Over the past couple of months I've gained an interesting perspective on the candidates for Phoenix mayor.
I've seen them debate and I know the issues they are running on, but even more than that I know which ones will answer their phone even when I'm working at 6 a.m. on deadline. I also know which ones never return an email and the ones that ask their office to do most of the answering for them.
But, all of that is just part of my bias. And, for the record, I'm not a Phoenix resident so my vote doesn't count anyway.
But I still wanted to show the candidates from a different perspective. I wanted to get away from the candidates speaking for themselves. They do that all the time.
So I emailed each campaign or candidate to see if they had any volunteers from Ahwatukee who might be willing to talk to me about why they decided to get involved in the campaign. The response so far has been mostly crickets.
Then I got a call from my first set of volunteers, the Quinns, who are supporting Jennifer Wright. Their reason for getting involved is simple: They know what's going on and they don't like it.
Mike Quinn says he and his wife, Diane, have always followed politics a little bit but only recently have they joined the Tea Party and gotten truly interested. Part of that is because he's been retired for 10 years so he has time, but he's also seen the effects of the water rate increase.
The Quinns spent hundreds of dollars having their lawn removed when it became too expensive to have grass. When Mike met Phoenix Councilman Sal DiCiccio of Ahwatukee and was asked to sit on the committee for the water rate discussions, he agreed.
"I sat on the roundtable and I got to learn a whole lot about what was going on there and what the cost structure was," Mike said. "I'm an old human resources guy so I know benefits and pensions. I know what this labor market generally makes and what they don't make. I know regular taxpayers do not get what I found out the city employees and government employees get."
Mike doesn't blame the unions; he says government employees are just costing too much. So he began to look a little more carefully at the candidates. He wanted to choose someone who was going to be tough on the labor agreements and cut the costs to the taxpayer.
"Stanton is embedded," Mike said. "If you look at his profile that he laid out, he mentions nothing about labor costs or even being concerned about that. He goes after a number of other things. However, he mentions nothing to do with labor agreements."
Mike said he discovered Wes Gullett has worked for unions in the past and may have a conflict of interest with City Manager David Cavazos. Peggy Neely has had time to get the job done and she has not stepped up the way the Quinns would have liked. Claude Maddox is supported by the unions and has a voting record Mike doesn't approve of. Anna Brennan may be just a little too new to politics. That leaves Wright.
"Jennifer is smart enough. She can understand what's going on in there," Mike said. "As an HR guy I know you select people based on the job description. You look at what it takes right now to do the job because that varies with the economy and financial situations. Right now I think it's jobs and labor policies. If we can get those down they can hire more people."
So the Quinns volunteered. So far they've just put a sign in their front yard and set up a table at the Ahwatukee Tea Party meeting. They may go out and put hangers on doors or make a few calls, but they feel they are having the biggest impact in conversations with people.
"When we were talking about the water rate issue we went to the apartment complexes and talked to the managers," Diane said. "There was a lot of response there because they split their water among the tenants and pay for some themselves and that's going to hurt them. Clients can go right across the street to Chandler and pay $50 less a month, or $100 less a month sometimes."
But my original thought was how transparent are the candidates to their own supporters? The Quinns say Wright's campaign passes that test.
"You always get little questions of curiosity and I know there's a limit to how much you can go public with but I feel comfortable talking to her," Mike said. "You can go up and talk to any of her staff or her and there's no holier-than-thou stuff."
Mike added that the other candidates seemed just as nice when he has spoken to them but he's voting for Wright based on how he thinks she'll be when it comes to labor agreements and the tough cuts.
The Quinns know it'll be a tough race but, according to them, Wright is the right choice for mayor.
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