The following is a transcript of an interview with Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego that aired on "Face the Nation" on July 23, 2023.
MARGARET BRENNAN: We go now to the mayor of Phoenix, Kate Gallego, who joins us from Scottsdale, good morning to you, Mayor. Every single day this month it's been 110 or above in your city. I know you're used to hot weather in the desert. But the duration of this heatwave, what has been the impact?
MAYOR KATE GALLEGO: The heat has been unrelenting in our community, I am so thankful to our first responders who are out there taking care of people who are vulnerable to anyone who has to work outdoors. We appreciate what they're doing. And we're urging them to be careful, we got a little bit of precipitation last night. So it was a little bit cooler this morning. And it was a real gift.
MARGARET BRENNAN: The public service, your power grid operator there in Arizona, told us they're marking seven days in a row of the highest customer electricity use ever. So that's a lot of strain and we're not even into August, is this sustainable?
MAYOR GALLEGO: We have to be innovative, and that is the Phoenix way we build for extreme temperatures in the summer, so that we've made infrastructure investments that help us get out of these challenges. But this summer has- has set some tough records. I talked to a lot of mayors because I'm from a city that's known for heat. And sometimes when they have what's for them unusual heat, we can provide useful advice. We are looking at the building materials we choose so that we can maintain less heat and hopefully cool more at night. That's a change that can help long term. We've made some real changes with our fire department and other responders to be more sustainable. And then we've set up a permanent office in the city of Phoenix. I believe I was the first mayor to do so that just focuses on heat response so that when we have good ideas, people know where to go.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Are you getting calls from other mayors asking you 'how do I deal with this?'
MAYOR GALLEGO: I spoke a lot this summer with mayors from Texas, when we talked about some of the things that our first responders do that might be useful to them. For example, we have mobile cooling units that can go to an emergency site like a fire, where our firefighters can go inside and cool down. While they're fighting a tough blaze. Residents have also used those sometimes when there's an intense fire, the electricity needs to go down for safety. If wires are down and our residents can go into those mobile cooling units. We even have tactics where we can go out with IVs that have been cooled and that can cool people from the inside which can save lives. Another program we have that's sort of popular is our cool pavement program. So we are really just looking at how we design the city.
MARGARET BRENNAN: IVs to cool people from the inside. Wow. Can you tell me you know you have said that Phoenix has a 100 year water supply, you have to show that before you develop. But given these changes, and how extreme they are, can you actually say that you trust all the plans you have that the infrastructure you're building is meant to withstand this? Do you need to slow down your development because of this heat?
MAYOR GALLEGO: I hold an environmental degree from Harvard and I worked in water and utilities before running for office. So this is something I believed I was hired to focus on. We take long term planning very seriously. That 100 year water supply, you mentioned, is pretty unusual for a planning timeframe. Some cities just plan on a matter of years or decades. We are a desert community. And we take that into account when we make any decisions about development. My city council and I just unanimously passed sustainable desert guidelines which will push so that we use our natural landscaping much more resilient to the heat and lower water use. We're really pushing on water recycling, we're moving forward with a billion dollar plan in that area. We know that it is going to get hotter and that we need to worry about long term drought. So we plan ahead.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Well, I ask you about development. I mean, Arizona and Phoenix are very much on the national stage because of the billions of taxpayer dollars that are being invested particularly in semiconductors, computer chips. This is part of President Biden's big plan to make America more sustainable. And a lot of those centers are going to be based out in Arizona. But then this past week, the world's biggest maker of those computer chips, Taiwan Semiconductor said they can't find enough skilled workers in your area and they're gonna have to slow everything down. How concerned are you about that problem?
MAYOR GALLEGO: We are very excited to be the future of semiconductors. It's so important that we're onshoring manufacturing of these essential devices in the United States and we're going to take an all hands on deck approach to make sure it is successful. President Biden has picked Phoenix as one of the innovation job hubs and will be able to partner with the US Department of Commerce in particular, but across his administration to do training for our residents. We have a very successful project with our community college where people can get a six week certificate in semiconductors that's produced hundreds of graduates so far, but we know we have to turn it up so that we can deliver not just for Arizona but for the world.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Well, we will watch that developing story. Mayor, thank you for your time today.
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