Mesa Mayor John Giles Discusses City's Future

Published: Monday, May 15, 2017 - 5:37pm

Mesa has been quietly going through a transition phase. In the past few years, Arizona’s third largest city has seen the addition of light rail, bringing new people to its downtown — and it has spent significant capital to bankroll a 100-million-dollar new ballpark and surroundings that serves as the spring home of the defending World Series champion, the Chicago Cubs.

So, was it was all worth it? According to Mesa’s mayor John Giles, the answer is yes.

“It’s not just a baseball stadium, it’s a park as well,” Giles said.

“Not to downplay the expense of the baseball stadium, it was absolutely significant, but I’m very proud of the rest of that development, the Riverview Park area.”

Separately, he says he’s not ruling out Mesa as a possible new home for the Arizona Coyotes hockey team, even though the tolerance for spending public money on facilities for professional sports franchises has waned.

“The formula has changed. Going forward, I think all communities, including Mesa are probably going to be looking at those proposals with a more critical eye,” Giles said.

But, he says, ”if you do the math and it turns out to be a net gain for the community, if you a bring new sales tax and use a portion of that to pay for a facility, not coming out of pocket for a community, that’s a possible scenario.”

More importantly, Giles says the biggest challenge facing the state and Arizona’s third largest city is recruiting new teachers.

He's concerned that the legislature’s one percent raise for educators this year won’t be enough to make that happen.

Giles calls on lawmakers to devise a more reliable funding stream to increase salaries, possibly in the form of a sales tax initiative. If more isn’t done to address the issue, Giles believes it will cost Mesa in the long run.

“One of the core values of Mesa has been education. The reason people move to Mesa is we’re affordable and we have good education,” Giles says. “I’m anxious for us to continue to say that, but unless we can figure out how to fund teacher salaries in a better way, we’re a threat of losing that reputation.”

In other news from Mesa, Giles plans to formally address the recent arrest of a city councilman on suspicion of driving while intoxicated.

In a statement, Giles says he likes Ryan Winkle and acknowledges that he works hard for his constituents, but there are concerns about Winkle's ability to carry out his responsibilities with DUI charges pending.

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