That was 1998. And if the city's in-crowd thought he was a pain in the neck when he was fighting them as an outsider, they had no idea how bad he'd be once he was on the inside.


Old-timers like to boast that Tempe is a little pocket of progressivism in a conservative county.

It's also unusual in that it's an inner-ring suburb that feels little connection to its sprawling neighbor, Phoenix. Perhaps because they grew up side-by-side instead of Phoenix's blazing the way first, Tempe has always enjoyed its own identity. Residents will tell you, in fact, that it's not so much a 'burb as it is a small town.

And unlike Phoenix, you can live in Tempe for decades and still feel like an outsider.

The city's ruling elite is mostly made up of good-ol'-boy Democrats. Harry Mitchell, a schoolteacher who served as mayor for more than a decade, is still revered as a god by that crowd; his son, Mark, is currently a councilman. And even the Republicans tend to be good-government types, not zealots. (Witness Neil Giuliano, Hallman's predecessor, who came out as gay while in the mayor's office and is now national executive director of GLAAD.)

The in-crowd grew up attending Tempe public schools. They golf at the Shalimar Country Club and join Kiwanis. They are involved with the Sister Cities Commission, a nonprofit group that sends students and municipal leaders on exchange programs to New Zealand and France and Germany.

Everybody gets along.

"Tempe's a town where you have to be nice," Monti, the restaurateur, says. "Everybody's gotta sing "Kumbaya" even if there are political differences."

Hallman's refused to join in the song.

Even though he grew up in Tempe, Hallman's boyhood home is so far north that he went to school in south Scottsdale. As an adult, he got involved with Habitat for Humanity, not Sister Cities, because the program's use of municipal funds rankled him. (He later paid for a membership, but admits he doesn't go to meetings.) And he certainly doesn't golf.

As a councilman, Hallman wasn't into making nice. He was, instead, determined to figure out everything — and change much of it. Then-City Manager John Greco recalls Hallman's asking questions, pestering staff, demanding to know how things were done.

To say that he drove city workers crazy was "probably an understatement," Greco recalls, laughing. "Hugh was this kind of force of nature who wanted to get involved in the minutiae of things. I don't think anyone had ever seen a council member go so deep into so many different programs."

People who've felt Hallman's wrath say he has a mouth to rival Nixon's — and a temper, too. But the trait that's earned him the most animosity during his time on the City Council is his tendency to be a know-it-all.

"He doesn't suffer fools," acknowledges Councilwoman Onnie Shekerjian, a longtime ally. "If you're opposing him for the sake of opposing him, he doesn't have much patience for that." But Shekerjian defends Hallman: "If you have a cogent argument and data, he will listen to you."

Now that he's mayor, Hallman sets the debate. Initially, though, he had no control beyond his "no" vote, and he was more than willing to exercise it. He opposed using sales tax money for light rail. He hated Tempe Town Lake.

But the thing that upset the old guard the most was Hallman's ethics crusade.

Hallman believes perks are corrupting and campaign donations are bribes. He refuses to take a car allowance. Arguing that council members shouldn't get prime parking spots next to City Hall when they're there only a few hours a week, he turned his down. Even as mayor, he refuses to take one.

The Tempe City Council traditionally has eaten dinner together before council meetings, on the city's dime. As a new councilman, Hallman initially refused to go, but after realizing how much he was missing, insisted on paying for his meal, even when no one else did.

"He wanted to show he was part of a different breed of politician," says Knaperek, the former state representative, another Tempe outsider. (A Republican, she is now challenging Harry Mitchell for his seat in Congress.) "And people were offended by it."

Leonard Copple was elected to council at the same time as Hallman. Like Hallman, he identified as an outsider. Copple says he ran because he, too, was unhappy about one of the deals that Hallman crusaded against — the city's plan to give away a bunch of lakefront land, plus incentives, to attract a new Peabody Hotel.

But Copple took an immediate dislike to his new colleague. He blames Hallman's personality.

All the talk about parking spaces, Copple admits, didn't help.

"I just thought he was grandstanding," Copple says. "He may not have accepted perks, but the rest of us, accepting parking wasn't a perk, it was a necessity! I was running to get there on time and didn't want to run in too late."

In 2004, when Hallman first ran for mayor, all the big names stood against him. Even Mayor Neil Giuliano endorsed Hallman's opponent, Dennis Cahill — even though Cahill is a Democrat and Hallman and Giuliano are Republicans.

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2 comments
Cissyie
Cissyie

It's sad, but I see a lot of older men who are afraid to "come out" after being raised in an atmosphere of unwritten gender-identity rules and old-tyme religion. I know that for me it was a challenge to face my fears about faith and god and the ways we accept or reject ourselves, but I'm young. It saddens me to see men who've spent their whole life trying to cover-up a compulsive, barely awknowledged, and yet incredibly rich and complex side of themselves. It's not a sin to be left-handed, but it may be a sin to always be writing with the right hand just to keep the "love" of those close to you. It's a sin because that isn't real love; it's fear. Don't betray yourself in order to not betray another. That is the highest betrayal. BiLoves.com is a good place for people to come out.

Celinna
Celinna

It's sad, but I see a lot of older men who are afraid to "come out" after being raised in an atmosphere of unwritten gender-identity rules and old-tyme religion. I know that for me it was a challenge to face my fears about faith and god and the ways we accept or reject ourselves, but I'm young. It saddens me to see men who've spent their whole life trying to cover-up a compulsive, barely awknowledged, and yet incredibly rich and complex side of themselves. It's not a sin to be left-handed, but it may be a sin to always be writing with the right hand just to keep the "love" of those close to you. It's a sin because that isn't real love; it's fear. Don't betray yourself in order to not betray another. That is the highest betrayal. BiLoves.com is a good place for people to come out.

 

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