Tempe voters have spoken. Lauren Kuby and David Schapira are the newest members of the Tempe City Council after handily beating incumbents Robin Arredondo-Savage and two-term incumbent Shana Ellis.
The unofficial political rules in Tempe are that incumbents are assured a job for as long as they want it and those who would challenge it had better think twice. This is a real upset to the old guard that Arredondo-Savage and Ellis belong to.
Arredondo-Savage followed her Uncle Ben’s path to the council and city power and carries the support of the powerful fire fighter’s union. Ellis, who also comes from an old and prominent Tempe family, is quite well known for connection to the developers and money people who have long been driving Tempe City Hall.
Stories about Arredondo-Savage’s uncle being convicted of corruption and her having attended a meeting with her uncle and undercover FBI agents posing as crooked developers no doubt cast a cloud on her name and tenure on the council. Arredondo-Savage has denied any wrongdoing and has not been charged with a crime.
In weeks before the primary election the Arizona Republic reported Ellis’ record number of missed votes due to conflicts of interest and her relationships with prominent Tempe developer Charles Huellmantel who has now been identified as her fiancé. According to the August 23, 1014, Arizona Republic story, “Fact Check: Allegation that Tempe councilwoman claims too many conflicts of interest,” “The Republic reviewed City Council meeting minutes from January 2012 through May 2014. Ellis declared 45 conflicts or potential conflicts and/or abstained from voting on those city items, according to meeting minutes.
“Of that amount, at least 34 were related to Huellmantel's business, Huellmantel & Affiliates, the applicant or a representative of the development project or issue before the council. By comparison, from January 2012 through May 2014 Mayor Mark Mitchell cited five conflicts, while Councilman Kolby Granville cited four conflicts and abstained once. Council members Robin Arredondo-Savage, Onnie Shekerjian, Joel Navarro and Corey Woods each cited no conflicts.”
Both incumbents will fight it out in November’s general election to see who stays on the council.
Beyond telling the two incumbents they’re no longer the favorites of Tempe citizens, voters sent a strong message to Mayor Mark Mitchell and sitting council members Koby Granville, Joel Navarro and Corey Woods incumbency is no longer a guarantee of re-election. Political scuttlebutt and occasional political pulse poll calls have led some to believe Granville, a political protégé of ex-mayor Hugh Hallman, a longtime political enemy of the Mitchell political family, might be gearing up to challenge the mayor in 2016. Mitchell barely squeaked out a win in 2012 when he beat Hallman’s candidate Michael Monti by only 139 votes.
Overwhelming wins by Kuby and Schapira are a strong message from Tempe residents they want change and progress beyond what the current council has delivered.
Crime became a topic of discussion in the last election among the challengers. Tempe is well known for its crime problems and the high costs of city government associated with the police department’s less than stellar performance when it comes to notorious high crime zone refried to as “the loud party corridor.” At the current cost of policing in Tempe some have begun to question if Tempe can sustain such costs and if Tempe can continue to afford to divert precious fiscal resources from other city departments and neighborhoods in order to pay for the police department and the “sea of crime” that encompasses most of Tempe north of the US 60. Kuby and Schapira have both made public safety and sustainability priorities for their time in office.
In November Tempe voters will have to make a choice: Which one of the incumbents gets to keep their job? It’s going to be a tough choice. They both have issues that kept them from winning outright in the primary.
• Retired Mesa master police officer Bill Richardson lives in the East Valley and can be reached at email@example.com.