Phoenix voters reject measures to block light rail projects, limit budget growth

By: - August 27, 2019 10:21 pm

Photo via Valley Metro

Phoenix voters voted overwhelmingly Tuesday to allow light rail expansion projects to continue, including one in South Phoenix that has residents concerned about how it will change their neighborhoods. 

Proposition 105 was one of the two ballot measures Phoenix voters decided on in Tuesday’s special election. The measure would have stopped all funding for new light rail and other fixed-rail transit projects in Phoenix. 

While the ballot measure stemmed from outrage by business owners and residents in South Phoenix, it was shaped by conservative operatives, as revealed by the Phoenix New Times. 

The city establishment, including Mayor Kate Gallego and most members of the Phoenix City Council, urged voters to reject Prop. 105. Republican Councilman Sal DiCiccio and conservative groups like the Goldwater Institute and the Arizona Free Enterprise Club (both Koch-connected groups) pushed for the passage of the ballot measure.  

Gallego said on Twitter that the Aug. 27 special election was more than a “difference of opinion.” 

“It was more fundamental than that. It was about what we want our city to be. And because YOU stepped up, Phoenix’s future looks brighter than ever,” she said.

Voters also soundly defeated Proposition 106, which would have sharply restricted new government spending until the city’s public safety pension debt was paid off.

In a press statement, Gallego added, “This campaign was never about one track of rail. It was about equity for our entire city and voters delivered on that promise.”

The city’s south side will be the first community to experience the effects of keeping light rail projects on track.

A 5.5-mile South Central Light Rail Extension connecting the city’s downtown core to its south side down Central Avenue to Baseline Road is scheduled for completion by 2023.

Business owners along the Central Avenue corridor in South Phoenix viewed Prop. 105 as a last resort to stop a light rail extension project from transforming their community.

Campaign finance records show only a few individuals bankrolled $459,000 for the committee urging a ‘Yes’ vote, called Building a Better Phoenix, while a broad coalition of companies, nonprofit organizations, individuals and political action committees invested nearly one million dollars to keep light rail development plans, under the Invest in Phoenix campaign committee.   

High school and college students urged Phoenix voters to reject Prop. 105. The week prior to the election, some argued the light rail allowed them access to educational, job and recreational opportunities.

Dazhané Brown, 17, a senior at South Mountain High School, said she spends two hours every day commuting to and from school from her northwest Phoenix home to the city’s south side. If the light rail extension in South Phoenix is constructed, that commute time would be cut in half, she said. 

Brown said it’s “selfish” to reject the light rail projects. 

“It would take opportunity from deserving people,” Brown said. “If it’s been approved three times, there’s no reason for you to regress that.”

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Laura Gómez
Laura Gómez

Reporter Laura Gómez Rodriguez covers state politics and immigration for the Arizona Mirror. She was named Best Investigative Reporter by Phoenix Magazine in its 2018 newspaper category and has been honored by the Arizona Press Club for education, immigration, political, and public safety reporting and Spanish-language news and feature reporting. Laura worked for The Arizona Republic and La Voz Arizona for four years, covering city government, economic development, immigration, politics and trade. In 2017, Laura traveled the length of the U.S.-Mexico border for “The Wall,” the Pulitzer Prize-winning project produced by The Arizona Republic and USA Today Network. She is a native of Bogotá, Colombia and lived in Puerto Rico and Boston before moving to Phoenix in 2014. Catch her researching travel deals, feasting on mariscos or playing soccer.

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