Gilbert Small Business Council Candidate Forum a Huge Success!

Hats off to the Gilbert Small Business Alliance. I’ve watched this group for nearly two years, and they are beholden to no one except their small business members. The forum they held last night, with the help of a committed group of business volunteers, was outstanding. All candidates participated and answered multiple questions from the audience. It was dynamic, interactive, and allowed everyone present to get to know the candidates.

If you own a business in Gilbert, this is a very worthwhile organization to join for only $45 per year. Go to www.gilbertsba.com.

Eleven candidates were grilled by about 150 small business owners, and the winner is:

Warren’s Bistro at 1451 E. Williams Field Road! (Have you tried their sweet potato fries? Drop whatever you are doing, and place your order!)

Seriously, the only true conservatives among 11 candidates are Eddie Cook, Victor Petersen, and Jordan Ray. None of them are politicians, and they all have gotten into this race because they see the same tax and spend mentality at the Town Council level that we have all seen at the national level.

Eddie, Victor, and Jordan advocate a safe, clean and vibrant Gilbert. However, they know it can be achieved using better business practices, wise and careful spending of tax dollars, and up to date technology. These gentlemen are grounded in the conservative principle: You don’t tax your citizens and businesses into a better quality of life.

In fact, both Eddie Cook and Victor Petersen were leaders in the fight against Prop 406. Both of them delved deeply into the budget to gain an understanding of it. Jordan Ray, an attorney and business man, advocates a line by line analysis of the budget.

Eddie Cook has taken much time over the last several months to speak with Town department heads and employees to gain an understanding of the issues they face. He serves on the Town of Gilbert Water Resources MPC. His business background is to work with Fortune 100 companies to help improve their efficiency and processes. His expertise is Information Technology, and he noted that Gilbert is far behind the standard, and even further behind other communities in attracting businesses to Gilbert.

Victor Petersen has a thorough understanding of Constitutional principles, and has read the Arizona Revised Statutes, and the Municipal Code. In his business as a developer, he is responsible for budgets, technology and systems efficiencies. He also knows the various issues regarding zoning, and land values. On its face, back in 2008-2009, he knew the Zinke land was overpriced. He didn’t need an appraisal to tell him that.

Jordan Ray, an attorney, brings a legal understanding of issues brought before the council, especially when it comes to transparency. He questions why the incumbents go into Executive Session so frequently, and apparently when it suits them. Once they do this, their meeting is not open to the public, citing “attorney-client privilege.” Mr. Ray maintains that in many cases, it is the public, not the Council members, that is the client! He favors modernizing procedures, as well as privatizing some services which are now provided by government.

In all their years on the Council, the incumbents have displayed nowhere near the same depth of understanding of Gilbert’s budget. Even Ben Cooper, the most recent addition, with his elite MBA, demurred last night on the subject of taxes. It seems the incumbents are either incapable or too "high level” to roll up their sleeves to gain this critical understanding.

All 4 of the incumbents, no matter how smoothly polished their presentations last night, continue with an outdated model: 1) Identify the Vision and its Cost! 2) Raise Taxes!

Following this model, three incumbents voted to 1) Saddle Gilbert residents with $229 million in debt in just one fiscal year (2008-2009), bringing us to $613 million at the end of FY2009. 2) Increase taxes on Gilbert families and businesses.

Along the way, they also voted to bring in the unions, including SEIU (Service Employees International Union). You may recall that SEIU issued a boycott against Arizona. This action was intended to bring Arizona to its financial knees.

The fourth incumbent, Ben Cooper, was appointed by the Council to fill the position vacated by Steve Urie. While he wasn’t there to vote on those items, he has already proven that he is in near lockstep with the same mindset in his willingness to go with odd year elections, at a cost of nearly $500k per election at build-out. He was also in favor of Prop 406. He isn’t a novice when it comes to Gilbert politics. His father was Kent Cooper, a former Town Manager.

Four other candidates who spoke included:

Talonya Adams, Democrat. When asked how she would have voted for Prop 406, she responded by asking if the question was from the perspective of a Council member, or private citizen? She said her vote was private. (The answer to the question is: Yes or No. When a person cannot outright say no, their answer is yes, no matter how much time they spend talking about it.) She also has a soft spot for funding the Rodeo.

Elizabeth Cress-Sweet, co-founder of Global Village Festival. Ms. Cress-Sweet is down to earth and endearing. She entreats the Council to “think outside the box.” She spent quite a bit of time explaining her previous comments about supporting a sales tax increase (it’s the fairest tax), but only if it were temporary. Yet, she is pro business?

Doug Jones has the small business person’s interests at heart. Unfortunately, he has already fallen victim to accepting whatever he is told by Town staff, with statements like: “I would enable Dan Henderson and the Business Development Department in any way they ask me to.” And most recently, when asked about the Zinke appraisal, “I hold a very high regard for (Town Manager) Collin DeWitt. I wholeheartedly believe what Collin has to say to be true.”

Both Dan Henderson and Collin DeWitt are wonderfully nice people. They need help with fresh ideas. But Mr. Jones is not bringing anything to the table with these comments.

Marci Norton. With both a military and a strong financial background, she could bring much positive benefit to the numbers side of the current budget deficit. She is a no nonsense person who sees the General Plan as a rule book you must stick to without deviation. However, the General Plan doesn’t follow the same rules of the universe as, oh say, gravity. It is "general," and it is a "plan."

THE REPUBLIC FORUM will also feature the Candidates. It will be sponsored by The Arizona Republic on Jan. 18, from 6 – 7:30 pm in the Town Council Chambers, 50 E Civic Center Drive. You may email questions for consideration to Joanna.allhands@arizonarepublic.com.

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