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Stanton talks education, what keeps him up at night as resignation nears

(Flickr/Gage Skidmore)

PHOENIX — With his Tuesday resignation inching closer and closer, Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton talked about what he’s most proud of and what has kept him up at night the most during his time in office on Thursday.

Talking with KTAR News 92.3 FM’s Mac and Gaydos, Stanton spoke on economic progress, education and the state’s current drought in one of his final interviews as the Phoenix mayor.

“It’s not the sexiest issue, but it’s a real issue, we’re in a drought,” Stanton said of his late night woes. “14 years we’ve been in a drought and so if we don’t do better on the issue on water conservation, on water planning, working together — not competing with each other, but across the state working together — the urban interests like Phoenix working together with the rural interests in the farming industry.

“That is one issue that could effect the long-term economic strength.”

Looking at what has made him the proudest during his time in office, Stanton pinpointed one area.

“Phoenix has had incredible progress during the 6.5 years that I’ve been mayor, economic progress. I mean we are killing it, look at where the jobs are going. The highway jobs, higher education and our partnership with Arizona State University, investment in the biosciences, innovation. We’ve opened up those trade offices in New Mexico so our export economy is doing great.

“We’re one of the hot cities in America economically and I’m really really proud of the fact that we moved from a real estate-based economy to an innovation- and export-based economy. It’s happened in a pretty quick period of time here and it’s something we set out to do and we are doing it.”

But as much as he is pleased with the economic growth the city has seen, he feels more could still be done in terms of education.

“When I deal with economic development — and I do that every single day — we got a lot of great advantages here locally. People love the lifestyle and the climate here,” Stanton said. “We’ve got a great workforce here, a large workforce, but the perception that we don’t support education to the level that we need to certainly is used by our competitors against us, so we’ve got to step up to the plate and do even more on that issue.

“I would say, we’re heading in the right direction, but there’s more that we’re going to have to do. This has to be a long-term effort, we cannot continue to be near the very bottom in education finance and expect the very best jobs and employers to want to come to this community so I think we are heading in the right direction, but we have a lot of catching up still to do.”

The school bill, which will help fund 10 percent raises for educators next year, will also make the first payment toward restoring nearly $400 million slashed from school building and maintenance budgets after the Great Recession.

“We’re way behind where we were before the Recession and even then, we weren’t exactly at the top of the list,” Stanton said. “And it’s not just about resources. There’s a lot more to it than that but certainly you can’t discount the fact we’re not doing as much as we should be to support our teachers, to support our parents, to support our kids and all the support personnel as well.”

Stanton will step down at noon on May 29.

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