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Responses/Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

 

Two Mayors are running against each other in the 2012 election.  John Lewis is our current Gilbert Mayor. His opponent Steve Berman is a former Mayor. The primary election is August 28, 2012. The winner of the primary election will be Gilbert's Mayor for 2013-17.

 

Mayor Berman is a spirited campaigner. He wants to win. He also has a good record on many things. Many new voters, who have never voted in Town elections, will vote in the August primary. This is the first town election to be held at the same time as the partisan elections; thus, there will be a higher voter interest/turnout.  

 

The following responses provide feedback to refute or clarify comments made by Mayor Berman followed by answers to frequently asked questions (FAQs) that have been sent to Mayor Lewis.

 

Responses to Mayor Berman

 

BERMAN "BUILT A BETTER GILBERT"


QUESTION:  How does Mayor Lewis respond to Mayor Berman's statement that "Berman Built a Better Gilbert?"

 

ANSWER:  One Mayor should not take all the credit for "building a better Gilbert." Credit should be shared with Town Staff and dedicated citizens. My leadership approach is relationship based and "Team" focused.  With this philosophy in the last three years, we have dramatically improved local, regional and business relationships especially with Gilbert's Chamber and Small Business Alliance. Our Team emphasis is "We" not "Me." The major difference between the Mayoral candidates is leadership style and personality. In the future, together WE will build a better Gilbert!

 

Arizona, Greater Phoenix, the East Valley, and Gilbert outpaced most of the country during the boom years of 2001-08. We had record housing starts. During the past three years, Gilbert has continued to outperform much of the State, and is one of the leading communities in Arizona in recovering from a global recession. Town Council and Staff and the citizens of Gilbert have been instrumental in positioning our community for recovery in the future.

 

We are ready to expand on three years of success with Heliae's algae innovation, Orbital Sciences' satellite technology, Mercy Gilbert's cardiovascular research, and Banner MD Anderson's potential for cancer cures. We are also part owner of an "economic engine" the Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport on our east border which is expanding at exponential rates. Four years ago, commercial airlines first started using the Gateway Airport. This year approximately 1.2 million passengers will use the airport. With the expansion of the East Terminal, in a few years, the airport will host 20 million passengers a year.  

 

BEST PLACE TO LIVE

 

QUESTION:  In claiming that we were better off in 2008 than today, Mayor Berman states: "In 2008, Business Week and Money Magazine ranked Gilbert as the 'Best Place to Raise a Family' and 28th 'Best Place to Live in USA.' We are no longer in the top 100." How does Mayor Lewis respond?

 

ANSWER: Distorted facts! The rankings were categorized in best places to live for small communities and were based on evaluating smaller communities. Gilbert is no longer in the top 100 because the 2010 census places the Town over 200,000 in population and we are no longer considered a small community.  In 2008, Gilbert was ranked as the 28th Best Place to live based on a 2006-07 time period. In 2010, Gilbert was ranked as the 36th Best Place to live in the USA based on 75% of a two-year period when Mayor Berman served in 2008-09.

 

Today Gilbert continues to receive national positive recognition. In 2012, Gilbert is identified as one of the fastest growing cities in the USA. Currently, we are the fastest growing city in Arizona. Based on all new single family permits (new homes, January-June 2012) issued in Maricopa and Pinal County, 1,510 of the permits were for Gilbert followed by Phoenix with 867 permits and Goodyear with 481 permits. Even though home prices are higher compared to neighboring cities, families want to live in Gilbert because Gilbert in their opinion is a "Best Place to Live." That was true in 2008 and is true today. As the largest Town in the United States, we are proud to say that we still have that small Town feel with big city amenities.

 

INFUSIONSOFT

 

QUESTION:  Mayor Berman criticized, "We are now starting to lose our tax base. One of our major employers, InfusionSoft will soon move into a building in Chandler." How does Mayor Lewis respond?

 

ANSWER:  Our tax base is solid, thus my response is "distorted facts." InfusionSoft is one of Arizona's finest software development companies.  Any city including Gilbert would want InfusionSoft in their community.  The Town worked with InfusionSoft for over a year to try and find a building large enough in Gilbert to meet future growth plans. InfusionSoft wanted to stay in Gilbert, but unfortunately we did not have a building available to meet their December 2012 deadline to move.  Since a high percentage of InfusionSoft employees live in Gilbert, through our efforts to "sell" the East Valley, the company stayed in close proximity even though other distant options were seriously considered. 

 

InfusionSoft executives expressed appreciation to Gilbert for providing a location that allowed them to thrive and grow in their start-up phase. CEO Clate Mask said, "We have the highest regard for Mayor Lewis and the Gilbert economic development team.  They were true professionals in supporting our company and helping us prepare for our future growth."

 

We will remain one of InfusionSoft's finest advocates and do our part as a Regional partner to help their continued success. As many employees continue to shop and live in Gilbert, our tax base will remain stable.

 

NEW POSITIONS NOT FOR PUBLIC SAFETY

 

QUESTION:  In reviewing FY12-13 Town hiring plans, Mayor Berman expressed concern that our Police Department is understaffed and we are hiring non-public safety personnel instead of police officers.

 

ANSWER: Gilbert continues to be known as one of the safest cities in the United States.  In analyzing our resource allocation of Town Staff, 50% are in Public Safety positions: 29% Police, 16% Fire, and Courts/Prosecutor's Office 5%. Our Police Department recently shifted their staffing decisions to a "data driven" methodology.  This flexible approach allows our Police Chief to assign resources based on community need. During the last six months, Town Leadership discussed future staffing needs and made a proposal in May to the Town Council for new positions to be been included in the FY12-13 budget.  Both our Police and Fire Chiefs emphasized the need this year for improved indirect support for public safety. They also expressed the need for economic development efforts focused on providing long-term financial revenues to support public safety.  Our Town is a "service organization" and public safety will continue to be a core service and we will remain one of the safest cities in the United States.  <See additional details in the next question.>

 

NEW STAFF NOT NEEDED

 

Question: Mayor Berman expressed concern that new positions are proposed in the FY12-13 Budget. He said that the positions are not needed with a statement that he built a better Gilbert without the type of staff that are included in the FY12-13 Budget. How does Mayor Lewis respond?

 

ANSWER:  When Mayor Berman took office in 2001, Gilbert had 768 full-time employees (FTEs). During his 8 year tenure the number grew dramatically by 458 FTEs to 1,226 FTEs, a 63% increase. I hope that Mayor Berman remembers to thank the additional 458 staff members who deserve appreciation for their contributions in building Gilbert. He did not do it alone. To address budgetary needs and with improved efficiencies, from 2009 to 2012, the FTE count under Mayor's Lewis tenure decreased by 39 FTEs, a 3% decrease, from 1,226 to 1,187 FTEs.

 

In August 2011, WE hired our new Town Manager, Patrick Banger. As expected Patrick took the first six months as our Town Executive to complete his assessment of our strengths and weaknesses. During the last six months, he has reorganized many departments and consolidated various assignments. Ten positions were eliminated in the last six months saving the Town $1,010,000.  Replacement positions (also termed "new" positions) have been prioritized based on our "Service Organization" emphasis keeping Public Safety as core service. Even with replacement/new positions identified in the FY12-13 Budget, there is a net decrease to the Town Budget personnel cost compared to last year and the total FTE count is less than when Mayor Berman left office in June 2009.

In the Greater Phoenix area, Gilbert is known as the most efficient government with 5.7 employees per 1,000 residents. Other cities range from 8-12 employees per 1,000 residents.  WE will continue to remain lean but well positioned for the future.

 

"FAIR" TAX ASSESSMENT

QUESTION:  Mayor Berman made this allegation:  "A tax bill was reduced from $924,897 to $212,470 because the tax payer 'had no assets from which to pay the assessment.' That tax payer did have the assets to donate 15 acres of land for the new LDS temple." How does Mayor Lewis respond?


ANSWER: Ownership of the property changed and so did the tax liability. Independent of the Council, Town Staff worked with tax attorneys/specialists to determine a fair tax assessment.  In a Town Council Executive Session, lawyers representing Gilbert taxpayers presented their findings of what they believed to be a "fair assessment."  In the following Town Council meeting, the Council approved the assessment.  Without any intervention or involvement from the Council, Town Staff and the new owner worked together to reach an agreement.  Town Staff addressed the issue and acted professionally resolving the situation. Allegations meant to defame or discredit individuals, businesses, or faith groups do not contribute to building our community.  

Regarding the donation of land for a church building, many churches in Gilbert are on land donated by citizens. In a recent AZ Republic article the reporter noted that in 1946, Gilbert's first mayor, Everett Wilbur, donated land for the First United Methodist Church of Gilbert. And in the early 1990s, the Morrison family gifted 5 acres on Cooper Road for the church's current home. These donors are a "bright light" in our community.

 "SECRET" SURCHARGE ON UTILITY BILL

 

QUESTION:  Mayor Berman made this allegation:  "Last year the Mayor and one of the Councilmembers instituted a two dollar per month surcharge on everyone's water bill, to fund the Neighbor2Neighbor Program.  This was done without public or council input." How does Mayor Lewis respond?

 

ANSWER:  Not true, misleading, and unfortunate that former Mayor Berman continues to try and attack someone's integrity. Gilbert residents have an opportunity to "opt-in" (meaning they voluntarily participate) to a fund for Gilbert non-profit organizations established by the Town Utility Department called "Neighbor2Neighbor." In several public Council Subcommittee meetings, discussion occurred about how to market the program to Gilbert residents. Some communities use an "opt-out" approach which means that citizens automatically contribute to their local non-profits and they need to make a request if they choose not to participate. "Opt-in" and "Opt-out" and "marketing" were all topics discussed in the public subcommittee meetings.  To provide feedback on the preference of Gilbert residents, a pilot program of approximately 50 residents was conducted. The Utility Department called the 50 residents to ask their opinion about the "Neighbor2Neighbor" program.  All discussions about the Pilot Program were held in public meetings. No formal recommendations were ever presented to the full Council.  It is completely false that a "two dollar per month surcharge was placed on everyone's water bill."


Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

 

WHY ARE YOU RUNNING FOR MAYOR? WHAT IS THE MOST IMPORTANT THING GILBERT'S MAYOR DOES, AND HOW ARE YOU BEST QUALIFIED TO DO IT?

 

In 2008, I asked business leaders throughout the valley what they thought of Gilbert from a business perspective and they said, "Gilbert is not even on our radar. Gilbert is a bedroom community and not a business community."  This feedback motivated me to run for Mayor to change that perception and to build our business community.  In 2012, the most important assignment of our Mayor is to continue the "business building" process. Thriving businesses in Gilbert will provide sustainability to support our Town priorities of public safety and public works. To continue "business building," my approach over the next four years will be to leverage my economic development experience and business background with a hands-on approach, to enhance regional cooperation, and to engage our local business community to serve as Town of Gilbert Ambassadors.

 

WHAT DO YOU CONSIDER AS YOUR MOST IMPORTANT ACCOMPLISHMENT AS MAYOR?  

 

In comparing the perception of Gilbert from 2008 to 2012, OUR greatest accomplishment is that when business leaders outside of our community are asked what they think of Gilbert from a business perspective they respond, "Gilbert is everywhere and Gilbert seems to be involved in everything." I emphasize the word "OUR" because this did not happen just because of the Mayor. Our greatest accomplishment is a work-in-progress and it is happening because of dedicated Town Council members, Town Leadership/Staff, and Business/Community Leaders. It was a tremendous compliment to OUR community that in Apple's comparison of Austin versus Phoenix for their new North American headquarters that Gilbert was one of the top three sites considered in the Greater Phoenix area. Now as Arizona's seventh largest city, we are in the big leagues!

 

TELL US ABOUT YOUR 2012 PRIORITIES WITH THE TOWN COUNCIL. 

 

My priorities with the Town Council have been on economic development and Gilbert jobs.  I have had the privilege to represent Gilbert in promoting those priorities with Regional assignments as Chair of the Gateway Airport Authority Board and as a member of the Greater Phoenix Economic Council and Maricopa Association of Government Economic Development Committee. All Gilbert residents and businesses benefit when the Town of Gilbert is part of the decision-making process for key transportation projects and economic development initiatives. Through efforts of our Town Leaders and residents, Gilbert is known as a "key player" in Arizona economic development activity. Since a few years ago we were not, that is a great accomplishment!  

 

VISION FOR THE TOWN: BUILDING A "BUSINESS COMMUNITY"

 

Currently, 220,000 citizens live in Gilbert. We are the 99th largest city in the United States. At build-out we estimate that 330,000 citizens will live in our community and we may be the 53rd largest city in the country. While two-thirds of Gilbert land has been used for residential areas for families and individuals to build homes, only 1/3 of the land designated for businesses has been used. We are a "bedroom community" that needs to become a "bedroom/business community."

 

With continued emphasis on "business building" we will accomplish that vision. In the coming years, larger buildings along the 202 will be built for new businesses to join our community. Many of the businesses will be in buildings that are many floors in height. In other words, we will begin to grow vertically. For larger businesses to be attracted to Gilbert, we will need to keep economic development as a strategic initiative, preserve our community engagement in education (one of great selling assets) and maintain our clean, safe, vibrant image. The larger businesses will support our smaller businesses and provide financial sustainability to the future of our Town.

 

WHAT DOES REGIONALISM MEAN TO YOU? HOW CLOSELY DO YOU WORK WITH OTHER MAYORS?

 

In conducting a 2009 assessment of our relationships with our regional partners, Gilbert did not receive high marks. During the last three years, "relationship building" has been strategically emphasized by the Town Council.  Our efforts have been noticed. Many have commented in newspapers, in meetings, on blogs, and in personal discussions that the East Valley has never had such strong regional emphasis and cooperation.

 

Over the last three years, to strengthen relationships, the Town Council has held joint meetings with regional partners. We have identified projects and areas of emphasis to work on together. We have developed a spirit of trust and appreciation for the assets and resources of our neighboring communities. We have become advocates not just for Gilbert, but for the entire region. When a community/organization has made an announcement of significance, we have attended their celebrations. 

 

In the past three years, economic development partnering became a priority. We joined neighboring communities to highlight our assets and sell the East Valley as a whole.  Gateway Airport is an example of an "economic engine" that is fueled by regional cooperation.  Banner MD Anderson in Gilbert is an asset that is assisting East Valley cities in attracting medical research and development companies. In Chandler, Intel is helping to attract engineers and highly skilled workers. From Mesa, AZ Labs is helping keep our aerospace and defense national presence known.

In the future, we will keep "regional collaboration" as a Gilbert priority. The return on investment is extremely attractive and a "win for all." I have a strong relationship with all of the Mayors in the East Valley and these relationships will continue to strengthen.

ASSESS THE TOWN'S PROGRESS ON ITS FIVE STRATEGIC INITIATIVES.

 

The Town had been without a strategic plan for over ten years. In 2010, with extensive community involvement, the Town Council/Leadership created a Strategic Plan with an emphasis on the following five initiatives: 1) Community Livability, 2) Be a Technology Leader, 3) Rolling Five-Year Balanced Financial Plan, 4) Proactively Address Infrastructure Needs, 5) Economic Development with Primary Emphasis on Bio-Med/Life Sciences.

 

The emphasis on the strategic initiatives has provided tremendous benefits. As with any organization that has common goals that are clearly communicated, all involved are better able to align and assist in the fulfillment of the goals. That is happening in the Town of Gilbert. Specific short and long-terms goals have been identified to support the initiatives that will allow us to validate results in the future. My recommendation is to continue. Progress is being made and flexibility is built into the process to make modifications as necessary. 

 

WHAT DO YOU THINK OF GILBERT'S FIVE-YEAR ECONOMIC STRATEGIC PLAN, WHICH EMPHASIZES GROWTH IN THE BIOMEDICAL INDUSTRY?   

 

In June 2011, I attended the International BIO Conference with our Arizona delegation. At this conference, I was able to assess, first-hand, our progress in the "bio" industry. While there are a few states and regions that have significant biomedical assets that surpass Arizona, as a State, we have made considerable progress in the last ten years. For Gilbert, businesses are interested in leveraging and associating with the Banner MD Anderson Cancer Center and cardiovascular research occurring at Dignity Health/Mercy Gilbert Medical Center. The Celebration Stem Cell Centre is attracting international interest and with the growth of Heliae, a life science company, some have said that we have shifted from being the "hay capital of the world" to being the "algae capital of the world." With our educated Gilbert workforce with science and technology experience, we are positioned well to be a leader in this industry. In providing an assessment of our potential, during a visit to Gilbert in March, the CEO/President of MD Anderson said that "the world is counting on us." And what he meant is that in our area, we have a community of small and large businesses, schools, and families that will help support research occurring in Gilbert to defeat cancer. His message of inspiration is not to be forgotten, "the world is counting on us."  

 

WHAT DO YOU THINK OF GILBERT'S 2012 ZERO-BASED BUDGET APPROACH? 

 

This year, the Town engaged in a new approach to our budgeting.  Instead of taking last year's budget and adjusting those numbers, our staff started from scratch.  Departments started with zero-based budgets, projected what was needed to ensure we maintained and/or enhanced our services to residents, then worked with Town management to analyze each department's budget requests.  The end result was a more transparent, open budget process where we eliminated the status quo and focused on ensuring that each dollar was used wisely and efficiently.  Gilbert is known to have one of the most efficient municipal governments with the lowest tax burdens for citizens in the State.  Our zero-based budget approach will help maintain our positive reputation. From a strategic and policy level, we have an excellent budget plan for FY12-13 with flexibility to adapt to changes that we may face in the next 12 months.

 

DO YOU SUPPORT THE COUNCIL'S EFFORT TO GRADUALLY DECREASE NON-PROFIT FUNDING TO ZERO?

 

I support the Council's efforts to shift funding for our local non-profits from the General Fund to other sources outside of the Town budget. I also support efforts to create a Gilbert Foundation which will serve as our community organization to help find funding sources for our non-profits in the future. The many services that range from supporting homeless families in need, shelter upgrades, and senior citizens without food are services that need our continued community sponsorship. With the leadership of those who will be part of the Gilbert Foundation and citizen support, I believe that our non-profits will continue their operations without interruption and without needing Town funds. 

 

 

WHAT CAN THE TOWN DO NOW TO GET AHEAD OF THE GROWTH CURVE?

 

Planning is our answer to getting ahead of the growth curve. In addition to the Strategic Plan created in 2010, we are taking time to plan for the future with a Parks Master Plan and other plans identified in our May 2011 voter-approved General Plan. For example, future road construction, transportation, and water needs are being assessed and evaluated as part of our current planning. Infrastructure building for new homes and businesses is occurring with available funds. For larger projects with significant financial requirements, we are planning appropriate start dates in the future to coincide with available funding sources.

 

 

HOW EFFECTIVE HAVE TOWN EFFORTS BEEN TO IMPROVE COMMUNICATION?

An emphasis of the Town Council over the last three years has been to improve communication between citizens and the Town of Gilbert. Based upon feedback from citizens, I believe that improvement has been made, but there is more that can be done. Open council meetings, sometimes in varying community locations, published phone numbers, cable TV programming, internet and social media, have increased our ability to communicate.  Our Town Manager created a new position that has been recently filled called "Chief Digital Officer." In listening to the vision of our Chief Digital Officer, it is evident that new ideas and technology along with a strong emphasis on community relations will position us well for community communication advancements.

ARE YOU SATISFIED WITH THE DEVELOPMENT IN THE HERITAGE DISTRICT (DOWNTOWN GILBERT)

 

We are always eager to celebrate the success of our starting point in Gilbert—our downtown area, the Heritage District. The Heritage District continues to expand and add "vibrancy" to Gilbert with new restaurants and established ones, retail stores/small businesses, art offerings, and theatre. At appropriate times, the Town acquired property, built a transportation hub, saved the Gilbert water tower, and supported senior housing, the Boys and Girls Club and the Senior Center.  From a long-term perspective, to support the Heritage District we need to be patient and move with the marketplace and not do things faster than necessary.  Land is available and plans have been put in place that will allow employment, nightlife and community infrastructure to work well together.  We will continue to work with enterprising entrepreneurs in evaluating creative ideas.  

 

 

Paid for by John Lewis for Mayor 2012