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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 Monday, 24, 2017 in an all day budget workshop city council had the opportunity to review and ask questions of about half of the city’s departmental budgets. The remaining departmental budgets will be reviewed on Friday, April 28, 2017. If you would like to see the proposed Glendale departmental budget please use this link: Budget Ap 24 2017 POWERPOINT .

Generally this year’s departmental budgets are very clean. By that I mean that whatever budget increases were proposed could be justified. The biggest drivers of this year’s departmental budgets can be attributed to several factors: across the board employees received a 2.5% increase in pay and in almost every budget fire & liability insurance costs were up. For the first time some departments received a new line item for technology charges and those who were already charged for technology saw increases in this charge…in some instances… doubled.

Keep in mind no department’s budget ever starts at zero. Presently the city does not use zero-based budgeting. I have introduced it as a Council Item of Special Interest. Last year’s budget number for each department is the starting point upon which each department’s budget is based and each department’s budget is increased, decreased or remains static beyond last year’s number.

Over the past two fiscal years the departments council reviewed on Monday have seen increases in FY 2016-17 and FY 2017-18 totaling:

  • City Attorney                              14.96%
  • Police Services                            12.47%
  • Development Services                 23.90%
  • City Auditor                                13.86%
  • City Court                                  20.09%
  • Fire Department                           6.61%
  • Human Resources/Risk Mgmt      10.72%
  • Community Services                   -1.89%

The only department in this review to see a modest decrease in its budget is Community Services with a 1.89% decrease. This department is almost completely dependent on grants, especially federal grants like the Community Development Block Grant (this funds many of the services and programs offered to the poor and economically disadvantaged). So as these grants diminish slightly, so, too, does its budget.  This department has been advised by the federal Housing and Urban Development Authority (HUD) to prepare for as much as a 20% decrease in certain federal grants.

I have taken the liberty of noting some of the changes to various departmental budgets. In the City Attorney’s office there is the addition of an assistant city prosecutor. The addition of this full time employee (FTE) is to meet the increased demands of caseloads within the city’s court. The office has a line item of $200,000 for the use of outside attorneys (consultants). This amount increased from the $135,000 granted in last year’s budget.

In Police Services the newly appointed Police Chief Richard St. John is working aggressively to fill all authorized patrol positions. Currently there are only 8 unfilled authorized and funded patrol positions. That is the lowest number I have seen in years. Through attrition during each year the city loses about 20 officers. The focus for GPD this coming year will be on speeding enforcement. It is also the Chief’s goal to reduce beat sizes within the city as soon as practicable.

Development Services includes 3 departments – building safety, code compliance and planning. The number of FTEs in Code Compliance will increase by 2.5. Despite the implementation of new strategies in the use of employees’ time and effort within Code, it is still not performing as well as hoped. I think it is time for a city council workshop to do an in depth review of code. The fact that Saturdays are not covered optimally is a cause for concern as yard sales, as an example, can only be covered on weekends. I am concerned that with development picking up considerably within the city (there are more than 8 residential development projects in the pipeline at this time) and as the economy continues to improve, the planning department does not have enough manpower to perform in a timely and effective manner.

The City Auditor department, despite its increase in funding over the past two fiscal years, seems to be static in terms of productivity and the number of audits performed annually.

In the City Court its latest initiative, the Mental Health Court, has grown dramatically. Even though our City Court has met mandated Arizona Supreme Court times for closing cases, it is disappointing to see the resolution of traffic cases within 60 days drop from 93% to an 80% rate.

Fire Department Chief Terry Garrison reported on the success of the pilot project of employing Low Acuity (LA) vehicles and 2 man staffs to respond to ordinary, non critical emergency medical calls. This initiative is long overdue. Instead of sending big trucks (with the resultant O&M costs) Glendale is using

LA vehicles to answer non-critical medical calls freeing up fire resources and avoiding the tremendous costs associated with sending ladder trucks. They should be all over the city since 80% of the calls answered by the Fire Department are medical emergency calls…but they are not.

 These Low Acuity, two man units are not part of the Automatic Aid system for as it states in Section 9.1 of the Automatic Aid agreement, “System participants recognize the importance of service delivery and personnel safety issues. The minimum daily staffing level for engines and ladders shall be four members. Henceforth this will be referred to as full staffing.”

I would love to see the fire department develop 4 man, High Acuity vehicles to respond to critical, emergencies especially when one sees the statistics. In 2017, the fire department responded to 1,220 fire related calls – everything from a structure fire to a BBQ grill fire. During the same year it answered 29,900 advanced life support or basic life support medical calls.

Another alarming statistic is this. Under the Automatic Aid Agreement on 4,300 occasions another city’s fire department responded to an emergency call in Glendale. That’s great, isn’t it? You bet it is. The closest fire unit is responding and perhaps saving your life or the life of a loved one. But there is a flip side to that coin. Glendale responded to 6,600 emergency calls in other cities, like Phoenix or Peoria. These 6,600 calls were outside of Glendale. There is an imbalance that is costing you money. In essence, Glendale taxpayers subsidize emergency services for other cities. Of the 31,120 calls to which Glendale fire responded in 2017, 7% were outside of Glendale. I believe that firefighters must answer the call in or out of Glendale but I also believe that it is time that Glendale should be reimbursed for any calls above parity. Do you think Glendale should subsidize the 2,300 calls answered in Phoenix or Peoria?

Interim Director of Community Services, Elaine Adamczyk, was an impressive presenter of her department’s budget. As an Interim Director she had an amazing grasp of all facets of her department. This is a department that saw a 1.89% decrease over two years. That is understandable. This department is almost entirely composed of grant funds such as the federal Community Development Block Fund (CDBG). If grants dry up or diminish in size, this budget reflects those changes. Ms. Adamczyk advised city council that the federal Housing and Urban Development Department has advised all grantees that the amount of grant funds could be reduced by as much as 20%.

The last department of the day to present its budget was Human Resources & Risk Management. Its responsibilities are many and varied. Perhaps one of the most critical areas for the organization is its process for hiring new employees or filling vacant positions. Many believe the process takes far too long. If a department head has done a lot of preparation work it is possible to fill a vacancy or new hire within 60 days. Often it takes much longer than that. If a new employee or vacancy were to be filled in the private sector, it can often be accomplished within a matter of a few weeks because that position often has a direct effect on a company’s profitability or lack thereof.

On Friday’s, April 28, 2017, all day budget session, department budgets to be reviewed will be Public Facilities & Events, Economic Development, Public Affairs, Mayor& Council, Innovation & Technology, City Manager’s Office, City Clerk, Water Services and Public Works.

If you have Cox Cable, you can watch the session live on Channel 11 beginning at 9 AM. You can also watch it live online by going to www.glendaleaz.com then clicking on Channel 11 TV in the left column, then clicking again on Watch Channel 11 Live on the left column.

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

Not only are we entering the intense portion of the national political season with the election of a new President but Glendale politics will soon heat up. Several have taken out nomination petition packets which are due in the City Clerk’s office between May 2, 2016 and June 1, 2016.

Current Mayor Jerry Weiers and mayoral contender Mark Burdick have already taken out nomination petition packets as have Vice Mayor Ian Hugh (Cactus district) and current Councilmember Ray Malnar (Sahuaro district) who recently unseated Gary Sherwood in a Recall Election. Neither of these current councilmembers, as of this date, faces a challenger. In the Yucca district current Councilmember Sammy Chavira has not taken out a nomination petition packet. Nor has anyone else.

On January 8, 2016 KJJJ radio aired interviews centered on the topic, “Is Glendale Bouncing Back?” It was a strange exercise as apparently Burdick had been interviewed by the station before talking to senior staff and Mayor Weiers and Vice Mayor Hugh. The consensus of senior staff and the Mayor and Vice Mayor is that Glendale has recovered but not completely. All felt there was more work to be done to achieve the holy grail of complete financial stability for Glendale. All believe Glendale is well on its way to doing so.

It was what mayoral candidate Mark Burdick said in this story that will trouble many. Burdick said the fire department needs more resources to reduce response times. The police department needs more detectives in north Glendale.” Despite the published fact that Fire Department response times have not increased in the past 5 years.

Everyone should be concerned that Burdick’s major agenda is throwing more money exclusively into the Fire Department. Burdick has acknowledged that the city is not in full financial recovery yet he is willing to take dollars…from somewhere…probably all other city departments…to throw to his favorite department…the Fire Department. What would one expect from a man who retired as Glendale’s Fire Chief? What else would one expect from a candidate who is counting on the tremendous financial and manpower support of the fire unions to try to capture the mayoral seat? He will owe them big time.

With regard to calling for more detectives in north Glendale Burdick is simply pandering to voter strength. It is no secret that the 3 north Glendale districts (Cholla, Sahuaro and Barrel) outvote the 3 south Glendale districts (Cactus, Ocotillo and Yucca) by a margin of 3 to 1. If he attempts to capture the majority of the voters in the 3 north Glendale districts he is going to have to promise them some goodies. Is it any wonder that he made a call for more detectives in north Glendale when more police personnel are needed throughout the city? It’s merely the first of what may be many goodies for north Glendale.

There is no doubt that every Glendale department is stretched thin as Glendale continues its path to full financial recovery. There is no doubt that every department has needs to be met. Allocating more money to the fire department must not occur at the expense of the many needs throughout Glendale.

The Fire Department and the Police Department must be thoroughly scrutinized under zero-based budgeting. Zero-based budgeting requires each department to begin with zero dollars and to justify the need for every dollar allocated to it. Explaining what dollars are needed and where they will be utilized provides openly transparent public knowledge to every Glendale taxpayer that must foot the bill.

Be careful of Burdick’s promises. His advisors, such as Julie Frisoni formerly embroiled in alleged shenanigans related to the $15 million dollar a year Coyotes contract, appear to be a very slick bunch not above promising those things that will garner him votes and using whatever dirty tricks are at their disposal. All signs point to a fierce fight for the mayoral seat and the fight has just begun…

© 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.

Glendale is not the only municipality facing financial pressure. One has only to look at Phoenix’s $37 million shortfall. Many municipalities are adopting new strategies to cut their budgets. One area of a municipal budget that merits further scrutiny is the fire department. Let’s look at Glendale.

Public Safety consumes over two thirds (67%) of Glendale’s General Fund. Glendale’s proposed  FY 2014-15 budget shows a total police department budget of $77,604,581 and a total fire department budget of $36,744,314 (roughly half that of police). The police department has total personnel of 537 and the fire department has total personnel of 267 (roughly half that of police). Everything tracks. The police department has twice the personnel and twice the total budget as that of the fire department. Except in one, major area – Overtime (OT), Hourly & Specialized Pays. You would expect the fire department expense in this line item to track at about half that of the police department. Not so.  The police department line item figure for OT in the FY 2014-15 budget is $1,675,000 covering 537 personnel. Astoundingly, the fire department OT line item figure is slightly higher than that of police’s at $1,681,000 covering 267 people.  Clearly, the fire department’s OT, Hourly & Specialized Pays is out of control.

So, we know the police department’s budget and personnel are twice that of the fire department’s with the exception of Overtime Pay in which they spend virtually the same amount. How can that be? The fire department’s practice of Constant Staffing requiring 4 people on each fire truck is creating unsustainable demands for overtime pay.

There is one other piece of information that is important to consider. In FY 2013-14 the Glendale Fire Department answered 30,040 EMS (Emergency Medical Service) calls; 3,570 fire calls; 2,238 miscellaneous calls and 619 special operations calls. Glendale’s medical calls have become the “elephant in the room” for the fire department. Its medical calls are ten times that of fire calls. Obviously the fire department’s mission has evolved over time. Its first priority is now medical response and fire suppression response, while still critical, has become its secondary mission.

Municipalities across the nation are recognizing the tremendous financial burdens placed upon them in covering the costs of fire department overtime as well as the costs associated with sending a large fire truck to a medical emergency. And they are beginning to act.

In Spokane, Washington as of January 2, 2013 the city decided that three fire stations and one ladder station would start using smaller vehicles on medical calls as opposed to the larger ladder trucks, which age quickly and operating and maintaining them was becoming more and more expensive. They decided it was important to spend their limited resources wisely taking into account that 78% of those three stations’ calls were medical.

Here’s another example: The Tualatin Valley Fire and Rescue (TVF&R) near Portland, Ore., was one of the early adopters of a fire/ALS deployment model using smaller vehicles. The department initiated its “Car Program” in 2010 as the way to respond to the increasing demand for EMS in a more efficient and effective manner. With 80% EMS calls, the department searched for a way to effectively respond to lower-priority requests for service and still maintain readiness for major emergency incidents. Instead of deploying a four-person staffed $400,000 full-size apparatus, the department purchased a $31,000 Toyota FJ Cruiser and staffed it with a single fire paramedic to handle calls such as minor traffic accidents, community service requests and lower-priority medical emergencies.

Or… In August 2012, the city of Grand Rapids, Mich., received a report that highlighted the recent trend of fire department rightsizing. The ICMA (International City Managers Association) made 22 recommendations to Grand Rapids municipal leaders that included a variety of changes to the fire department’s EMS response. One of the first recommendations was to eliminate five full-size fire department apparatus and replace them with smaller, more cost effective RRVs. The result was an estimated savings of $2.1 million.

And this… The Los Angeles County Fire Department (LACoFD) began providing rescue services in the late 1950s with the use of panel vans that carried firefighters to the scene of motor vehicle accidents and other requests for non-fire suppression services. This model of prehospital care delivery was retained as the LACoFD became one of the nation’s first fire ALS providers in the early 1970s. Today, the department still delivers ALS care by way of quick-response squad trucks staffed with firefighter paramedic personnel. The primary benefit of this ALS model is that it ensures a better utilization of resources while maintaining a cost-effective response. When an LACoFD squad arrives, the paramedic can determine if ALS care is required and then either accompany a contracted ambulance transport provider or return to service for another response.

San Jose, California as well as other cities across the nation are considering or have already reduced the number of firefighters on each response truck. It has proven to provide fire departments with more flexibility and better coverage. Four people on each engine to answer a medical call, was impracticable. Neighboring agencies, like Santa Clara County Fire, already assigns just three people per engine. The reasoning was that since 94% of all calls are medical, the Santa Clara County Fire Department was over deploying.

The practice of responding to medical calls with full-size apparatus is proving to be an expensive and inappropriate use of equipment. One deployment concept that appears to be gaining as an option for the fire service to meet both a decrease in budget and an increase in the demand for organizational efficiency is the transition from full-size fire apparatus to smaller rapid-response vehicles (RRVs). Some departments have used this concept for years to deploy ALS personnel to the scene of a medical emergency and to work in conjunction with other apparatus on fire suppression incidents. Fire departments must embrace new approaches to the deployment of their EMS resources by using peak demand staffing and changes to apparatus.

The “right resource, right place and right time” model has become the key concept for the deployment of fire EMS first response resources. Adopting a clinical, financial and operational strategy; and changing and rightsizing EMS resources appears to be the answer to many of the challenges faced by fire departments today. The modern fire service is now expected to be innovative and able to change its business practices by recognizing  evolutions in the response to the majority of service requests, especially as a majority of calls are now medically related.

As we move toward a change in the nation’s healthcare delivery system based on accountability and clinical outcome, the department that can adapt to new norms will be the most successful.

Models with reduction of personnel on response units and redeployment of those personnel to reduce overtime and the use of small, medical response units staffed with fire paramedics are being used successfully throughout the country.

It’s time to right size the Glendale fire department. Will the Glendale City Council have the strength of will to request that changes be made? Will the Glendale fire department and more importantly, the Glendale fire union, innovate and adapt to the reality of shrinking resources and the increased demand for more effective, reasonably priced medical response? Or will they use the buzz words of “diminished service and response time” to fight it?

© 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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