It has been 17 years and 191 days since the city’s pledge to build the West Branch Library.
A political committee, registered in Glendale, Glendale First! is sponsoring the recall of up to 4 current Glendale city councilmembers: Vice Mayor Hugh, Councilmember Turner and Councilmember Tolmachoff (they have yet to pull a recall packet on Councilmember Aldama). These 4 councilmembers, along with Mayor Jerry Weiers, voted to cancel the Glendale arena’s lease management agreement with IceArizona.
On their website they say, “It is the opinion of Glendale First! that the recent actions of the Glendale City Council regarding their vote to cancel the arena management agreement with IceArizona (the Arizona Coyotes) was hasty, ill-conceived, politically motivated, and fiscally irresponsible.” They are angry about council’s action and for them it’s payback time. Revenge is a heck of a reason to mount recall elections. This is reason #1 and it is the major reason.
Obviously reason #1 for the recalls will not play well with Glendale’s residents and so, reason #2 is Glendale First’s accusation that these councilmembers did not support public safety. By public safety, don’t be confused – Glendale First! is referring exclusively to the Glendale Fire Department and more specifically the Glendale chapter of the fire union.
The Glendale police unions made it clear that they did not share Glendale First’s allegation. Justin Harris, president of the Glendale Law Enforcement Association, spoke at a recent city council meeting and recognized and thanked the city council for its continuing support of public safety. Then the Glendale Law Enforcement Association and the Glendale Fraternal Order of Police ran an ad publicly supporting the councilmembers under threat of Glendale First’s recall effort. As an aside, another ad was taken out by all of the opponents who ran against the sitting councilmembers in the last election. Their ad also supported these members of the city council and their vote to cancel the contract. Obviously the men and women of the Glendale Police Department did not support the allegations of Glendale First! – but the Glendale Fire Union did.
Make no mistake, the fire union wants more money and appears to have partnered with Glendale First! to try to make that happen. Their argument for more money rests on their claim of deteriorating fire department response times. Yet the former Glendale Fire Chief publicly stated the department’s response times have remained constant over the past five years. The fire department is accredited and their response time is one of the major criterions for successfully acquiring that accreditation.
The recent history of the fire department demonstrates the fire union’s tremenous influence within the department. During former Mayor Scruggs’ tenure she allied herself with John Holland, former president of the local fire union chapter. Because of her support of Holland and his union Glendale’s fire chiefs were reluctant to oppose the union’s desires and demands. The union grew in power and strength until today it virtually runs the fire department. It will be extremely difficult if not downright impossible for any Fire Chief, including Interim Fire Chief DeChant, to put the fire union genie back in the bottle. Yet that is what must be done to get the fire department back on track placing the needs of its citizens first.
So reason #2 of non support by council of public safety didn’t fly either. That led to reason #3 and their newest allegation, “ Glendale First! feels the City Council acted inappropriately when it reclassified the inter-fund advances used to fund payments to the NHL, essentially removing that nearly $40M liability from the City balance sheet with the stroke of a pen and a vote for the budget. In effect, what had been a loan from several enterprise funds was made to disappear with no requirement for repayment.”
Has that money and the promise to repay the Enterprise Funds disappeared as Glendale First! contends? No, it has not. Here is the real story as Paul Harvey would say. In 2011 and 2012 in an effort to keep the Coyotes in Glendale, city council agreed to the NHL demand of a payment of $25 million a year. Funds to make the NHL payments were borrowed from the Enterprise Funds and were recorded on Glendale’s ledger as long-term borrowing and became new debt owed to: Water & Sewer, Landfill and Sanitation. It added even more debt to Glendale’s bottom line and was recognized as such by the bond rating companies. They considered this debt as another long term liability for the city.
The action city council took was to approve renaming this debt from the term “inter-fund advance” to “inter–fund transfer.” It’s no more than an accounting trick. By renaming this debt it had the accounting effect of removing it as a debt (even though it still exists as a debt) which in turn, satisfied the bond rating companies and provided them with a rationale to raise Glendale’s bond rating profile. They did not dismiss their obligation to pay this debt.
Is the debt still there and is it being paid off? You bet it is. At a recent April, 2015 workshop Councilmember Tolmachoff asked to bring forward a resolution to make the General Fund inter-fund transfers to the Enterprise Funds part of the budget process each year. It resulted in a City council approved Resolution 4943 New Series on May 26, 2015 making the inter-fund transfers to the Enterprise Funds permanent. Each year the city council will decide what the monetary amount of the inter-fund transfer to the Enterprise Funds will be. This Fiscal Year, 2015-16, the amount of the inter-fund transfer to the Enterprise Funds approved by the city council located on page iv within this year’s budget is in the amount of $600,000.
Glendale First’s reason #3 against these councilmembers which was that they had made the loan from the Enterprise Funds vanish is simply not accurate. The money did not disappear nor did the city’s commitment to repay the Enterprise Funds. It appears as if Glendale First! will have to get creative and come up with a new reason for recall of the councilmembers.
We can strike Glendale First’s reason #2 of council’s non support of public safety.
We can strike Glendale First’s reason #3 of council’s action to make money disappear.
That leaves Glendale First! with only publicly stated reason #1 left – the council cancelled the Coyotes contract.
© Joyce Clark, 2015
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