How I Lowered Taxes

By: Kolby Granville:

I first starting going to Tempe city council meetings in 2000.  I went off and on and had the honor of seeing former Mayor Neil Giuliano run meetings, as well as council members Hugh Hallman, Dennis Cahill, Len Copple, Joseph Lewis, and a host of other great Tempe leaders.  I continue to go the council meetings.  I frequently get asked the question from friends, “Why do you go to council meetings?”

When I am feeling smug, or short on time, my answer is “It’s cheaper than a movie.”  However, the real answer is quite simple.  I take an interest in city government for the same reason I mow my lawn and paint my house.  I want to take care of my home.  Just as my physical home is a home to take care, I view Tempe as my home as well.  And, frankly, part of taking care of your home, is going to the meetings that directly effect it.

So, that is the easy answer, but for those with more time, a story illustrates the point.  On January 7, 2010, a resolution showed up on the City Council agenda, “Request approval of a resolution submitting a proposed tax increase to the qualified electors of the City of Tempe for the next regularly scheduled general election.”  Although I had been to several meetings where council and staff struggled with budget issues, it was the first time I had heard of a sales tax increase.

The original agenda item was to increase the sales tax by 2/10 of a cent, with no sunset provision.   I am not always anti-tax.  Everyone at the meetings could see Tempe was having serious financial problems.  However, the financial problems were temporary, and the tax was permanent.  So, prior to the start of the meeting, I started talking to council members.

I talked to Hugh Hallman, Corey Woods, Onnie Shekerjian, and Mark Mitchell, all council members I had met before, and people that I respect as being very reasonable.  I pitched, “if you have to pass a sales tax increase for a temporary problem, make it a temporary sales tax.  Give it a sunset.”  Each said the same thing, “I like what you are saying.  Get me five votes, and I’ll support it.”

The meeting started.  During the call to the audience I was the first to raise my hand, and the first to speak out against a permanent sales tax increase.  Yes, I was nervous.  Then, as if by magic, person after person came up after me to speak, and each had the same thing to say, “I agree with what Mr. Granville said, if there has to be a tax increase, it should have a sunset.”

I came home that night and my girlfriend at the time asked me, “How was the City Council meeting tonight?”  To which I responded, “The weirdest thing happened, I think I just lowered taxes in Tempe…

Sure enough, the following meeting the issue was re-reviewed and a provision was added.  If the Tempe voters approved the sales tax increase, it would sunset after four years.  And a few months later, the voters passed Proposition 401.

Now, in truth, did I personally lower taxes in Tempe?  Yes and no.  I am sure there were many outside discussions, persuasions, and politics that took place.  Not to mention the people of Tempe, the city staff, and the council had to make the important decision to change the sales tax rate, and to put a sunset on it.  I know all that.  But here is what I do take away from the meeting.

There was an issue I cared about, I was able to speak in a public setting about it, and I was able to get an audience with decision makers.  And, if the strength of my argument was strong enough, I could steer policy.  That is an amazing and wonderful thing and, yes, it makes me very proud to live in Tempe.

Try talking to a council member in Los Angeles, New York, or Chicago?  My guess is it is not going to happen.  Try talking to your “representative” in 2/3’s of the rest of the world.  You are more likely to get arrested.  But here, in Tempe, democracy works.  The system works.  Voices can speak, and those voices can be heard.

And yes, that makes me proud, very proud, to live in Tempe, attend city council meetings, and take a small part in taking care of my “home.”

Kolby Granville explains why he is running for Tempe City Council.

By:  Kolby Granville
Tempe City Council Candidate

When I declared (in March 2011) I was running for city council, my assumption was the most common question I would get would be regarding policy. However, the most common question is much more straight forward. It is, “Why are you running for city council?” Rather than trying to sound clever and smooth, I am going to try to simply write from the heart and hope that those reading this will understand…

When I was 18 years old I, literally, came home from work (I worked through high school) to find everything I owned in a series of garbage bags sitting in the living room. I was told, “Manzanita Hall [a resident hall at ASU] opens today, it’s time you moved out.” When I moved into Manzanita Hall, I was not moving into student housing, I was moving into my new permanent home. I treated it as such, and I respected it as such. A problem with the residence hall meant there was a problem with my home.

As time progressed, I realized that Manzanita Hall was not (only) my home, but ASU, as a whole, was my “home.” What I came to realize after graduation was that it is your community that is your home. Tempe is my community.

Once you realize your community is your home, there are surprisingly few questions left. The proverbial “weeds” in Tempe, are the same as weeds in my front lawn. Graffiti in Tempe is like graffiti on my front door. Choices that negatively reflect on Tempe, are the same as choices that negatively effect on me. Service to the Tempe community went from optional to required. The only question left was “Where best to serve?” That requires a second example.

I moved to Tempe in 1990 and if someone asked me about the trend in the quality of life in Tempe, I would not have been able to answer. I would have only seen one point on the “quality of life” chart, so to speak. However, over 10 years, over 20 years, and you start to see the trends. You start to see the entire chart.

More importantly, you become able to point to moments in time on the chart where you can say, “Here, right here, if we had made a different decision, things would be different today.” The town lake, the light rail, the development of the Mill Avenue District, these are all examples (for better or worse) of past decisions that forever changed the course of Tempe.

Over the next several years, Tempe is poised to encounter more of these “moments in time” that will forever steer the future of Tempe. The proposed modern street car, density creep into south Tempe, sales tax and property tax rates….these are all issues whereby the decisions we make today will forever bend the quality of life chart of Tempe. I am running for office to protect my community, to guide these decisions, and to ensure that the future of Tempe as a livable and vibrant city is ensured. To do less would be, frankly, irresponsible “home” ownership.