Equality Arizona: Forum Offers "Good Glimpse" of Phoenix Mayoral Candidates Stance on LGBT and City Issues

Categories: Election 2011
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Candidates in the Phoenix mayor's race carefully measured their words during a forum hosted by Equality Arizona, a political organization that advocates for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender  equality.

The Monday night forum included questions to gauge candidates' stances on same-sex marriage and discrimination in housing and employment within city policies.

Former Councilman Greg Stanton didn't hesitate to say he supports equality within city policies to protect members of the LGBT community from discrimination.

He said he would be willing to go to Washington, D.C. to lobby for changes to federal laws to eliminate discrimination.  He also said he supports equality when it came to same-sex marriage.

Wes Gullett, a Valley lobbyist, said the same-sex-marriage issue is one that the would have to "look at" very hard. He said he would be willing to sit down and talk to people to come up with a decision.

Gullett said the issue of marriage unions should be left to churches but that the "government shouldn't discriminate in any way."  

When moderator Donna Rossi of CBS 5 News followed up and pointedly asked Gullett whether  he was in favor of same-sex marriage, he avoided the question and said again that government shouldn't discriminate.

Thane Eichenauer, one of four mayoral candidates who participated in the forum, said government shouldn't sanction marriages.

Councilman Claude Mattox said he, too, would advocate for anti-discrimination policies. He was less committed when it came to same-sex marriages.

After the forum, he told New Times that he wouldn't discuss the matter further, unless the state brings forward the issue.

"It's not going to happen in the near future," he said.


Sam Castaneda Holdren, acting director for Equality Arizona, said he was pleased to see most of the candidates show up to speak to the LGBT community, not just on gay and lesbian issues, but on all the issues that are important to Phoenix voters.

"We got a really good glimpse of where they stand," he said. "And we got to see how informed -- and uninformed -- they are on the issues."

Councilwoman Peggy Neely was the only no-show.

Some suggested that Neely couldn't have attended the forum since she has not officially declared her candidacy for mayor.  When she does make it official, she will have to resign her seat on the City Council.

Her publicity pamphlets made it to a table at the forum. Neely, however, noted she had a scheduling conflict. She spent the evening at a campaign fundraiser in Laveen raising money for a race that, officially, she is only exploring the possibility of entering. 

Candidates offered their predictable campaign rhetoric about growing the economy, creating a diverse job market, and the importance of strong neighborhoods.


A question about the CityNorth giveaway prompted a few jabs at Mattox from his opponents.

Stanton says elected officials have to be "smart" about tax incentives and that the $97 million deal that Phoenix made for a parking garage at a retail center didn't make any sense. 

Gullett said it was a bad deal because not everyone could benefit, and it put the city in a position where it was choosing which businesses are winners and losers. 

Mattox, who voted in favor of the tax incentive for the north Phoenix shopping center, did a little flip flopping.

It was only a few weeks ago that Mattox defended his decision in the Phoenix Business Journal. In that March 11 article, he also talked about expanding tax incentives to suburban neighborhoods.

During the forum, however, he said the city has made money off of CityNorth and that it made sense at the time because a parking garage would free up land to build more retail shops instead of expansive parking lots -- and thus create more city revenue.

But, he said, given how public opinion largely is against the CityNorth subsidy, he would not support it today "even though it makes sense" for the city.

Stanton came back at Mattox, saying, "Of course we made money, it's a shopping mall! The issue is whether the subsidy was necessary."

Neely also voted in favor of the subsidy for the shopping center in her district.

Questions were raised about  Public Safety Manager Jack Harris -- the recent debacle over allegations that the police department intentionally shared inaccurate kidnapping statistics with the feds to get federal grants and Harris' "double dipping."

Harris retired as Phoenix police chief, started drawing on his state pension, and was almost immediately hired back as a public safety manager.

Stanton said there shouldn't be two positions and that city officials should conduct a national search to fill the position. 

Gullett said Harris needed to retire -- again -- and that the Public Safety Manager position, as well as double-dipping, should be eliminated altogether.

He said Harris and the city should have been focused on finding a successor to lead the Phoenix Police Department. He said the city needed to conduct a national search to find a replacement for Harris  to "give the police department the leadership that it deserves."

Mattox said he was the one who said Harris should be moved from the police chief's post to "get at the truth" about the kidnapping statistics. That seemed to conflict with a statement he released before Harris was reassigned. In it, Mattox said he believed an internal audit should be completed before anyone jumped to conclusions.

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Clif Freedman
Clif Freedman

Peggy Neely will NEVER be elected Mayor of Phoenix. As a trusted representative of District 2 she violated her fiduciary obligation to her electors. She has "sold out" to commercial interests like Westcor. She has a clear conflict of interest by having Paul Gilbert, a zoning attorney for Westcor on her campaign staff helping to raise money for her failed bid for Mayor. As head of Transportation for the City of Phoenix as a City Council member, Peggy Neely gerrymandered Sonoran Blvd, a road that was supposed to link the new 303 loop east to Route 51. Upon information and belief she was paid off by Westcor with the help of attorney Paul Gilbert to not only change the name of Sonoran Blvd but to actually build the road so that it aligns with Westcor's property in Northern Phoenix and NOT Route 303. This, of course, enhances the value of Westcor's 80 acre commercial parcel of property. Why is this important? Because now motorists who are traveling on the new extension of 303 won't be able to travel east of I-17 to get to Route 51. Peggy Neely for political purposes "broke" the loop and has caused motorists irreparable harm. Not only that but because of her blind ambition to become Mayor, the road Peggy Neely is building, the NEW Sonoran Blvd., will dead end in a Phoenix residential community causing massive traffic and confusion for NOT only the local residents but for the folks who will be traveling WEST from North Scottsdale, Cave Creek Road area, and Carefree who think they are going to I-17 or 303. They will dead end at the intersection of North Valley Parkway and the NEW Neely Sonoran Blvd. This is called the Road To Nowhere. However, there a simple solution, build the Road To Somewhere. The Road To Somewhere is where the road was originally supposed to be built. This road is ONE mile south of the Neely-Westcor Road and perfectly aligns with the new Route 303. In fact, there is funding for this road and not for the Neely-Westcor Road. I am President of the Sonoran Citizens Improvement Association. My name is Clif Freedman. See www.sornorancitizens.com


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I can't figure out why all the bible thumpers are so against gay marriage. If all theyb are opposed to is gay sex, then let them get married, and after 3 or 4 years, they'll stop having gay sex, just like straight couples do.


Zing!!!!! you must have been to ANY comedy show in the last 5 years, ORIGINAL!(by the way I agree with you ;])

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