City Council members focus on reform - Ahwatukee Foothills News: News

City Council members focus on reform

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Posted: Tuesday, December 20, 2011 1:00 pm | Updated: 3:57 pm, Thu Jan 26, 2012.

This year's mayoral election brought up topics of zero-based budgeting, efficiencies in the city, cutting red tape for businesses, and creating a procurement code that's reliable. Now, before the new mayor has even stepped in, some City Council members are taking a deeper look at all of those issues.

"What's happening right now is everybody seems to be gravitating toward one or two of the reform issues they feel are important," said Councilman Sal DiCiccio, who is forming a group, along with Councilman Tom Simplot, to cut red tape. "Those are all important reforms that I've been talking about for two years now."

DiCiccio and Simplot have a goal to get their committee cutting red tape as soon as possible, and have the first changes brought to the city in 60 days. Their committee is the newest in the city focused on reform.

Jim Waring is working on procurement, Bill Gates is looking at efficiencies, and Vice Mayor Thelda Williams is working on a zero-based budget.

"As a state senator for several years, I tried to focus on three issues that were my big things," Waring said. "While I may focus on procurement, I'm certainly working on other issues as well. There's at least a couple of us trying to divvy up the work a little bit. You try to be the expert in those issues. If you try to be the expert in all issues, you're going to have a problem. There's not enough hours in a day. This is all stuff I worked on as a state senator, so it's sort of carrying over."

Waring is hoping that a year from now the city will have changed or improved three major things about procurement. He would like to see complaints about the system sent to someone other than those running it, Phoenix-based businesses have some advantage over out-of-state businesses and there's more uniformity in the way things are run.

Waring said he's talked to the new mayor, Greg Stanton, about this issue and hopes it will get some attention in the coming year. Stanton did say during his campaign that he is opposed to a one-size-fits-all approach to a procurement code, but the process in general is something that needs adjustment.

"He has asked me if I had any special requests for subcommittees," Waring said. "Realistically, I feel like committees are a way to not do anything - it's not. I hope a year from now we'll have settled a lot of the issues at the city, and we'll have a firmer financial sitting."

Gates has been working on creating more efficiencies within the city for a year, and says it's an ongoing process.

"I think for me, coming from the private sector, I've always been focused on efficiencies and it's something the private sector had to focus on quicker than government, just given the profit motive," Gates said. "To see that translated into government I saw as a real challenge, and I'm very pleased with what we've been able to do so far. We're certainly not done."

Gates is also waiting on word from Stanton as to whether or not his committee will be allowed to continue, but finding efficiencies is something Stanton did outline as an important issue. Stanton suggested combining some departments within the city, for example, something Gates' committee has already been working on.

Williams is working on the final reform act, something DiCiccio says could be the biggest zero-based budgeting.

"If Thelda gets her process through it will be known as the best budget anywhere in the country, and the most transparent," DiCiccio said. "I saw what she helped put together, and it was already considered to be the best."

Williams was not available for comment on where the process is at, but a zero-based budget would allow residents and the council to search over the budget line-by-line to determine what is necessary. It would force departments annually to add up costs they need, rather than starting with the past year's budgeting and adjusting that. DiCiccio hopes the city will honestly accept the idea.

"There seems to be an early commitment to get these things through," DiCiccio said. "The goal is to be the best, not one of the best. Not to be better, but the best at everything we do. If we can move these four critical reform components forward, that's real substantive, you'll see a much better, stronger city, and we'll create more jobs in the private sector."

Contact writer: (480) 898-7914 or ahurtado@ahwatukee.com

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