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These Are The Questions People Have For Phoenix’s Next Mayor

KJZZ’s hour-long forum with  Phoenix’s mayoral candidates Kate Gallego and Daniel Valenzuela was Tuesday night at Burton Barr Central Library in Phoenix. Gallego and Valenzuela are facing off in a March 12 runoff election.

We had a packed room and almost 70 audience members submitted questions! We couldn’t get to all of them during the event, so here's some of the major topics. 

The top themes were public safety, the city’s budget, climate change, housing and how the candidates run their campaigns.

Public Safety

Questions about Phoenix police and general safety concerns topped the list — this is a local election after all. People asked about expanding block watch grants, pension reform, citizen review boards, school safety, illegal drugs and the number of officer-involved shootings in the city.

Candidate Daniel Valenzuela mentioned his background as a Glendale firefighter and his support from firefighter and police unions multiple times during the forum. When asked about the top issues facing the city, he listed public safety as his No. 1.

Climate Change

The most submissions were about climate change, but this is mainly because one attendee submitted three questions quizzing the candidates on basic climate science.

I chatted with the attendee after the forum, and he thinks every elected official should have to prove they understand some basic scientific and statistical principles.

The other climate-related questions focused on solar, shade and water use. The candidates did address these concerns during the forum:



Next were questions about how the candidates have been running their campaigns, ranging from concerns over donations and endorsements to recent controversies over attack ads. Candidate Kate Gallego did mention attack ads, and both candidates said they’ve run “positive campaigns.”


Candidate Valenzuela  also said he didn’t ask  PAC “Moving Phoenix Forward” to spend $400,000 on TV ads and Gallego told The Arizona Republic she does not approve of the “blood money” flyer one attendee asked about

Housing And Infrastructure

Access to affordable housing is a big concern across the country and development decisions will shape Phoenix's future.


The candidates did answer moderator Christina Estes's question: “What, if anything, should the city do to increase affordable and workforce housing options?”

Estes also provided the definitions for both:

Affordable: maximum of $38,750 for a 1-person household.

Workforce: household income between $38,750 and $58,125.

We didn’t get as many submitted questions on infrastructure, but both candidates did talk about how to fund more road repairs and listed infrastructure as one of their top three concerns for the city.


Economy And City Budget

Audience members wanted to know about minimum wage, opportunities for entrepreneurship and how the city is preparing for another recession:


A lot of people asked questions about the city’s budget. BothDaniel Valenzuela and Kate Gallego are former Phoenix City Council members so they have a lot of budget experience and voting records proving how they prioritize tax dollars.


The “Hiring?” might be related to city employees as both candidates touched on the issue, calling for more hiring & competitive wages.


A handful of people asked how the candidates planned to decrease the number of residents experiencing homelessness


KJZZ's Christina Estes summarized those questions at the forum. 

Light Rail

There were also questions about light rail and the controversial expansion into south Phoenix. 

Relationship With Tribes

We received four questions about the city’s relationships with local tribes, an issue that doesn't appear to have been  discussed by any candidate during the Phoenix mayoral race or this runoff election.


On The Job

We received some questions about whether the next mayor will take on the role as a full- or part-time job.


This was a controversy early-on when Daniel Valenzuela said he would not quit his job as a Glendale firefighter if elected. He has since dropped that plan so both candidates plan to be a full-time Mayor if elected.

More Questions

The questions we received from the audience are as diverse as Phoenix itself, including queries about education, recreation, accessibility, immigration, marijuana, drug testing and government assistance, and the rising HIV rate in Phoenix’s LGBTQ and Latino communities.

One question about transparency probably came from someone who’s been watching the latest scandals at the Phoenix City Council. Both candidates said the council should have been more transparent when discussing the Phoenix Suns arena deal and light rail expansion.


 We also received some general questions that were covered during the candidates’ 90-second opening and closing statements.


Surprisingly, no one asked about the Suns Arena deal (or at least, didn’t directly). During the debate the two candidates frequently mentioned how their opinion, and vote, differed from their competitor’s on the issue.

You may have noticed not all questions are on index cards. Some attendees came with their own - including this list of in-depth questions that was hand-written then photocopied. The couple brought four copies! 


And finally, here’s a question I hope both Daniel Valenzuela and Kate Gallego will answer.


KJZZ will air the entire forum audio Wednesday night at 7 p.m. Tweet us your thoughts using the #KJZZForum hashtag and don’t forget to cast your ballot on March 12!

Claire Caulfield was a reporter and Morning Edition producer at KJZZ from 2015 to 2019.