Three candidates vying to be Glendale's first new mayor in close to 20 years

August 04, 2012

This month, Glendale voters are starting the process of electing the city’s first new mayor in almost 20 years. And, as KJZZ’s Mark Brodie reports, the three candidates running for the top job will inherit several significant issues facing the West Valley city.

MARK BRODIE: So, let’s start with what the candidates all agree on.

JERRY WEIERS: There’s no doubt about it, it is a turning point.

MANNY CRUZ: The city of Glendale is at a turning point.

WALT OPASKA: I think this is a turning point for the city.

Candidates for Mayor of Glendale The three candidates for Mayor of Glendale. From left: Manny Cruz, Walt Opaska, Jerry Weiers (Photos by Mark Brodie - KJZZ)

BRODIE: That was Jerry Weiers, Manny Cruz and Walt Opaska. They’re running to replace Elaine Scruggs, who decided against running for what would have been her eighth term. And, all three have expressed some frustration with the direction in which Glendale is headed. One reason why? Coyotes. As in, the hockey team that plays at the city-owned arena, and has been owned by the NHL for the past few seasons. There’s also some frustration with both the deal offered to prospective owner Greg Jamison, and the way in which the city approved it.

WEIERS: I believe that the decision to push this through really, really fast was wrong. I like transparency, I think the citizens, the taxpayers need to know what’s going on. And again, if people don’t have all the information, they shouldn’t be making decisions without information.

BRODIE: Jerry Weiers, a state representative, says he enjoys going to games, but doesn’t think Glendale taxpayers should have to foot as much of the bill to keep the team in town. Attorney Walt Opaska agrees.

OPASKA: I think we’re paying way too much to keep the Coyotes right now. My plan to pay for the Coyotes is to put a $10 surcharge on all tickets at arena events. Therefore, the users of the arena are paying for the stadium.

BRODIE: One particular point of contention in the proposed sale agreement is a provision that would have the city pay the new owner more than $320 million over 20 years to manage the arena.

CRUZ: I would have required more field work done on that particular issue.

BRODIE: Manny Cruz, who runs a nonprofit that deals with the issue of abandoned mines, says he’d like the team to stay, but the city has to be fiscally responsible.

CRUZ: I would have probably asked our city manager to bring in some heavy hitters for negotiations and put that particular contract out to bid.

BRODIE: The Coyotes deal has also led, in part, to the city council approving a 0.07 percent sales tax increase. City officials say the tax would have been necessary without the arena -- Glendale had to close an estimated $32 million deficit in the current fiscal year’s budget. The city says the increased tax is expected to generate up to $22 million a year for the five years it’s in effect.

CRUZ: I know that they are increasing the sales tax because they absolutely have to. Without that, they’re going to see a drastic cut in services. It’s going to be a completely different Glendale if we don’t have that particular sales tax.

BRODIE: Cruz says he supports the two-tiered tax system the city council implemented. The higher tax rate will not apply to single-item purchases larger than $5,000. But Jerry Weiers says he wouldn’t have voted for the tax hike.

WEIERS: We’re giving businesses a reason to want to go somewhere else. And, when that starts happening, we will never fix this problem, and you can’t tax yourself out of this problem. All you’re going to do is make the problem worse.

BRODIE: Weiers says Glendale should make it more enticing for businesses to locate there –- he says the higher sales tax will do the opposite. Walt Opaska calls the tax devastating to both businesses and consumers in Glendale.

OPASKA: People aren’t going to buy their groceries in Glendale, they’re not going to buy their other items in Glendale, because they’re going to go across the street to Peoria or Phoenix or another city where you can pay much lower sales tax. People just aren’t going to want to shop in Glendale, people aren’t going to want to open their businesses in Glendale.

BRODIE: There’s also disagreement on another project potentially opening in Glendale. The Tohono O’Odham Nation has proposed a resort and casino on unincorporated land at 91st and Northern Avenues. Both Cruz and Opaska say they support the project, as long as the two sides can agree on who pays for what. Weiers helped lead the opposition to the casino while in the legislature, and says his views haven’t changed. But, he also says his views don’t really matter, since the ultimate decision will come from the courts.

Unless one of the three candidates gets 50 percent plus one in the Aug. 28 primary, the top two will move on to a run-off in November.