The Tempe Chamber of Commerce hosted the 25th State of the City Dec. 8, with Mayor Corey Woods delivering an address covering the city’s accomplishments during the past year and its priorities for the coming year.
Held annually, the State of the City welcomes prominent community leaders and businesses to learn more about the city’s progress in its goals in areas like affordable housing, new developments and improving public safety.
Hosted at the Omni Tempe Hotel at Arizona State University, the event garnered almost 700 attendees, including a number of local and state officials including Tempe City Council members, Chandler Mayor Kevin Hartke and Rep. Greg Stanton, D-Ariz.
Introducing the mayor and opening the main event, Tempe Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Colin Diaz welcomed attendees and recognized event sponsors, also making a point to thank the city for its program contributions.
“This partnership is extremely important to us and allows us to continue to build on the promise and commitment we have to make Tempe a great place to live as a new business,” Diaz said.
He also noted as the year comes to a close, the chamber has launched its Tempe Workforce Skills Accelerator with Rio Salado College, a program that contributes to the city’s 2030 goal of increasing educational attainment for residents age 25 or older.
State of the City Address
As part of the event, Woods delivered his fourth State of the City Address where he discussed ways in which the city has invested into the community during the past year and areas of Tempe it plans to tackle next.
Woods is running unopposed in the mayoral election in March after taking office in 2020 in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Our city, and me too, have also come a long way, but I’m especially proud of how we as a community handled an unprecedented public health emergency,” Woods said.
Comparing Tempe’s revenue from 2019 to 2023, the mayor commended the city for its continued successes in fields like restaurants, retail, construction and more, rivaling the successes recorded pre-pandemic.
In his address, Woods covered many ways in which the city thrived during the past year, noting that this sentiment is backed by residents and local business surveys that recorded high satisfaction with the city’s work.
According to Woods, the 2023 survey reported that eight out of 10 Tempe residents were satisfied with city services — 32% higher than the national average.
Achievements in city services included a 30% reduction in citywide homelessness, success with the 24/7 CARE and HOPE crisis number, the recently launched Tempe Park Rangers program, more support for schools and students, securing permanent funding for Tempe PRE among many others.
That’s not to say that all the city’s decisions were well received and supported by Tempe residents, especially with this year’s special election in March that sent the proposed Tempe Entertainment District project to voters.
After weeks of Tempe residents both showing support and distaste for the development project, the Tempe Entertainment District was rejected by Tempe residents because of concerns for the surrounding community.
The mayor addressed this in his speech, noting that Tempe voters are the city officials’ “ultimate bosses” and he will always accept the will of voters.
“I headed back to work the next morning motivated, determined and ready to fight for that next idea that could better our city for decades to come,” Woods said.
Other accomplishments for 2023 included the Downtown Tempe Refresh, historical preservation efforts at the Hayden Flour Mill and the rejuvenation of Danelle Plaza, with much more to come in 2024.
2024 at a glance
Looking ahead, work will continue on projects like the Downtown Tempe Refresh but will also continue with a new set of priorities.
Starting in February, Woods said that the city is redebuting its Real Time Operations Center to improve its emergency response capabilities, which will balance a “healthy respect” for privacy while integrating GPS data, video feeds, 911 calls and radio traffic across Tempe.
On March 12, voters will consider another major city initiative, General Plan 2050, which updates the previous plan to solidify the city’s vision for the future.
“It embraces the high quality of life we demand and emphasizes growing sustainably, respecting diversity and equity and ensuring our city’s financial stability for the next generation,” he said.
Council and a number of other city departments developed the final 2050 plan over two years of preparation, public input, focus groups and council meetings.
Later in the year there will also be a $180 million bond measure for Tempe voters to decide on in the November election that will be used to remediate every street in the city over the next four years.
“Now, unlike me, that’s a tall order,” Mayor Woods joked.
In total, Tempe has more than 1,300 lane miles and over 530 centerline miles in its street network. And while repaving a four-lane road costs more than $1 million a mile, the city is committed to accomplishing this feat.
Continuing to support affordable housing and historic sites, the city is also beginning to consider additional bond measures to dedicate more funds to those areas.
Tempe’s biggest crisis in its path, according to the mayor, will be the state’s repeal of the tax levy on rental housing.
As he explained, this action will cost the city more than $200 million each year starting in 2025, but staff are already looking at ways to balance the city’s budget to make tax dollars go farther while maintaining the quality of city services.
“We have built a strong city, and we’re going to make it even stronger. We will, all of us, continue to be of service and continue to be of use,” Woods said.