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
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
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
"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
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,
“We’re a planning organization. We start
up programs and spin them off,” she
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
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
“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
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
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
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
“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
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
“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
The candidates defined as south Tempe
residents are those who live within the
Wrangler News coverage area
encompassing the zip codes of 85283 and
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.