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Phx. Council person DiCiccio and mayor Stanton spar over traffic changes

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Reporting from Phoenix City Hall. The Phoenix city Council met on Tuesday, June 24, 2014. They passed the "Complete Streets Ordinances" and the "Downtown Phoenix comprehensive transportation study". But although both these items passed they didn't get passed without a verbal confrontation between council person DiCiccio and Phoenix Stanton.

The complete streets ordinances were motivated by what has become known as "the complete streets movement". Essentially, this movement pushes for a system of transportation of comprehensive interconnected transportation corridors with safety and accessibility as a priority for the people who use them. Different members of the Council asked city staff for clarification on how the ordinances would be planned and implemented.

Perhaps, the most skeptical council member was Mr. Waring who stated that: "When push comes to shove we have limited resources". He stated that his constituents were complaining about cracked roads and being told that there was not enough funding for the repair of them. He, also brought up that the federal government is already mandating that we have to follow some of these rules already. Staff replied that we were implementing the Complete Streets ordinances because the feds would be happy we were implementing these changes voluntarily. Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton stated to the effect that we have to be more aggressive if we are going to qualify for funding from competitive federal grant programs. The city manager also followed the mayor's statement by saying that implementing these ordinances would put us in line for federal funding.

Another council member and conservative on the council Mr. DiCiccio stated that these ordinances would be very benign but that it would be the plan that comes after that needed to be watched. In the end, eight of nine city of Phoenix council members voted in the affirmative for the "Complete Street Ordinances" while council member Waring voted no.

With the passage of these "Complete Street" ordinances a complete streets advisory board was brought into being. The board will consist of 11 voting members appointed by each council member and the mayor. In addition, the board will consist of 11 non-voting members. These non-voting members will be comprised from the street transportation department, public transit, planning and development, neighborhood services, water services, police, fire and community and economic development. A final note on this board should be made that none of its members will receive a salary or compensation.

The other action voted upon by the city of Phoenix Council in their policy session was called the "Downtown Phoenix Comprehensive Transportation Study". The city of Phoenix worked with Maricopa Association of governments (M.A.G.) to accomplish the study. This study was part of a larger study called the "Central Phoenix Transportation Framework Study". The rough boundaries Of this study comprise "the area of McDowell Road to the north, Buckeye Road to the south, seventh Avenue on the west and seventh Street on the east". The study was not just about vehicular traffic improvements but analyzed bicycle and pedestrian improvements as well.

Three time frames were recommended due to strategies and suggestions and input for this study. Writing put together by city staff said that due to these strategies and suggestions gathered from a " three -tiered public outreach process" that " as many people as possible" had their ideas received and that " included feedback through committees, stakeholder focus groups, and public open houses".

Representatives from the Phoenix Suns, Arizona Diamondbacks and businesses in the downtown area seemed to support this study. There was concern from a citizen who worried about the southern part of downtown Phoenix and its businesses being negatively effected. Council member DiCiccio stated that he wanted to make sure that no one group would dominate the study. Council person Gallego made a motion which council person Nowakowski seconded. This motion was made essentially to re-assure business owners in the southern part of Phoenix's downtown that there would be a special focus and carefulness on the southern part of downtown Phoenix in this study and that staff would return in six months and report on this special focus of the southern part of downtown Phoenix in this study.

Council person Pastor asked about phase 1 and phase 2 when Gallego's motion was brought up for vote. She stated that they had discussed this would be brought up in a subcommittee yet wasn't. Staff replied that they were looking for for a funding design grant to study these concerns. Then, Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton stated:"That this would not happen overnight" to convert these streets and avenues into two way roads. Councilperson Pastor was still skeptical and stated: "But there's no analysis." Phoenix city manager Ed Zuercher replied that engineering would study it. At this point, council person Diciccio expressed skepticism to which Mayor Stanton replied that it was about the southern downtown part of Phoenix not the whole study. Council person DiCiccio then again called up the representatives from the Phoenix Suns and Arizona Diamondbacks. These representatives from the two sports teams stated that stakeholders would get together later. Mayor Stanton replied again that the concerns council person DiCiccio was bringing up were going to be addressed by the special focus within the study of the southern part of downtown Phoenix and that he thought it was a "great thing that the Phoenix Suns and Arizona Diamondbacks were working together".

Councilmember DiCiccio was still skeptical that the city was actually going to complete these two lanes and that there was not enough analysis of these roadway changes. He stated to the effect that implementation of this traffic study was over a 5 to 10 year period and that other studies with such long time frames were not completed by the city. The city manager then reiterated that the staff would be studying this and in addition one of his staff spoke up and stated that we had worked with Maricopa County Association of governments (M.A.G.) on this.

The Phoenix city manager at this point seemed to show displeasure that council person DiCiccio was apparently implying doubt to the professionalism of his city staff about its capabilities in carrying out the study. The city manager then stated with stern authority in his voice that "these streets can be converted into two-way streets".

Council person DiCiccio continued on with skeptical questioning and then again stated: "What does this do to the Suns?" Mayor Stanton then replied again that this shouldn't affect the Phoenix Suns. Council person DiCiccio then asked again: "So the South isn't impacted?" To which Mayor Stanton replied that this was about the warehouse district and that they weren't making a decision on it now. Then, council person DiCiccio angrily replied to Mayor Stanton: "Why do you keep cutting me off that's very disrespectful!" Mayor Stanton, then replied in an irritated voice: "You get more time than everyone!" Council person DiCiccio then replied again: "Quit cutting me off, I have the floor!"

An apparent business person from the warehouse district ( southern downtown) got up and wanted clarification on the terms being used about how the southern downtown part of Phoenix would be studied. Council person DiCiccio then stated to the effect: Now I can finish, nothing can be done in the South because of our economic engines being disrupted. The mayor responded that third Avenue, fifth Avenue, third Street, fifth Street, will hopefully have more of a pedestrian feel in the downtown because more light rail cars were going to be added. Council person Pastor still was concerned about how or if it would affect part of her district. Council Person Nowakowski spoke up and stated that he would support this study but wanted to make sure that no major stakeholders were left out this time because in the last council meeting Arizona State University students had been left out of the process of parking meter increases and how it would affect them.

After all of these concerns had been brought out the city of Phoenix Council still voted unanimously in its in its policy session to implement the downtown Phoenix Comprehensive Transportation Study.

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