered dental and vision, and accepted, because the dental and vision at my work is not better.  I was never offered a car allowance.  I was never offered an all access pass to golf (or any other city service) or a cell phone, although I’m told they may be available.  Frankly, I have no real interest in these things, so I didn’t even ask about them.  I tried to decline the State pension, but am required by law to accept it.  I was offered an iPad, but declined it for now.  However, I may later accept it if it makes me a better council member and saves the city money on paper.

I have thus far refused the city paying for registrations, like my entry fee to the Arizona League of City’s and Towns.  Registration personally cost me over $200.  However, if it turns out it is a valuable thing for the city, I am willing to have the city pay it next year.  Just want to see for myself first before deciding who should pay.  My rule of thumb is I will not accept the city paying for events, and I will not accept anything that a “typical” city employee would not receive.

My belief on elected official compensation is actually quite simple.  Being an elected official should be a full time, but temporary, job.  Being an elected official should not be a career.  After eight years George Washington went home and that is why, in my opinion, America did not develop a history of dictatorships.  Incumbents have an outstanding re-election advantage, both in fundraising, and name ID, particularly at lower levels of government.  Incumbents might tell themselves “If the people aren’t happy with me, they will vote me out,” but that isn’t really all that true.  The better thing to say would be, “If I can stay out of the scandal side of the paper (and I don’t buck the powers that be), the people won’t notice or care enough to vote me out.”

Rule #1.  Regardless of how cool I think I am, regardless of how much I will miss giving up the limelight, regardless of how much I think I am the only one who can lead the community to a brighter future…I should go home!  I should serve, then leave.

The larger issue though, and the one most people don’t want to talk about is, it is really hard to be a full time elected official on part time pay.  Do not hide compensation behind allowances or specialty line items.  Tell people everything you are paying elected officials, but pay them a reasonable amount.  Pay them enough to remove the temptation of elected officials to want handouts from special interests.

You do, in fact, get what you pay for.  I have a B.A. in Education, a M.Ed. in Educational Technology, and a law degree.  I haven’t worked at a job that paid $27,000 a year since I was 23 years old.

It is unrealistic to think I am going to walk away from my full time lawyer job to work full time for $27,000 a year now.  So, what does that mean?  It means you get people that can afford to work for $27,000 a year.  It means you get people who’s jobs provide them a certain degree of income, while providing them a certain degree of free time and scheduling flexibility.  These are great people who care (of course) a great deal about the community, but not exactly a group of people that represent all the diversity in our communities.

Rule #2.  You get what you pay for, so pay more, but do it in a transparent way.  Simple and clean.

So, to sum up my opinion on this issue…  Have a full time job.  Leave your full time job to serve your community as an elected official.  Be paid (in a transparent way) for your elected position like it is a full time job, and treat it like a full time job.  Then, go back to your real life and your original full time job.

Continuing Policy Papers

Continuing Policy Papers

By:  Kolby Granville

During the 2012 City Council campaign I did something, I believe, that was unique.  I wrote dozens of detailed policy papers about my opinions on various city issues.  These were detailed and reasoned discussions, with links, and with concrete ideas.  I was told it would turn off voters, to “stay away from details,” and that it would lose me the election.  I was elected.  It is my intention to continue to write policy papers while I am in office about various Tempe issues.

There are many downsides to continuing to write policy papers.  First, my opinion can, and does, change.  The last thing I want is to say, “I think X” in a policy paper and then, as additional information comes to light, feel like I am forced to keep my initial opinion.  Also, the last thing I want is for someone to say, “In your policy paper you said you thought X, and then you voted Y.  You lied in your policy paper!”  Writing is fixed in time, opinions are not.  Also, policies are in the general, but council votes are in the specific instance.  Please be understanding.

There is a more political reason why writing policy papers are not a good idea; it gives others the opportunity to “count votes.”  I know, politics should not work that way, but it does.  The last thing you want is to say, “I don’t support X” in a policy paper, then have your phone ring off the hook by people saying the sky will fall if you ever vote that way.  If, on the other hand, you just “smile and nod,” nobody ever calls about what-if scenarios.  To be clear, my purpose isn’t to talk about pending council issues, but to talk about overarching policy principles.

Another reason not to continue writing policy papers is it makes people nervous.  If someone says to me, “Kolby, I know the real reason X is happening is because of Y, and not for the publically stated reason…”  Well, I’m not going to talk in my policy paper about the false, publically stated, reasons, I’m going to talk about the real reasons I support or don’t support X as a matter of overarching policy.  But, the concern is, people will shy away.  All politics is local, and nothing  is more local than a person inferring you are talking about things they work on or care about.

That is a long list of reasons why this is a bad idea.  And yet, I’m going to do it anyway, for a simple reason.  I believe in the maturity of Tempe residents to understand issues at a deeper level, and I believe that the keystone of democracy is well reasoned, respectful, discourse.  If these policy papers add to a larger ongoing discourse in a sophisticated manner, their job is done.  If writing things out helps me better understand how I feel about a topic, all the better.

I hope those reading future policy papers can understand that, and respect my choice.

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I should mention, while my opinions, over time, may change, I will resist the temptation to go back and re-write policy papers.  I may correct spelling/grammar errors, and I may write supplemental policy papers as opinions change, but I will not go back and “revise history.”

I should also mention, I will not write about, or name by name, people in these policy papers.  The purpose is to outline big picture ideas, not to gossip or otherwise take part in the failings of idle hands…   ~Kolby

A Quick Review of Tempe’s 2012 Elections

Now the dust has settled on Tempe’s 2012 elections, here’s a few observations:

  • Timing and mobilization are keys in closed races. Mark Mitchell wins the Mayor’s race for two main reasons: 1) The Monti campaign’s unrelenting negative attacks backfired while being unfortunately timed to an external investigation that wreaked of collusion (whether it was or not is irrelevant – perception is 9/10’s of the law in politics) and 2) the Democrat’s local GOTV (get out the vote) mobilization effort simply got more early ballots to the polls on election day than did those working for Monti. The assumption here being that people who held their ballots were far more prone to vote for Mitchell because of reason 1.
  • Kolby Granville wins simply by outworking and outspending Dick Foreman. There’s an interesting analysis that could be had over the style and tone of each of the campaigns (which we’ll do in the future), but in races like this one, “pounding the pavement” (and the mailbox in Kolby’s case) matters more than your history or record of service.

Now on to some musings:

  • Do you know what your record is? I’m always bewildered by incumbents who run for re-election or higher office and do not articulate their records. For example, when you are a council member, EVERY vote you cast is an accomplishment.  You get to take credit for the things you supported and you get to explain why you voted against the things you didn’t. Does this mean you solely were responsible for them?  Of course not. But you DO get to take some credit for them. And in most cases, they’re are the primary things you can point back to as a candidate of things you DID. Why more candidates opt out of using their voting records as the primary way for them to explain their service just doesn’t make sense. And what I personally find even more confusing is when they choose to use ambiguous, superfluous themes instead and never focus on the specifics of their accomplishments. It makes me think they don’t understand what it is they’ve been doing. Bottom line, when you’re an incumbent, your voting record is key to telling people how and why you’ve served.
  • Do you know what your record would be? This also applied to new candidates, too. I am surprised at the number of candidates who don’t (or worse can’t) list out council votes from the last 6, 12 or 24 months and say how they would have voted and why. I would think this should be a primary part of their campaigns. Not only would it show they’re paying attention, but it would also provide an excellent opportunity for them to prove to voters that they have a command of the issues and can articulate them to the community.
  • Consultants are expensive. And bad ones cost even more. I am really shocked at the amount of money candidates spend on local races. I know postage and signs are expensive. But not much else is. Spending over $50,000 or $60,000 when around 20,000 people vote is simply bad management of funds. And as I always say, if you want to see how someone will govern, look at how they run their campaign. Burning through gobs of cash in a campaign is usually a sign of things to come.