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Mayor Corey Woods reflects on Tempe achievements, challenges in address

The 23rd State of the City was hosted in person and highlighted Tempe's efforts to remedy COVID-19, sustainability, transportation and housing

211104 corey woods state of the city

Tempe Mayor Corey Woods answers a question about preserving historical buildings during the 23rd annual State of the City address at the Marriott Phoenix Resort Tempe at The Buttes on Friday, Nov. 5, 2021.

Tempe Mayor Corey Woods highlighted the city's accomplishments and challenges in COVID-19 management, sustainability, accessible transportation and affordable housing at the 23rd annual State of the City Address Friday.

This year's event was the first time Mayor Woods and the Tempe City Council presented the State of the City Address in person since the pandemic began. The mayor's inauguration and State of the City Address last year were both streamed virtually.

The State of the City Address is hosted annually to allow the mayor and his council to reflect on the past year's achievements and challenges.

"The last 16 months have been kind of a larger conversation about what we as a state, city and nation do well and also what practices we want to improve," Woods said. "As mayor, I have taken all of those conversations to heart."

Councilman Joel Navarro said Tempe's wastewater program, a partnership with ASU that analyzes wastewater to monitor the city's COVID-19 case rates, was successful enough to act as a model for the rest of the country. The city was the first in the U.S. to use wastewater data to inform public health. In August, Arizona received a grant from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to partner with Tempe to expand the program. 

READ MORE: Tempe leans into wastewater analysis as fewer people seek COVID-19 tests

Woods said while COVID-19 cases are fewer now than they were this time last year, the pandemic is "not completely behind us yet" and there are different challenges for the community to address, including "supply chain delays, staffing shortages and traffic again."

Mayor Woods said the primary way he will address increasing traffic congestion is by creating access to public transportation. One of the city's main projects in accessible public transportation, the Tempe streetcar, is expected to launch in 2022, according to Councilwoman Doreen Garlid.

"Businesses and developers understood our vision to diversify transportation options to meet the needs of our unique population," Garlid said. "We are making the streetcar a reality."

READ MORE: Tempe Streetcar will open in 2022 with uncertain transit benefits

A ground crew follows the Tempe Streetcar as it conducts a test on the Streetcar track on Apache Boulevard in Tempe on June 8, 2021. Planning for Tempe Street Car began in 2014.

During her presentation on the city's sustainability initiatives, Councilwoman Lauren Kuby said young people have played a large role in pushing the city to implement more sustainable initiatives in the community.

"I'm so eager to see what cool creative artistic concepts our young people have in mind," Kuby said.

Kuby said there will be an update to the city's Climate Action Plan based on community input. The city's website describes the Climate Action Plan as an effort to "reduce emissions and cultivate resilience" in Tempe.

The city of Tempe has divided the plan to focus on four new agendas including business, youth, climate justice and neighborhoods. 

"While the Tempe City Council adopted a Climate Action Plan in 2019, we've learned something from the last three years and are now working on our first Climate Action update," Kuby said. "This update brings our community voices front and center, as we look for ideas and recommendations to ensure a plan that reflects our culture and our values."

READ MORE: Tempe updates its Climate Action Plan to include community perspectives

Woods addressed high housing prices throughout the pandemic and steps the city has taken to provide relief. 

"Throughout the pandemic, there have been multiple forms of assistance available for renters, landlords and homeowners through city programming," Woods said. 

Woods said his job as mayor can sometimes be difficult because, while public comment is important in guiding decisions, including street renaming and transportation, it delays the changes that are meant to come from those discussions. 

"We really do an incredible job of reaching out to our community and offering multiple opportunities to provide feedback in public, either in person, or frankly even virtually, through our Tempe forum," Woods said. He added that using additional time to reach out to the community can slow down a project's timeline, but input received is appreciated and part of the process.

Throughout the address, Tempe leadership said the city will celebrate its 150th year anniversary Sunday. Councilwoman Robin Arredondo-Savage said the anniversary will be an opportunity for the community to reflect on its past and future.

"As we celebrate our 150th anniversary, it is important to take the time to learn, grow and celebrate the people and the connections that have led us to where we are today," Arredondo-Savage said. "It is equally important to reflect on decisions that we make today that will tell our story in the future."

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Alexis WaissPolitics Reporter

Alexis Waiss is a reporter for the politics desk. She joined the State Press in Fall 2021 and has covered state legislature, Arizona politicians, university policy, student government, the city of Tempe and stories highlighting social justice.

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