Candidate Questionnaire: Stone | |


Age: 47

Current occupation: Policy Specialist

Community involvement: Former D6 Chief of Staff

Community involvement in Ahwatukee: Involved in supporting various citizens groups throughout Ahwatukee.

Education: Lewis & Clark College

Why are you running for City Council?

Phoenix is at a tipping point: we can either continue following current policies mirrored from other states – policies that have badly degraded our greatest coastal cities – or we can focus on developing and implementing truly local solutions to our biggest problems, including crime, roadway safety, homelessness, and housing. I’m running to fight for those local solutions and the opportunity to keep (and improve) the Phoenix we all know and love.

Why are you the best candidate for the District 6 Seat?

I’m a nerd. A wonk – the guy politicians keep in the back room writing position papers and exploring policy solutions. I’ve spent the better part of the last 5 years developing solutions for Phoenix – to address our homelessness crisis, improve roadway safety, better support our first responders, reduce the cost of housing, and more – that I believe will improve conditions for all our citizens.

What credentials/experience make you the best person for the council seat?

I served for almost 5 years as staff chief for Sal DiCiccio, and am deeply versed in all areas of city operations. More importantly, Ahwatukee needs someone unafraid to hold the council accountable. Regardless of the outcome of this race, Democrats will have a super-majority at City Hall. We don’t need another automatic vote for their agenda, we need someone to push back the worst ideas, find ways to make the rest work better – that’s what I will do.

What are the three city-wide issues you want to address in 2023?

Affordable housing, homelessness, and public safety are my top priorities. And while we won’t be able to “solve” issues that big in a year, we can make enormous progress with some simple changes to city code and ordinances – addressing homelessness by leading with services, reducing unnecessary time barriers and regulations that drive up the cost of new housing, and improving working conditions and benefits for police officers so that we can recruit the numbers we need.

What are the top three issues facing Ahwatukee specifically and how would you try to address them this year?

1) Roadway safety: perform traffic studies at 17th & Chandler, 17th & Liberty, and a few other intersections. Pursue roadway changes, improved lighting in those areas to reduce accidents. Hire more cops.

2) Add a Fire Station / Police Substation: on the West end of Ahwatukee using development and impact fees from the new construction going in there.

3) Homelessness: push to shift our approach to lead with services and improve treatment & recovery options to reduce our growing homeless population.

What two things is City Council doing right and why?

1) Water: as a state, Arizona is in a water crisis, but due to excellent planning and management, Phoenix has more than enough water available to support our growing population for 100+ years to come.

2) Parks & Recreation: Phoenix has done a magnificent job of managing, expanding, and improving our best-in-the-nation urban park system. I still think we need more pickleball courts, more fields, etc. – but the city has excelled in delivering service in these areas.

What two things is City Council doing wrong and why?

1) Planning & Development Services: simply put, the office is in crisis. It takes forever for even the simplest plan review or inspection. P&D is still remote working – we need them back in the building. And we need to immediately expand outside contracting of engineering services to clear the backlog the department is facing.

2) Homelessness: current approaches to homelessness have not achieved the intended results, and are enabling, not addressing chronic street homelessness. It is more humane to push people into treatment than it is to continue to ignore them on the street. We need to work with the state and county to significantly expand diversion and treatment services, provide controlled & structured camping or semi-permanent tent options for those who absolutely refuse treatment, then enforce a ban on urban camping citywide.

Has Phoenix done enough to address its public safety pension debt? If not, what do you think should be done to accelerate paying it off?

Phoenix missed a golden opportunity when the city received over $1.5 billion in two rounds of federal covid funding to use some of those monies to significantly reduce our unfunded pension obligations.

Every year for the next 22 years, the amount Phoenix is paying for those debts will rise, with serious impact on our ability to provide services our residents need. I would like to set a policy where every year that we have a surplus, we divide it in three: one-third for debt reduction, a third for one-time infrastructure investments, and one third which could be used for ongoing service expansions.

What three opportunities must the city take advantage of in 2023? How might Ahwatukee benefit from them?

1. Super Bowl – great opportunity for our local hotels, restaurants, and shops.

2. Homelessness – there is real movement for the first time in years to do something about a system that is spending a ton of money, without doing much to help people. We can turn that around this year.

3. One-time revenue from Taiwan Semi – Ahwatukee is too often forgotten by city leaders, and capital needs have accumulated. TSMC’s construction is going to generate hundreds of millions in one-time revenues. Some of those funds need to pay for improvements in Ahwatukee, too.

As a city council member, how would your office specifically try to help the Ahwatukee business community? Please be specific.

Expand ALEX Bus service – the Ahwatukee Local Express is a valuable service to businesses in the area whose workers need better options for public transportation, and should be expanded in both hours and frequency of service.

Two, as mentioned above, permitting in Phoenix has become a mess, and is costing business owners significant sums of money due to delays before they can open – we need to get that straightened out ASAP.

Three, make sure we have more first responders on duty in Ahwatukee to answer calls in a more-timely fashion at both homes and businesses, ensuring the safety of residents and employees alike.

What do you think you can do as a councilmember to get the city Parks & Rec department to complete Desert Foothills Park?

This is one of those situations where, frankly, you need someone willing to pitch a fit who won’t take “no” for an answer. I helped pickleball players last year get some multi-use improvements to the tennis courts at Desert Foothills, but the park is still a half-developed embarrassment, with far more room for amenities than we are making use of.

Years of polite requests have been ignored. I’m criticized sometimes as a disruptor – but this is a perfect example of when you need a disruptor, not another rubber stamp.

Pickleball fans in western Ahwatukee contend they are underserved. Is there something you as a councilmember can realistically do for them?

Pickleball is the fastest growing recreational sport in America. We need to add about a dozen new dedicated pickleball courts at Desert Foothills Park (and more throughout other parts of the city). The expense is minimal, the use is maximal, this is one of the best investments we can make in our flatland parks, and one I’ll be pushing for from day 1.

The 2023 GO bond issue allocated $50 million for arts and culture while deferring inclusion of a third fire station for far west Ahwatukee. Do you agree with that decision?

Not at all. Ahwatukee needs that station. Emergency response times in large parts of the community are far too high. It was an absolute travesty that the safety needs of Ahwatukee were once again brushed aside in favor of massive handouts to politically-favored insiders.

Do you think Ahwatukee need additional police patrols and if you do, given the department’s manpower situation and the city’s many fiscal challenges, how would you propose it be done?

Yes, absolutely we need more police patrols in Ahwatukee. In the last few years, but especially since the completion of the 202 South, crime has risen, drivers are out of control, and we don’t have enough cops on patrol to properly protect the community. All that said, anyone who tells you there is an easy or quick answer to this crisis is lying. We do not have enough officers to adequately support public safety anywhere in Phoenix. Fixing that will primarily depend on the actions and words of the city council over the next few years. The applicants we need simply will not be there unless this council demonstrates their consistent and clear support for our officers. My opponent is a former police officer, yes. But in 2020, he was quick to embrace the anti-police protest movement. I have never and will never waiver in my support for the Phoenix Police Department and hardworking men and women who wear the uniform.

How would you assess your relationship with the current members of City Council insofar as your ability to wrangle support for programs/support in District 6? Do you have a relationship with any and if so, who specifically?

Outside of the public view, my experience is that everyone at City Hall gets along fairly well. Carlos Garcia is a great guy; we just disagree about everything politically. Laura Pastor and her office I consider friends, especially Michael Petersen-Incorvaia, owner of the most spectacular shoe collection in the history of City Hall. Betty Guardado is a fierce fighter for her constituency, and we agree on far more than most people would realize. Jim Waring is someone I always enjoyed working with, and admire.

Housing affordability is a much discussed challenge facing the Valley in general and Phoenix in particular. This is. two-part question:

How would you assess what the city is currently doing to make housing available for working families?

Phoenix’s current approach to having enough low-income and workforce affordable housing largely amounts to grandstanding in pubic while privately praying someone else comes along and solves the issue for us. Worse, Phoenix’s labryrinthine bureaucracy and endless permitting delays are adding enormously to the cost of every unit of housing built in our city.

What would you advocate be done?

Make it cheaper, easier, and faster to build housing. Government subsidized low-income units currently cost Phoenix almost twice as much to build as it costs private developers to build luxury housing – over $350,000 per apartment – so we’re never going to have enough money for the city to solve the problem that way. We must make workforce affordable housing profitable for developers by eliminating the time delays and unnecessary regulatory requirements that are currently baked into our codes.

What city department needs closer scrutiny of its spending and spending decisions and why?

Arts & Culture – they’re good at buying overpriced crafts that my brother-in-law could knock out in a few hours with a C&C machine in his shop. We should at least get art for art money. But, realistically, all of them, because without Sal DiCiccio there, no one left on the council has shown much interest in focusing on finding efficiencies and holding departments accountable for bad spending choices. That’s a role I intend to fill.

Would you support water conservation measures that would impose use restrictions on households and businesses? What use restrictions would you specifically support and why?

Mandatory? None. Incentivized? Plenty. Phoenix residents have done a magnificent job of improving water conservation and reducing total use. Yes, there are still things we can do – for example, providing trees and shrubs for homeowners willing to tear out grass lawns and replace them with more appropriate native vegetation. But the number one incentive is that water is not cheap here, it will keep getting more expensive; businesses and homeowners alike recognize that, and are taking steps already to address their water use.

What would you do to strengthen the relationship between Ahwatukee’s HOAs and your office?

It’s critical for city leaders to recognize HOA boards are the elected representatives of their community, and my door will always be open to them. But this is a little complicated because, from a legal perspective, the city does not and cannot recognize HOAs: they constitute a private contract among individuals. I received numerous requests to have the city enforce HOA rules and requirements, or who wanted us to intervene in decisions coming in front of an HOA. That isn’t possible, or appropriate, and every time I’ve watched a councilmember insert themselves in inter-HOA issues, it ended up ticking everyone off.

Is there a need to strengthen the District 6 seat’s relationship with Ahwatukee HOAs?

My door is always open, my cell number can be given to anyone who wants it, and I’ve never turned down a meeting with a community leader. But, also, see my previous answer.