By: J. Charles Coughlin
When will Arizona learn how to honor its leaders? When will we not, in a gathering of community leaders, focus on what is wrong with Arizona, but on what is right? We all certainly have our differences, but as our mothers taught us: “if you don’t have anything nice to say…”
Those were the thoughts racing through my head last night and as I write this blog. I left the Phil Gordon retirement party early because I just couldn’t stand it anymore. Not for the shots taken at me, but for the ones taken at him.
We certainly have had our differences – particularly in the latter part of his administration – and with how to handle our State and City’s relationship with our largest trading partner, Mexico. However, I do not wish to dwell on our differences, on a night when we should have been honoring the Mayor Gordon’s many accomplishments.
So without adieu, and with a particular emphasis on my own interactions with Hizzoner, here are my top four Mayor Gordon memories:
Without a doubt, Mayor Gordon should be and will be remembered for bringing the students, the vibrancy, and the life that is ASU to Downtown Phoenix. Brilliant yes; foretold no. Without him, it doesn’t happen. Year’s from now we will be all looking back and basking in the light that Phoenix is a vibrant, cool downtown area, with a hip, urban night life and a great arts scene. We will all be talking about this event or that event which we attended, and it will seem de rigueur. Well, it happened because of Phil. Thank you, Phil.
Many people forget that as our Valley went on to renew our 20 year 1/2 cent sales tax for transportation in 2004, a billionaire from the East Valley tried to take the whole program down because of his opposition to light rail. A sizable 21% of the electorate rated light rail as their top transportation priority. Without a commitment to extending light rail beyond Phoenix’s minimum operating system, the entire proposition was in the balance. Mayor Gordon understood the balance between transit, streets and freeways. At the critical juncture at the peak of the fight he raised his hand to defend the system. The result a 58% victory at the polls, and the construction program that continues today, despite our recession, and keeps traffic moving and people employed. Phoenix did not get everything it wanted, but Mayor Gordon stood up for what was needed as a region, and we are better for it today.
Not many recall the serious effort to adopt an untested building code that would have been unique in the United States. Many organized groups were lined up to support the adoption of such a code which would have set Phoenix at odds with every other city in the United States. Despite overwhelming pressure from those groups, Mayor Gordon guided a staff-driven process to determine what was right for Phoenix. After that process and on the basis of one vote, the Council ended up adopting the International Code Council codes, which today, are the industry standard throughout the United States.
On December 17, Downtown Phoenix will have a Marriott hotel in its repertoire. This will be a major asset because of its reservation network and convention booking reputation, which will enhance Phoenix’s convention hosting ability for decades to come. It is far too long a story for a short blog, but suffice it to say, a leader needs to be able to put differences aside, focus on common goals and bring adverse parties together. Mayor Gordon did that and he is the only reason today that we will have a Marriott hotel in Downtown Phoenix.
I’ve been participating in Arizona politics now for more than twenty years. The event I attended on Wednesday night in “honor” of Mayor Gordon was unfortunately, far too typical, for Arizona. It did not honor him, it belittled us all.
I think we all need to remember what our Mothers taught us… “If you don’t have anything nice to say… Unless the other guy trashes you first, then let him have it with both barrels.”
Scott Phelps should be given both barrels for his dishonorable treatment of our Mayor on Wednesday night.
Our friend, Mayor Phil deserved so much better.