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Joyce Clark Unfiltered

For "the rest of the story"

Disclaimer: The comments in this blog are my personal opinion and may or may not reflect an adopted position of the city of Glendale and its city council.

First a little history. Twenty years ago, in 1998, what is today known as Heroes Park first appeared in the city’s Capital Improvement Program (CIP). Today Heroes Park remains unfinished…after 20 years of waiting. Residents who bought in this area expected its timely completion. Instead they raised a generation of children without the benefit of this quality of life amenity, especially a library.  Now they have grandchildren whom they hope will be able to enjoy a completed park before they too become adults with their own children.

Heroes Park Concept Plan. Items depicted in yellow are completed. All others have not.

One of the planned components of the park has always been a West Branch Library. Again, more history. The former mayor (Scruggs) used every ploy to deny funding for the library and park completion. She and I butted heads on virtually every issue and she was not about to give the person (whose nickname for me was “Evil”) any kind of victory – especially a park, rec center and library. Her most infamous raid occurred in 2006 when she and her “mushrooms” (the gang of four whom always did her bidding) diverted $6 million dollars from library construction and allocated it to the construction of the Glendale Public Safety Training facility (GRPSTC). The result being funding for library construction vanished in an instant.

When the great recession occurred every possible residential amenity was cut from the CIP including completion of Heroes park, rec center and library. These were not the only amenities to get the axe. Library hours were cut and many youth recreation programs disappeared or were severely diminished. O’Neil Pool in the Ocotillo district (formerly part of my district, the Yucca district) received no funding during that period after it was closed due to the need for major repairs. To this day it remains closed and in need of significant funding to repair or replace it. It is a disgrace.

Over the past 20 years south and west Glendale often were ignored when it came to allocating city funding for amenities with one exception – Rose Lane Aquatic Center, in the Ocotillo district, was constructed. To this day it is heavily used by an economically challenged area of our community many residents of which are unable to afford a pool at their homes. Other than using the ramadas at Heroes Park or a school cafeteria, the Yucca district continues to have no community meeting location as is found in every other district in the city.

Ever since I returned to the city council in January of 2017 my focus and priority has been to get the library built and the park completed. In 2017 I have achieved some success in getting the library concept approved and funded by city council. I had hoped to see it open as a 2018 Christmas present for Yucca district residents. Alas, although it will be built the timeline continues to slip. Here is the most currently available timeline:

  • 12/4/17                         100% construction drawings submitted to city Building & 
  •                                      Safety Department for review and approval (takes a minimum
  •                                      of 30 days)
  • 1/29/18                         Construction drawings approved for a permit
  • 2/8/18 through 2/15/18  Advertisement for construction bid published
  • 3/7/18                           Bid opening
  • 4/10/18                         Council approval and award of construction contract
  • 5/7/18                           “Notice to Proceed” (NTP) issued to contractor to start work
  • 5/7/18 through 2/7/18     Construction phase (approximately 9 months)
  • 2/7/18                            Possible “Soft Opening”
  • 3/30/18                          Final acceptance by the city of the building 

I will accept some responsibility for the delay for I did not like the original design and requested modifications…some of which were approved. However, I pleaded, begged and stamped my feet to accelerate the process…all to no avail. I’m not sure any sense of urgency was conveyed to the consultant, DFDG, in design of the construction drawings. I question why it takes a month from a 3/7/18 bid opening to bring it to council for approval on 4/10/18. I question why it takes another month (4/10/18 –5/7/18) before the contractor gets a “Notice to Proceed” to actually begin construction.

I am so anxious to get this project underway. I know I am impatient but we have waited so long. I am disappointed that the only one who feels a sense of urgency is me…sigh.  

© Joyce Clark, 2018                 

FAIR USE NOTICE

This site contains copyrighted material the use of which is in accordance with Title 17 U.S. C., Section 107. The ‘fair use’ of any such copyrighted material as provided for in Section 107 of the US Copyright Law and who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. For more information material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. We are making such material available in our efforts to advance understanding of environmental, political, human rights, economic, democratic, scientific and social justice issues, etc. We believe this constitutes a ‘fair use’ of any such material. For more information go to http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/17/107.shtml. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond ‘fair use,’ you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.

Disclaimer: The comments in this blog are my personal opinion and may or may not reflect an adopted position of the city of Glendale and its city council.

There is more to Glendale’s good news story of 2017. Honestly, staff and I identified over 100 good news stories. Don’t panic. I am not about to list the entire 100. Let’s start with Glendale in national news:

  • In a Fiscal Times article in February of 2017 Glendale was ranked at 77 out of 116 cities with a population greater than 200,000 for its positive fiscal health
  • In March of 2017 Glendale once again received the Distinguished Budget Presentation Award from the Government Finance Officers Association for its FY1617 budget document
  • In May of 2017 Trivago, one of the world’s largest online hotel internet search engines, ranked Glendale as the number one emerging tourist destination in the United States
  • In November of 2017 the international digital travel magazine, Trips to Discover, listed Glendale as one of the eight best towns in Arizona to celebrate the Christmas holiday season
  • In November of 2017 a study conducted by Smart Asset found that of the 100 largest cities in the US, Glendale had the 9th largest percent change in median household income from 2015 to 2016, growing by 11.4%. It was also the largest increase in Arizona.

Glendale’s Public Safety often contributed to the overall health, safety and well being of our community. Take a look of a few of their more notable events:

  • In February of 2017 the Fire Department received three new replacement fire pumper trucks and welcomed eight new firefighters to their ranks
  • Since the beginning of 2017, Public Education and Outreach Coordinator Dr. Janet Boberg and the Fire Department Firefighter Fire Pals have taught 137 classes to 3,128 youth and 306 adults.
  • In August of 2017 the Glendale Fire Department hosted an Emergency Preparedness Academy. The class included Basic First Aid, a presentation on Active Shooter, and an exercise in Emergency Readiness.
  • In September of 2017 the Glendale Fire Department offered Compression Only CPR at two Glendale high schools. The department has officially trained more than 25,000 people in Compression Only CPR.
  • In August of 2017 the Glendale Police Department hosted the GPD Teen Academy. School Resource Officers for the Police Department assisted with putting on the weeklong Teen Academy. Students learned about Arizona criminal and traffic law, how to drive police cars, how to shoot handguns, shotguns, and rifles on the range, and practiced handcuffing procedures. They also spent time with the canine unit, detectives, and the bomb unit.
  • In October of 2017 the Glendale Police Department hosted its very first West Valley Aspire Academy this October. The four day overnight leadership camp provided girls ages 14-18 with hands on experience in public safety careers.

Not to be missed was our Economic Development Department:

  • In April of 2017 our Economic Development Department partnered with WESTMARC, Career Connectors, and other West Valley communities to present the first ever West Valley Healthcare Career Expo. Healthcare is one of the city’s fastest growing industries and this event connected current and future workforce with employers and education opportunities.
  • Also in April of 2017 the Economic Development Department partnered with SCORE for the 4th Annual Greater Phoenix SCORE Small Business Symposium. This event focused on providing access to resources and breakout sessions geared toward small business growth and development.

Our Parks and Recreation Department also contributed notably to the recreational health of our community:

  • In March of 2017 there was a rededication of the Heroes Park basketball courts in celebration of the NCAA Final Four    
  • In April of 2017 Parks and Recreation Division began working with the Special Olympics Arizona (SOAZ) organization to enter into a new partnership that will result in additional programming opportunities for persons with developmental disabilities, at no cost to the City.
  • In June of 2017 Neighborhood Services and Parks and Recreation departments coordinated Thunderbolt Blitz Day Project along the New River Trail a volunteer project with military people and civilians from Luke Air Force Base as part of their community service day
  • In August of 2017 The Parks and Recreation Division worked with the Arizona Disc Golf Foundation on a new, 18 hole Frisbee disk golf course in the Grand Canal Linear Park between 83rd and 91st
  • In October of 2017 the Park Ranger Division rolled out its “Ranger” K9 program. The focus of this program is to use the city’s new mascot, “Ranger,” to encourage greater public engagement

Citywide some notable events included:

  • Ongoing throughout 2017 the city continued its work on its Strategic Plan
  • Also ongoing throughout 2017 the city continued its participation in the innovative “What Works Cities”
  • In July of 2017 the city and Glendale Chamber of Commerce engaged a Downtown Manager to provide consistent support to our downtown merchants. The emphasis is on creating a healthy, cohesive downtown that can be branded and marketed
  • Also in July of 2017 the Water Billing Department, in partnership with TIO Networks, launched cash only bill payment kiosks in 16 Circle K locations within the City of Glendale; and in August the City of Glendale’s payment system expanded to all TIO kiosks within the State of Arizona
  • In September of 2017 the Citywide LED Conversion Project This project will result in significant annual savings for Glendale. I am proud to note that through my effort this proposed conversion was moved up by several years saving the city approximately half a million dollars a year immediately
  • In November of 2017 another request of mine was accepted to begin a pilot project to recapture under reported collectable residential rental revenue. It, too, is expected to generate approximately a half a million dollars annually

Lastly here are some events that don’t fit into any particular category but are worthy of note:

  • February 19 of 2017 marked the 10 year anniversary of Glendale Police Officer Anthony Holly’s death. Please continue to keep the Holly family in your thoughts
  • In March of 2017 the city successfully hosted NCAA Final Four
  • In June of 2017 the city dedicated a plaque in remembrance of and recognition of Phil Lieberman, longtime councilmember for the Cactus District. He was my friend and I still miss him
  • In October of 2017 Banner Thunderbird Medical Center officially opened the state’s newest Level I Trauma Center
  • In October of 2017 city council approved the allocation of funds to finally build Phase I of the West Branch Library at Heroes Park
  • September of 2017 Airport take offs/landings were 5,832 (16% higher than September 2016). This foreshadows a resurgence of airport growth in the coming year
  • In October of 2017 a ribbon-cutting ceremony was held for the GUS 2 route reconfiguration.. Also starting in October, Bus Route 83 traveling on 83rd Avenue now travels from South Phoenix up to Arrowhead Towne Center.
  • In December of 2017 Erik Strunk, Director of Parks and Recreation and Special Events, announced that he is leaving the City and becoming the City of Peoria’s newest Assistant City Manager. We wish Erik all the best in this new chapter of his career, and this City is grateful for his top-notch job performance.
  • Effective January 1, 2018 and after 27 years of service, Jon Froke, Planning Director, will be retiring from the City of Glendale. Jon has been a valuable part of the Glendale team and his accomplishments will benefit our community for many years to come

There you have it. These notable events plus many more contributed to making Glendale great again (to borrow a phrase from our current President). Each of these demonstrates a city on the move; a city that embraces innovation; and a city continually striving to improve the quality of life for all residents.

© Joyce Clark, 2018                 

FAIR USE NOTICE

This site contains copyrighted material the use of which is in accordance with Title 17 U.S. C., Section 107. The ‘fair use’ of any such copyrighted material as provided for in Section 107 of the US Copyright Law and who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. For more information material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. We are making such material available in our efforts to advance understanding of environmental, political, human rights, economic, democratic, scientific and social justice issues, etc. We believe this constitutes a ‘fair use’ of any such material. For more information go to http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/17/107.shtml. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond ‘fair use,’ you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.

Disclaimer: The comments in this blog are my personal opinion and may or may not reflect an adopted position of the city of Glendale and its city council.

It is New Year’s Eve day and I have absolutely no commitments, personal or city-related. No plans for celebrating New Year’s Eve in a wild and crazy fashion. My spouse and I will have a quiet dinner and plan to watch the celebrations on TV, wish each other a Happy New Year and toddle off to bed. It’s sensible and boring but when you get to our age it’s incredibly satisfying.

It’s a great time to reflect and to write some pent up blog thoughts. I wanted to share some thoughts about what’s happened in Glendale during the first year of my term as a returning councilmember. I think the biggest story is twofold. Glendale has rebounded financially as reflected in all credit rating agencies raising Glendale’s rating. I think in 2018 you will see Glendale reaching its goal of a $50 million fund balance (read ‘unappropriated’ or ‘rainy day’). These are major milestones and demonstrate beyond pure rhetoric that Glendale has indeed recovered financially.

Another major story is that Glendale is on the move economically and has become the location of choice for major office, retail and commercial entities. In 2017 Glendale had many blockbuster economic locates and here are just ten of the most memorable:

  • In March of 2017 BMW announced its newest dealership to be in Glendale
  • In July of 2017 Aloft Hotels announced construction in Westgate
  • In July of 2017 Conair’s Distribution Center, the second largest in the state, opened
  • In August of 2017 Fairchild Freight selected Glendale for its corporate headquarters
  • In September of 2017 new building activity in the Westgate Area saw the construction of the Lofts, the Olive Garden restaurant, a Twin Peaks restaurant, a Dutch Brothers coffee shop and a new, 9,000 square foot multitenant retail
  • In September of 2017 Jaguar – Land Rover announced its decision to locate in Glendale
  • In September of 2017 IKEA selected Glendale for its latest and greatest retail store
  • In October of 2017 TopGolf chose Glendale and immediately began construction
  • In December of 2017 Alaska USA Federal Credit Union selected Glendale for its corporate headquarters
  • In December of 2017 SRK Development announced expansion of its hotel chain in Glendale

IKEA in and of itself turned many heads throughout the Valley toward Glendale as the city of choice in which to locate. Add 3 high-end car dealerships, new hotels and restaurants and several corporate headquarters – all showcasing Glendale as the prime location of choice.

There is much more to this good news story and I will continue in my next blog to highlight those as well. So, Happy New Year Glendale! I can’t wait to see what 2018 has in store.

© Joyce Clark, 2017                 

FAIR USE NOTICE

This site contains copyrighted material the use of which is in accordance with Title 17 U.S. C., Section 107. The ‘fair use’ of any such copyrighted material as provided for in Section 107 of the US Copyright Law and who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. For more information material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. We are making such material available in our efforts to advance understanding of environmental, political, human rights, economic, democratic, scientific and social justice issues, etc. We believe this constitutes a ‘fair use’ of any such material. For more information go to http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/17/107.shtml. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond ‘fair use,’ you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.

Disclaimer: The comments in this blog are my personal opinion and may or may not reflect an adopted position of the city of Glendale and its city council.

Do you remember when a fresh faced council of all new members voted in 2013 to spend $50,000 or $60,000 on an electronic voting system? That went over well. Is it still in use? No and so thousands of dollars went down the proverbial toilet. This time council has approved another major change that does not bode well for you or for me. On Tuesday, December 12, 2017 Item 34 was on council’s voting agenda.

Item #34 is an ordinance that proposes council workshop and voting meetings both occur back to back on only two Tuesdays a month. For 100 years this council has met every Tuesday alternating between workshop meetings and voting meetings.

As proposed for the month of January, 2018 a workshop meeting would convene at 12:30 PM followed by a voting meeting at 5 PM on only two Tuesdays – January 9th and January 23rd. No longer would council meet four Tuesdays each month alternating between a workshop meeting and a voting meeting.

In the proposed schedule staff still has until the Monday the week before the scheduled council meeting to submit items for either agenda. This presupposes that council will continue to get its material for review of the agenda items for these meetings as is the current practice on the Wednesday before the meetings.

With the meetings, activities and events in which council participates, time is limited for review preparation and 5 days before a meeting has proven adequate in terms of preparation for one meeting. By doubling the number of council meetings on a Tuesday we are short changing the amount of time available to prepare. One of council’s primary responsibilities is to be fully informed about the items that come before us. This proposed schedule of meetings creates a lack of time to perform that responsibility fully. We would have the same 5 days used to prepare for one meeting now being used to prepare for 2 council meetings, back to back. This is an extraordinary burden. The time to prepare for 2 meetings on the same day is simply inadequate.

We all are required to read the material for meetings and often times there are questions for staff. The 5 days available include Saturdays and Sundays and in essence council has Thursday, Friday and Monday to reach out to staff on any issue.

Also keep in mind, there will be weeks such as this one where council will have a Monday special workshop meeting on a major policy issue. On those occasions, council will be required to prepare for 3 meetings a week within the same 5 day time frame. It is inevitable that something will slip through the cracks and may lead to inadequate preparation.

When each of us was elected we understood that we would be meeting 4 Tuesdays a month. It was a commitment we took freely without reservation. We do not serve at our convenience but at the convenience of the citizens who elected us to this office.

This change does a disservice to our citizens. Just as it affects council, it also limits the amount of time a citizen has to review and reach out to council on proposed items for two meetings back to back on the same day. In addition, movement of the voting meeting to 5 PM diminishes the public’s ability to attend a voting meeting as most people don’t get off work until 5 PM. For example, in January, 2018, we will be swearing in dozens of citizens who have volunteered to serve on our many boards and commissions. A 5 o’clock meeting start requires those citizens who work to leave their jobs early. It will cost them to make a 5 PM meeting and is a burden that we should not impose. This proposal will create unintended consequences.

Those on council who supported and approved the change were Mayor Weiers, Vice Mayor Hugh, Councilmembers Malnar and Tolmachoff. I did not support the proposed change to council’s scheduled meetings and voted ‘no’.

© Joyce Clark, 2017                 

FAIR USE NOTICE

This site contains copyrighted material the use of which is in accordance with Title 17 U.S. C., Section 107. The ‘fair use’ of any such copyrighted material as provided for in Section 107 of the US Copyright Law and who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. For more information material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. We are making such material available in our efforts to advance understanding of environmental, political, human rights, economic, democratic, scientific and social justice issues, etc. We believe this constitutes a ‘fair use’ of any such material. For more information go to http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/17/107.shtml. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond ‘fair use,’ you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.

Disclaimer: The comments in this blog are my personal opinion and may or may not reflect an adopted position of the city of Glendale and its city council.

During the tenure of Glendale’s former Mayor Scruggs she tried to create a strong mayor form of government rather than our existing council-manager form. Her moves were covert and subtle but ultimately she failed…thank goodness. A strong mayor form of government creates a mayor whose authority is supreme over the rest of council and the city manager. The mayor enjoys a vast amount of power. The council-manager form of government is a partnership. There is no supreme authority vested in any one person in office. All of council equally shares authority and by charter, the city manager is authorized to manage city personnel and is charged with presenting an annual budget to the council.

It’s as if the pendulum has swung in the opposite direction as there appears to be concerted effort on the part of senior management to direct city council authority to the city manager. It is insidious and dangerous to citizen-driven government.

The City Charter under Article II, Section 1 vests “all powers of the city” to the city council, especially financial authority.  Under Article III, Section 3 the city manager is the “chief executive officer and head of the administrative branch of the city government.” The city council appoints the city manager. He or she serves at the pleasure of the city council. The city manager, in addition to being responsible for all powers, duties and responsibilities of all city employees, presents an annual budget for council’s review. Council may amend or change any provision of the budget before its annual adoption.

Make no mistake. By charter, it is the city council’s exclusive authority to decide on all financial matters related to the city.

The city charter explicitly vests all financial power and responsibilities with the city council. This power is slowly being eroded. For any of you who watch city council voting meetings you have seen me routinely pull items off of the consent agenda for a separate vote and probably have wondered why I do it. It is tedious and time consuming but I believe it is necessary.

This Tuesday I will be pulling 9 items out of a 26 item consent agenda. All of these items grant administration the authority to expend money for various equipment and service contracts. This particular item #8 is seeking council approval to enter into an agreement with Physio-Control, Inc., for the purchase of heart monitors/defibrillators in the amount of $1,250,000 over the next five years at the city manager’s discretion.

All of the 9 items I will pull from the consent agenda contain this language, “This is also a request for the City Council to authorize the City Manager, at their discretion [city council’s], to extend the warranty of the heart monitors and defibrillators for an additional four-years…”

It sounds so efficient, doesn’t it? City council gives up its authority to the city manager to extend a contract without bothering city council for annual approval. This authority was not granted during my watch on council. It had to have been instituted during my four year hiatus (2013-2016).

The current city manager is thoughtful and trustworthy but that has not always been the case. Witness the terrible reigns of former City Managers Ed Beasley and Brenda Fischer. Fortunately they did not have this kind of authority. If council had allowed them greater financial authority lord knows what would have occurred. Giving greater authority to the current city manager may be comfortable for some councilmembers but there is no guarantee, despite the vetting that council does in hiring a city manager, that all future city managers will not abuse this newly created authority.

Many of the contracts that come before us are now typically for five years. How long are council terms? Four years.  It is conceivable that new councilmembers would be asked to approve a new contract without the benefit of any history on the previous terms of the original contract. There is no continuity. Council willingly gives up its authority to review, question and approve/deny the expenditure of funds for 4 years, the entire term of a city councilmember.

In addition, council has willingly given its fiscal authority to the city manager by allowing him or her, at his or her discretion, to extend the contract for an additional 4 years. How many contracts for equipment and services come before council in a fiscal year? Hundreds and now many of them will slip into a black hole that grants the city manager the right to expend funds  through the use of annual extensions without any council oversight.

One of the major imperatives of the city charter is council administration of all city expenditures. Council has already ceded a portion of that authority by granting the city manager the authority to make expenditures up to $50,000 without council oversight or approval. A one year contract with the ability of the city manager to extend it for an additional four years without council oversight is an additional step in the erosion of the charter mandate of council’s authority over all city expenditures. It is a slippery slope.

Councilmembers represent you, the Glendale citizen. You expect us to be knowledgeable about how and why the city’s money is being spent. You expect us to be fiscally prudent stewards of city expenditures. Giving up that authority to the city manager removes you from the process and creates less transparency. No longer does your representative, a councilmember, review all city expenditures. Often neither the city councilmember nor you will have any knowledge of the city manager’s decision regarding the renewal or extension of a particular contract.

That is why at every council voting meeting I pull every contract from the consent agenda for a separate vote that is five years in length or contains the provision to allow the city manager to extend at his discretion. In keeping with my belief that council should not be ceding its prime, city charter mandated, financial responsibility and authority to review, question and approve/deny all city expenditures I will continue my practice and vote ‘no.’

© Joyce Clark, 2017                 

FAIR USE NOTICE

This site contains copyrighted material the use of which is in accordance with Title 17 U.S. C., Section 107. The ‘fair use’ of any such copyrighted material as provided for in Section 107 of the US Copyright Law and who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. For more information material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. We are making such material available in our efforts to advance understanding of environmental, political, human rights, economic, democratic, scientific and social justice issues, etc. We believe this constitutes a ‘fair use’ of any such material. For more information go to http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/17/107.shtml. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond ‘fair use,’ you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.

Disclaimer: The comments in this blog are my personal opinion and may or may not reflect an adopted position of the city of Glendale and its city council.

In the November 9, 2017 edition of the Glendale Star Councilmember Bart Turner offered a guest commentary entitled the “Top 10 reasons to proceed with light rail.” While he is a fierce advocate for light rail his position does not comport with a majority of city council. Those who gave direction to abandon moving forward with light rail were Mayor Weiers, Vice Mayor Hugh, Councilmember Malnar and I. There were only two councilmembers definitively in support of light rail and they were Councilmembers Turner and Aldama. Councilmember Tolmachoff never really responded in any clear cut fashion. Aldama’s position in an election year may not bode well for him as he seemed to ignore a great many downtown business owners opposed to the concept.

Before I launch into a rebuttal of Councilmember Turner’s commentary I want to recommend two articles written by Randal O’Toole that I found while researching this issue. The first, “The coming transit apocalypse” was published as a policy paper by the Cato Institute on October 24, 2017. Here is the link:
https://www.cato.org/publications/policy-analysis/coming-transit-apocalypse .

The second, also by O’Toole was published in the Wall Street Journal on November 10, 2017. It is entitled “It’s the Last Stop on the Light-Rail Gravy Train: Mayors want new lines that won’t be ready for a decade. Commuters will be in driverless cars by then.” Here is the link: https://www.wsj.com/articles/its-the-last-stop-on-the-light-rail-gravy-train-1510354782 . Both are well worth reading.

Turner’s top reason for supporting light rail is that it was a component of Proposition 402 approved by voters on November 6, 2001, 16 years ago. I bet if light rail were on a ballot today it would go down in flaming defeat.

The specific ballot language said, “That all revenues from the 0.5% increase in the privilege and use tax authorized by this ordinance shall be deposited in a separate transportation fund that shall be used only for transportation purposes in accordance with Proposition Number 402 , including the following:

  • Intersection improvements
  • Street projects
  • Expansion of existing bus services
  • Increased Dial-A-Ride services
  • Express bus service
  • Regional light rail connection
  • Pedestrian and Bicycle Improvement Projects
  • Airport projects
  • Safety improvements”

 At that time the proposition was deliberately crafted to offer a potpourri of 9 items. The working assumption was that a menu of items was sure to appeal to various stakeholders. Light rail was included and its insertion onto the ballot measure was as contentious as its possible location. It was assumed at that time that this inclusion was the surest way to insure its passage by its advocates at that time.

And yes, Proposition 402 did pass on a vote of 8,313 yes votes (64%) and 4,664 no votes (36%). The ballot proposition was very general in its wording. It did not mandate that any of the above action items take precedence over any other. It also did not present a time line under which these items were to be completed.

It is fair to say that many of the voters wanted improved bus services as well as intersection improvements and street maintenance and repair. They were willing to accept all elements of the ballot in order to get the options that were important to them – streets, intersections and better bus service.  That was the voters’ agenda then and it remains the voters’ agenda now.

Turner goes on to state that there is enough city funding to get light rail to 51st Avenue and Glendale Avenue but that is not accurate as the estimated costs show a deficit of $400,00. See the chart below:

When we consider capital construction and operations & maintenance (O&M) costs — beware. Fares generate only one-quarter to one-third of operating expenses. There will be significant annual operational costs causing a redistribution of income from all taxpayers to subsidize light rail riders. Historically ridership fluctuates with the condition of the national economy. When gas prices are high or we are in the midst of a recession ridership increases. When gas is cheap or times are good, we climb right back into our cars. Soon we will see driverless cars whose cost of operation will compete very favorably with transit fares.

Light rail is very, very expensive. Typically it is 20 times the construction cost of all other forms of mass transit. Generally, construction delays and cost overruns are endemic. Federal and state subsidies are needed to construct the rail line and to maintain and operate the system. All federal grants require assurances. In other words, there are strings attached. One of those required federal assurances is that the light rail system will never be shut down.

What about the disruption to traffic and local businesses during construction? Most of the downtown businesses that would be affected by 2 to 3 years of light rail construction will end up closing or moving to another location. They are concerned and they have every right to be. Many are small businesses that cannot afford the kind of disruption that occurs with light rail construction. Many may end up being replaced by multi-family…most likely not high-end multi-family either.

What about Turner’s contention that light rail provides a “catalyst” for high-quality redevelopment? According to an Excel presentation provided to me by Valley Metro current development to-date along the existent light rail lines (Phoenix, Mesa, Tempe) show that anywhere from an estimated 3% to 30% of the investment in new development that occurs along a light rail route is public money (municipal funding). In addition it is quite likely that the incentive funding provided by the city to attract private development will have to compete with other General Fund priorities. In essence, taxpayer subsidies boost development along transit lines and around stations. Do you want to divert your taxpayer dollars to incentivize development along a light rail line? The catalyst will be city investment and city incentives offered to developers.

What kind of investment is typical along a light rail line? Again, based on information provided by Valley Metro, the new development tends to be a double digit percentage increase in the addition of multi-family (apartments) and the decrease of retail (percentage is variable from single digit decline to double digit decline).  Are you willing to trade downtown retail locations for apartments? Do you think the disappearance of existent stores and restaurants and the addition of more apartments in their stead is high-quality development? Did you know that properties near light rail stations in low income areas experience negative benefits?

Councilmember Turner suggests that, “a rubber-tired trolley can ferry light rail passengers throughout downtown.” Why would that be necessary? Light rail lines cannot be rerouted. They are fixed.  They create a certain inflexibility. Consider a rail breakdown or the permanent elimination of a temporary street closure caused by a special event (Glendale Glitters? Chocolate Affaire?) or a parade (Christmas parade?). There can be a permanent inconvenience to motorists when a street lane is lost or if they are required to wait behind a rail car while passengers get on or off. Motorists often react to light rail location by choosing alternate nearby streets. Suddenly the vehicular congestion migrates but still remains.

Turner suggests, “If Glendale abandons its light rail plan, $72 million paid by Glendale and other West Valley residents into the regional light rail fund will be transferred” to other light rail projects in the Valley. That is true. While Glendale chooses to opt out of light rail right that doesn’t mean that in future years Valley Metro may create other priorities in which Glendale may participate . At that time it will have access to those regional dollars.

Councilmember Turner does not mention the benefit of not establishing light rail now. Angel Rodriguez, in a Letter to the Editor in the November 2, 2017 Glendale Star asks, “The Oct. 23 article regarding the Glendale City Council killing plans for downtown light rail referred to a ‘decision 16 years after Glendale voters approved a sales tax increase, in part for light rail,’ raises the question of that part of the sales tax increase for light rail. How much of the sales tax increase starting 16 years ago was and has been set aside for that light rail that won’t happen? By now, it must be in the millions …” Approximately 40% of the sales tax collected was set aside and reserved for light rail. With the council decision not to proceed with light rail that money can be reprogrammed for other more immediate transportation needs. It can be used to enhance and increase bus service. A majority of our bus shelters are without shade. Just adding shade to these bus stops will increase ridership. The bus route along 83rd Avenue now goes from McDowell Road in Phoenix up to Bell Road in Peoria. Other routes may be able to be expanded or created.

 It can be used for intersection and street improvements. There are at least 5 intersections in Glendale in need of remediation right now. Some of those dollars could be reprogrammed to mitigate them. As another example, it can be used to connect Camelback Ranch to Westgate. Once that occurs, just as in the case of completing 95th Avenue south from Bethany Home Road to Camelback, it creates a catalyst for more businesses to locate and with it comes more jobs for Glendale’s residents. When the extension of 95th Avenue was planned and announced who came to town? IKEA with its hundreds of jobs. Those light rail transportation dollars can be reprogrammed to create enhanced connectivity between locations. With that activity comes more jobs to Glendale. City council, in a future workshop, will decide how to make the best use of the light rail dollars for other transportation needs.

Lastly, Councilmember Turner says, “Our image as the progressive future-looking city that Glendale is working hard to develop will be significantly harmed if we willingly choose to forgo this opportunity.” According to his perception, the same must be said for the other “dale” – Scottsdale. For it, too, has made the decision not to pursue light rail in its community. The four councilmembers, including me, that gave direction not to proceed with light rail at this time, in this location, do not accept his statement.

Glendale continues to be the location of choice for many businesses. Just this week, we celebrated the ground breaking for a BMW automotive franchise. BMW does extensive market research in making a decision as to where to locate another franchise. They, just as any other business looking for another location, cannot afford to make the wrong choice. They chose Glendale because of the positives Glendale offers to all new business locates. Glendale is on the move and the council decision to not move forward with light rail does not harm the amazing prospects for our future in any way, shape or form.

I understand Councilmember Turner’s frustration because the light rail decision was not the one he wanted. I’ve been there and done that. But council has made its decision and will reaffirm that decision in the form of a future Resolution to that effect. His continued advocacy for a position not supported by a majority of the city council will not change the outcome. Just as we agree to disagree, we respect his position on this issue; it’s time for him to respect our positions as well. Calling councilmembers “un-American” because of opposition to light rail does nothing to advance the issue and, in fact, is a violation of the City Council Guidelines for Conduct.

© Joyce Clark, 2017                 

FAIR USE NOTICE

This site contains copyrighted material the use of which is in accordance with Title 17 U.S. C., Section 107. The ‘fair use’ of any such copyrighted material as provided for in Section 107 of the US Copyright Law and who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. For more information material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. We are making such material available in our efforts to advance understanding of environmental, political, human rights, economic, democratic, scientific and social justice issues, etc. We believe this constitutes a ‘fair use’ of any such material. For more information go to http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/17/107.shtml. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond ‘fair use,’ you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.

Disclaimer: The comments in this blog are my personal opinion and may or may not reflect an adopted position of the city of Glendale and its city council.

My apology for not posting blogs recently. The combination of rejuvenating our kitchen with new tile and paint in addition to an extraordinarily busy council schedule left me little time to think much less do the research needed for many of my blog posts.

However, the kitchen is completed and slowly coming back to some semblance of order. For those of you who have ever tackled a major home project, you will understand the chaos and confusion that overtakes everything.

Last Tuesday, November 7, 2017 the city council had a major agenda item up for discussion – the city’s Transportation Plan 2018-2042 draft. Here is the link:  https://destinyhosted.com/glenddocs/2017/AACC/20171107_103/422_Transportation_Plan_DRAFT_v2%20Upload.pdf . At nearly 400 pages, it is a thorough and ambitious document laying out plans for the city’s transportation needs for the next 25 years. A 25 year transportation plan seems to be quite ambitious and assumptions made now may not be accurate in the future. It would seem a more definitive and realistic approach to plan now and to specifically consider priorities and funding needs for the next 5 to 10 years (out to 2023 or 2028). On page 1-7 of the plan, it is acknowledged that, “future estimates can fluctuate.

Page 1-9 lists overarching goals of the plan:

  • enhance quality of life
  • personal mobility
  • move goods
  • promote economic development
  • interconnect transportation modes
  • minimize auto travel
  • maintain the system
  • manage the system
  • improve safety
  • local transit improvements

Page 2-5 identifies the heaviest population concentrations in Glendale to be generally 43rd Avenue to 83rd Avenue and generally south of Glendale Avenue. From the MAG (Maricopa Association of Government) statistical data seniors, low income and persons without vehicles are located in south Glendale. These statistics make the case for the enhancement of mobility for that area’s residents, especially in terms of bus mobility.  On page 2-12 the plan agrees with this assumption, “Communities of concern are concentrated in the area between 43rd Avenue and 75th Avenue and Camelback Road to Peoria Avenue…focusing modes of transportation to serve these areas can meet the objectives of providing a complete transportation system to all residents.”

Page 3-1 states, “Therefore it is important that the entire network be completed to maximize the value of the overall investment.” While that may be true it is unrealistic to state without adding the verbiage  “incrementally.” On the same page it states, “These factors in tandem with increases in traffic volumes have rendered existing performance standards obsolete.” Then why are these same obsolete standards the basis of this entire plan? What standards should be used and why were they not in this plan?

 Again, on the same page, it states, “Solving street and intersection LOS (Level of Service) deficiencies will be especially challenging if even feasible in the more established areas of Glendale.” On page 2-12 it states this same area comprises “communities of concern.” There appears to be a dichotomy of thought. On the one hand “communities of concern” are identified along with the need to provide a “complete transportation system to all residents” and on the other the case is being made that it may not be “feasible” to improve these very same intersections.

Staff is asking for a major council policy decision (one of several). It hinges on the question of what is the acceptable Level of Service (LOS) for our streets and intersections.  Currently Glendale has an adopted LOS of “C.” The plan states that by 2042 the vast majority of the city’s streets will remain at an LOS of A-C. There are only 11 segments identified in the entire city as deteriorating to LOS D, E-F. Staff contends that retaining a standard LOS of C  is a matter of money. They state the cost of raising these 11 intersections to LOS C will be very costly and not worth the investment. They say that many of the Valley cities have accepted and LOS of D. Interestingly, Peoria continues to retain an LOS of C. One question: Are we in a race to the bottom with other communities? If they jump off the bridge should we do likewise?

Pages 3-50 and 3-51 raise the question of why there are no capacity improvements identified for Glendale Avenue from the Loop 101 east to 43rd Avenue or for Bethany Home Road from 83rd Avenue to 43rd Avenue? Both are directly impacted by Westgate traffic. Are we waiting until we have another Bell Road corridor? On page 3-51 other streets impacted by Westgate traffic are Camelback Road/59th to 99th; 83rd Avenue/Glendale to Northern; and 91st Avenue/Glendale to Orangewood. It would appear that these streets are immediately in need of capacity improvement to satisfy the needs of visitors to Westgate and the area as it continues to grow and to add such elements as IKEA and TopGolf.

Page 3-59 has Glendale Avenue scheduled for FY 2018. Why all the way out to Litchfield Road? Why not just to GRPSTC? Glendale Avenue to the Landfill experiences not just the volume but some of the heaviest equipment. Have we ever considered the use of concrete at that location? It is used back East extensively. Although the initial cost may be slightly higher, it is more durable and over time will require less costly maintenance.

Page 4-9 identifies 539 bus stops throughout the city:

  • 278 have a sign only
  • 30 have a sign and trash container
  • 53 have a bench and trash container
  • 178 have a shelter and trash container

Bus transit (in lieu of the fact that council has declined to pursue light rail at the present time) should be a primary priority for the city. Many of the bus stops are a disgrace. If the city truly wants to encourage more ridership then the majority of the bus stops should be attractive enough to encourage ridership. Shelters are a necessity in the Arizona heat.

Page 4-12. Obviously the ridership counts on Routes 50 and 70 demonstrate the need for more bus transit to serve the low socio-economic communities in the city. If we cannot “feasibly” remediate traffic issues in these areas then it is incumbent upon us to provide greater mass transit.

Page 4-22 discusses Commuter Rail. Glendale has never taken the lead in making this form of mass transit a priority yet over 70% of our residents work outside of Glendale. It’s been studied to death but no action has been taken.

Page 6-4 identifies the use of 4 HAWKs throughout the entire city. These are mechanisms that allow safe pedestrian crossing of major arterial streets.  There is one such device on Glendale Avenue east of 67th Avenue. These have proven themselves and it is time to identify new locations. There is no mention of such a strategy.

Page 6-9. ITS/TSM objectives are very aggressive in terms of goals and a completion date of 2022. Technology may be sexy but a large portion of the funds programmed should be reprogrammed to bus transit and other forms of mass transit. Why is this the only area planned to be completed within 5 years when all of the other transportation needs may not be met until 2042?

Page 7-9 projects an increase of 60 additional aircraft based at the airport from 2015 to 2035 (20 years) and if that is the city’s target it  is abysmal. Frankly it’s an embarrassment. The airport strategies and initiatives are fully funded in this plan. Under those circumstances, the city should be developing the East side of the airport now and then aggressively marketing it immediately. In order to succeed in its development it requires a major and substantial ad campaign after development occurs.

Page 8-16 shows an allocation of $5.08 M over 24 years for transportation education. I do not consider this activity to be a priority and would like to see these funds reduced considerably and reprogrammed.

This draft transportation plan has major implications for every Glendale resident. I urge you to take the time to read it and share your opinions on the draft with all members of the city council at:

  • jweiers@glendaleaz.com
  • ihugh@glendaleaz.com
  • rmalnar@glendaleaz.com
  • jclark@glendaleaz.com
  • ltolmachoff@glendaleaz.com
  • bturner@glendaleaz.com
  • jaldama@glendaleaz.com

There is still time for you to weigh in on this draft plan. City council will have at least one more workshop on this topic.

© Joyce Clark, 2017                 

FAIR USE NOTICE

This site contains copyrighted material the use of which is in accordance with Title 17 U.S. C., Section 107. The ‘fair use’ of any such copyrighted material as provided for in Section 107 of the US Copyright Law and who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. For more information material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. We are making such material available in our efforts to advance understanding of environmental, political, human rights, economic, democratic, scientific and social justice issues, etc. We believe this constitutes a ‘fair use’ of any such material. For more information go to http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/17/107.shtml. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond ‘fair use,’ you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.

Disclaimer: The comments in this blog are my personal opinion and may or may not reflect an adopted position of the city of Glendale and its city council.

Almost a year ago on November 2, 2016 I published a blog entitled “Two Glendales.” In it I drew a distinction between north Glendale and south Glendale and how the city reacted to each geographic area. Obviously, north Glendale is more affluent and educated and its residents are more likely to be internet savvy…and they vote in greater numbers than any other area.

For years the more vocal residents made sure the city was aware that certain uses were acceptable to them and they did not expect what they perceived as more onerous uses to be foisted upon them. In other words, while certain uses may be acceptable elsewhere they were not to be placed in north Glendale.

The recently proposed Goodwill slated for the northwest corner of 59th Avenue and the Loop 101 once again demonstrated this dichotomy. Now, to be fair in discussing this issue, there is an old development agreement that stipulated that ‘thrift stores’ such as Goodwill would not be allowed in this shopping center. So, it is likely that unless the city council was willing to overturn that stipulation the proposed Goodwill would not have been approved. If it had been approved by council there is every likelihood litigation would have ensued. However, Goodwill, bowing to the pressure exerted by residents pulled its application. It is now a moot point.

It should be noted that when Peter Hollingshead, the representative of the shopping center owner, appeared before the Planning Commission he stated the building has been vacant five years and his client has sought to find a tenant for the building. He added that if Goodwill were to be denied, the entire shopping center could end up in foreclosure.

The contrast between the Stonehaven application and the Goodwill application could not be more stark.  Mayor Weiers’ public statement announcing Goodwill’s withdrawal is a good example of the disparity of treatment toward citizen protest. In June of 2017 over 1,000 Yucca district residents signed a petition in opposition to the proposed amendment to the Stonehaven residential development asking for lots as small as 4,000 square feet on 136 acres of the 300+ acre site. Innumerable emails and calls were made to the mayor and council expressing the residents’ opposition. I am not going to relitigate all of the reasons for residents’ opposition but they (and I) felt that over 1,000 residents’ voices would be heard via a petition, emails and calls and that the mayor and council would do the right thing and represent them. After all, never in Glendale’s history had so many residents taken the time to become politically active. Yet it was not to be so. The amendment increasing the density and allowing 4,000 square foot lots was approved on a 5 to 2 vote of council with only Councilmember Ray Malnar joining me. For you see, he listened. While Mayor Weiers offered his various explanations for approval, he did not acknowledge the vast number of residents in opposition.

Along comes Goodwill and in the mayor’s public announcement of Goodwill’s October 17, 2017 withdrawal from the process he stated, “My office received many emails and phone calls in opposition to this project, and as an elected official, it is extremely important that I give serious consideration to the will of citizens. I thank them for making their voices heard.”

Say what? He was willing to listen to the voices of a hundred or so Arrowhead residents and give them “serious consideration.” I know I personally received no more than 100 emails expressing opposition. There may have been more than that but the numbers were nowhere near those of the Yucca residents in opposition to Stonehaven. Why didn’t the mayor show the same deference and “serious consideration” to the 1,000 voices of Yucca district residents?

Because there still are two Glendales. Not all, but some of the emails I received from north Glendale residents expressed the same theme of arrogance and condescension.  Comments such as, “we live in the 85310 zip code and Goodwill is unwelcome” or  “a Goodwill store does not fit with the surrounding area” or “Goodwill would be just north of the Citadelle Plaza, which conveys an upscale atmosphere” or  “we would rather see a Trader Joe’s not a thrift store.” Can you imagine the firestorm if a pawn shop or an auto loan shop was to try to locate there?

I check every Friday’s edition of Glendale Republic to look at the sales prices for homes in zip codes 85308 and 85305. They are quite comparable. One week 85308 will have a slightly higher median sale price and the next week 85305 will be higher than 85308.  The population counts of Cholla and Yucca districts are also comparable – somewhere between 40,000 and 45,000 residents. That’s because when the 6 districts were drawn one of the federal imperatives requires making the population count for each district as equal as possible.

All geographic areas of Glendale should be heard and their opinions respected equally and equitably. No area of Glendale is better than another area and it’s time the city stopped making decisions based on this discriminatory sentiment.

I wonder what decision council would have made if there had been no stipulation and Goodwill had proceeded with its application. We’ll never know.

© Joyce Clark, 2017                 

FAIR USE NOTICE

This site contains copyrighted material the use of which is in accordance with Title 17 U.S. C., Section 107. The ‘fair use’ of any such copyrighted material as provided for in Section 107 of the US Copyright Law and who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. For more information material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. We are making such material available in our efforts to advance understanding of environmental, political, human rights, economic, democratic, scientific and social justice issues, etc. We believe this constitutes a ‘fair use’ of any such material. For more information go to http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/17/107.shtml. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond ‘fair use,’ you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.

Disclaimer: The comments in this blog are my personal opinion and may or may not reflect an adopted position of the city of Glendale and its city council.

On Tuesday, October 17, 2017 the Glendale city council met in workshop. The first agenda item of five items was that of light rail. Staff presented by recapping what had been discussed to date and asked for further council direction.

There was a robust discussion by council for well over an hour and a half. I will recap each councilmember’s position in the order of workshop seating. Councilmember Ray Malnar related that the original Glendale proposition ballot had 9 items, one of which was light rail. He believes that voter support for the proposition was based on support for 8 of the 9 ballot items and that voters approved the measure and tolerated light rail on the ballot because of the other items that would bring local transportation improvements. He indicated that he could not support light rail and asked for consensus on that position.

Councilmember Bart Turner is a strong and avid advocate for light rail. He attempted to refute any councilmember comments that offered reasons not to move forward with light rail. He feels that the financial figures presented showing a GO Program deficit and the use of General Fund dollars would not be accurate in the future and that the economic development created by light rail would offset those deficits. When it came time to create consensus he clearly wanted to move forward with light rail.

Vice Mayor Ian Hugh has never made a secret of his position on light rail. He has been opposed consistently.  He asked questions of Valley Metro’s CEO, Scott Smith, about pollution and congestion. The answers provided by Mr. Smith were vague as he could not really speak to the issue of pollution and answered the congestion question by stating that in Mesa light rail has caused vehicular traffic to find alternate routes and therefore he has not seen an increase in vehicular congestion. When consensus was called for, the Vice Mayor joined Councilmember Malnar to request that the light rail issue be discontinued in Glendale.

Mayor Weiers Indicated that at one time he had supported light rail as he believed that local connections in the form of trolleys, etc., would be able to connect with the end of the light rail line. However, having reviewed the financial forecast of dollar needs for light rail, he was reluctant to commit future dollars to light rail. He feels that Glendale is finally in a healthy financial position and does not want to jeopardize that success by committing future dollars that the city may not be in a position to afford.

Councilmember Lauren Tolmachoff was clearly torn and on the fence. At one time she had indicated that her support of light rail would hinge on its ability to cross over Grand Avenue. Clearly, the dollars needed to accomplish that were astronomical and frankly unaffordable for Glendale. She did not want to dismiss light rail completely and asked that a decision by council be made after an upcoming council workshop on transportation in Glendale.  There was no support for delaying a decision on the issue. When the call for consensus on ceasing pursuit of light rail in Glendale I, quite honestly, did not see her indicate her position in support for or in opposition to light rail.

Councilmember Jamie Aldama, shared the same position as Councilmember Turner and was a strong advocate for light rail. He believes that light rail will spur downtown economic development. As the Mayor noted, Councimember Aldama was comfortable with his position on the issue as it did not impact LaMar Avenue, located one block south of Glendale Avenue and at one time was considered as a possible location for the light rail line. When it came time for consensus, Councilmember Aldama joined Councilmember Turner in continued support of light rail.

As last in line, I said that I was not ready to sacrifice Go Programming dollars and General Fund resources to pay for light rail. We have immediate needs that can be satisfied by releasing light rail dollars to other transportation needs. When it came time for consensus I joined Mayor Weiers, Vice Mayor Hugh, and Councilmember Malnar in giving direction that council would no longer pursue light rail in Glendale.

On a 4 to 2 consensus with 1 unclear, city council has finally made a decision. Light rail will not come to Glendale…at least not anytime in the next 10 years. Light rail is dead.

© Joyce Clark, 2017                 

FAIR USE NOTICE

This site contains copyrighted material the use of which is in accordance with Title 17 U.S. C., Section 107. The ‘fair use’ of any such copyrighted material as provided for in Section 107 of the US Copyright Law and who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. For more information material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. We are making such material available in our efforts to advance understanding of environmental, political, human rights, economic, democratic, scientific and social justice issues, etc. We believe this constitutes a ‘fair use’ of any such material. For more information go to http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/17/107.shtml. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond ‘fair use,’ you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.

Disclaimer: The comments in this blog are my personal opinion and may or may not reflect an adopted position of the city of Glendale and its city council.

On Tuesday, October 17, 2017 the city council will once again take up the issue of light rail in Glendale. The entire city council received the following email from former Councilmember Yvonne Knaack. I think it is a good starting point for discussion. Here is her email in full as it is a public record having been sent to the entire council:

“Dear Mayor and Councilmembers, Please keep the discussion going on the future of light rail in Glendale. We need more definitive projections of cost before a final decision is made. I would hope that your would consider the advancement of light rail to at least a transition point of say 52nd Ave so that the mile stretch from 43rd Ave to 51st Ave can have the potential of development that is needed to revitalize that area of town. I believe there are developers who are just waiting to see if we will have light rail before they commit to bringing investment dollars to Glendale. I have concerns, like many of you, about the cost and negatives of light rail but know that a lot of these concerns can be mitigated. Light rail is infrastructure and more and more people will be using public transportation in the future. The connectivity of our regional transportation system is critical. Glendale has paid in millions of dollars and we don’t want to lose that money. We can’t use it for anything else so let’s find a way to get light rail done. The residents of Glendale voted for the light rail and have paid the taxes to bring it to Glendale. Please don’t give our future transportation to Phoenix and the East Valley. Sincerely, Yvonne Knaack”

Ms. Knaack states, “We need more definitive projections of cost before a final decision is made.” As part of our council information packet preparatory to our Tuesday discussion, one of the items offered is Preliminary Cost Estimates GO Program Analysis.

Again, some history of the GO Program is required. In 2001 Glendale voters approved Proposition 402 levying a half-cent (.5%) sales tax for the sole and exclusive purpose of improving transportation systems in Glendale. The following year, 2002, the Citizens’ Transportation Oversight Commission (CTOC) was established to ensure that the sales tax collected from Proposition 402 was applied properly. CTOC’s mission is to review and recommend action to city council to make sure that the Long Range Transportation Program is always financially balanced, i.e., it spends no more than is collected in tax. Other transportation projects in the GO Program include, but are not limited to, the Northern Parkway Corridor, improvement to the 59th Avenue corridor, bus pullouts, pavement management, neighborhood traffic mitigation and existing transit (bus service) operations.

Back to the Cost Estimates. Below is the information provided by staff with regard to the use of GO Program funds. The only things sure in life are “death and taxes.” The information below is factual and is based upon the best estimates of staff.

The total of the Capital Cost is the major variable. Something could blow up to make this estimate even higher, especially if the end of the line were to be at 61st Avenue, crossing Grand Avenue. The breakdown of funding sources is not a variable:

  • Federal – 58%
  • Regional – 8% (is fixed at $72.6 million)
  • Glendale – 13%
  • Phoenix – 21%

Based upon the estimated costs Glendale’s share of Capital Costs varies from a low of $32.4 million if light rail ends at 43rd Avenue and Glendale Avenue to a high of $156.6 million if light rail ends at 61st Avenue and Glenn Drive. Glendale’s annual operating and maintenance costs range from $1.6 M (ending at 43rd Avenue) to $5.7 M (ending at 61st Avenue).

Another area to consider is the projected GO Program’s deficit if light rail ends anywhere between 55th and Glenn Drive and 61st and Glenn Drive. The projected deficit to be absorbed by the GO Program for  Glendale’s Capital Costs varies from $0.8 M to $50.8 M. Glendale’s annual O&M deficit, also funded by the GO Program, varies from $0.4 M to $2.8 M (again dependent on where the line ends). The problem is those deficits have to be made up from somewhere and the only source would be Glendale’s General Fund.

The most significant questions become obvious. If light rail’s O&M and Capital Costs cannot be covered by the GO Program then it must take revenue from the General Fund. The General Fund pays for everything within the city from employee pay to funding such departments as Police and Fire or Parks and Recreation (our recreation programs and libraries). Even if bonding were to be used the repayment for those bonds comes from the General Fund. The question becomes are you willing to allocate less available money to various departments and needs within our city in order to cover the Capital Cost of constructing light rail as well as its annual O&M expenses?

Another equally valid question is that if there are no future surplus funds in the Go Program due to light rail funding of Capital Costs and O&M Costs are you willing to have less GO revenue for its other mandates, such as pavement management or the bus system?

There is yet another issue to consider. The Regional funding of $72.6 M is not assured. Since the regional funding sunsets in about 8 years, there is no assurance that voters will renew this funding source when it comes time to vote upon it. Therefore Valley Metro has announced to all participants that they must pay the regional share of $72.6 M up front and the participants will be reimbursed for that amount if and when the regional funding is again approved by voters. There is always the possibility that in paying the Regional funding Glendale may never be reimbursed for $72.6 M if the renewal funding fails at the ballot box. Will Glendale lose the $72.6 in regional funding if it does not participate in light rail, as Ms. Knaack suggests? Most likely, yes. But in order to get that $72.6 in regional funding are you willing to take the chance that Glendale will be reimbursed? Are you willing to use General Fund dollars at the detriment of other city departments and needs just to get that $72.6 million?

Former Councilmember Knaack goes on to say, “I believe there are developers who are just waiting to see if we will have light rail before they commit to bringing investment dollars to Glendale.” Let’s talk about those investment dollars. According to an Excel presentation on current development to-date adjacent to and surrounding existent light rail provided by Valley Metro to me several months ago, anywhere from an estimated 3% to 30% of the investment that occurs along a light rail route is public money (governmental funding). In addition it is quite likely that the incentive funding provided by the city to attract private development would have, once again, to compete with other General Fund priorities. Question: Do you want to divert General Funds to incentivize development along a light rail line?

What kind of investment is typical along a light rail line? Once again, based on information provided by Valley Metro, secondary development tends to be the double digit percentage addition of multi-family (apartments) and the decline of retail (percentage is variable from single digit decline to double digit decline). Question, are you willing to trade downtown retail locations for apartments?

I think these questions are important and I want to give you an opportunity to weigh in so I am putting up a new poll to the left of this column. I hope you will take the time to answer the poll questions.

Lastly, is the issue of technological advancement. New technology is being developed exponentially. I have no crystal ball but what future technological advances will make light rail and bus service obsolete? And how quickly can it happen? As an example, we are already beginning to see prototypes of flying commuter cars. What does the technological future hold in terms of mass transit vehicles, their capacities and their fuel sources? Should we consider this issue when deciding whether to develop light rail right now?

My final comment is this: former Councilmember Knaack obviously supports light rail but it will not affect her business located on Glendale Avenue because the proposed route runs one block to the north on Glenn Drive. My final question is would she still be supportive of light rail if it were proposed for Glendale Avenue and meant disruption of her business for a year…or two…or three? I think not. It is one thing to support an issue that doesn’t directly impact your bottom line but it is distinctly another when it affects your very livelihood.  

© Joyce Clark, 2017                 

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