As protests continue, Gilbert mayor calls for town to listen

Jenn Daniels
Gilbert Mayor Jenn Daniels addresses members and residents at council's June 2 meeting on the need to listen in the wake of protests around the nation about racism. (Courtesy town of Gilbert)

Gilbert Mayor Jenn Daniels addresses members and residents at council's June 2 meeting on the need to listen in the wake of protests around the nation about racism. (Courtesy town of Gilbert)

Gilbert Mayor Jenn Daniels on June 2 called for the town to be listening to people of color and anyone who has been treated unfairly.

“As a community, we emphasize kindness on a very regular basis,” Daniels said. “And I want to make sure that as a community, we are doing our best listening right now. I think there are a lot of statements and things being made and said that could be beneficial to us as a community.”

Daniels’ remarks at the close of the council meeting come in the wake of nationwide protests after the May 25 death of George Floyd, a black man in Minneapolis police custody.

While Gilbert has had no violent protests, Daniels said the town would be scheduling forums as an opportunity to listen, though she had no details to share yet.

Daniels encouraged town leaders to listen to employees and community members and included herself as one who would benefit.

“I have a lot to learn, and I want to take time to listen and to hear the messages that are being sent to us,” she said. “So I would encourage the community to reach out to us as a council and make sure that we hear your voice.”

Daniels also thanked Gilbert Police Department and public safety workers for their work and hoped they would remain safe through this time.

“We don't always get it right, but we want to and we desire to,” Daniels said.

The council meeting came on a night when the town elected not to light the iconic Gilbert Water Tower in support of Blackout Tuesday, a social media movement to reflect on recent events and allow black voices to have the floor in the national conversation on race.

Tuesday saw peaceful protests in Gilbert at Highland High School and outside the Postino East restaurant in the Heritage District. Town officials reported no issues with either protest.

Issues tabled

June 2's council meeting originally had the final budget, property tax levy and capital improvement plan on the agenda. However, as those items have sparked strong interest this year, Daniels said the town wanted to make sure it had enough time for public comment.

With Gov. Doug Ducey’s emergency order establishing an 8 p.m. curfew this week, Daniels said the town believed the hour and a half between the town’s 6:30 p.m. start and the curfew would allow for public comment and business to be conducted.

Furthermore, the town found it could not change the time of the meeting without 15-day notice under state law. Thus, Daniels said, the town decided it would continue the items for the June 16 meeting.

Land code

Senior Planner Amy Temes presented to council preliminary results of subcommittee work to refresh the town’s land code.

Temes said the subcommittee aimed to simplify and modernize the code. She estimated the subcommittee’s work could reduce the text of land code for the town by a third.

The code changes will be run through the planning commission and redevelopment commission before coming before council for approval. Temes said she hoped the process would finish in December.

Other items

  • Council unanimously approved a zoning change from residential to general commercial for 17.85 acres at the southwest corner of Val Vista Drive and Ocotillo Road that will allow a Lifetime Fitness gymnasium to be built.

  • Council approved a construction contract to replace fluoride storage tanks at the North Water Treatment Plant on a 6-1 vote with Jared Taylor dissenting.

  • Council approved on a 5-2 vote three items involving community development block grant funding. Taylor called the program an artifact from failed New Deal programs of the 1930s and voted in dissent along with Council Member Aimee Yentes.

By Tom Blodgett

Editor, Gilbert

Raised in Arizona, Tom Blodgett has spent more than 30 years in journalism in Arizona and joined Community Impact Newspaper in July 2018 to launch the Gilbert edition. He is a graduate of Arizona State University, where he served as an instructional professional in the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication from 2005-19 and remains editorial adviser to The State Press, the university's independent student media outlet.