I'll admit to being an optimist who worries. Surely Wes Gullett, tool of the right wing extremists, couldn't win the Phoenix mayor's race... Yet, Phoenix and Arizona have fallen into too many tragic improbabilities for me to count and things had been taking a severe downbound course lately. In the end, a record turnout put Greg Stanton emphatically in office. Thank God. This is unalloyed "positive news," for those of you who think I have no bright side. Stanton could be a transformative mayor at a time when the city most needs one.
Now, to the serious stuff. Most of the issues that dominated the campaign and the media's attention are small ball. Phoenix is a well-run big city, with a few exceptions such as the Jack Harris-type backscratching. All of these can be addressed with a functioning City Council. The one that requires reflection is water rates. The older parts of Phoenix need no further push to let shade trees die and throw down gravel. Indeed, they need an incentive to keep the oases that are critical protection against the heat island. In addition, city staff should roll back their demand for gravel and palo verdes on nearly every city property. This is only adding to the unlivability of Phoenix. A discussion on the investment of water for shade oases is critical.
Stanton's biggest challenge, as he well knows from his days on City Council, will be building majorities for the critical policies he wants enacted. Phoenix's mayor is more powerful than any of his peers in the state, but the city remains (foolishly, to my mind) a council-manager form of government. The mayor is "just one vote," as an intelligent, ambitious councilman told me years ago. Stanton is well-suited to the task: Amiable, emotionally intelligent, willing to listen, politically street smart and wearing hig policy wonkishness lightly. But without a majority, he'll get nowhere. It may shift from issue to issue, but it is the mayor's majority that Skip Rimsza wielded with such effectiveness. It will be interesting to see if Mayor Stanton has a "Councilman Stanton," an effective do-the-right-thing ally on big stuff. This was a role that Stanton played on the biosciences campus and ASU downtown to Mayor Phil Gordon, even though their overall relationship was always a wary one.