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Four from area to vie for Tempe council
Candidates agree on SRP power lines as one of top issues
By Jonathan J. Cooper

December 17, 2005

With four of the five announced candidates for Tempe City Council living in the area, south Tempe will be well represented in the March 2006 election.

South Tempe candidates include incumbent Leonard Copple as well as newcomers Shana Ellis, Onnie Shekerjian and Corey Woods. They will be joined in the race by incumbent Ben Arredondo, who lives in north Tempe.

Incumbent Pam Goronkin, who also lives in south Tempe, has said she does not plan to run.

In interviews with Wrangler News, all four south Tempe candidates cited Salt River Project's proposal to install new power lines through parts of south Tempe as a major issue for the region.

The candidates agreed they would like to see the power lines buried, which costs 10 times more than suspending the lines above ground, and which SRP has repeatedly refused to fund.

Still, Copple, Ellis and Shekerjian say that SRP, not the city of Tempe, should pay the costs of undergrounding.

Copple says he feels the new power line should not run through Tempe at all, adding that south Tempe has experienced little to no growth in several years and that all of the demand on the power grid is the result of heavy growth in Mesa and Chandler.

Woods said that SRP can legally "do whatever it likes," so hoping for SRP funding for underground lines is a lost cause. He said the most productive solution would be to work with the city of Chandler to fund the work jointly.

Running for his third term on the City Council, Copple, a retired attorney, has lived in Tempe for 36 years. He said he has been involved with city activities for most of those years, and that he is seeking another four years on the Council to complete some unfinished business.

"The mayor and council that we have now I think are doing a great job and the economy is in an upswing," Copple said. "We've got a lot of projects in the pipeline that I've helped start and I'd like to see finished."

He noted the ongoing light rail construction as the most significant such project, adding that the new mass transit line should be in operation by December 2008.

Copple cited an impending Council vote on a new residential project near Hardy and Priest, which is adjacent to industrial districts, as an additional issue important to south Tempe.

As issues important to the entire city during the next Council term, Copple noted increased density in the downtown area due to highrise projects already approved, as well as investment in youth athletic facilities and the development of a 27-acre parcel at McClintock Drive and Rio Salado Parkway, formerly known as the Peabody Hotel site on the east end of Tempe Town Lake.

Shana Ellis is a longtime Tempe resident who has worked for the Tempe Community Council for the past 20 years. TCC is a non-profit organization that assesses local service needs in the community, she said.

“We’re a planning organization. We start up programs and spin them off,” she said.

In addition to the south Tempe power line issue, Ellis mentioned downtown density and economic development plans as key issues in the campaign.

She said increased downtown building heights are inevitable necessities for Tempe to continue to be a “vibrant community,” but added that adequate planning needs to take place before the buildings take shape.

“The infrastructure needs to go up (first),” she said. “Before building heights rise I will work with city staff to make sure infrastructure is in place before they break ground.”

Ellis also said that she supports the use of eminent domain to drive economic growth, saying she is supportive of “anything that falls within the law of the land.”

A past president of Tempe Leadership and the Tempe Kiwanis Club, Ellis said the city council campaign is a chance for her to step up her service to the community.

“I love Tempe. I was born and raised here, and I plan to spend the rest of my life here,” she said. “I’ve really enjoyed the community service opportunities I’ve had here, and this is the next step in my community service.”

A Tempe resident for the past 18 years, Onnie Shekerjian is a public-policy consultant and research analyst, which she said has provided her unique experience to bring to the table.

“In terms of how public policy works, my learning curve is not going to be very steep,” she said.

Her civic involvement includes seats on more than 65 boards, committees, task forces and commissions as well as a stint on the Kyrene School District Governing Board.

Shekerjian said she had been considering a city council run for several months, and that she decided to pursue it when incumbent Councilmember Pam Goronkin’s departure from the race created an opening.

Pointing out that “the needs of south Tempe are very different from the needs of central Tempe and north Tempe,” she cited traffic congestion and public safety as key issues for south Tempe residents, aside from the SRP power line issue.

Traffic congestion, like the power line issue, can be eased, Shekerjian said, by working with non-city agencies to find mutually agreeable solutions. As an example, she cited train timing as a possible cause for traffic congestion.

“While we can’t control what the railroads do, the City Council certainly has a moral responsibility to visit with the folks at Union Pacific and talk to them about (the problem),” she said.

Shekerjian said her goal as a councilmember would be to “squeeze more value out of the dollars given by taxpayers.”

“I believe that every tax dollar that we collect we need to spend responsibly,” she said. “Tax dollars should be treated with more respect than the money in our pockets.”

Corey Woods, 27, is a graduate student in the College of Education at Arizona State University and will pursue a Ph.D. in Educational Leadership and Policy Studies from the college after he graduates with his masters degree.

A New York native who moved to Tempe three years ago, Woods is hoping to be the first African-American to sit on the Tempe City Council.

“The city of Tempe has very little minority representation on council,” he said. “It seems strange to me that a town that is as diverse as Tempe, a college town, a highly educated community, that we haven’t had very much diversity in our representatives here.”

Woods said he decided to run because he was disturbed by some of the actions taken by the current council, notably the use of eminent domain to seize private property in order to build a shopping mall.

“I felt the idea of taking private property for the point of economic development was just not something that you’re supposed to do,” he said, adding that eminent domain should be reserved for public use facilities like schools, libraries and hospitals.

He added that he understands the need to maximize sales tax revenue so that property taxes can remain steady, but that eminent domain is not the answer.

He said he also wants to crack down on “slum lords,” apartment owners who do not adequately maintain the facilities for their tenants.

 “I think it’s important to be involved in the community you live in,” he said. “And there’s no better way to be involved than by being a public official.”

The candidates defined as south Tempe residents are those who live within the Wrangler News coverage area encompassing the zip codes of 85283 and 85284.

All of the candidates who spoke with Wrangler News said they had collected the required 932 petition signatures from eligible voters and would be turning them into the City Clerk’s office by the Dec. 14 deadline.












































































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