After much consideration and many difficult calls, Phoenix City Councilman Sal DiCiccio has announced he will endorse Peggy Neely for mayor.
"Peggy is literally the person to make the changes necessary in City Hall," DiCiccio said on Monday. "I don't think it's hidden that I believe there needs to be a cleaning up of City Hall so that it becomes more taxpayer-based and more about protecting the taxpayer and not the insiders. Peggy is the right person at the right time to do the job. I give her my full endorsement."
The decision was based heavily on Neely's stance on the food tax, the budget and experience DiCiccio has working with Neely in the past. Neely has vowed to repeal the food tax because she says it was not done transparently.
"Last year was the last straw for me," Neely said on Monday. "They came in with the food tax and one-time financial transactions that are not sustainable. This year, our budget will be $150 million in the hole. That will require a lot of cooperation from our employees, but our citizens should not have to continue to suffer the cuts in programs. We need to determine what size government we're going to have and what the priorities are for our citizens."
DiCiccio has been known to clash with mayors before. DiCiccio and Mayor Skip Rimsza often fought publicly over issues in the past and most recently Mayor Phil Gordon has spoken out against him.
Now Rimsza and DiCiccio are on the same page, supporting Neely for mayor.
"I'm very excited about Councilman DiCiccio's endorsement," Neely said. "I see that as very encouraging to work forward to make a change in the city. This is a watershed election. Residents have a tough choice. There are several that would leave business as is, but I believe with Sal and I working together we'll see a big change in the governance of Phoenix and I'm excited to have him on (my side).
"We agree with 70 to 80 percent of everything and we philosophically believe there are a lot of things that need to be done and he has opened the door to discuss that and make change and reform come."
Neely says there was a big change when DiCiccio came into office. She says along with Councilman Bill Gates, they began to create a coalition for change.
Neely points out that departments within the city, when asked to make cuts, have been bringing forward cuts that would anger the public. Instead of sending them back and asking to find true cuts, Neely said the city makes no cuts at all.
Neely added that with zero-based budgeting they would be able to see what cuts can be made and make the city more efficient, which is something DiCiccio is always happy about.
DiCiccio said the choice of which candidate to endorse was difficult because he likes each candidate as a person.
In the end, DiCiccio said he believes he chose the candidate that can make the most change.
"Peggy and I are very closely aligned philosophically," DiCiccio said. "I looked at who is the person who is going to be able to jump in and govern and pull us out of this crisis. I'm friends with all of them, but Peggy is the right person at the right time and the city is facing a crisis and she is the right person to pull us out of it. It doesn't hurt that she's going to repeal the food tax."
When asked about something they may not agree on, Neely says their style. She says DiCiccio is more direct.
"That's probably great for me," Neely said. "We can agree philosophically where we need to go and Sal can be the person that's putting it out there.
"I'm much more a person that works behind the scenes to get things done. Those are strengths we both bring to the table."
The Phoenix mayoral election is on Aug. 30.
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