People always wonder and ask what a councilmember really does. Over the next four years of my term as the Yucca district councilmember I may be able to provide you with some answers. I was reelected as the Yucca district councilmember in August of 2016.
After the formal city council acceptance of the Canvass of Votes I began to receive phone calls and requests for meetings. Prior to officially taking office on December 13, 2016 I spent several hundred hours in October and November preparing for office and participating as a councilmember elect. Since the beginning of October I have had approximately 30 luncheon meetings with community stakeholders, city staff and city councilmembers; more than a dozen “coffee” meetings primarily with residential development interests; and attended more than a half dozen city/community events from HOA annual meetings, to an COG airport open house to the Glendale Christmas parade.
As councilmember elect I began receiving council material for voting meetings and workshops. I spent hours reviewing the material and firing off memos to the city manager and staff asking for answers to questions I had as councilmember elect. I also personally attended city council voting meetings and workshops on Tuesdays prior to taking office.
Much time was spent reconnecting with various stakeholders and rebuilding positive relationships with them. Another chunk of time was used to bring me up to speed on various city and Yucca district issues by meeting with city personnel. Yet more time was used to prepare for council meetings and to attend various city events.
I suspect since councilmembers are usually seen only on Glendale’s Cable 11 TV, most people think that is all that they do. Not true. It’s a major time commitment with irregular work hours. A simple lunch meeting can easily take 2 hours if you include travel time. A city function such as a public community event or a neighborhood meeting will also consume several hours and many are evening events. The same can be said for a formal council meeting or workshop. Preparation time for council meetings and workshops can easily take a day or more, especially if a councilmember requires meetings or communications with various city staff for further clarification on issues.
A city councilmember has three major responsibilities: to make decisions regarding the city’s public policy on a potpourri of issues; to represent the interests and points of view of Glendale’s residents, especially one’s district constituents; and to represent the leadership of Glendale not only at city functions but at local, regional, state and national venues and organizations.
To accomplish all of these responsibilities each councilmember has access to two taxpayer-funded budgets. The first is a Professional Development budget of $18,000 annually. These funds may be used for trips such as the state or national League of Cities and Towns annual meetings. The money can be used for dues/membership fees to organizations and or activities a councilmember needs to connect to the community, such as the local Chamber of Commerce or the WestMarc Annual State of the State Dinner. This budget can be used for subscriptions to publications such as the Phoenix Business Journal. These are activities that enhance the councilmember’s effectiveness and would not be an ordinary activity or expense as a private citizen. Lastly it can be used to support the ordinary functions of the office such as business cards, letterhead, a computer or tablet or activities such as contributions for flowers for a memorial service of a prominent Glendale personage.
The second councilmember budget is a District Improvement budget of $15,000 annually. It is to be used for minor infrastructure improvements within the councilmember’s district. It can be used in parks to plant trees, do minor repairs to park equipment, repaint park equipment. It can be used to make neighborhood improvements, such as repair of subdivision monument signage. It can also be used for examples such as landscape improvements to a public element within a subdivision or installation or repair of curb, gutter or sidewalks. Some councilmembers have used these funds to make contributions to non-profit organizations or to sponsor city events. I, personally, do not believe that these activities are an appropriate use of taxpayer funded public infrastructure improvements.
I plan on using my council Professional Development budget for 2 major functions: to support the rental cost of meeting space and refreshments for regular Yucca district meetings; and to create, print and mail a Spring and Fall edition of the Yucca district newsletter to every household that has a water bill. One newsletter mailing to Yucca residents is anticipated to cost between $5,000 to $7,000 (primary cost is postage). Even though it is a major expense, I believe it is important to provide this mailing because not everyone has access to a computer and some residents, especially seniors, may not be computer literate enough to access all city material available on the internet. I will continue to use social media, my Facebook page, Twitter and my blog page, www.joyceclarkunfiltered.com as major means of outreach to those Yucca district residents who are computer savvy and regularly visit these sites.
In December I have spent the following amounts from my Professional Development budget with an inherited starting balance from the former councilmember of $13,113.93:
· $87.28 for Councilmember business cards
· $299.21 for Councilmember letterhead stationery and envelopes
· $45.86 for a Councilmember name plate and business card holder for my desk
· $100.00 as my portion of the cost for rental of the Sahuaro fruit packing shed for a mayor and council sponsored event inviting all West Valley mayors and councils
I did not have to buy a tablet to conduct city business as I inherited the former councilmember’s city tablet. After deducting these December, 2016 expenses my Professional Development budget has a January 1, 2017 starting balance of $12,581.58. Councilmembers recently directed staff to publish their monthly expenditures and these expenditures can be found at: http://www.glendaleaz.com/CityCouncil/FinancialStatements.cfm .
I inherited an Infrastructure budget of $12,500 from the former councilmember. I need your help. This is where you come in. If you are a Yucca district resident I suspect you have seen many areas of our district that need repair. Have you seen subdivision monument signage in need of repair? Or have you seen one of our district parks that could use some further landscaping or repair/painting of equipment? Perhaps you have seen spots in need of curb, gutter or sidewalk repair? These funds can be used on city property or public right of way for improvements. Or do you have an idea for a public project with a cost of no more than $12,000?
I am soliciting suggestions from you until January 31, 2017. Any and all ideas are most welcome. This is your opportunity to participate in your local government. Please submit your suggestions with the following information, your name, and your return email address or phone number; the address of problem; description of the suggested improvement; and if you can, include a photo of the problem area. You may send the information to: firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com; post a comment to my Facebook page, https://www.facebook.com/joyce.clark.338 ; or post a comment to this blog topic.
I believe a councilmember’s Professional Development budget should be used primarily for outreach to either one’s constituents or to the community-at-large. That is why I intend to use it to hold district meetings and to publish district information. I also intend to use it for councilmember related memberships and activities. As a private citizen there are many events, local and regional, I would not be required to attend but as a councilmember I would be expected to participate. I will use this budget to attend local and regional dinners and conferences.
A councilmember’s Infrastructure Improvement budget was designed to allow a councilmember to invest in improving his or her district. The intent when it was created was not to grant money to non-profits. It is always possible that a councilmember could grant money from this budget to a non-profit that constituents could think was inappropriate. I will use this budget to make minor district improvements.
Next blog up…good news about the west branch library!
© Joyce Clark, 2016
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