Change is coming soon to the Tempe City Council.
Three positions are open due to term expirations and the primary election to fill them will be held on March 8. Ballots will begin rolling out Feb. 9 to all registered Tempe voters.
Ahead of the election, the city hosted virtual candidate forums on a variety of topics, the last of which was held Feb. 2 to discuss transit and sustainability. The debate was organized and moderated by Arizona Forward.
The candidates’ forum can be viewed on the city’s YouTube channel.
Councilwoman Lauren Kuby declined to run again and is instead seeking a seat on the Arizona Corporation commission.
Robin Arredondo-Savage also elected to step down from the board at the end of his term. Councilwoman Jennifer Adams is the sole incumbent in the race.
The only certified candidate who did not show up at this final forum was Gina Kash.
Berdetta Hodge, who currently serves on the Tempe Union High School District Board of Trustees, had to leave the forum early for a board meeting and answered several questions before leaving.
“I believe our city cannot make meaningful and lasting economic progress if elected officials ignore our very valuable air and water policies,” she said.
Hodge’s sustainability plans, if elected, include expanding Tempe’s climate action plan, investing in urban gardens, adding more shade and trees, and reducing of the city’s dependence on cars.
Working with high school students, she said many children live outside the district and don’t have free, reliable access to public transit to and from school via buses and light rail. .
She said they deserved the same free transit passes as students who live within the district boundaries.
She also knows firsthand that the city’s youth are committed to climate action.
“That’s not how they do it, they already do it,” she said. “We have sustainability clubs in all of our secondary schools. What we need to do as a community is build partnerships. If these kids are ready and they’re already building this business, I need to engage the business community so they can start listening and hearing what these students are saying.
Moderator John Ford, former Chairman of the Arizona Forward Board of Directors, walked around the virtual room and asked the same questions of each certified contestant. The first concerned transit.
John Skelton, a former Arizona Cardinals quarterback and owner of a small business called Senior Helpers of Tempe, said walking is key.
“I think making the city of Tempe a more walkable city would go a long way to reducing any kind of emissions,” he said. “If we can be more conscious of how we travel, that will go a long way to solving some of the transportation climate change issues.”
Harper Lines, a member of the Tempe Arts and Culture Commission, noted that the city is expected to welcome around 55,000 new residents by 2040,
“So that’s going to create transport infrastructure problems,” he said.
The lines called for additional energy storage, parking and more spending on native plants for shade to address the problem.
Casey Clowes, corporate attorney for Nikola Motor Co., noted that the Orbit bus does not go south of Baseline.
“People were asking for it because a lot of students rely on the Orbit to get to school,” she said. “The neighborhood circulator might be easier for them than the city bus. We also need to increase frequency to increase traffic.
Extreme heat was also on the agenda, and each candidate called on local businesses to be part of the solution.
Adams noted that the city currently has a green business certification program and added that Carvana, which extends into Tempe, has set up its parking lot for electric vehicles.”
Arlene Chin, a former council member who is running again for a seat, said the city has a good relationship with the local chamber of commerce that should be built upon.
“You build relationships, you communicate with your partners, and you set expectations,” she said. “You share the vision of what you want to build for our community and you define it early. This way any potential partner comes to the table and you have managed their expectations. »
Chin, who was on the council when the city adopted its climate action plan, also said business owners need to know how adding things like solar power or LED lighting can improve their results. For example, downtown Tempe
The authority has conducted water audits to save the dwindling resource.
“What I learned about sustainable practices is that they have to be economic, cultural and there is a political element,” she said. “You have to have all three for it to work. It needs to be widely adopted and implemented.
Clowes called on the city council to invest in neighborhoods where the city’s most vulnerable people live, including low-income families and people of color.
She referred to an incident in the 1950s when Arizona State University moved residents from the San Pablo neighborhood to build dormitories and its stadium.
“Many residents of San Pablo have moved to La Victoria – Victory Acres – and it hasn’t seen the same investment in shade and trees to cool temperatures that the old neighborhood of San Pablo had or the development current ASU knows,” she said. .
All the candidates agreed that the city’s young people should be more involved in solving the climate problem in the future.
“Young people are interested,” Chin said. “It’s a subject close to their hearts. What we need to do is continue to involve them.