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Special bond election Nov. 5 in Mesa for public safety, streets

Should the city of Mesa be allowed to issue and sell $51.7 million in public safety and $79.1 million in street/highway bonds? Those are the two questions voters are being asked in the Tuesday, Nov. 5, election.

Early voting began Oct. 10 and the cut-off for early voting in person is Nov. 1. The deadline to request an early ballot by mail was Oct. 25. For more information, voters can visit the Maricopa County Recorder’s website, call the Maricopa County Elections Department at 602-506-1511 or call the Mesa City Clerk’s Office at 480-644-4868.

Mesa Mayor Scott Smith earlier this month said all the projects in the bond election are important for the city of Mesa.

“They’re all vital. That’s the approach that we decided upon when we first took out and decided to do this off-year bond election – we were only going to put projects on there that we considered highly critical,” he said at an Oct. 8 media briefing. “If you look at the entire history, many of these projects were deferred from our last bond issue, where we cut – this was five years ago – we cut over $200 million from the bond issue that had been proposed by the previous city council.”

Mesa resident Thomas C. Schuelke is against approving the streets/highway bonds.

“If I am right, as much as 50 percent of the street bonds authorization will end up going for economic development – saddling Mesa residents with taxes for over 20 years,” Mr. Schuelke wrote in a letter submitted to the East Mesa Independent.

“Mesa council members like to claim there is widespread support for economic development in Mesa. Why do their arguments stress the essential nature of the projects covered with no direct mention of the economic development items? What has happened to the notion that growth should pay for itself?” Mr. Schuelke wrote.

The special bond election will cover the following issues, as listed on the ballot:

•Question 1 - public safety bonds: “Shall Mesa, Ariz., be authorized to issue and sell general obligation bonds of the city in the principal amount of $51,700,000 to provide funds to acquire, construct, improve, furnish and equip buildings, which may include but is not limited to, fire stations, fire and medical dispatch/communication centers, support equipment and technology, vehicles, land and interests in land for public safety purposes, and pay all costs thereof; the bonds, and any bonds issued to refund the city’s bonds, may be sold at prices that include premiums not greater than permitted by law; may bear fixed or variable interest not exceeding 9 percent per annum, and may have principal payable not later than 25 years from the date issued? These bonds will be issued as general obligation bonds and the issuance of these bonds will result in a property tax increase sufficient to pay the annual debt service on bonds, unless the governing body provides for payment from other sources. The bonds may be refunded by the issuance of refunding bonds of a weighted average maturity of less than 75 percent of the weighted average maturity of the bonds being refunded.”

•Question 2 - street and highway bonds: “Shall Mesa, Ariz., be authorized to issue and sell general obligation bonds of the city in the principal amount of $79,100,000 to provide funds to plan, design, acquire, construct, reconstruct and improve the city’s streets, highways, bridges, street lights, pedestrian improvements, multi-use path and trail improvements, other vehicular and multi-modal transportation improvements, and acquire land and interests in land therefor, and pay all costs thereof; the bonds, and any bonds issued to refund the city’s bonds, may be sold at prices that include premiums not greater than permitted by law; may bear fixed or variable interest not exceeding 9 percent per annum, and may have principal payable not later than 25 years from the date issued? These bonds will be issued as general obligation bonds and the issuance of these bonds will result in a property tax increase sufficient to pay the annual debt service on bonds, unless the governing body provides for payment from other sources. The bonds may be refunded by the issuance of refunding bonds of a weighted average maturity of less than 75 percent of the weighted average maturity of the bonds being refunded.”

Mayor Smith, the United Mesa Firefighters Association and the Mesa Chamber of Commerce are in favor of city voters approving the bonds, according to letters submitted to the Mesa Office of the City Clerk for the voting information pamphlet. Printing of the letters were paid for by the “Yes on Questions 1 and 2” committee, according to the pamphlet.

“The projects funded by these bonds will meet the basic needs of our community. This includes simple maintenance and replacement of aging fire trucks, improving our fire communications with backup and redundancy improvements, along with essential street improvements as basic as replacing rusted streetlight poles,” Mayor Smith wrote, in part, in the pamphlet. “Just as this city council did five years ago when we cut the proposed bond measure in half, we have only included the bare bones items that Mesa needs to meet the most critical public safety and transportation needs. Please join me in supporting these bond questions. The projects funded by these bonds are an investment in our community that will help us in our efforts to ‘Build a Better Mesa.’ Vote yes on Questions 1 and 2.”

“The Mesa City Council has tasked the fire/medical department with coming up with innovations and efficiencies to provide the best and most cost-effective service to our citizens. The key way to do this is to invest in the fire/medical communications center where we can most efficiently manage the deployment of emergency resources,” Bryan Jeffries, president, and Dale Crogan, director, both of the United Mesa Firefighters Association, wrote in part in the letter. “Additionally, police, fire and medical 911 call-taking and dispatch all reside in one location, all on the same power grid, with insufficient back-up in case of equipment failures. We absolutely need to disseminate some of our resources to separate power grids as well as modernize our equipment back-up systems. We have learned from 9/11, Oklahoma City, Katrina and other community emergencies that protecting communications systems is absolutely vital to our ability to respond when citizens need us the most. Your fire fighters and paramedics also support the street bonds. Public safety and streets projects are the very core of local government services to our citizens. Your Mesa firefighters and paramedics strongly encourage the support of Questions 1 and 2.”

“Question 1 and 2 are the most essential public safety and transportation needs for Mesa,” Sally Harrison, president and CEO of the Mesa Chamber of Commerce, wrote, in part, in a letter. “Routine fire truck replacement, increasing communication redundancy and basic street maintenance are all part of maintaining a successful city the size of Mesa. While we have a lot of exciting economic opportunities in front of us, we must never lose sight of supporting our public safety and transportation needs. In order to attract and maintain new high wage jobs which will be essential for Mesa’s future, we must make sure people feel safe and are able to get to and from their jobs.

As a voice of business since 1912, the Mesa Chamber of Commerce has worked to stimulate the community’s economic health and improve its quality of life. We believe that both of these issues will be essential to the public safety of our city, so please join us in voting Yes on Question 1 and Question 2. Our city needs you now more than ever, so help us change the way Mesa does business.”

Others who provided arguments for approval of the bonds were three Mesa city council members, the East Valley Partnership and the Mesa Police Association, according to letters submitted to the Mesa Office of the City Clerk for the voting information pamphlet. Printing of the letters were also paid for by the “Yes on Questions 1 and 2” committee, according to the pamphlet.

“Questions 1 and 2 represent a vision and process to ensure Mesa continues to be a great city. The public safety and transportation items that have been proposed are the most basic needs, and as the council did before, was scaled back in light of the current economic times we face,” Mesa council members Dave Richins, Dennis Kavanaugh and Christopher Glover wrote, in part, in a letter. “Reliable public safety and good transportation are both critical to capitalizing on economic opportunities. Mesa has been successful in landing major job producing projects in part because we provide such reliable services. We must continue to invest in maintaining these important items if we hope to be leaders in Arizona. We are proud to serve Mesa and we are asking for your continued support for our amazing city. Please join us in voting yes on Questions 1 and 2.”

“Together, Questions 1 and 2 represent the most critical needs facing Mesa today,” Roc Arnett, president and CEO of East Valley Partnership, wrote, in part, in a letter. “We commend Mayor Smith and the city council for focusing on the most basic needs, with a keen eye on the economic situation we continue to face. These items are necessary though and cannot be delayed. The bonds will upgrade Mesa’s emergency services and public safety programs to keep pace with Mesa’s continued growth and make sure that if current systems fail or have issues, there is a backup in place. The infrastructure bonds are meant to cover basic road and street light maintenance so that congestion is minimized and business in Mesa continues to thrive.”

“One item on the bond is a remodel of our current jail facility,” Ryan Russell, president, and Ricardo Perine, vice president, both of the Mesa Police Association, wrote, in part, in a letter. “The current jail dates back to the 1970s and lacks in many areas. With the remodel and expansion, the Mesa Police Department can adequately hold individuals without having to shuttle them to Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office. That service costs the taxpayer millions in booking costs. The expansion will protect the taxpayer by reducing the amount of booking at MCSO and saving potentially millions. In recent years, the state of Arizona has statutorily mandated that police departments hold all biological evidence for 55 years. This includes DNA from violent crimes such as sexual assaults, homicides, assaults and armed robberies. The intention of this law is to give law enforcement the opportunity to solve those crimes in the future through the use of advanced technology. As a result the amount of freezer storage required of the Mesa Police Department has greatly increased. On this bond are evidence freezers in order to store those biological items. If not funded through this bond, many of these critical items will not be completed or would be funded through General Funds. That would put in jeopardy the funding needed to hire and retain police officers and firefighters. On behalf of the 700-plus Officers of the Mesa Police Association, I urge you to vote ‘yes’ on both Question 1 and 2.”

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