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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.

On Tuesday, August 1, 2017 city council, after a month’s vacation (sort of), will convene by holding its first workshop meeting. There are 3 agenda items: presentation of the proposed Fiscal Year 2017-18 federal Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) allocations; update of the city’s website; and further discussion of the proposal to raise water/sewer and sanitation rates.

So far CDBG federal funds remain basically intact with the city’s total entitlement at $2,270,348.00. With a new administration in place we will have to wait to see what new federal policies are implemented that will affect allocations in the future. We are moving into uncharted territory. CDBG funds cannot be used throughout the entire city but rather in specific areas recognized as slum and blighted. Most of this area is located in zip code 85301 (not all of this zip code has this designation) and generally includes downtown Glendale.

There was one area that received no funding this year and I believe should have. That is the City of Glendale’s Neighborhood Services in the area of Neighborhood Preservation and Code Compliance. The request was for $94,945.00. Yet it received nothing. This funding can be used to board up vacant properties, distribute ‘roll-offs’ to neighborhoods and for its ‘clean and lien’ program. The city should be more aggressive in these areas as all benefit neighborhood preservation. Boarding up properties and cleaning up vacant properties can be expensive. Even though a property has a lien placed upon it, it may be years before the lien is paid and in the meantime the city has fronted the cost. “Roll-offs’ are those very large garbage bins. They are frequently used by neighborhoods when they call for a general clean-up. They are expensive and the charge for one is somewhere in the $500 range. Many neighborhoods, especially those older neighborhoods without an HOA, simply cannot afford the cost of a ‘roll-off.’ In an effort to maintain these neighborhoods it just makes sense to offer them, free-of-charge, to neighborhoods willing to self-clean.

Community Revitalization has a set aside of $654,050.00. It would make sense to allocate $100,000 of that amount to Neighborhood Preservation.

The second agenda item is that of updating the city’s website. Goodness knows it needs it desperately but before council gives direction to upgrade, I sure would like to know what the cost of such an effort will be. The request before council will be to approve the issuance of a Request for Proposals (RFP) and then to eventually approve a contract for web hosting for the city. I think a cap of fund expenditure should be provided within the RFP. Without that, the sky is the limit for all bidders.

 It also raises a question that I continue to ask. What is the purpose and mission of the city’s Information Technology (IT) Department? The city is about to embark upon the implementation of a new citywide operating system called Munis. As part of this contract, the city will be paying nearly a million dollars a year for support of this system. If council decides to award a contract for hosting its website that becomes another major area that IT will not have to support. It appears as if IT is becoming no more than a glorified support system for all of the city’s equipment such as PCs. As the city moves into cloud computing, IT will no longer have to support servers for the city’s operating systems. IT receives a substantial allocation each fiscal year. It’s time to ask what are we paying for?

The last agenda item is further discussion about water/sewer and sanitation rate increases. A little history is in order. For approximately 8 years there have been no rate increases due to the Great Recession. No one felt it was appropriate to raise rates during that period. The economy is now rebounding and it is time to adjust rates. In addition, during those 8 years, the cost of materials and equipment has risen as well as the fact that employees in these departments are seeing their first pay increases in many years. So, a case can be made that the rates should be reviewed.

I have several major concerns that I expect to have addressed.  One is the need for a less dramatic initial rate increase. Rate increases need to be phased in and gradual. Let me give you a real example. My June billing was in the amount of $100.44 for 21,000 gallons broken down as follows:

  • Water                               $76.92
  • Sanitation & Recycling         16.30
  • AZ Water Quality Tax            0.14
  • Taxes                                  7.08                 

With a proposed 7.5% increase in water in the first year, that $76.92 jumps to $82.69; and with a proposed 10% increase in water the first year $76.92 becomes $84.61. The $16.30 for sanitation could increase in the first year by 17% to $19.05 or 25% to $20.50.

Over the next 5 years a water bill could increase by 29% adding approximately $27.72 to the average single family billing.  The sanitation bill could increase by 52% or approximately $8.50.

That does not include an increase in the AZ Water Quality Tax or taxes on each bill.

These increases are dramatic and mandate that city council look at the proposed projects that rather than being committed to at one time are rather phased in allowing a more gradual approach to the proposed rate increases.

City council has historically adopted a tiered rate approach to water. Those who use the minimal amount per month would see the smallest increase. Those who consume the greatest amount of water per month see the largest rate increase. This approach was designed to uphold the philosophy of water conservation and to recognize that minimal water users are often seniors and retired on fixed incomes. The proposal as presented does not take this strategy into account.

There is plenty of time for further discussion. The citizen comments are very important to this discussion. The city is holding a series of public meeting for citizens:

Open House Public Input Meetings

  • Wednesday, July 26, 2017 Glendale Regional Public Safety Training Center 6-8 p.m. 11550 W. Glendale Ave., Glendale, AZ 85307
  • Thursday, August 3, 2017 Foothills Recreation and Aquatic Center 6-8 p.m. 5600 W. Union Hills Dr., Glendale, AZ 85308
  • Saturday, August 12, 2017 Glendale City Hall – Basement Level 10 a.m.-12 noon 5850 W. Glendale Ave., Glendale, AZ 85301
  • Tuesday, August 15, 2017 Glendale Adult Center 6-8 p.m. 5970 W. Brown St., Glendale, AZ 85302

Lastly, citizen commentary from participants on the newly established Utilities Commission, seem to indicate that there was never a discussion of the central questions: do we need rate increases? and how can we mitigate the increases? From what I have heard the commission discussion began with these are the projects we must do and do you prefer a rate increase based on Option 1 or Option 2?

The city council workshop discussion of these agenda items can be seen on Channel 11 if you have Cox cable or live on the city’s website under Cable Channel 11 tabs.  It’s an important discussion.

© Joyce Clark, 2017               

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.

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.

On Tuesday, April 18, 2017 city council met in workshop session. There were 3 agenda items: information on the city’s purchase of a new city-wide software program; my Council Item of Special Interest requesting the formation of a temporary council subcommittee on business; and Councilmember Aldama’s  request to move forward with the creation of a citizen Diversity and Human Relations Commission.

PeopleSoft vs. Munis City-Wide Software Systems. City staff provided information on a proposed software system called Munis. Currently the city uses a software system called PeopleSoft for its Finance, Human Resources and Payroll functions. Staff represented that PeopleSoft is inefficient for their needs and estimated the number of hours currently used to support PeopleSoft as 19,562 and the estimated annual cost of that support is $703,475.

I do accept that the Finance functions under PeopleSoft are no longer sufficient to meet our needs but I have not been convinced that the city should abandon PeopleSoft’s functionality for its Human Resources/Payroll needs. 

In 2015 PeopleSoft’s HR and payroll modules were updated at a cost of $1.2 million. These software modules will receive PeopleSoft support until 2017. There does not appear to be any urgency to replace these modules after the city just spent $1.2 million to upgrade them. Yet the proposed city-wide software system contains the option to replace these modules.

A year later, in 2016, staff requested approval to hire a firm, Berry & Dunn, to search for, review and recommend a new city-wide software system. I don’t believe staff explained this request adequately to city council and that city council approved this request without realizing that they had taken the first step in a procurement process. The result is the current proposal to replace the entire city software system at a cost of $6 million over a two year period. Why replace the HR/Payroll modules when the city spent $1.2 million to upgrade them less than 2 years ago? Finance did make a strong case for the replacement of its PeopleSoft modules and I can support their request but I believe we can wait to replace the HR/Payroll modules at a later date.

The areas of my concern about which there were no satisfactory answers provided at the workshop are: 1. What are the cost savings and level of productivity to be gained by switching to this new system? and 2. What is the final, estimated cost of purchasing, supporting and implementing this new system? Staff indicated that answer would be available to council and the public on May 28th. By then the proposed budget is set and council moves into June having to approve the proposed budget. That is not satisfactory to me. It leaves no time to question or to adjust the proposed budget to reflect council’s final direction.

Temporary city council subcommittee on business. I introduced this item several months ago as a “Council Item of Special Interest.” It requests the creation of a temporary city council subcommittee comprised of city council members and representatives from Glendale’s business community. Its purpose is to make Glendale even more business friendly while enhancing Glendale’s reputation for supporting job attraction, creation and retention. This committee would review all of Glendale’s business-related codes, ordinances, regulations and policies for the purpose of removing out-dated, redundant, no longer relevant business imperatives. The committee’s conclusions and recommendations are advisory and would be presented to the full council for acceptance or rejection, in whole or part.

I am grateful to city council for offering their suggestions to make the concept even better and for their support in moving this initiative forward. I am excited that there will be an opportunity to take Glendale toward a 21st Century future by aligning its laws, regulations and policies to enhance our business community.

Diversity and Human Relations Commission. This item was originally initiated as a “Council Item of Special Interest” by former Councilmember Gary Sherwood. That’s how long this item has been floating around…at least 2 years. Sherwood was recalled and replaced by the current Councilmember Ray Malnar representing the Sahuaro district. Councilmember Aldama took up the issue after Sherwood left. Councilmember Malnar introduced an alternative Human Relations Commission proposal to Councilmember Aldama’s Diversity and Human Relations Commission. The proposals were virtually the same with the exception of Section 2-313 – Powers and duties (a).

Here is Councilmember Aldama’s version:

“The commission shall advise the mayor and council regarding issues, regulations or policies affecting diverse members of the Glendale community including, but not limited to, those related to race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, marital status, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, genetic characteristics, medical condition, familial or parental status, U.S. Military veteran status, mental development, behavior, illness, or disorder or disability, physical appearance, limitation or disability, education level, socio-economic condition or any other individual or distinct characteristic.”

Here is Councilmember Malnar’s version:

“The Glendale Human Relations Commission will act as an advisory body to the mayor and council by making recommendations on way to encourage mutual respect and understanding among all people, to discourage prejudice and discrimination, and to support cultural awareness and unity of the community in all its diverse forms. The commission may also make recommendations for special events.”

I preferred Councilmember Malnar’s version, as did Vice Mayor Hugh and Councilmember Tolmachoff. Consensus was given to move forward with the Malnar version to be agendized for a future city council voting meeting. My reason for support of the Malnar version is that the country’s current preoccupation with diversity has led to increased tensions and divisiveness among disparate communities. That is an atmosphere I prefer not to bring to Glendale. Rather Councilmember Malnar’s version emphasizes the very values we, as a nation, have seemed to have forgotten, that of mutual respect and understanding, the discouragement of prejudice and discrimination and support of unity within our community.

The next city council meeting will occur on Monday, April 24th at 9 AM. It will give the city council an opportunity to focus on individual department budgets and to pose questions about them. It will be followed by another budget workshop on Friday, April 28th and will be a continuation of departmental budget review by city council. You can watch these workshops online at the city website under the City’s Cable Channel 11 or if you are a Cox subscriber you can watch the workshops on TV Channel 11.

© Joyce Clark, 2017                 

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 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

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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 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.

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