Mayor Smith fielded questions about crime, economic development, why there is no shopping mall and water usage at a proposed surf park in Maricopa.
But these weren’t grizzled, hardened journalists peppering Mayor Nancy Smith with questions.
They were ninth-grade students in Stephanie Andolino’s A+ Charter Schools English class quizzing the mayor during a mock news conference at the school Thursday morning.
Andolino wanted to expose her students to journalism, and what better way than with a city official?
“I want to bring the world to their classroom, and I felt this was the number one opportunity to do so,” Andolino said.
Students gathered at 10 a.m. to ask their newly appointed mayor questions, so they could write their articles about the city. Students asked about commercial growth in the city and what efforts are being made to bring in big businesses. One student inquired about the city not having a shopping mall.
“We don’t have the population to support a mall or all of the shops.” Smith said, mentioning that malls are usually in heavily populated metropolitan areas with more people to support the businesses. “We will get there, because I want a mall, too, but it just takes time and people.”
“We’re a brand-new city, and we basically started from scratch,” Smith said. “We have grown in 19 years from 1,500 to 70,000 people, and so with that, you slowly build up your restaurants, your shops.”
While the city is growing, students asked Smith what the affects would be on crime.
“A lot of people think that as we grow, the crime rate in the city of Maricopa is increasing, as well, but the interesting thing is that if you look at the statistics of crime in the city … when you look at a ratio of people to crime as we have been growing, a lot of the crime categories that they put in place to continue to monitor, have dropped slightly.
“We are holding level or slightly dipping in terms of our crime rate.”
Students asked the mayor what she thought about the surf park, and its potential water usage.
“The really good news about a water park … if you had houses there, or a whole series of businesses there, they would use more water than the water park,” Smith told the students.
“The amount of water that they will use is approximately the equivalent of 15 to 20 homes, whereas, if you had homes that filled in that area … it would probably end up being 200, 300 homes,” Smith said. “That is much more water use.
“The water park is not going to consume anywhere near as much as homes would.”
While discussing the tourism the surf park would bring to the city, Smith called State Route 238 the “Adventure Corridor,” with many attractions alongside the surf park, such as Apex Motorsports, Gliders and Skydiving heading west.
One group asked the mayor about recent plans for a hospital and how that may affect the taxpayers.
“That won’t affect the taxpayers at all … it is all privately owned, but what it will do is benefit the citizens by having additional health services here,” Smith said. “It’s all a win for the citizens of Maricopa.”
Students and Smith touched on other topics during their one-hour session, including sports coming to Maricopa and the resignation of Police Chief James Hughes.
“I thought the students’ questions were good,” Smith said afterward. “I hope I get a sample of what they write. … How much better than to engage our youth in local news, and to have them do an interview, write an article and share that information with other students, their parents? It’s really exciting.”
View a photo gallery by InMaricopa’s Bryan Mordt: