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City council hopeful Hugo Tapia aims to bring scientific mind to Tempe

Tapia, an ASU alum and high school psychologist for Tempe Union High School District, is running for Tempe City Council on the platform of transparency and affordable housing


Tempe City Council campaign signs in Tempe on Wednesday, Jan. 31, 2024, and Thursday, Feb. 15, 2024. Illustrations added on Thursday, Feb. 15, 2024. 

Hugo Tapia is one of five candidates vying for a seat on the Tempe City Council in the upcoming election in March 2024, when Tempe residents will vote for their top three choices. 

Tapia is a Tempe Union High School psychologist who is also the chairman of the Tempe Human Relations Commission. Originally from San Gabriel, Mexico, Tapia immigrated to the U.S. at the age of 13, settling in Yuma and later moving to Tempe, where he has lived ever since. 

Key issues that Tapia is running on include the overdevelopment of the city, addressing homelessness, working on affordable housing and providing transparency on how decisions are made among the council. 

His "humble roots," as Tapia said, have inspired him to run on a platform that represents Tempe's Latino community and works to give a voice to underserved communities.

"For me, it's more about creating a path for youth, getting rid of barriers for generations to come," Tapia said.

Tapia said he will use scientific background to decide on a vote or action with reasoning and logic. 

"That's what I typically do in all my decision-making processes because that's what I'm trained to do. I do have a Ph.D., and I’m a scientist," Tapia said. "I have to take data, evaluate it and assess it, and then come up with some type of decision that is going to make sense."

As a resident himself, Tapia said he believes the city council has not taken its resident’s thoughts into consideration enough during the decision-making process. 

"There was a large part of the community that felt like (the city council members) weren't listening to them, and they felt defeated because of that," Tapia said. "I think one of the things that needs to be addressed is really how decisions are made. My decision to run for office was actually more for other parts because I wanted to make sure that people here in the city actually have a voice in the council."

Tapia brought up the defeated Coyotes' arena proposal as an example of how the community and the council have been at odds. 

READ MORE: Tempe voters reject entertainment district, Coyotes arena in unofficial election results 

Tempe 1st, one of Tapia's endorsers, shared this sentiment and said that it was one of the reasons they have endorsed him for the elections. 

"Never have I ever seen something that was as fundamentally divisive and contentious and completely changed the body politic," Ron Tapscott, a member of Tempe 1st, said. "This is the most fundamental change I've seen in 30 years, and the outcomes are what we're witnessing right now."

Regarding the issue of homelessness in Tempe, Tapia said he believes the situation could be addressed better by the city council. Tapscott said he believes that Tapia's counseling background gives him an advantage in approaching the situation.

"I think he's very sensitive to the dispossessedness of the city. We are currently embarked on a really difficult and strenuous effort to get the city to be more responsive to the homeless population," Tapscott said. 

Tapia said there should be an increased effort to partner with organizations that are actively helping out the unhoused population instead of standing in the way or even kicking people experiencing homelessness out of the city. 

Unhoused individuals are "part of our community, and we have to accept that," Tapia said. "We have to treat them as such with the dignity that they deserve, and the respect that they deserve. But that doesn't mean that they get to do whatever they want."

One of the items that will also be on the ballot in March is General Plan 2050. Tapia said he can understand both sides of the issue through the advice of his brother, Hector Tapia, who is the current director of development for the city of Nogales.

"(General Plan 2050 is) actually a living document, if something doesn't fit, the council actually has the ability to make decisions about those things as they come," Tapia said. "Now the 2050 plan, I'm okay with it."

READ MORE: Tempe to preserve Hayden Mill and develop the area around it

"Hugo is a humble person and very thoughtful and introspective. He's the best listener I've ever seen of any candidate running, bar none — including me," Lauren Kuby, former Tempe City Council member and Tapia's campaign advisor, said. 

Eligible Tempe voters will have ballots mailed to them starting Feb. 14th. Voters will be able to drop off their ballot in several places in the city or mail it in. 

Edited by Grey Gartin, Sadie Buggle and Caera Learmonth.

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