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USG hosts Tempe City Council debate

Candidates running for the Tempe City Council met on campus Wednesday to debate issues surrounding the city’s budget, a greener community and public transit.

About 70 people, mainly students, attended the debate in the Memorial Union Pima Room. The debate was hosted by the Undergraduate Student Government, which also hosted a Council debate in the last election.

The candidates stressed the importance of volunteering and community involvement.

Tempe’s current Vice Mayor Shana Ellis, who is seeking reelection, said residents need to vote to get what they want in the city.

“We need to give citizens an opportunity to try,” she said.

With budget problems in Tempe, citizens need to take proactive steps in order to make sure the city knows their priorities, she said.

Candidate Mark Ortiz, a Tempe native, said charities and volunteers can bring the community together.

“Volunteers are the core of any community,” he said. “Volunteers and charities can do more than anyone else.”

Candidate Robin Arredondo-Savage, niece of current councilmember Ben Arredondo, said Tempe is known for volunteerism, which improves the quality of life in the city.

“Volunteering is what makes this city go. We need to get kids to volunteer at younger ages,” she said “Volunteerism makes the world go around. We all can make a difference.”

Candidates also discussed ways to make Tempe more environmentally conscious.

Ortiz said going “green” is not only sustainable but also economical.

“You should focus on the fact that going greener is cheaper. If we do move greener, you can save money in your own household,” he said.

Ellis said Tempe is already setting the example for the community.

“The transportation center is literally ‘green.’ When it was finished, 94 percent of the building materials were recycled,” she said. “It is about 1 percent more expensive to build a ‘green’ building, but you make that money back with energy savings within a couple of months.”

Onnie Shekerjian, an incumbent city councilmember, said there are two sustainability programs in the works.

One project the city is working on will start a compost program to recycle yard trimmings, which will save money from landfill costs and parks projects.

“Parks will be a lot greener. Compost is so much better than fertilizer,” she said.

The second program is a smart grid, which will tell how much energy a home is using to inform homeowners of their usage levels, she said.

The final issue discussed in the debate was Tempe’s public transit system.

Ellis, who serves as chairwoman of Tempe’s Transportation Committee, said Tempe has to work with other cities to decide the best way to make transportation cuts. The transit system is funded by a half-cent sales tax, but since revenue is down, the city is reviewing possible cuts.

Shekerjian said her vision is that Tempe will become a leader in public transportation.

“Public transit needs to be affordable,” she said. “We’re going to have to evaluate and be as effective as possible. I would like to see growth in public transit.”

Brendan O’Kelly, USG president and a political science junior, said students should be concerned about future cuts to these services.

“Students use these services frequently and these are all services on the chopping block because of the deficit,” he said.

O’Kelly said he wants ASU students to be informed on local issues that affect them.

“We hosted this debate because it gives students a chance to meet the candidates face to face and to hear their thoughts on the issues,” he said.

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