Greetings to my fellow District 1 residents and everyone in this beautiful city we call Surprise!
I can’t believe it is already April and our winter visitors are leaving us again for their summer homes. The month of March began with a City Council meeting the very first day, and opening day at our spectacular stadium the following day. Spring Training started with the World Series Champion Kansas City Royals and American League West Division Champion, Texas Rangers, playing each other. March is a great month – the weather is perfect, Spring Training is here and many of our meetings were held at the stadium, mainly to entertain and inform many of our economic leads.
As promised last month, I will give you an update on my trip to Washington D.C. and what we tried to accomplish on that trip. Deputy City Manager Nicole Lance and I attended three meetings with three different generals at the Pentagon. Conversations included topics such as Luke Air Force Base (AFB), the budget for the A-10, and the importance of collaboration between the City of Surprise and Luke AFB for the good of the whole West Valley. The economic impact is $653 million from Luke, not to mention the indirect economic drivers.
During the trip, we met with the Secretary of the Air Force Deborah Lee James while at the Pentagon. She is relatively new to the job having not yet visited Luke AFB. Additionally, we had a meeting with Senator John McCain and Senator Jeff Flake, and also went to Lockheed Martin where some parts of the F-35 are made. All together we had four full days of productive meetings and constructive learning!
Upon my return to Arizona, I attended Valley Metro’s Northwest Light Rail Extension ADA training tour at the 19th Avenue and Dunlap Park-and-Ride. The $327 million dollar project broke ground on January 12, 2013. Valley Metro did a fantastic job with the rail!
On Monday March 14, I was invited to the Surprise City Academy, and if you have not attended the series of programs, it is well worth your time to learn all about the inner workings of our city and get insight from the Mayor and City Council Members, City Manager, City Attorney, and many of our Department Directors. This program is free to the public. I want to thank everyone involved in that event for all their hard work! Thank you to the city staff who volunteered their time to provide their respective department’s overview.
I held my monthly meeting on March 18. As a reminder, I have my meeting on the third Friday of every month at the Community Center in the Retreat area of Arizona Traditions, 18250 W. Weatherby Drive. Everyone is welcome to come to my meetings. Please note I will not have a meeting in June or July.
Cal Ripken Day at the Surprise Stadium was held on Saturday, March 19. There was an impressive turn out! It is great to see all those boys and girls invested in playing baseball. I was happy to be on the field and greet them all. I want to personally thank all those men and women who give up their time to coach these great kids.
I serve on the Advisory Committee for North West Valley Connect Organization, and we had our meeting on Friday March 25th at Benevilla. Northwest Valley Connect helps people find rides when they cannot get a ride through their usual channels. Northwest Valley Connect is led by Kathy Chandler as CEO.
I spent most of the day Saturday March 26th at the Ability 360 Center Transportation Conference in Phoenix with the folks from Valley Metro Transportation discussing the difficulties in transit in the West Valley and the East Valley. Surprise has a unique problem in that we have no transit system and the cost to initiate one is astronomical. We do have a fairly reliable Dial-a-Ride system which the City of Surprise subsidizes. We are always working on improving that service.
We had the grand opening of the City Café Express and John W. Clark art show at City Hall on March 30th and if you have not seen it yet, I think it would be worth your time. Most of the paintings are aircrafts as a way for Mr. Clark, who is a Surprise resident, to celebrate his many years in the United States Air Force.
Before I close my newsletter this month, I would like to have your feedback about a very important decision the City Council must make in the next couple of months. If you have been following the budget conversations at our City Council meetings, you know we are about to raise taxes to pay for more police and firefighters for our city. We are behind most cities with regards to the amount of first responders per resident. The proposed FY2017 budget will fund an additional 13 police officers, 7 firefighters and 1 emergency manager position. These positions must be funded with new tax revenue. No one likes the hikes, but sometimes it is just necessary, and in this case I feel we need this increase in protection. My first and foremost duty as a City Council Member is to protect our citizens. Now, the only question remaining is which tax or taxes do we raise? I have been agonizing over this question and the choices are a raise in property tax, a raise in sales tax, or we institute a food tax, or a possible combination of all three. I need your thoughts on this issue. I can’t support a tax on food, it is a regressive tax; it hits the people who don’t have resources first. I can see an increase in property tax, or even a slight increase in sales tax. If you have some ideas or complaints, email me or call me. Until next month, be good to yourself and be good to each other.
Roland F. Winters Jr.