Dozens of community organizations have been hosting mayoral forums to hear from the slate of candidates running in the most competitive mayor's race in recent Phoenix history.
Most candidates safely cling to their talking points and offer little more than what voters would find on their campaign website. With cameras rolling and the opponents just waiting, watching for a flub -- it's probably the safest political strategy.
Even so, there have been some flip-flops. Consider this one from Councilman Claude Mattox regarding the nearly $100 million incentive that Phoenix voted to give the CityNorth shopping center.
On April 4, Equality Arizona, an LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) advocacy group, hosted the first mayoral forum. Questions about the much-debated and unpopular CityNorth subsidy inevitably came up. And mayor-hopeful Councilman Claude Mattox, who voted in favor of a nearly $100 million incentive to build a parking garage for the northeast Phoenix shopping center, told the audience:
"Having been one of the several council members that did support CityNorth, I will say that at the time it made sense to me. It was about leveraging private sector dollars to generate more revenue to the City of Phoenix. And while everyone talks about the $97 million that supposedly we, the City of Phoenix, wrote a check to this developer. The truth of the matter is that we haven't written a dime to that developer. We've actually made money on CityNorth. We made $3 million last year in sales tax revenue on CityNorth ... To me, it made sense. Would I support it today? Understanding what has transpired and how this has been characterized, no, I wouldn't." (Watch it on video at 1m44s.)
[Mattox's statement that CityNorth has generated $3 million in 2010 wasn't entirely accurate. About $3 million is the total sales tax revenue generated by the project since 2008. Mattox tells the Arizona Republic that he "misspoke during the heat of the debate...but his point was the project had made money for the city."
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Fast-forward to earlier this month when Mattox's appeared on Brahm Resnik's LunchCast on 12 News when a viewer questions whether Mattox still supports the "CityNorth government giveaway." (Watch the full video below.)
Mattox responds: "I love the description that it's a giveaway. The City of Phoenix actually made about $3.5 million off that project since it started ... As a businessman, you look at how you can leverage other people's dollars to make more money. This was a performance agreement."
Resnik: So you're okay with building that parking deck?
Mattox: I was okay with building that parking deck.
Resnik: Would you do it again?
Mattox: Well, we've already done it again. We had a similar type deal with CityScape. So, that tool works."
Intentionally vague? Perhaps. But it was certainly a different message than the one he delivered at the first debate when he flatly said he would not support the CityNorth deal.