VOL. 17 ISSUE NO. 33   |   AUGUST 17 - 23, 2011


Phoenix’s mayoral race for insiders only?

PHOENIX – Ron Ludders, chairman of The Arizona 2012 Project, a Tea-Party affiliated group, hand-delivered a letter to Mayor Phil Gordon and City Manager David Cavazos on Monday morning regarding the use of Symphony Hall, a city-owned property, for the mayoral candidate debate, which excluded two candidates, Anna Brennan and Jennifer Wright, from participating, stating it violated state statute.

anna brennan  Anna Brennan
He asked that the city of Phoenix ensure participation of all qualified candidates or, in the alternative, withdraw the availability of its building and resign from the Greater Phoenix Chamber of Commerce (GPCC), which sponsored Monday’s televised candidate forum.

A.R.S. § 9-500.14(A) states: “A city or town shall not use its personnel, equipment, materials, buildings or other resources for the purpose of influencing the outcomes of elections …”

Ludders stated, “By limiting the forum to a select subset of candidates, the outcome of the election will have been irrevocably influenced.”

He said, “Refusing debate participation by two candidates whose names are literally at the top and bottom of the ballot already being sent to voters is clearly election influence.”
jennifer wright
             Jennifer Wright
And, with Jennifer Wright polling near the top of the field, Ludders said her exclusion was reminiscent of “good ol’ boy politics” often used to control election outcomes by incumbents and special interests.

Wright and Brennan were excluded because the criteria set by the GPCC required them to have received at least $50,000 in donations to their campaign by a certain date.

That would have meant, in Wright’s case, although she qualified for the ballot by obtaining the most signatures of all candidates in the least amount of time, would had to have amassed $50,000 in donations the day after turning in her signature petitions, which was required before she was legally allowed to accept contributions.

City Attorney Gary Verburg responded via e-mail to Ludders shortly afterward.

He stated, “The city of Phoenix Convention Center, of which Symphony Hall is a part, operates as an enterprise leasing space to tenants who are interested in conducting events at the facility. The city has standard rental rates which are charged for the use of the facilities. With respect to the use of Symphony Hall, the GPCC has entered into a lease agreement to utilize Symphony Hall and is paying the standard rate for such use. No city resources are being utilized to sponsor or host the event. As the tenant, the GPCC exercises the control and use of the premises during the event. As such, your concerns regarding the participants invited to the event should be addressed by the chamber.”

Interestingly, the city of Phoenix, in its Symphony Hall lease agreements with Ballet Arizona and Arizona Opera, requires strict compliance with the city’s affirmative action require-ments over the life of the contract and states “failure to do so may result in termination of the contract.”

Suppliers and lessees are required to “take affirmative action to ensure that applicants are employed, and employees are dealt with during employment without regard to their race, color, religion, gender or national origin, age or disability.”

While the city attorney insinuates its city-owned building is being leased by another entity over which it has no control, statute plainly states the city may not use its buildings for the purpose of influencing the outcomes of elections.

If the city, by ordinance, can bind Ballet Arizona and Arizona Opera to strict adherence to its affirmative action requirements, it can certainly bind the GPCC to hold an all-inclusive election forum or use a non-city-owned facility.

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