PHOENIX — Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego chose to focus on the positive Tuesday when she delivered her annual State of the City address, delivered virtually because of the COVID-19 outbreak.
“We are in the throes of another surge,” she said. "What we do next will be decisive.”
Gallego wants a state-wide mask mandate.
“Today, I call on Governor Ducey to issue a statewide mask order to help prevent new infections, and to keep that order in place until we have wide distribution of a new vaccine, more effective treatments, or both.”
Gallego thanked Arizona State University and President Dr. Michael Crow for the breakthrough testing they’ve engineered and for the expert advice they provide to her office as they navigate the pandemic.
The Mayor said, despite the impact of the virus, Phoenix’s economy continues to grow. “Those cranes represent 6.5 million square feet and $1.4 billion in capital expenditures in the city core,” she said.
Phoenix is the only city, of the top ten construction markets nationally, where construction expenditures increased during the pandemic.
The big prize for the city will be the arrival of the Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company. City officials say at $16 billion, it is the biggest job-creating, economy-driving deal in the city’s history.
“Because we didn’t stop and didn’t give up when times were hard, Phoenix is now poised to charge full force out of the pandemic and lead the nation’s recovery,” Gallego said.
The recovery can’t come soon enough for some Phoenix small businesses.
“It’s not the same anymore,” Claudia Aguirre said.
Claudia has owned Crazy Jim’s Restaurant on 15th Avenue since 2009 when she bought it from her former boss. “Back in the good ole days, we had a line waiting outside. We had a long list of people waiting. We were just constantly turning the tables.”
The "good ole days" ended with the arrival of COVID-19. Aguirre had to let go staff, reduce hours, and use food delivery services in order to stay in business.
Gallego thanked Congress for CARES Act money which helped small businesses and allowed Phoenix to manage thru the first months of the pandemic without laying off any employees. But Gallego said, “I have added my voice to the chorus of mayors and other leaders across the country who are calling for another round of pandemic-relief funding.”
“We applied for PPE and never got it,” Aguirre said. The city set aside $12 million in CARES Act funds to provide grants for small businesses who need money to stay afloat during the pandemic.
Crazy Jim’s applied for one but hasn’t heard if it will receive any money.
The mayor didn’t ignore some of the city’s challenges, like homelessness. The Phoenix City Council is spending millions of dollars to fight it, but like mayors past, Gallego called on the state and the region to help deal with homelessness. Something the rest of the Valley has little appetite for doing.
“We have landed the biggest job-creating economy driving deals in the city’s history,” Gallego said.
State of the City speeches are not supposed to dwell on problems. They are a look to the future, and for Phoenix, the promise of economic prosperity is real. Claudia Aguirre and many small business owners like her hope they’ll still be around when that time comes.