The East Valley’s mayors will team up to battle lawmakers who want to raid city funds to solve the state’s budget crisis, Tempe Mayor Hugh Hallman said.
Hallman used the annual state of the city address on Tuesday to slam the Legislature for failing to eliminate a $1.2 billion shortfall and for proposals to take money from Arizona’s 84 municipalities. The state has collected money on behalf of cities for decades under an agreement that cities wouldn’t levy certain taxes. Hallman called on lawmakers to keep their end of the bargain.
“If state officials take state-shared revenue from cites, they will be making a direct assault on city residents and the services that they receive: police officers, firefighters, library hours, recreation and after-school programs,” Hallman said.
He’ll be part of the effort with Mesa’s Scott Smith, Scottsdale’s Jim Lane, Chandler’s Jay Tibshraeny and perhaps Gilbert’s John Lewis. That East Valley team makes sense, Hallman said, because both Senate President Russell Pearce and House Speaker Kirk Adams are from Mesa.
“Reaching out to that group of people is going to require some finesse,” Hallman said. “It’s going to require folks who have connections to those legislative leaders and the governor.”
Tempe would have to cut up to $16 million in services if lawmakers take that city’s tax money, Hallman said. That would be painful after two years of cuts that slashed 264 jobs and 17 percent of city spending. Hallman urged the 300 attendees of his speech to call their lawmakers.
The mayor’s talk also expressed optimism, including a 5.9 percent increase in retail sales tax revenue since July.
Other highlights from his address include that Tempe:
• Is restarting collection of yard waste to be composted, which reduces landfill use.
• Has started an adopt-a-park effort to deal with spending cuts.
• Has seen violent crime drop 26 percent from 2005 to 2009. In the last year, violent crime is down 11 percent and property crime is down 8.1 percent.
• Has been named a best place to raise children by the America’s Promise Alliance. The award is the third in a row, which retires the city from being listed again.
Also, Hallman touted the relocated Sandra Day O’Connor house, which came from Paradise Valley to a spot near the Arizona Historical Society Museum. The former U.S. Supreme Court justice’s adobe home is meant to be a place for parties to resolve conflicts, as O’Conner did as a state lawmaker. O’Connor appeared in a video made for Tuesday’s event, recalling how people gathered for food and perhaps a beer to talk.
“It was a place where civil talk often led to civic action, civic action for very good purpose,” O’Connor said. “And it’s my hope that in this new location, the people involved in making the house available and functional will use it for the same purpose, getting people together to talk civilly about some of our problems and see if we can’t find solutions.”