Header image alt text

Joyce Clark Unfiltered

For "the rest of the story"

It has been 18 years and 121 days since the city’s pledge to build the West Branch Library.

Chavira volunteer

Chavira volunteer’s vehicle

Before we delve into the classification and compensation study, I just had to share this. A voter who had signed my nominating petition emailed me with this photo. To say the voter was perturbed would be an understatement. The voter observed a woman parking her vehicle. See it parked on the sidewalk? It turns out that the vehicle belonged to a young woman who was trying to obtain petition signatures for Sammy Chavira and Mark Burdick in a neighborhood I had already canvassed.  Apparently she did not know the law or chose to ignore the law. No matter. It seems to be the perfect symbol of the opposition who apparently think that laws are not meant to be obeyed. Talk about making a positive PR statement for your candidate…not!

On April 12, 2016 the third agenda item was an employee classification and compensation study performed by the consultant, Segal Waters. The presenters were Jim Brown, Human Resources Director and Andrew Knutson of Segal Waters. I cannot provide an easy link to the study because the file is too large and this blog site cannot accommodate it. However you can always go to www.glendaleaz.com, then click on the City Clerk link on the left side of the page. Once you get there at the top there is a link to Council Minutes and Agendas. Click on that and a page of dates will appear. Scroll down to 4/12/16, city council workshop. Then click on the Agenda for that meeting. The third item on the agenda is the study.

For this study Segal Waters used 11 Valley cities with Chandler and Gilbert being closest in population and the number of employees to Glendale. The consultant also used 3 private sector studies in arriving at its conclusions. The study focused on non-represented employees, those employees that are not primarily in the police and fire departments.

Mr. Brown began by stating that the city has no Compensation Philosophy. He did not indicate which of the cities used in the study had such a philosophy. Mr. Brown recommended that council adopt such a philosophy. If it contains specific annual increases to be met I would be reluctant to adopt it.

In the study’s Executive Summary it states, “Based on overall market data including custom survey peer employers and published data representative of the private sector, the City of Glendale’s pay structure is consistent with the market average at the minimum and midpoint, but falls below the custom survey and overall market average at the pay range maximum, as shown below.

“We define market competitiveness as being between 95% and 105% of the market average at the minimum, midpoint, and maximum. Market comparisons that fall within this competitive corridor are noted in black, below 95% are noted in red, and above 105% are notes in blue.”

In plain English, the study recommends giving employees who are at the maximum range of their pay scale an increase. In other words those non-represented employees who are at the top of their pay range should get more money. By the way, there are indeed employees who fall in the 105% category.

If this classification and compensation study is accepted in full it will affect 400 of the city’s 1,000 plus non-represented employees at a total cost of $3.1 million dollars initially. The study did not reflect the annual increase to the General Fund should this study be implemented.

The justification used to support the results were the turnover rates of non-represented employees:

  • In Fiscal Year 2013 the turnover rate was 20.2% or 182 employees
  • In Fiscal Year 2014 the turnover rate was 18.8% or 186 employees
  • In Fiscal Year 2015 the turnover rate was 14.5% or 158 employees

One question unasked by councilmembers was how did Glendale’s turnover rate during these Fiscal Years compare to other Valley cities? The justification for the study’s recommendation seemed to rely upon an implication staff made that the turnover rate was due to employees taking higher paying positions with other Valley cities. However, people leave their jobs for all kinds of reasons. How many of these employees simply retired? How many became ill and could no longer work? What about those employees who left their jobs only to be reemployed by the city as contract employees? That happens all the time. Employees leave their jobs for all kinds of reasons, not exclusively to take another municipal job at higher pay.

Councilmember Turner asked Mr. Brown if the city conducted employee exit interviews. Mr. Brown said that the city does. When asked for data about those interviews Mr. Brown had nothing to offer.

Councilmember Turner also asked a question about whether all departments were right-sized. Again, Mr. Brown, Director of Human Resources, could provide no information and punted to the individual departments for reliance as to whether each is right sized. Why has Human Resources never recommended a study to verify the right-sizing of all city departments? Why is staff so reluctant to accept the concept of zero-based budgeting, a mechanism that would produce an answer as to whether departments are right-sized?

It is understandable that Mr. Brown as Human Resources Director and Mr. Phelps as City Manager would urge the council to accept this study. That is part of their advocacy – to represent the employees and seek to gain pay raises for them.

Council has the right to have its questions answered in full. Until that occurs it should not be so hasty to accept the study’s recommendation.

© 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 110 days since the city’s pledge to build the West Branch Library.

The Glendale city council workshop of April 5, 2016 had 3 major issues up for discussion and direction by city council: the temporary West Branch Library; the pavement management program; and an introduction to the proposed new city owned arena manager.

Since I brought up parking for Heroes Park in my blog of April 5, 2016 entitled Glendale…fix the parking problem you created, it was definitely a topic of discussion. Erik Strunk, Director of Parks and Libraries, stated that they are working on temporary parking. He did not address the issue of Park Rangers sending people to park in adjacent neighborhoods or the safety issue of people crossing Bethany Home Road or 83rd Avenue to get to the park.

The final direction of the city council was to move forward with a temporary, 7500 square foot modular building. This action, of course, removes all impetus to ever build a permanent library structure. So, we in west Glendale, once again, get less — a 7500 SF modular structure half the size of Velma Teague Library in downtown Glendale.

The second item for discussion and direction was the city’s pavement management program. Currently the city spends $10 million annually to repair and maintain the city’s streets. Staff requested an additional $5 million a year. Ms. Vicki Rios, Interim Finance Director, presented a series of slides during the discussion. I bring two of those slides to your attention. This first one shows the city’s current debt service. The red, dotted line is the city’s secondary property tax revenue that is used to pay this form of debt. Please note that as of this year’s (FY 16-17) budget there is new debt capacity available…perhaps to build the west branch library? The new debt capacity is the difference between the red, dotted line and the sold green block depicting debt payments.

Current General Obligation debt

Current General
Obligation debt

Not so fast. Look at this second slide. It depicts current debt plus new, proposed debt.

Current debt plus new debt

Current debt
plus new debt

Note the Series 2016 debt depicted by the brownish square in the legend. That Series 16 debt is the $32 million the city is issuing next week to pay for the land and to construct parking on it to satisfy the city’s obligation to provide adequate parking for Cardinals’ football games. The orange, olive and blue areas above the brownish parking debt represent $5 million dollars a year in new debt for the pavement management plan. Note the red, dotted line which are funds used to pay the debt. Now there is no debt capacity available until Fiscal Year 21-22. With council’s approval of two items: the issuance of $32 million in debt for Cardinals’ parking and the $5million a year ($15 million total) for the pavement management plan there is no debt capacity to do anything else including building a permanent west branch library. The significance of these decisions is that there will be no debt capacity to build a west branch library for SIX more years until Fiscal Year 21-22. We will have waited for the west branch library for 25 years. There is no word to describe this situation other than disgraceful.

The last item was a public introduction of AEG as the proposed new manager of the city owned Gila River Arena. There was no mention of the Coyotes who continue to declare that they will move to some magical, undefined new facility somewhere else in the Valley. The reality is that AEG, as arena manager, the Coyotes and the city will have to come to terms in the meantime. I continue to believe if the Coyotes and AEG can come to agreement for a few years, why not long-term?

Under council requests for future workshops only one councilmember spoke, Sammy Chavira. He requested that the city present its travel policy and compare it to other Valley cities. What was more interesting is that Sammy, largely invisible these days, was cornered by an Arizona Republic reporter and questioned about his trips. Sammy’s only response was, “I want to stick to the policy to find out from now on – so next time, if you look at your policy, if you see anything, that you know that’s what we’re adhering to. What I want to do is I want to put something in concrete.” Say what? What did he say? Here is the link to the full story in the Arizona Republic: http://www.azcentral.com/story/news/local/glendale/2016/04/06/glendale-councilman-sammy-chavira-requests-review-travel-policy-after-council-trip/82631826/ .

I can see it now. Sammy’s defense is that he followed city policy. OK, so now it’s the city’s fault? Where is Sammy’s ethical and moral compass? In essence he is admitting that he took advantage of a policy. It’s the same as if there were a policy that said, thou shall not steal. Since the policy is so vague an argument could be there is no definition of the word “steal.” Sammy is playing word games but they won’t work this time. He is accountable for his actions. He should voluntarily reimburse the city for the nearly $25,000 he spent for trips to see the Pope, his buddy sworn into Congress, his excessive baggage claims and rebooked flights, and his two highly suspicious trips to California. Don’t hold your breath on this one.

© 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.

A few days ago I had a blog on the controversial senior staff proposal to relocate the Foothills Branch Library to the Foothills Recreation and Aquatic Center. It will be discussed and direction given by the Glendale City Council on Tuesday, February 3, 2015.

Shelley Mosley, a former Glendale employee as well as a former Manager of the Velma Teague Branch Library submitted the following as a comment to that blog. Fearing that many readers may never see her comment, I offer her analysis as a Guest Commentary:

Submitted by Shelley Mosley on 2015/01/31 at 10:17 am

Joyce, your post covers everything that’s wrong about selling Foothills Branch Library. Good job!                                                                  Here is my open letter to the Mayor and Council:

Dear Mayor and Council,

I am writing to ask you to reconsider your plans for the Foothills Branch Library, but before I do, I just want to briefly establish my credentials. I worked at the Velma Teague Branch Library almost twenty-five years, eighteen of those as its manager. Most recently, I worked at the Glendale Community College Library, which is high-tech. Just to make matters clear, I am not opposed to electronic resources. In fact, I currently write for three companies (EBSCO, GALE, and ABC-CLIO) that publish electronic reference books. As a citizen of Glendale, as a professional librarian, and as a member of the Foothills Branch Library design team during its conception and construction, I am deeply concerned about its fate.

You are being told that the relocation of the Foothills Branch Library will create an “expansion of library services.” The branch book collection is going to lose 141,000 books. Does that sound like an expansion to you? There will be 35,000 books left, or only about 25% of the collection. This would be the same as if every year you got a whole butchered pig for your freezer. But this year, you’re told you’re getting a better pig, an enhanced pig, an improved pig. You open the butcher paper package and find you’ve only gotten the feet and the head.

Yes, there will be electronic versions of books available at the stripped down branch, and yes, there are people who prefer to read their books on Kindles, Nooks, etc. But there are already e-books available to the public at the Glendale Library System. There are probably just as many, if not more, of your constituents who still like hard copy books. Have you visited any of the Glendale libraries? Have you seen the sheer joy of a child as he or she takes that carefully selected stack of books to the front desk to be checked out? Have you watched a story time, where the children excitedly examine the shelves of picture books before and after the librarian tells them a story? This happy experience, learning to love books, is a stepping-stone to literacy.

You are being told there will be “reduced annual operating expenses without eliminating full-time library staff.” Yes, full-time staff stays, but the pages are losing their jobs. The pages are the ones who keep the books in order. If you don’t think that’s important, try finding a misplaced novel.

You have been told there will be “increased library hours for the public with 13 additional hours a week, going from currently 36 hours to 49 hours which is 676 hours more a year.” The library used to be open 68 hours a week. That’s 1664 more hours a year.

You have been told “there is space available at the Foothills Recreation and Aquatics Center (FRAC). By relocating and creating a new branch library here, it is possible to utilize existing city-owned space.” Have you looked at that space? Library staff has been told the library is going to be in the Coyote Room and the current rec. room where the pool tables are. Compare that space to the Foothills Branch Library. Is this an improvement? You have also been told that people can use the meeting rooms after the FBL becomes property of Midwestern. How convenient will this be? Have you been on a college campus recently? Most important, as Midwestern grows, how long will these rooms be available?

Selling the library the citizens of Glendale voted for and love will give you at most 4-5 months of funds to pay for the maintenance of the hockey arena. What kind of a deal is this? And when you do sell the library, at least be honest with your constituents; don’t spin this pig in the poke to be “improved library service,” because it isn’t.

Hoping you can see past the hype.                                                 Shelley Mosley

The City Council Workshop occurred on April Fools’ Day. Councilmember Alvarez was not physically present but did participate telephonically. Does this signal another medical issue and another long period of absences? The 3 items up for discussion were: the Risk Management Trust Fund and Workers’ Compensation Trust Fund; Downtown Parking and the Procurement Process.

Upper management is recommending that the Risk Management Trust Fund and Workers’ Compensation Trust Fund be separated. It’s a rearrangement of the deck chairs which in this case does no harm. Many of the proposed changes had been recommended by the citizen Risk Management and Workers’ Compensation Trust Fund Board as a result of the audit and were made just before I retired and while I was still chairperson.

Downtown parking was up next. A survey had been distributed to the downtown merchants about the issue. The response was underwhelming. The conclusion by staff was that the 2 hour parking restriction at some locations is a non-issue and recommended no change to the current policy. Mayor Weiers and Councilmember Hugh, as a minority, expressed continued concern and believe that all 2 hour parking restrictions should be lifted.

The last item was a presentation by Tom Duensing, Executive Director of Finance and Michael Bailey, City Attorney, on the procurement process. There is no question that current policies are fuzzy, at best. It most certainly is time to tighten up policies in this area. However, the recommendations offered by staff still preserve a lot of discretion (read in staff terms, flexibility) for the City Manager. Not good enough. City council needs to be fully informed about every type of procurement which has not been a past practice. Practices that need reformation include the policy of not requiring bids or quotes on purchases less than $5,000. This is a practice that can bleed the city of dollars by a thousand paper cuts. These purchases are cumulative and can add up quickly. At the very least written memorialization of these purchases should be made and provided to council periodically even though no bids or quotes are required. Purchases between $5,000 and $10,000 allow the policy of verbal quotes. There should be no verbal quotes allowed.

There may be reason for an emergency purchase greater than $50,000. Currently the policy requires city manager approval and council confirmation after the fact.  This practice should be revised to inform the council (at the time of occurrence) of the city manager’s approval of such purchases. The city manager currently requires written determination from the materials manager justifying such purchases. The code should be revised to require the city manager to provide council with the determination the city manager receives from the materials manager.

Upper management continues to advocate for the provision allowing the city manager to allow exemptions and exceptions. It is time to end this practice. There should be no exemptions or exceptions for it can, and often does, lead to misinterpretation and misconception.

Under Council Special Items of Interest, Councilmember Alvarez asked for further clarification on city policy regarding irrigation. She also asked for a discussion on diversity. She was as clear as mud as to what about diversity she wanted discussed. The city already has very strong diversity policies. Councilmember Martinez requested that the issue of short term rentals be taken up. Councilmember Sherwood asked that the policy of traffic signals flashing at midnight be revised to begin at 10 PM. Vice Mayor Knaack asked that the city consider electronic voting for city council meetings.

It was another meeting short and sweet. So many questions to be asked and so few actually offered.

© 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 February 4, 2014 morning session of the city council workshop was devoted to budget issues. Here is the link to the presentation slides used by city staff:

http://www.glendaleaz.com/Clerk/agendasandminutes/documents/BudgetWorkshop-20140204.pdf .

It was a long and complicated presentation. I am not reviewing all the minutiae of the meeting but rather let’s look at the “take-aways.”

  • Take-Away #1: Council approved staff’s recommendation that the property tax rate float. The total property tax rate prior to the Great Recession was $1.5951 in Fiscal Year11-12. In Fiscal Year12-13 it was $1.9005. In Fiscal Year13-14 it is $2.2889. Solution #1 to raising more revenue increases the total property tax rate per $100 by $0.6938.
  • Take-Away #2: Council approved making inter-fund interest rates variable based on what the city receives as a return on its investments. Council borrowed money from the landfill, water/sewer enterprise funds as well as the technology replacement fund and the vehicle replacement fund. By floating the interest rate to the rate the city makes on its investments saves the city a considerable amount of interest debt on those loans. The current interest rate is 3.62% at a cost of $1.6 million. With adoption of a variable rate the interest becomes 0.40% next year at an interest cost of $178,640. Solution #2 to raising more revenue makes the interest rate on internal loans variable.
  • Take-Away #3: Council approved a series of 5 strategies to raise further revenue. They include transferring dollars out of the total arts fund balance of $1.066 million. Several years ago Council transferred a little over $2 million out of the arts fund. So it can be done. I don’t think anyone wants to see the arts fund be dissolved and it should retain a fund balance. Another revenue raiser is to audit companies that pay sales tax revenue to the city. Clearly Mayor Weiers (pro business) was uncomfortable with this concept. Staff contends that it will raise revenue for the city but could not project how much. Staff proposed that the amount the General Fund charges departments for support, i.e., legal, financial, human resources, be increased – modestly. Staff indicated that they are still working on a city asset list of properties for sale or lease back. Staff also proposed that the temporary sales tax become permanent, that the rate be increased and that the list of taxable items be increased. Solution #3 is to get blood out of a stone.
  • Take-Away #4: These expenditure items are still in discussion and will be brought back to council but include restructuring of the city’s inter-fund loans (already done) and elimination of the sales tax paid by the city for water use on its own properties (already done). Still on the chopping block is the reduction/elimination of retiree health subsidies; alternative service delivery to citizens; and adjustment (downward) of the city’s contingency fund.

The reduction or elimination of retiree health subsides is truly unconscionable. Many retirees are on fixed, monthly incomes (Social Security) and can ill afford to see their health premiums go even higher. Perhaps if it were proposed as beginning on July 1, 2014 for new retirees who understand that they will not be subsidized and can prepare for it, it could work. Alternative Service Delivery (elimination or privatization of services) should not include the Enterprise Departments of water, sewer or sanitation. These funds are not part of the General Fund deficit for they are stand-alone and rely upon the rate payers to bear the costs of those services. A reduction of those services will have no impact on the General Fund.

The concept of the Contingency Fund is more complex. What staff proposes is to rearrange the deck chairs. Historically, in Glendale, the Contingency Fund was pegged at 10% and all or part of it could be used for unexpected expenses that arose during the course of the Fiscal Year. It remained and often grew from year to year. Staff is proposing that Contingency be set at 5% and still to be used for unanticipated expenses. It will become a renewable line item in the budget that can be made larger or smaller. Now there is introduction of a new concept, Ending Fund Balance (EDF). The EDF would be the city’s savings account for purposes of demonstrating to the bond rating agencies that Glendale has a reserve other than Contingency. Staff wants the EDF to be pegged at 25% of the General Fund Operating Budget. That is an awful lot of money to come up with instantly. Yet that is part of staff’s plan. They want Glendale, in its worst fiscal crisis ever, to turn around instantly and mimic the practices of a Triple A rated city. The idea is sound but the instant execution is not. It is warranted that it took Glendale several years to dig itself into a hole and it stands to reason that it will take several years to dig its way out. There’s an old proverb, “Rome was not built in a day.” Glendale’s financial mess will take more than a day to right itself.

© 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 January 21, 2014 afternoon city council workshop session was another “in and out” session. The agenda order was reversed to accommodate someone…probably Councilmembers Sherwood and Chavira as they left the session early.  There were 4 items: Public Comment; Selection of Vice Mayor; Annexation Policy; and the Annual Comprehensive Financial Report.

Councilmember Sherwood started the discussion on Public Comment at council meetings by suggesting that citizen comment be moved to the end of the meeting and that the comment period be reduced from 5 minutes to 3 minutes. You can see the coalition forming. Councilmembers Martinez, Chavira and Knaack agreed with Sherwood but Alvarez and Hugh dissented.  Citizen comments will be moved to the back of the bus once again and there will be less time to offer them. So much for encouraging public involvement.

Knaack was nominated by Martinez to continue to serve as Vice Mayor. Alvarez nominated Sherwood who immediately declined. Alvarez would have supported anyone but the one person she has clashed with continually and considers to be the devil incarnate – Knaack. The majority had no problem keeping Knaack as Vice Mayor for another year.

Annexation Policy was presented by Executive Director Jon Froke. After he presented council unanimously agreed to continue the policy as it currently exists with no changes. It apparently was too much for Alvarez to understand and she remained silent.

Executive Director Tom Duensing presented the Comprehensive Annual Financial Report (CAFRA). Eyes glazed over and Vice Mayor Knaack thanked him for bringing this item forward. She was reassured that the city’s finances are being reported properly by the current auditing firm. This must have been another topic too deep for Alvarez as once again she remained silent.

Under Council Items of Interest Councilmember Alvarez requested that the Arizona Sports and Tourism Authority (AZSTA) be invited to present to council at workshop on the current status of Camelback Ranch. Won’t that be an interesting discussion!

In less than an hour…badda bing…workshop was over. Results?

  • Citizen comments moved to the end of council meetings.
  • Citizen comments reduced from 5 minutes to 3 minutes.
  • Vice Mayor Yvonne Knaack will continue as the Vice Mayor for another year.
  • City’s annexation policy remains unchanged.
  • CAFRA finds no major financial faults in city’s financial reporting.

© 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.

At the January 7, 2014 council workshop session there were two items up for discussion and direction. Both were in Julie Frisoni’s, Interim Assistant City Manager, realm. One was municipal marketing and the other was restructuring the organization.

Municipal marketing is a strategy to raise money in a city by allowing corporations to pay for the right to advertise on city property, i.e., libraries, fire stations, police stations, vehicles and any other city asset deemed appropriate. It is used sparingly throughout the country and in the Valley.

Much was made of Mesa’s use of advertising inserts in its utility bills and the fact that since 2010 advertising has earned the city $250,000. What council failed to recognize is that it was not an annual $250,000 windfall but rather $80,000 a year. The cost to the city for implementing such a program will run anywhere from $40,000 to $75,000. Expect the higher cost rather than the lower. The options for payment of this new initiative were either (1) get the bidder to accept no upfront payment from the city. Rather there would be a reduction in the bidder’s first payment to the city to cover the cost; or (2) payment from salary savings. Salary savings are those revenues generated when a position remains vacant and unfilled for a period of time. The salary that would have been paid goes into a salary savings fund. That should be your first clue that there are still dollars to be cut from Glendale’s budget.

It was emphasized repeatedly that this would be a city-wide program. I wonder if Arrowhead residents are prepared to see their Foothills branch library renamed. It will be interesting to see their reaction should the library become, for example, the “Chick-A-Fill” Foothills Library!

All of the revenue earned will go into the General Fund. Will we see advertising revenue from the libraries, sanitation trucks or city buses go into the General Fund to pay for some inane project? Perhaps those assets that earn the revenue should benefit from it.

It was a positively “kumbaya” moment. Councilmembers Knaack, Chavira and Mayor Weiers falling all over themselves to thank Frisoni for the innovation and creativity used to raise money for the city during its current financial crisis. Martinez was part of the chorus as well but threw out the idea that councilmembers could use part of their council budgets to easily cover the cost. That idea met with stony silence. Councilmember Sherwood as well as some other councilmembers berated the previous council for not accepting this idea in 2004. Well, councilmember, it was a different environment at that time. Glendale was not in the financial morass it finds itself in today. In 2004 Frisoni presented very much the same scheme. The cost at that time would have been $39,000 and the no upfront cost idea was also floated. Even Councilmembers Knaack and Martinez though the idea of advertising on city property and assets was tacky. Especially opposed at the time was the former Mayor Scruggs. She turned up her nose and virtually declared the idea dead upon arrival. Councilmember Alvarez, whose mantra is “no” to everything and being true to form, refused to support this concept. She wanted more assurance that it would truly be a citywide program and that the Arrowhead area would not be able to opt out. She also was not happy that the revenue would be dumped into the General Fund to cover what she feels would be an inappropriate expense. Amid all of the congratulations council consensus was to move forward with this idea.

The second presentation on organizational review was presented by Frisoni and Andy Belknap, Regional Vice President and Cathy Standiford, Partner, of Management Partners, Inc. (MP). This initiative came strictly from City Manager Brenda Fischer who was able to hire this consultant without council approval because the cost was under the allowed $50,000 cap for a city manager expenditure.

This is yet another rearranging of the deck chairs. Former City Manager Beasley rearranged the organizational chart at least six times in a period of less than eight years. It is billed, as usual, as a means of improving efficiency and effectiveness but there was another goal not recognized or discussed by anyone. That goal was to physically consolidate the organization enough to free up some city property for sale or lease. Just another flag that indicates the financial stress the city is experiencing…raise revenue by selling corporate advertising rights and figure out ways such as this one, to sell or lease city properties.

What were the recommendations? There were some major ones:

  1. Reduce the number of departments from 14 to 10. Three current executive positions will be absorbed. Previously I said that no one leaves unless fired, retired or left the city for another job. Those expecting a reduction in the number of executive positions and subsequent salary savings will be disappointed.
  2. Centralize functions. One example is to lump capital improvement planning, engineering and project management together.
  3. Keep the two assistant city manager positions. One assistant city manager would supervise infrastructure and the other would supervise community programs. The second position appears to be tailored specifically for Frisoni, the Interim Assistant City Manager. Expect Jim Brown, Director of Human Relations, to have received direction to rewrite the qualifications for assistant city manager to accommodate Frisoni’s lack of qualifications for the position.
  4. Remove the title of Executive Director and reinstate the title of Director. With the inception of the Executive Director titles there was a commensurate increase in pay. With the removal of this title, all pay remains intact.
  5. No change to these departments: City Auditor, Police, Fire, Human Resources/Risk Management, Water Services, City Attorney and City Court. All other departments will be consolidated or moved.
  6. The City Manager will have direct control of the Office of Intergovernmental Programs (IGA), and the Office of Economic Development (ED). This is particularly interesting because the IGA will supervise the council’s and mayor’s offices.
  7. The City Manager will continue to receive direct reports from: Police, Fire, Finance and Technology, Human Resources/Risk Management, City Auditor and the two Assistant City Managers.  The two Assistant City Managers will supervise the departments that deal with city infrastructure and city programs.

One recommendation long overdue is to enhance the city’s use of technology. It is a concept for which I have advocated and welcome. Just one example is the use of GPS to maximize information about the city’s infrastructure and assets. The door was opened for council consideration of privatization of city service delivery. The suggestion was to look at sanitation, street sweeping, traffic signal maintenance, park and landscaping maintenance and custodial services. Last year council mightily resisted the idea of privatizing custodial services. Will this council embrace privatization?

Council’s reaction? The “walk around” performed by Management Partners did a great deal to staunch questions and criticism. A “walk around” is a tried and true technique to sell an idea to council on an individual basis and to quell any public negativism. After the usual chorus of thank yous Weiers, Sherwood, Knaack, Martinez and Chavira voiced their enthusiastic support. Councilmembers Hugh and Alvarez were glaringly silent. Alvarez was probably too stunned to speak.

This council should be commended for seeking new strategies to maximize the city’s revenue streams and to reduce expenses. The question is…do these two strategies achieve those goals?

© Joyce Clark, 2014

FAIR USE NOTICE
This site contains copyrighted material the use of which has. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit to those 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, democracy, 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 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 first item on the Glendale city council workshop session of Jan. 7, 2014 was a legislative update.  Council’s interest was in making a run on the state legislature to adopt a mechanism to reimburse host cities for major events. Reimbursement could be applied to anything major such as the Barrett Jackson Auto Show or a major NBA tournament. It’s an idea long overdue.  From the time Glendale hosted its first Super Bowl and lost money doing so, I have continually pressed for such action. Even in discussions with the Host Committee regarding Glendale’s second hosting of a Super Bowl their reaction in pursuing such legislation was tepid. In the past 7 years there has been no interest, except in Glendale, to create such a mechanism. Glendale’s Intergovernmental Director, Brent Stoddard, continues to sound less than enthusiastic about its successful adoption by the state legislature in direct contrast to Mayor Weiers who said several times that he was “optimistic” that this would be the year for such successful legislation to be adopted. I would prefer to believe that this is the year for its adoption. Let’s hope they suceed in obtaining some kind of legislation to remedy this situation. Glendale simply cannot afford to host events that, in fact, benefit the entire state.

That leads to something that the TV media has been reporting lately. Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., has filed a bill to end the tax exemption status of the NFL (granted in the 1940’s) on grounds that Americans are subsidizing a for-profit sports league. The NFL’s non-profit status was something I had highlighted in one of my blogs several months ago. Many were surprised to learn that it had a non-profit status.

Coburn’s bill, the Properly Reducing Overexemptions for Sports Act (PRO Sports Act), would do away with the tax break currently enjoyed by the league offices of the National Football League, the National Hockey League, golf’s PGA Tour, and the Ladies Professional Golf Association. Major League Baseball and the National Basketball Association have voluntarily given up their nonprofit status. Coburn has argued that if all the professional league offices were denied this exemption, Americans could recapture the estimated $91 million that goes each year for the subsidy. There is a group called the Rootstrikers, (http://www.rootstrikers.org), created in 2011 by Harvard law school professor Lawrence Lessig and political activist Joe Trippi to fight political corruption. They want to give momentum to this issue and have started an online petition to support Coburn’s bill. If you feel so inclined, check it out.

It is estimated that the NFL realizes $9 billion dollars annually and their top executives earn more than most corporate CEOs. For example, the NFL’s CEO is paid $30 million dollars a year. With that kind of revenue the NFL is a gorilla when it comes to congressional lobbying. In recent years it spent nearly $4 million dollars and at the same time contributed nearly $2 million dollars to congressional campaigns. It has a lot of clout and Senator Coburn will have an uphill battle to get his bill passed successfully.

Later today we’ll take a look at other council discussions at its recent workshop: one on municipal marketing and one on organizational restructuring.

© Joyce Clark, 2014

FAIR USE NOTICE
This site contains copyrighted material the use of which has. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit to those 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, democracy, 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 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 the November 26, 2013 City Council meeting agenda was Item 23, an ordinance revising employee unclassified and classified positions as well as a revision of Human Resources Policies 201, 513 and 514. It was an item that council tabled and directed to be brought to a workshop — as well they should have.

As Councilmember Martinez stated there had been no review or discussion of this item prior to its appearance as an ordinance that night. City Manager Brenda Fischer took full responsibility for not bringing it to council prior to the vote. She should have. This ordinance, if approved, will be a blatant and naked accrual of more power to the City Manager and a diminishment of employee rights. Instead of former City Manager Ed Beasley’s “iron fist” we now have current City Manager Brenda Fischer’s “velvet glove.”

If I were a city employee I would be concerned. Currently the “at-will” employees are:

  •  City Manager                        1
  •  City Clerk                             1
  •  City Attorney                        1
  •  City Judge                            1
  •  Assistant City Judges             5 estimated

Under the proposal add:

  • Assistant and Deputy City Manager level positions
  • All department Director/Assistant Department Director level positions
  • All employees, exempt and non-exempt, assigned to positions in the legal department (includes City Attorney’s office and Prosecutor’s office);                            
  •  assigned to positions in the City Clerk’s office;                                        
  •  assigned to positions in the Mayor’s and City Council offices;
  •  and all classified employees in their introductory or probationary period of employment.

Under the current system reflected in the FY 2013 budget there are approximately 9 positions (estimate of number of assistant city judges is 5) that are unclassified and are considered as at-will. Under the proposed “velvet glove” system the number grows to approximately 120 positions. That number does not include “all classified employees in their introductory or probationary period of employment.” My math can be shaky but it appears to be a 1,000% increase planned in the number of at-will employees and that does not include probationary employees.

What are the differences between classified and unclassified employees? The major distinction is that unclassified employees have no right of appeal or right of grievance should they be fired. There does not have to be a “cause” to terminate. Consider them to be contract employees. There is no permanence or stability associated with the job. They are salaried employees who earn no overtime pay. There is no annual merit or “step” increase. Rather increases are based upon performance and productivity.

Retirement “vesting” and benefits can be different between the two systems. Unclassified employees can usually vest in retirement immediately while there is a waiting period for classified employees.

A classified job offers an individual job security and stability. Security at work has been demonstrated to improve and to enhance the individual’s performance. In the private sector companies that offer permanent jobs understand the need of promoting higher levels of job satisfaction to improve workforce performance. A classified employee will generally receive more employment benefits and bonuses like health insurance, pay raises and holiday pay.

There is no right or wrong position on these job classifications. Younger, more mobile workers seem to prefer at will employment while older persons are more comfortable with the security of job stability.

However, this new proposal raises a myriad of questions and concerns:

What about the issue of subjectivity? What if a department head has an assistant department head that does terrific work but their personalities clash? There exists the potential for abuse.

What about public safety? Do department heads and assistant department heads in police and fire become unclassified? If so the estimated number of 120 will grow substantially.

What about those employees currently in their introductory or probationary phases? Did those that already accepted employment from the city choose stability or mobility? If it was stability did they unwittingly forego another opportunity at another city assuming that once they passed their current probation they would have a stable job? In this new proposal once they finish probation after January 2, 2014 do they become at-will, unclassified? If so, over time, every employee will become unclassified. The proposed ordinance specifically states, “Legislative note: The expansion of the unclassified service to include employees hired and or promoted on or after January 2, 2014.”

The ordinance also states, “Unclassified employees are entitled to all regular benefits and leaves unless otherwise provided in the human resources policies and procedures.” How long will it be until unclassified employees see revisions to HR policies and procedures?

Then there is the description of classified service within the ordinance, “The objective of this service is to provide public and management services covered by a fair and nonpolitical system of personnel management for the City of Glendale.” Those seem to be desired outcomes in municipal government. So why the proposed change? It goes on to say, “The unclassified service is made up of employees in positions where administrative necessity dictates that the position be more responsive and accountable to city policy.” Is the unclassified system inherently more subjective and political? Yes.

The City Charter under Article III, Section 3, (3) states the City Manager has the authority to “appoint, and when deemed necessary for the good of the service, lay-off, suspend, transfer, demote or remove all department heads, officers and employees of the City subject to such merit system regulations as the Council may adopt.” However, only classified employees are subject to the merit system and even if the City Manager wished to get rid of a classified person there are protections in place that must demonstrate cause. The council may make all the adjustments it wants to the merit system but they will only apply to classified employees whose numbers in this proposed scenario seem to diminish over time.

Another sentence has been added in this section, “The City Manager delegates the Human Resources & Risk Management Executive Director as the decision making authority with regard to the entire recruitment and selection process.” It is worded carefully for it appears that the HR Director can select candidates for positions but the ultimate hiring and firing will be done by the City Manager.

Why was this proposed? I’ve been told by sources that it was adopted by the City Manager after she had to appear before the Personnel Board in the matter of the Don Bolton termination. A different source suggested Mayor Weiers’ love of all legislative practices and procedures (this model is used by the state legislature) drove this initiative. Weiers has tried to have several state legislative practices adopted but what works at the state level does not always work well at a local level.

What justification is offered by either the City Manager and/or the HR Executive Director for a major change in personnel classification? None — apparently.  In the City Council Report under Purpose and Recommended Action the proposed action is described but its purpose is not.

Why the reluctance to offer the purpose of such a major change? We are certain to hear that this proposed system offers flexibility in a changed work environment. Sounds like double-speak, doesn’t it? Make no mistake. This scheme centralizes power in the City Manager’s office. As elected officials leave so, too, will their staff under this proposed system. It can get really expensive in short order.

It was extremely prudent of council to table this proposal for future discussion at a workshop. The questions are many:

* Why is this major policy change necessary? And do not accept the answer of flexibility.

* Exactly how many employees out of the 1,000 plus will become subject to this policy?

* Will it apply to all new employees throughout the organization after January 2, 2014? From that date forward, once they have finished probation, will they be unclassified?

* How does such a policy change affect future budgets? What is the anticipated cost of moving to such a system? Add 20% to any staff estimate, if they provide one.

* Will department heads and assistant department heads in public safety become unclassified? If not, why not?

* Is the City Auditor and her department employees unclassified? If not, why not?

* Who will have the ultimate authority for hiring and firing unclassified employees?

* And most importantly — What practices will be implemented immediately and prior to a council vote to prevent any potential abuses including that created by subjectivity?

 

© Joyce Clark, 2013

FAIR USE NOTICE
This site contains copyrighted material the use of which has. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit to those 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, democracy, 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 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.

cit mtg 2Wow, we just saw a window into council priorities. Since January and the new council began meeting, their meetings are conducted with lightning speed, usually lasting half an hour and on rare occasion because of the sheer number of items on their agenda it may go as long as an hour. Today, June 18, 2013 there were only 6 items on their workshop agenda and it took them over an hour to deliberate. Why? Because these were all items that have a direct impact on them and their business.

Here’s the lineup:

  1. Council has changed the voting meeting time from 7 PM to 6PM.
  2. The Vice Mayor’s position will follow a calendar year (Jan. to Jan.) rather than the fiscal year (July to June).
  3. Council subcommittees will remain annual appointments with a 2 year consecutive term limit. After serving 2 consecutive terms a councilmember must move to the other subcommittee (there are only two). After being off for 2 years councilmember may again sit on committee vacated.
  4. Response time for Council Items of Special Interest remains 30 days for staff response.
  5. Council has traded Moment of Silence for Prayer after they have opportunity to review suggested guidelines for conducting a Prayer.
  6. Workshop meeting location has moved from Council Chambers back to its old haunt, Room B-3, or the “basement” as Mayor Weiers likes to call it.

calendarInterim City Manager Bowers announced that at the June 25, 2013 meeting the Internal Audit will come forward. After the open meeting, Council went into Esession and it was an unusually long one for them, starting at 2:45 PM and ending at about 6:30 PM. The issues were substantive. From various statements made to the media by the City Attorney and some councilmembers there will be no vote on the Coyotes deal on June 25th. So look for June 28th or July 9th. However, Council has a vacation break in July so it makes more sense for it to become an agenda item at the specially called meeting for June 28th.

polling 1We know council was briefed on the PAD and SMG bids and council probably learned their asking price to manage the arena. It probably made Councilmember Alvarez’ heart beat faster and I imagine she offered an impassioned but hardly eloquent plea for acceptance of one of them. We know another topic of discussion was the Renaissance Sports and Entertainment (RSE) bid. Councilmember Sherwood publicly admitted that there were deal points that caused council difficulty. I would think the city’s guarantee of $15M (or X number—you fill in the blank) a year without any guarantee that there would really be the elusive $8M-$11M in enhanced revenue going to the city could have been a stumbling block. Whatever the issues were, council would have given direction to staff to go back to RSE and renegotiate those deal points. The ball in now in RSE’s court. If RSE is serious, it will have to make further concessions that demonstrate their skin in the game. Councilmember Sherwood also publicly acknowledged that the deal points need to be publicized one week before the vote. I applaud council for their stance on the side of reasonable and prudent public disclosure.

Councilmember Alvarez walked out of Esession in disgust, complaining that council was making “too many concessions” to RSE. The mere idea of entertaining the RSE bid is a “concession” in Alvarez’ mind. One other Alvarezism from the open meeting springs to mind. While discussing putting public comments at the beginning of the meeting she virtually accused her fellow councilmembers of not championing Democracy and the American Way by accusatorily saying, “We’re not dictators.”

copyright

%d bloggers like this: