2022 brought many changes to Chandler - SanTan Sun News SanTan Sun News

2022 brought many changes to Chandler

December 24th, 2022 SanTan Sun News
2022 brought many changes to Chandler

By Ken Sain
Managing Editor

When 2022 dawned, the fate of a non-discrimination ordinance looked bleak and chickens were not allowed in most backyards in Chandler.

As the year ends, that picture has changed, along with the makeup of the Chandler Unified Governing Board and City Council and both city delegations to the Arizona Legislature.

Here’s a look back at some of Chandler’ big news stories from 2022.

Backyard chickens

City Council approved allowing most residential neighborhoods to have up to five hens in their backyards. That goes into effect, maybe, the first week of January.

However, a group of citizens has said they will collect signatures to force a referendum in a bid to overturn the Council’s decision. If that fails, they are hoping two new council members who will be sworn in on Jan. 12 will change the math and Council might revisit its decision.

Most homeowners associations ban wildlife from backyards, so the decision mostly impacts older neighborhoods. Chandler was one of a few Valley cities to ban chickens from residential homes.

It had been a long fight to overturn that. It started in 2013 where it fell one vote short at a Council meeting. Outgoing Council member Rene Lopez made it a priority to get a change to allow backyard chickens before he left office.

Non-discrimination ordinance

Supporters of a non-discrimination ordinance were not hopeful when 2022 began. Council had mostly delayed, proposing studies and offering non-binding proclamations in the face of being the largest city in Arizona to not have a non-discrimination ordinance.

Then voters backed the council candidates who supported adopting a NDO. When the diversity, equity and inclusion study was complete, it became obvious if this Council did not support a NDO, then the next one would. That led to Council adopting a non-discrimination ordinance on a 6-1 final vote. Vice Mayor Terry Roe reversed his earlier vote to support it on the final vote.

Businesses that work with the city risk losing their contracts if they are found to discriminate against employees or clients.

Mental health crisis

The Chandler Unified School District community was rocked after three teen-age students took their own lives during a 10-day span in May. The district had already been planning to upgrade its mental health services before the deaths at Perry, Hamilton and Chandler high schools.

With the deaths came more pressure to act. A student group formed, Arizona Students for Mental Health, and became regular speakers at governing board meetings. The district put out a request for proposal and partnered with three mental health providers to improve its services.

Anthony Cano case

Newly-appointed Maricopa County Attorney Rachel Mitchell decided not to file charges in the Chandler police officer’ fatal shooting of Chandler High teen Anthony Cano.

The boy was killed after a confrontation with police at the start of 2021. He was riding his bike home from the Boys and Girls Club in the Galveston neighborhood when police officer Chase Bebak-Miller tried to pull him over.

Cano fled, running into a park. He was carrying a handgun and the officer said he fired when he saw the boy pull the gun out of the waistband of his pants. The officer fired a second shot when the boy was face down on the ground.

“That second shot is hard to watch,” Mitchell said at a press conference announcing her decision. She said based on training, the officer thought he was in imminent danger when he fired the second shot.

New leaders

Chandler voters swept Angel Encinas and Jane Poston into City Council seats, replacing termed-out Rene Lopez and Terry Roe. They also reelected Mayor Kevin Hartke and Councilman Matt Orlando.

In the Chandler Unified School District election, voters chose Kurt Rohrs, who was endorsed by the Purple for Parents group that advocates parental rights. Patti Serrano was endorsed by liberals and progressives. Those two won a five-candidate race, defeated incumbent Lara Bruner, and challengers Charlotte Golla and Marilou Estes.

Both the Legislative District 12 and 13 delegations will see new faces next session as a result of General Election voting. In LD13, which includes Sun Lakes and south Chandler, Republican Realtor Liz Harris will join Repiublican Sen. J.D. Mesnard and Democratic Rep. Jennifer Pawlik. Longtime Rep. Jeff Weninger decided to run in the Republican primary for State Treasurer but was defeated. Pawlik was the only Democrat running for the two House seats and ended up leading all candidates in the election.

In LD 12, which represents northern and western Chandler, an all-woman Democratic ticket trounced the Republican all-male seat that included Roe’s bid to move from City Council, where he was termed out, to the House of Representatives.

Rep. Mitzi Epstein moved into the Senate seat, replacing Sean Bowie, who opted not to seek another term, while Ahwatukee residents Patty Contreras and Stacey Travers – after defeating three men in the Democratic primary, hammered Roe and Chandler CPA James Chaston. Besides Bowie, Rep. Jennifer Jermaine opted to run instead for San Marcos Court justice of the peace, where she was the only candidate.

Landings project

A developer’s plan to build affordable housing apartments on Ocotillo Road ignited huge opposition.

Organizers said more than 3,000 people have signed a petition to oppose the Landings at Ocotillo project, which would be more than 500 apartments that would have the rent price controlled by the federal government

The developer is trying to build the project on a county island, unincorporated land that is inside the city’s limits. Because of that, the County Board of Supervisors have final say.

Micro-transit option

Chandler Flex gave South Chandler residents a new way to travel. The pilot program is being paid for by a grant and operates similar to an Uber or Lyft ride. Residents can call for a ride via a phone app. A van will meet them and take them to a transit center.

The service is free to students. The city offered free rides for all during a trial period, but is now charging $2 for a ride.

Residents may have to walk a short distance to catch a ride, and they may have to share the van with others going in the same direction. But it’s an affordable way to get around an area with little bus service.

Ostrich Festival returns

The Ostrich Festival returned after its two-year suspension caused by the pandemic.

In 2022, the Chandler Chamber of Commerce expanded the festival to two weekends and had some big names appear as entertainment.

Chandler’s first historic district

The City of Chandler designated its first historic district, recognizing Southside Village. The area is where many African Americans and Latino Americans lived during the city’s early years.

Residents organized and pushed for the historic designation, which is mostly honorary. It does not limit what developers can build in the area south of Frye Road and north of Pecos and east of Arizona Avenue to the railroad tracks.

The area is home to some notable residents in the city’s history, including boxer Zora Folley.

Money rolls in

The City of Chandler was doing so well financially in 2022 it decided to make a $50 million payment to the state pension fund.

Most of that extra money was caused by the continued construction at the Intel Ocotillo plant. City officials say they usually see an increase in sales taxes during the construction, but realize those good times will end.

The city also put more money into its budget, planning to hire additional police officers and improving other quality of life options.

Late in 2022, city officials warned the good times may be ending soon. In addition to the Intel expansion ending, inflation was increasing costs and the state legislature was threatening to take away some funding.

But that will be a problem for 2023.