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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.

A little over a week ago a ribbon cutting occurred for the newly renovated downtown alley connecting Glendale Avenue and Glenn Drive between 57th Drive and 57th Avenue. It is always welcome when the city completes projects like these to continue to improve downtown Glendale.

Downtown Glendale continues to have a difficult time getting its ‘mojo’. I can remember 20 years ago when I participated in the “Miracle Mile” citizens’ committee to envision what downtown Glendale could be. Since then there have been many iterations of the same visioning process with the latest being Centerline, courtesy of consulting professionals from ASU. Yet progress remains static. There is no one factor that inhibits the renaissance of downtown Glendale. There are multiple factors.

One factor is the inability, to date, of the downtown merchants to form a cohesive group determining their own destiny and putting skin ($$) in the game. One faction believes that it is the city’s sole and exclusive responsibility to revitalize the downtown. Another has accepted that their destiny lies in their active participation. Another faction is composed of mom ‘n’ pop owners who set their own — often casual and inconsistent – hours of operation. Another faction, more professional, not only keeps consistent hours of operation but tries to stay open a few evenings a week. Until these factions coalesce downtown is destined to remain basically the same — struggling to survive.

Another factor is the city’s lack of funding to use to remove vacant buildings on city parcels or simply to renovate a city owned vacant building. There are just so many needs competing for the limited city funding available. Witness the residents who are pushing the city council to save the city owned Glen Lakes Golf Course for a little under a half million dollars a year…or west Glendale’s residents’ urging to finish Heroes Park, now languishing for nearly 30 years.

In steps the Glendale Chamber of Commerce does what it can to inject new life into the downtown. There is no doubt that under CEO Robert Heidt’s leadership the Chamber has become a highly successful gorilla. With over 1,200 members it has developed a political power base that surpasses that of Glendale’s fire union. While the fire union is viewed with distrust by many in the community who disagree with its political motives, the Chamber enjoys a more benign relationship. However, as with any entity that wields tremendous power comes an equal responsibility to be use it judiously and wisely. The Chamber would be wise to be mindful of the admonition.

Perhaps that is why I received commentary from some residents after they read an article in the Your Valley edition of May 25, 2018. Here is the link: https://yourvalley.net/yourvalley/news/renovated-alleyway-step-toward-livelier-nightlife-downtown-glendale/ . Their concern seemed to center around the tone of the article creating the inference that the alley renovation project was funded by the Chamber. That is not the case. It was a city funded project and in attendance to celebrate its completion were Mayor Weiers and Councilmembers Hugh, Turner and Aldama. Perhaps their concern centered around the fact that nearly every quote was attributed to either Chamber CEO Heidt or Downtown Director (city employee) Katy Engels, whose work is directed by the Chamber under a city paid contract. In passing there was one statement attributed to Councilmember Aldama and two attributed to Mr. Higgins of the city’s Economic Development department. However the bulk of the article was all CEO Heidt.

Make no mistake, the Chamber is not just a business organization but is a political one as well.  Among other things it interviews and endorses local candidates for city council and mayor. To date, their long standing policy has been to automatically endorse the incumbent. That action does a disservice to its members and to the residents of Glendale. Endorsements should be given on the merits of a candidate’s policies in continuing to grow a Glendale that is business and job creation friendly — for that is the Chamber’s base of membership.

Make no mistake, a healthy Chamber signifies a healthy Glendale. The Chamber’s efforts in the areas of downtown development and vet outreach are most welcome but it would be wise not to over reach. For years the Glendale fire union was a political gorilla. Glendale cannot afford to replace one gorilla with another.

© Joyce Clark, 2018         

FAIR USE NOTICE

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

Many years ago I owned and operated a bookstore. It was definitely a Mom and Pop operation with one paid employee. I was in a high traffic shopping center and I made sure I was open when all the other businesses were open. There were times when it was difficult to do so. One of the kids would get sick and I had to scramble to find someone to watch the munchkin until I got home. It was tough at times but I couldn’t afford not to be open and to miss any sale. My shop was open 7 days a week at the very same times that all of the other businesses were open in the shopping center.

I also founded and operated a craftsmen’s cooperative art gallery in downtown Phoenix for 10 years. We were always open the very same hours that all of the other businesses were open. There were times when a craftsperson scheduled to man the gallery could not do so. We were always juggling the artists’ schedules to make sure the gallery was always open.

Do you think the owners of Tanger Outlet allow their tenants to be open when it is convenient to the business owner? Not on your life. One part of Tanger Outlet’s success is the consistency of hours when all of its tenants are consistently open for business.

Apparently this is not the mindset of some downtown Glendale merchants. One time when I had out-of-town company I decided to take my guests to a particular downtown restaurant only to discover, much to my chagrin, it was not open. Now this did not occur on an odd or exotic day. It was a regular Monday – Friday workday and in the middle of the day…not even at night. Just one of the commitments of any shop or business owner (even a Mom and Pop business) is to offer the public consistent and regular hours of operation generally expected by the public.  

As a councilmember on and off since 1992 I have seen the many city efforts to help foster and maintain a viable downtown Glendale merchants’ association. At one time former Councilmember Phil Lieberman and I even wrote a charter for such an association. Every effort has been a failure.

In all of those years I have seen some downtown merchants who are quick to complain and to demand that the city do for them what they are unwilling to do for themselves. Recently I heard this anecdote. A group of citizen volunteers were donating their time and energy to pick up trash on the sidewalks in downtown. One of the business owners had the temerity to come out of the store to point out some trash and to tell the volunteer that he/she had missed picking it up. Was the business owner’s arm broken that day? What about a simple thank you directed to that volunteer for the effort?

What downtown Glendale needs most desperately is their very own, independent merchants’ association — an association that has created and passed its own mutual charter and that requires dues so that everyone has some skin in the game. It needs an association where all of the members agree to set some minimum and consistent hours when all will commit to being open.

I have seen downtown merchants who set their business hours whenever it is convenient for them. There is nothing worse that will turn a potential customer away, never to return. I have heard some of the business owners say why be open when there is no traffic? I beg to differ. There is always some foot traffic and these businesses need to be open consistently to capture those potential sales. The overhead remains generally the same whether a business is open 5 days a month or 30 days a month. The rent is the same every month.

It should be an association that establishes its very own authority in order to establish the credibility needed to be able to interact with the city for each party’s mutual benefit. As an association it needs to be able to create its own downtown mini-events without constantly relying on the city to establish events for them. It needs the ability to identify common problems and craft solutions to deal with them establishing fair and consistent goals for everyone with no favor. It should encourage collaboration and communication between all.

I am optimistic. There are downtown merchants who realize that it’s time to take action in their own self interest. They have recognized that the downtown is broken and not as robust as it could be.  They are willing. The question is…will their peers join them?

 Downtown merchants… it’s time to join the 21st century. It’s time for your own unique brand of creativity, innovation and energy to help Glendale’s downtown, your downtown succeed. It’s time for a downtown Glendale merchant‘s association…by, of and for downtown merchants.

© 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.

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