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Joyce Clark Unfiltered

For "the rest of the story"

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

I don’t generally write about political affairs in other communities but the Phoenix mayoral race has special relevance to Glendale. One of the mayoral candidates is current Phoenix Councilmember Danny Valenzuela. Councilmember Valenzuela also happens to be a Glendale fire fighter.

Councilmember Valenzuela invited me to have coffee with him on Tuesday, February 6, 2018 at a downtown Glendale site, A Shot of Java. Out of an abundance of curiosity I accepted his invitation to meet.

First, a little background is in order about the Phoenix mayoral race. The current mayor is Greg Stanton. He has announced his intention to run for Congress in District 9 to replace Krysten Sinema, who is running for U.S. Senate. Stanton has until May 30, 2018, to submit his nominating petition signatures. At that time he must resign as Phoenix’s mayor. That action will trigger two of the current Phoenix councilmembers, who have already declared their run for mayor, Kate Gallego and Danny Valenzuela, to submit their nominating petitions and resign from office as well. As a side note, Moses Sanchez (R) and Nicolas Sarwark (L) have also announced their candidacies for Phoenix mayor. Lastly, Michael Nowakowski, another Phoenix councilmember, is still mulling whether he, too, will run for mayor. Potentially, there could be at least 5 candidates for the Phoenix mayoral position. Since it appears that Stanton will stay as Phoenix mayor as long as he can (May 30th) it means that the election will take place in August or November of 2018. An August election date favors Republicans and a November date favors the Democrats (even though Phoenix races are supposed to be nonpartisan). My bet is we will see a November date set for the election of the next Phoenix mayor.

Let’s take a closer look at Valenzuela’s political and fire fighter lives. Valenzuela was first elected to the Phoenix city council and took office in 2012. Coincidentally, that is when Danny’s pal, Sammy Chavira, ran for the Glendale Yucca council district seat and defeated me. Sammy and Danny have been friends for quite some time. More about this relationship later. Something not heard of before on the Arizona political scene occurred. A Glendale fire fighter ran for Phoenix city council and won and at the same time a Phoenix fire fighter ran for Glendale city council and won. The fire fighters’ union had to have been in “hog heaven.” Valenzuela ran for his second term in 2016 and won. Sammy ran for his second term in 2016 and lost…to me.

During the bulk of my time as a Glendale councilmember from 2000 to 2012, I never interacted with Glendale fire fighter Danny Valenzuela. During that time I do know he served as Glendale Fire Department’s Public Information Officer but I never had occasion to contact him about any matter. We may have occasionally attended the same functions but I simply didn’t know him.

Back to our meeting on February 6th. I did not initiate the meeting. Councilmember Valenzuela’s staff contacted my staff to set it up. Since it was his meeting it was appropriate for him to set the topic of conversation. Obviously, it centered on his announced candidacy for Phoenix mayor. Since I did not know him, he offered a short biography of his professional life. After that opening, I felt it was appropriate to ask him a question that many have wondered about…and that was, if he were elected as mayor would he resign as a Glendale fire fighter? Surprisingly his answer was “No.” He stated that he works a 40 hour week as a Glendale fire fighter (even though the work week for Glendale fire fighters is 52 hours a week). He said he usually does one shift over the weekend at a Glendale fire station and the balance of his time is spent at the Glendale Public Safety Training Facility (GRPSTC) working on ‘special projects’. Knowing the time commitment of a Glendale councilmember and knowing that Phoenix is ten times larger and hence the responsibilities of the job greater, my reaction was that the time commitment as Phoenix’s mayor simply would not allow him to continue as a Glendale fire fighter.  He believes that he can do both.

We moved on to the topic of Sammy Chavira, Valenzuela’s long time friend, although Valenzuela contends that their relationship is no longer close and has been severed. For those of you who don’t know the history, Sammy Chavira is a former, disgraced Glendale councilmember, who served only one term. During his term, Sammy was found to have habitually used his councilmember budget (taxpayer funds) inappropriately. During the 2016 election cycle it was discovered, among other things,  that Sammy had used his budget to fly to D.C. to see the Pope and used his city pro card to pay for dinner and drinks for a large contingent of Phoenix officials, including Valenzuela. Valenzuela insists that he had no idea that Sammy was using city funds to pay for that dinner. After the incident became public, he, along with other Phoenix officials, has reimbursed the City of Glendale for their portions of that infamous dinner.

Sammy and Danny, at one time, were both members of the International Association of Hispanic Fire Fighters Union. Although details are murky apparently they engineered a fund raising event for the organization that resulted in unaccounted revenues that disappeared.  The organization was informed that there were no profits generated from the event and ended up having to pay off creditors. Subsequently, both men resigned from that organization. What troubles me is the old saying, “you are judged by the company you keep.” While Sammy and Danny have been long time friends, they are no longer…due to political expediency?

Another area of conversation between Valenzuela and I centered on a future Ball Park Boulevard extension. This road is adjacent to Camelback Ranch and its extension would open up the entire area around it for economic development. I was not on council between 2012 and 2016 but I know that Glendale staff and various Glendale councilmembers discussed this issue with Valenzuela during his first term on Phoenix city council, seeking his support for Glendale’s goals with regard to Ballpark Boulevard. While Valenzuela expressed his support to various Glendale entities for Glendale’s vision, he never acted upon his declared support.

By now, we had consumed over an hour of discussion and both Valenzuela and I had other commitments to attend. I thanked him for arranging our meeting and for his time and I wished him well. Over the past 3 weeks I have had time to digest that meeting and Valenzuela’s responses to my queries. I have talked to countless others, political insiders and ordinary citizens. I find that I cannot support his candidacy for 3 reasons:

  • The major reason is his intent to retain his position as a Glendale fire fighter should be become Phoenix’s mayor. It is unrealistic to assume that he could do both jobs well. One would suffer and I suspect it would be his fire fighter job.
  • Even though Valenzuela now disavows his long time relationship with Chavira, it signifies poor judgment for having maintained a friendship with him for so long despite Chavira’s unsavory financial activities.
  • Valenzuela’s inability to or unwillingness to move the issue of Ballpark Boulevard forward on Phoenix’s agenda seems to indicate that he may say one thing yet do (or not do) another.

I wish Valenzuela luck in his run for mayor of Phoenix but I believe there are other candidates out there worthy of your consideration. I urge you to check them out and to consider voting for one of them.

© Joyce Clark, 2018         

FAIR USE NOTICE

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

A friend sent me an October, 2016 Atlantic Monthly article written by Molly Boll entitled “Scared rich candidate.” Here is the link:  http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2016/10/theres-nothing-better-than-a-scared-rich-candidate/497522/ . While the thrust of the article pertains to national, presidential candidates the premises she offers could be applied to local candidates as well.

The article states, “These are boom times for political consultants—by one rough estimate, more than $6 billion will go to or through consulting firms during this year’s elections…” On the Glendale level, each mayoral candidate raised at least $100,000. In addition, Independent Political Action Committees (PACs) spent in opposition to or for a particular mayoral candidate at least an estimated $50,000 more. We will have a better picture of the numbers after the next campaign finance reports are filed at the end of September. It is not unreasonable to say that an estimated $250,000 was poured into the Glendale mayoral race. That kind of money is not limited to Glendale’s mayoral race. Sammy Chavira, my opponent in the Yucca district council race, spent an estimated $40,000 and Independent PACs easily spent another $40,000 in opposition to me. That’s not chump change. Imagine, $80,000 or more spent to try to defeat a challenger in a small, local district race.

The article goes on to say, “Despite all the money pouring into political consulting, a palpable sense of unease looms over the profession. The consultants may be getting rich, but recent events suggest they don’t have any idea what they’re doing.” Ms. Boll cites statistics on various campaign strategies, TV advertising, campaign mailers, robo calls and campaign signs, with the conclusion that most of these strategies are not as effective as commonly assumed. The implication being that a candidate, upon advice of a consultant, may be just throwing money away. She also reveals that many consultants either have relationships with or have created companies that provide the very materials the consultants urge a candidate to use. It is often the case that a consultant will receive a fee for consultancy and also receive payment through a consultant’s own company for campaign material.  An analogy might be that you go to a referral website to buy a product only to discover that the site gets paid for not only every referral it generates but has a company that makes the product and receives profit every time the product is sold.

Ms. Boll goes on to say, “Many political scientists believe election outcomes are largely the result of factors over which candidates and their campaigns have little control.” Some political scientists, having studied this issue believe “there are few ‘game changing’ moments in a campaign.” They believe “the vast majority of presidential elections…can be forecast based on the state of the nation’s economy and the approval rating of the sitting president.” It is safe to assume the same of local contests as well. In Glendale, most of its citizens don’t follow its politics and don’t vote. Often the percentage of active voters hovers around 10%. There are 6 political districts in Glendale: Cholla, Sahuaro, Barrel, Cactus, Ocotillo and Yucca. Each has roughly 20,000 voters. Yet voter participation in each district ranges roughly from 3,000 to 6,000 active voters. The northern districts of Cholla, Sahuaro and Barrel, historically have more active voters than the southern districts of Cactus, Ocotillo and Yucca. Unless there is a distinct and widely publicized and divisive crisis within the city, these voters tend to return an incumbent to office. With Glendale’s economic status stabilized and improving there was no impetus on the part of the voter to change the status quo with the exception of one factor – the candidate’s character.

Others tend to agree and think “consultants’ main influence is at the macro level, in shaping a campaign’s overall message and coaching the candidate. ‘It’s the consultants’ job to take who the person is—their fixed characteristics—and leverage it’.” This premise held true in the current Glendale election cycle. Mayoral candidate Mark Burdick publicly admitted that upon the advice of his campaign consultants (you can include former Assistant City Manager Julie Frisoni) their winning strategy was to sling as much mud as possible at sitting Mayor Jerry Weiers in the hope that some of it would stick and discredit him enough to create a win for Burdick. Sammy Chavira’s political consultants created the same type of campaign in the Yucca district but they wanted to divert the voters’ attention away from Sammy’s record of taxpayer abuse and failure to do his job.

“Adam Sheingate, a political scientist at Johns Hopkins University, argues that the consulting industry has ballooned not because its services are particularly effective, but because all the money in politics—which has skyrocketed in the past decade due to campaign-finance deregulation—has to go somewhere.” Ms. Boll quotes Mr. Sheingate as saying, “The consultant is selling something to the candidate…The confidence game is that the candidate is always a little afraid. They’re always a little scared they can lose, and that’s what the consultant exploits. In the words of a consultant,”there’s ‘nothing better than a scared, rich candidate’.” With the amount of money available to candidates in Glendale, there were scared, rich candidates. They were ripe to buy what their consultants were selling and they had the money to do it. In the end, it may have been the content of the candidates’ character, not inordinate amounts of cash that counted to voters the most.

© 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.

Five pounds

Posted by Joyce Clark on August 31, 2014
Posted in City of Glendale  | Tagged With: , , | 3 Comments

I bet 99% of the voting population put political mailings in the “circular file” without ever reading them. Usually, I do as well. Not this time. I decided to save every one and to take a good look at them when I had some time. That time is now.

85 pieces came to our home before the Primary Election. Collectively they weighed over 5 pounds.  All of them were on slick paper or card stock and in color. Overwhelmingly the most popular size of mailing is the 11” X 6” card mailer. I received 32 pieces that size. The second most popular form of mailer is something new. It is in booklet form, 8 ½” X 11”, with either 4 or 6 pages. I received 27 of those.  The third most popular was the traditional 12 ½” X 8 ½”, oversized card.

The hottest race in my area was for the Congressional seat being vacated by Congressman Ed Pastor. Whoever captured the Democratic Primary would win the seat as there is no Republican opponent in the General Election. Ruben Gallego led the pack with 14 pieces of mail followed closely by Mary Rose Wilcox with 10 pieces. Each was running against the other for that coveted seat.

Their campaign philosophies were in stark contrast to one another. Gallego had 12 positive pieces about himself: 8 were from his campaign committee; 4 were Independent Expenditures – 2 from Revitalize Arizona (local PAC based in Tempe) and 2 from the Mayday PAC (national SuperPAC based in Austin, Texas). His committee only put out 2 hit pieces on Mary Rose Wilcox highlighting her history of promotion of her own self interests while an elected official. Clearly his campaign focused on the positive.

On the other hand Mary Rose Wilcox sent out 10 mailings. 3 were positive pieces about her and 7 were negative pieces about Gallego centered on the theme of his pro-gun stance. Apparently her old school politics tactic of using every piece of negativity she could dig up didn’t work. She received 36% of the vote vs. his 49%.

In all of the other races from Governor to Superintendent of Public Instruction to County Supervisor, some candidates sent out anywhere from 1 to 3 pieces. Many sent out none. The future trend appears to be to move away from printed material and to the media – TV and radio ads and social media such as Facebook and Twitter.  It makes sense. Most of us throw political mailings away as soon as they are received. TV ads and radio ads we often suffer through to watch the local news or a favorite TV show. The same can be said for radio. With social media we tend to “friend” or follow those political figures with which we share a point of view. Sometimes we follow others just to see what the opposition is saying.

Most of the campaign mailings were banal. Candidates often use photos of themselves, family and friends. Sometimes there are children or eager followers with eyes rapt on the candidates, smiling in excess. The mailings are often too “busy.” Since this may be the only shot a candidate has to reach the voter, he or she tends to tell us too much.

Most have probably never heard of the KISS principle – that is, Keep It Simple, Stupid. Images are far more powerful than words in many instances. With President Obama’s favorable rating in the toilet, many Republican candidates are using images of the President juxtaposed with the opposition candidate. I chose four mailings that I thought were effective because they caught the reader’s attention.  All have powerful and in some cases, evocative images. Print is to a minimum. The white print works. I would not have used any colored print. Three of them have black backgrounds which makes the images pop.  Forget the issue and/or the candidate depicted and view the powerful images:

apples and oranges

 This mailer was produced by the Arizona Free Enterprise Club in support of Justin Pierce for Secretary of State. Michele Reagan beat him and is the Republican candidate. The image is effective in portraying the old adage of “comparing apples to oranges.”

 

Benghazi

This mailer was produced by Veterans for a Strong America, a national political action committee. It is in opposition to Christine Jones for governor. She was defeated and Doug Ducey is the Republican candidate. The photos of the 4 Americans who were killed in Benghazi are poignant.

 

Trayvon Martin

This mailer was produced by the Mary Rose Wilcox committee in opposition to Ruben Gallego. The image is a powerful one and could be any teenager. Wilcox did not prevail and Gallego took the Congressional seat.

 

Mary Rose Wilcox 2

 

This mailer was produced by Gallego’s committee. The sneer and distain on Wilcox’s face is palpable. In this case the sepia tones contribute to the image. It works. Gallego beat Wilcox.

 

© 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.

The Glendale City Council flirted with Public Comments occurring at the beginning of their meetings. It was a pilot project. After several months council voted to move Public Comments back to the end of the meeting citing that it got in the way and delayed council’s real business which is certainly not hearing from the public.

The biggest gorilla in the Valley, Phoenix, just had its council voting on February 5, 2014 to move its Citizen Comment Session to the beginning of their meeting. The move was in response to a citizen petition which claimed citizen input was not respected or valued.

It seems ironic that Phoenix has now done what Glendale rejected. If Glendale citizens submitted a petition to move the Public Comment period to the front of the meeting again would council acquiesce as Phoenix has done? What do you think? You can weigh in by voting in my informal poll to the left of this column.

A coalition on Glendale’s city council has emerged. Look for Knaack, Martinez, Sherwood and Chavira voting as a majority. That puts Weiers, Hugh and Alvarez on the losing side of most issues. I bet Alvarez rues the day she helped Chavira to get elected as he has voted in opposition to her positions since he started in office. The biggest issue was the vote on arena management and Alvarez may never forgive him for that one.

However, this November is election time in Glendale with 3 council seats up for grabs. This newly formed, rather fragile majority may not last long. Will Chavira, et.al, work behind the scenes to defeat Alvarez and get someone who is more simpatico? It would be a good move on his part as it would get rid of a problem before he stands for reelection in 2016. All he has to do is throw his support behind Jamie Aldama, Alvarez’s opponent.

Don’t forget, Knaack and Martinez are retiring. Martinez has anointed Robert Petrone but candidate Petrone’s past financial troubles may get in his way. Knaack appears ready to endorse Bill Toops, owner of the Glendale Star. Toops will have his own problems explaining how his ownership of the local paper does not conflict with serving on council. Look for more candidates to emerge as it gets closer to the end of May when nominating petitions are due. Historically in recent times there have never been less than 2 candidates for every open seat. It will be interesting to see how this election shakes out. Stay tuned…

© 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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