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Tempe Mayor Corey Woods talks police, construction in his first State of the City

From the Tempe Streetcar to the Public Safety Advisory Task Force, Woods presented how the city has functioned during the pandemic

Corey Woods State of the City address

Tempe Mayor Corey Woods addresses the city of Tempe remotely on Friday, Oct. 30, 2020.

Tempe Mayor Corey Woods gave his first State of the City address broadcasted virtually on Oct. 30, highlighting Tempe's obstacles and accomplishments since his inauguration.

Woods unseated former Mayor Mark Mitchell in March, becoming the city's first Black mayor. His election occurred at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic and he was virtually sworn into office in July. 

Like his inauguration, this year's State of the City address was different than prior mayoral addresses due to the pandemic forcing the city to hold the event virtually. 

Instead of a traditional in-person address consisting of a speech solely from the mayor, Wood's address included video segments from members of the Tempe City Council and stepped away from an economic focus to include the city's efforts to navigate through the impacts of COVID-19. 

"There are no better people to tell the story about how Tempe is not only meeting but exceeding our collective challenges, than the Tempe City Council members themselves," Woods said during the address. 

During his mayoral campaign, Woods said he would work immediately to ease the traffic in Tempe if he were elected. Councilmember Joel Navarro said traffic from residents and ASU students declined due to the pandemic, allowing multiple construction projects to be completed at the same time in a "safer and faster" manner. 

One such project that was able to make progress, according to Navarro, was the Tempe Streetcar, an addition to the Valley Metro transportation system that will run around the ASU Tempe campus.

"Construction of the streetcar line continued at a tremendous pace (during the pandemic)," Navarro said during the address, adding that it was on track to be completed in 2021. "The three-mile route will serve one of the highest transit ridership centers in the region."

Vice Mayor Randy Keating also said the Mirabella retirement center at ASU is set to open before 2021.

"Even with all the difficulties, we've had some amazing moments this year," Keating said, regarding the construction projects in Tempe. 

READ MORE: Tempe kicks it old school by welcoming retirees with Mirabella at ASU

During a question and answer portion of the address, Woods touched on the newly appointed Public Safety Advisory Task Force Committee

According to Woods, the committee was put together this October to "talk about the future of public safety moving forward in (the) community" amid national and local protests demanding the police be defunded and abolished. 

Woods said in his address he believes the city police recognize the national outcry against systemic racism and want to be behind important discussions with the task force. 

"I know our police department considers themselves to be leaders in this space," Woods said. 

The task force plans to put together a plan to be presented in January 2021 to address racism and other systemic issues within the Tempe Police Department.

READ MORE: Tempe task force to address issues within its police department

Tempe protestors called for the city to address systemic racism in law enforcement this summer and demanded the city defund the police by millions of dollars.

Despite calls for the abolishment of the police, Woods said he believes the city can support law and order while uplifting racial equity. 

"Those are two things that are not in conflict with one another," Woods said. "It's not a binary choice ... you can have both conversations at the same time and you can support both things at the same time."

Looking toward the future, Woods said during his next four years as mayor he wants to make sure affordable housing is available for people from all backgrounds, something he says will help improve racial and socioeconomic diversity. 

Economic growth is also a goal for the city, Woods said. In the coming years, Woods said giving new businesses the opportunity to open and existing businesses the ability to expand will help produce revenue to go back into services for Tempe residents. 

"We're continuing despite the COVID-19 pandemic to invest in our infrastructure," Woods said. "We are truly determined to help our community navigate through what is an exceptionally challenging time."

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