Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego used her third State of the City address to tout what she calls the largest economic development deal in Phoenix history, to promote health care and education partnerships, and to deliver a promise to law enforcement officials.
“I have never, and will never, defund the Phoenix Police Department,” she said.
Throughout the address Friday, Gallego reminded those in attendance at the Phoenix Convention Center — a crowd that included state lawmakers, local mayors, the state schools chief and the Arizona Corporation Commission chair — that Phoenix is “rising as a global player.”
She used that reminder to call out the “unwarranted attack on Ukraine” and said that, as of Thursday, the city’s pension system had divested itself of all Russian financial interests.
It was Gallego’s third State of the City address since being elected mayor in 2019. Before that, she served on the Phoenix City Council for 4½ years.
It also marked a return to large in-person events for Phoenix. Gallego’s last State of the City address, in 2020, was virtual.
The address was livestreamed on azcentral.com.
‘We found ways to thrive:’ Mayor cites city’s successes
Gallego used much of Friday’s address to showcase Phoenix’s economic wins, big-name partnerships and new city leaders.
To keep Phoenix on the rise, the overarching theme of Gallego’s address, leaders need to invest in affordable housing and public transit, she said.
She called on state lawmakers to send Proposition 400, the sales tax measure behind light rail in Phoenix, Tempe and Mesa, to the ballot this year.
And she said she wants to see more investment in affordable housing. The city has explored plans to replace old, shuttered retail stores with new housing as the region struggles to keep up with demand.
“We need to move the needle on housing. I want my son, Michael, to be able to buy a home someday, and I imagine you share that hope for the young people in your life,” she said.
Among the achievements she touted:
Giving out thousands of laptops so children could do school work during the pandemic.
Expanding the Community Assistance Program for people with mental health ailments.
Preventing evictions and assisting Phoenix renters with their monthly payments.
Issuing thousands of building permits for single-family homes and multifamily housing, like apartments and condos.
Supporting small businesses with financial aid throughout the pandemic.
Cranes and construction sites are common. Gallego highlighted a multibillion-dollar international investment in north Phoenix: the Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co.
The project is, Gallego said, “the largest economic development deal in the city’s history.”
The $12 billion project is “one of the most important assets we’ve attracted to Phoenix,” Gallego said. It’s also brought in more surrounding business in the city’s northern corridor, which could one day be a large employment hub.
Sunlit Chemical, a supplier of the Taiwanese manufacturer, and Foxlink, a green energy company, both recently announced plans to set up shop in Phoenix. Sunlit in January broke ground on a $100 million factory.
Gallego said the city has partnered with the Maricopa County Community College District to create a job pipeline for the semiconductor industry.
“Through it all, we have reaffirmed our resilience. As a city, we looked hard at what we were doing,” Gallego said. “We rethought fiscal management. We dug deep and found ways to help those who needed it most.”
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Gallego also praised Jeff Barton, Phoenix’s new city manager, in Friday’s address for his work leading the city over the past several months. Since being appointed in September, Barton has had to take on both near- and long-term challenges, including a federal investigation into the city’s policing and rapidly increasing pension debt.
Gallego promises not to defund police during U.S. probe
Much of Friday’s address focused on economic development, innovative partnerships and the like. But Gallego, who has branded herself a police reform advocate, waded into political waters with one remark.
She vowed to never defund the city’s police and stressed that she has never advocated for that.
Indeed, the department’s budget has increased under her leadership. Gallego added that funding alone is not a solution. Other measures, like body-worn cameras, are crucial in improving transparency, she said.
Gallego painted a picture of violent attacks on Phoenix police officers. She acknowledged the department has flaws but vowed not to defund the department.
“Is our department perfect? No. No police agency in the country is without its flaws. We know our community has high expectations that we have not always met,” Gallego said. “Yet, I firmly believe that each and every day the Phoenix Police Department does important work to make our community better … I have never, and will never, defund the Phoenix Police Department.”
Her vow to continue funding the police was met with loud applause.
She continued, calling out “chilling and horrifying” attacks on police, such as the February shooting of nine officers in southwest Phoenix. And she called out violent attacks on residents, like the March shooting at Tanger Outlets in Glendale that injured a child.
“We must all come together to address gun violence in our communities,” she said, adding that violent attacks on police officers cannot be tolerated.
“I’ve had it with violent attacks on our police officers,” she told the crowd gathered at the Phoenix Convention Center. “We must keep them safe.”
Her remarks came months into aU.S. Department of Justiceprobe into allegations of abuse, excessive force and discrimination. That investigation was announced in August and likely will continue for awhile. Nearby Mesa, Phoenix’s largest suburb, has for years been the subject of two Justice Department investigations.
Gallego in 2021 voted to form a civilian police oversight office, which the City Council narrowly approved.
Protesters just this week filed a $77 million claim against Phoenix City Councilmember Sal DiCiccio, accusing him of using his office’s standing to pressure prosecutors into recharging them.
They have called on Gallego to hold a meeting on the city’s relationship with the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office.
The exterior of Thunderbird School of Global Management at ASU in downtown Phoenix on April 6, 2022. The school is celebrating its 75th anniversary.
Health care workers, academic partners in the spotlight
Gallego also praised Arizona’s health care workers and academic leaders for their work during the pandemic.
Phoenix oversaw nearly 300,000 COVID-19 tests and vaccinations across the city, she said.
As vaccination rates stabilized, leaders retrofitted the mobile vaccine vans into “Mobile Career Units” — vans that let residents without computers or reliable internet access take part in socially distanced job interviews.
“It’s the kind of innovative, creative solution that defines the city of Phoenix,” Gallego said.
She also praised the city’s partnerships with providers of health care and higher education, including Arizona State University’s Thunderbird School of Global Management’s new downtown digs, a $300 million bond for the Mayo Clinic expansion, the Banner Health and MD Anderson Cancer Center partnership and the Translational Geonomics Research Institute.
Health care has long been one of Arizona’s strongest assets, she said. Many health care developments coming to Phoenix, such as MD Anderson, focus on cancer research. That hits home for Gallego, whose mother recently died of cancer.
“I firmly believe that the path to cure cancer runs through Phoenix,” she said.
Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego announces new policy and procedure to document when a police firearm is pointed in the direction of a person during a press conference on Aug. 19, 2019 at the Phoenix City Hall Atrium in Phoenix, Ariz.
Big events in Gallego’s first term include pandemic, DOJ investigation, economic wins
It’s been a busy first term for Gallego.
The majority of her first term as mayor has occurred during the COVID-19 pandemic. In that time, she’s steered the nation’s fifth-largest city through big economic wins and increased scrutiny.
She oversaw wins for the city, such as when she traveled to Taiwan and successfully landed the Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co.
She’s also led the city through tough times. The U.S. Department of Justice in 2021 launched a probe into the Phoenix Police Department over claims of abuse, excessive force and discrimination.
Past addresses touted wins, pushed for causes
Gallego has used previous State of the City addresses to tout big economic wins for the city and push for regional investments.
In her first State of the City address, in 2019, she defended the light rail months before an election that could have derailed plans for expansion. She touted the service as an economic boon to the cities it runs through: Phoenix, Tempe and Mesa.
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In her most recent address, she touted the jobs that the Taiwanese semiconductor company would bring to Phoenix and announced a new partnership with Arizona State University’s Thunderbird School of Global Management, which in 2020 moved from Glendale to downtown Phoenix.
She also gave a glimpse that year at Phoenix’s plans to reduce the urban heat island effect and bolster its water supply as Arizona cities braced for historic Colorado River cutbacks.
And she outlined plans to change policing, which came under increased scrutiny in 2020 and 2021.
By the summer of 2021, she voted to form the Office of Accountability and Transparency, which was tasked with investigating claims of police misconduct. The measure narrowly passed with a 5-4 vote.
Months after that, the Justice Department announced its investigation into the Phoenix Police Department. Gallego at the time said the city’s police would benefit from the Justice Department’s recommendations.
“Comprehensive reform of policing in the city of Phoenix has been my priority since the first day I took office,” she said. “Along with the City Manager, and Chief of Police, I stand ready to support the USDOJ throughout this review process.”
Gallego did not deliver a State of the City address in 2021, instead holding an informal question-and-answer session with the Greater Phoenix Chamber of Commerce.
Reach reporter Joshua Bowling at email@example.com or 602-444-8138. Follow him on Twitter @MrJoshuaBowling.
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AUTHOR: Joshua Bowling