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Joyce Clark Unfiltered

For "the rest of the story"

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

On February 1, 2017 the Arizona Republic had a front page, above the fold story (meaning really important) on Phoenix’s lobbyists’ rule. Its lobbyist registration ordinance is not worth the paper it’s written on. Here is the link to the story: http://www.azcentral.com/story/news/local/phoenix/2017/01/31/phoenix-council-letterhead-revealed-toothless-lobbying-rules/96549540/ . The Republic story reports, “Phoenix’s law states that lobbyists must register and disclose their clients if they are paid to contact the mayor or council members to influence official decisions. Lobbyists must also report campaign contributions and money they spend on meals, gifts or other expenses that benefit elected city leaders, according to the ordinance.” One of many problems with Phoenix’s law is there are no penalties associated with any failure to follow their law.

The article goes on to say, A high-profile Phoenix law firm did not properly register as a lobbyist with the city for two years, and recently filed falsely dated documents that made it appear the firm had followed the law, according to the Phoenix city attorney.

But the city of Phoenix can’t do anything to penalize the firm or others that do not comply with its lobbyist regulations. That’s because the law is toothless and there is no way to enforce it, city officials said they realized last week.” It’s up to the Phoenix City Council to reform its lobbyist law.

If you are relying on the state to keep an eagle eye on lobbyists and their expenditures, forget it. Justin Price, for the Arizona Center for Investigative Reporting states, “Less than 14 percent of the roughly $333,000 spent to lobby Arizona lawmakers in the first half of 2015 identified who the money was spent on, continuing a trend of scant disclosure going back years.

“Since 2010, the portion of lobbying records that include beneficiaries has averaged about 12.5 percent. This is according to data maintained by the Secretary of State’s Office and includes lobbying records for the first half of each year, which typically includes Arizona’s annual legislative session.

Lobbyists are required to report their expenditures in quarterly expense reports submitted to the secretary of state. But loopholes and minimal regulatory oversight leave room for lobbyists to spend without reporting who benefited, ultimately leaving the public in the dark about who is influencing the people they have elected to craft Arizona’s laws, budget and taxes. For 2015, lobbying records include a beneficiary for $1 out of every $8 spent.” Here is the link to Mr. Price’s research: http://www.azcentral.com/story/news/arizona/politics/2015/11/23/arizona-lobbying-records-little-disclosure/76068724/ .

Lobbying can be and is done by consulting firms and zoning attorneys advocating for a land project or the same entities may represent industries/interests seeking a specific law or project for which they are trying to attain passage for their client. Glendale, the state’s 6th largest city, has no lobbyist laws and it is way overdue.  It’s not just a matter of registering lobbyists who operate in Glendale, it’s also a matter of developing rules regarding the city’s hiring of lobbyists. In 2011, the city had a stable of lobbyists: Husk Partners, Inc.; Hyek and Fixx, Inc.; Van Scoyoc Associates, Inc.; and Policy AZ. They were hired while Ed Beasley was Glendale’s City Manager and paid a boatload of money to lobby on behalf of the city.

There is little to no transparency when it comes to lobbyists, what they do, how much they spend and which lawmakers receive their benefit. It’s not a problem just for Glendale and Phoenix but for the state as well. The state’s lobbyist laws are as meaningless as those of Phoenix.

It’s time for us, the citizens of the state, to know who is paying whom and who is supplying trips, gifts, meals and campaign contributions to all lawmakers…state, county and local.

© 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.

This first story is in keeping with the spirit of the Christmas season. Right after Thanksgiving a Phoenix hiking group erected a 15-foot Christmas tree at the summit of Camelback Mountain. Within a day someone had cut the tree’s top half down and stole it. Park rangers removed the bottom half instantly. Phoenix (the Grinch of this story) has a “leave no trace” policy in its parks and refused to allow the group to replace the tree. After discussions with the group, Phoenix relented and will allow the Christmas tree to be up for a month. Here is the link to the story: http://www.azcentral.com/story/news/local/phoenix/2016/12/02/camelback-mountain-new-christmas-tree/94826794/ hootPostID=e6b4bacfb975fca570a98e83f2a0f9f3 . A win win solution for everyone showing that even a Grinch can have a heart. Good for you, Phoenix.

Not so with Glendale. Tony Escamillo erected a United States flag at the summit of Thunderbird Mountain Park symbolic of our national pride and out of his love of country. It keeps getting removed. By whom? None other than the City of Glendale. Another Grinch identified. Sometimes rules are meant to be broken and this could be one of those ‘sometimes’. Come on, Glendale, make this an exception. Perhaps there is a reader out there who will start a Go Fund Me account for permanent placement of our country’s flag on Glendale’s one and only mountain top. Here is a link to this story: https://www.facebook.com/FOX10Phoenix/videos/1188934381155107/?pnref=story .

The next story is a cautionary tale for Glendale’s Convention and Visitors Bureau (CVB). Experience Scottsdale (previously known as the Scottsdale Convention and Visitors Bureau) was audited this year. Here is a link to that story: http://www.azcentral.com/story/news/local/scottsdale/2016/12/01/city-tourism-audit-ciritical-experience-scottsdales-high-pay-lack-focus-city/94353844/ . The major thrust of the audit was on Experience Scottsdale’s executive salaries. At the present time that is not an issue for the Glendale CVB and is irrelevant but some of its other findings are worth paying attention to.

This group receives half of Scottsdale’s hotel-sales-tax collections each year, amounting to about $9.4 million in fiscal year 2016. Glendale also allocates a portion of its bed-hotel-sales tax collections to its CVB. Currently, $30,000 of its total hotel-bed-sales tax will be used to promote the Civic Center. While Glendale’s hotel bed-sales-tax numbers are not as grand as those of Scottsdale with its bounty of hotels, especially high-end ones as more hotels come on line in Glendale, that bed-sales-tax number will become more significant.

Scottsdale’s audit report discovered that of the 536 convention bookings, only 297 were actually on Scottsdale properties. In another instance, the Scottsdale CVB reported 167,000 room nights as a result of the conventions booked. Actual room nights in Scottsdale proper were about half that number, 84,000.

The Scottsdale CVB has 411 members but 180 of its members, or a little less than half, are outside of Scottsdale so the benefits to its members do not translate as exclusive benefits for Scottsdale businesses. The Scottsdale CVB reported 2.6 million visitors to its website but failed to account for repeat visitors in that reported number. The audit revealed the economic impact related to visitor inquiries at Experience Scottsdale around $262 million, about 16 percent less than the figure reported by the CVB.

The Scottsdale audit recommended that its CVB set annual goals based on the previous year’s results; that it prioritizes Scottsdale-based businesses; and that it annually submits documentation that verifies its performance claims. That sure does sound like a strategy the Glendale city council should adopt.

The last story is about Buckeye and is in the ‘what in the world?’ category. In April of 2015, about a year and half ago, Buckeye purchased Global Water Resources for $55 million dollars. The deal was touted as being more efficient. Residents were assured that current customer water rates were sufficient to cover the expense of the acquisition over a 20 year period. The city said that opening up the areas previously served by Global would generate new development. It said there would be new sales tax, property tax and employment as a result of the enhanced water system. Here is the link to the original 2015 story: http://www.azcentral.com/story/news/local/southwest-valley/2015/04/06/buckeye-adds-new-water-customers-promises-benefits/25269607/ .

Obviously something went terribly wrong. Over the past few months suddenly Buckeye water customers have had bills that spiked – upwards of $400, and some as high as $1,400. There is nothing that makes a resident sit up and take notice more than an issue that hits the pocket book and this surely did just that. Residents made noise and filed complaints with the city. Nothing has happened except for the sound of crickets chirping.  On November 22, 2016 residents had had enough of the city’s inaction and so filed a recall petition against Mayor Jackie Meck. Here is a link to the story: http://www.azcentral.com/story/news/local/southwest-valley/2016/11/30/high-water-bills-prompt-recall-effort-buckeye-mayor/94634980/ .

Meck, in response, acknowledged “some growing pains” as a result of the city’s purchase of Global. What might they be, Mayor Meck and why haven’t you shared them with your residents? More crickets chirping. It has been my experience that a city’s mayor knows exactly what’s going on with everything even remotely city-related. Meck says he’s “working on it” but it’s a little late for Meck to suddenly play dumb.

Jackie Meck has been around for a long time and seems to represent the good ole boys of Buckeye. His response has been to say, “I have lived in Buckeye all of my life. Through it all we have never gone through a recall. It is not how we have settled our differences.” It appears that Meck is ignoring his residents at his peril. Didn’t we all just experience something similar on a national level as the Democrats ignored their core constituency of the working class resulting in their election losses? It would seem that anyone running against Meck this time around has a good chance of unseating him (despite his recent August reelection victory) for it’s obvious that there are a lot of angry Buckeye water customers out there and they, too, are being ignored. They just may express their anger and frustration through the ballot box as well.

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

Many of us have heard of the federal Hatch Act. Broadly it prohibits local governmental employees from participating in local election activities. But since it’s a federal act who is covered and who is not?

“The Hatch Act applies to any city employee  ‘whose principal employment is in connection with an activity which is financed in whole or in part by loans or grants made by the United States or a Federal agency…’  5 U.S.C.A. § 1501(4) (emphasis added).  The number of city employees covered has expanded drastically over the years, due to numerous federal grants and loans made to local governments.  Employees of any police or fire department receiving grants and/or loans from the Department of Homeland Security, the Department of Justice, or any other federal agency are subject to the limitations imposed by the Hatch Act.  Also covered are employees of any city department that participates in activities that are funded, in whole or in part, by any federal loans or grants, even if those funds were received from a state agency.” 

Examples of local governmental employees who are commonly covered by the Hatch Act include:

  • city clerks  (including deputy clerks and possibly city recorders)
  • employees of housing authorities
  • officers and employees of development and transportation authorities
  • emergency services employees
  • firefighters and police officers.”

Please note that the Hatch Act specifically identifies firefighters and police officers. Why? Because their departments typically accept numerous federal grants. It is a fact that both Glendale and Phoenix fire departments have accepted federal grants for emergency preparedness. Therefore those department’s employees are covered by the Hatch Act. Both Glendale and Phoenix police departments have accepted federal grants for the hiring of additional police officers. Therefore those department’s employees are also covered by the Hatch Act.

A “covered employee” may not use his or her official authority or influence to interfere with or affect the result of an election.  For example:    

  • May not use his or her official title or position while engaged in political activity  
  • May not host a political fundraiser    
  • May not invite others to a political fundraiser    
  • May not sell tickets to a political fundraiser
  • May not use any e-mail account or social media to distribute, send, or forward content that solicits political contributions 

That brings us to a very interesting set of observations leading to questions.

Phoenix Councilmember Danny Valenzuela is a city of Glendale firefighter and is a covered employee under the Hatch Act. Glendale firefighter Danny Valenzuela co-hosted a fundraiser for Glendale mayoral candidate Mark Burdick.

Glendale Councilmember Sammy Chavira is a Phoenix firefighter and was also a co-host of the same event.

The political fundraiser that both co-hosted was held on Tuesday, March 22, 2016 from 5:30 PM to 7:30 PM at the Phoenix home of Sal Rivera.  Suggested contributions ranged from $500 for a “Contributor” to $50 for a “Guest.”

Fact 1: The Hatch Act defines “covered employees” on the local level as those whose departments receive federal loans and grants and/or state agency loans or grants.

Fact 2: Both fire departments of the city of Glendale and the city of Phoenix have received numerous federal loans and grants.

Fact 3: Glendale firefighter Danny Valenzuela is a covered employee.

Fact 4: Phoenix firefighter Sammy Chavira is a covered employee.

Fact 5: Danny Valenzuela co-hosted a political fundraiser for Glendale mayoral candidate Mark Burdick.

Fact 6: Sammy Chavira co-hosted a political fundraiser for Glendale mayoral candidate Mark Burdick.

Therefore it is alleged that Valenzuela and Chavira are in violation of the Hatch Act.

It is the responsibility of the Glendale City Attorney and the Phoenix City Attorney to investigate and to corroborate these facts for the purpose of recommending disciplinary action. That action can range from a fine to termination of employment.

Neither of these men can hide behind the cover of their elected office as councilmembers. Their primary jobs have been as firefighters for many, many years long before they were elected to political office. Their elected positions are secondary occupations. Hopefully the voters will come to realize what an untenable position these men hold. If they want to be politicians, fine, but they should quit or retire as active city employees.

It is now up to the Glendale and Phoenix city attorneys to issue opinions regarding these alleged violations of the Hatch Act. Let us hope they do not whitewash these allegations in favor of their political bosses for councilmembers hire and fire City Attorneys. It is one of several positions, such as the City Manager, that are the direct hires of a city council. If these firefighters, covered employees, are found to be allowed to participate in local elections, it sets precedent for all city employees covered by the Hatch Act.

As for Sammy, it’s just another lapse in a long line of questionable ethical decisions he has made. Add it to the $25,000 of taxpayer money he spent on “fun” trips; the council meetings he has missed; and his lack of outreach to the people of the district he is supposed to represent.

It appears that both of these men are in violation of the Hatch Act but then again, I’m not a city attorney and certainly not well versed in the art of spinning a situation to make it go away for my boss. Whatever the determination it deserves a public announcement.

More questions about the Hatch Act and fire unions to come…

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

It seems the latest Sammy saga is not quite finished. In the Arizona Republic of March 5, 2016 Paul Giblin has yet another story about it entitled Phoenix employees to repay $420 dinner bill sent to Glendale. It is not online yet so I cannot provide a link.

This story reminds me of the symbolism of throwing stones into a pond. The ripples made by the stones intersect and affect how each reacts.

The first three lead paragraphs say, “Several Phoenix employees will personally reimburse Glendale for their portions of $420 seafood dinner in Washington, D.C., that Glendale Councilman expenses to Glendale taxpayers in 2014, according to a Phoenix spokeswoman.

“Phoenix Communications Director Julie Watters requested an itemized receipt for the meal from Assistant City Manager Tom Duensing on Friday, the day a story about Glendale Councilman Sammy Chavira’s travels appeared in The Arizona Republic.

“ ‘The city of Phoenix is requesting a copy of this receipt with the intent that Phoenix employees who were at the dinner will personally repay their portion of the meal,’ Watters stated in the email.”

There are a lot of sub texts to this story. It is amazing that Julie Watters’ information request to the City of Glendale was filled almost immediately. The general public’s requests for information are not nearly as timely. I guess as Phoenix’s Communications Director her public information requests take precedence.

For two years this dinner was unnoticed and unreported publicly. None of the participants, including the Phoenix contingent, appeared to be ethically challenged about their action and never offered repayment for their portion of the dinner. It wasn’t until it is revealed publicly that the wagons are circled and repayment is forthcoming.

It leads to an assumption that the Fire Chiefs Kalbrenner and Burdick had no problem with a subordinate employee picking up the tab for their high priced meal. The question arises, is there a pattern of such behavior? Of course, Sammy was using his office as a Glendale councilmember but in terms of the Phoenix Fire Department he is a subordinate employee, quite far down on the food chain.

Giblin in his article states that Fire Chief Kara Kalkbrenner and Kalkbrenner’s husband, Kevin, Phoenix Director of Emergency Management were two of the attendees. It appears Phoenix does not have a nepotism policy.

Also in attendance was Phoenix Councilmember Danny Valenzuela, a good buddy of Chavira’s. Nowhere in the article does it state that Valenzuela will be using personal funds to pay for his portion of the dinner. Then Glendale Fire Chief Mark Burdick was in attendance as well. He happens to be Danny Valenzuela’s boss as Danny is a Glendale firefighter. How ethical is it to grant access to some subordinates and not others? If I were a Glendale or Phoenix firefighter I would not be thrilled to learn of Chavira and Valenzuela using their councilmember positions to gain extraordinary access to their fire chiefs.

This story about Sammy’s dinner is probably the tip of the iceberg. There are many tangled interrelationships in politics and municipal affairs and generally they turn out to not serve public interests very well. The repercussions of Sammy’s dinner may have a far greater effect than anyone could have imagined.

© Joyce Clark, 2016

FAIR USE NOTICE

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

It has been 17 years and 336 days since the city’s pledge to build the West Branch Library.

It seems that Thanksgiving got in the way of much blog writing recently. I hope your Thanksgiving Day with family and friends was enjoyable. I hope you ate too much, laughed too much and watched too much football.

It was announced that the Coyotes hired Mitchell Ziets, CEO of Tipping Point Sports, LLC, to assist in an exploration of options for the team including a move to another venue from the Gila River Arena in Glendale. Let’s explore the reality of this option.

In a November 2, 2015 story by Craig Morgan several possible venues are offered for consideration by the Coyotes. Here is the link: http://arizonasports.com/story/436156/coyotes-in-discussions-with-at-least-three-separate-groups-for-new-valley-arena/ .

In his story Morgan offers this comment from Anthony LeBlanc, “At some point you have to make a decision that you can’t continue to talk to a wall, Coyotes co-owner, president and CEO Anthony LeBlanc said. You have to accept reality and look at what your alternatives are. That’s where we are right now.” From the time LeBlanc’s group, IceArizona, commenced its deal with Glendale for the use of its arena the Coyotes simply refused to talk to and to share information with Glendale. They were decidedly off the reservation. It has only been since the new, two-year deal was inked that IceArizona has decided to play nice with Glendale.

IceArizona may very well leave Gila River Arena in two years but options to play elsewhere in the Valley are more limited than current speculation would lead one to believe. LeBlanc admits to “conversations” with Phoenix about the possibility of a shared arena with the Phoenix Suns. Out of curiosity I checked the 2015-2016 playing schedules for both teams. Here are some comparisons:

                                                            Phoenix Suns                 Arizona Coyotes

Season                                                10/28/2015-4/13/2016     10/9/2015-4/13/2016

Number of total games                                     82                                        82

Number of home games                                   40                                        41

Out of the 40+ plus home games each team plays at its current venue, if they currently played at the same shared venue, 12 playing dates would conflict. That is ¼ or 25% of their home games. To be fair, we know that can be remedied by the leagues with a gnashing of teeth and the pulling of hair. It has worked before when the Coyotes and Suns shared a venue. One would think the Coyotes fans have warm memories of their experiences in sharing a venue with the Suns and are eagerly looking forward to do so again.

In a recent December 2, 2015 Paul Giblin story in the Arizona Republic, he cites issues that Phoenix would have to consider. Here is the link: http://www.azcentral.com/story/news/local/glendale/2015/12/02/arizona-coyotes-arizona-cardinals-wont-bid-manage-glendale-gila-river-arena/76564718/ .

  •  How much would a new arena cost? The Milwaukee Bucks’ planned new arena is pegged at $500 million.
  • How much would be privately funded? How much publicly funded? Would the public-funding source be municipal, state or some combination?
  • Can voters be sold on the idea of picking up any portion of the bill?
  • Where specifically would an arena be built?
  • When would it open?
  • Can the Suns and Coyotes work out an agreement to split revenues?

Let’s look at other possible venues. Tempe and/or Scottsdale are possible candidates. Would the voters of Tempe and/or Scottsdale approve the construction of a $180 million dollar building (cost of Gila River Arena construction in 2005) and agree to subsidize, year after year, a team that is not profitable? Remember those who do not read history are doomed to repeat it. I would think many voters would be very aware of Glendale’s history and that could certainly cause them to think twice about such a proposal.

Arizona State University has been mentioned as well. ASU receives substantial funding from the Arizona State Legislature. It is conceivable that a majority of legislators may balk at the idea of state taxpayer money being used to subsidize a for-profit company.  If ASU can fund and subsidize such a project with new, private dollars and not divert private dollars already committed for existent programs then it is possible. But wait, didn’t ASU Hockey just commit to playing its games at Gila River Arena? If that is the case, wouldn’t ASU have to build a new venue?

The last location on the menu of possibles is Talking Stick. That is certainly do-able. An Indian reservation is not subject to federal, state, county or local laws. The tribe is free to build what it wants to build on reservation land.  One has to wonder if this tribe would be willing to invest in the construction of another major venue as well as subsidizing the team in perpetuity.

There was an interesting article published on October 20,2015 by the Flordia’s Sun Sentinel regarding the NHL Florida Panthers and a Broward County proposed deal. Here is the link: http://www.sun-sentinel.com/local/broward/fl-panthers-subsidy-debate-20151020-story.html .

In some ways their deal is like comparing apples and oranges for Broward County has a population of 1.87 million people and includes 24 cities. That in itself is much different from Glendale’s population of approximately 240,000 and the fact that it is one city having to deal with a hockey arena. Some elements of their proposed deal are eerily similar to the Glendale/Coyotes deal. As of this date their deal has yet to be approved but here are some of the deal points which would expire in 2028:

  • The Panthers would continue making $5.3 million annual debt payments toward the county’s $15.3 million obligation.
  • Receive $86 million from the county, or $6.6 million a year on average, but in a schedule of front-loaded payments that starts at $12 million a year. Of the total, $39 million must be used for capital expenses at the arena, $45.5 million for operating expenses like paying the electric bill or property insurance, and $1.5 million to lure a “high impact event.”
  • Provide an irrevocable letter of credit to protect the county’s financial investment if the team defaults, files bankruptcy or relocates.
  • Grant the county development rights on land surrounding the arena, where a mixed-use entertainment complex could be considered.
  • Share proceeds with the county if the NHL expands between 2015 and 2021 and gives teams expansion proceeds. After the Panthers’ losses are covered, the county would get the remainder of the one-time expansion payment.
  • Give the county 10 percent of profits if the team, made more valuable by this new deal, were sold.
  • Give the county authority to approve where the money for capital projects is spent, and authority to replace the Panthers’ Arena Operating Company with another arena manager if needed.
  • Allow the Panthers to get out of the contract in eight years if it’s not working out. They’d have to give a year’s notice, show losses of $100 million over seven years, and pay a termination amount. For example, if the Panthers leave in year 8, they’d pay back the full $72 million the county would have given them by then.

No matter where the Coyotes end up in the Valley, whether they remain in Glendale or move to another location, their quest to be subsidized by a governmental entity is surely a public policy question deserving of much public discussion. The people of any city have a right to weigh in on the question of their tax dollars being used to subsidize a private, for-profit company.

© Joyce Clark, 2015

FAIR USE NOTICE

This site contains copyrighted material the use of which is in accordance with Title 17 U.S. C., Section 107. The ‘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 go to http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/17/107.shtml. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond ‘fair use,’ you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.

It has been 17 years and 95 days since the city’s pledge to build the West Branch Library.

For 4 years, from the time Jerry Moyes declared the team bankrupt in 2009 until the end of 2012, as a councilmember I was part of the high drama surrounding the Arizona Coyotes and the arena, a city owned facility. Suitors to buy the team came and went with regularity. The city paid the NHL $25 million a year to manage the arena while everyone desperately hunted for a new owner. In 2013 a new city council was seated and promptly approved the current management agreement of $15 million dollars paid annually to IceArizona, the new owners of the team. If truth be told that $15 million goes directly to Fortress Lending and the NHL as interest payments on the IceArizona’s purchase debt owed by LeBlanc, Gosbee, and et.al. If you remember the cash raised for the team purchase was approximately $45 million. The rest of the purchase price of $170 million was strictly debt. Today Andrew Barroway is the majority owner (51%) of the team.

A recent article on March 30, 2015, by Mike Sunnucks of the Phoenix Business Journal entitled Could the Phoenix Suns, city build a new arena at Phoenix Convention Center site? It is intriguing to say the least. Sunnucks reports on speculation about where the Phoenix Suns will be playing its games in the future, “ ‘US Airways Center is owned by the city of Phoenix and the Suns lease doesn’t expire until 2029’, according to city spokeswoman Deb Ostreicher. The Suns could look to the city for renovations of the downtown arena or could look for a new home.” Sunnucks goes on to say, “One scenario being talked about — at least in real estate and downtown Phoenix circles — is a new arena being built where the current South Building of the Phoenix Convention Center is on Jefferson and Third streets. That is the oldest convention center building and is a block away from the Suns’ current arena.”

Granted all of this is extremely speculative but there is the possibility of the Phoenix owned US Airways Center becoming vacant if Phoenix and the Suns decide to build a new arena at the site of the south building of the convention center. Take it a step further and it is not outside the realm of possibility that Phoenix would attempt to lure the Arizona Coyotes to a newly renovated and vacant US Airways Center with better sight lines for hockey patrons.

Think about it. Since purchasing the team two years ago IceArizona has consistently lost money due to many factors. One of those factors has always been fan complaints about trekking out to Glendale for the games. Many in the East Valley as well as from other locations such as Tucson simply choose not to make the trip. A more centrally located arena in downtown Phoenix has a certain appeal for many.

One wonders if it appeals to Barroway. Today, 2015, the Glendale arena is 12 years old, having opened in December of 2003. In another 3 years, by 2018, the arena will be 15 years old and the Coyotes will have the available option of moving due to the opt out clause any time thereafter. One of Barroway’s imperatives is to keep the team viable over the next 3 years until some major decisions are made.

In 8 years, by 2023, the arena will be 20 years old and in need of major renovation and upgrades. In the meantime, if Barroway and the City of Phoenix worked out a deal regarding US Airways it could solve one persistent fan complaint by relocating to a more convenient and centralized location. It would certainly fulfill the owners’ mantra of “here to stay”…just not in Glendale.

© Joyce Clark, 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

© Joyce Clark, 2014

FAIR USE NOTICE

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

If you would like to receive an email advising you of a new blog post, simply insert your email address in the space provided on the top right side of this column.

 

© Joyce Clark, 2014

FAIR USE NOTICE

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

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