Category Archives: Public Safety

Volunteer for 9/11 National Day of Service & Remembrance

From September 5-11, 2012 HandsOn Greater Phoenix will participate in Tribute Projects throughout the Valley focusing on assisting and recognizing our current military personnel and veterans. For more information on how you can get involved, visit the HandsOn Days of Service webpage.

Help make the Valley a better place

The Arizona Republic and azcentral.com have an online utility for residents to report issues affecting quality-of-life in their neighborhoods. Called “ValleyFix Phoenix,” people can submit suggestions to help make our city a better place to live for all.

Valley Fix: Phoenix (logo from the Arizona Republic)

Tell us about something that needs fixing near you. Add as many details as necessary. Uploading a photo of the problem would be very helpful. Tell us about potholes, scary intersections, playgrounds in need of maintenance or anything your goverment should fix.

Read more here and check out others’ reports–and even submit your own.

Phoenix City Council approves budget plan, 7-2

[Source: Scott Wong, Arizona Republic] — Despite opposition from two members, the Phoenix City Council on Tuesday approved a budget plan that eliminates 520 jobs and requires $64 million in cuts to parks, public transit, after-school programs, and the arts.  But it contains none of the severe cuts to public safety, senior centers, and libraries that were proposed in late January.  Under the spending plan, no sworn police officers or firefighters will be laid off, and no senior centers, libraries, large community centers, or softball fields will be closed.  City officials clarified that fewer than 50 full-time employees would actually be laid off, due to vacancies, retirements, and efforts to transfer police officers and other workers into other departments.

The general-fund budget adopted Tuesday was drastically different from the initial proposal that called for cutting $140 million in services and axing 1,300 jobs, including pink slips for hundreds of police officers and firefighters.  City leaders managed to save city jobs and services primarily by imposing a sales tax on groceries, using unspent money in a public-safety fund, and getting labor unions to agree to a 3.2 percent concession in wages and benefits.  “Hundreds of people’s jobs will be saved because of the measures we have taken here,” City Manager David Cavazos said.

Annual budgets in Phoenix typically are approved on a unanimous vote, but Council members Peggy Neely and Sal DiCiccio voted against the budget and said this plan contained elements that lacked transparency and were impossible to support.  They pointed to Mayor Phil Gordon’s move last month to push through a 2 percent food tax without adequate public input.  And they blasted a plan by budget officials to shift more than 20 police officers into the Water, Aviation, and Transit departments to save their jobs, a move that law enforcement and management argued would boost security at water plants, the airport, and on light rail.  “I’m very concerned with how we built this,” Neely said during a seven-hour meeting at the Orpheum Theatre.

Gordon and six other council members supported the budget, which runs through June 2011.  The cuts take effect April 5.  They come just a year after the council slashed a record $156 million from the roughly $1 billion general-fund budget.  Among the most severe reductions this time:

  • The city’s after-school program will close at 25 of 55 sites during the school year and the summer program will shut down completely.
  • The city also will stop funding the Shemer Art Center and Museum and Arizona Horse Lovers Park, which could be operated by private groups.
  • Visitor centers at North Mountain, South Mountain, and Rio Salado parks will be shuttered.
  • Bus service along several routes will be reduced by 15 percent and the DASH Downtown Loop bus will be eliminated.
  • Riders also will have to wait longer for light rail during peak hours, though late-night weekend service will be preserved.
  • Some departments will be consolidated, including the City Clerk’s Office and Information Technology.
  • And cuts will claim two top officials in the City Manager’s Office, as well as positions in the mayor and council offices.

In recent weeks, 4,500 residents attended 15 public hearings on the budget. About 500 sent e-mails or made phone calls to the city. Many said that without preserving the arts, culture and recreation in the city, Phoenix would fall into urban decay.  “What I heard is that we are a city that is more than just a police force.  I also heard that we simply cannot be a city-police state,” said Councilman Tom Simplot, who attended a handful of the hearings.  “This budget reflects that to be the best we can, we need our youth centers, our libraries, our art centers.”

Added library advocate Dan Cook: “I am a retired senior citizen and my wife and I live on a fixed income, but I am willing to pay that tax to keep our city vital and alive.”  A handful of African-American community leaders made one final plea to restore year-round funding for the decades-old South Phoenix Youth Center. Food-tax revenue will keep it open only during summers.  “You’re closing the community out by closing these centers,” said longtime Valley broadcaster Art Mobley.

Citizens for Phoenix coalition offers proposal to deal with city budget crisis

In early February, the Phoenix City Manager proposed $140 million in budget cuts to the Mayor and City Council.  In response, a nascent coalition of neighborhood groups and non-profit organizations began meeting to research and draft their own budget proposal to maintain public safety while preserving essential services that Phoenix residents require for a reasonable quality of life.  Here two representatives of the Citizens for Phoenix coalition, Paul Barnes and Ann Malone, offer their views to City Council on February 11.  Councilman Michael Johnson offers his impressions of the coalition’s effort to date.

Paul Barnes of the Neighborhood Coalition of Greater Phoenix, explains the unifying philosophy of Citizens for Phoenix in dealing with the current budget crisis in Phoenix.

Ann Malone, president of Require the Prior, speaks to the Phoenix City Council about the proposed food tax, the importance of public safety, and the need to maintain city services for the vulnerable in our community.

Phoenix Councilman Michael Johnson expresses his thanks to and support of the Citizens for Phoenix coalition.

Phoenix residents show support and opposition to 2% food tax

[Source: Scott Wong, Arizona Republic] — Drowning out the voices of a handful of anti-tax protesters, hundreds of Phoenix residents and employees rallied Wednesday in support of the food tax, saying it was critical to save police, fire and other city services.  “As council members, you have a responsibility to help us get through these tough times,” said Phoenix firefighter Greg Morales.  “But as citizens we have a responsibility to do our part.  I believe this can be done by supporting an emergency food tax.”

About 400 people attended Wednesday’s public hearing at Carl Hayden High School.  It was the first of 15 that will be held this month to gather citizen input on the food tax and proposed budget cuts.

Last week, City Council members adopted a 2 percent tax on milk, bread, vegetables and other grocery items. The action came with little notice and just days after city leaders learned they would have to cut $140 million in services and programs to balance the general-fund budget.  The 2-cent-per-dollar food tax, which takes effect April 1, would generate $62.5 million through June 2011.  The extra revenue could prevent hundreds of job cuts and the halt the closures of senior centers, three libraries and dozens of community and youth-recreation centers.  About $100 million in service cuts would still be needed.  The council will vote on a revised budget on March 2 and the cuts will take effect in April.

Advocates from every segment of the community voiced support for their programs and services, from public transit to parks and recreation.  More than a dozen teens urged the council not to cut funding to the Police Department’s Explorer Program.  And about 50 equestrian riders, clearly visible in their cowboy hats, told officials they were willing to help raise money to keep the Arizona Horse Lovers Park operating.  “Horse Lovers park is our home, said Ross Libonati, president of the Scottsdale Saddle Club, which uses the park.  “We’re not here begging you to keep the park open.  We are begging you to let us keep the park open.”

But not all were happy with the food tax.  Rudy Pena, 57 and a Carl Hayden graduate, said the city needs to learn how to spend within its means.  Tapping into the anti-tax populism sweeping across the country, Pena compared Phoenix to the British government before the American Revolution.  “The city of Phoenix is not the British Army or the King of England,” he said, “but they are trying to impose a 2 percent tax on our food.”

For a list of proposed budget cuts and public hearings, visit http://phoenix.gov/budget/.

Downtown Phoenix emerges as light rail collision hot spot

One of the 52 light rail collisions this past year (Photo: Emmanuel Lozano, Arizona Republic)

[Source: Sean Holstege, Arizona Republic] — The Valley’s light-rail track runs over 20 miles, but almost half of Metro’s crashes in the past year have occurred along a single mile-and-a-quarter stretch that runs through downtown Phoenix.  The L-shaped route from Central Station to Seventh Street is packed with bars, businesses, pedestrians, and distracted motorists, a tough environment for even slow-moving Metro trains.

Of the 52 crashes logged last year — an average of one a week since the $1.4 billion system opened in December 2008 — 23 have been in downtown Phoenix.  Of those, 17 involved right turns along a few blocks of Washington and Jefferson streets.  Metro recorded five crashes at just one corner: Jefferson and First streets.  None of the crashes was fatal.

Phoenix police Lt. Adrian Ruiz says most downtown accidents happen because drivers get confused by unfamiliar streets and because Phoenix drivers have a bad habit of running red lights.  “I see people every day who disregard the no-left-, no-right-turn-on-red signals,” said Ruiz, who runs the department’s transit bureau.  “Drivers in Arizona are used to seeing where they have to go… They get impatient.”

Many of the downtown Phoenix crashes arise from cars making right turns across the tracks.  A red arrow prohibits the maneuver, but split-second instincts and years of conditioning tell drivers it is OK to turn right on red.

Phoenix-area drivers are still making mistakes.  Police have blamed all 52 crashes involving trains on motorists, not rail operators.  In an effort to solve the problems and reduce the number of collisions, engineers, recognizing an emerging pattern, have begun changing signs and signals at accident hot spots.  [Note: Read the the full article at Downtown Phoenix emerges as light rail collision hot spot.]

Viewpoint: Phoenix budget woes, big art, light rail made ’09 quite a year

[Source: Arizona Republic; section headers organized by yours truly] — With this being Christmas week, we figured you wouldn’t want to read a traditional editorial any more than we wanted to write one.  So today, we lighten things up a bit with awards for notable achievements in 2009.

Phoenix Overall

  • Story of the year: Phoenix did the virtually impossible this year — it cut $270 million from the general fund to balance the budget due to low sales-tax revenue.  Residents are feeling the effects with reduced hours or closures of swimming pools, libraries, and senior centers.  They also see more graffiti and potholes because staff is stretched so thin.  Now the city is talking about cutting an additional $100 million or so.  This story is getting old.
  • Best cheerleader: Mayor Phil Gordon earns this award again.  With frequent trips to Washington, D.C., to lobby for stimulus funds, and Janet Napolitano resigning as governor to lead Homeland Security, Gordon is the face of Arizona.
  • Embarrassment: Rep. Ray Barnes’ rambling reasons for voting to cut $144 million from public education.  Grab some eggnog and watch this Phoenix Republican go off.
  • Hot potato: The idea to raise the sales tax temporarily to generate revenue quickly.  Mayor Gordon suggested a community member take on his idea.  But no one wants to touch it.
  • Landmark: The city became the second in the state to offer a domestic-partner registry to gay or straight couples who share a Phoenix residence.  Among other privileges, the registry grants partners visitation rights in hospitals.
  • Pillar: City Manager Frank Fairbanks earns this award again.  He retired this year, but not before balancing the nastiest budget deficit in city history.  Thanks, Frank.

Downtown Focused/Strong Influence

  • Pushin’ on: Light rail has its fans and its foes.  But ridership is up and businesses have sprouted along the line.  The system is approaching it first anniversary.  We say light rail is on track.
  • Newcomer: Janet Echelman’s “Her Secret Is Patience” at the new Civic Space Park downtown opened to much criticism.  Meant to resemble a cactus bloom, the floating sculpture was called everything from a basketball hoop to a male contraceptive.  Not that we mind.  Some of the best artwork in the world drew heavy criticism.  We’re just glad people are noticing what downtown Phoenix has to offer.
  • Comeback: Phoenix Urban Market Grocery and Wine Bar at Central Avenue and Pierce Street is the first grocer to serve the area in 30 years.  It only carries the basics.  But milk, vegetables, bread, pasta and other staples are welcome.
  • Bragging rights: President Barack Obama made three visits to the Valley this year.  One of those was to the new Phoenix Convention Center, where Obama addressed the Veterans of Foreign Wars national convention.
  • Feather in the cap: A budding knowledge-based economy, parks and preservation efforts, and teen spaces at public libraries make Phoenix an All-America City.  Now it has the civic award to prove it.  This was Phoenix’s fifth win.  It would be a shame to lose these gains to budget cuts in the down economy.

Other Parts of Phoenix

  • Senseless act: A photo-enforcement-van driver was shot to death while deployed near Loop 101 in north Phoenix.  Thomas DeStories was indicted in connection with the shooting death of Douglas Georgianni.
  • Tallest story: Despite opposition from neighbors, the City Council approved a Mormon temple whose steeple and spire will rise 86 feet above the Deer Valley area.
  • Unsung hero: The Macehualli Day Labor Center in northeastern Phoenix provides a central location for day laborers and potential employers to negotiate business.  The center is for sale.

Phoenix must do more with less, new city manager says

[Source: Scott Wong, Arizona Republic] — David Cavazos has been appointed to succeed City Manager Frank Fairbanks, who is retiring Thursday after nearly 20 years.  Cavazos, a deputy city manager who started with Phoenix 22 years ago, discussed some of the changes he would like to make, the city’s financial woes and how he plans to get past a 2006 travel-abuse scandal that still haunts him.

What kinds of changes can we expect at City Hall? We have to look at the very best person for every job, that everything has to be based on merit and credentials and that we’re going to look both internally and externally for support.  We (the council and I) talked about innovation.  People need to be able to do more with less.  They need to not only be willing to change but be a champion for change.  They need to adapt to change.  One of the things I’ll be focused on is how can we partner with the private sector to do the things that we may not do as well as the private sector.  We got to look at outsourcing.  We got to work very closely with employees, with our labor groups.

The city closed a record $270 million shortfall earlier this year, largely by eliminating jobs and making cuts to services.  Now we hear that this year’s budget gap has widened again by as much as $95 million.  How do you fix that? “We need to work very closely with the mayor and council.  What are the priorities?  Obviously, public safety, neighborhoods, infrastructure, economic development.  (We have to ask) what do we absolutely have to do?  What services are the most important to the community?  The public hearings are very important, talking to people, getting their input and then realizing there will have to be some streamlining.  I think you’ll see some of it at the top, probably right here in the City Manager’s Office.

Is it certain there will be layoffs? I believe that we are going to have reductions in staffing.  There is no way to get around that.  You are going to be able to do some with lease-purchase and hopefully things get better.  [Note: Read the full article at Phoenix must do more with less, new city manager says.]

As Phoenix faces “economic emergency,” mayor floats idea of temporary tax hike

home_balloons[Source: Scott Wong, Arizona Republic] — Saying Phoenix is facing an “economic emergency,” Mayor Phil Gordon this week floated the idea of a temporary sales-tax increase to keep already diminished services from being cut further.  Phoenix recently raised fees and rates for things such as parking meters and trash pickup. But Gordon’s comments, during a City Council meeting, marked the first mention of a sales-tax hike — or “emergency economic surcharge” — that the council could approve to stave off service cuts.

“It may take that to get us through the economic crisis,” Gordon told fellow council members and staffers.  “We have to ask residents: Do they want these draconian cuts?  Do they want to be understaffed in fire and police?  I, for one, think our residents would want to continue the way of life in this city.”  [Note: Read full article at As Phoenix faces “economic emergency,” mayor floats idea of temporary tax hike.]

Phoenix ranks as 14th-safest U.S. city

[Source: Ofelia Madrid, Arizona Republic] — The Phoenix metropolitan area is considered the United States’ 14th-safest city, according to a recently released forbes.com list.  The business magazine ranked the 40 largest metropolitan areas in America, based on four categories of danger.  Statistics included 2008 workplace-death rates from the Bureau of Labor Statistics; 2008 traffic death rates from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration; and natural-disaster risk, using rankings from green living site SustainLane.com.  Also considered was the FBI’s violent-crime rate from the bureau’s 2008 uniform crime report.

Phoenix-Scottsdale-Mesa finished just ahead of Chicago and Austin.  Phoenix metro had the fifth-lowest risk for a natural disaster.  Minneapolis topped this year’s forbes.com list as the safest city in the United States, with the online magazine touting the city’s low crime rate.  Milwaukee ranked second with the lowest natural-disaster risk and Portland, Ore., ranked third, with the lowest crime rate of all the areas considered.  [Note: Read the full article at Phoenix ranks as 14th-safest U.S. city.]