On Monday, November 14, 2016, the Glendale city council approved a Settlement Agreement with the Arizona Sports and Tourism Authority (AZSTA) and the Arizona Cardinals. Here is the link to the background material on the proposal: https://glendale-az.legistar.com/LegislationDetail.aspx?ID=2881276&GUID=C07EFD4F-664C-4A92-98FF-A23BF1C88B39&Options=&Search=&FullText=1 . Here is the link to the Settlement Agreement in full: final-settlement-agreement-11102016 .
The major points of the settlement are:
· It settles an outstanding legal claim of $67 million dollars in damages initiated in 2012 by the Arizona Sports & Tourism Authority (AZSTA) and the Cardinals by paying them jointly $14 million over the next 5 years.
· It creates $3 million dollars of infrastructure to enable pedestrians to cross Bethany Home Road without impeding the traffic on Bethany Home.
· It includes construction of 95th Avenue from Bethany to Camelback Road at a cost of $3 million.
If I were on city council I would have approved the settlement. Let’s look at it point by point. I want to make clear since my election was not funded by special interests, my prime directive, based on being fully informed of the pros and cons, is to make the best possible decisions that I believe are in the city’s best interests. This would have been one of them.
Over the weekend, I downloaded the entire proposed 135 page settlement agreement, read it, made notations, and then was fortunate enough to have an opportunity to sit down with the City Manager to get any and all of my questions answered. The current councilmembers have had the luxury of discussion and information about settlement negotiations for the past two months.
At first I was angry thinking here we go again, paying millions more to support sports in our town. Are we nuts? After I calmed down, I started to really think about it. Yes, we could reject the settlement and the $67 million dollar claim would have wended its way through the court system….for a year? two years? There is, of course, no way of predicting the outcome but I will say the city’s track record of late, has not been one to inspire confidence in a city win. If the city had lost, it would have had to pay out $67 million plus not just its attorneys’ fees but the claimants’ attorneys’ fees as well.
It’s also a matter of doing the right thing. The city had the obligation to live up to its contractual agreement of providing 11,000 parking spaces, per the Parking License Agreement and other documents from 2005, over a decade ago.
The $14 million in damages is, of course, an onerous pill to swallow but it’s better than $67 million. It is my understanding that this $14 million will be used for upgrades at the Stadium Plaza and the stadium interior. The city was also able to structure payments over the next five years making it fiscally manageable. The city is no longer obligated to construct a $50 million dollar parking garage… ever. This agreement settles all parking claims forever.
Why is an underpass under Bethany Home Road and bridges over the SRP Canal and the Grand Canal Linear Park necessary? When the stadium and transportation infrastructure was originally built the intent was to drive vehicular traffic from the west and the north toward the stadium. However, when the city has completed both parking lots (one east of the stadium and one south of the stadium), masses of pedestrians will be crossing Bethany Home Road. If they proceeded on the surface street, Bethany Home Road, the pedestrian traffic would essentially block all vehicular traffic. Now that a major portion of fans (6,000 parking spaces) will be parking south and east of the stadium it becomes a necessity.
Lastly, let’s look at 95th Avenue. Another city promise broken for over a decade. This arterial opens up land for commercial development, especially on the west side of 95th Avenue between Camelback Road and Bethany Home Road. There will be new commercial properties locating along that arterial which, in turn, will generate more sales tax revenue for the city. It also puts to rest the alignment of 95th Avenue. It will now curve away from the Pendergast Estates neighborhood and will not connect to the neighborhood’s three interior streets of Missouri, Marshall and San Juan. For years as councilmember I advocated for just such a solution for this neighborhood. I am pleased to know the city has taken their concerns seriously and has devised an alignment to protect this neighborhood.
These reasons persuaded me that approval of the Settlement was the right thing to do: 1. fulfillment of the city’s long-standing contractual obligation; 2. avoidance of a possible $67 million dollar verdict; 3. mitigating pedestrian movement as a result of the installation of two new, massive parking lots; and 3. bringing closure and surety on the 95th Avenue alignment to the Pendergast Estates neighborhood.
What was city council’s decision? Mayor Weiers, Vice Mayor Hugh, Councilmembers Malnar and Tolmachoff voted in favor of the settlement. All councilmembers spoke before casting their votes and this majority of four recited variations of the reasons cited above. Councilmembers Turner, Aldama and Chavira voted against the settlement. They did not cite flaws in the settlement as their reason for disapproval. Why? Because even they know this settlement is acceptable. No, they used the theme of transparency and that the public was not given enough time to weigh in. It was, in all probability, a smoke screen so that they would have time to marshal their activist anti-settlement forces to march on down to council chambers.
While these three councilmembers professed that they wanted to strengthen their relationships with the Arizona Sports & Tourism Authority and the Cardinals, it had been circulated that Aldama and Turner refused to meet with AZSTA and Cardinal representatives. Instead they gave both organizations the back of their hands. Surprisingly, disgraced and recalled former Councilmember Gary Sherwood showed up to berate this council for lacking transparency while asking for more time for council’s consideration. It seems that he did not consider two months of negotiation to be enough. Rampant conjecture is that three of them (Turner, Aldama and Sherwood) are using issues such as this to raise their level of visibility in order to position themselves for a run for mayor four years from now.
I do see a light at the end of the proverbial tunnel. It’s time to bury the past. The city manager and a majority of the council are to be congratulated for having made decisions that are designed to position Glendale forward and to clean up Glendale’s sports deals with its decade-old refusals to live up to its commitments. Make no mistake, former City Manager Ed Beasley and former Mayor Scruggs were very much aware of these obligations and refused to make good on them. Minority councilmembers such as me and Councilmember Lieberman were simply not privy to their inaction.
With the announcement of the Coyotes entrance into negotiations for an arena in the east valley I think it is time to do another blog on what this might mean. Look for my next blog which will be devoted to this topic.
© Joyce Clark, 2016
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