Phx mayor: Break city's boom-and-bust economic cycle
Improving education, reforming immigration and creating a more welcoming business environment can help the nation’s sixth-largest city expand beyond an economy based on construction and real estate, Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton said last week.
“Our challenge: to break this boom-bust cycle,” he said in his second State of the City Address, delivered Thursday. “But creating the new Phoenix economy, a more diverse economy, will not be easy.”
While Stanton said that the state of the city is strong, he added that future economic success depends on making the right choices starting with education.
He noted that the state’s 1 cent-per-dollar sales tax to benefit education and other causes is set to expire at the end of May and that Proposition 204, which would have made that tax permanent, was rejected by voters in November.
“The city must play an increased role in supporting education,” Stanton said. “Failure on education is not an option for our city.”
He announced a program called Read On Phoenix, a collaboration of several groups aiming to make sure every child in the city can read by third grade. Under a 2010 state law, third-graders are required to demonstrate reading competency beginning in the 2013-2014 school year.
“Not only is it a required mandate under state law,” Stanton said, “it’s the only way to build the economy of our future.”
He said the program would, among other things, screen students early in order to provide help and tutoring to those who need it, as well as develop a pilot program to give books to kindergarteners.
Stanton also called immigration reform important to the city’s economy, including comprehensive immigration reform at the federal level and helping participants in the Obama administration’s deferred-action program succeed in Arizona.
“We need to grant the dreams of the young DREAMers in Arizona,” he said. “Let’s give these talented young leaders licenses to drive.”
Gov. Jan Brewer issued an executive order last year prohibiting deferred-action participants from receiving state or local public benefits such as driver’s licenses.
Stanton said the economy also can benefit from socially inclusive policies.
Two days before, the City Council expanded Phoenix’s anti-discrimination ordinance to include sexual orientation and gender identity. Stanton said the change would help the city attract more of the best and brightest.
“Our need to compete for top talent requires us to adopt policies that advance our city’s reputation and commitment to equality,” he said. “We had to take action – decisive, forward-thinking action. And that’s exactly what we did.”
Other initiatives introduced by Stanton included a school safety program designed to double the number of police officers in schools across the city, a $100,000 gun buyback program in partnership with Arizonans for Gun Safety.