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Phoenix Mayoral Candidates Face Tough Questions At Maryvale Forum
Three candidates for mayor of Phoenix spoke at a forum at the Maryvale Community Center on Tuesday night. The activist group Poder in Action organized the forum along with several other groups.
Question-askers drawn from the audience pressed candidates on the high number of officer-involved shootings in Phoenix this year. One asked why the police chief and city leaders had not “taken more proactive steps to reduce police violence.”
Democrats Kate Gallego and Daniel Valenzuela did not directly accept the statement that leaders had not been proactive, but offered policy proposals for addressing the problem.
“I believe we need to invest in body cameras so we have a real record of what has happened,” said Gallego. “I believe we need to train our police officers in de-escalation, non-lethal force.”
Some Phoenix patrol officers have body cameras, but not all. Valenzuela said he hopes the program goes city-wide soon, “and I think we’re on track to do that,” he said.
His idea was to get more mental health workers out on police calls.
“Working with ASU, working with behavioral health specialists to put behavioral health specialists in certain cop cars so that, again, people will feel safer if they’re able to talk to behavioral health specialists as opposed to a cop,” Valenzuela said.
The Libertarian candidate, Nicholas Sarwark, criticized his opponents for not fixing the problem while they were on the City Council.
“The council doesn’t care,” he said. “The council is more focused on having good relationships with their employee, [Police] Chief Jeri Williams, than they are with actually hearing the needs of the community.”
Sarwark said he spent five years as a public defender, and that Phoenix should follow Philadelphia’s lead.
“They had a [Department of Justice] grant, they had a good set of consultants that came and actually listened to the community that was being impacted. They had an open conversation, an open dialogue. And they were accountable,” he said.
Before the forum moved on, Gallego said “these are not easy solutions. There are some things that the police department has gotten national recognition from the Obama administration [for], and then there are others where we have to do better.”
A fourth candidate for mayor, Republican Moses Sanchez, did not attend.
The second portion of the forum asked candidates to indicate support/not support to various policy statements, including “do you support ending the current collaboration between Phoenix police and immigration enforcement?”
While Sarwark signaled “support,” Valenzuela and Gallego did not indicate either “support” or “not support” to that particular question, as well as a few others.
“It’s not that simple,” said Valenzuela, who said he led an effort against a Trump administration program that would deputize local law enforcement to enact federal immigration action, known as 287(g).
Gallego did not clarify her positions when she withheld from making a choice.
The city’s relationship with federal immigration officials is affected by state law, although in 2017 former Mayor Greg Stanton said Phoenix would not join the 287(g) program.
A few questions later, Valenzuela tried to explain his discomfort with the support/not support format.
“We’re talking about state laws that the city cannot overrule,” he said.