The Jake Files

April 27, 2006

Analysis of City Council Debate

I'm watching last night's debate and will be documenting my thoughts as I watch it (also known as liveblogging, although I don't think watching a taped replay qualifies as "live"), then followup with analysis at the end.  NOTE:  This is a VERY long post, so you might want to get a snack.  Go ahead, I'll wait.

Trinity Donovan Opening Statement

Appears polished and confident.    Nothing to really stand out in the opening.

Becky Jackson Opening Statement

The fact that she's reading a prepared speech wouldn't be so obvious if she wasn't repeatedly looking down to her left.  Put it in front of you – it's distracting! 

Very generic message, not much to stand out.

Jeff Weninger Opening Statement

Is talking without prepared talking points.  The good – shows he doesn't need a prepared speech.  The bad – could be a little more smooth in his delivery.

Becky Jackson – What are your thoughts on the firing of Mark Pentz, and would you hire him back?

"I knew this would be a question, so I have prepared some comments and some thoughts on that." Issue centers around due process, wasn't privy to all facts.  Based on council meeting, appears he wasn't aware of all concerns about his performance.

The fact that she was overprepared for this question notwithstanding, Jackson makes excellent points here.  Emphasis should be on saving employee.  Employees should not be surprised with new information in a performance review.  The matter left the impression of a "witch hunt."  Jackson failed to take a stand on whether Pentz should be rehired, and gave good reasons for doing so.  She stated she would give him the same consideration as any other candidate and would make an appropriate decision at the time given all the facts.  What she didn't do is address his current/past performance and reflect on how that should be weighted in his favor, or against it.

Jeff Weninger on Mark Pentz

Way it was handled was "deplorable."  Speaking from the heart.  "I called that the trial of Mark Pentz."  Goes into timeline of Jackson's comments in the paper, and identifies apparent inconsistencies in her statements.  Pointed out that Jackson has a working relationship with Mark Pentz, and implied that she should have taken a firmer stand on the position.

Trinity Donovan on Mark Pentz

Didn't see circumstances that would warrant firing.  Review the time to summarize performance, not bring up new information.  Declined to specify whether she would be in favor of rehiring Pentz.

Jeff Weninger – Do you Agree with the Recall Effort?

Followed up on previous question to say he WOULD vote to re-hire Pentz.  Would do a lot for chandler's credibility in the business community to re-hire him.

On recall – it's time to move on, can get along and work with anyone on council.  Doesn't take specific stand on whether recall appropriate or not.

Trinity Donovan on Recall

Agrees with citizens' right to utilize recall process.  Not involved with recall, but up to citizens if they support it.

Becky Jackson on Recall

Similar answer as Donovan, had to keep referring to notes to make sure she hit all her points.

Would you support Covance and other biotech companies that may conduct animal testing?

Trinity Donovan – Covance

Need to look at how we attract diverse industries, including biotech.  Need to ensure all companies follow applicable laws and regulation.  Covance hasn't brought forward plans yet, so difficult to prejudge.  Dodged the underlying/unspoken question – is animal testing appropriate in Chandler?

Becky Jackson on Covance

Emotional and complex issue.  Need bioscience.  Reading from prepared statement.  Nodding is distracting, brought up PETA and Paul McCartney and has met with opposition groups.  Need to meet with everyone (yawn).  Look at what company would bring to community.  yada yada, no position.

Jeff Weninger on Covance

Similar to Donovan, brought up that nothing has gone to planning & zoning yet, no plans in place yet.  Will ask tough questions.  Brought up that other bioscience companies are watching how Chandler handles the situation.  Have deliberate and fair discussion, all citizens can ask. 

Followed up on recall question with statement that citizens have right to recall, but is not involved.

Becky Jackson – How will you not have a conflict of interest as both CEO of Chamber of Commerce and Councilmember?

This should be good.  Did research with other Chamber presidents.  Cited Culver City situation where head of Chamber is councilmember.  Is there another example?  Explained City used to help pay salaries of Chamber, but not anymore.  Does this suddenly make it not a conflict of interest?  Will recuse herself if necessary.  Does that mean she'll recuse herself for her entire term? 

Jeff Weninger – What qualifies you to run for city council given that you haven't sat on any city boards or commissions?

I applaud those that have served on boards and commissions, don't feel that's always best training ground.  Goes off on tangent related to hard work needed to build his business.  Gets back to fiscal discipline of business experience relating to city budget.  Discussed involvement in state politics.

This was frankly not a great answer, and one that Jeff should have been more prepared for.  A better answer would have been something like:

I appreciate concerns among some that I have not served on city boards or commissions.  I also appreciate the service of those that have done that.  It's important for individuals to be involved in serving their communities in whatever way is most appropriate for them.  But with all due respect, service on boards and commissions is not a prerequisite to service on the City Council.  While some people have spent their careers building a resume, I have spent my career building a business that employs 120 people.  I've spent my career contributing to the City by increasing employment opportunities for Chandler residents and contributing to the economic base by paying taxes.  While some have spent their careers chairing meetings and attending ribbon cuttings, I have been DOING. 

As a small business owner, I understand FIRST HAND how zoning issues can impact surrounding businesses and neighborhoods.  As a small business owner and property owner, I understand FIRST HAND how property and sales tax issues affect businesses and individuals.  As a small business owner, I understand from first hand experience how to balance a budget, do without when you can't pay for something, and plan ahead to expand your venture.  As a small business owner, I understand how traffic patterns can be not just a nuisance for private drivers, but how they can devastate a business, or to help it prosper. 

Quite frankly, my background is one that is sorely needed on this city council, and I respectfully ask for your vote. 

Trinity Donovan – Some feel that 28 years old is too young to hold elected office.  How do you respond?

"I'm actually 29 now…"  good use of humor to transition.  Brought up median age in Chandler of 32.  Background includes holding position of CEO of ICAN at 22 years old, managing budget of $250,000 and over 400 volunteers.  More info on last 7 years experience in serving Chandler.  Good response.

What will be your approach on Transportation issues, specifically street improvements and mass transit?

Becky Jackson – Transportation

Council has taken action on moving up transportation issues.  Brought up Prop 400 money that is coming.  No policy initiative yet.  Story about son not being able to take the bus to work.  It's frustrating getting from S Chandler to downtown (really?)  I would work hard to ensure there are opportunities to reallocate some resources to move projects up in a timely manner without sacrificing other services.  So, in other words, she recognizes it's a problem, but has no new ideas beyond what the council has already done.

Jeff Weninger – Transportation

Need to follow the leadership of current council by continuing to move projects up.  Gave 2 anecdotes to show that he, too, understands the traffic concerns.  Did identify lack of bus service in SE Chandler, specific to getting to major hubs like Chandler Mall.  Brought up construction of turn lanes to improve flow so buses don't hold up traffic. 

Trinity Donovan – Transportation

Need to keep budget constraints in mind while speeding up construction projects.  Utilize recommendations from City staff on prioritizing projects.  Need to prioritize which streets to widen first.  Also brought up consideration for future road maintenance.

Downtown Safety and Redevelopment

Jeff Weninger – Downtown

Not aware of specific concerns regarding downtown safety, feels personally safe.  Need to fund and distribute police resources accordingly.  Loves direction of downtown redevelopment with condos and unique businesses.  Does disagree with placement of City Hall because site at Arizona Ave and Chicago is prime real estate on AZ Ave.  Should be reserved for sales tax revenue generating projects.

Trinity Donovan – Downtown

Has heard perception of safety issues, but no personal concerns.  Downtown is a "secret treasure."  Need to look at how to recruit and retain unique businesses for downtown.

Becky Jackson – Downtown

Is member of downtown revitalization committee.  Want to create "destination point" and "memorable experience."  Agrees with need for more downtown housing.  Brought up marketing for downtown businesses.  Not uncomfortable at all with safety downtown.

Trinity Donovan – Have stellar reputation in community, but many wonder if you can match up with seasoned politicians while retaining core values and personality.

Has endorsement from all current councilmembers.  Can be independent voice on council, work with everyone to do what's best for Chandler.  Have to be grounded – not take criticisms or compliments too seriously.  Treat everyone with the respect of knowing won't agree all the time.  Important to have different perspectives. 

Becky Jackson – Why are you qualified to run for local office when only lived in Chandler for 3 years?

Prior to living here opened own community bank in Chandler in 1998-99.  Got immediately involved in community.  Would you rather have someone who has lived here short time but involved in community for 6-7 years, or someone who has lived here long time but not actively involved in community?  (cheap shot alert)  As President of Chamber understands business aspects of community.

Jeff Weninger – How and when were you struck with the decision to run for City Council?

September/October of 2005.  Didn't like things happening on council.  Instead of complaining about it, decided to do something about it by running.  Was last to make decision to run, but first to turn in qualifying signatures.  Went back to community service because of Jackson's allusion in last answer as well as mailer that went out recently.  Disagrees with definition of community service as serving on boards and commissions.  Hasn't built up a resume of service for the purpose of running for council at a future date.  Gave list of things has done for community:  youth soccer coach, Board Member of Boys & Girls club, besides donating food to MDA has personally worked events each month, donated $2300 for Joe Jackson fund (injured football player at Hamilton High).  Doesn't seek publicity or pat on the back when does these things.  "Not going to apologize" for closing restaurant to feed football teams.  Donates thousands of dollars in gift certificates each year.  Here's the money quote:

"Since 2000, I've employed over 300 different Chandler residents and supplied over $100,000 in health care benefits to them.  I've repeatedly said I respect their community service and my family and I are insulted a little bit, that, well not a little bit, a lot, and I think a lot of other citizens of Chandler are insulted that the same things they do are being belittled in this race.  I'm saddened that this is even an issue, and I'm going to continue a positive campaign and move on from there."

Do you agree or disagree with concerns that Chandler does not have enough police officers compared with other Valley cities?

Trinity Donovan – Police

Need to look at response times and emergency calls.  Higher than average in response times, that is a concern.  Need to look at how to increase response times in other areas beyond just more officers, a variety of activities that can improve rates. 

Becky Jackson – Police

Gave example from husband's experience (police officer in Phoenix) of time takes to complete paperwork.  Need backup people to help with that.  Reallocate resources to keep officers on the street.

Jeff Weninger – Police

Chief Kiyler doing great job.  Need to present what resources they need.  Just recently added positions.  Adding civilian positions can keep officers on street beats.  Officers tell him need more warrant officers.  Brought up fire department staffing. Keep response times moving down for fire as well.  Council recently moved up construction of new fire station in SE Chandler.

How should the City prepare for the loss of impact fees as a revenue source as new construction slows with buildout?

Becky Jackson – Buildout

Look at additional revenue, diversify business community.  Look at creative ways to reallocate resources to make sure not reducing city services and maintaining quality of life. Huh? I played this back twice, and still don't know what she said.  No answer to be had here.

Jeff Weninger – Buildout

Have a couple major projects right now – auto mall will be largest sales tax revenue generator in Chandler, exceeding Chandler Mall.  Need to be very careful how proceed with Airpark development, make sure right businesses come in.  Will be main financial revenue stream for Chandler Unified School District.  Price Corridor development will be important, need right mix there.  Has idea of zoning overlay in West Chandler.  Gives developers a vision for development in older area.  Likes commerical redevelopment program.  Need more unique businesses to create destination shopping.

Trinity Donovan – Buildout

Appointed member of buildout committee.  15% of land left in Chandler, 3% for residential and 12% for retail and industry.  Need to identify how to best utilize the remaining 12% to provide sales tax revenue to maintain services without increasing property taxes.  Most of budget made up of sales tax revenue, look at how bring retail to city that makes Chandler a distinctive destination as opposed to other cities.  Increase locally owned businesses that drive people to Chandler.  Need to look long term over 20 years.

Should City spend tax dollars on a convention center, if so where should it go, and what new ideas do you have to promote tourism in Chandler?

Jeff Weninger – Convention Center/Tourism

Depends on scale we're talking about.  Not going to have center to compete with Phoenix, but could have smaller conventions.  Look at San Marcos, go with downtown plan.  Can also look in other places.  Opposes spending hundreds of thousands on consultants to make recommendation.  $200k would pay for 3 police officers.  Have staff or commissions study issue instead of consultants.  Need live/work/play areas similar to Kierland Commons for tourism.  When people come to Chandler they're going to tell people about that type of destination, not Chile's or Applebee's.

Trinity Donovan – Convention Center/Tourism

City of 240,000 people can support a convention center, great idea to look into.  Could help sput downtown development, would be good place to look.  Regarding tourism, need to market the "secret treasures" of Chandler.

Becky Jackson – Convention Center/Tourism

Need to look at what type of space do we need.  Possibly expand San Marcos.  Agrees that tax dollars spent on consultants can be stressful if not expensive.  A lot of businesses, like Toyota Financial, that can't hold events in city because of space issues.  Need facilities to handle at least 600-700 people.  Staff have looked at places like Mesa Centennial Hall to find out what it takes to run that site.  Want to make city a destination point, we have downtown tours.  Great place to spend time.  Don't do enough on tourism.

Besides parks, what other amenities would you like to see in Chandler?

Trinity Donovan – Amenities

Need to have convenient and available amenities.  Need to look at how to use school facilities when kids not in school.  Have put in skate park and BMX bike park, have to rely on staff for recommendations.  Important to look at families with different age children.  Brought up curfew violationissue from last year – need to provide alternatives for kids.

Becky Jackson – Amenities

Chandler is envy due to great quality of life.  Created teen center as board member of Boys/Girls Club.  Brought in teens to advise on process.  Should look at involvement of community.  Looked at Anthem community center as model.  Community involvement would help in design and creative ideas. 

Jeff Weninger – Amenities

Have to plan for all groups in Chandler.  Look at building new senior center, excited about cricket field that's coming – will be only one in valley.  Need to look at other unique offerings.  Reach out to businesses that cater to teens, such as Gameworks.  Take holistic approach and look at activities for all age groups.  Talk to developers about incorporating into new neighborhoods.  Also look at refurbishing older parks.

City recently passed policy regarding mid-rise buildings.  Where should these structures go, and would you support structures in Chandler higher than the 15 story condo project at the Mall?

Becky Jackson – Midrise buildings

Mall good place for condo project.  As Chandler reaches buildout, have to look up for space.  Along 101 is struggle because neighborhoods are there, but it is an ideal place.  In support of midrise opportunities.  Depends on location for higher than 15 stories.

Jeff Weninger – Midrise Buildings

Near Chandler Mall is good location for midrise, downtown locations good for 5-6 stories.  Hard to say without seeing a plan.  Wants to listen to citizens, take into account impact on neighborhoods.  Can't say if 15 stories is appropriate cutoff, as opposed to 20 stories.  Depends on location.

Trinity Donovan – Midrise Buildings

Need to plan for this now, before remaining 12% of land is gone.  Need to look at freeway access and input from existing communities.  Mall area great for 15 story projects, need to look at use and access and citizen input.

Do you support City creating Council Code of Conduct, and should it be up to the Council or a citizen-led committee to decide?

Jeff Weninger – Code of Conduct

Approve of code of conduct, but council shouldn't form it.  Perhaps mixture of citizen and staff input.  Need to be careful of who does it, and how and when it's done.

Trinity Donovan – Code of Conduct

Code of conduct is acceptable, everyone needs to know what expectations are.  Can use variety of expertise in creating code – citizens, staff, suggestions from councilmembers can all contribute.  Council can be involved, but wouldn't want it created and voted on without input from public and staff.

Becky Jackson – Code of Conduct

Surprised wasn't already one in writing.  Not practical not to have one.  Council should be involved with input, but opportunities for citizen comment.  Could help alleviate infighting.

Jeff Weninger – Closing Statement

Current council struggling with recent events.  Wants to work with everyone to move forward.  Knows how to put teams together.  Have to compromise and be creative.  Vows to be objective and openminded and work with everyone.  Citizens will be his boss.

Becky Jackson – Closing Statement

If elected, first thing will talk to other councilmembers to get them working as a team.  Will not always agree on issues, but perception as combat zone needs to be erased.  Will not make promises she can't keep or commitments that will be ignored. 

Trinity Donovan – Closing Statement

Happy to have endorsements from all current councilmembers and police and fire.  Chandler needs to diversify recreation, retail, and industry in order to be distinctive in East Valley.  Three core priorities – listen, protect, and plan. 

The Amazing Jake's analysis

I went into this debate already in favor of one candidate (Weninger), opposed to another candidate (Jackson), and ambivalent about the third (Donovan).  Based on their performances, Jeff reinforced my support, Jackson reinforced my opposition, and Donovan swayed me to active support.

Becky Jackson showed a surprising lack of command of the issues for someone in the position of CEO of the Chamber of Commerce.  For example, the question about replacing impact fee revenue as we move to buildout seemed like it would play to her strength in knowledge of the business community.  Instead, it was one of the weakest answers tonight from any candidate on any issue.  I replayed her answer several times, and still could not come up with a coherent position, other than to diversify the business base and to not cut quality of life issues while reallocating resources.  That's not that answer of someone who has a fiscal plan.

Jeff Weninger fought back against the implication that to be a proper servant to the community you need to be appointed to lots of boards and commissions that have a lot of meetings.  His best moment of the night was when he talked about the 300 Chandler residents he's employed over the past 6 years and the amount of money he's put into providing health benefits for them.  When asked when he made the decision to run for council I would have liked to have heard more about WHAT decisions the council was making that prompted him to run.  But he had a very thorough response for the buildout question that Jackson was unable to answer.  He's obviously spent some time thinking about the state of the City's future financing.

I was most surprised by Trinity Donovan.  Not so much because of her age – I'm very impressed with what she's done in her professional career – but because of my conservative bias.  She's always seemed a little to, well, progressive for my taste.  However, she was very poised, polished, and had a good command of the issues.  In contrast to Ms. Jackson, she didn't need to rely on notes to get her through the debate.  Although I'm not one to rely on endorsements to sway my opinion, the fact that she's received positive nods from all 7 current councilmembers speaks to her ability to work with everyone.

As far as issues go, I was disappointed there wasn't discussion of the use of eminent domain for redevelopment purposes, particularly during the discussions of downtown and potentially building a convention center.  I also would have liked to have seen a question related specifically to retail diversity (i.e. are there too many Wal-Marts in town?).

So, there you have it.  Vote for Weninger and Donovan.  I'll be mailing my early ballot today.



  1. Thank you for this detailed analysis, Jake!

    I agree with you about Donovan’s being impressive and Jackson’s being less so. I’m not sure I can come down in favor of Weninger as you do, though.

    First, Weninger is the Vice Chair of District 20 Republicans. Nobody can tell me that his first ambition to run for public office was kindled last October because of a discontent with the Council.

    And his comment that the city shouldn’t employ consultants to study City Hall options is populist, sure, but it’s not very practical. $200,000 seems like a lot of money, until you make some big mistakes in the construction of a multi-million-dollar facility and endure the years of agonizing results that can come from bad decision-making up front. Then $200,000 seems like a wise investment.

    Finally, it may have been a cheap shot by Jackson to note that Weninger hasn’t been all that active in public service, but there’s some truth to it. And Jeff’s comments that he’s insulted by that observation aside, it’s something he needs to be prepared to address better than he does.

    Which brings me to Jeff’s comment about how he’s employed people and provided health benefits. Well, he is a business owner, after all. That’s what business owners do, if they expect to be competitive. The fact that he’s a successful entrepreneur is a VERY commendable thing. But that he actually paid people that labored for him and enabled him to earn greater wealth can hardly be touted as a community service.

    And, as I’ve noted before, treating the Chandler football team to a celebratory meal and handing out gift certificates for people to come eat at your restaurant is, surely, a generous gesture. But it’s also Marketing 101 for any business with a good or service seeking to develop word-of-mouth and goodwill. That may be cynical, but it’s also the reality of business.

    So I’m trying to look at selfless public service that Weninger has been involved in – service that has no direct benefit to him or his family – and I confess that I still wonder whether anything on his list actually qualifies.

    (I don’t mean this to be harsh, but I’m trying to be as rational as possible, based on my information. My temptation is to simply give him the benefit of the doubt, but politics seems to demand a greater degree of scrutiny and less credulousness, so I find myself being more critical of political candidates than I might be if I were simply interacting with them in some other forum. I’m sure all three candidates are good people!)

    All of which is to say that it’s hard to decide whether Jackson or Weninger are better options. With all due respect to both of them, neither of them really impress me the way Donovan does.

    I suspect there will be a lot of folks who realize that Donovan is far and away the best candidate, but are torn between the other two. In the absence of compelling reason to vote for either Weninger or Jackson, I’ll probably address this conundrum by voting for Donovan only.

    That is, if I can get my ballot over here in time to submit it before the deadline! 😡

    Comment by Geo — April 28, 2006 @ 2:09 pm | Reply

  2. […] I got  good kick out of this comment about my analysis of the debate: Good coverage of Q&A and comments. […]

    Pingback by The Jake Files » Humorous Debate Reaction — April 28, 2006 @ 2:20 pm | Reply

  3. Jake,

    Jeff Weninger sent me a response to many of my concerns. He also addressed a couple of concerns I personally hadn’t raised, too.

    In the spirit of fairness, I’ve posted our correspondence here.


    Comment by Geo — April 30, 2006 @ 2:59 pm | Reply

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