Surprise City Council Appointment Speech, 2017

This Speech to the Surprise City Council  was for the District 3 Appointment Process, and was given in person during a work session on September 5, 2017. A video of this speech can be watched at from 15:15 onward. I still stand behind what I said at that time, and it was interesting that shortly after this speech, my symbol of neglect in Prasada, the “coming soon” billboard, was removed.

Mayor Wolcott and Councilmembers Tande, Hall, Hayden, Remley, and Winters:

My name is Randal Kidd. I currently work at Arizona Schools for the Deaf and Blind at the Phoenix Day School for the Deaf Campus. I work daily with students in the high school level as a Transitional Specialist, evaluating their skills through assessments and one-on-one interviews to identify the best fit of a career for those students. Prior to that, I was a small business owner based out of Arizona and New York. I graduated from Rochester Institute of Technology in New York with an Associate in Informational Computing Studies; and will graduate from Arizona State University this May with a bachelor of sciences in Urban Planning. I currently possess 3.9 cumulative GPA from ASU, and I intend to graduate with honors. I am also an “alumni” of the City Academy provided by the Human Service and Community Vitality Department, and it was an experience that gave me more confirmation that the career choice I made was what I should have started with in the past.

I moved to Arizona about 8 years ago; I lived previously in Tempe then Sierra Montana in Surprise. Last year, I became a house owner for the first time when I purchased a house in Greer Ranch. In those 8 years I lived in Surprise, I have seen a lot of changes and potential. I have seen a lot of struggles within the city—the budget comes to mind, especially in the 2010s. I am a proud resident of Surprise, and I intend to give back to Surprise if I am appointed in Mr. Williams’ place.

Now, we need to discuss qualifications. What can I provide as a resident of Surprise? I have customer service experience – both actual and implied. I worked in a call center in the late 2000s, handling videophone calls and interacting with different socioeconomic levels and cultures on a daily basis. I also worked with high school- and I can tell you that it gave that call center job a run in terms of daily “discussions” and “disagreements”. That gives me the capability of hearing issues brought up by Surprise residents and how to pinpoint the best avenues for a solution. While at those jobs, I prided myself in professionalism in many circumstances, with a focus on giving back to my community. I have been involved with several non-profit deaf organizations – as a Public Relations Director for East Valley Association for the Deaf; and also as an Vice President to the now-inactive Deaf Community of Surprise. I also volunteer my time at my work, being the Academic Bowl coach and attending regional and national tournaments.

Another qualification is my education field. Yes, I do not possess the degree in hand, but I have learned a lot about planning for the future, to plan a city that works on all levels, and how to ensure the public is participating in the planning process. That kind of input on a City Council is invaluable, as I can see what and where the Planning and Zoning Commission is coming from; and to suggest ways to revive some of the lagging developments in Surprise. It is my belief that my upcoming degree as an Urban Planning goes as far as any political science degrees because this is not about politics per se, but to work together and plan correctly for a better Surprise. With the most up-to-date information that I am receiving AND sharing with the council through my education, Surprise can then benefit from our collaboration.

Now, with my qualifications, what do I think we can do in Surprise? I know that the appointed position will only last until December 31, 2018, so I do not plan on setting lofty goals. But there are goals we as a city needs to set for the long term. Specifically in terms of District 3, I believe that we need to roll our sleeves and assess what the future holds for those vacant lots that sprinkle throughout the district. I am of the belief that it costs the city more in the long run if we keep zoning and allowing private developers to build out their housing in far-reaching places (Zanjero Trails in District 3 is miles away from any type of retail and commercial zones; the same can be said for Asante, Desert Oasis, Rancho Mercado, and other developments currently in the pipeline). We need to focus on infilling empty square miles by virtue of economic stimulation, incentives, and the like. An example of infill development that we need to get going is the Prasada development. At almost 4 square miles, Prasada was made the most important engine of District 3, yet I have been seeing the same wilted Prasada sign on the corner of Cactus and Sarvial since I moved here. We need to get together with the developers and ask them what we can do, considering that they have put us on a lower priority list than the Estrella Falls development in Goodyear, and nothing has come out of those developments aside from the Auto Show area in Surprise.

We also need to focus on setting up better road conditions throughout the district, especially along Cactus from the 303 to Perryville due to Shadow Ridge High School; and those ½ mile long roads connecting the rest of the city to 303. These roads are essential to development because those roads are the first thing people will see if they come up on 303. I know that the bonds are coming up this November to hopefully fix those issues, but we should have not come down to getting those bonds to fix the roads.

This comes to the next issue I have goals on improving in Surprise: the expansion of commercial and industrial opportunities. Those roads I mentioned are not built out due to the surrounding unbuilt parcels along the roads. What we can do as a council would be to help and expand the Economic Development department within the City and encourage more short-term incentives to promote more head-of-household types of jobs. If I recall correctly, more than 75%, maybe 85% of Surprise residents commute outside the city because there is a very distinct shortage of those jobs. By attracting more companies to the city, we will be able to re-start the economic engine and let Surprise reach its biggest potential.

One thing that I have noticed and will commit to improve if I am appointed is the tendency of the City in putting its eggs in a proverbial single basket. This is not a criticism of the current council; most of the decisions were made in the past. Examples includes approving 4 square miles of land to a private developer in hopes of expanding Surprise’s reputation, but to see that we were placed below Goodyear in importance, and then the Recession did not help. We also allowed a private developer to create a Downtown for us, yet I also hear of litigation, settlements, and now disagreements on how Downtown Surprise should be built. We also tried to package a big basket of needs into a single bond, and to see it fail. In my mind, those can be avoided if we did not go “big”. That is a lesson that we all need to learn from.

The final goal I would establish is to start the framework for a public transit system within Surprise. We, as Maricopa County residents, pay Valley Metro for the bus transit system, yet we only have an Express Route serving Downtown Phoenix few times a day that provides very minimal benefits to the average Surprise resident. There are several routes that would have served us well if they were extended westward to Surprise, yet they remain where they are. My vision would be to request Valley Metro to provide more daily service along Bell and Thunderbird to the current Park and Ride in Old Town Surprise, and have a smaller bus system designed after Glendale’s “GUS” or Tempe’s Orbit Services to serve the rest of the city and to provide evidence to Valley Metro that there is economic benefit from serving the 10th largest city in Arizona (as of 2010).

If you ask about what I would believe in the terms of the budget, there are some adjustments that I would make for the 2019 budget. I would like to incorporate a semi-balanced budget in the sense that we also require a surplus to be built in to allow us a rainy day fund in the future, rather than balancing it out and hoping that transfer-outs and surpluses from projects would save our necks in the future. We also need to expand the funding to the economic development department because they are going to do the dirty work of attracting businesses (and also tax revenues) to Surprise.

Mayor Wolcott, Councilman Tande, Hall, Hayden, Remley, and Winters, I thank you for the opportunity to hear me out. I hope that I meet or exceed your expectations, and I hope you all consider me for the appointment to the council seat. Thank you.