Urban Choices hosted conversations with City Council candidates from Districts 4 and 8 in on Wednesday and Thursday. The candidates discussed a variety of issues, proposed to the candidates by members of the community and Urban Choices.
“There’s a window of opportunity right now to connect decision makers and elected officials in Phoenix in a groundswell of support for things that are very different from the way we’ve done business in Phoenix,” Urban Choices Co-Chair Shannon Scutari said.
Urban Choices is a collective whose purpose is the transformation of Phoenix through the lens of its assorted citizens. As Wednesday conveyed, Urban Choices has taken a proactive role in Phoenix by connecting experts, decision makers and communities.
“The really important piece of what Urban Choices is doing is diversity of perspectives,” Scutari said.
On Wednesday, District 4 candidates Austin Head, Dan Caroll, Justin Johnson, Scott Fistler, David Lujan and Laura Pastor were tasked with sharing their plans for inducing an urban agenda.
“A much higher percentage of your dollar spent at local business stays in Phoenix than if you spend it at a chain. So, we want to keep our money in Phoenix, obviously,” Head said.
Talent needs to be attracted to jobs in Phoenix, but realtor Dan Caroll suggested a focus on local talent could aid businesses and the economy.
“One of the important things to me is that we not attract from Scottsdale, Tempe or Glendale,” Carroll said. “While I want to attract the best and brightest in the central city, midtown, downtown, I don’t necessarily want to grab them from another part from the city. That’s not really the type of growth that we want to look for.”
Diversity is one of the focal points of Urban Choices. The diversity of opinions and economic options are core concepts of the group.
Government can promote or hinder the success of business. To allow the growth of business in Phoenix, Johnson, a small business owner, asserted the need for a less pervasive government.
“Government can do a better job of getting out of the way to help the local small business owners. They can help push aside the stuff that create barriers for these folks to do better by encouraging things like adaptive reuse, like Seed Spot, helping promote for their business,” Johnson said.
Fistler, an Army veteran, also touched on the need for promotion and suggested the city could improve its promotion and outreach efforts to attract people to Phoenix.
“One way I think City Council could help is most definitely, put the word out to friends, family, across other cities, across other countries. Invite people. Let them know that we’re an all inclusive city, and everyone is welcome, ” Fistler said.
Lujan suggested that the new economy reside within local communities.
“I think if we’re really going to encourage the new economy, we have to make communities that are really going to foster innovation and creativity. And what’s really going to spur that creativity?” Lujan said. “It’s going to be architecture, historic preservation, parks, open spaces, music, art — the things we’re talking about tonight.”
The arrival of big businesses can stunt the growth of local businesses. Tax incentives that entice big companies to set up shop in Phoenix could be counterintuitive to the growth of local establishments.
“We don’t need to give these incentives to these big businesses to locate downtown,” Lujan said. “All that’s doing is shifting the burden to small businesses and home owners, which we don’t need to do.”
Laura Pastor stressed the need for the sustainable growth and diversification of Phoenix’s economy.
“What we need to look at is sustainable growth and what does it look like? How do we sustain ourselves through the next 50 years?” Pastor said. “Another thing is we have to diversify our economy. We have to look at diversifying at bioscience, looking at medical fields, looking at the engineering and technology fields. It’s about diversifying our economy and bringing those jobs to us. Quality jobs.”
On Thursday, District 8 City Council candidates Carolyn T. Lowery, Kate Gallego and Lawrence Robinson also conveyed their urban strategies to a packed house at the Levine Machine.
Currently, the city spends less than one dollar per capita to assist the arts in Phoenix. The candidates were asked to answer ‘yes or no’, if they would back a funding increase for supporting arts and culture.
All three said yes.
Robinson, Gallego and Lowery were prompted to convey how they would induce real change for arts and culture and an increase in funding.
“Arts, we need to see it. We have beautiful black history. When I was Queen Brown Sugar, I want you all to see how beautiful I was back then,” Lowery said. “I want to learn about your culture, I want you to learn about mine. That’s why we need arts. It’s history.”
Gallego lauded the mural culture in Phoenix, and said she would like to see it and other cultural elements expanded.
“We have a great mural culture in Phoenix and I would love to see that spread so we could help each neighborhood recognize it’s uniqueness,” Gallego said. “I’d also love to see us take advantage of our parks and open space. And have more programs like Shakespeare in the Park to south Phoenix.
Robinson suggested that arts and culture needs in District 8 could be meet with restored funding for after school programs in south Phoenix. Robinson also stated that arts and culture permeates District 8.
“We have so much cultural resonance in this community, in our Latino communities, and our African American communities. In our transplant African community on the north part of the district, and the Chinese and Asian gardens used to exist along along Baseline,” Robinson said. “This is all art. And this is all part of our community. And its part of, frankly, these cultures that have existed and continue to exist in south Phoenix.”
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