On January 15, 2013 the new Glendale city council had its first official meeting. It brought new players and new dynamics to Glendale’s power base. It is only fitting that after their year’s performance we take a look back and give each of them a grade. The big issues such as the Arena Management contract and the external audit as well as the small issues such as council guidelines saw shifting alliances. No one has emerged as the majority leader although there are some who believe that they are.
It takes some time to learn the ropes of their new roles. Brighter people get it within 3 to 6 months; others take longer – up to a year or more to figure it all out.
What criteria make for a good elected official? Having “been there, done that,” here’s my list in no order of importance:
Representation of one’s constituency. Some have taken the time to learn of or to seek the opinions of their citizens; others rely on a Ouija Board and think they know.
Outreach to citizens. Some host district meetings and attend neighborhood meetings; others do not. Being visible and accessible to citizens is not only good politics but provides good service.
Understanding the issues. To be effective an elected official has got to read and to understand material on an issue in advance of discussion, follow up with questions if necessary, do independent research if warranted. Some do not read their material until they open their council books at a workshop or meeting.
Representation of city at local, regional and national venues. Some embrace opportunities offered whether it is a local tree dedication or reading to school children to service on a regional/national board. It causes that official to listen to voices other than his/her own and offers an opportunity to learn and to network.
Follow city policies/procedures and council guidelines. Some elected officials are assiduous in adhering to formal and informal policies; others are not. Playing fast and loose by practicing personal interpretation of these strictures causes questionable issues such as giving your taxpayer dollars to non-profit organizations.
Representation of city policy. An elected official may have advocated for a position under council consideration prior to the policy being formally adopted by council. After the council has approved a position on an issue it is incumbent upon an official to publicly uphold the city position. An elected official’s personal position in opposition to a council approved policy should not use city resources to advocate for that personal opposition.
The siren song of elected officialdom. There is no question that an elected official receives perks and is treated differently. The trouble is that after awhile, some elected officials believe that they are special and that it is their due. Some believe their own press and expect special treatment from staff and citizens.
Lead or follow. This is an age-old debate. Does an elected official follow the dictates of his or her constituency? Or does he or she lead by establishing a different position and then working to educate the constituency to accept a different point of view?
Respect. An elected official must treat everyone with respect. I often witnessed elected officials smirk, raise eyebrows or treat a citizen without respect because he or she expressed an opinion differing from that of the elected official. We reap what we sow. Disrespect earns disrespect.
Honesty, Integrity, Ethics and Values. This is the bedrock of character for everyone. An elected official must not violate basic ethical values and remember always that the money he or she spends or decides how to spend is taxpayer money. A reputation of honesty and integrity once lost is never regained.
That’s quite a list! Based upon the criteria above there is no shining star on Glendale’s city council. No one earns a grade higher than a “C” and some have earned failing grades of “F” due to lack of performance in several areas.
It is one thing to run on a definitive platform of issues expressed repeatedly to the electorate. It is quite another to deliver on those promises after being elected. Some have not delivered on those promises. An example is that the Mayor and Council all took strong positions on the issue of arena management prior to or during the last election cycle in 2012. Some reneged on their positions. Yet another example is that all publicly recognized Glendale’s financial troubles and promised a new era of fiscal responsibility yet they repeatedly spent money that Glendale didn’t have on new issues. What happened to their pledges to be fiscally responsible?
For some, Councilmembers Ian Hugh, Gary Sherwood, Sammy Chavira and Mayor Jerry Weiers, it is their first year in office. Others, Vice Mayor Yvonne Knaack, Councilmembers Manny Martinez and Norma Alvarez, have served for at least one term. Yet all can and should do a better job of articulating and following through on insuring Glendale’s future. Someone needs to lead. Instead we seem to have a group of people putting their fingers to the wind and choosing popularity over principle. The grades for each are below along with at least one reason for that grade. This is admittedly subjective and I expect opinions about individuals to bounce all over the place. Everyone tends to grade their representative higher and take a more jaundiced view of the others.
Mayor Jerry Weiers – C. He demonstrates a lack of clear leadership. Instead he relies upon his experience in the State House not realizing what worked there may not work on a local level.
Vice Mayor Yvonne Knaack – C. Spends her time trying to appease everyone and favors downtown Glendale (where her business is located) over the priorities of her district (Barrel).
Councilmember Manny Martinez – C. Unfortunately his age has caught up with him and there are times when he has difficulty understanding.
Councilmember Gary Sherwood – C. His aggrandizement of power is quite obvious and his abilities to connect with and to understand the needs of the average citizen are lacking.
Councilmember Ian Hugh – C. His silence is deafening. He fails to communicate his thoughts or his positions on the issues until asked directly to contribute.
Councilmember Norma Alvarez — F. She displays a real failure in her ability to understand the issues, is obstructionist and cannot get past the Ocotillo district’s rap as a “poor” district.
Councilmember Sammy Chavira – F. He has shown himself to be unprincipled as witnessed by his flip flop on the arena management agreement and his failure to live up to his pledge to be fiscally conservative.
Lastly, this tidbit came from the 4th floor of City Hall recently. It appears that Vice Mayor Knaack will not run for another term. Perhaps she has decided that in 2 years, if she decides to run for Mayor, she will have distanced herself from some very unpopular council decisions yet to come. Word is that she will endorse Bill Toops, owner of the local newspaper, the Glendale Star, for her Barrel district seat. Hmmm…that could be difficult for Carolyn Dryer, the editor of the Star, when Mr. Toops takes a position on an issue not welcomed by the Star.
© Joyce Clark, 2013
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