Tom Rawles wants to cut spending. ex-pig Mike Whalen wants more taxes and pork for Mesa.

Councilmen debate Mesa property tax By Blake Herzog, Tribune January 6, 2006

The first public debate leading up to the May vote on a Mesa property tax pitted two city councilmen against each other and drew a whos who of city politics.

Thursdays clash between councilmen Tom Rawles and Mike Whalen was part of a meeting of the conservative East Valley Republican Assembly.

The assembly is receptive to Rawles libertarian vision of Mesas future, where public safety is at the core of city services, libraries and parks are funded, but much else is done without the citys help.

Rawles handed out a list of $24.6 million in cuts he would make, including privatizing the arts center, museums and convention center, and eliminating the economic development and diversity offices.

He said these services should be funded by its users. "We have the opportunity to create something beautiful in Mesa," he said. "We have the opportunity to say we want to get these things in the right way."

Whalen, a Mesa police officer for 27 years before joining the council in 2000, said hes watched the city go through budget crises and layoffs during recessions because of its dependence on sales tax.

Mesa needs the steady income provided by a property tax to plan for the future and handle the problems brought on by illegal immigration and other issues, he said.

"City employees have done everything in their power to cut costs," he said. "Many of them work two jobs today, where in 2000 there were two people working that one job."

The City Council voted 4-3 last month to put a primary property tax on the May 16 ballot, which would be the citys first in 60 years. The decision came after a $37 million shortfall in the upcoming budget was projected.

The 70 people who piled into the community room of Fire Station 201 for the debate included Mayor Keno Hawker and District 4 council candidate Pat Esparza. GOP gubernatorial candidate Don Goldwater also attended. Councilwoman Janie Thom arrived later.

A salestax hike, from 1.5 percent to 1.75 percent, also will be on the ballot.

Contact Blake Herzog by email, or phone (480) 898-6816

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