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Joyce Clark Unfiltered

For "the rest of the story"

It has been 18 years and 208 days since the city’s pledge to build the West Branch Library.

Since I have been retired from city council I still get calls from Glendale residents inside and outside of the Yucca district with code compliance issues. Today I visited a resident with a litany of code issues. All of these photos were taken on just one residential street in Glendale.

This person represents many of us in the community. We continuously try to maintain and/or improve the exterior and interior of our homes. We water our grass, plant new plants in spring or get an itch to remodel a bathroom. This person is no different from many of us.

In an attempt to be fair and balanced I have to say that while I was on council there were many times – not every time – that code worked diligently and solved many of my constituents’ problems. But at that time there were code inspectors assigned to specific areas of the city. I don’t think that is the case anymore. These inspectors were proactive and could write complaints as they viewed them without the need for a citizen complaint. I don’t know how the system is set up these days.

I have received enough complaints over the past few years to question Code’s current level of effectiveness and its level of responsiveness to citizens when they have no councilmember to advocate for them.

IMG_1516This most recent complaint is a case in point. When I was on council, Code could and did write up people for dead trees and untrimmed palm trees. Apparently that is not the case anymore. This citizen was told, “We don’t deal with untrimmed palm trees anymore.”

The city is not responsible for pigeons that seem toIMG_1513 congregate everywhere but in some instances where there may be a health or safety issue, the city does have the responsibility of advising a resident of a situation that is unsanitary. Look at the pigeons who have made a home underneath this cooling system on the roof.

When there were loud noise complaints dealing IMG_1512with barking dogs Code had developed a system that required 3 other neighbors to confirm the complaint and required the complainant to keep a log for several weeks. There was no such Draconian system for odors and I remember a citizen complaining about the cat smells coming from a next door neighbor’s house and code addressing the issue.

Previously the city had a contract with Maricopa Animal control to remove stray animals. In a cost saving measure that contract has been discontinued. Now a Glendale Police Officer has to respond. Officers are not equipped to deal with these types of situations. It also takes them away from performing real police work and responding to calls in a timely manner.

Much to my surprise I learned during my visit to this person that for odors the complainant must use the same system used for barking dogs. TheIMG_1507 complainant must fill out the same type of log and get neighbors to confirm and attest to the odor complaint. That is just plain illogical and unworkable on so many levels. This system is enough to turn away all but the most determined.

Then there are the sanitation issues we’ve all seen. I have seen people leave their trash receptacles on IMG_1497the street continually. There are others that put their cans out days before collection and then leave the cans on the street days after. Or what about loose trash? In our part of town they pick up loose trash the last week of the month. I have seen those who put new loose trash out immediately after having had their current stockpile just picked up. Code had and I don’t know if it still does, persons surveying residential streets for just these kinds of violations. I suspect these people are spread too thin to be effective.

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Has Code abdicated its responsibilities? Many citizens believe that Code looks for reasons to be nonresponsive. They complain that an oft used response is, “We can’t do anything about that.” Once again, it’s time for Code to dialogue with residents to find out what it is doing well and where  it is not being effective. Instead of telling residents what Code cannot do it is time to think outside the box and figure out how it can be more effective and responsive.

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

Let’s talk about Glendale’s neighborhoods. Some are great. I live in a great neighborhood. Some Glendale residents do not live in a great neighborhood. Marginal neighborhoods are most generally to be found in Glendale’s Cactus, Ocotillo and Yucca districts…southeast, south and southwest.

When I was elected as the first Yucca district councilmember in 1992 (the first year of full implementation of the district system in Glendale) one of my very first actions was to invite the City Manager Dr. Vanacour, Assistant City Manager Pam Kavanaugh, and senior management (especially department directors) on a van tour of my district ending with a picnic lunch at O’Neil Park. I heard a lot of “oh mys” during the tour and when we reached O’Neil Park some needed to use its restrooms. I never saw so many people do such a quick about face opting to wait until they returned to City Hall.

My reason for this tour was that I recognized that while city resources had been used exclusively in north Glendale to support the development of the Arrowhead area it was done at the expense of the rest of the city. That figure has been pegged as north of $80 million dollars. I wanted Glendale’s senior management to refocus and to appreciate the desperate needs of some of Glendale’s oldest, long ignored neighborhoods.

Most people have heard, at one time or another, of the Broken Windows Theory.  Roughly it states that problems, if not dealt with as soon as they occur, become much worse. That is what was occurring not only in my district but in the Ocotillo and Cactus districts as well. I believed it was time for senior staff to redirect resources to stop the decay created by years of ignoring problems.

As a result of that tour then City Manager Dr. Vanacour and Assistant City Manager Kavanaugh championed my cause and developed plans to refocus on older neighborhoods. So was born the Neighborhood Partnership Program including Neighborhood Partnership Grants. It was not all that I envisioned but it was a start and committed the city’s agenda to redressing conditions in distressed neighborhoods.

As a councilmember I was often the bane of existence for the city’s Code Compliance Department. It was not uncommon for me to drive around neighborhoods making lists of code violations. I often took my council assistant with me so that she could write down addresses and violations at a jackhammer pace. I would turn my lists into Code Compliance and request periodic reports on the disposition of violations. I took the time to ride herd on the department and to require accountability.

Are there any current councilmembers that do this kind of proactive work in their district neighborhoods? I suspect not. There is a new breed of councilmember these days. At workshops and council meetings a smattering of questions sometimes surface but they are superficial at best. Once in awhile a genuinely insightful question will surface, usually from Councilmembers Turner, Tolmachoff or now, Malnar. Councilmembers Aldama’s and Chavira’s shtick is to thank everybody and his brother for everything. Vice Mayor Hugh and Mayor Weiers are often silent. Do any bother to research or do their homework on issues coming before them? Probably not…unless it’s a major public issue like the billboard controversy. Do they have neighborhood meetings…not once or twice a year district meetings but neighborhood meetings of 15, 20 people from a neighborhood where city issues are explained and neighborhood problems emerge? Probably not.

Genuine service to the community seems to be a thing of the past and when it is requested it is performed by a council assistant…not a councilmember. One of Councilmember Aldama’s constituents has been sharing the problems of her older neighborhood with me for the past year. She requested Aldama’s assistance. He was non-responsive and passed her off to others. When she directly requested assistance from Code Compliance she finally received some help. Was it all that she expected? No but it was a start. If Aldama had taken the time to intervene the assistance she received might have been even more robust.

This new crop of council assistants have no historical memory of Glendale, may not even live in our community and seem to have no investment in working with neighborhoods. Their focus seems to be political rather than service oriented.

We appear to have a council that attends requisite meetings and generally accepts all recommendations from staff; attends ribbon cuttings and events; goes to League of Cities and Towns meetings; and remains distant from the residents they serve.

The city also had a scalloped street program that used resources to finish partial streets and to add curb, gutter and sidewalks in areas where the streets had been ignored for years. Then the Great National Recession hit and all disappeared…the scalloped streets program, the Neighborhood grants program and the Neighborhood Partnership Program became toothless. Neighborhoods are once again ignored in the city’s quest to regain financial stability. That is understandable…to a point. Now the city is on the road to economic recovery. While the focus is on Glendale’s finances it can no longer be used as a rationale to ignore the basic issues confronting neighborhoods. I challenge senior staff and the city council to once again make neighborhoods a priority. Remember Broken Windows. If a problem in a neighborhood is ignored it will only get worse. Any city, even Glendale, is only as great as its meanest neighborhoods. Ignore them at your peril.

© 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 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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