In Conversation with District 4 Candidates

Watch my one-on-one conversations with the candidates for the Phoenix City Council District 4 seat.

A project that I have been working on in collaboration with Downtown Voices Coalition is a series of one-on-one conversations with candidates for Phoenix City Council. This post contains my conversations with the Phoenix City Council District 4 candidates, Laura Pastor and Justin Johnson. The District 4 seat is currently occupied by Tom Simplot.



Laura Pastor is the Director of the Achieving a College Education program at South Mountain Community College and is the daughter of U.S. Congressman Ed Pastor. She serves on the Governing Board for the Phoenix Union High School District.



Justin Johnson is a building developer and contractor and is the son of former Phoenix councilman and mayor Paul Johnson. He serves on the City of Phoenix Planning Commission.

Show Notes: Toward the end of my conversation, Mr. Johnson references a book but he cannot think of a title. Following our one-on-one conversation, he sent me, by text message, the title of that book. It is The Metropolitan Revolution by Bruce Katz and Jennifer Bradley.  In addition, the City Council meeting in which the future of the Temporary Sales Tax on Food is discussed is on Wednesday October 16 at 3:00pm at Phoenix City Council Chambers.

In Conversation with Phoenix City Council Candidates

Downtown Voices Coalition is hosting a series of one-on-one online conversations with the four remaining candidates for Phoenix City Council.

Downtown Voices Coalition, downtown Phoenix’s only grassroots stakeholder group that champions issues of urban excellence, like small and locally owned business, historic preservation, sustainability in a broader perspective, and good government, is hosting a series of one-on-one online conversations with the four remaining candidates for Phoenix City Council. The four candidates will be in conversation with our Edward Jensen, our group’s Secretary as well as an ardent observer in Phoenix politics and governance.

Leading off the conversations will be Laura Pastor, a program director at South Mountain Community College and the daughter of U.S. Congressman Ed Pastor, on Friday, October 4, from 7:00-8:00pm. Justin Johnson, running against Pastor for the District 4 seat, will be in conversation with Jensen on Monday, October 7, also from 7:00-8:00pm. Johnson is a real estate developer and the son of former Phoenix mayor Paul Johnson. Conversations with Kate Gallego and Warren Stewart are being scheduled for the week of October 7.

The conversations will be hosted on DVC’s Google+ page  as a Google+ Hangout On Air, an innovative platform to allow many observers from Phoenix to watch and participate in the conversation. Twitter users can send in their questions and comments using the hashtag #DVC4 and #DVC8 (depending on the district represented). Participants who do not have Google+ can watch on DVC’s YouTube channel, The conversation will then be available on the DVC YouTube channel for watching after the live event has concluded.

“I am pleased to be hosting these one-on-one conversations,” said Jensen. “This is a unique, first-of-its-kind way to engage with the candidates and the questions that will be asked are not the conventional questions asked in debates and fora. It gives the candidates an opportunity to envision that they are in their respective City Council seat and working to accomplish their agenda.”

The questions are focused around the central theme of governance and how the candidates plan to accomplish their policy proposals while they are in office.  The four subthemes are “City Hall and the Next City Manager,” “Governance and Intergovernmental Relations,” “Downtown / Urban Phoenix and Urban Living Infrastructure,” and “Sustainability and the Environment in a Broader Context.” The one-on-one conversation format will allow Jensen to pursue different lines of questioning based on the answers given, allowing for tremendous flexibility. About 15-20 minutes at the end will be reserved for audience questions.

Downtown Voices Coalition is a coalition of stakeholder organizations that embrace growth in downtown Phoenix, but is mindful that healthy growth should be based upon existing downtown resources — the vibrancy of neighborhoods, the strength of the arts community, the uniqueness of historic properties, and the wonderful small businesses that dot downtown. For more information, visit

An Open Letter to Phoenix City Council Candidates

Dear Justin Johnson and Laura Pastor, Phoenix City Council District 4 candidates:

I’m writing to you this evening in this open letter to share some observations that I’ve had about your campaigns since the first election in late August.  Yes, it’s true that I helped out with my friend Dan Carroll’s campaign, and yes, we see how well that worked out.

But I’m a Phoenician first and foremost.  No silly political campaign will change that—this place has the irreplaceable quality that it will always be home.  And, since this place is home, I’m concerned about its future.  In urban Phoenix, as in all of Phoenix, we’re at a major crossroads.  As I’m going to share in a big essay in early October, our time is running out to be a well-respected city when it comes to urban living and urban life.

You’ve offered some interesting ideas and policies for what you want to do for District 4.  Some of them are good, others okay, and there are some with which I disagree.  In reading through your issues section on your websites (since most of your mailers seek to attack your opponent or tout endorsements), I’ve noticed one key theme that’s missing.  How are you going to make your policies happen?  In other words, how will you use the power of being in the council seat to effect change in our district and in this city?

For instance: One of the areas in which you seek to differentiate yourselves is what to do with the reverse lanes scheme on 7th Avenue and 7th Street.  David Lujan, who did not advance to Round 2, sought to divide himself from the pack on this issue.  While I join my Midtown neighbors in wanting the reversible lanes gone, what I feel you (the candidates) fail to realize is that any revisions of the reversible lanes scheme will require a vote of the entire City Council.  As you know, the City Council has four council districts that benefit from the perceived increased capacity these lanes provide (Districts 1, 2, 3, and 6).  It will be your job, Justin or Laura, to create and frame an argument to your northern colleagues why altering the scheme would be a good idea.

I realize that the philosophy of governance isn’t something that makes it your robo-calls or mailers to prospective voters.  These aren’t the questions that are asked even though they should be.  How will you build coalitions when you are in the chair?  What’s more important to you: ideological rigidity or compromise?  What type of place do you see urban Phoenix becoming and how will you use you office to get us there?  Do you think that the Phoenix City Council has too many, enough, or too few council seats?  Is now the time to move to a Strong Mayor form of government?

These are the big issues.  These are the big ideas.  Let’s have an honest and intellectually rigorous debate on these issues.  I’m not so much interested in what you are going to do when you’re in the chair, I’m more interested in how you’re going to get your agenda accomplished.

Let’s chat.