Councilman questions grant given to group ahead of PHX light rail construction

PHOENIX - A Latino political group has been tapped to assist mom-and-pop companies to remain in business during light rail construction, despite the group having no prior experience in this area.

Many businesses along the future 5.5-mile South Central Avenue light rail corridor already have signs posted complaining of plans to reduce the busy street from four to two traffic lanes to accommodate the rail line.

Construction is scheduled to begin next year.

RELATED: South Phoenix business owners want city to reconsider light rail extension

"If our businesses go, so do our neighborhoods," said south Phoenix resident Vince Gillane.

A major grant, 2.4 million dollars in combined federal and city money, has been awarded to Promise Arizona and their partners to work with businesses before and during the construction chaos.

Phoenix City Councilman Sal DiCiccio is one of several people to question the decision. 

On Facebook, he described Promise Arizona as "anti-police, open borders, and a liberal activist group" with no experience in business development. 

DiCiccio also called the grant a "blatant handout to political allies," and he noted the grant vote was one of the last votes for Mayor Greg Stanton. Stanton resigned Tuesday to run for Congress.

RELATED: Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton resigns, Thelda Williams assumes office

"I can only assure you when it comes to the decision about light rail and south Phoenix business outreach, the process was followed by the book," Stanton told ABC15. "And when the process is followed by the book, I support the process."

A Promise Arizona leader briefly explained their qualifications and expected duties in a subcommittee meeting about the grant in early May.

"We are supposed to come back with a plan, a unified community vision, attached to their voices," Petra Falcon said. "We are very confident that this work will build on what we are doing and the strengths of the neighborhood."

Falcon referred all ABC15 questions Wednesday to Phoenix city officials. 

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