Giles: priorities include anti-discrimination law The Mesa Tribune | The Hometown Newspaper for the city of Mesa, AZ

Giles: priorities include anti-discrimination law

January 20th, 2021 Mesa Tribune Staff
Giles: priorities include anti-discrimination law

By Jim Walsh
Tribune Staff Writer

Mesa Mayor John Giles plans to revive a long-delayed effort to pass an anti-discrimination ordinance, saying he wants everyone to know that his city is a welcoming and inclusive community.

With Martin Luther King Day tomorrow, Jan. 18, and a rioter invading Congress for the first time with a confederate flag, Giles listed the anti-discrimination ordinance as one of his goals for this year as he begins his final four-year term as mayor.

“We all take great pride in our city being a diverse, inclusive and compassionate community,’’ Giles said. “I want us to be known as a welcoming city that respects the rights of all residents, visitors and businesses.”

The other priorities listed by Giles include the creation of a Mesa Education Commission to boost post-high school education, expanding internet connectivity among Mesa households and reducing the city’s carbon footprint – partly through a revived recycling program.

“These are not luxuries. These are necessities,’’ Giles said. “No longer can Mesa be known as a tale of two cities. It’s critical we do not leave people and neighborhoods behind as we become a more prosperous and better educated community.’’

Giles immediately was applauded
by those who have been working in
Mesa for an anti-discrimination ordinance for years.

Former council members Dennis Kavanaugh and Pat Gilbert estimated the effort dates back about seven years, when the city’s Human Relations Commission voted to recommend that Council enact an ordinance.

“Finally,’’ Kavanaugh and Gilbert both said independently, when informed about Giles’ comments.

“I think it’s a very positive move,’’ Kavanaugh said. “It’s unfinished business.’’

Kavanaugh, a member of Visit Mesa’s board of directors, said that lack of a non-discrimination ordinance puts Mesa at a disadvantage when competing against other cities in hopes of attracting companies that are a source of good-paying jobs.

“It’s much more than symbolic. It’s really important in terms of housing, employment and the marketplace,’’ he said.

Kavanaugh said he knows that Giles has supported such an ordinance for years.

He speculated that Giles may feel “liberated’’ by his last term in office to introduce an ordinance without fear of alienating some voters while running for office or creating a backlash to a bond issue election.

Last year, Giles easily won reelection and a $100 million bond issue for highway improvements cruised to victory.

Gilbert said it’s important for Mesa to use every opportunity possible to show it supports civil rights.

“I think it’s exciting to hear from the mayor. It’s the kind of leadership he is capable of,’’ Gilbert said.

Angela Hughey, co-founder and president of One Community, which advocates for diversity, civil rights and the LGBTQ community, said talented young workers place a high value on living in communities that respect civil rights and treat people equally.

“We’re just like everyone else. We want to be in a city and state that is welcoming,’’ Hughey, also a member of the Visit Mesa board, said. “It’s important to note that non-discrimination ordinances are about equal treatment, not special treatment.’’

Giles said he believes the timing is right for the ordinance because many issues surrounding it have already been litigated.

He believes the issue is less controversial than it was during his first term as mayor, when he replaced Alex Finter in 2014.

“I always had the intent to bring it back and let it mature a bit,’’ Giles said. “I am hoping that in 2021, it’s a less controversial issue.’’

He said there are strong social justice and business arguments for enacting a civil-rights ordinance, which would be applauded by companies considering Mesa, and business groups such as the Chamber of Commerce and Visit Mesa.

“I think we can protect religious freedom, while acknowledging the obvious truth that everyone is entitled to their civil rights,’’ Giles said.

He said his support for the ordinance pre-dated the riot at the Capitol and is not linked specifically to King Day, but those are two good additional reasons to support it.

Council plans to discuss the ordinance and the other priorities listed by Giles at its annual retreat in February or March, he said.

John Goodie, a retired Mesa park ranger who worked tirelessly to establish Mesa’s Martin Luther King Day celebration, praised Giles for his timing in seeking an anti-discrimination ordinance.

“I’ve always thought of Mayor Giles as a fair man. He’s always had the right heart and the right mindset,’’ Goodie said. “I can’t think of a better time for Mesa and the country to be inclusive.’’

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