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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.

In Paul Giblin’s March 4, 2016 Arizona Republic story about Councilmember Chavira he wrote: Concerning the California trips, Chavira noted in expense records that the purpose for a trip to Montebello, Calif., in November 2015 was ‘Economic Development-grid projects & special events in CA.’

He wrote that the reason for a trip to West Covina, Calif., in October 2015 was ‘Light Rail and bring LA restaurant to CB Ranch in CA,’ a reference to Glendale’s spring-training park Camelback Ranch.

“In his email to The Republic, Chavira stated that the trips combined multiple opportunities.

“‘I met with the Los Angeles Cleantech Incubator (LACI), which is an excellent model for innovation and entrepreneurship that I hope to implement in Glendale. Additionally, these two trips involved meetings with a number of political and sports-world leaders concerning the possibility of partnerships back home in Glendale,’ he stated.

“Chavira did not include names of business, political and sports leaders with whom he met. Officials with the clean-tech concern did not return messages about the matter.

“The October 2015 trip followed an introduction Chavira facilitated between Glendale resident Luis De La Cruz and officials at Glendale’s spring-training stadium.

“De La Cruz is the majority owner of Manuel’s Original El Tepeyac Café, a Los Angeles restaurant known for its five-pound burrito. During the meeting, De La Cruz proposed the idea of El Tepeyac selling items at Camelback Ranch stadium, according to De La Cruz and stadium President Jeff Overton.

“The group met at Camelback Ranch on Sept. 1, 2015, but no deals were struck. In October, Chavira sampled the food at El Tepeyac in Los Angeles and De La Cruz introduced him to officials at the clean-tech incubator, De La Cruz said in an interview.

“The Los Angeles Dodgers and Chicago White Sox play spring-training games at Camelback Ranch.

Brian Friedman, the city’s economic-development director, said he did not accompany Chavira on the trips and that the councilman didn’t coordinate with him about them. Friedman said he is unfamiliar with the term ‘grid projects.’ “ Here is the link to Giblin’s entire article: http://www.azcentral.com/story/news/local/glendale/2016/03/04/glendale-councilman-sammy-chavira-charges-24k-trips-3-years-taxpayers/78857734/ .

There’s more to the Luis De La Cruz and Chavira connection. In Chavira’s 2012 run for his council seat Luis De La Cruz co-hosted a $100 a person fundraiser at Bitzee Mama’s for Sammy. They appear to have been friends since at least 2012 when the fundraiser occurred. De La Cruz, in addition to being a majority owner of El Tepeyac Café is also a director of Andale Construction located in Buckeye and Andale Towers located in Phoenix. Chavira seems to aspire running with those who have money and lots of it.

Chavira offered Giblin no back up information for his California trip other than a rather general statement of creating partnerships.  Could he have been there for another purpose? As Giblin reports Chavira did not offer specific information on who he met on this trip. Why travel to California to see a man who lives in Glendale? There has been unsubstantiated speculation that Sammy may have taken this trip primarily to attend a sporting event. Who knows?

Chavira’s explanation for all of his questionable trips to Washington, D.C. and to California was that he was there on city business as well. To the general public it appears that Sammy went on “fun” trips such as seeing Pope Francis on a big screen TV and attending his buddy’s, Ruben Gallego, installation as a Congressman and then to cover his butt made the assertion that he also attended meetings to benefit Glendale. No one is buying his explanation. No one, not the Mayor or other councilmembers have behaved in this fashion.

More troubling is Sammy’s habit and pattern of repaying “favors” to large benefactors supporting his run for office. Is it coincidence that Mark Becker of Becker Billboards made a substantial contribution to Sammy’s campaign and Sammy supported Becker’s request for billboards in north Glendale during, at the very least, one council meeting? Is it coincidence that an attorney for IceArizona made several hundred dollars in contributions to Sammy’s campaign and then Sammy voted for the deal even though he ran on a platform of no more bad (financial) deals for Glendale? Apparently he didn’t think Glendale’s payment of $15 million a year to IceArizona as a management fee was a bad deal. He did not support the canceling of IceArizona’s contract with the city and did not support the city’s issuance of a request for bids to manage the city’s arena.

In response to reading Paul Giblin’s report on Chavira’s trips A Letter to the Editor written by Ron Myers, Constable at Arrowhead Justice Precinct was published. Here is the full text:

“As an elected public official in Maricopa County who lives in Glendale, I am appalled and dismayed to read a story in The Republic that Glendale City Councilman Chavira has abused the trust of the taxpayers in Glendale by spending lavishly on questionable trips and meals charged to his expense account that we all pay for.

What possible city business could it be for him to fly to Washington, D.C., to observe the Pope’s speech on a TV monitor or to watch his friend get sworn in as a congressman? Does he really think he can justify spending over $400 on dinner for his superiors in the Phoenix Fire Department while out of town?

The City of Glendale takes one more black eye from out-of-control politicians. Shame on him and shame on the City of Glendale for allowing this fraud and abuse.”

— Ron Myers, constable

Arrowhead Justice Precinct

Glendale

Chavira’s ethics while serving as an elected official have called into question his fitness to serve. From all appearances he has done “favors” for those who supported him substantially in his run for council. Current news reports question Chavira’s abuse of Glendale’s citizens’ trust by using taxpayer dollars to fund his jaunts. Hopefully the current city council will institute policy to oversee their use of taxpayer dollars for travel. Disappointingly it appears that some councilmembers believe that Sammy “did nothing wrong.” If that is true, perhaps it will call into question their ethical decision making skills as well.

© Joyce Clark, 2016

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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 appears that Glendale cannot catch a break financially. Camelback Ranch opened in 2009 as the new Spring Training home of the Dodgers and White Sox at a cost to Glendale of $158 million: The ballpark cost $121 million, plus $37 million for off-site infrastructure. Glendale knew that reimbursement from the Arizona Sports and Tourism Authority (AZSTA) would be a long time in coming but at least it knew that in the future it would be partially reimbursed for its investment (if I remember correctly, it was 70% of the cost) .

AZSTA utilized a 2000 voter approved tax on car and hotel rentals to pay for the construction of the University of Phoenix Stadium and various Spring Training facilities in addition to reserving a portion for youth sports. It issued bonds for stadium construction that are paid from the rental taxes.

On Tuesday, June 17, 2014 Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Dean Fink ruled that the car rental tax was unconstitutional because the tax was being used for what he determined were impermissible uses. Here is the link:  http://www.azcentral.com/story/money/business/consumer/call-12-for-action/2014/06/18/judge-strikes-rental-car-tax-stadiums/10723905/ .

There is a hotel industry suit waiting in the wings claiming that it’s tax is also unconstitutional. No doubt there will be an appeal of all rulings related to this issue so it may be at least a year or more until there is final resolution.

If the car rental industry and the hotel industry finally prevail Arizona will be forced to rebate all of the tax it collected to those industries. It will be an amount way, way north of $150 million. This action raises a host of questions. Will AZSTA come up with another taxing mechanism to replace the unconstitutional one? Will it take it to the voters for approval? Will it renege on its obligations? Will cities with new, spring training facilities be able to sue AZSTA for breach of contract if it fails to reimburse them? The implications of such a ruling, should it be upheld, are breath taking.

For Glendale it is not catastrophic in the short term because it knew AZSTA’s reimbursement was some time off. But, if AZSTA does not fulfill its obligation to reimburse Glendale and it is solely responsible for paying off the construction debt of approximately $17 million a year, it becomes another financial obligation that bond rating agencies will take into consideration when rating Glendale’s ability to pay its massive debt. This result, if not reversed on appeal, provides no light at the end of Glendale’s long and dark financial tunnel.

 © 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.

Glendale Mayor Jerry Weiers delivered his State of the City remarks to a packed audience at the annual Glendale Chamber of Commerce dinner at the Renaissance Hotel on Thursday, February 27, 2014. Although his news about Glendale’s finances was dire it was also a fair assessment. He is to be commended for his forthright speech. Here is a link to a recap: http://www.azcentral.com/community/glendale/articles/20140228glendale-arizona-state-of-the-city-mayor-financial-problems-real.html . Here is also a link to a Mayor Weiers You Tube video that visually explains Glendale’s debt and revenues: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s2nBWBojUh0&feature=em-share_video_user .

He didn’t remark on how Glendale got to where it is today financially but I will because I was one of the council that got us there. Although I approved the arena I did not approve of Ellman’s plans for his development of Westgate. His “vibrant” building colors look like WalMart on steroids and his billboards are monstrosities. He also would not dedicate an additional land to place another eastbound lane on Glendale Avenue. I was more reluctant about Camelback Ranch but the deal called for future reimbursement by the Arizona Sports and Tourism Authority (AZSTA). I agreed because there were development plans in place for the surrounding land and an AZSTA reimbursement on the horizon.

Council knew we would never be a Scottsdale, the west’s most western town; or a Tempe, a college town; or a Chandler and Gilbert, with their high tech manufacturing. We believed that these facilities would create a niche, a branding of Glendale and that they would help to grow Glendale.  After approval of Camelback Ranch the city began negotiation to place a USAA basketball training facility in the area. It looked as if we were about to add another major sporting facility. Glendale’s future looked bright.

There are two major contributors to Glendale’s current debt burden: Jobing.com Arena and Camelback Ranch Spring Training Facility. At the time of these facilities’ approval it was clear that Glendale could sustain the debt. Deals were in place to develop commercial and retail around both. They would generate new sales tax revenues to cover the expected construction debt. The arena did not have an annual management fee. Glendale’s economy was surging as was the national economy.

There was no hint of the Great Recession that would lay waste to so many of Glendale’s plans. Glendale’s sales tax and property tax revenues sunk like a stone as did its state shared revenue.  Developers and their plans dropped like flies as one after another went into bankruptcy.

Suddenly the city’s debt had become unsustainable.

What was council’s plan back in the day? It was three fold. Pass a temporary 5 year sales tax increase to provide much needed revenue while other strategies took hold; restructure our debt; and embark on a 5 year plan of targeted cuts to expenses while rebuilding the city’s contingency fund. It was even suggested, at the time, by Interim City Manager Skeete that the city sell the arena. I was shocked by the thought at the time but over time, it has become an idea that has a great deal of appeal.

It is no coincidence that Glendale’s future debt burden is about $30 million. That is very close to the city’s annual arena debt: $12-13 million in an annual construction debt payment; $500,000 to $1 million annual payment to a capital repair account; and $15 million in an annual management fee. The solution of selling the arena at fair market value is now very appealing. While the city loses money already invested in the facility the bleeding stops. Suddenly there would be no more construction debt; no more annual management fee and no capital repair account to maintain. It’s an idea whose time has come.

© 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.

On Tuesday, February 19, 2013 the city council’s afternoon workshop was devoted to an informational presentation by staff on the history of Camelback Ranch. It’s a good a time as any to review what happened and how did Glendale get into this financial sinkhole? For the record, I did support this project and voted in the affirmative.

Camelback Ranch was first discussed in the spring of 2006. Keep in mind, the national economy was booming. Glendale was earning record revenues. That was the character of the economic climate in which the decision was made to move forward. No one had a crystal ball foretelling of the Great Recession about to descend upon the country. There was no issue with the arena. Steve Ellman had just sold his interest in the Coyotes to Jerry Moyes who became the new arena manager. The city was not paying an arena management fee. It would be 2009 when Moyes declared bankruptcy and the national recession hit.

Council had commissioned an economic impact study by Economic Research Associates released in March of 2006 to determine the potential financial impacts of the proposed Camelback Ranch project. It said the potential estimated direct economic impact of the two teams would be $14.9 million a year if used only during the spring training season and $19.2 million if the facility was used year round. Part of that estimate took into account that Right Path Limited would be developing the land surrounding the actual ballpark facilities. It was against this backdrop that council moved forward with approval for the project.

It was a complicated deal. Glendale’s partners were or are: the City of Phoenix; the Arizona Sports and Tourism Authority; the Dodgers and White Sox teams; and Right Path Limited (as the developer).

Camelback Ranch is located physically within Phoenix. Glendale purchased the parcel on which the major league baseball facility (MLB) sits as well as several other parcels for commercial/retail development. Phoenix’s obligation in the deal is to pay 80% of the sales tax it received on this site for 40 years up to a maximum amount of $37 million. It was its contribution toward the development of the site. In return Glendale assumed the obligation of paying Phoenix for a specific right-of-way and land adjacent to that right-of-way. The deadline for that purchase in the amount of $3.7 million is October of this year. If Glendale reneges all terms of the Phoenix/Glendale Intergovernmental Agreement (IGA) become null and void. From 2009 until 2013 Glendale received over $200,000 from Phoenix in sales tax revenues.

Ralph Burton, principal of Right Path Limited, was to be the developer of the land adjacent to the MLB facility. At the time Glendale had a great deal of confidence in him. He had been very instrumental in Cabelas locating in the Westgate area. He had purchased a substantial amount of land along the western side of Loop 101 named “Main Street” and there were plans in the works to site the Olympic basketball training facility and headquarters there. He had taken over the airport fixed base operation (FBO) and had performed major renovations. He unfortunately partnered with Danny Herndon (of Danny’s Car Wash fame and illegal immigrant workers) and Bob Banovach to develop the Main Street project. It wasn’t long before there was in-fighting between them resulting in litigation. In the meantime the recession factored into their development plans. All plans ground to a halt and ended in bankruptcy.

The Dodgers and White Sox agreement with Glendale stipulated that they would operate and maintain the facility. Capital repairs would be Glendale’s obligation. They were required to pay $1 a year for rent. There is no management fee obligation for Glendale. Glendale is responsible for providing public safety services but the revenue it receives appears to cover those costs.

The Arizona Sports and Tourism Authority (AZSTA) pledged to cover 66.7% of the project’s costs as it has historically done with other baseball spring training facilities in Phoenix, Mesa, Peoria and Surprise. Reimbursement was originally scheduled to begin in 2017 but again, the recession destroyed that schedule. AZSTA’s revenues dwindled and the new projection for payments to Glendale is now scheduled for 2025-2026.

The debt service for construction of the project range from a high of $17 million in FY 2014-15 to a low of $9 to $11 million in subsequent years. Glendale is obligated to contribute to a Capital Repair account with annual payments of $400,000 to $800,000.

The financial obligations of Camelback Ranch and Jobing. com Arena are substantial for Glendale. The annual financial requirements of these two city owned facilities are clearly unsustainable.  Camelback Ranch requires infusions ranging from a high of $18 million (debt service and Capital Repair account) to a low of $10 million a year. Jobing.com Arena requires an annual management fee of $15 million and annual debt service of approximately $13 million. Add to those figures the $5 million a year owed to the NHL, the annual contribution to the Capital Repairs account of half a million to a million a year and another million to repay the city’s Enterprise Funds and we’re looking at a low of $28 million a year to a high of $34 million a year. Combined these two facilities require cash infusions each year from a low of $38 million to a high of $52 million. A disclaimer is in order. Since I am no longer on city council I am not privy to current financial information and obligations related to these facilities that may be considered confidential. However, the underlying concepts remain valid. Some of the cash required by these facilities may be offset by revenues they generate. We simply will not know how much offset there is for the arena until the start of the next fiscal year on July 1, 2014.

Is there any solution available? Perhaps yes. The many partners and contractual obligations associated with Camelback Ranch do not lend themselves to a sale by the city of Camelback Ranch. However, Jobing.com Arena is not in the same situation and could be sold. In doing so it removes substantial annual debt service and management fee obligations from the city. It is an option that merits consideration. Personally, I would be sad to see the city lose the arena but sometimes ya gotta do what ya gotta do.

As a side note I am discontinuing my informal polls, at least for now. It is obvious that those for or against an issue are padding the results by voting repeatedly. The results of the poll have now become meaningless.

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© 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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