Gina Kash: 2022 Tempe Council Candidate Questions

1. How do you normally commute around Tempe? What kind of vehicles do you utilize? Are you satisfied with your commuting experience?

When I worked at the State Capitol, I took the Valley Metro Rail or the Valley Metro buses. The Valley Metro buses stop right in front of the Capitol. It was very convenient; I could work while the bus driver fought rush hour traffic. The Rail stopped about a mile from the State Capitol and I would usually catch a Valley Metro bus or the DASH to the Capitol.

I usually walk or drive my car around Tempe. I enjoy walking while my grandchildren like to rollerblade and use their scooters. Walking has been concerning in the past couple of months, because there were many homeless folks sleeping in the oleanders along McClintock & Baseline, in the alleyways and behind shopping centers. Sometimes the sidewalk on the overpass is blocked by homeless encampments. People walking out from behind bushes unexpectedly could be hazardous to cyclists, not to mention the twin box spring on the sidewalk. There was also a lot of refuse everywhere. Here are some pictures I took of McClintock & Rural Roads. The city trimmed the oleanders last week.

2. Do you think it is possible to function in our current city without the use of an automobile? What is your vision for transportation and mobility around Tempe and the region?

Yes, I do believe it is absolutely possible to function without the use of an automobile in Tempe,because our city is the epicenter for multimodal transportation. With that being said, utilizing public transportation or other forms of transportation isn’t for everyone. My focus for transportation in Tempe is safety and expediting roadway infrastructure projects. All extra federal and state dollars should be directed toward completing infrastructure projects quickly and moving other safety priorities to the top of the list.

3. How familiar are you with Tempe’s Vision Zero goal? Do you support the City of Tempe’s 2019 Action Plan to achieve these goals? If so, what is your plan to update and expand Vision Zero to improve transportation safety for all members of the community?

I am familiar with Vision Zero here in Tempe, and I support the action plan to achieve the goals. How does Tempe rate among other cities in Maricopa County? Below is ADOT’s 2020 Motor Vehicle Crash Facts:

Tempe’s Vision Zero states, “The driving force of crash prevention and control across the world has been the 4 Es of highway safety—engineering, education, enforcement, and emergency medical services (EMS).” I believe that enforcement is at issue here in Tempe.

Many concerned constituents have contacted me regarding speeding in neighborhoods and on arterial streets. This is an issue that comes up at forums, also. From what I am being told, it appears that there is a general lack of law enforcement and law enforcement presence in Tempe.

Is there a shortage of badged officers here in Tempe? During a televised forum, it was mentioned that there was a hiring freeze on 17 vacant police officer positions. During a neighborhood meeting in north Tempe, a constituent voiced a complaint about slow law enforcement response times. Molly Enright, PIO, Tempe PD, responded that there are less than 200 police officers allocated for patrol “divided by 7 days a week” working 10-hour shifts. She went on to say that the officers get injured, have to attend court hearings and tend to emergency calls for service.

Speed control is critical to neighborhood and community safety and is very concerning for everyone. A.R.S. 28-735 is completely disregarded by motorists. It may be that motorists are not aware of this law. Motorists driving too close and zipping past cyclists can be seen every day in Tempe.

My plan to improve public safety would be to:

  1. Move public safety projects to the very top of the list
  2. Ensure there are enough badged officers on patrol enforcing traffic laws
  3. Ensure all hot spots have protected left-turn lanes
  4. Hold stakeholder/neighborhood meetings to discuss placing permanent radar speed displays near problem intersections and hot spots
  5. Use the Tempe Today insert to educate and remind motorists about slowing down around cyclists and keeping a safe distance

4. How do you plan to adequately fund roadway improvements, especially the backlog of existing and requested transportation safety projects? What role should community organizations play in cycling safety and planning?

Tempe receives money for roadway improvement and transit projects through a number of different sources including Highway User Revenue Funds and the half-cent sales tax from Proposition 400. The Legislature also provides appropriations for infrastructure projects outside of the shared revenues. An analysis and reprioritization of the backlog, existing and requested transportation safety projects is probably in order. It is concerning that the city spent $13M from its own coffer on the streetcar when there is a backlog of safety projects on the books. Public safety should be the number one priority of our elected officials.

Cyclist organizations should be at the table during all transportation planning meetings, because
their members see and experience the safety issues that policymakers may/do not. Tempe is known
for, and touts itself as a first-rate cyclist community, so the cyclists should have a seat at the table to
share their expertise and advice with the policymakers.

5. Common concerns of bicyclists in Tempe include police knowledge of State and Local bicycle laws, bicycle theft, and drivers parking in bicycle lanes. What would you do to address these concerns when elected? What training and education would you implement for the police department to ensure they understand cycling laws?

Parliamentary procedure, whether it is Robert’s Rules of Order or Mason’s Manual, dictates that the majority rules. Public safety and the enforcement of laws rests squarely on the shoulders of our elected officials. I subscribe to law and order and expect law enforcement to know and enforce the laws to the best of their ability.

As stated earlier, I believe the police department may be understaffed. Tempe has one of the highest crime rates in the state of Arizona and is listed as one of the most dangerous cities in the State. Shining the light on these facts is the first step; I have brought this information to the forefront in debates and forums. There has been a 24% increase in serious crimes (murder, rape, robbery, assault, burglary, larceny, auto theft, arson) from 2019 to 2020 in Tempe. Current stats are not available. It would be very interesting to know the actual number of bicycles stolen each month here in Tempe. Many don’t even report stolen bicycles.

What would I do to address these concerns? Own it and facilitate communication and advocate for reform. First, I would meet with your organization. Second, talk with the sitting mayor and other councilmembers regarding cyclist concerns. Third, talk to the Tempe Police Chief to see what his understanding and point of view is regarding the issues. Then I would request a meeting with the mayor, the police chief and your organization’s administration to find a workable solution to the problem.

6. Do you have any other thoughts to share about cycling, safety, and multi-modal transportation you think our membership would benefit from hearing?

Theft seems to be rampant in Tempe. On, neighbors are constantly talking about prowlers, suspicious persons and theft. In addition to catalytic converters, bicycles are usually targeted. One video showed a lady walking around trying to open car doors. The person who posted the video said that these people are looking to steal your garage door openers so they can come back later and rob your garage/house.

Homeless encampments are a safety issue. Many encampments are near bicycle trails in northern Tempe and adjacent to the canal bicycle trails. A lack of adequate and affordable housing is part of the issue, but another part has to do with convicted felons who are unable to obtain a job due to their criminal record. Criminal justice reform is another conversation, but the fact that these folks cannot get a job or housing gives rise to recidivism. The AZ Department of Corrections (DOC) releases these folks and many have no money and nowhere to go. An estimated 10% of the homeless population are convicted felons. That should be kept in mind while cruising past encampments in the evenings and early mornings or walking up on a prowler or someone who has jumped over your backyard fence. According to the DOC, AZ has a 40.6% recidivism rate (see here).

Cyclists and their families need to be aware of this information in addition to sex offenders who are homeless that report the vicinity they live in, rather than a home address. Click here to search AZ Department of Public Safety sex offender webpage.