A formerly uncontested race for three Phoenix City Council seats has evolved into a heated debate over communication and water rates along with a half dozen candidates for voters to choose from Nov. 2.

A formerly uncontested race for three Phoenix City Council seats has evolved into a heated debate over communication and water rates along with a half dozen candidates for voters to choose from Nov. 2.

Incumbents Herm Blum, Mike McKey and Mike Stitt are up for re-election along with Mayor Carlos DeBritto. DeBritto is running unopposed, while each council member faces a declared write-in opponent.

Residents Carolyn Bartell, Karen Jones and Bruce Sophie announced their candidacies last week. Because it's too late for them to file to be included on ballots, they are waging write-in campaigns.

The three said they are seeking election in response to concerns over lack of communication from City Hall and a recent water rate hike.

The council recently rescinded the higher water rates while it studies them, but candidates expect hotly contested races regardless.

Council president Stitt said the decision to revert back to old water rates was in response to citizen concerns, not the promised write-in campaign.

Owner of an auto repair business and a several-term council member, Stitt said he hoped the coming election was "not just about water" and pointed to a slew of improvements in recent years including the addition of a community kitchen, improved city parks, a healthy city budget, socials at the local grange and promises of urban renewal.

Stitt said he wanted another term to help finish some of the work started by the current council.

Blum, a retired chiropractor appointed and elected in 2008, said he felt the current council had done a good job.

"The budget is the big thing and we're in the black. That alone tells how hard we've worked," Blum said.

Bartell, whose husband, Stan Bartell, is also a council member, said if elected she would push for review of the city's budget and encourage communication.

Bartell called the council's decision to rescind the rates after public criticism "a decisive victory for the citizens."

Both Jones and Sophie concurred with Bartell on the need for improved communication, viewing the rescinded rates as result of their recent efforts to help citizens voices be heard.

A gardener and Neighborhood Watch participant, Jones said she would push for review of every aspect of the city budget and work to improve communication if elected.

Sophie, a former council and a budget committee member who resigned his position in protest of the new water rates, said he would work to ensure citizens' voices were heard.

Council member Mike McKey said last week he welcomed citizen involvement and said whoever is elected will "have plenty to do."

"I can absolutely, totally 100 percent agree that this water issue was not put together the best way, but we took a few steps back and we're getting the people involved," McKey said.

— Buffy Pollock, for the Mail Tribune