A South Phoenix business owner opposed to the light rail extension in her neighborhood claimed God killed former U.S. Rep. Ed Pastor in a flyer she shared with Phoenix City Council last week.
Celia Contreras, leader of the 4 Lanes or No Train group, crafted the flyer after a spiritual vision, she said. The flyer shows a photo of Pastor with a back ribbon and includes a transcript of conversation between God and Contreras.
“I judged him,” the flyer says. Pastor died in November after suffering a heart attack. He served in Congress from 1991 to 2015 and secured millions in funding for public transit projects in the Phoenix-metro area.
Contreras told the Arizona Mirror she believes light rail projects in the Valley have shattered communities by displacing many families, especially “humble” and low-income folks. She opposes the planned light rail extension project connecting downtown Phoenix to the city’s south side through Central Avenue down to Baseline Road.
“In four years, we are all going to die here, in the economic sense,” Contreras said.
She owns Tony’s Window Tinting business in a commercial strip scattered with mom-and-pop shops on Central Avenue near Broadway Road. She said she’s had the business for 25 years, and the planned light rail extension will force her to close it.
Pastor, Gallego: Comments are ‘a new political low’
Phoenix Councilwoman Laura Pastor, daughter of the late congressman, said during a municipal meeting Tuesday she “was taken aback” by Contreras’ message and called it “a new political low.”
“I didn’t feel like God was speaking to me, I felt like the devil was speaking to me, so I opted to get up and walk out,” Pastor said. She added that she has a “strong spiritual faith.”
“I also know my father’s work and it will stand the test of time,” Pastor said.
Mayor Kate Gallego said Contreras’ remarks and flyer were “deeply inappropriate.”
“From my perspective, as well, it was a new low last week to use the death of a loved one to try to score political points,” Gallego said.
Contreras told the Mirror she didn’t share her statement to city council for political reasons, but out of “obedience” to God.
“The Lord is who will stop the light rail,” Contreras said in Spanish. “The light rail has done a lot of damage to a lot of people.”
Contreras added she is of Christian faith.
During the council meeting, she was on the verge of tears and choked up as she delivered the ominous message.
“The Lord wants to stop the punishment upon you, but if you don’t understand … He’s gonna continue,” she told the council.
4 Lanes or No Train origin, and fallout
Contreras said she started the grassroots group 4 Lanes or No Train last spring because God ordered her to “rise up.” The name for the group itself, she said, came from her spiritual visions.
Led by Contreras, the group gathered residents and business owners and successfully pushed the city council in June to consider a redesign of the light rail extension going into South Phoenix that would have kept the four current lanes on Central Avenue.
During that time, Contreras’ group became connected with the conservative organization Arizona Free Enterprise Club, which has ties to billionaires Charles and David Koch, The Arizona Republic reported. The council eventually voted to keep the original two-lane plan in September.
A campaign committee named Building a Better Phoenix was formed in August for a ballot proposal to stop all light rail development in the city. Mel Martin and Kent Rudd were listed as committee staff under an address in North Phoenix where a business, Industries for Arizona, LLC, is registered. Two weeks later, the committee changed hands to Contreras’ son, Jadon Contreras, and Byron Waldrep, another South Phoenix business owner, records show. In October, Building a Better Phoenix again updated its committee staff.
Susan Gudino, treasurer for Building a Better Phoenix, said some of the business owners and residents who originally came together under the 4 Lanes or No Train group had a fallout with Contreras.
Gudino said Building a Better Phoenix isn’t affiliated with Contreras. Contreras confirmed this to the Mirror.
Gudino added she agrees with Pastor’s statements on Contreras.