Skipping to Re-election

Three men and some babies, or how Phoenix is choosing its next mayor

• $30 million for crime prevention through more after- and before-school programs.

• $10 million to buy top-of-the-line protective police vests, an $800 item versus the $500 ones now in use, and to increase police survivor benefits.

Rimsza supporters scoff at Pullen's pledge. It's easy to offer to spend millions to fight crime; it's another to show where the money will come from, they say. But Pullen, who as accountant and consultant helped set up financial systems for Micronesia, Maricopa County, the City of Tempe and the Arizona Lottery, is no stranger to public-finance issues. He holds an undergraduate degree in math and an MBA in finance. He's reviewed every Phoenix budget since 1992, he says, and the money is there. The city has enjoyed surpluses and expects revenue increases that will easily finance his crime package without any new taxes or cuts in existing services, he claims.

Randy Pullen gestures while explaining his views at the Kenilworth forum.
Randy Pullen gestures while explaining his views at the Kenilworth forum.
Randy Pullen gestures while explaining his views at the Kenilworth forum.
Paolo Vescia
Randy Pullen gestures while explaining his views at the Kenilworth forum.

In the June campaign-finance reports filed with the city, Rimsza's campaign, which kicked off with the high-profile banquet featuring former senator Bob Dole, documented more than $312,000 in receipts and expenses of nearly $170,000. A thick stack of pages of donors reads like a Who's Who of important people and businesses in the Valley.

A former real estate agent who sits on the board of Stewart Title and Trust and the Gill Group, a food service equipment business run by his wife, Rimsza is asking voters to give him four more years to finish and expand on programs he has begun. He points to the city's christening as "The Best Run City in the World" (an accolade Phoenix earned in 1993, before Rimsza was mayor).

He boasts of great efficiency and good satisfaction ratings among residents, whom he likes to call customers. He spends his own money sending out 30,000 comment cards a year to residents, asking for feedback on city services. His staff follows up on each one, he says, and he personally calls a random number of those citizens each day. Rimsza says showing up to pre-election events isn't as important as maintaining the kind of contact he has with residents.

He's proud of the downtown revitalization and is leading the charge to preserve 15,000 acres of desert north of Phoenix and improve the city's parks. His accomplishments have included backing the slumlord task force which led to a crackdown on blight, supporting the opening of a new domestic-violence center, encouraging infill as a way to stem sprawl and overseeing a work force that involves fewer employees per capita than when he took office.

Plans for the future include putting a transit package to the voters in a special election, possibly in March, which will seek a new tax to pay for better bus service as well as a light rail system. Rimsza has appointed a citizen's committee to craft the proposal, which involves using federal matching funds to finance a 25-mile rail system from the East Valley to Phoenix.

Pullen, who entered the race after the end of the finance reporting period, says he expects to raise in excess of $100,000 and has already put in more than half that sum himself. He doesn't seem threatened by the deep coffers in the Rimsza camp. "We've raised enough money to do whatever we need to do," he says.

He lists himself as treasurer and chairman of his campaign committee and calls "baloney" suggestions that U.S. Senator John McCain and former governor J. Fife Symington III are pulling strings behind his campaign.

"They haven't endorsed me or given me any money," he says. He explains Cindy McCain did say she was glad he would be running at one gathering and that Symington did give him the floor at another get-together at the home of consultant Chuck Coughlin. Despite reports that Coughlin -- an ally of both McCain's and Symington's -- is working on Pullen's race, both Pullen's campaign manager and Coughlin say that isn't the case. He is supporting Pullen, but isn't on the payroll.

Pullen, who has served on boards of three homeowners' associations, promises a more open style if he were elected, a return to the hours-long public debates on issues that Rimsza has moved away from. "I don't have a problem listening to people who disagree with me," he says. "Eventually, we'll come to an agreement."

He says there is a need for better transit, but he says improving bus service, perhaps by contracting out shorter routes and using smaller buses, should be the first concern before approaching the light rail option. (Rimsza says federal rail money could be lost if quick action is not taken.) Pullen supports better growth management, but he's not thrilled with Rimsza's Desert Preserve Initiative. First, he says, it will not raise nearly enough money to save all 15,000 acres. Secondly, he believes the added money to improve parks should have been a separate issue.

Dardis' campaign-finance filing is kind of confusing. He places question marks after every notation. He claimed to have raised around $1,900, loans from himself and two out-of-state relatives. Disbursements totaled $3,000, and expenditures, which must detail to whom and for what the money was spent, include $1,100 to "Karen, Phoenix, Arizona" and a Tempe man who was paid $250 in June 1996, with no explanation as to what the money purchased.

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