Local control is the right of each community to make its own decisions about itself. This includes everything from zoning – meaning what kind of activities are located on what parcel of land and the architectural look and feel for the community, to local tax policies and the rules under which its businesses operate. Local control is an American idea created by Thomas Jefferson, who believed that those who live in a place know best what that place should be like and how it should be governed. In modern terms, it also means how communities position themselves to compete for jobs, industries and residents.
As we look at Local Control, I want to cover three topics with you:
District 12, comprised of Gilbert, Queen Creek and unincorporated parts of Maricopa and Pinal Counties, is among the fastest growing areas of the State of Arizona. While both communities are rapidly growing, Queen Creek’s growth is exceptional. For example, from 2000 to 2016, the US Census Bureau estimated that the community grew from 4,000 in 2000 to 26,000 in 2010 and to 36,000 people in 2016, a 35% jump in population in the last six years, or 800% in the last 16! Gilbert grew nearly 14% from 2010 to 2016, rising from 208,000 to 237,000, and from 110,000 in 2000, or 115% in the last 16 years!
Growth means families and jobs. The percentage of school age children is 38% in Queen Creek and 31% in Gilbert, meaning that the district has over 50,000 children in it when including the unincorporated areas. Finally, the area is among the highest educated in the state, with Gilbert boasting of 42% of its adults having a college education and 40% in Queen Creek. The district has a low poverty rate of around 7% and a median household income of $86,000 in Gilbert and $91,000 in Queen Creek.
This growth is driving the issues in the district. While my opponents are focusing on national, state or ideological issues, I am campaigning on the everyday challenges that every resident of the district faces, including overstretched schools, the need for rapid growth in high paying jobs, the impacts of nominally controlled, explosive residential and commercial development, the challenges of assimilating tens of thousands of new residents in a short time, and the need for jobs consistent with the demography of the community.
Control of local development is an enormous task for our communities in LD12. The primary tools communities use to manage growth are planning and zoning, and associated development fees. Planning is where the community decides what kinds of development go where. Good planning includes putting commercial shopping areas in places convenient to homes and on roads which can support the traffic, offices on major streets with access to high volume roads and factories and facilities requiring logistics support such as railway and freeway support in locations that won’t detract from homes and commercial businesses. Zoning is used to enforce community planning efforts, determining what is allowed where and the density and nature of the specific types of buildings that can be placed on a parcel of land.
A key part of planning is the placing of community amenities such as community and senior centers, public swimming pools and aquatic centers, libraries, public parks and public open spaces that make a community pleasant place to live. For the most part, these amenities are paid for by developers through development fees, who then recoup the fees in the sales of the homes they build, the leasing of the store space and offices they build, and the leasing or sale of the industrial space they construct. Since the founding of the state in 1914, this system worked very well and helped make Arizona communities the livable places they are. But that has changed.
The Legislature enacted legislation that has severely constrained the assessment and use of developer impact fees imposed by towns and cities. As a result of the limits placed on the fees that can be charged, communities are unable to support growth of their communities with indirect infrastructure such as parks, aquatic centers and community centers that serve children, families and seniors moving into the community. In addition, budget cuts to the Counties have negatively impacted road construction leaving much of LD12 with undersized, overused roads for the volume of traffic.
Job Creation and Business Development
Phoenix Metro lost nearly 9,000 jobs in the Microelectronics (semiconductor manufacturing) industry from 2005 to 2015. These job losses were felt especially hard in the East Valley, where the industry is mostly heavily concentrated. With an average annual household income of $136,000 a year, that is a loss of $1.3 billion annually in household income, income that is lost as spending on home improvements, restaurants, sporting goods stores, bakeries, coffee shops, schools, grocery stores, dry cleaners, and yes, even on state income taxes. With the rapid growth of the District, these jobs need to be replaced and the Microelectronics – STEM – industries revitalized across not only LD12 but the entire East Valley and the state.
With the loss of such critical jobs, Arizona’s communities need flexibility attracting new businesses. This includes the ability to provide not only planning and zoning support, but also flexibility around tax abatements and other economic tools for attracting companies with high value jobs to their communities. Over the past few years, the legislature has restricted the ability of cities to implement tax abatement programs as an economic development tool, limiting their ability to attract high quality, high value, high paying jobs to their communities.
Community Amenities and Lifestyle
Another feature communities use to attract businesses is to construct a unique presence that features amenities and a lifestyle that set it apart from others. College towns focus on the energy that so many young people bring to it. Suburbs often focus on the quiet family respite they offer from the bustle of the city and target their city centers as entertainment districts. They also seek to differentiate themselves with policies that attract different groups, such as strong environmental programs, organic waste diversion, city mandated parental leave programs and family programs, and other qualities that differentiate a community and make it attractive to diverse groups of people.
The Arizona Legislature
In the last few years, the incumbent members of the Arizona Legislature have taken steps to reduce the ability of our cities and towns to control their own growth, jobs and economic development programs, and the quality of life programs that differentiate them from other cities and towns. Part of this is the influence of special interests such as big money developers and large corporations who dominate campaign contributions in order to gain favor from legislators to eliminate city control over developer fees, environmental programs, campaign finance laws, and health and family programs. Part of this is the desire of those who are more ideologically oriented seeking to impose their views on everyone else, rather than allowing people to make up their own minds and create the cities of their own choosing.
As you legislator, I will work to restore local control to our communities.