Ben Bethel

Elect Ben Bethel for a Better Phoenix!

Phoenix City Council District 7 (Click for Map)


After years of hearing “When are you going to run for Mayor?” from friends, neighbors, and community leaders, I’ve finally decided to run for Phoenix City Council.  I will use my 25+ years’ experience in the community to create a better District 7, a better Phoenix, and a better Arizona.  I pride myself on being accessible and responsive - my goal is to personally respond to all phone calls and emails within 24 hours.

I purchased The Clarendon Hotel with friends in 2004.  At the time, The Clarendon was one of the greatest sources of crime and blight in Phoenix - now it is one of the highest rated hotels in the Valley.  I would like to do the same with District 7 - making it a great place to live, work and visit!

I don’t believe that there’s such a thing as “left” or “right” in politics - just “ideas that work” and “ideas that don’t work”.

Here’s a sampling of ideas that I’m committed to working on for a better Phoenix and a better Arizona - focusing on improving our community every day by making it safer, cleaner, and filled with opportunity on every corner.  We are fortunate to live in a diverse community!

My community involvement & volunteerism dates back more than 25 years:

City of Phoenix Central City Village Planning Committee

Maricopa County Citizens Transportation Oversight Committee

City of Phoenix Futures Forum Policy Committee

Arizona Rail Passenger Association

FACTS / ValTrans Proposition 300 / Committee of 600

Andre House / St. Vincent De Paul Food Bank

Friends of the Orpheum Theater / Friends of the Herberger Theater

Japanese Friendship Garden / Phoenix Art Museum / Phoenix Body Positive

Extensive local, national and international press relations including previous coverage on, Arizona Republic, Christian Science Monitor, Fox News, KTAR, MarketWatch, MSNBC, NBC Nightly News, New York Daily News, NPR, Phoenix Business Journal, Southern California Public Radio, USA Today, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, etc.

I will work in every way possible to improve our quality of life and standard of living - not a single day goes by when I don’t think about how can I help make this community a better place to live.


These are directly related to each other.  If we create more jobs and lower unemployment, we enable people to afford to buy homes.  If we retain jobs and keep them from leaving Arizona and the United States, we maintain demand for housing and we maintain property values.  If we attract more companies to Arizona, we create new jobs, hopefully an increase in population, and therefore a demand for new housing.

How do we do this?  There are a few ways:

One is to show that Phoenix is a very attractive place to locate a business: housing is affordable and abundant, and in many cases the price for a home is less than the construction cost; people need jobs and labor is immediately available and relatively affordable; and retail/office/industrial space is relatively affordable.

Another way is to pull jobs away from California - with 1 in 8 Americans living in California and a population more than 5 times that of Arizona, we should be focusing on this much more than we currently are.  California is facing major challenges that we can use to encourage businesses, jobs, and people to relocate to Phoenix.  California has incredibly high income taxes, incredibly high property taxes, incredibly high sales taxes, incredibly high gas prices, outrageously high workers’ compensation insurance, high insurance rates, major traffic congestion delays, long commute times, high housing costs, and the daily threat of natural disasters such as earthquakes, tsunamis, mudslides, and brush fires.

It seems that we’re currently doing everything possible to move jobs out of Arizona, not bring them here.  When comparing Arizona to the great nation state of California to the west, we have a lot to offer.  Let’s focus on bringing prosperity and happiness back to our communities.


Let’s not just get tough on crime, let’s get smart on crime.  Through the use of existing technology we can create major disincentives for criminal behavior.  We have Amber Alerts for child abductions, and we can create a cost-effective crime alert akin to Twitter to allow police to notify individuals using Geolocation as soon as a crime has been committed where officials need to immediately locate a suspect or vehicle or tell citizens to be on the lookout.


I’ve had the idea to build a “Museum of Consequence & Reality” for years now: to get children and adults to realize that there are consequences to all actions that can affect their lives and the lives of everyone around them.  I’d like to put this into a thought-provoking format that gets people to think about topics such as child-hood pregnancy, staying in school, driving under the influence, texting and driving, substance abuse, gang violence, child abuse, bullying, racism, discrimination, hatred, etc.  After my own experiences and struggles almost two decades ago, I decided to turn my life around, give back to the community, and do everything within my ability to make this the best community possible.  I think this would be a unique addition to the community, drawing visitors from around the world, that would hopefully have a positive impact on millions of lives.



Phoenix currently suffers from the worst case of “feast or famine syndrome” of any major metropolitan area in the United States.  This needs to stop, and it needs to stop now.  We continue to focus on cherry-picking the low-hanging fruit - major sporting events (Super Bowl, BCS Championship Game, Phoenix Open, Spring Training, NBA Playoffs, Nascar) and dozens of festivals per year are great when the weather is nice, but once Memorial Day comes, we enter an annual economic recession that lasts until October each year - more than ⅓ of the year is lost, causing many businesses small and large to struggle just to make it until the weather improves.

Being in the hospitality business for the past seven years as the owner and general manager of The Clarendon Hotel - Phoenix’s Urban Retreat has taught me many lessons about how tens of thousands of people, already living paycheck-to-paycheck, are affected by the seasonality created by the tourism and convention industries.  There are ways to fix this, ways to keep people employed and revenue coming in, even during the summer months.

In March of every year Austin, Texas has the South By Southwest Music and Film Interactive (“SXSW”) festival, which has over 2,000 performers in over 90 venues and an annual economic impact of well over $110 million, even with major weather complaints in 2010.  

In April of every year Coachella, California has the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival, which in 2010 had over 225,000 attendees over 3-days, with temperatures often soaring above 100 degrees.  Tickets sell-out within minutes (starting at $269!) when they go on sale each January.

I’m proposing that Valley cities unite to hire the promotion company from South By Southwest to create a “Southwest by Southwest” or “SWXSW” festival for eleven days each May, ending on Memorial Day.  This would sell flights, rent cars, fill hotels, pack restaurants and bars during a period each year when people are usually leaving Arizona, taking all of their money with them to places like Los Angeles and San Diego.

Each July when San Diego is already busy with summer visitors, there’s a massive convention called Comic-Con - despite major complaints from people trying to get hotel rooms, to crowding complaints, 4 Day with Preview Night passes tickets sold out 12 months ahead of time and 4 Day without Preview Night Passes sold out 8 hours after going on sale in February - 5 months before the July event!  This event has out-grown San Diego (Metro Phoenix is 50% larger in population) and what better place than Phoenix?

I’m proposing that Valley cities unite to bring Comic-Con to Phoenix from San Diego for SIX days EVERY year, beginning on the Tuesday after Memorial Day and ending the following Sunday.  The potential economic impact is mind-blowing - greater than hosting Super Bowl every 5 years!

To keep the economic engine moving full-steam throughout the summers, I propose that fees to rent space at the Phoenix Convention Center be completely waived for all conventions attracting more than 10,000 room nights per night from Memorial Day weekend to Labor Day weekend.  Just like the two proposals above, this will sell flights, rent cars, fill hotels, pack restaurants and bars during a period each year when people are hurting for work and businesses are struggling to stay afloat.

Phoenix is more than Phoenix - we are the base camp for many things to do in the Great State of Arizona.  We’re fortunate to live in a state with such amazing places as the Grand Canyon, Flagstaff, Route 66, Sedona, Tuzigoot, Jerome, Montezuma’s Castle, Canyon De Chelley, Monument Valley, Kartchner Caverns, Tombstone, Bisbee, the White Mountains, Chiricahuas, Tucson and much, much more - let’s bring back the Great American Road Trip and bring more visitors to Arizona.


Cleaner neighborhoods - get citizens involved in elimination of blight, removal of graffiti, consolidation of signage.


Further development of Grand Avenue Arts District, as well as development of rental housing, street-level retail, and on-street parking.  I support creating a stronger neighborhood and pedestrian environment by re-routing most Grand Avenue traffic at McDowell to travel on 19th Avenue to Washington/Jefferson.


Phoenix is fortunate to have developed a wide number of farmers markets, festivals, art walks, including Artlink First Fridays, the Downtown Phoenix Public Market as two of the most popular examples in town.  The problem is that they’re getting so popular that they’ve created a “feast or famine” situation for small local business owners, with a lot more famine than feast.  

Let’s get creative - let’s explore a daily year-round street market zones.  I would like to propose the first zone stretch from Hance Park to Van Buren, either on 1st Street or 2nd Street.  During different hours of the day and different days of the week the theme of the market can change - from farmers market, antique market, and collectors markets during the days to an arts market, bazaar market, and music stages at nights and on weekends.  I would like to see what other areas of the city could support similar markets as well.  This would be a great cultural attraction for both locals and visitors.  Here’s one list of famous street markets in the world, and another, and another, and another, and another, and another.


Further development of higher density rental housing, especially in midtown/downtown Phoenix - without increased population density, it is nearly impossible to operate small locally owned independent businesses, especially at night and during the summer months.  I can’t say enough about this subject - without people, there cannot be a neighborhood.


Continued restoration/development of Rio Salado.  Let’s draw more attention to the natural beauty in District 7, make it a centerpiece of the community.  The Rio Salado Audobon Center and jogging/hiking/bicycle paths are a great addition to the community, let’s keep the ball rolling and encourage development of housing, retail, and commercial development that faces this great natural resource and point of pride!  Imagine watching migrating birds and wildlife while floating down-river in kayaks.


Improved recreation areas with additional activities at South Mountain Park.  This is the largest city park in the United States, let’s make sure that we’re making the most of it while continuing to preserve the park for future generations.  Encourage local tour operators to run bike tours down South Mountain (much like is done in Hawaii), have several rock-climbing zones in high traffic areas, perhaps even entertain ideas for zip-line tours between the transmission towers?


Canal System - work on further improvements to Arizona, Grand, and Western Canals through Phoenix - explore the development of more power generation facilities - like Arizona Falls - creating focal points for communities while generating clean power.



Replace State Fair with World-Class Entertainment District. The State Fair doesn’t leave too much to be proud of, yet the 8 year average attendance is 59,696 attendees per day and last year averaged over 80,000 people per day - by comparison, Disneyland averages nearly 40,000 visitors per day - and keep in mind the Arizona State Fair occurs during the school year and on days when the temperature can still soar above 100 degrees.  Metro Phoenix is finally at the size that can support an entertainment district, the development of which would create jobs, keep dollars from flowing out of Arizona and attract more visitors to Phoenix.  

Let’s keep this in Phoenix - I would like to encourage that the Metro Center area be developed for this purpose.  Once one of the largest shopping centers in the United States, Metro Center is currently in receivership and has seen better days.  One vision would be to utilize the current structures to create a design that is part “Universal CityWalk” and one part “Universal’s Islands of Adventure” or “Cedar Point”.  Keep in mind that Metro Center contains 1.4 million square feet of space, roughly 3 times the size of Universal CityWalk, so the remainder of the space could be used to connect themed “zones”.  The large unoccupied department stores could be used for indoor attractions, much like Star Tours, Space Mountain, The Simpson’s Ride, The Haunted Mansion, Pirates of the Caribbean, Splash Mountain (mostly indoor), etc., etc.  In fact, most of the world’s best attractions are indoors, so don’t let the “it’s too hot here” argument fly!

The economic impact of this would be phenomenal - even if we went for a conservative year-round attendance of 25,000 visitors per day, with an average spend of $100/person/day (admission, parking, meals, drinks, souvenirs, add-on attractions, etc), the annual economic impact would be $912 million - this does not include retail spending for the retail district, or additional spending by out of town visitors in the form of airline tickets, rental cars, hotel rooms, etc., so the total annual economic impact could be several billion dollars.  Imagine what this would do for property values in the area, sales tax revenues, property tax revenues, and to create new business opportunities for hundreds of businesses in the area around Metro Center.  Furthermore, this area will be served by Metro Light Rail in a few years.  This would also allow for many opportunities for improvement of the Arizona State Fairgrounds area - another area in serious need of attention.



Regardless of unavoidable utility rate and water rate hikes, I will work on increasing energy efficiency and water conservation to the point that every year your bills will go down as long as you continue to live efficiently.  I believe that by the time 2025 comes around, that we could all live without an electricity bill or a natural gas bill.  How?  Solar hot water heating and solar photovoltaic panels on your home or in your neighborhood will be affordable enough, and your home lighting and appliances will be efficient enough to only take their energy from the sun.  You will no longer have to have natural gas or electric hot water heaters, or run natural gas lines to new residential construction.  7W LED light bulbs that used to consume 100W of power are now available for under $1, and are supposed to drop in price another 75% in two-to-three years!  Soon you should be able to have all of your lighting at home - without plugging a lamp into an outlet - without paying for electricity.


I will work with Neighborhood Associations, HOAs, Apartment Management Companies, Landlords and Tenants to encourage water conservation measures: 1.5 gallon per minute showerheads, 0.8 gallon per flush toilets, motion sensor faucets, rainwater harvesting, and other methods with the goal of reducing water consumption - and water bills - by at least 60%.


In the wake of the tragic earthquake and tsunami in Japan that has caused many questions and fears over the safety of nuclear power, I will work towards decommissioning Palo Verde Nuclear Generating Station so that we don’t face a meltdown in our lifetimes.  All it would take is a clogged intake line to the cooling towers and the plant could no longer cool the reactors, causing a potential meltdown and release of radioactivity to one of the largest metropolitan areas in the United States.  Palo Verde is the only nuclear power plant in the world that is not adjacent to a large body of above-ground water.  It used to be that nuclear power was affordable power - so affordable that many safety concerns over radiation were outweighed by the lure of cheap power - those days are gone, when in 2010 solar power became chepaer than nuclear power.  Here’s a great article that shows that cost, not the crisis in Japan, should make nuclear power obsolete.


With every passing day, the cost to produce solar power is becoming more and more affordable.  Some say that solar will power the world in 16 years, others demonstrate the rapid decrease in the price of solar power - either way, solar is here to stay.  With companies like First Solar - the world’s leading manufacturer of solar panels - based in Metro Phoenix, and some very large solar projects in the works, Phoenix should be the world leader in solar power generation.  Perhaps one day you will have a plug-in hybrid electric vehicle or electric vehicle, and will never have to buy gasoline again.



Support development of additional miles of bicycle lanes, which could also be used by electric scooters as an attractive transportation option to those who are looking for affordable alternatives to automobile ownership and high gas prices, or may have expired drivers licenses, insurance, or registration.

Work with state transportation officials to eliminate vehicle registration fees and wrap registration fees into gas taxes.  You should not be penalized for driving newer, safer, more efficient vehicles while drivers with out-of-state plates or drivers just passing through Arizona avoid these fees altogether.  As many constituents know, paying a once-per-year vehicle registration fee is much more difficult than a pay-as-you-go system, and citations for expired vehicle registration are so expensive that they place many individuals into a position of deeper debt which becomes nearly impossible to escape.


The infamous reversible lanes on 7th Avenue & 7th Street have been a source of much debate and “death by committee” over the past few years, with no changes, only to the detriment of the residents and business owners in the neighborhoods where drivers routinely speed by at freeway speeds in 35mph zones - literally inches away from cars traveling in the opposite direction.  These “Suicide Lanes” are murder for local businesses.  I propose a compromise: keep the lanes, but terminate them at Camelback.  Over many years, local business owners have worked hard to create a unique sense of community through the development of retail boutiques and cafes.  Let’s foster an environment that helps them succeed further by eliminating these lanes, slowing down traffic, reducing traffic noise, and even exploring wider landscaped sidewalks, bike lanes, and perhaps even on-street parking.  These are neighborhoods, not thoroughfares.


Work with regional mass transportation authorities to develop multiple BRT (Bus Rapid Transit) lines throughout District 7.  Not only can these be built in a fraction of the time at a fraction of the cost of a fixed rail system, they can operate at average speeds double to triple the speed of our current Metro system.  Check out similar systems in Lima, Peru or Los Angeles, California. With either system, busy stations should be air conditioned.


Work with regional mass transportation authorities to increase current Metro system to a 24-hour system by adding “Night Owl” train service once per hour at 12AM, 1AM, 2AM, 3AM, and 4AM.  Also work with Valley cities to

reduce the time it takes to travel the length of the Metro system by 50%.  This can be done by ensuring that trains have signal priority at every signal along the way (no more sitting idol at red lights), and that speed limits are increased slightly: 10mph on 19th Ave, 5mph on Camelback, 5mph on Central, 10mph on Washington/Jefferson, and 5mph on Apache/Main.


When it comes to future extensions of the Metro system, including the Phoenix West Extension and the Glendale Extension, we must focus on using systems like Kawasaki Rail Car’s SWIMO where overhead lines are not needed for stretches as long as 6 miles (possibly up to 20 miles in a few years!) by using on-board batteries that charge during coasting and braking, much like today’s hybrid cars.  Here’s a great video explaining the system: imagine building future rail segments in one-half the time, at a fraction of the cost!  It would even be possible to remove the overhead wires from several sections: Central and Camelback to Washington/Jefferson and 12th St and again from Mill/3rd to Sycamore/Main, as overhead power through other sections would be sufficient to charge the vehicles and power them through the sections without overhead power.  By significantly cutting construction costs and reducing construction time, we should be able to accelerate the opening dates of all future lines by 5 years from their current dates.


I do not favor commuter rail systems for Phoenix (ie Metrolink in Los Angeles, California), as they are infrequent, slow, and do not serve enough of the population to justify the cost of the system.


Work with US Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood, the US Department of Transportation, the Federal Railroad Administration, the California High Speed Rail Authority, and the Arizona Department of Transportation to build a high speed rail segment from Phoenix, Arizona to Riverside, California where a station is being built for the San Francisco to Los Angeles high speed rail system, which could open as early as 2017.

I’m very passionate about High Speed Rail from Phoenix to Los Angeles, do not currently support Phoenix to Tucson (not financially viable - yet), and here’s why it will work:  We need to get people and things between these two population centers as quickly as possible.  At just 120 minutes via train, door-to-door time from downtown Phoenix to downtown Los Angeles would be faster than flying, which is (at best) 300 minutes.  The cost would be about ⅓ of the cost per passenger as flying.  During the late-night and early-morning hours, products could be moved from warehouses in West Phoenix to Los Angeles (and from the port of Los Angeles to Phoenix) in a fraction of the time and at a fraction of the cost as truck freight or air freight.  Mail and packages would utilize late-night high speed cargo trains.  There would be a stop at Phoenix-Goodyear Airport, serving inbound/outbound cargo for everything from Los Angeles to Phoenix - giving this airport the opportunity of being the western equivalent of Memphis - the world’s busiest cargo airport. During these same times fruits, vegetables, meat, dairy, cotton, grain, etc. could also be transported in high speed cargo trains between the fertile crescent that stretches from Buckeye, Gila Bend, Yuma, the Imperial Valley and Indio and be brought to market at much lower costs (reducing food prices) as fresher, more ripened products with less spoilage.  This isn’t just about passengers - this is about providing more economical alternatives to connecting products with their markets - a key factor in deciding where you are going to locate and expand new businesses.

Furthermore, this High Speed Rail segment would be funded ½ by the Federal Government, and I would gather would be one of the most profitable high speed rail lines in the world.  Keep in mind that the route from Phoenix to Riverside is 350 miles, and the rail bed already exists and is currently unused from Phoenix to Yuma, and the right of way exists from Yuma to Riverside.  Track can be laid at the rate of up to 5 miles per day (the record in 1869 is over 10 miles per day!).  With the news of massive solar energy plants under construction in Arizona, perhaps this could be the first solar-powered high speed rail segment in the world.  Keep in mind that there are many flights and tens of thousands of passengers that travel between Phoenix, Yuma, Palm Springs, Ontario, Burbank, Los Angeles, Orange County, and Long Beach airports daily - most of these passengers would likely switch to faster, cheaper, more convenient high speed trains as they have in other areas of the world where similar systems are operating.

This could be up and running as early as 2018 if we work diligently - actual construction time could be as low as 6-12 months!  For comparison purposes, the 1,900 foot long Hoover Dam Bypass Bridge took 7 years to build!  Mexico could have portions of their extensive US-to-Guatemala high speed rail system completed as early as 2015.  The Chinese are building a high speed rail system for cargo in Columbia that some believe will make the Panama Canal obsolete.  The United States can no longer be left behind.


We have the opportunity to become the next Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, which has a regional impact of $19.8 billion per year - a gateway to the world, creating tens of thousands of jobs and bringing billions in additional tax revenues to the region.  I focus on the relocation of Trans-Pacific airlines and routes from Los Angeles and San Francisco to Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport.  Flights to India, China, Indonesia, Korea, Malaysia, Thailand, Australia, New Zealand, Vietnam, the South Pacific, etc. would save a significant amount of money per passenger by moving flights to PHX - lower gate fees, lower landing fees, lower fuel costs, lower insurance costs, no fog delays, lower crew housing costs, lower sales taxes, etc., etc. - all it will take is one airline to move to PHX and start offering fares that are 10% lower than flying out of LAX/SFO while increasing their profit margins, then the rest will follow.



We have an incredibly strong network of locally owned, independent, non-franchised businesses in Metro Phoenix - this is what not only helps to create a strong sense of community, but also helps to keep local money in local hands.  According to Local First Arizona, for every $100 you spend at a local business, $73 stays in the local economy - however for every $100 you spend at a non-local business, only $43 stays in the local economy!


Certainly businesses occasionally need incentives and assistance getting off the ground, but let’s make sure that this is done in a manner that creates an equitable playing field, where the money is recovered by the city, and where the incentives make sense.  If businesses receive assistance, I propose that such assistance is recovered through whatever means possible.  For example, Arizona Center, Collier Center, and CityScape may have received giant property tax credits for their multi-billion dollar projects, while businesses directly across the street have received no credits at all..  This creates an unfair playing field, which many argue is anti-competitive.  I will do whatever possible to make sure that these injustices do not continue.



Health care costs are out of control, we’re one of the only countries on the planet that doesn’t consider equal access to health care a right, but that shouldn’t stop us from finding smart alternatives to getting the health care we deserve.  I will work with state and federal officials to ensure that “Prescription by Pharmacist” moves forward - that people in need of certain medications may be able to obtain them without first going to a hospital or a doctor’s office.  This is already moving forward in some pharmacies in Arizona, where Licensed Practical Nurses are working side-by-side with pharmacists and in walk-in health care clinics.


Medical Marijuana - there are now 16 states with Medical Marijuana laws on the books, representing over one-half of the US population.  I support compassionate care for patients in need of Medical Marijuana, and I also like the idea that this may one day lead to the elimination of the violent crime created by the black market related to Marijuana sales, transportation, and distribution.  I feel that it should be taxed and controlled, kept from use by minors, and that the price should always be set at one-half of the current street price - otherwise there will be little incentive for patients to fill their prescriptions through legal, taxable, and traceable distribution channels.


If you are a wheelchair user, I will continue to work tirelessly until you no longer need those wheels.  Whether it is working with Barrow’s Neurological Institute, or working on getting you a pair of e-legs from Berkeley Bionics, I will do all that I can.  I’m especially excited to see the development of these exoskeletons, as I think it will change ADA requirements forever, and many wheelchair users will no longer have to live life at butt level.


I will continue to support the Southwest Center for HIV/AIDS however possible, to ensure that those living with HIV/AIDS receive the health care and treatment that they so deserve, to do whatever possible to educate the public to reduce infection rates, and to do whatever possible to support research and clinical trials for new treatments and medications.



Work with officials to address the needs of schools, attempt to solve existing problems within the school system, get parents more involved in school activities and to realize the positive consequences of being ever-present in their children's lives.


Help to establish a community service credit program in public and private schools.  I think that establishing a connection to your community as early as possible creates an individual that wants to see the best for their community.  I would like to see a focus on education requirements of 5 hours community service per week throughout Junior High and High School.


I would love to be more involved in promoting the following organizations - this is just a working list - but these are organizations that immediately come to mind:


Ignite Phoenix - this is a very inspiring video!

TEDx Phoenix

This website was completely created/written by myself without the use of any donations or public funds.  These are my ideas, so please offer feedback and suggestions and I will respond as quickly as possible.  I’m much more interested in getting these ideas out to the world than I am in winning an election.  If you like my ideas, please spread the word.  Thank you!


Click Here for a fun tongue-in-cheek site I put together to show a few reasons why I love Phoenix, and why it’s a great place to live, work, and visit!

Elect Ben Bethel for a Better Phoenix!

Phoenix City Council District 7 (Click for Map)