Mayor Phil Gordon gave his seventh State of the City address Tuesday and conceded that 2009 was a tough year, ending with budget cuts that totaled $275 million and the elimination of 1,600 jobs in the past 12 months.
“I wish I could use the word great to describe the state of our city. That’s simply not true. We have lots of work to do,” Gordon said.
But there were bright spots, including:
• A drop in crime, for the third year in a row.
• The CityScape downtown public/private partnership is 80 percent leased and about to open.
• Light rail has been a bigger success than expected.
And, the mayor touted, new businesses bring jobs to Phoenix.
“We are going to seize opportunities. That’s what Phoenix does,” Gordon said.
But unlike past speeches, which included a laundry list of major projects to focus on in the coming year, this time Gordon told the Greater Phoenix Chamber of Commerce members his plans for 2010 are to attract federal stimulus dollars and to travel nationally and internationally to lure jobs to Phoenix.
“He’s got the energy to move Phoenix forward,” said Patrick Panetta, a former member of the Ahwatukee Foothills Village Planning Committee who attends the luncheons in the new civic convention center.
He called Gordon’s agenda of job attraction “practical.”
“In an economy like this, you can’t overpromise,” Panetta said.
But Councilman Sal DiCiccio thought Gordon missed an opportunity to present an agenda to increase efficiency and cut waste in city services.
“I believe there’s a list of things we could accomplish right now, within the current city structure,” DiCiccio said afterward.
DiCiccio, who represents Ahwatukee Foothills, and Gordon have butted heads over how to deal with the city’s ongoing fiscal crisis. DiCiccio has argued that the city needs to fundamentally change the way it budgets and delivers services, or face a repeat of declining general fund revenue and steep budget cuts. DiCiccio voted against an emergency extension of the city’s 2 percent sales tax on food and he, along with Councilwoman Peggy Neely, voted against the budget last week.
Gordon defended the budget process and pointed to the state Capitol and Washington for creating unfunded mandates.
While DiCiccio said he disagreed with Gordon on how to deal with the annual budget cuts that have occurred in eight of the past 11 budget cycles, there is one thing they can both agree on.
“We both have the objective of moving Phoenix forward,” DiCiccio said.