Dana Marie Kennedy sharply criticized Sal DiCiccio at a press conference this morning in front of City Hall, saying the councilman has "a lot of questions to answer" about his real estate holdings in the path of the proposed Loop 202 extension.
Kennedy is challenging DiCiccio, who was appointed to his seat in February, in the City Council run-off election November 3. The district represents an area stretching from Arcadia to Ahwatukee.
The questions were triggered by a blog post on this Web site, which detailed DiCiccio's long-term lease of two 75-acre parcels on the Gila River Indian Community. At least one of those parcels would clearly increase in value, should the extension ever become reality.
DiCiccio's Ahwatukee district has fought the extension for years, and the previous councilman, Greg Stanton, took an "over my dead body" stance toward the freeway's construction. DiCiccio, however, has convened meetings with local stakeholders, huddled with ADOT, and attempted to find an attractive alternative to the Pecos Road alignment that has so upset residents.
Kennedy questioned why DiCicico convened a "kitchen cabinet" to push for extending the 202 through the Gila River Indian reservation -- where, coincidentally, DiCiccio's leases are located -- and kept its meetings closed to the public.
The question behind those questions: Has DiCiccio been working to benefit his real estate holdings, or that of the council district he supposedly represents?
Speaking at the press conference was 80-year-old Greta Rogers, an Ahwatukee resident who was kept from attending the cabinet meetings.
Rogers, a long-term opponent of the freeway, told the assembled media gaggle that she read about the "cabinet" DiCiccio was putting together to study the Loop 202 issue in the Ahwatukee Foothills-News. She called to find out the time and place and was told "it's not open to the public," Rogers said.
Then, at the last minute, both the time and place of the meeting was changed -- from a community center to a karate studio. "He was able to circumvent the open-meeting law," Rogers said. "Is that the right thing to have done?"
Kennedy has also called on DiCiccio to release the names of his "cabinet" members. She told New Times she put in a public records request roughly three weeks ago and has yet to get the information.
New Times was able to obtain a list of DiCiccio's "cabinet" members last Thursday through the city's public information office. The members include many long-time DiCiccio supporters, as well some local residents active on the freeway issue:
* Clay Schad, former publisher of the Ahwatukee Foothills-News, who donated $200 to DiCicico's campaign,
* Mary Youhanaie, a longtime DiCiccio supporter who owns a mortgage company with her husband, Gerald,
* Max Masel, a commercial real estate broker who used to employ DiCiccio at his firm, Masel Commercial Brokerage,
* Jaime Molera, a partner with lobbying firm Molera Alvarez, who donated the maximum amount, $410, to DiCiccio's campaign,
* Mike Hinz, a local real estate investor,
* Pat Lawlis, president of Protecting Arizona's Resources and Children (PARC), a group opposed to the proposed Pecos Road alignment,
* Terri Kimble, executive director of the Ahwatukee Foothills Chamber of Commerce,
* Chad Blostone, an airline pilot and self-employed real estate broker, and, finally,
* Rick Savagian, who owns the martial arts studio where the first meeting was ultimately held.
Kennedy was flanked by supporters holding homemade poster board reading, "Freeway $al Lied" and "Freeway $al Stands To Make Million$." But her words weren't quite as salty as the octogenarian Rogers, who basically stole the show.
"Sal DiCiccio has been eminently dishonest about this whole situation," she said. "It's opportunistic and avarice of the worst kind. He has lied to us, and he has done this to benefit himself."
DiCiccio has yet to respond to New Times' request for comment, but immediately on exiting the press conference, we received a press release by email from his campaign flack, Jason Rose. Rose criticized Kennedy for taking a salary from the non-profit she helped to start to get women involved in politics.
Tax returns show that Kennedy was paid $24,000 to serve as the executive director of Emerge Arizona. (Duly noted, Jason.)
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For the record, Rose's press release did not address any of the questions New Times has raised about DiCiccio's real estate interests. DiCiccio did give an interview to the Arizona Republic for a blog post it published Saturday, so it'll be interesting to see if he gives an interview to any of the reporters in attendance this morning to discuss this further.
If he does, we really hope they ask him about his discussions with ADOT involving the Loop 202. How many times has he met with ADOT, and with whom? What was discussed? Did he ever disclose his business interest to them?
And, Sal, if you ever want to talk, we're still waiting by the phone...