Saying it was a "distraction," Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon has asked supporters to back off a plan that would have kept him in the mayor's office until 2014.
The plan, first revealed by New Times in this blog, would have consolidated municipal elections in Phoenix. Currently, half the City Council and the mayor are up for reelection in 2011; the other half will run this fall. The new plan, which would have required an amendment to the city charter, would put everybody on the same schedule -- saving roughly $1 million every two years.
But the plan drew criticism (including some from this writer) because, in the process of consolidation, it would have tacked another two years onto the term of Mayor Gordon, Councilmen Claude Mattox and Michael Nowakowski, and Councilwomen Maria Baier and Thelda Williams -- in essence giving them a six-year term instead of the four-year one originally approved by voters.
It would have also gotten around the term limits due to be triggered for both Mattox and Gordon in 2011. And it didn't help that the people pushing the plan (political consultant Jay Thorne, former councilman Tom Milton) are big Gordon supporters. Some people theorized that the whole thing was just a plot to help the mayor to grab two more years.
Scott Phelps, the mayor's spokesman, confirmed to New Times that Gordon contacted the plan's supporters and asked them to stop gathering signatures to put the plan on the ballot.
"It just got to be a distraction," Phelps tells us. "The focus wasn't on the money savings, but on the politics of it all."
One big issue, Phelps says, is the Council seat being vacated by Greg Stanton. (Stanton is headed to a top post under Arizona Attorney General Terry Goddard.) Since the Council will have to choose Stanton's replacement -- and a majority of members would have benefited by the plan moving forward -- Phelps says people were questioning whether support for the plan was a "litmus test" for potential candidates. "We just want to stay focused on the budget," he says.
Phelps says the mayor remains a supporter of election consolidation in Phoenix -- just not this year.
"It's a good idea whose time has not yet quite come," he says.