Saving Light Rail Is Top Priority For Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego

By Christina Estes
Published: Thursday, June 13, 2019 - 4:07pm
Updated: Friday, June 14, 2019 - 8:19am

Kate Gallego on stage
Christina Estes/KJZZ
Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego's State of the City address on June 13, 2019, was hosted by Greater Phoenix Chamber of Commerce and held at Sheraton Grand downtown.

Three months after being sworn in as Phoenix mayor, Kate Gallego is launching a new campaign. 

During Gallego’s first State of the City address, she told a group gathered at the Sheraton Grand that choices made over the next few months will shape Phoenix’s future.

“None is more consequential than whether we will save the light rail,” she said.

In August, Phoenix voters will decide whether to stop the train’s expansion. Gallego said keeping it is just common sense.

“With more people moving to Phoenix, traffic is getting worse-especially in the central city,” she said. “Light rail is simply the most effective way to move large numbers of people in finite spaces.”

The planned light-rail expansion into south Phoenix sparked the ballot initiative by a group opposed to Central Avenue being reduced to two lanes. Light-rail opponents want to see money spent on improving streets and sidewalks and increasing bus service.

Gallego also addressed homelessness and public safety. She called on all cities across the Valley to do their part to provide services and housing support. The city’s new budget includes a so-called “Housing Czar,” a new position dedicated to creating more affordable housing.

“We are researching innovative areas such as opportunity zones and looking at the lands owned by various departments, such as the airport, to determine if they are ripe for housing development,” she said.

Gallego also acknowledged challenges facing police and firefighters. Last year, she said Phoenix officers delivered more than 10,000 mental health patients to treatment centers.

“I want to hire clinicians who can partner with our first responders on crisis response,” she said. “Both police officers and community leaders agree: police should not be alone on the front lines of behavioral health response.”

She praised the Phoenix Fire Department for its efforts to help people living at home who suffer from dementia. Through a partnership with Hospice of the Valley, she said nearly 1,700 firefighters have participated in simulation training to better understand and interact with dementia patients.

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