While many Phoenicians winced at being called a “racist wasteland,” it is important to understand that due to immigration battles, gun laws (or lack thereof), notorious trials, and being the butt of late-night jokes, that is the image that many people in the US, who have never been to Arizona, have of the State. On January 2, 2014, the inauguration of the Phoenix Council at the beautifully restored Orpheum Theater in downtown Phoenix, displayed a more honest image of the city, not usually covered by the national media.
The Phoenix Council is unique in many ways. Unlike many cities, it is bipartisan. Though voters tend to know to what party a candidate may belong, members are elected from the total pool of candidates running. Also, unlike the seemingly Mayor-dominated cities, like New York or Chicago, Mayor of Phoenix Greg Stanton has just one vote and Council members yield a lot of power in decision-making.
There are staggered terms, and there were four members elected in November who were being sworn in. The most striking thing about the ceremony, and what would be surprising to a national audience (or even an Arizona audience ten years ago), was the diversity on display. That theme was infused throughout the morning, from the pre-cermony Mariachi Pasion musicians to the invocation by Native American Connections, to the National anthem sung by an African-American high schooler Joseph Chandler to the composition of the new Council, itself. Five of the eight members of the new Council are women and/or minorities.
“I think 2014 will be a great year for Arizona,” said Abraham James, an architect in Phoenix, “I am excited about the two new women joining the Council.”
While diversity is important, a diversity of personalities leadership styles, and opinions is as critical to the economic future of Phoenix. While it was a very upbeat, let’s-all-get-along event, the disparity of political persuasions, from Sal DiCiccio’s advocacy of smaller government to Kate Gallego’s shout-out to unions and Phoenix employees, was apparent. But also was the bright future Phoenix has with this superior leadership group.
Carlos Velasco, Director of Fuerza Local, an association of Spanish-speaking business leaders within Local First Arizona, summed up the feelings of most of the smiling attendees, who sauntered out into the sunny, 62-degree weather after the ceremony: “I am thrilled with the new Phoenix Council. Its leadership is enthusiastic, innovative and committed to building a successful city.”