As one door closes, a new door opens. Such is the case with a busy, sometimes turbulent 2009. What will the New Year bring? As with all New Year’s resolutions, it takes commitment and discipline to carry them through the year. It’s no different for the city. In the following Q&A, Mayor Anthony Smith sets out Maricopa’s resolutions for 2010.
InMaricopa: What are Maricopa’s top 5 priorities, i.e., resolutions, in 2010?
Mayor Smith: In our fast-growing city, most priorities are interrelated. For example, utility rates impact our quality of life and economic development opportunities. Air quality impacts our quality of life, economic development, and job creation. Eliminating a very serious safety hazard by building a bridge/underpass at the Highway 347 intersection reduces train noise, helps us towards creating a “Quiet Zone” thus impacting our quality of life. Therefore, in no particular order, I believe these issues will take front and center for 2010:
• Utility Rates – ED-3 and Global Water
• Air Quality – transitioning feedlots into an employment zone
• UPRR and Hwy347 Bridge/Overpass – obtaining Federal funding to start conceptual design
• Economic Development – Landing a medical facility and locating green/clean manufacturing businesses, both creating more local jobs
• Quality of Life – Expand partnership with MUSD, break ground on new Central Arizona Community College, complete plans and initiate the building of the city’s new community/recreation center, sports facilities, and Governmental Center
InMaricopa: In this new year, what can our elected city officials do to better earn the public’s trust?
Mayor Smith: I took advantage of a speaking opportunity at the Maricopa Chamber of Commerce to get their feedback on this interesting question. Suggestions included having the city sponsor more town halls or rather than doing a town hall, have all councilmembers at a “meet and greet” event. Other ideas included issuing more press releases explaining the reasons for taking an action or position. Lastly, have councilmembers answer more e-mails, voicemails, and be more responsive to the public.
InMaricopa: Why should new businesses come to Maricopa, and what’s on the economic development horizon for 2010?
Mayor Smith: Of the generally accepted top 10 site selection factors, I would rate Maricopa high in two (existing workforce skills and ease of permitting/regulatory procedures), average in five (transportation infrastructure, utility infrastructure, flexible incentives, access to higher education, and availability of incentives), and below average in three (state/local tax scheme, land/building prices/supply, state economic development strategy).
Depending on the company, these 10 have different meaning. For example, if the company is looking for an existing 200,000 square foot building with direct access to Interstate 10 and within 5 minutes from an airport we will not be a good fit. But if one is looking for a skilled workforce, opportunity to construct their own building, excellent regional transportation access (as opposed to in-city congestion), rural economic development incentives such as Enterprise Zones and USDA loan guarantees, etc. we have a stronger competitive advantage.
The horizon for 2010 includes the high prospect of landing a medical facility, transitioning the majority of the feedlots on Maricopa-Casa Grande Highway into employment zone, building a hotel, groundbreaking for new Central Arizona College campus, and creating additional local jobs for green/clean type businesses.
InMaricopa: Many residents have been critical with the utilities in Maricopa. What can you say to ease their frustration?
Mayor Smith: The status quo is unacceptable. During my term as mayor, utility rates have been the No. 1 lightning-rod issue. I understand the frustration with customer service and the stress high utility rates have had on the community. In addition to getting a handle on the rates, more needs to be done to put money back into our homeowners’ pockets by rewarding them for using less water. I’m very concerned about our long-term growth if utility rates are not competitive with area communities. At the last ED-3 board meeting, I shared with them the frustration and anger expressed by the citizens on all utility rates. I shared with them the hardship high rates have placed on residents and business owners. In addition, I shared with them the resolution passed by the council in early November requesting that we work together on ways to lower rates. The ED-3 Board voted unanimously to hold a joint-summit meeting. In the next 60 days, the city council will have meetings discussing ideas and solutions. If you have creative solutions, we value your input.
InMaricopa: What can average citizens do to make Maricopa a better place to live?
Mayor Smith: Be involved in your community. Register to vote and vote! Join one of our fine service organizations. Volunteer in your children’s education. Be active in a scouting program. Coach or volunteer in youth’s sports. Decide to run for school board. Help in the Census count. Organize a food drive to help our local food bank. In our growing community, the list seems endless. The bottom line: Get involved and help promote that “sense of community” that no amount of money can buy and no amount of tax dollars can fund. If you are already involved, thank you. If you aren’t, you are missing out.