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Joyce Clark Unfiltered

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My hope is that all of the hundreds of Glendale library patrons who fought so hard to save Foothills Library will fight just as hard to demand that the West Branch Library become a reality.

With all of the recent discussion of the possible sale of the Foothills library building it’s a good time to review promises made by the city with regard to the construction of the West Branch Library.

In 1997 the city was considering reneging on its first promise to West Glendale residents by allowing land earmarked for a major regional park in the city’s General Plan document to be rezoned for homes. West Glendale residents were successful in defeating that proposal and insisted the city immediately purchase the land at the northeast corner of Bethany Home Road and 83rd for its promised regional park. The city did so and the land was acquired.

Major city facilities such as the construction of libraries and parks are placed within the city’s Capital Improvement Program or CIP. The first time we see the West Branch library appear in the city’s CIP is Fiscal Year 1998-99 when funds were allocated for Fiscal Year 2001-02 to design the library with construction slated to begin in Fiscal Year 2004. That was 17 years ago. Obviously, none of these scheduled events happened. Instead there was a steady erosion and slippage of dates.

  • From Fiscal Years 1998 to 2000 the scheduled completion of the library was 2004
  • From Fiscal Year 2002 to 2003 the scheduled completion of the library was 2005
  • From Fiscal Years 2003 to 2005 the scheduled completion of the library was 2006
  • From Fiscal Years 2005 to 2008 the scheduled completion of the library was 2009
  • From Fiscal Years 2008 to 2009 the scheduled completion of the library was 2010
  • From Fiscal Years 2009 to 2012 the scheduled completion of the library was 2020
  • From Fiscal Years 2012 to present the library has no funding allocated until after 2024

If the West Branch library had been built as promised, “by 2010 the West Branch Library will serve a population of approximately 50,000 in the western area of Glendale, and it is anticipated that more than 1,000 people per day will utilize the services of this branch” (quote from staff presentation at the September 16, 2008 city council workshop meeting). Nothing demonstrates the need for a West Branch Library today better than this quote.

The rationale for not building the west branch library can be attributed to the adoption by a majority of council mandating that there be enough new revenue in the General Fund to support the annual costs of opening and operating a new CIP facility. This criterion was not used to approve the Foothills library. It was crafted later by the former mayor and her coalition when there arose yet another discussion about approval for construction of the West branch library. In a span of 7 years, from the opening of the Foothills library in 1999 to the opening of the Foothills Recreation & Aquatic Center, north Glendale received over $20 million dollars worth of CIP projects. West Glendale received squat.

The majority of councilmembers that consistently voted in line with the former mayor for any CIP project but the west branch library were Eggleston, Frate, Martinez, Goulet and Knaack (all former councilmembers serving differing terms). In 2006 a majority of council diverted $6 million dollars of west branch library construction funding to assist in the construction funding of the Public Safety Training Facility.

Every time the west branch library was on an agenda the “gang” created a new rationale. Before the effects of the Great Recession stopped all CIP projects, they had pitted building a new courthouse against the west branch library and would have funded that first as a means of further delaying the library.

There was a time, in the early 2000s, when council realized the necessity and value in developing amenities such as a library, recreation center, baseball fields, a fishing lake and dog park in west Glendale that would attract high quality residential and commercial development but that evaporated with the advent of the former mayor whose agenda was to block construction of city amenities in west Glendale.

It’s time…17 years is a long time to wait to have the city make good on its promise…for Glendale residents to bring this issue to the forefront once again. It should be requested that as CIP funding becomes available, the West Branch Library must be considered a priority. West Glendale is “amenity poor” and it’s time that this city council redresses a wrong committed by others many years ago.

Oh, and while you are at it, demand that the city replace the O’Neil Swimming pool at Missouri Avenue and 65th Avenue. The city shut it down several years ago because the cost of repair was prohibitive. It was the only city pool west of 59th Avenue and it served some of the city’s poorest demograhic area.

© 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 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.

After the Super Bowl life returns to normal in Glendale and on Tuesday, February 3, the city council will have its first budget workshop at 9 AM and a regular workshop at 1:30 PM. The afternoon workshop has 3 topics, all of which present future implications for its citizens. The 3 agenda items are: Potential relocation of the Foothills Branch Library; Overview of the Certificate of Necessity (CON) Process; and At Will Employment for Mayor and Council Staffing.

Agenda Item 1 on the potential relocation of the Foothills Branch Library is being driven by staff and Midwestern University. Be aware that former Mayor Scruggs is on the Board of Directors of Midwestern. It seems Midwestern has its eye on the Foothills library building and wants to buy it. Naturally, senior management and Midwestern had to come up with a plan to sell this idea to city council.

This council, to date, has not proven itself to be very aggressive in questioning senior staff on issues that come before it. Let’s hope at this workshop they will reverse this trend and question staff vigorously about this proposal. The library would be relocated to the Foothills Recreational and Aquatic Center (FRAC).

Here is where the sale hype comes in. Note that there are no negative points. Senior staff would have everyone think this idea is the greatest thing since sliced bread. Senior staff contends that:

  • There would be increased library hours (matching the hours of the times when the FRAC is open) for the public with 13 additional hours a week
  • Continuation of provision to patrons access to physical books, materials, technology, meeting space, study room space, special interest classes and events, book drop and online ordering capabilities
  • Increase digital material collections and provide a new array of technologies (tablets, green screens, 3-D printer, new desktop computers, enhanced Wi-Fi)
  • Relocation costs covered by transaction revenue
  • Reduced annual operating expenses without eliminating full-time library staff

The carrot Midwestern University dangles, after buying the Foothills library, is an expression of partnership interest for:

  • Continuing to allow community groups to use the meeting rooms
  • A new and potential partnership with an organization dedicated to helping veterans with health related issues
  • Additional special interest health classes
  • The mentoring and tutoring opportunities for youth
  • The sponsorship of free health-related clinics
  • Partnering with use of medical research and health related materials

This scheme deserves thorough and intensive questioning by city council. Just a sampling of questions to be asked are:

  • The Foothills library is 33,500 square feet in size. The FRAC is 69,000 square feet. How much FRAC space will be used by relocation of a 33,500 SF library?
  • Foothills library was specifically built to be technologically adaptable. Why does relocation only offer the possibility of the library’s technological advancement?
  • What are the costs associated with adapting FRAC to meet the needs of a library?
  • What amenities and services at FRAC would be lost to dedicated space for the library?
  • What amenities and services currently offered at Foothills library would be eliminated due to relocation to FRAC?
  • Dale Chihuly is a world renowned glass artisan. One of his latest exhibits was this past winter at the Desert Botanical Gardens. The city has his ‘Moon and Stars’ piece over the main circulation desk. In addition there is an 80-foot mural by Melissa Paxton, Kathy Bradford’s ‘Magic Doors’ to the children’s reading room as well as countless other pieces of fine art throughout the building. Will senior staff agree to a stipulation that all of the art work within and outside the building remain the city’s property, would not be part of the sale and would be relocated to other city properties?
  • The cost to build the Foothills Library itself (without the fixtures within) was $6.1 million dollars. Will senior staff agree to a stipulation that it would not accept a price lower than the original cost to build the facility?
  • Senior staff was directed by city council to identify city property it could sell. Was the Foothills library one of the properties identified for sale? Were Glendale’s Main Library and Velma Teague Library also identified as potential properties that could be sold? Were the 3 libraries identified by and approved by this council as appropriate for sale?
  • The sale of city property was identified as a means of shoring up Glendale’s financial situation. It can be assumed that after paying the costs of relocation of the library and its art work, the balance would be placed in Glendale’s General Fund where it could be used for anything, including the $15 million dollar annual payment to IceArizona for its management of Glendale’s hockey arena. Yet Glendale library system is woefully inadequate to serve a population of 239,000 residents. On certain days various of the libraries are closed and hours at all 3 have been reduced. Will senior staff agree to stipulate that the first priority for any money realized from a sale of Foothills would be utilized to enhance and upgrade the Main Library and Velma Teague? Are they further willing to agree to stipulate that the funds would not be used for sports related debt or activity as well as the media center, Westgate parking garage and the Public Safety Training Facility?

In summary, on the face of it, the proposal to relocate Foothills Library is driven by senior staff and Midwestern University. This is an idea whose time has not come. It does not serve the best interests of Glendale’s residents. Add to this proposal senior staff’s intent to hire an “outside facilitator” (at thousands of dollars, to be sure) to oversee and coordinate a public input process. Phooey…this facilitator will, in reality, try to sell the idea to the general public. Who is kidding who? This proposal should be rejected. I urge all Glendale residents to contact their district councilmembers before Tuesday, February 3, 2015, pose their own questions about this proposal and let them know that they do not support it. Here are their email addresses:

In my next blog we’ll take a look at the other 2 agenda items: The Fire Department’s request for a Certificate of Necessity (CON) and at-will employees for the mayor and council.

© 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 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 major categories of debt that Glendale carries have been identified in the bdu-4-pocket-khaki-tan-jacket-100-ripstop-cotton[1]previous 4 blogs. How the revenues are spent has also been explored.  The next question is…was the issuance of all Glendale debt prudent and necessary?

The issuance of Enterprise Fund debt, Highway User Revenue Fund (HURF) debt and Transportation debt has historically been reasonable and prudent. The debt associated with these three funds are for the “bricks and mortar” of the city. They fund projects for the construction of new infrastructure as Glendale grew and for the repair and maintenance of all city infrastructures. They were used on projects as diverse as new water treatment facilities to new traffic lights to Northern Parkway.

There is one form of debt that I have not covered previously and that is the Interfund Loan debt. The General Fund borrowed from the Water/Sewer, Landfill, Sanitation, Technology Replacement and Vehicle Replacement Funds to cover two annual $25 million management fee payments to the National Hockey League (NHL) for Jobing.com Arena during Fiscal Years 2011 and 2012. The first $25 million annual fee payment in 2011 came from the General Fund’s Contingency Fund and no Enterprise Funds were used.

The second $25 million annual fee payment in 2012 came from loans from the above mentioned funds with the lion’s share of $20 million borrowed from the Water/Sewer Enterprise Fund. We know from Ordinance 1451 that, “The sanitation fund shall be a separate and protected fund, to be used for no other purpose than expenses associated with sanitation services.” The other Enterprise Fund Ordinances carry the same caveat.

There are some who have heart burn over the concept of the city having borrowed money from these funds. What they fail to recognize is that over many years, General Fund dollars were used to support these funds by carrying some of the Enterprise Fund employees or by not receiving full compensation for the support functions performed by General Fund employees. Historically, over the years, the Enterprise Funds have been supported financially in some form or fashion by the General Fund. Under those circumstances borrowing from the Enterprise Funds is not as egregious as some think it to be. Here is just one example of the financial interrelationship between the General Fund and the Enterprise Funds occurring on January 8, 2013, This is a request for City Council to waive reading beyond the title and adopt an ordinance approving an operating cash transfer from the General Fund (GF) to the Water/Sewer Enterprise Fund; and the transfer of 3.5 Full Time Employees (FTEs), and the associated appropriation authority, from the Water/Sewer Enterprise Fund to the GF, both of which are within the Financial Services Department.”

The debt issuance decisions associated with the General Obligation (G.O.) bonds and the Municipal Property Corporation (MPC) bonds have not always been prudent or even necessary. As has been stated previously some of the council decisions were political. In the G.O. bond category just two examples are: the accelerated advancement of the Foothills Recreation & Aquatic Center which was politically motivated; as was the Capital Improvement Program (CIP) number 1 placement of the Public Safety & Training Facility (PSTF). The PSTF was funded with a combination of G.O. debt and MPC debt.

Was the need for either of these facilities critical? No. Those that get everything in north Glendale wanted more and in this case it was their own recreation and aquatic center so that they wouldn’t have to travel down “there.” The number of resident-owned swimming pools in north Glendale and especially the Cholla district is astronomical compared to any other region of Glendale. It’s ironic that this facility has become regional serving the interests of Peoria and Phoenix residents. Councilmember Martinez would be quick to point out that the facility earned revenues that just about cover the annual O&M facility costs but those revenues do not cover the debt issued to pay for its construction. That’s being paid off by every property owner in Glendale with their secondary property tax.

Was the need for a Public Safety Training Facility (PSTF) critical? Again, the answer is No. To this day new police recruits go to a regional police academy such as the Arizona Law Enforcement Training Academy (ALETA) for initial training. The PSTF is used by Glendale police for advanced training only, another function whose needs can be met elsewhere. The Glendale fire department just had to have this facility even though they have always been able to obtain training slots for new recruits at the regional facilities in Phoenix and Mesa. Training slots had never been an issue. Suddenly the dearth of slots became the rationale for Glendale’s very own training facility.

Lastly we arrive at the MPC Bond debt. Were the projects funded by MPC debt critical and necessary? The answer is No.  Decisions regarding MPC expenditures were often political. Former Mayor Scruggs always went ballistic when she heard references to Glendale as the town of “hicks and sticks, plows and cows.” She and former City Manager Ed Beasley shared a vision. Their vision was that Glendale would become an equal of the well known Valley cities who had developed a niche and a city brand for themselves. Tempe is known as a college town. Scottsdale has always been the “west’s most western town.” Chandler and Gilbert were becoming the technology towns. Glendale wanted to be the sports town.

The former mayor often had majority council support from Councilmembers Eggleston, Martinez, Frate and Goulet. All wanted Glendale to be a member of the “big boys’ club” that included cities like Phoenix, Scottsdale and Tempe. All had cache and Glendale had none. The road to acceptance meant Glendale’s branding as a sports and entertainment mecca and accepting the cost associated with making that a reality. As major developments appeared and wanted costly incentives to locate in and around the Westgate area, more and more MPC debt was issued.

Glendale has issued more MPC debt than it can sustain for such projects as Jobing.com Arena, Camelback Ranch, the Regional Public Safety Training Facility, Zanjero infrastructure and the Westgate parking garage, media center & convention center. All…very “big ticket” projects. These projects are the albatrosses hanging from Glendale’s neck.

The final blog in this series will explore any possible solutions to paying down or eliminating the MPC debt. Can it be done? Yes but it requires the will to do so.

© 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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