Why I can’t support this arena deal

This week, the Phoenix City Council will vote on a deal to renovate Talking Stick Arena in an effort to ensure the Suns’ future in Phoenix. For months, the deal has been discussed exclusively behind closed doors and Councilmembers have been barred by law from discussing the details publicly. Now that the deal is up for a vote, I’d like to explain why I’ll be voting no.

I make it a point to be accessible to my constituents. I hold weekly office hours out in the community for people who don’t have the time to come to City Hall to meet. I frequently attend neighborhood association and block watch meetings. And an ever-growing number of my constituents have my personal cell phone number so that they can reach out whenever they want to talk.

When I listen to residents of District 5, I never hear from them about the need to renovate Talking Stick Arena. People never ask about the things the City can do to keep the Suns in Phoenix. But they ask me about what else the City can do to address a growing challenge with homelessness. They ask me how the City can help support education, even as our state legislature struggles to do so. They ask me about sustainability, and about how the City is planning for an environment that is hotter and where resources are more scarce. These are just some of the challenges that our residents are thinking about every day.

What’s more, we’ll also be voting Wednesday on a water rate increase, asking our residents to pay more to secure Phoenix’s water future. Beyond just bad optics, it’s bad policy to ask residents to pay more for the basics while simultaneously funding a renovation for a team estimated to be worth nearly $1.3 billion.

With that in mind, I can’t support the City making an investment of this size in a sports arena. That isn’t where our priority should be as a City, and it isn’t where my priorities are as a Councilmember. To be clear, I’m not opposed to the City making big investments for the future. Instead of spending $150 million to renovate a sports arena, let’s make a big investment toward ending homelessness. Let’s make a big investment in early childhood education. Let’s make a big investment in Maryvale, an area that has been overlooked for far too long.

I understand why some of my colleagues might choose to support the deal this week. There are legitimate reasons why the City should look for a way to renovate the arena, which is a City-owned building. Reasonable, well-intentioned people can certainly disagree on this issue.

But as long as I’m a Councilmember, I’ll advocate for investments in our residents, our neighborhoods, and our future. That’s why I can’t support this deal and that’s why I’ll be voting against it.