Mayor Phil Gordon may find City Councilman Sal DiCiccio "childish" as he publicly announces a need for more transparency inside the city. But during this campaign for the next mayor, DiCiccio's concerns have taken center stage.
"A person in an elected office dreams of having one issue that gets debated in the entire city," DiCiccio said. "We've got five. If your entire life you go through and you have one issue that gets debated, that's a great thing. The debate among candidates is literally all about the agenda we've been talking about for over a year."
DiCiccio has been asking questions about the budget, the food tax, employee benefits, the city's bidding process, streamlining operations and transparency. With each issue he believes his office has discovered a problem in the way the city does things and the public is responding.
"He's hitting it right on the button," said candidate Anna Brennan. "I think a lot of taxpayers want to know where their dollars are going and I think they deserve to have the answers. When I drive down the road and I wonder why the boulevards don't look nice and there aren't more plants it's because most of our money is eaten up by a city budget that isn't being watched and isn't fiscally responsible. I commend him for stepping forward."
DiCiccio has been accused by critics of twisting the facts and bringing up issues only to serve his own political agenda. Others say DiCiccio is not the only one worried about these issues, he's just the most vocal.
"These are legitimate issues happening at City Hall," said Peggy Neely, who served with DiCiccio on the City Council until she resigned to run for mayor. "Those that want the city to stay exactly the way it has for years are really the ones that are pushing back on having these issues looked at.
"I think that for 18 months I've been saying the budget is not sustainable and we need to make some different kinds of cuts. Sal has been much more vocal about the issue, but he is right."
Neely has a few ideas of ways to fix the issues DiCiccio has brought up if she is elected mayor. She says the city has formed too many subcommittees lately and not put enough responsibility on the elected officials to make decisions.
She'd like to see zero-based budgeting and much more transparency, especially during labor agreements.
Wes Gullett says he also has some ideas on how DiCiccio's concerns can be met. He believes DiCiccio has been on the right track but that he needs help bringing people together.
"Sal is making some legitimate points and I think he needs to be heard," Gullett said. "I think what we need is a mayor who hasn't been involved in the process, somebody with fresh eyes to look at these things and work with Sal. My concern is that if we elect the people who have been there for 10 years they'll be reluctant to make the changes we need to make and there won't be a sense of urgency.
"I would adopt some of Sal's ideas at the level of mayor and show how that savings can be used. One of the things Sal is missing in his approach is yes these are all problems, let's get rid of the food tax, but then what? I think in the general fund what we do is invest in things that are going to help us save money in the long term. Not only do I see the savings but I see how we can put the savings to work. When you do that, you'll bring people together."
Greg Stanton, a former city councilman, has not agreed with DiCiccio on a few issues but says every councilman still deserves to be heard.
"Sal is an elected official. He deserves respect and he deserves an opportunity to speak his mind," Stanton said. "Obviously, Sal is not afraid to do so and that is great.
"Every elected official should have the opportunity to bring up issues they think are important. Issues about fiscal stewardship of the city, that's appropriate. Those are important issues."
Stanton doesn't agree with DiCiccio's ideas for improving the city's bidding process. DiCiccio favors more regulation and has been promoting a bill that would require the city to seek outside bids for costly services.
Stanton believes the city has done a great job with privatizing where they can and seeking bids when appropriate.
The two do agree on the need for more transparency. Stanton hopes to put all public meetings on live TV and online right after. He says with modern technology every form should be online in an easily searchable format.
Candidates Claude Maddox and Jennifer Wright did not return requests for comment.
DiCiccio is calling out for change in the way the city is run. His concerns are not being ignored by the public.
DiCiccio believes whoever is elected at the end of August could mean big change to the city of Phoenix.
"It's not just about what I'm saying, this is what the public wants," DiCiccio said. "Every poll that every candidate has done has found that these are the top issues for the public. I'm glad to have an impact. To have a whole mayoral election based on your agenda is pretty cool."
DiCiccio plans to support a candidate for mayor publicly. He is expected to announce his decision next week. The election is Aug. 30.
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