More Park Rangers, Library Security In Phoenix Trial Budget

By Christina Estes
Published: Monday, April 15, 2019 - 7:30am
Updated: Monday, April 15, 2019 - 9:33am

south mountain park
Christina Estes/KJZZ
Hikers visit South Mountain Park in Phoenix.

Phoenix is hosting its 14th community budget hearing Monday night, with five more to come this month. The meetings are a chance for residents to learn how the city collects and spends $4.42 billion a year.

The city manager has released what’s called a "trial budget." It includes a $55 million surplus with recommendations to use 70 percent on staff compensation and pensions and 30 percent to restore, expand or add services.

The proposal to add eight rangers to patrol urban parks between 4 a.m. and 11 p.m. is good news to Jeff Spellman who works with two neighborhood groups: Violence Impact Project Coalition and Take Action Phoenix.

“Some of our parks have gotten so bad that, you know, the average people with their kids won’t go in there,” he said.

While some people may be uncomfortable seeing others who are experiencing homelessness in a city park, Spellman says that is not the issue.

“People have a right to hang out in a park, that’s the inherent nature of what a park is, it’s designed for people to hang out,” he said. “It’s about the criminal behaviors that are going on. And when you talk to the park rangers about what kind of things do you see when you go up and talk to a person about are you experiencing homelessness, is there something we can do to help you? It’s interesting what they tell us — how many times they take their blanket off and underneath that blanket they’re either smoking meth or shooting up heroin.”

A pilot project implemented last year to clean up homeless encampments could become permanent. The city manager’s budget calls for nearly a million dollars to permanently cover a solid waste and street clean up team to respond to encampments.

“Once somebody comes in, deals with the encampment we need it to get cleaned up quickly,” Spellman said. “Because if it doesn’t get cleaned up quickly, one, it still just continues to be an impact on the neighborhoods and it looks like, again, like nobody cares.”

The trial budget also includes seven security guards for libraries, two caseworkers to help older people experiencing homelessness, and more staffing to support the legal defense for vulnerable populations, including veterans and individuals with mental illness.

Burton Barr Central Library i
Claire Caulfield/KJZZ
KJZZ held a mayoral forum at Burton Barr Central Library in Phoenix on Feb. 12, 2019.

Other recommendations for general fund spending:

  • Restore Library Hours - $421,000. Add Sunday hours of operations at four branch libraries.
  • Expand Recreation and Teen Programming — $817,000. Fund weekly recreation and cultural activities at five parks, and add staff and equipment to support weekly recreation and cultural activities for teens at ten sites across the city.
  • Complete Firehouse Staffing —$1,100,000. Add funding for eight new positions to complete 24 hour staffing at Fire Station 55 in north Phoenix.
  • New Rescue Unit - $878,000. Add funding to create a new rescue (ambulance) unit for southwest Phoenix.
  • Implement Traumatic Incident Recommendations — $750,000. Add six caseworker positions and a vehicle to create an additional crisis response unit in the Fire Department. Also add funding for community response, translation services, and de-escalation training in the Police Department.
  • Improve Crime Scene Investigation Response Times — $501,000. Add seven positions to the Lab Services Bureau to support crime scene response requests and eliminate backlogs.
  • Increase Street Landscaping — $1,358,000. Add funding to increase frequency of street landscaping maintenance from three to four times per year. Also provide maintenance for new landscaping along the Grand Canal.
  • Increase Staff and Funding for Facility Improvements — $1,336,000. Add 23.5 positions, 17 vehicles, and related equipment to ensure city buildings are properly maintained and improved.

You can use an online form to submit comments about the budget or attend the remaining community hearings.

  • Monday, April 15, 2019, 6:00 p.m., District 8 Neighborhood Resource Center Large Conference Room, 2405 E. Broadway Road.
  • Tuesday, April 16, 2019, 6:00 p.m., Districts 1/2 Goelet A. C. Beuf Community Center Multipurpose Room, 3435 W. Pinnacle Peak Road.
  • Tuesday, April 16, 2019, 6:00 p.m., Citywide Youth Metro Tech High School Banquet Hall, 1900 W. Thomas Road.
  • Thursday, April 18, 2019, 8:00 a.m., District 3 Shadow Mountain Senior Center, 3546 E. Sweetwater Ave.
  • Thursday, April 18, 2019, 6:00 p.m., Districts 4/7 Encanto Park Clubhouse Ballroom, 2605 N. 15th Ave.
  • Thursday, April 18, 2019, 6:00 p.m., District 8 Matthew Henson HOPE VI,,1150 S. 7th Ave.

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