It has been 17 years and 175 days since the city’s pledge to build the West Branch Library.
Sometimes Glendale city council meetings can only be described as mind boggling and l-o-n-g. The June 23, 2015 meeting was nearly 5 hours in length. Here is the link: http://glendale-az.granicus.com/MediaPlayer.php?view_id=2&clip_id=2305 .
Public comment has once again has been placed at the front of the meeting. There were many citizen speakers that night. To a man/woman all spoke in support of the four city councilmembers who may face recall: Councilmembers Aldama, Hugh, Tolmachoff and Turner. Some of the speakers were notable and recounted below.
It’s important to note there are two, distinctly separate recall efforts occurring in Glendale. One is the recall election of Councilmember Gary Sherwood with that election already scheduled for November 3, 2015 in the Sahuaro district only. The reasons for his recall are unrelated to the recent vote to cancel the Coyotes contract and are best summed up by the Recall Councilman Gary Sherwood Committee at this link: http://www.stopsherwood.com/index.html .
The most recent media reports of recalls center around the councilmembers who voted to cancel the arena lease management agreement with IceArizona, owners of the Coyotes. It’s a totally different situation and the two recall actions should not be confused or lumped together. Very recent recall packets have been taken out on 2 of the councilmembers thus far, Councilmember Tolmachoff and Councilmember Turner. The petition packets have not been turned into the city as the group has just begun its effort and have until October 7, 2015 to turn in recall petition signatures. Glendale First is the sponsoring organization cited on these two political committee filings. Larry Feiner, a Glendale resident of the Cholla district, is one of Glendale First’s spokespersons and he is also involved in Desert Hockey Development with Bea Wyatt and George Fallar. Mr. Feiner and Ms. Wyatt seem to be the two main spokespersons for this latest series of recalls. Even though the sponsoring organization is Glendale First, Glendale residents and hockey fans residing within specific districts filed the organizational political committee paperwork. In this case, Bill and Jennifer Eikost, residents of the Glendale Cholla district, filed as a political committee and pulled the recall packet on Tolmachoff. Ben Shroyer and Paul Miller, residents of the Sahuaro district, did the same on Turner. Make no mistake. These folks are integral members of an avid Coyote fan base and have been involved with Glendale First since its inception.
Glendale First, led by Bea Wyatt and George Fallar of Cave Creek, is angry because in a majority vote of 5 to 2 this council voted to cancel the annual $15M lease management contract with the Coyotes. It raises the possibility of the team’s possible relocation elsewhere after all litigation is resolved. Obviously Glendale First dare not use as its sole reason for recall its anger with this council vote when a recent poll showed that over 50% of Glendale’s residents support the council’s action. So they have manufactured another reason. Their smoke screen reason is that council did not reduce the amount of money going into the city’s unappropriated fund balance (rainy day fund). They contend the money should be used for public safety immediately.
By public safety let’s call it what it is…the fire union. Fire wants more money and lots of it. They point to slow emergency response times but fail to mention two very important facts: 1. The Glendale Fire Department is accredited and meets that accreditation agency’s standards for response times, and 2. Call volume has increased due to the Valley’s Automatic Aid system. Quite simply Glendale fire responds to more calls in neighboring cities such as Peoria and Phoenix than the number of times those cities respond to calls in Glendale. Automatic Aid is placing a strain on the Glendale Fire Department and is partially responsible for the unavailability of Glendale fire units to respond to its own residents in a timely manner.
One of the citizen speakers of note was Gary Hirsch, a Glendale resident and former candidate for city council. With regard to the possible 4 councilmember recall he referred to a special interest group, Glendale First, as the sponsoring organization of the effort but the majority of his remarks were directed to the issue of the first original recall effort against Councilmember
Gary Sherwood. He said, “There are times that the official conduct of the councilmembers has proven to be so egregious that recall is not only appropriate but is necessary to restore honest representation. As a result the recall Gary Sherwood election has been approved and scheduled to take place on November 3rd, 2015.” He ended with this remark, “Always watch your wallet around Councilmember Sherwood.”Another speaker of note during the public comment period was Justin Harris. His remarks are below verbatim and were directed at the most recent issue of a second set of recalls of 2 (or 4) councilmembers sponsored by Glendale First:
“My name is Justin Harris. I am president of the Glendale Law Enforcement Association and co-chair of the Glendale Police Officer Coalition. I’m here tonight speaking on behalf of my members as well as Julie Pendergast. She could not be here tonight. She had personal matters to attend to. (Note: Julie Pendergast is president of the Glendale chapter of the Fraternal Order of Police and co-chair of the Glendale Police Officer Coalition).
“I find myself in an awkward position. Typically, we don’t come out speaking to the council regarding some of the events that have taken place. But I felt compelled to after some recent media events and some misinformation and misrepresentation of the facts that members of
Glendale First have shared with the public both in the paper and in the media. Recently I learned of the recall petitions that were pulled against Bart Turner. That was filed by Lawrence Feiner. The recall petition against Lauren Tolmachoff was pulled by Bill Eikost and Jennifer Eikost. I’m assuming they are husband and wife.
“What concerned me the most was part of the petition and the way it was worded. If they’ve got issues with what some of the councilmembers did regarding the Coyotes that’s their deal. But what I don’t appreciate is Glendale First coming in, misrepresenting facts saying that the mayor and certain councilmembers do not support public safety. In their filing they say that
Glendale Law Enforcement Association
you guys have diverted money earmarked for public safety and you placed that into a rainy day fund which has increased emergency response times. I’m not sure where they got their information but they sure didn’t come talk to me or my co-chair Julie Pendergast. Interesting enough, both Lawrence and Jennifer are listed as guests with Glendale First on a roster that attended a hockey game April 26th, 2013, at the Glendale arena in the city suite and the host of that event was Gary Sherwood – Councilmember Sherwood. (Please note: I, too, was in that suite on that date).
“Bea Wyatt, also with Glendale First, I listened to a radio talk show interview that she did on Friday, June 19th. She was talking about pulling recall petitions possibly on you, mayor and the other four councilmembers because they were not supportive of public safety. But then her comments bled into the Coyotes team. I don’t know why she was on sports radio talking about Councilmembers Turner and Tolmachoff not supporting public safety. I couldn’t tie the two together. Interesting enough the five councilmembers that voted to not renew the contract are the same councilmembers that this Glendale First is trying to attack and misrepresent facts about not supporting public safety.
“I’m here to tell the public today as being the person who represents the line level men and women who wear the badge. Mayor Weiers, Vice Mayor Hugh, Councilmember Tolmachoff, Councilmember Aldama, Councilmember Turner, you do support public safety. You made the tough decisions. There was a period of time prior to Proposition 457 when our members were giving concessions. We were understaffed to the tune of ten million dollars – understaffed, overworked. Our men and women went out there and did the job we took an oath to do. Meanwhile the city was forking over twenty five million dollars a year to a hockey team. Doesn’t make sense to me.
“So at this time I wanted to thank you Mayor, Vice Mayor Hugh, Councilmember Tolmachoff, Councilmember Aldama, Councilmember Turner for your unwavering support in making a very tough decision, finding the courage it takes to insure that you’re doing the right thing, not only for your constituents but also for your police department, the men and women who put our lives on the line every day to protect the public. Thank you for protecting us. I also wanted to thank each of you for upholding the state law and at least having the courage to have that law looked into to find out if there was in fact a conflict of interest at the time that the deal was done. It takes a lot of courage. You don’t see that too often. So, again, thank you.
“I’ve been sitting back like a lion in the tall grass, just waiting, watching and analyzing as these events have unfolded. But now I have come out to protect my members and to protect the city from a special interest groups that doesn’t care about public safety and they want to use public safety as a reason why they’re pulling this recall – or part of the reason they’re pulling this recall.
“I want each of you to be aware and the public to not support the recall against Councilmember Tolmachoff and Councilmember Turner because it’s misrepresentation of the facts. It’s half truths and they are flat out lies. We know that you are protecting public safety. We appreciate your service to the community and the commitment to your police department. Thank you.”
There were 86 items on that night’s agenda but the one that caused extraordinary public participation was Item # 83 Rezoning (ZON) application Zon 15-03 (ordinance): Palm Canyon Business Park Planned Area Development – 17750 N. 83rd Avenue – the Becker Billboard issue – again. A presentation was made by Mark Becker with the same arguments as when he was previously denied by this council. He added a few paid experts to speak about how innocuous billboards are.
There was one speaker, Glendale resident Connie Keiser, who nicely summed up the feelings of all of the citizenry that came out to speak against the billboards. She said, “Hello. I am Connie Keiser. I live in Glendale. I live in the Sahuaro district and I am impacted by these billboards. First off, I live in Hidden Manor and we were there long before Glendale because you annexed us. We are the subdivision directly north of Arrowhead Towne Center. We are the closest residential subdivision to those billboards.
“Digital billboards are the junk mail of the freeways. No one wants to be looking at a huge TV on a stick that distracts drivers and throws huge amounts of light into neighboring homes and
the night sky. That’s the reason Scottsdale and Paradise Valley will not allow billboards. They consider them to be junk.
“Why does Mark Becker keep beating this dead horse? I am sorry that people made a bad, bad investment in that property. When they bought that land they had the mistaken belief that they could fly in under the radar and could get billboards approved before we knew what hit us. Not in our neighborhoods. You can’t, Mr. Becker. You woke several sleeping giants and not only in Glendale but in Peoria. You did not expect us to come together as a community like we have.
Mr. Becker had been told ‘no’ over and over again but he hasn’t caught on yet. Now I have, if you’ll remember in his little presentation that he used, ‘Scenic America’ is one example. But he forgot to tell you about the ‘drop down’ on billboards which I happened to point out today. And I’m just going to quote several little things they say (Scenic America) about billboards.
“‘Billboards endanger health and safety. While the industry would like you to think billboards are harmless, their negative effects on health and safety have been well documented. Billboards hamper economic growth. Billboards make a few people a lot of money. Unfortunately, however, they do serious economic harm to communities. Nature of the billboard industry – the billboard industry likes to proclaim its small, local nature.’ We heard Mr. Becker talk about how he’s just a small, local company. ‘When a state or local government considers enacting tougher billboard controls industry lawyers and lobbyists appear at hearings and speak long and loudly about how the government is threatening another small business with extinction.’ The reality, however, is quite different.
“We don’t need these billboards. I’ve been here, I think I told Planning and Zoning I got notified by Social Security I have a life expectancy of 20 years and I will keep coming back for those 20 years to fight this horrible, horrible idea. Please tell him ‘no’ unanimously just like Planning and Zoning has done. Thank you.”
After Becker’s presentation and the public hearing it was council’s turn and a theater of the absurd ensued. Mayor Weiers asked City Attorney Bailey and it was confirmed the order of proceeding would be amendments to the motion would be considered and voted upon first. That action would be followed by a consideration and a vote upon the applicant’s zoning request with any new amendments that council would have just approved.
Well, it didn’t go that way at all. Councilmember Chavira asked to make his motion first. Instead of offering the amendments only and exclusively, Sammy’s motion included approval of the applicant’s zoning request along with his self crafted 4 amendments. Aldama seconded the motion with amendments. The instruction for action that had just been outlined so carefully went completely out the window. It appears that Sammy is not always the brightest bulb in the pack.
Mayor Weiers asked if there were copies of the newly offered Chavira amendments available. City staff did not have any copies but immediately Mark Becker popped up and passed out copies of the Chavira amendments to staff for distribution to council. Wait, you ask, why does Mark Becker have copies of the Chavira amendments but city staff and the rest of council do not? Immediately the question comes to mind – who really wrote those amendments?
Councilmember Tolmachoff must have had the same thought for she asked who prepared the amendments – Mark Becker or Councilmember Chavira? Councilmember Chavira responded by saying it was his motion and he came up with the amendments that very same day. Why did he make sure Mark Becker got copies yet didn’t distribute them to staff and city council for their advance consideration prior to the meeting that evening? It makes no sense.
All of the councilmembers with the exception of Councilmember Sherwood and Vice Mayor Hugh commented prior to their votes. The most disturbing commentary to the anti-billboard people in attendance were the remarks made by Councilmember Turner. It seemed as if he was about to vote in favor of the billboard application and a majority of the audience was visibly shaken for it appeared as if he would become the fourth and majority vote granting the Becker billboard application. He said that the applicant’s request was similar to the billboards that had been approved for the Westgate area and since the Loop 101/Bell Road corridor was similar in commercial nature to the Westgate area it should be considered similarly in that context.
Mayor Weiers asked the city attorney again if Chavira’s motion including the amendments was valid. Mr. Bailey indicated it was a valid motion and recited for clarification what the motion included. Mayor Weiers proceeded with a roll call vote typically done in alphabetical order of councilmember surnames. Councilmember Aldama and Councilmember Chavira voted in favor of the billboard application. Councilmember Sherwood passed. Never, ever in my 16 years as a councilmember had any councilmember ever passed on a vote. Why did Sherwood do it? Why on this night? Think about it. Two councilmembers had voted in favor. Sherwood knew he could vote in favor as well but he needed to know what Councilmember Turner’s vote was before he voted for or against. If Turner voted in favor Sherwood would be the fourth and majority vote for passage of the billboard application. So he passed, waiting to hear what Turner’s vote would be. Councilmember Tolmachoff and Vice Mayor Hugh voted against the billboard application.
The vote was 2-2 and it was Turner’s turn. There was a moment of hesitation and then he voted against the billboard application. Weiers passed and went back to Sherwood for his vote. Sherwood voted against the billboard application and why not? He knew the motion was defeated and by flip flopping once again and voting against the billboards it might provide him some cover for his recall election. The last vote was cast by Mayor Weiers against the billboard application with the result being a 5-2 vote with only Aldama and Chavira supporting the request. Do you suppose they were blindsided by their buddy Sherwood? Do you think they will trust his word from now on?
City council vacates the month of July and will return to regular order in August. Many schedule vacations during July but they may find themselves called back to town to participate in depositions regarding the Coyote litigation. Glendale residents need a break from the ongoing political shenanigans too.
© Joyce Clark, 2015
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