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Joyce Clark Unfiltered

For "the rest of the story"

It has been 18 years and 90 days since the city’s pledge to build the West Branch Library.
On March 15, 2016 the Glendale city council held a Budget Workshop meeting to discuss the Fiscal Year 2016-17 Capital Improvement Plan (CIP). As an aside, Councilmember Chavira arrived at 9:30 AM, a half hour late and offered not one original thought other than to thank staff for their presentations.
This can be a complicated issue but let’s try to break it down. The CIP is Glendale’s plan for future, major infrastructure projects. These are projects that cost more than $50,000 and have a useful life span of at least 5 years. Just a few examples are: fire and police stations, libraries, roads, flood control and the purchase of sanitation trucks to fire engines. It is a ten year plan but only the first five years of the plan have any money attached to the proposed projects because the funding for them has been identified. The last five years of the plan are a wish list and have no money earmarked to support them.
It is a very, very important component of Glendale’s budget and at times projects within it serve political interests. Each councilmember has the opportunity to advocate for a project that will be located within his or her district.
How are CIP projects paid for? Here are the sources to repay bonds issued for CIP project: 

  • Enterprise Funds are the largest component at 66% and this is because many CIP project are big ticket items related to water, sewer or sanitation;
  • next are General Obligation Bonds (GO) at 15% and are repaid through secondary property taxes that flow into the city’s General Fund;
  • Highway User Revenue Funds or HURF make up 5%. These funds are state shared revenue and come from the tax you pay on a gallon of gasoline;
  • then there is the Transportation Fund of 5%. This fund was born in 2002 when the voters of Glendale approved a small sales tax increase to set aside strictly for transportation related projects;
  • Grant funds make up 4%;
  • Occasionally the city will pay cash for a project and this makes up 2% as a CIP funding source;
  • Lastly are Development Impact Fees (DIF) at 3%. Not going into the weeds too deeply on this, these are assessments that are paid by new construction of homes and commercial buildings. It is highly regulated by the state as to the amount that can be collected and what projects can be funded.

To further complicate the issue the state has divided General Obligation bonds (GO) into two categories: 6% and 20%. 6% GO bonds can be used for economic development, a cultural facility, a government facility and libraries. 20% GO bonds are used for flood control, open space & trails, parks, public safety, streets & parking and water and sewer projects.
Now that you are thoroughly confused, what’s in Glendale’s CIP for Fiscal Year 2016-17, the upcoming fiscal year that starts on July 1, 2016? The big ticket items are Parking Lot P-1 in the amount of $6 million and Parking Lot P-2 in the amount of $10.5 million. These 2 projects will be funded with GO bonds repaid through the city’s General Fund. What are these parking lots? If you recall, the city paid $22 million for land adjacent to the University of Phoenix Stadium to be used for parking necessary to meet the obligations of an agreement between the Arizona Sports & Tourism Authority (AZSTA),the Cardinals and the city. Parking Lot P-1 for $6 million will definitely move forward immediately. Parking Lot P-2 for $10.5 million will only be built if senior staff finds it necessary to completely meet the mandatory number of parking spaces to which the city is obligated to provide.

 

The two other big ticket CIP projects for FY 2016-17 are the Pyramid Peak Water Treatment Plant improvements for $15.2 million and the Arrowhead Water Reclamation Facility improvements for $25.4 million. These will be funded through Enterprise Fund revenue bonds. Lastly $7 million will be spent for street improvements funded through the Transportation Fund.
To review these are the projects in the Fiscal Year budget of 2016-17 that begins on July 1, 2016:
• Bond Construction Funds will cover $7 million to improve the city’s streets.
• DIF Funds will partially fund the temporary West Branch library in the amount of $600,000+.
• Enterprise Revenue Bonds will pay $15.2 million and $25.4 for water improvements
• GO Bonds will pay for two parking lots, in the amount of $6 million and $10.5 million. That’s it. These are the major infrastructure projects slated for FY 2016-17. There are lesser amounts for the scalloped street program and infill street light program as examples.
Criteria for determining whether a project is eligible for the CIP are extensive. However, there are 3 criteria worthy of mention:
• “Does a project support the city’s goal of ensuring all geographic areas of the city have comparable quality in the types of services that are defined in the Public Facilities section of the General Plan”
• “Does a project prevent the deterioration of the city’s existing infrastructure?”
• “Does a project encourage and sustain quality economic development?”
These criteria are noteworthy in terms of 2 ongoing issues: the Western Area Branch Library and O’Neil pool. In the proposed FY 2016-17 CIP funds are earmarked for a temporary branch library of 7,500 SF to serve south and west Glendale. It is a travesty. Northern Glendale has the Foothills Branch Library ( 34,000 SF) and central Glendale has the Main Library (64,000 SF). Downtown Glendale has the 15,000 SF Velma Teague Branch Library built in 1971, forty four years ago. A 7,500 SF modular building as a temporary library branch serving south and west Glendale does not even come close to meeting, “Does a project support the city’s goal of ensuring all geographic areas of the city have comparable quality…” What a joke. Nor does this temporary building meet “Does a project encourage and sustain quality economic development?”
Currently the area of major, economic development is the Westgate area in west Glendale. Exactly how does a temporary 7,500 SF modular library building (½ the size of Velma Teague, which is SMALL; ¼ the size of Foothills Branch Library; and 1/10 the size of the Main Library) enhance “comparable quality” and “economic development?” Not to mention Heroes Park in west Glendale. It is 88 acres in size with approximately 20 developed acres. The rest of the park is a barren, dirt and weed filled wasteland. How does this park meet those criteria? Have you seen the parks the City of Peoria has recently built? Not only are they numerous they are gorgeous and put Glendale to shame.
Another issue that surfaced was that of O’Neil Pool located at 6500 W. Missouri Avenue. The surrounding square mile is known as the O’Neil Ranch Area. Its population is one of, if not, the densest in the city. There are 2,000 children in that square mile attending William C. Jack Elementary School and Mensendick Middle School. Up until 5 years ago these kids had O’Neil pool as a major recreational opportunity. The pool developed some cracks and leaks and was closed. A Parks & Recreation study was then done to measure the attendance but by that time kids had to be bused to the Rose Lane Pool. Obviously, the recorded attendance was low and was used to justify a staff recommendation that the pool not be repaired and the area be repurposed. Another joke. O’Neil must be repaired and reopened to service those kids. This is not an affluent area of town and has often been ignored. An overwhelming majority of the over 1,300 homes and 7 apartment complexes in the adjacent area do not have swimming pools. The ratio of residential swimming pools is one of the lowest in the city. As city criteria states, “Does the project prevent the deterioration of the city’s existing infrastructure?”
There is one more piece of bad news associated with the CIP. It is not until 2022, 8 more years, that there is GO bond debt capacity for new projects. Yet Tom Duensing, the Assistant City Manager, recently found GO bond debt capacity in the amount of $32 million to buy land and building a parking lot to satisfy the Arizona Cardinals and AZSTA. It’s time he turned to the needs of our residents and found GO bond debt capacity for these much needed projects.
It is incumbent upon the current city council, Mayor Jerry Weiers, Vice Mayor Ian Hugh, and Councilmembers Turner, Tolmachoff, Malnar, Aldama and Chavira to insure that a comparable quality of amenities exist in all parts of our city, including south and west Glendale by building a permanent Western Area Branch Library (overdue for 18+ years), completing the development of Heroes Park (also overdue for 18+ years) and repairing and reopening O’Neil Pool (overdue for 5+ years).
© Joyce Clark, 2016
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.

It has been 18 years and 68 days since the city’s pledge to build the West Branch Library.

City council held its first budget workshop on February 16, 2016. Here is the schedule of future budget workshops:

  • March 15, 2016             9 AM
  • April 5, 2016                 9 AM
  • April 19, 2016               9 AM
  • April 21, 2016               9 AM

This first budget workshop was a review of all budget components as of December 31, 2015 or the first two quarters of Fiscal Year 2016. The only item which required council consensus for direction was the issue of raising the Secondary Property Tax rate to the maximum of 2% as allowed by state law. Council consensus was…nothing. They gave no direction to staff. Look for the vote on acceptance of a property tax rate in June when council must publicly vote on the issue.

Senior staff’s presentation on the budget’s performance was pure “government speak.” Here’s a good example, “(General Fund) Revenues are $11.2 million or 11% higher than revenues at the same time last year.” Boy, that sounds really, really good. Wait a minute. Staff then said, “Out of the $11.2 million increase in revenues, $8.3 million is due to consolidation of the general fund sub-funds into the General Fund.”

In plain English what that statement means is this. General fund sub-funds are the Arena, Camelback Ranch, Zanjero, Civic Center and Stadium events. This is not a complete list but you get the idea. Prior to this Fiscal Year, 2015-16, the sub-funds stood separately. Staff had to report on the revenues received and expenditures of all sub-funds. This Fiscal year they were rolled into the General Fund for “accounting purposes.” No longer is there a separate accounting of the sub-funds’ performance. Hmmm.

Staff went on to say, “General Fund City Sales Tax collections are $48 million which is an increase of $7.3 million or 18% over the same time last year. Approximately $6.0 million of the increase is attributable to the consolidation the sub-funds into the general fund. Without including the sub-fund revenues, city sales tax increased by $1.3 million or 3%.” This 3% figure is in line with the federal GDP.

In terms of General Fund expenditures staff reported, “The actual (General Fund) expenditures increased by $15.4 million over the same time last year. This increase is primarily due to the consolidation of the general fund sub-funds into the General Fund ($9.7 million) and reclassification of Technology and Technology Projects ($5.0 million)…” Once again most of the expenditures are attributable to rolling the sub-funds into the General Fund.

The bottom line is this. Half way through Fiscal Year 2015-16 the General Fund has an excess of $8.3 million. It can be assumed that this excess is due in great measure to the $9.0 million reduction (from the previous figure of $15 million) in the arena management fee paid to IceArizona.

Tonight, February 23, 2016 city council will host its regular voting meeting. Guess who will be AWOL? Yep, Councilmember Sammy Chavira…once again. Be reassured. He will participate telephonically.

Three agenda items are worth following: Item 20 is Resolution 5071. It is an acceptance of a $49,000 grant from the Arizona Sports and Tourism Authority to be used to help develop an archery range at Heroes Park; Item 21 is acceptance of Ordinance 2975 reflecting rezoning request ZON15-10. This action will allow for development of the Westgate Healthcare Campus PAD at the northwest corner of 99th Avenue and Glendale Avenue. This is a very welcome project and provides a fantastic compliment to Dignity’s Westgate Hospital Campus just north of this proposed project; and lastly Item 22. Council will vote on the adoption of the Loop 101 Scenic Corridor in north Glendale. This is another very welcome development that warrants expansion of this designation all along the Loop 101 within Glendale with the only exception being a narrowly tailored Westgate area.

Stay tuned for more reports on Glendale’s budget as council meets in March and April of 2016.

Don’t forget…it’s budget season in Glendale.

© Joyce Clark, 2016

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.

It has been 17 years and 210 days since the city’s pledge to build the West Branch Library.

Nearly all major battles we face seem to revolve around either love or money. In the case of the Coyotes vs. Glendale it’s definitely money. Before I post a blog on the current deal between these entities it’s important to understand the effects of the biggest driver — money.

Westgate and its sales tax revenue is an important component. It cannot be denied that the majority driver of retail sales tax revenue in Westgate comes from Tanger Outlets. Before Tanger’s opening in November of 2012 retail sales tax revenue was under a million dollars a year. Tanger, when it opened, was projected to earn $2M in sales tax revenue and in fact, from the start, has generated closer to the $2.5M mark.

As you can see from the chart below in calendar years 2013 and 2014 retail sales tax revenue was over $3.5M and almost all of it is attributable to Tanger. In October of 2014 Tanger expanded and the city can now expect an estimated $4.5M in retail sales tax revenue in 2015. Restaurant/Bar sales tax revenue has also increased over time and can be related to football games, hockey games and concerts held at the University of Phoenix Stadium and the Gila River Arena. This component is also attributable to the opening of new restaurants in Westgate. This sales tax revenue has grown as well and is estimated to earn some $3M. “Other” sales tax revenue is composed of bed tax, AZSTA stadium city sales tax, licenses & permits, etc. It is estimated to earn about $5M in 2015.

In 2015 estimated sales tax revenue from Westgate looks like this: Retail — $4 to $4.5M; Restaurant/Bar — $3 to $3.5M; and “Other” — $4.5 to $5M.

Westgate sales tax

The argument often used by Coyotes’ supporters is that the spillover effect from 42 nights of hockey games is essential to Westgate’s restaurants and bars survival and to the city. How much of that spillover is from 70,000 fans attending each of 10 football games? Admittedly it is substantial and could account for anywhere from 1/3 to ½ of the sales tax revenue generated from restaurants and bars annually.

The point is that Westgate has grown despite all of the drama and turmoil of the Coyotes and is strong enough to survive with or without them. If one looks at all of the factors that determine annual sales tax generation at Westgate the Coyotes (from hotel stays and restaurants/bars) are estimated at driving about $2M a year out of a total estimated annual sales tax revenue of a low of $11.5M to a high of $13M.

As long as we are on the subject of money there is another factor to consider. Many Coyotes fans are hoping that the Coyotes will move to downtown Phoenix or a new arena at Talking Stick. Dan Bickley in a recent July 26, 2015 Arizona Republic story entitled Coyotes not out of the woods – or Glendale – just yet said, Sarver says his Suns pay $23 million a year just to play at US Airways Center: $12 million in debt service, $8 million in arena management costs and $3 million in rent. A new arena capable of housing a NBA team and a NHL franchise starts at $500 million, and that’s being conservative.” Kudos to Robert Sarver for publicly offering some expense figures (no revenue figures, mind you). That’s more than anyone has seen from the Coyotes. Any public figures associated with the Coyotes have been minimized or denied by Anthony LeBlanc, an owner and visible spokesperson for the ownership group.

The question for the Coyotes becomes can they afford to move anywhere? Sarver is not in the charity business and I suspect that the owners of Talking Stick are not either. All bets are off if the Coyotes move out of Arizona. Is there an entity out there willing to pay the Coyotes to play in a newly constructed arena? Who knows? The Coyotes will have to pay to play anywhere else in Arizona and as long as they continue to suffer losses of an undetermined amount their options are very limited. No one is offering any love to the Coyotes these days and their entire future is being driven by only one thing – money.

© Joyce Clark, 2015

FAIR  USE NOTICE

This site contains copyrighted material the use of which is in accordance with Title 17 U.S. C., Section 107. The 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 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 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.

Tomorrow, July 13, 2015 the Glendale city council will meet in executive session at 11 AM. What is the topic? Your guess is as good as mine. No one is talking and how could they? Senior staff has decided (perhaps wisely) that council will not know the subject matter of the e session until the actual meeting. The only other period of time staff went to such lengths was when Phil Lieberman was on council. It was suspected but never proven that he leaked e session material on a regular basis to Canadian folk during previous Coyotes’ buyer negotiations. This time the alleged leaker(s) may be Councilmembers Sherwood and/or Chavira spilling all to the owners of the Coyotes.

It may be that senior Glendale staff will present a Coyotes offer to the city council. There are events that hint that this may be the topic. Several councilmembers were scheduled last week for depositions with regard to the Coyotes law suit. Abruptly those deposition sessions were cancelled. Was it because the city’s attorneys were in talks with the Coyotes’ attorneys? The Coyotes payment of $1M bond and the city quarterly arena management payment of $3.75M are linked together and are to be paid concurrently. Neither has been paid to date.

If this is indeed what occurs tomorrow council will have several options. They do not vote in workshops or e sessions but do provide direction for staff. They can provide direction to: 1. Accept the offer; 2. Reject the offer; or 3. Send the offer back to the Coyotes with a counter proposal.

If you look at the council e session agenda for this meeting it is rather specific:

“A. The City Council will meet with the City Attorney for legal advice, discussion and consultation regarding the city’s position in pending or contemplated litigation, including settlement discussions conducted in order to avoid or resolve litigation. (A.R.S. § 38-431.03(A)(3)(4))

“B. Council will meet to discuss and consider records exempt by law from public inspection and are specifically required to be maintained as confidential by state or federal law. (A.R.S. § 38-431.03(A)(4))”

A.R.S. § 38-431.03 (A)(3)(4) is also pretty specific:

“(iii) discussion or consultation for legal advice with the city’s attorneys (A.R.S. § 38-431.03(A)(3));

“(iv) discussion or consultation with the city’s attorneys regarding the city’s position regarding contracts that are the subject of negotiations, in pending or contemplated litigation, or in settlement discussions conducted in order to avoid or resolve litigation (A.R.S. § 38-431.03(A)(4));”

It is possible that they will discuss the city’s current law suit with Vieste over recycling issues at the city landfill but it doesn’t seem probable based upon the events of this past week.

On another topic, the University of Phoenix Stadium hosted a soccer cup game today, July 12, 2015. A friend happened to have lunch at Westgate today. The friend related that the Westgate parking areas were jammed and they finally found a parking space literally in the “back forty” of one of the free lots. They almost decided to leave assuming that if the parking lots were filled, so were the Westgate restaurants. That was not the case. Their restaurant, as well as others, was nearly deserted. Who was parking in all of those free Westgate spaces? They learned it was the soccer game attendees at the University of Phoenix stadium.

The stadium has since its inception relied on Westgate parking spaces for football games and major events. Per the agreement with the Arizona Sports and Tourism Authority (AZSTA) the city is responsible for providing 6,000 parking spaces for the football games and major events such as the Super Bowl and Fiesta Bowl. The city has always fulfilled its commitment to do so. Now AZSTA and the Bidwills are pressuring the city to build a $46M parking garage and the city is acceding to that pressure. Last fall senior staff brought forward a new capital improvement project – the infamous and very expensive parking garage at Westgate. Instead of building a library or a swimming pool as a capital improvement project Glendale taxpayers will be footing the bill for a Taj Mahal of a parking garage. You can count on its cost mounting. Don’t be surprised if the final bill is way north of $50M.

Glendale’s taxpayers are not happy about this. They ask why AZSTA and the Bidwills don’t build their own parking garage. They are the ones who need it. They are aware that the Bidwills sought and gained city approval for the development of Sportsman’s Park East and West. Those development plans include approval for several parking garages. Why don’t the Bidwills invest in a parking garage to meet the demands of their patrons attending their football games? Is it because they don’t want to pay for it? Is there a trigger threshold or event that requires the city to build this parking garage? What is it and has it occurred? Does the parking garage have to be as large and grand as staff presented or can it be scaled down to meet a minimal requirement? Can we wait until Glendale’s financial picture is stronger and can absorb yet another debt payment? When is the city going to prioritize the needs of its citizens first? So many questions – met with…silence.

© Joyce Clark, 2015

FAIR USE NOTICE

This site contains copyrighted material the use of which is in accordance with Title 17 U.S. C., Section 107. The 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 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 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.

mothers 4

It has been 17 years and 129 days since the city’s pledge to build the West Branch Library.

When it comes to determining the actual cost of hosting the Super Bowl it is almost impossible using the city’s current financial tracking system. As the city responded to my Public Information Request it noted for Pro Bowl and Super Bowl expenses, “It was not announced that the Pro Bowl would be held in Glendale until budget development already took place so there were not separate accounts created for Pro Bowl expenses. Everything was charged to fund 1010 National Events.” In terms of Public Safety costs the city also responded with, “There was not a separate reporting code for Pro Bowl. Pro Bowl public safety costs were subject to the provisions of the city’s contract with Global Spectrum for public safety services at the stadium and the city will receive a partial reimbursement for those expenses.”

I requested a list of all departments that contributed, by event, in any way. The city’s response was, “A list as requested does not exist, but the documents provided somewhat address the request. There were obviously other departments involved as issues arose that affected their service areas, but a list was not created for tracking purposes.”

Based upon city provided figures I arrived at police Pro Bowl figures of 5,486 hours and wages of $309,387.54 and fire Pro Bowl figures of 1,400 hours and wages of $90,000. The city received partial reimbursement from Global Spectrum and I have established an estimated reimbursement figure of approximately $70,000 for police and $45,000 for fire services. Obviously this does not include other departments’ employee time and materials. Based upon figures available it is estimated that the city spent a minimum of $300,000 for public safety in support of the Pro Bowl. Other department costs are estimated to be in the range of $200,000. The city spent an estimated range of $500,000 in non-reimbursable hosting costs for the Pro Bowl.

Based upon city provided figures I arrived at police Super Bowl figures of 7,321.89 hours and wages of $527,527.08 and fire Super Bowl figures of 2,900 hours and wages of $241,000. The city’s costs for public safety alone are approximately $768,000. Add the city identified travel expenses for the 2014 Super Bowl of $19,000, Building Safety costs of $40,000 and Transportation Department costs of $787,000. These city identified costs total $1.61 million.

Add the untracked, unidentified costs such as the Super Bowl Operations Planning Team, the Code Compliance Enforcement Teams and the PIO team. Now add the untracked, unidentified costs of many departments: Sanitation, Marketing, Streets, Parks & Recreation, Planning & Zoning, etc. These costs are easily estimated to total $1 million to $1.5 million. It is fair to estimate the city’s true cost for hosting the 2015 Super Bowl between $2.6 to $3.1 million dollars.

What have you, the taxpayer, paid to be identified as a Sports Mecca in 2015?

  • Fiesta Bowl non-reimbursable cost of an estimated $300,000 to $500,000.
  • Pro Bowl non-reimbursable cost of an estimated $500,000
  • Super Bowl non-reimbursable cost of an estimated $2.6 million to $3.1 million
  • Total cost an estimated $3.4 million to $4.1 million dollars.

Ka-ching…

Next up…some interesting factoids discovered and did the city earn any money while hosting these events?

© Joyce Clark, 2015

FAIR USE NOTICE

This site contains copyrighted material the use of which is in accordance with Title 17 U.S. C., Section 107. The 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 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 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.

I belong to a neighborhood website that encompasses my area as well as about a dozen other subdivisions adjacent to Westgate and the Tohono O’odham temporary casino (currently under construction). A few days ago a conversational thread began on the site reflecting residents’ opinions regarding the effects of a casino near all of us. About 7 people have posted their opinions to date. I feel compelled to dispel some of their assumptions.

A local realtor in the Westgreen Estates subdivision said, “I do not recall any values going down as a result of a casino being built.” It’s one of the first questions you hear when someone wants to build a casino somewhere near you. That question is what’s it going to do to my property value?

There is now enough data from other areas of the country and their experiences with a casino to prove property values are impacted negatively from a nearby casino. From American Attitudes on Development comes, “A nuclear power plant, while the least-favored type of power plant, would still be preferable to a landfill, a casino, or an aggregate quarry.” A Foxboro, Maine resident and realtor for 23 years offered this in an op-ed in the Foxboro Sun Chronicle, March 11, 2012. Foxborough was facing the prospect of a casino in its community. Based on his 23 years of real estate experience he said, A casino is controversial. Anything controversial will cause some home buyers to exclude Foxboro and surrounding towns. This potential reduction in buyers will negatively affect the price and resale of homes here.” He went on to say, “A casino will change the demographics and feel of the town. The casino developer is setting aside funds to deal with the increased need in law enforcement the casino will bring. Many families moved to Foxboro because of the community feel. Any significant change in crime, drug abuse, alcohol abuse and, domestic violence, or any other demographics will change the feel and fabric of Foxboro and surrounding towns.”  A 2013 study by economists belonging to the National Association of Realtors concluded that, “the impact of casinos was ‘unambiguously negative’ on a housing market.”

I can hear the outrage from casino supporters now but the fact remains, while they support the casino, few property owners (including casino supporters) actually want to live near this casino. Most people understand that, at the very least, a casino operates 24/7 and will lead to an increase in crime, traffic congestion, drunken drivers, trash, tour buses and road noise – and that these things will be ultimately reflected in a reduction in property values.

None of the local resident responses asked about a casino and its effect on crime rates. Yet it is another area of concern. The following is an Abstract entitled Casinos, Crime and Community Costs by Earl L. Grinols and David B. Mustard, originally published in 1996 but this excerpt is from the Review of Economics and Statistics (February 2006). The authors say,“Casinos increased all crimes except murder, the crime with the least obvious connection to casinos. Most offenses showed that the impact of casinos on crime increased over time, a pattern very consistent with the theories of how casinos affect crime. The crime-ameliorating effects of casinos through increased employment opportunities and wages for low-skilled people will be concentrated shortly after opening. Between 5.5% and 30% of the different crimes in casino counties can be attributed to casinos.

“According to the study, five years after a casino opens, robbery in the community goes up 136 percent, aggravated assault is up 91 percent, auto theft is up 78 percent, burglary is up 50 percent, larceny is up 38 percent, rape is up 21 percent and murder is up 12 percent, compared to neighboring communities. Crime-lowering effects, like additional police and the new jobs represented by a casino are overwhelmed by rising crime increased by the presence of the casino, according to the study.”

Locals responding on this thread believed that traffic would be manageable. A resident of Westgreen Estates subdivision said, “We have enough open space to adapt to any increase traffic (sic).” A Rovey Farm subdivision resident said, “A quick drive around the other casinos in the valley will show you what kind of traffic to expect. (Not much).”

The Connecticut South Western Regional Planning Agency issued a Casino Traffic Impact Study in 2009.  “The purpose of this study was to estimate the possible traffic and air quality impacts of the development of a casino in Bridgeport.” The study concluded, “the development of a casino would have a significant impact on traffic congestion in southwestern Connecticut. Casino traffic is not seasonal because the number of trips to and from casinos is relatively consistent from month to month. Casinos operate 24 hours per day; there is no peak travel period to and from casinos thus traffic impacts of casinos may be experienced at all times of day.”

The increased traffic in the area will not just be due to the number of visitors to the casino. Add to that, traffic from employees as well as vendors and suppliers making deliveries with their semis at all hours of the day and night. Many transportation agencies in many states where casinos have located have done similar studies. All of these transportation studies recommend new transportation infrastructure whose costs are borne by you – the taxpayers. Increased traffic in our area will not be the result of an occasional Cardinals football game. Instead imagine that kind of traffic every day of the year, 24/7.

Yet other studies demonstrate sales tax revenue moving from other, traditional sources to a casino. In essence there is a shifting of sales tax revenue away from hotels and restaurants such as in Westgate, toward gambling facilities. Visitors and residents spend money on gambling that would otherwise be spent on other goods and services. This effect is known as “substitution.” There is also a shift of workers currently in one industry to the gambling industry. This is known as “displacement.”  This new development will take workers from other industries and move them into the casino industry. A New Hampshire study also offered, “For a standard casino, most patrons come from within 30 miles and participation declines exponentially as distance increases.”

So, respondents from Provence, Rovey Farm and Westgreen Estates, to the thread of discussion about casino impacts, be careful what you wish for. Then again, if you don’t mind a reduction in your property value, increased crime and increased traffic congestion, continue to welcome this casino that will most assuredly change the long treasured fabric of our community.

© Joyce Clark, 2015

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Last week the Phoenix Business Journal had a story by Angela Gonzales, Senior Reporter, about a new health campus coming near St. Joseph’s Westgate hospital. It will be a $30 million dollar investment led by Dr. John Simon. Dr. Simon founded SimonMed Imaging, Inc.

simon-edited-map_304xx1102-1650-0-0

Site of Simon Investment Group medical campus

It will be located at the northwest corner of 99th Avenue and Glendale Avenue, directly to the west of the Glendale Park n Ride lot. The 20 acre project is planned to be a healthcare campus with all kinds of outpatient facilities available at one central location.  The buildings and/or condos will be available for lease or sale to doctors for medical offices, surgery centers, skilled nursing facilities and long term care facilities.  The investment group is also seeking a research center and a satellite nursing school. Construction is planned to start in 12 to 18 months.

I congratulate Dr. Simon and his investment group for their commitment to develop further medical facilities in West Glendale. West Valley residents are delighted and can’t wait to use this new complex. Residents in the Westgate area, until the advent of St. Joseph’s Westgate had to travel 10 miles to Banner Thunderbird or 5 miles south to Banner Estrella or 10 miles west to Banner Sun City to have access to medical services. Having medical providers and services in this area has been long overdue. We look forward to even further expansion of medical facilities and thank Dignity Health for its investment in this area. It has proven to be a catalyst for further medical development. We are excited and grateful.

Now that’s a good news story!

© Joyce Clark, 2015

FAIR USE NOTICE

This site contains copyrighted material the use of which is in accordance with Title 17 U.S. C., Section 107. The 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 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 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.

On Tuesday, July 15, 2014 the Glendale city council held a special meeting. It was posted the required 24 hours in advance of the meeting but other than knowing that the topic would be the casino, the posting was generic. Let me make clear I oppose the proposed casino. I have from the first moment in 2009 when the Tohono O’odham (TO) announced they were coming until this day and beyond.

We now know why this special voting meeting was called. There was evident panic in the pro-casino ranks of Councilmembers Alvarez, Hugh, Sherwood and Chavira. The public cover (read excuse) they used for calling the meeting was that the Department of the Interior recently approved taking TO land into trust (blessing it as a reservation). What really has them steamed is that Mayor Weiers has been invited to testify before the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs about off-reservation gaming on July 23, 2014. It was a blatant, back room  attempt to make him toe the city line and support the proposed casino. That was the “gang of four’s” real agenda. There is another element that needs to be considered. The Primary Election. There is every possibility that the majority in favor of the casino could become the minority, especially if Alvarez loses her council seat (a distinct possibility).

There should be some real concern among the public about the orchestration of this special meeting. The four majority vote councilmembers obviously got together and orchestrated this charade. Everyone should be asking, just how much conversation was there between them and was any portion a violation of the state’s Open Meeting Law? They, to a person, repeated each other and called for a new council resolution rescinding Council Resolution 4246 and asking for a declaration of support for gaming on the reservation land.  They obviously were all on the same page and had decided in advance exactly what the strategy and outcome were to be.

It was evident that the four, as a majority, called for the meeting without consultation with the minority. There was obviously a deliberate lack of communication with the 3 minority voting councilmembers. Obviously they were not included in any discussion about this special meeting. In fact, Mayor Weiers stated that he was on vacation and no one bothered to check his schedule for his availability. Vice Mayor Knaack made it clear her attendance was “under protest” and Councilmember Martinez called the meeting “inappropriate.”

Mayor Weiers has the legal right to oppose the proposed casino before this Senate Committee as long as he makes it clear that his comments are personal and do not reflect the city’s newly adopted position.  I sincerely hope that he takes this opportunity to express in the strongest terms possible, the many reasons why this casino is not good for Glendale.

Mayor Weiers made it clear that he was not happy with the process that was occurring and he stated unequivocally that “what is happening is wrong.” He said the entire process was rushed and it was — but now we know why. He reminded everyone that council has a history of making bad decisions when it is rushed.

Vice Mayor Knaack agreed that the entire process was rushed and could have waited until council reconvened in August. Ahhh, but then the majority pro-casino contingent would not have had the opportunity to try to muzzle Mayor Weiers before he testifies before that Senate Committee. She believes that a casino within Glendale will destroy the voter approved Arizona gaming compact passed in 2002 and it will.

Councilmember Martinez said that the council actions could jeopardize any leverage the city might have with regard to negotiations with the TO. Vice Mayor Knaack expressed the same concern and asked, “Will the action today impact the city’s ability to negotiate the best deal possible with the TO?” That finally stopped “the four” and they acceded to going into Executive Session. Apparently whatever they learned from the City Attorney in that E Session was not persuasive enough to dissuade any of the predestined, determined and blind action of the four.

Two comments were made of note. Arthur Thruston, a Glendale Gadfly, said there was nothing wrong with the manner in which the TO had purchased the land. As a reminder, it was purchased by a shell corporation of the TO back in 2002 and kept secret for 7 years, until 2009. Thruston likened it to Intel or any other large corporation buying land before announcing their new location. OMG…Thruston needs to get real. It is not typical for a corporation to wait 7 years between its purchase and announcement.

Councilmember Sherwood again reiterated that all of the businesses in Westgate are just hunky dory at the prospect of the proposed casino. He used the analogy of a hamburger stand on a corner saying, when another hamburger stand locates nearby it creates synergy and each stand will have more business. That’s fine as far as it goes. What if both stands produced hamburgers that tasted equally well but the new stand sold its burgers for less – a lot less? Did it ever occur to him that if both hamburger stands produced hamburgers of equal quality and taste the public would always choose the cheaper product? Voila! Does that make the situation the Westgate area businesses face from the proposed casino clearer?

Predictably Resolution 4828 New Series passed by a vote of 4 to 3.  It has 3 elements: repeal of Council Resolution 4246; support for gaming on the TO land; and direction that this resolution is sent to the entire Congressional delegation. Alvarez, Hugh, Sherwood and Chavira in the affirmative. Weiers, Knaack and Martinez in the negative. Alvarez has finally paid back the TO for their independent expenditures on her behalf. Now they will owe her more in this election.

The seminal question is this: How can anyone possibly trust anything the TO agrees to in its negotiation with Glendale? They kept secret purchase of the land in Glendale for 7 years. They back stabbed their sister Tribes by flagrantly violating the Arizona gaming compact. If you are not dissuaded by their past actions, I have bridge in Brooklyn to sell to you.

This action by council has stirred me to act. I am writing a letter to the entire Congressional delegation repudiating this council’s Resolution. I encourage any reader who is dismayed by this council’s recent policy decision to take the time to write as well.  A trickle of opposition, when joined with one another, becomes a stream and eventually a mighty river. It’s time for Arizona’s delegation to learn there is a mighty river of opposition to the proposed casino.

© Joyce Clark, 2014

FAIR USE NOTICE

This site contains copyrighted material the use of which is in accordance with Title 17 U.S. C., Section 107. The 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 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 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.

This is a good story about Glendale. In the Arizona Republic of July 11, 2004 it reports that Zanero Falls has been purchased. Many readers will not be familiar with this property. It is located just northeast of Cabela’s and slightly east of the Marriot hotels on the north side of Glendale Avenue.

zanero

Zanjero Falls Corporate Center 2008

It was completed in 2008 for $45 million just before the national economy tanked. It is a 150,000 square foot signature office complex for the West Valley and especially Glendale. It reminds one a great deal of the architecture one would see in southern California around the Newport Beach area with its Spanish colonial architecture. It is a beautiful complex.

It was recently purchased for $9.1 million (a great buy!) by Select Healthcare Solutions LLC, Phoenix Cyberknife and Radiation Oncology Center LLC. The plan is to turn the complex into medical offices. Medical service for west Glendale residents and the surrounding area are long overdue. There is a tremendous pent up demand for such services. It doesn’t hurt that the complex is close to the new Dignity Health St. Joseph’s Westgate Medical Center on 99th and Glendale Avenues. The buyer is investing $6 million in the property and plans to open a cancer center in part of the complex by January of 2015.

Congratulations to all of the principals involved in making this deal happen.  It’s a great development for Glendale but more importantly for west Glendale residents and residents of nearby communities.

© Joyce Clark, 2014

FAIR USE NOTICE

This site contains copyrighted material the use of which is in accordance with Title 17 U.S. C., Section 107. The 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 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 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.

I had just finished writing this blog when I received 2 robo calls. The first one was from the Arizona Free Enterprise Club announcing it was seeking petition signatures to put the city council’s affirmative decision to eliminate the sunset provision of the temporary sales tax increase on the ballot. In the call they announced that they would be at the Foothills Recreation Center and the Glendale Main Library this weekend from 9 AM to 5 PM both days gathering signatures to get it on the ballot. I wish them success. I will make a special point of going to the Main Library this weekend to sign their petition.

The second robo call was several hours later and it was from the Glendale Fire Union urging people not to sign the petition and promising dire consequences if the sales tax increase is sunset in 2017. Everyone acknowledges that Glendale’s debt burden is unsustainable. Perhaps it would be more productive if the Fire Union got behind an effort to urge reduction of the city’s debt by selling some of its assets. It would make the entire sales tax sunset issue a moot point. 

The battle lines are drawn. Voters will be fed misinformation and exaggeration from both sides. They will have to wade through the claims and counter claims made until their eyes are crossed. Will voters decide to send a strong message of austerity to the city council or will they decide Glendale cannot continue to exist without a permanent sales tax increase? It looks like the voters of Glendale will be given the opportunity to ultimately decide the issue. Which side will be more successful in activating their voter base? It’s fair to say that the Sales Tax Sunset Elimination War is officially declared. Now…on to the rest of this blog.

The June 24, 2016 city council meeting had two major items not yet reviewed in my blog. One was the passage of Ordinance 2897 removing the sunset provision from the sales tax increase. The other was Ordinance 2899 eliminating city permitted events from the requirements of the city’s noise ordinance.

The elimination of noise provisions for city permitted events is a city-wide ordinance. If there is a city permitted event in Sahuaro Ranch Park, it applies. If there is a city permitted event at Arrowhead Mall, it applies. It does not affect just the residents adjacent to Westgate. It was approved unanimously by city council. Councilmember Chavira, representing west Glendale and the area of Westgate, had no qualms about throwing his residents under the Glendale bus. Perhaps it is time for the voters of his district to question his representation of them, their concerns and their interests.

Sam Allen, Code Compliance Director, also neatly side-stepped a question about the number of previous noise complaints in the Westgate area by saying he did not have that figure as noise complaints are handled by the police department. There were allusions by staff that neighborhoods would remain protected but no specifics as to how that would be accomplished.  Another question asked was how many events declined to locate in Glendale as a result of the city’s noise ordinance? That, too, was deftly ignored.

Ken Sturgis, a citizen commentator, said that he lived .8 of a mile away from Westgate and often heard Westgate event noise within his home. His neighbors heard it as well but felt that the city would do nothing about it. I live a mile away from Westgate and heard noise but not at the same level of intrusion that neighbors living closer to Westgate would have heard. So, in the name of flexibility and competiveness, all neighborhoods throughout Glendale have lost all protection from city permitted event noise. They will experience sound and fury…signifying nothing.

The other ordinance, passed on a 4 to 3 vote (with our usual 4, Knaack, Martinez, Sherwood and Chavira in the affirmative), was the elimination of the sunset provision of the sales tax increase. I was the councilmember who originally insisted it be a provision of the sales tax increase. I did not offer that stipulation on a whim. It was the only way I could support the increase. I trusted and relied upon my fellow councilmembers to keep their word. Little did I know that their acceptance of the sunset provision was done with fingers crossed behind their backs.

Barrel district council candidate Randy Miller spoke to the issue and said the two options, making the sales tax increase permanent or utilizing draconian cuts, were not the only options available. Mayor Weiers agreed and that was the basis of his “no” vote. Mr. Miller said there is always an Option 3 and crafting it should be the goal.

At the time of the passage of sales tax increase with the sunset provision senior staff offered a plan to gradually absorb the $25 million in the temporary sales tax increase by making incremental cuts of $5 million a year over a 5 year period. The first signal that council would not have the fortitude to make the necessary cuts over 5 years was when they could not even accept privatization of custodial maintenance of city buildings. That decision sent a message, loud and clear, to senior staff that making the necessary spending cuts over 5 years was a council non-starter.

I marvel at the city’s propensity and adroitness in propagandizing the issue.  Knowing that the Arizona Free Enterprise Club (AFEC) is currently circulating a petition to get the council’s vote for elimination of the sunset provision on the ballot, senior staff slipped in a new concept.  The sales tax increase will be reviewed during the budget process each year. Be careful what you wish for. It would be ironic indeed if, at the next budget discussions in the spring of 2015, council decided to raise the sales tax increase. After all, Councilmember Sherwood publicly stated that he believed it would be necessary.

The offer of sales tax increase review every year was strategically offered to mitigate the anger of Glendale voters should the AFEC be successful in getting the question on this fall’s ballot. The city will be holding out the hope that the increase has a chance of being reduced or going away in the future. Maybe after we’re all dead.

The city assertion flies in the face of the fact that the bond rating agencies are taking a close look and relying upon the elimination of the sunset provision to satisfy them. The bond rating agencies will again be very concerned about Glendale’s financial stability when they realize that now the sales tax increase stands an annual possibility of reduction or elimination. By adding this provision of annual review the stability that the bond rating agencies rely upon has been removed.

Another mitigation strategy that the city is already employing is on its website under Frequently Asked Questions about the elimination of the sunset provision. Here is the link:http://www.glendaleaz.com/documents/FAQEliminationofSunsetforTempTax062514.pdf .

The city’s message is that dire consequences will occur should the tax sunset in 2017. They used the same strategy years ago when a group of us nearly got the elimination of food sales tax on the ballot. The city prepared a slick pamphlet asking Glendale citizens to choose what cuts they would be willing to make. All choices were dire and it scared the voters. It worked that time and sadly, it may work this time.

If the Arizona Free Enterprise Club is successful in acquiring the requisite number of signatures to get the question on the fall ballot, don’t buy into scare tactics this time. It’s time for Glendale voters to send a direct message to council and senior management staff. That message is, live within your means. Don’t spend more than the city receives in revenue. If 22% of the budget is devoted to the debt burden, tell them it is their job to reduce the debt.

Which brings up the question, can Camelback Ranch, the Media Center, the Parking Garages, the Convention Center, the Civic Center or Jobing.com arena be sold? I’m not an attorney but I would say “yes.” Many years ago as a small business owner, my landlord sold the building in which I was a tenant. The new landlord and I could not come to mutually agreed terms. When my lease expired I did not renew. I left that location.

Glendale owns these buildings and has the right as landlord to sell them. Tenants in any of these sites would then have to negotiate new lease terms with the new landlord. Glendale may lose some money by selling at present market value but it would remove the debt and/or the O&M costs associated with the asset. Glendale must get its debt burden under control. Right now it is over 22%. It should be under 10%. If Glendale cannot afford these assets, selling them seems to be a prudent course of action.

There are those who will immediately say, we can’t do that. Instead, council direction should be given to the city attorney to make it happen. The city simply cannot continue down this unsustainable debt burden path forever.

There are those who will say, what’re you… nuts? The city can’t do that! It reminds me of something Councilmember Hugh said at this council meeting. He said, paraphrased, that the current council is fractured because its members do not share the same strategy for curing Glendale’s financial situation. Each side believes it has the better path and the right path to solve Glendale’s fiscal crisis.

I have no doubt that the councilmembers love this city. They demonstrate it daily by their service. Unfortunately, a majority believe the only solution is to tax the city out of its financial crisis. The minority believes that there are other choices, painful, yes… but other choices.

It has been my honor and a great privilege to have served as a Glendale councilmember for 16 years. I have lived in Glendale for nearly 50 years. I love this city. You love this city. It is our home. Placing a greater and greater tax burden on those who live in this home, is not prudent…and it sure isn’t the best way to grow Glendale.

© Joyce Clark, 2014

FAIR USE NOTICE

This site contains copyrighted material the use of which is in accordance with Title 17 U.S. C., Section 107. The 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 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 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.

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