Phoenix mayoral candidates Wes Gullett and Greg Stanton faced off in a debate Tuesday night at the Downtown campus, addressing the future of sustainability in Phoenix.
The debate was hosted by the Green Chamber of Greater Phoenix and moderated by Rob Melnick, executive dean of ASU’s Global Institute of Sustainability.
“Sustainability is a complicated subject and politicians toss (the word sustainability) around a lot,” Melnick said. “I think the value of this debate was that (the candidates) got specific about some of the (sustainability-related) issues that they’re going to address, instead of just saying, ‘I’m going to be a sustainable mayor.’”
The moderator and the audience posed sustainability related questions to both Stanton and Gullett covering a wide variety of issues involving topics from the future of public transportation to the push for an electrical grid run almost entirely using solar energy.
Both Stanton and Gullett strongly promoted the use of solar energy in Phoenix because of the high frequency of sunny days in the Valley as well as their advocacy of a shift to a regional transit system.
“We’ve got to work on a regional transit system,” Gullett said. “Ultimately, we need to understand that what’s good for planning a big project in Mesa is good for Phoenix. Recognizing that Phoenix has put money into (the transit system) doesn’t mean that we can’t have a regional approach to how we do business.”
A large portion of the debate was focused on the economy and how green jobs factor into revitalizing Phoenix’s economy. Gullett was in favor of making Phoenix a competitive sustainable city comprised of very diverse industries, while Stanton said the ultimate goal should not necessarily be competition.
“I don’t think (sustainability) is a race, sustainability isn’t a zero sum game,” Stanton said. “I want San Diego and Chicago to be successful in their sustainability efforts. If this is a race to the top for sustainability, that is a good thing for the United States of America but we need to look inwards (as a city).”
Other subjects addressed at the debate included the potential for urban gardening, maintaining the Sonoran preserve and increasing Phoenix’s recycling program.
“Sustainability isn’t a series of programs and a nice flyer,” Stanton said. “We need to have sustainability involved in every decision that is made by the city. It’s a mindset. We need to change the way we think.”
There will be one more debate on Wednesday before the Nov. 8 run-off election.
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