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Joyce Clark Unfiltered

For "the rest of the story"

The issue has been identified. Does Glendale practice a policy of using Glendale vendors first when it comes to its major events? Now we will look at policies, past practices, plans, politics and the players. Some policies center on the questions of downtown promotion vs. event cost recovery and the repeated reliance on the use of past vendors vs. an effort to educate and solicit appropriate local vendors.

In a memo sent to the city council and city staff, Glendale Chamber CEO Robert Heidt identified suggestions that could be implemented in choosing vendors for city events:

  1. Local businesses should receive preference for all events. Allotting a percentage to local businesses does not serve them well.
  2. Greater effort to educate local businesses about submission dates, procedures and deadlines widely available in various public media.
  3. Deciding jury on choosing of vendors should be composed of business members of the community.
  4. Institute workshops to educate businesses how they can take part in the events.
  5. Clear and consistent rules to be created on the use of event structures such as tents, A-frame designs, booth layouts food trucks.
  6. Glendale businesses receive first priority followed in order by, the West Valley, the Phoenix Metro area, statewide, and lastly out of state.
  7. Explanation, provision and appropriate enforcement of fees, sales taxes payable.
  8. Revise the sales of beverages to vendors, incorporating the use of local beverage vendors.
  9. Expand the ability of other non-profits to run the beverage tent.
  10. City to provide a timely solution to issues and problems as they arise.

I appreciate his thoughtfulness in identifying and providing solutions to this complex issue. He is to be commended. I would hope he would also consider using his leadership for another just as vexing issue. I have taken guests downtown to visit restaurants and specialty businesses only to find them closed on week days when one would expect them to be open. It becomes frustrating and disappointing but it demonstrates a greater problem that has plagued downtown Glendale for years and that is consistency in business hours by all downtown/Catlin Court merchants and restaurants. What if you went to your local Macy’s or Home Depot only to find them closed because they were open only when they felt like it? That’s what a visitor is confronted with downtown, especially on a Monday.  It is unprofessional and deters business much less repeat business. It’s time for downtown to get its act together and to have all downtown/Catlin Court businesses establish some basic, consistent hours when all commit to be open.

Now, in all fairness, the past four years have been tumultuous regarding the city manager’s position and thus city managerial leadership. Many issues were unattended to or left hanging.  After Ed Beasley left, there was Interim City Manager, Horatio Skeete, then the disaster that was City Manager Brenda Fisher, followed by an Interim stint by Dick Bowers and finally the hiring of City Manager Kevin Phelps. It was a period of confusion and belied a lack of continuity in city staff management…an understatement to say the least. Is it any wonder, city events and a plethora of other city issues were left to fester?

Kevin Phelps, in his short time as City Manager, has brought a measure of stability to city senior staff. He has already demonstrated his focus on problem solving.  The December 29, 2016 edition of the Glendale Star has an interview with Phelps, by Darrell Jackson. It bodes well for the future of Glendale’s major event productions. Some of his more interesting comments in this article include:  “After asking questions of city staff, I am not sure that anyone within City Hall could adequately describe what the mission (of these events) is.” or “If it is to drive business and expose people to downtown shops, then I am not sure the proliferation of bouncy rides and carnival foods is what we should be doing…In my mind, I am not excited about another carnival and light show next year.” and “I am leaning towards recommending creating a signature event that showcases the City of Glendale, as well as our downtown area, and cost recovery is not part of that. Phelps said his goal is to have changes in place by March so they can be included in next year’s budget.”

We all know “the squeaky wheel gets the grease.” Mr. Heidt is to be recognized for providing the squeak that led to the need for grease on the city event wheel. Many of his suggestions are common sense and I suspect, have already or will be adopted. However, suggestions 1, 3, 6 and 9 require further thought. His suggestions #1 and #6 call for Glendale businesses to receive priority in selection. If, as Mr. Phelps suggests, an upgrade of Glendale’s major events is the goal, moving away from a fast food, carnival-like atmosphere and perhaps adding quality restaurant offerings, wine, microbreweries and fine art vendors to become the norm then the operative word becomes “quality.” If there are quality Glendale vendors they should be welcome but if they sell hot dogs and pitchforks, should they receive preference merely because they are Glendale businesses? I think not.

Mr. Heidt’s suggestion #3 is no solution to the issue of being juried in to an event. He calls for a jury composed of community business members.  It’s no better than currently having staff jury vendors. In each case, it’s like having the “fox guard the hen house.” Each group would seem to have a vested interest. Perhaps it’s time to create an independent jury comprised of leaders in their respective industries, trades or crafts from outside the city.

Mr. Heidt’s suggestion #9 calling for other non-profits to work the city’s beverage tent is simply an expression of lack of historical memory and should not be seriously considered.  For the past 22 years the Glendale Ambassadors have operated the city’s beverage tent at downtown special events. They have proven to be reliable and consistent. You can count on them to fulfill their responsibilities. The Ambassadors were created by Glendale‘s leaders to support and to promote the City of Glendale and they have always done so.

Manning the city’s beverage tent is their primary and only source of annual income. What they earn goes right back into our community. Over the past 22 years they have given back $315,000 to at least 60 organizations, typically non-profit. Their donations are too numerous to mention all but here are a few representative groups: Boys & Girls Club of Glendale; Glendale Fire Department’s crisis response van and cadets; Glendale Police Department’s vests for its K9 program and Dare; Glendale’s Heart for the City; the Mayor’s Alliance against Drugs & Gangs; Velma Teague Library Mother Read Program; and the Westside Food Bank’s Senior Brown Bag Program.

Why on God’s green earth would we want to take away the Glendale Ambassador’s primary funding source in favor of some entity that doesn’t have this kind of track record? It makes no sense unless it was suggested to serve someone’s personal affinity for a particular non-profit group who wants in on the action.

Mr. Phelps and Mr. Heidt are to be commended for their shared commitment to make Glendale’s event future better. Mr. Phelps’ desire to upgrade Glendale’s events will certainly cause some of Mr. Heidt’s suggestions to be considered and some of the others to be moot but there is common ground between them. Working together is a win-win for Glendale.

© 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.

For the entire month of December the Glendale Star has been running a series of stories by Darrell Jackson (go to www.glendalestar.com ) regarding the vendors used at Glendale’s four premier events that occur from the end of November until early February. These four events are Glendale Glitters opening weekend, Glendale Glitters weekends in December, the Glitter and Glow Block Party ending event and the Chocolate Affaire.

The issue is does Glendale really put local Glendale businesses first when accepting vendor applications for these events? It is a question that has been raised by local vendors for several years, whose applications appear to be routinely rejected but it only boiled to the surface when the Glendale Chamber of Commerce CEO Robert Heidt became the local vendors’ champion.

Let’s look at some statistics. “Over the past three years (2012, 2013 and 2014), the city has received 1,204 applications to be a vendor at one of the four major events (cited above). Of those, the city has approved 739 with only 15.29% (113) coming from Glendale businesses and 84.71% (626) coming from other businesses.” (Glendale Star, December 15, 2016).

“When it comes to local food merchants, the city has received 213 total applications for the current season with 92 (43.19%) being approved over that time. Of the 92 approved food vendors, 13 (14.13%) have been from Glendale while 79 (85.86%) have been from non-Glendale food vendors. The 2017 Chocolate Affaire has no local businesses approved, with 11 local businesses denied, while 19 businesses were approved to participate.” (Glendale Star, December 15, 2016).

Kim Larson, Glendale Public Facilities, Recreation and Special Events spokesperson, has said, “As long as they meet the minimum requirements, absolutely, we give them a priority. According to city documents, the minimum requirements are, ‘a menu with pricing, photos of products and booth set up, and a $25 (non-refundable) application fee.’ The application asks vendors if they would like a 10X10 prime booth for an additional $150, or a 10X20 prime spot for an additional $200. Each approved vendor is provided with a two-plug, 20 AMP outlet but they can request additional power for an additional $25 to $100.” (Glendale Star, December 8, 2016).

After the application process closes a jury of staff reviews the applications and makes the final selection of vendors.  “The jury for the current season consisted of three members of city staff – Simms, Heidi Barriga (Special Events) and Cameron Dewaele (Parks and Recreation.” (Glendale Star, December 29, 2016). “Once a vendor is approved, they then pay $65 for a background check.” (Glendale Star, December 8, 2016).

“All food vendors are required to purchase any bottled beverages (water, soda and ice) from Kalil Bottling –an official city sponsor – at $15 per case and must sell them for $2 apiece. Vendors who participate are required to pay 20% of their gross income to the city, which helps offset the cost of events. Larson said the city estimates the revenue to be approximately $250,000 from vendors.” (Glendale Star, December 8, 2016).

“…two vendors who have been approved numerous times and are part of the current events, reported to the Glendale Star that they have never been billed by the city and have never written a tax check to the city.” (Glendale Star, December 22, 2016). Vickie Rios, Glendale’s Finance Director, could not confirm this assertion but indicated that if it had happened in the past, it would not occur in the future.

As you can see, it can be quite pricey to become a vendor at a Glendale event. Having participated as a potter in many regional events for over 20 years (I no longer produce handcrafted pottery) the costs to vendors are not unreasonable. There is always overhead and there is a cost for everyone to do business whether you are in a shop or participate in outdoor events. If a vendor cannot make enough revenue to cover the costs of operation plus a profit, then that vendor should rethink its operation.

One of the essential concerns surrounding this issue rests upon the mission of Glendale’s special events. “(Kim) Larson said, ‘As the mission of Glendale’s special events is to promote and brand downtown Glendale as a destination to attract new visitors and shoppers, and foster community pride among residents, the Special Events Division does its absolute best to maximize revenue to offset our productions costs so we can continue to provide free admission to our community festivals.’” (Glendale Star, December 8, 2016). This mission statement is schizophrenic, to say the very least. The goal of cost recovery and the goal of promoting downtown Glendale are not usually compatible. So, the very first question to ask is a policy question for the Glendale city council. Should the city policy be to promote downtown Glendale (at a cost to taxpayers) or to continue to implement the goal of cost recovery?

Another question about policy comes from comments made by Erik Strunk, Glendale’s new Public Facilities, Recreation and Special Events Director, “Strunk said the city advertises the vendor application process online (via various media forms). Additionally, we have developed a master list of anyone who has applied in the past few years…This list is used each year to send a mass e-mail…and encourage interested vendors to apply.” (Glendale Star, December 22, 2016). This process seems to hint at a policy of returning to the same well, year after year, by alerting previous participants to apply. Again, another policy question for city council is evident. Will it be policy to make a concerted effort to educate and attract more local vendors or will the city rely upon past vendors, who seemingly up to this point, have been used repeatedly because the city’s past experience with them affords a level of comfort?

In Part II of Glendale First? we will look at the policies, past practices, plans, politics and the players.

© 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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