City Tempe Council Debate Live Blogging

Well not live… I’m behind the curve. Here’s the video:

First of all there six candidates vying for three seats. I’m not going to summarize their resumes here. They each have a website that does a better job of that.

Lauren Kuby, Robin Arredendo-Savage,Justin StewartGenevieve Vega, Sarah Kader, Jennifer Adams


Apparently, long-time, multiple generational Tempe residents seems to be the most valued attribute here. I don’t know how much that matters. I do like to see years of experience serving and working on Tempe issues and most of the candidates seem to have this.

The Questions

Are you a good person? The first question isn’t great. Given examples of local officials with personal failings, how can we be assured you are a good person. Predictably, every person responds that they are great, with great character.

Transparency Issues in City Government? Incumbents say we are transparent, contenders say we need more of it. I’m guessing most city residents have no idea and spend precious little time trying wondering what the city is doing.
Genevieve had a good response to this question. The issue isn’t transparency directly, but more communication. Getting information out to residents so they can take advantage of services. I wish I knew what she thought would be effective in accomplishing this.

Traffic? Justin Stewart advocates spreading out development? Which eh… I think there are advantages of density. Multiple people are advocating multi-modal transportation. Jennifer Adams would like to try to encourage employers to stagger start/stop time? I’m wondering how effective this could be.  A few people advocate bridges and overpasses. I’m wondering how disruptive and costly these could be? Lauren Kuby advocates no fatalities. How do you do that? Sarah Kader talks about insufficient data gathering when growth explodes. Not sure what she means here.

Tempe Business Success?  I hate using tax incentives to attract businesses which gives them an unfair advantage over those who don’t get it. See the latest example here. I think these things should never happen. Justin Stewart had a decent answer to this but needs to give a stronger opposition. Lauren Kuby defends her vote for this tax incentive, rather weakly in my opinion. Robin Arredendo-Savage defends her vote for it and defends the Tempe marketplace tax incentives. I think Tempe has enough advantages in terms of location, ASU, etc. so I believe businesses will come here without the tax incentives. Sarah Kader seems to be against it. The outsiders have the best answers here, but I wish they came out against this more forcefully.

Quality of Life in Tempe? Lauren Kuby wants to increase Tempe shade. I agree this is a good focus given our heat, made worse by pavement.  Sarah Kader believes growth is not benefiting local residents enough. Justin Stewart wants to improve quality through open and continuous communication between the community and the council. But can’t seem to point out specific examples of this. He does point out rising rents but does this come from a lack of communication? Jennifer Adams points out how unsafe Tempe is, relatively speaking as well as rising water rates. Genevieve Vegas talks about how Tempeans lack access to healthcare. But I’m not sure how to really fix it, and she didn’t really offer a solution. Robin Arredendo-Savage describes her satisfaction surveys and gives specific examples how they responded to complaints like bulk trash.

Pre-K sustainability? Apparently, the city of Tempe did a limited pilot program to fund pre-k for Tempe residents. Jennifer Adams believes this should be turned over to the schools. Lauren Kuby says the city took this on because the state hasn’t, given that Tempe is a blue-ish city in a red state, I guess these are the things to be done. Sarah Kader believes the city should be doing this and is committed to continuing this. Justin Stewart supports it. Robin Arredendo-Savage I believe supports it but worries about the transparency of the program and long-term funding of it.  Genevieve Vega supports it, but believes the voters need to approve its expansion and funding.

High density inner-city development concerns? Robin Arredendo-Savage is concerned with density, wants to include residents (NIMBY) in growth and expansion to preserve character neighborhoods (NIMBY). Genevieve Vega believes also growth should be approved and communicated through neighborhoods. The process isn’t already followed today. Jennifer Adams also believes development should be passed through neighborhoods and explicitly mentioned NIMBY style development. Lauren Kuby is worried about historical preservation (me too). Sarah Kader said that high density housing can also mean affordable housing. What is Tempe doing to provide affordable housing? I think she has the best answer. Justin Stewart really advocates the 20/40 plan and we should stop granting approvals to developers. The housings that are being built are $450,000 condos. Families are not moving in. I like Justin’s answer, but again, what does he plan on doing about it?

The problem with community approved development is they really don’t factor in those who don’t yet live here but would like to, and tends to prioritize home owners over renters.

Enhanced preservation in downtown Tempe?  Sarah Kader supports it. Justin Stewart advocates village planning committees to manage development. Robin Arredendo-Savage wants to hold onto the history and the historical buildings in Tempe. Genevieve Vega is a fan of adaptive re-use. Jennifer Adams was a facility manager for the city and has experience managing historical houses in Tempe. Loves history. Laura Kuby sites specific examples of preservation needs. Adaptive reuse has been put to good use.

They all seem to be really close on this position.

How many use the transit system? The public transit system is inadequate. Do you support the kind of density to support public transportation.

Justin Stewart advocates a smart density plan before we can put in more light rail. We need to connect north and south Tempe. Can we get smart density that is affordable? We aren’t getting it. Robin Arredendo-Savage wants to do a traffic study that includes bikes, pedestrian and bus routes. This is new. Urban core traffic study. Short & long term goals partnering with ASU to change. Jennifer Adams uses light rail regularly. We need more transportation. Extend orbit down to south Tempe. Lauren Kuby is seeing an increased use of electric bikes. Increase neighborhood circulator. Density is context specific. Belongs in the downtown. Walk completely in shade because shade is a transportation issue. Genevieve Vega wants to use IoT (Internet of Things), use a mobile app to display bus and orbit locations. She supports urban forestry. Sarah Kader knows that transportation issues disproportionately affects the poor. We can’t tie transportation to high density. We need to reduce wait time.

Again, I didn’t see a ton of differences in these answers.

Top 1 or 2 Economic Development Goals:

Genevieve Vega is a small business order. She wants to focus on local first, making it easier to start and run a business. She emphasizes human services – free tax prep as one example. Jennifer Adams loves small businesses, the heart of the community. We need to take care of small businesses, easier to get permits. Economic professional in the city that can focus on small businesses. Lauren Kuby agrees Genevieve Vega in terms of local first (by why the tax incentives???). She wants to move toward solar and alternative transportation modes. ASU is the leading university in entrepreneurship. Justin Stewart wants to embrace a more reliable, faster speed internet in Tempe. In 2005, 2006 tried to offer free wifi. How can Tempe embrace the internet. This will help everyone. Sara Kader wants to reduce the number of Tempe families living in poverty. 2040 goals doesn’t use the term “poverty” once. Increasing job training, reducing costs for families. Bring back the humanity in homelessness. Find the root cause of this issue. I think Sarah Kader won my vote with this answer. Robin Arredondo-Savage talks about her tax incentives have done good luring in big businesses, but they need to do more with small businesses. Permitting, customer service? Develop a youth workforce.

Many people own historic properties, would you support a capital improvement program to help with improvements. If so how?

Lauren Kuby would support this program through restricted land use resources. The flipping of the State Farm land sale, they get $2million for this. Genevieve Vega supports this type of program. Growth in our community through development allows reinvestment. We need to keep these designations on these types of properties. Robin Arredondo-Savage describes that in a lot of historical homes are not lived in by the owners. Jennifer Adams wants a line-item in our budget for sustainability. Provide a special fund for historical building preservation. Sarah Kader wants to support our history through incentives and a historic fund. Justin Stewart loves this idea. He has a friend who has purchased an old rail-road house. The home could have been demolished. But his friend cleaned it up.

How would you connect with ASU students

Robin Arredondo-Savage sees the value of building relationships with ASU students. Has plan to talk to ASU student government to bridge communication channels. Sarah Kader wants to do some voter engagement with ASU students. A lot of students are registered to vote elsewhere although are affected by Tempe issues. Jennifer Adams has experience partnering with ASU to help get students experience with the city. Lauren Kuby has been mentoring ASU student for over 20 years. Daily, she talks to ASU students with ideas. One idea was to develop humble houses, sustainable houses for low-income.  Justin Stewart advocates include renters, get them involved, get them to know other neighbors. Genieve Varga has worked with ASU students in various capacities, and city council should be engaged and talking with ASU students. Involve them in projects with the city.

Climate Change – Tempe is a desert city, what have you done about water management

Jennifer Adams has been involved in sustainability studies with each new construction project. Our infrastructure needs to be built differently… Eh. Why didn’t you do this right the first time? Robin Arredondo-Savage talks about her experience on the council to manage parks at our golf courses and watering parks. Incentives for smart sprinklers, low-flow toilet rebates, xeroscaping. Give them the tools to do the right thing. Justin Stewart appreciates the number of rebates city of Tempe gives for water conservation. Genevieve Vegas advocates urban forests. Incentivize conservation. Smart meters. Lauren Kuby says that cities are responsible for 70% of global emissions. Start with the cities for the global climate. Maple-Ash is 12 degrees cooler than other parts of the valley – trees!. Sarah Kader shares the concern of temperature and water. Tempe is great.