February 27, 2004
Mayor White makes moves

Mayor Bill White, continuing with his Gather No Moss philosophy early on in his tenure, gave his first State of the City address yesterday. He touched on the usual quality-of-life highlights, like regional health care and mobility, and also called for some volunteers.

"I need the help of the people in this room," White told an audience of about 1,400 business and civic leaders. "We will not be able to deliver more and better services simply by relying on city employees. A city will only work well if citizens are involved in it."

Reaction to both tone and substance of his speech was positive.

Councilman Michael Berry was pleased that White reached out to county leaders by name.

"It suggested a strength in his humility," Berry said. "He wanted his audience to understand how big the challenges are and that they cannot be spectators; they are going to have to be involved."


"I liked the fact that he wasn't telling that room what he was going to do. He was telling them what he wanted them to do, which was sort of a call to action, which I think is needed," Berry said. "It was a recognition that his success or failure is going to be dependent on that room buying into what he's doing."

Political consultant Nancy Sims agreed, noting that White has been an active member of the organization he was addressing.

"He got up and delivered a speech to his peers," she said. "It wasn't a strong, commanding, `I am your leader' speech. He was conversational in his presentation. It was quite effective for that audience."

Funny how Boy Wonder Berry keeps getting quoted in all these articles, isn't it? I don't know if he's developed a Phil Gramm-like quality of always being where the media is, or if he just gives the best quotes. Still, this is a sign that the honeymoon is not over, and that's a good thing. Heck, White even seems to be winning over the coveted Whited constituency, and you know how big a deal that is.

Anyway, looks to me like the priorities he's laid out seem pretty reasonable and doable. I'm definitely looking forward to hearing his flood-abatement plan. This was a pretty contentious issue last year, and when you promise a "bold plan" to fix a big problem in a time of budget shortfalls, you're setting up some high expectations. Lots of times when a politician does this, he's about to present a warmed-over version of something a rival or predecessor had floated and which he shot down as being insufficient or impractical. White rejected a one-dollar drainage fee during the campaign, so keep an eye on any part of his proposal that calls for a new revenue source.

White is also poised to name Phoenix Police Chief Harold Hurtt as the next Chief of HPD. Don't know a thing about the man (any Phoenixites want to comment on this, please do so), but as with the other story, reaction (including the obligatory Berry quote) was positive. With all that's gone on with HPD the past two years, this is yet another big thing Mayor White needs to get right. So far, so good.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on February 27, 2004 to Local politics | TrackBack

Berry does seem to pop up all over lately, eh?

I can't speak to his motives, but I do think he's genuinely enthusiastic about the White Administration so far. I watched a Spur 527 meeting on public access not long ago, and he had quite a few complimentary things to say about city hall's handling of the situation at various points in the meeting. So I don't know that he's just chasing reporters to get his name out (although he may be). It could be that he's decided the best way eventually to run for mayor again is actually to be an active councilman, and to be seen working the issues? *shrug*

I must admit that I'm pleased with Mr. White so far. I just hope he doesn't kill himself trying to undo six years of ineptitude. And, like everyone, I'm curious how he will handle the budget mess.

Posted by: kevin whited on February 27, 2004 8:28 AM

My contacts tell me that the Chronicle is preparing a major hit piece on the city's budget for Sunday. I am led to believe that a major part of the expose will be on unfunded pension liabilities in excess of $1 billion (yes, that's a B-billion). I don't know how big they are, but it wouldn't surprise me to see $2 billion in unfunded liabilities. The ultimate fear is that this will have negative consequences to the city's bond rating.

Of course, noone should lay the blame at White's feet. He has been in office for less than 2 months. But it does demonstrate the magnitude of the problem White has to clean up from the Brown administration.

Posted by: Greg V. on February 27, 2004 9:34 AM