Mesa Mayor Scott Smith: Mayors set good example for all levels of government

Scott Smith, the mayor of Mesa, Ariz., in a piece for the Ripon Forum, spoke about the challenges his city faced during the recession and how they were overcome.

In recent years, Mesa has struggled with large budget deficits and unprecedented shortfalls in city revenue.

“We faced this crisis using a measured, common sense approach that completely changed the way we do business in Mesa,” Smith said. “In doing so, we created a leaner, smarter city; but at the same time we also sought out new opportunities upon which we could build a brighter future.”

Mesa implemented the largest city government reorganization in its history in 2009. The reorganization allowed the city to cut its budget by approximately 20 percent.

Smith said, in addition to the reorganization, the key to bringing Mesa out of the recession was finding ways to invest in its future while dealing with current problems.

During the recession, Smith said Mesa attracted five legacy private liberal arts universities to establish campuses in its downtown. In addition, construction on a three-mile long light rail through its downtown also commenced during the recession.

Other investments made throughout recent years include establishing a commercial airline service at Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport and building five new fire stations, two new police stations and investing at least $150 million in street and road improvements.

“These public investments have attracted millions in new private investment, which forms the foundation for long-term economic growth and improves the quality of life in our community,” Smith said.

Mesa, the 38th largest city in the United States, is known as “the biggest city you’ve never heard of,” according to Smith, who said it, among other cities that have pulled out of the recession, should serve as an example to all levels of government.

“Mayors discovered that by following common sense, conservative fiscal management practices, city government can provide quality services to residents without breaking the bank,” Smith said. “They recognize that issues could not be ignored or kicked down the road. Regardless of how bad the situation was, potholes had to be filled, trash had to be collected and fire fighters had to respond to a 911 call.”

Smith said he is confident that cities will continue to lead the way in building a better nation.