The Phoenix City Council voted 5-4 recently to deny funding for the Arizona League of Cities and Towns.
The Arizona League of Cities and Town is a coalition of 91 cities and towns across Arizona. The league provides lobbying services at the state capitol and it also brings together key leaders to work toward the same goals. While all of the council agreed the league does many great things, there were changes they wanted to see before they approved funding for the next year.
City staff recommended paying $142,250 to the league in annual dues. Last year the city was paying a reduced fee, due to the economy, and some council members expressed concerns over going back to paying the regular fee.
Councilman Jim Waring and Councilman Sal DiCiccio questioned the league’s transparency. Waring said the league conducted a public poll in 2011 to see how residents felt about changing the city’s election schedule. When the results showed overwhelming public approval for changing the schedule, the league failed to show those results to the City Council and refused to do so.
“The concern from me is that this league has morphed into an entity of its own,” DiCiccio said. “When it’s not releasing public information that’s owned by the taxpayers, refusing to do that… it’s just unacceptable… It has morphed into this bureaucracy that it wasn’t a few years ago.”
DiCiccio said in order for him to approve a contract with the League of Cities and Towns he would like to see them reduce the cost, increase transparency and over time put more taxpayers and business people on its committees.
Mayor Greg Stanton is on the board for the league and said according to his recollection the poll was never hidden from the public. He recommended approving staff’s recommendation.
“I want to send the message that it’s high priority for me that we show we are in partnership with other communities across the state,” Stanton said during the City Council Formal Meeting on Aug. 29. “It would send the wrong message to cities in the Valley if we were to decide to leave the League of Cities and Towns. I believe that economic development in rural areas is related to Phoenix and vice versa. I want to make sure we’re adopting similar policies. The league is the most effective way to do it. I believe it would be a mistake for this city to leave the league at this time.”
While the council did vote against paying the dues to the league on Aug. 29 the issue will most likely be brought up again in the next few weeks. It will be up to the city manager to bring it up again.
“The city is not going to leave the League of Cities and Towns,” DiCiccio said. “It’s a regional perspective. No one on the council is really opposed to any type of regional planning and discussions. There was a message by myself and others on the council that we were not happy with the direction of the league.”
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