July 9, 2020

Coronavirus: Leadership During Crisis with Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego

When Arizona lifted its coronavirus stay-at-home order on May 15, most assumed the state had successfully moved past the most serious health risks posed by the pandemic. But total cases there have skyrocketed since then, and Arizona is now rolling back much of its initial reopening plans. We hosted a key leader in the state, Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego, who has been critical of Arizona being one of the last states to have a stay-at-home order, as well as one of the first ones to rescind it. Washington Post columnist Jonathan Capehart got her thoughts on the measures that need to be taken now, and why she believes her state’s battle against coronavirus is “nowhere near over.”
Arizona is delaying the start of the 2020-2021 school year despite President Trump’s call for all schools to fully open for all students as soon as possible. Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego said she thinks some elected officials are ‘too rushed’ in their desire to reopen schools. ‘From my perspective, we have to lead with public health here. I’m concerned that some federal elected officials are too rushed to reopen schools and are not putting public health first.”
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Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego said her communication with the White House during the pandemic has been ‘very eye-opening.’ “The whole communication with the federal government has been very eye-opening and interesting. When we have conversations via Zoom, where it’s a small group, it’s very positive, and then you see the [White House] briefing and the folks in charge of testing for the country are criticizing me by name saying I’m being unfair to them.”
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Phoenix City Council recently approved a face covering mandate for the city. Mayor Kate Gallego says response to the new rule has been positive, but added that she has heard from people who have decided not to wear mask in support of President Trump, who has not publicly worn one. ‘I’m concerned that it adds a political element to what should be a public health debate. He sends a signal that he’s not taking this seriously and that it’s not mandatory.’
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Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego, who has criticized state and federal officials for their mixed messages, says she would like to see a ‘more unified message at every level from all elected officials.’ ‘The federal government is involved, it’s just not sufficient right now.’
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Many U.S. cities today are led by women mayors. Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego shared how San Francisco Mayor London Breed helped her as Phoenix formulated a plan to house its homeless population in hotels, much like Breed did in San Francisco. Gallego said the network of mayors has offered her much needed support and advice during this time. ‘It’s been a great network...I’m proud, nationally, of the role mayors have played in COVID-19. I think mayors have been powerful voices for safer communities.’
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Mayor Kate Gallego
Phoenix, Arizona
Mayor Kate Gallego is the second elected female Mayor in Phoenix history and the youngest big city Mayor in the United States. She graduated from Harvard University and earned an MBA from the Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania. Before being elected to Phoenix City Council, Mayor Gallego worked on Economic Development for local utility company, Salt River Project. Mayor Gallego has focused on three key policy areas during her time in office: diversifying the economy, strengthening infrastructure investment, and working to make Phoenix a leader in sustainability. Her record of proven results includes leading the campaign to pass Phoenix’s citywide transportation plan through 2050, which was the largest local government commitment to transportation infrastructure in the country when it passed in 2015. She has led efforts on criminal justice reform and ensuring equal pay for equal work. Mayor Gallego is passionate about building a Phoenix that works for everyone and increasing the quality of life for all Phoenicians.
Jonathan Capehart
The Washington Post
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