Changes are coming to Tempe City Council as two new council members, Arlene Chin and Berdetta Hodge, were elected to the council on March 8. Jennifer Adams retained her seat after being reelected for a second term. All three winners stressed the importance of reaching out to constituents who are ASU students, and would be open to finding ways to increase student engagement within city government.
Chin, Hodge and Adams have lived in Tempe for decades, have experience serving the community by holding public office and are all ASU graduates. They will be sworn in on July 1.
According to Adams, transportation issues in Tempe are a main cause of concern for ASU students — unsafe bike lanes, traffic congestion and parking. Climate change, policing and affordable housing are also important issues to students the three winners intend to address.
Adams said bus services and the addition of the streetcar as positive steps to improving transportation. The city has also received more funding to improve bike lanes, Adams said.
"We've had students get hit on their bicycles just from cars not watching where they are going," Adams said. "It's a growing city, with tens of thousands of students and we need to get people in and out of our downtown without driving their cars as much as possible."
Climate change is a key issue for Chin and for the ASU students she encountered during her campaign. Chin's campaign stressed the importance of following the city's Climate Action Plan, and the need to develop new and innovative solutions targeting the root causes of climate change.
READ MORE: Climate justice, youth advocacy among changes in updated Tempe Climate Action Plan
"I was also impressed by student support for more diversity in representation, and that's something I've found to be true in the larger Tempe community as well," Chin said. "They want a government that is reflective of who we really are and offers a place for all voices at the table."
With her victory, Chin becomes the first Asian American to be elected to the council. Hodge became the first African American woman elected to council after becoming the first African American woman to be elected to public office in Tempe in 2016, when she joined the Tempe Union High School Governing Board.
Hodge said she spoke with students while campaigning who expressed concerns about policing and affordable housing.
"They want to go out and they want to have a good time, but they feel like that maybe the city itself isn't prepared to have ASU students around, and that's not true," Hodge said. "We have to just make sure that they feel comfortable and make sure they feel like it's their city."
Morgann Kelly, a sophomore studying global studies, said affordable housing is probably the biggest issue for students. Kelly is looking for housing for next year and even with roommates, she is struggling to find a place with rent she can manage.
"Rent is so high," Kelly said. "The more that students focus on trying to pay their rent, the less they're focused on trying to get good grades in school."
She said it can cost up to $1,000 per room, without factoring in utilities, to be near campus. In Tempe, the average rent for a one bedroom apartment is around $1,700, according to Apartment List.
Eric Chalmers, general consultant for the Adams campaign, said reaching out to ASU students was a priority for Adams.
"You've got a population of University students who ask questions, who are informed and engaged. I mean, if you're running a campaign in Tempe and you're not thinking of University students as part of your electorate, you're making a big mistake," Chalmers said.
For Hodge, the voices of ASU students are important in policy decision making as those choices will affect their future.
"This is the world they're living in. This is the world they're working in. This is the world that they have to survive in," Hodge said. "I honestly believe that they do need a seat at the table."
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James Doyle Brown, Jr. is an opinion columnist at The State Press. He is also in his final semester as a graduate student studying investigative journalism at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication. He has previously reported for the State Press politics desk, The Howard Center of Investigative Journalism and Carnegie-Knight News21.