2 Phoenix council districts also await runoff decision

by Connie Cone Sexton and Michael Clancy – Oct. 15, 2011 12:00 AM
The Arizona Republic

While many Phoenix voters are concentrating on the upcoming mayoral runoff between Wes Gullett and Greg Stanton, the fates of two other spots on the City Council are at stake.

On Nov. 8, voters in far north and west Phoenix will decide who will represent them in Districts 1 and 5, respectively. In the Aug. 30 election, one candidate in each district came close to getting enough votes to win outright and avoid a runoff.

Early voting is under way by mail. The winners will take office Jan. 3.

The race in District 1 pits incumbent Thelda Williams and businessman Eric Frederick.

In District 5, political newcomers Brenda Sperduti and Daniel Valenzuela are vying to replace termed-out Councilman Claude Mattox, who has been in office since January 2000.

Williams, Frederick vie in District 1

District 1 voters may consider that they have a clear choice between experience and “someone who has never been to City Hall.”

Or maybe it is between a “career politician” vs. “a small-business man with new ideas.”

The race between incumbent Thelda Williams, who has served on the council for more than 10 years split over two stints, and businessman Eric Frederick may come down to which of those characterizations the voter believes.

The district covers northwest Phoenix, from Interstate 17 to the west city limits, and from Northern Avenue to the north city limits. It includes Phoenix’s Deer Valley Airport on the east side of the freeway.

Williams missed winning the seat in the Aug. 30 election by less than 1 percent of the vote.

Frederick won 35 percent of the votes in August.

On Wednesday, the blog Politico Mafioso posted what it calls “the truth about Eric Frederick” from an unidentified contributor. It says Frederick discharged $130,000 in debt through bankruptcy last year. Phoenix political activist Jon Altmann sent The Republic similar information, adding that Frederick briefly lost his driver’s license – but quickly resolved the matter – in Surprise Justice Court.

Frederick said he was behind on his debts because a mortgage company that employed him closed shop in 2006 without paying him, and it was downhill from there. He said he has paid back all his creditors, even though the bankruptcy did not require that.

“This has no bearing on the job,” he said Friday. “If filing for bankruptcy disqualifies a person from serving on the council, Thelda Williams should have quit serving in 1991.”

Williams went through bankruptcy 20 years ago in connection with a failed restaurant that she and her husband owned.

Experience is the key difference between the candidates, Williams said.

“I have a good reputation for getting things done,” she said.

She is most proud of her efforts to get quarterly bulk-trash pickup, which spared areas of her district from random dumping; to bring international air service to Phoenix; and her authorship of the city’s first ethics policy.

Currently, she is working to get the city back on solid financial ground, cut costs, streamline the police department and bring new employers and jobs to the district.

Frederick hits many of the same notes conservative candidates have hit citywide and even nationwide: smaller government, lower taxes, less regulation, more privatization.

He said Williams has flipped some of her positions once she faced a runoff, such as her vote supporting the food tax.

— Michael Clancy

District 5: Sperduti vs. Valenzuela

It may be hard for some voters to distinguish any nuance between political newcomers Brenda Sperduti and Daniel Valenzuela, who are vying to represent Phoenix District 5.

Both city council candidates want to reduce crime and expand light rail to west and northwest Phoenix. Both are champions for small businesses. Both say they will encourage the city to be more accessible to residents, even suggesting that the city televise subcommittee meetings on such issues as housing and neighborhoods.

The major source of friction between them swirls around Valenzuela’s job as a Glendale firefighter and spokesman. Sperduti contends he won’t have enough time to focus on Phoenix issues. Valenzuela said he won’t have a managerial role while serving in office and that his work is flexible, leaving him time to concentrate on being a council member.

Sperduti, who owns Sperduti NetWorks LLC, which provides consulting services to businesses and non-profits, said she will continue to work but on a part-time basis.

Valenzuela came close to winning the District 5 seat outright during the Aug. 30 election, getting 45.1 percent of the votes in a four-way race. Sperduti received 24.5 percent.

Valenzuela said he’s not focusing on who his opponent is, but on getting elected. “My campaign has never been about Brenda Sperduti; it’s been about the community,” he said.

“When you get down to the tale of the tape, I am a firefighter in Glendale and every council member and every candidate has a background they bring, and my background is of service. I have a background of community relations and focus of preventing emergencies.”

Sperduti calls herself a fiscal conservative.

“I have moderate views. I am first and foremost an independent. I like to think independently,” she said.

If elected, she said she wants to focus on areas of the district she sees as blighted, including the neighborhoods adjacent to the Black Canyon Freeway.

Sperduti said she will help educate residents about how to report blight and graffiti and learn how to get help from the city’s neighborhood services department.

Once in office, she said she would find people from across the district who can help keep her informed on problems as they arise. And she wants to help them know how city officials interact.

Valenzuela said he also will focus on revitalizing neighborhoods, saying the key to keeping people from moving away and luring new residents is tied to reducing crime.

Valenzuela said he thinks the Phoenix Police and Fire departments are understaffed.

— Connie Cone Sexton

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