Connecting with Tempe...with Pam Goronkin
History illustrates usefulness of council subcommittees

At Tempe City Council’s team summit in late August, Mayor Hugh Hallman announced the composition of subcommittees for the next two years. Each of six subcommittees is chaired by a member of Council, with one additional councilmember sitting on the committee. Members of staff and others from the community are added as appropriate.

Interestingly, Tempe’s City Charter makes no mention of subcommittee activity. However, over the years, mayors of Tempe have sometimes made such assignments and effectively employed the efforts of Council to achieve important overarching goals.

This has historically been done with the tacit approval of the rest of the Council. I’ve sometimes described it as “the best way to herd cats.” The “cats” on the Council don’t really require the mayor’s permission to take on projects and to pursue interests in the community. And you know how independent “cats” can be.

The subcommittee assignments give all the councilmembers something to sink their claws into and provide a way to bring issues and recommendations before the Council of the whole.

In my view, at least, it is better to have subcommittees than to have a less-coordinated approach. The mayor names the subcommittees and determines who will lead each effort. Sounds like leadership to me, and based on history, it works!

Mayor Hallman has asked Councilmember Ben Arredondo to lead the subcommittee on Neighborhood Quality of Life and Public Safety. I will have the privilege of serving as a member of this committee with Ben. Councilmember Arredondo is a third-generation Tempe native. No one cares more about Tempe’s neighborhoods and about the safety of our people. 

Vice Mayor Mark Mitchell has been assigned leadership of the Education Partnerships Committee. Councilmember Len Copple will work with Mark to strengthen relationships with Tempe’s schools, Arizona State University and the community colleges. This is a fitting assignment for Mark because he also leads the University Communities Caucus for the National League of Cities.

The Cultural and Community Services Subcommittee will be chaired by Councilmember Barb Carter, with Hut Hutson on her team. Barb’s many years of leadership in the area of cultural and community issues will benefit this subcommittee. It’s a natural fit.

Councilmember Copple also has accepted the mayor’s request to lead the Transportation Committee. Along with fellow Councilmember Carter, Leonard will shepherd the efforts of this committee as Tempe moves forward with its light rail and comprehensive transportation plans.

Our newest councilmember, Hut Hutson, will have the opportunity to chair the Diversity and Human Relations and Resources subcommittee, working with Councilmember Arredondo. Councilmember Hutson knows well the Council’s goals with respect to workforce diversity and opportunity.  

Mayor Hallman has assigned me to chair the subcommittee on Technology Advancement, Tourism and Redevelopment. Councilmember Mitchell and I worked well together on a previous committee assignment, and hope to carry forward a number of “in-process” activities and to advance Tempe’s branding as “The Smart Place to Be.”

In addition to the six subcommittees, Mayor Hallman has established a “committee of the whole” council to address central city development, including projects along Town Lake. The mayor himself will lead this effort.

Lastly, Mayor Hallman will convene an ad hoc, community-based committee to furnish long-range budget and financial planning feedback to the full council. He has requested the council to provide nominees from the community who could serve in this 6-9 month effort.

Mayor Hallman will also choose at least one councilmember to participate. As Tempe is facing a structural deficit in a couple of years due to declines in our portion of state-shared revenues, I agree that asking the best minds in the community to help us seek solutions is prudent. In fact, I think it’s crucial. Interested?

The first task of each subcommittee is to brainstorm a “scope of work,” returning to the full council for review and approval.

But plans change on the council, much the same as they do in other aspects of life. Each subcommittee sets priorities, but on occasion the full council might assign an emerging issue to a particular committee for additional study and a recommendation. And, at least so far, there has been no overarching vision or strategy articulated by Mayor Hallman.

In my mind, the committees would function best if their scopes of work were tied to such a strategy. Perhaps that is yet to come.

As we work in subcommittees, sometimes we identify “overlap” with other committees. Such overlaps can actually strengthen the total effort and give us additional resources and creativity in the pursuit of solutions. This is how we work as a team.

If you have questions about committee agendas or ideas you would like to share, you can contact the mayor and council via www.tempe.gov.

Every committee meeting is open to the public, and I encourage your active participation. You will benefit and so will the community. After all, as I said during my campaign three years ago, “It’s Our Tempe.”