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Joyce Clark Unfiltered

For "the rest of the story"

PLEASE CHECK OUT THE THREE CHAVIRA VIDEOS TO THE LEFT OF THIS COLUMN. EACH IS ABOUT A MINUTE AND A HALF IN LENGTH.

It has been 18 years and 185 days since the city’s pledge to build the West Branch Library.

Glendale city council travel policy…It certainly was an interesting topic that had been requested by Councilmember Chavira after he got caught with his hand in the cookie jar. Ironically, Chavira, after having made the request for discussion, had not one substantive suggestion or comment to make. He remained largely silent as councilmembers opined and only said he thanked staff for their work on the issue and wanted Glendale, “to set the standard in travel.” That was it. That was Sammy’s entire contribution to the discussion. If you would like to view the complete council discussion, use this link:

http://glendale-az.granicus.com/MediaPlayer.php?view_id=2&clip_id=2452 .

City Manager Phelps introduced the item with an apology explaining that the staff work on the issue was lacking. Councilmember Aldama was visibly upset. Why, you ask? He wanted to provide input to staff prior to bringing the issue to workshop and did not have that opportunity. Later in the discussion he suggested a citizen’s Ad Hoc Committee to draft council’s travel policy. The idea went over like a lead balloon with the rest of council literally ignoring his suggestion. He did offer one interesting statement saying “he has never misspent” taxpayer money. Yet some Glendale residents are curious as to why he gave thousands of dollars to the Glendale Women’s Club with the understanding that they would pass it on in support of yet another Glendale festival. Hmmm….

Paul Giblin of the Arizona Republic had a story online on the evening of June 21, 2016, several hours after the city council workshop. Here is the link:

http://www.azcentral.com/story/news/local/glendale/2016/06/20/glendale-consider-tougher-taxpayer-funded-travel-rules/86152722/ . In his story Giblin says, “The newspaper (Arizona Republic) reported on March 4 that Chavira expensed $2,075 to see his friend Ruben Gallego sworn into the U.S. House of Representatives in Washington, and $1,933 to watch Pope Francis address Congress in Washington (on a large screen TV for overflow crowd).

“The Republic also reported that the first-term councilman billed taxpayers a combined $1,033 for poorly documented business-development trips to the Los Angeles area, and a combined $3,136 for airline ticket change fees, seat upgrades and baggage charges since taking office in January 2013.”

The council word “du jour” was “transparency” begun by Councilmember Malnar and repeated continually by the rest of council. It is a word so over used by politicians as to lose all meaning. What Glendale taxpayers expect and deserve is full disclosure that leads to accountability when it comes to spending taxpayer dollars. Several interesting comments were made by various councilmembers. 

Councilmember Tolmachoff spent the better part of five minutes explaining the importance of councilmember travel. For a moment I thought I was back in school. Her rationale centered on the building of relationships that would further Glendale’s agenda as well as the personal development gained through travel. I would suggest that both of those arguments are debatable. She indicated that she wanted staff to develop a method of posting her spending of taxpayer money online.  This is not a new or original idea. This is a concept that I have publicly advocated for as part of my campaign platform for four months, ever since I announced my candidacy to replace Chavira.

Councilmember Turner, after a vigorous defense of staff’s work on the issue, proceeded to offer a litany of specific changes that he wanted. They ranged from provision of itemized documentation; the use of pre and post travel reports; justification for reimbursement of travel change fees; alerting the City Manager of planned travel; and CFO approval of travel expenses. Generally there was council consensus on the rejection of the use of per diem by councilmembers and the desire to post councilmember travel reports online in order to provide greater transparency (there’s that word again). Assistant City Manager Duensing summarized the discussion by stating that staff would be back at a future date with recommendations to increase council “transparency.”

Three recent opinion pieces clearly offer the reasons as to why the need for Glendale city council travel policy review was required. The first is a Letter to the Editor by Ron Myers, constable of the Arrowhead Justice Precinct in Glendale offered on March 10, 2016:

“As an elected public official in Maricopa County who lives in Glendale, I am appalled and dismayed to read a story in The Republic that Glendale City Councilman Chavira has abused the trust of the taxpayers in Glendale by spending lavishly on questionable trips and meals charged to his expense account that we all pay for.

“What possible city business could it be for him to fly to Washington, D.C., to observe the Pope’s speech on a TV monitor or to watch his friend get sworn in as a congressman? Does he really think he can justify spending over $400 on dinner for his superiors in the Phoenix Fire Department while out of town?

“The City of Glendale takes one more black eye from out-of-control politicians. Shame on him and shame on the City of Glendale for allowing this fraud and abuse.”

Another is an opinion piece by Laurie Roberts of the Arizona Republic on March 25, 2010. She said:

“Glendale’s travelin’ man, Councilman Sammy Chavira, is asking for a review of the city’s travel policy. Apparently, it’s not clear to him that taxpayers shouldn’t be footing the $2,000 tab for him to travel to Washington, D.C. to see his pal, Rueben Gallego, sworn into Congress. Apparently, he believes it was a legitimate taxpayer expense to fly him to the nation’s Capital so that he could watch Pope Francis address Congress. Clearly, Glendale citizens needed to spend $420 for a posh seafood dinner party at a celebrated restaurant in Washington, D.C. Giblin reports that Chavira’s 2014 dinner party included several Phoenix officials, including two of Chavira’s bosses. Chavira is a Phoenix fire fighter.

“Yeah, I can see where there would be a clear need for Glendale taxpayers to foot that bill.

“Chavira said this week that recent medial reports (read: Giblin’s excellent dogging of this story) have led him to believe the city needs to review its policy. ‘While I have always followed the travel policies of the city, I am also completely supportive of reviewing the council’s policies and guidelines,’ he told his colleagues. The policy allows elected officials to decide what is and is not reasonable. Essentially it relies upon the city to elect ethical and honest leaders who don’t look to lax policies as an excuse to rack up frequent flier miles at the public’s expense.

“Given that that isn’t working in Glendale, perhaps it is time for the council to review travel. Or maybe it’s time for the citizens to review who they are putting on council.”

The third piece is a short video conversation by Columnist E.J. Montini and reporters Paul Giblin and Craig Harris as they talk about government officials expensing questionable trips to taxpayers and the lack of accountability in monitoring how they spend taxpayers’ money. Here is the link:  http://azc.cc/1p4sVnQ  .

Laurie Roberts had it right when she said, “…it’s time for the citizens to review who they are putting on the council.” It’s time to remove Sammy Chavira from city council.

© Joyce Clark, 2016

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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.

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.

It appears Glendale City Manager Brenda Fischer has a vicious temper. Rumors have circulated since she came on board in Glendale but employees have been reluctant to go on record and to share specific incidents. All have been within City Hall – until last week.

A little background first. Robert Heidt is the Glendale Chamber’s new President and CEO. He had been approached by a Chamber member, John and Alice Roach, owners of the White Eyes Fresh Fry Bread Company. The Roachs are Glendale residents. Apparently they have applied for entry to numerous Glendale events only to be turned down repeatedly. Mr. Heidt had been dealing with Glendale’s Communications Department (which runs all City events) for several months in order to obtain clarification on vendor policy and to advocate for the Roachs’ participation.

Darrell Jackson of the Glendale Star has an article about a confrontation Glendale City Manager Brenda Fischer recently and publicly had with Mr. Heidt. Here is the link: http://www.glendalestar.com/news/article_314b5612-a265-11e4-b241-87a6efc2a085.html . Last week Mr. Heidt was having a pleasant working lunch at the Yard House at Westgate. Ms. Fischer was also there, a few tables away, having lunch with several Glendale employees. At some point Ms. Fischer approached Mr. Heidt’s table and proceeded to publicly berate him over the White Eyes Fresh Fry Bread Company complaint. She was loud enough to be overheard by patrons necessitating a Yard House Assistant Manager’s request “to take it outside.”

Fischer, when asked by Jackson, about the incident conveyed that she was defending “employee integrity and professionalism” which, she believed, had a “negative effect on employees’ morale.” Between you and I, that is so much BS.

If Fischer were really concerned about employee morale she wouldn’t, among other things: 1. Have her reputed, infamous temper tantrums at any time, in City Hall or outside of City Hall; 2. She wouldn’t allow City Manager staff, including herself, and City Attorneys to not be physically present at City Hall on Fridays. They are available by phone and email. I believe that’s called telecommuting. Isn’t that what the previous City Manager Ed Beasley allowed Human Resources Director Alma Carmichle to do? From Mississippi? Wasn’t that a ‘no-no’? No matter the location…it does affect employee morale; 3. She wouldn’t have appointed Julie Frisoni to an Assistant City Manager’s position when Frisoni did not meet the qualifications needed; 4. She would insure that all staff information is distributed to the entire council and not a selected few supporting a staff position and 5. She would resume hosting Quarterly City Staff meetings. Apparently since her hiring she has had one, just one, such meeting with the entire staff.

Mr. Heidt had obvious concerns as a result of that confrontation and sent an email to the Mayor and City Councilmembers, summarizing the incident. As a result, the council will have a special executive session meeting on Friday, January 23, 2015 at 3 PM to discuss Fischer’s confrontation with Mr. Heidt. Expect Councilmember Gary Sherwood (and his two clones, Councilmembers Chavira and Aldama) to defend Fischer’s actions. Councilmember Sherwood not only actively advocated for Fischer’s appointment but personally met with her prior to council’s decision. His exclusive meeting with a potential candidate still under consideration may not have been unlawful but the ethics are questionable. With three newbie councilmembers there will not be much in the way of historical memory with knowledge of other, past Fischer tantrums.

Whatever the results, you and I will never know them as executive session discussions and direction must remain private. The most we can hope for is some kind of reprimand inserted into her personnel file. The best outcome would be for a majority of council to call for her resignation but that is wishful thinking.

Since retiring from city council I have had the opportunity to talk to countless city employees, from a wide variety of departments, at different levels of authority within the organization. None are within Fischer’s “inner circle.” To a person they have conveyed that employee morale is worse than at the height of former City Manager Ed Beasley’s tenure. As they often put it, “It’s the same, only worse.” While Ms. Fischer may have put out some financial fires she has most certainly stoked the fire of the lowest employee morale in recent history.

© 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.

Before reviewing the Glendale City Council meeting of January 13, 2015 I wanted to share some information related to the events about to occur in Glendale. With the Direct TV Music Festival, the ProBowl and the Super Bowl fast approaching those residents who live in close proximity to the site of these events may have the need for further information about them or may need to lodge a complaint while the events are occurring.  Below are the Glendale numbers for your reference:

DirecTV Super Fan Festival Hotline

A special hotline has been established for the DirecTV Super Fan Festival.  The hotline number is 602-532-6250.

Neighborhood Protection (barricades)

The Neighborhood protection program is being enacted for the DirecTV Super Fan Festival, Fiesta Bowl, Pro Bowl and Super Bowl.

Electronic Link to Glendale’s Got Game Webpage

The information listed above and specific links are available through the City’s Glendale’s Got Game webpage: http://www.visitglendale.com/ZoneA/index.html

The January 13, 2015 Glendale city council meeting was typical of many council meetings. A proclamation recognizing Dr. Martin F. King Day and then an item packed Consent Agenda. The only interesting segment of the meeting was the choice of a Vice Mayor for this year.

Councilmember Bart Turner nominated and Councilmember Lauren Tolmachoff seconded the nomination of Councilmember Ian Hugh. A second nomination of Councilmember Gary Sherwood was offered by Councilmember Sammy Chavira and seconded by Councilmember Jamie Aldama. No surprises there. That left Mayor Weiers as the deciding vote. It was well played by Mayor Weiers. The Mayor offered Councilmember Hugh for a vote first, as it should have been, since Hugh’s nomination was offered first.

Votes were cast on the newest toy, the nearly $50,000 voting system and flashed on the large screen behind them. There were four votes (a majority) in favor of Hugh’s nomination: Mayor Weiers, Councilmembers Hugh, Turner and Tolmachoff. Since Councilmember Hugh’s nomination captured the majority of council votes there was no need to vote on the nomination of Councilmember Sherwood. Congratulations go to the newly elected Vice Mayor of Glendale, Ian Hugh.

We have seen the first vote of the new council majority of Weiers, Hugh, Turner and Tolmachoff. We’ll see how well Councilmember Sherwood plays in the sandbox now that his coalition is no longer in the majority.

A word that seems to aptly describe both Councilmembers Chavira’s and Aldama’s usual commentary during the course of council workshops and meetings is saccharin. According to Webster’s Dictionary saccharin is defined as “sweet or sentimental in a way that does not seem sincere or genuine.” If ever two people fit that bill it appears to be these two. Their greatest claim to fame is certainly not the offering of insightful comment but rather a litany of thank yous to everyone they can possibly think of. Perhaps the voters of their districts will thank them profusely as they wander out the door of Glendale politics.

© 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.

A little of this…

Randy Miller, a former Barrel district Glendale City Council candidate, made complaints to the city regarding a political action committee (PAC) called Revitalize Arizona. Revitalize Arizona is the pipefitters union creation made for one only express purpose…to participate in the Glendale City Council district elections on behalf of specific candidates, one of whom was Bart Turner, the newly elected representative of the Barrel district.

Former candidate Miller viewed the City Clerk’s site to check Revitalize Arizona’s registration as a political action committee (PAC). There was nothing. In addition he discovered Revitalize Arizona did not identify itself on the signs with the acknowledgement “Paid for by…” In accordance with the rules of the electoral process and so he filed complaints with the City Clerk’s office.

To this day Revitalize Arizona has still not filed its expenditures with the city. What were Mr. Miller’s complaints worth to the city? His complaints produced $300 in fines.  It’s a mere slap on the wrist and certainly not a deterrent to future bad acts.

What Revitalize Arizona actions did Michael Bailey, Glendale’s City Attorney, opine to be worth only a $300 fine? He said in a letter to the Torres law firm representing Revitalize Arizona, “Reasonable cause exists that Revitalize Arizona was not a registered political committee in Glendale as required by A.R.S. §16-902.01(E) and A.R.S. §16-912(A) when it had posted campaign signs in the City of Glendale” and “Reasonable cause exists that Revitalize Arizona failed to include requisite statutory disclaimer information on the campaign signs in violation of A. R. S. §16-912(B) and A.R.S §16-912(D).” Bailey went on to conclude, “A.R.S. §16-912(E) provides that ‘(a)person who violates this section is subject to a civil penalty of up to three times the cost of producing and distributing the literature or advertisement’.” Bailey fined them $300. The penalty was supposed to be a triple cost fine for the signs but Bailey valued the signs at $100. What a joke.

Having been a candidate I can tell you campaign signs are not cheap and those signs easily cost in excess of $1700. The fine should have been $5,000. A fine of that magnitude might have made the bad actors in Revitalize Arizona sit up and take notice and cause them to clean up their act in the future.

The Revitalize Arizona attorneys couldn’t respond quickly enough. Whoa…pay a $300 fine and get the heck out of Dodge. They dodged a bullet, high fiving all the way.

Just as in real life, in the City of Glendale, it’s a matter of who you are and who you know.

A little of that…

Have you seen the recently released photo of the new Glendale City Council? I’d be asking for a retake. The City Council is always told to wear dark or black clothing. This time the  instruction produced a group of undertakers. See if you can match the queries below with the right elected official: new council 2015

  • Which one looks like a member of the mafia?
  • Which one needs a new suit that fits?
  • Which one looks like a prissy preacher?
  • Which one looks like Icabod Crane?
  • Which one didn’t follow instructions and wear a dark color?
  • Which one didn’t follow instructions and fold hands in front?
  • Which one is smiling as if there’s a secret to be known?

Glendale certainly got a little of this and a little of that. Let’s see what the recipe produces.

I stand corrected…

I received a phone call from a “Mr. Sims” claiming to be a fire fighter in another jurisdiction. It was obvious he was calling on behalf of City Manager Brenda Fischer. He made the point that Brenda Fischer was not the City Manager when now Assistant City Manager Julie Frisoni sent her emails regarding the pending Coyotes deal to selected councilmembers. He was correct. Dick Bowers was Acting City Manager and Brenda Fischer was hired right after Frisoni sent those emails.

Those emails have since been submitted to the Attorney General’s Office and are part of an investigation into allegations of Open Meeting Law violations by current councilmembers Sherwood and Chavira and former councilmembers Knaack and Martinez.

Ms. Fischer may not have been aware of the emails when she first assumed her position but she most certainly is aware of them now. The question raised remains valid, what will she do to root out “off the reservation” actions by her staff, especially those of Frisoni?

       

© 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.

Anon Ltr to Fischer

Anonymous letter to City Manager Fischer and City Council

Do you save stuff? I do. I save comments on timely issues, photos of ideas that someday I may be able to accomplish…all kinds of stuff. Lately the cleaning bug hit and I have been tackling a stack of “stuff.”

I ran across this letter. It was sent in December, 2013 to City Manager Brenda Fischer, the Arizona Attorney General’s Office, the Glendale City Council, the Arizona Republic and the Glendale Star. I received it in January, 2014. Unfortunately, it ended up in my stack of “stuff” where it has resided until today. I always meant to post it but obviously it disappeared into a morass of papers, never to see the light of day, until now.

It was sent anonymously. When there is a complaint from an unnamed source no agency will address the complaint.  Hence there would be no action and no follow-up taken regarding its contents. It is obviously written by current employees. I understand their fear and their reluctance to come forward and be identified for their very jobs would be on the line. They appear to have a lot of “inside baseball” information. It’s a shame that they did not provide any proof of their allegations. This blog has repeatedly shared that Ms. Frisoni was part of former City Manager Ed Beasley’s inner circle. One of the councilmembers (I no longer remember who) had publicly called out Councilmember Sherwood’s unseemly advocacy of Mr. Fischer’s candidacy during the council’s hiring process. I had been aware for years that Beasley held rehearsals of council meetings with staff taking the roles of various councilmembers. I was always curious as to who they used to play me. There appears to be a lot of “meat on the bones” of their allegations. Too bad there’s no concrete proof to substantiate them. They do make an interesting point and that is, Ms. Fischer encouraged employees to be anonymous and take their concerns to the media or the AG’s office, knowing full well that as anonymous complaints they would go nowhere. Mmmm…

Here is the text of their letter verbatim:

“Dear Ms. Fischer:

“As long time Glendale employees, we had high hopes when you were hired. We had hoped that the years of paranoia, suspicion and fear from the city manager’s office was over. It was not long after you started that we realized the reign would continue with a new face and some old ones. Your move to evaluate (sic) Julie Frisoni to acting assistant city manager was the start. You had to know that Julie Frisoni was one of Ed Beasley’s most trusted and loyal cohorts. How else would someone of her inadequate experience and limited education ever get hired. She was in on every deceptive move Ed every (sic) made. She sat in on every council meeting rehearsal, including those that are the focus of the recent audit. She knew everything!

“It wasn’t until we started to pull the pieces of the puzzle together that we uncovered why you will soon be making Julie your permanent assistant city manager. So we are accepting your offer to ‘go around management’, ‘go to the Attorney General’s Office anonymously’, or ‘anonymously informing the media, to put some public pressure’ on an issue.

“We know Councilmember Gary Sherwood met with you privately during your hiring process, which is a clear violation of common Human Resources practices. We know he was reprimanded by the city attorney’s office for secretly talking with you and advancing your application through the process. We know he put you in touch with Ms. Frisoni, who was a major, yet stealthy, player in his council election. We know the reason you promoted Ms. Frisoni was because Councilmember Sherwood asked you in exchange for his help in getting you hired. We know she is your closest confidant because Gary Sherwood surreptitiously used her to feed you information during your hiring process. We know her promotion is a ‘payback’ for insider information during your hiring. We know Ms. Frisoni was aware of and involved in Ed Beasley’s directives that led to the trust fund transfers. We know Ms. Frisoni was involved in the secret council meeting rehearsals with staff in which she used her media background to coach staff how to avoid answering questions from the mayor and council.  We know the reason the Arizona Cardinals and the Super Bowl Host committee are penalizing Glendale is because they refuse to work with Ms. Frisoni because of the years Ed Beasley, Craig Tindall and Julie undermined the city’s relationship with the team. We know Ms. Frisoni could have helped those that the audit focused on but because she was not in the spotlight she cowardly choose (sic) to protect her own skin which simply shows the type of person she has become. We know Ms. Frisoni and media relations team spent years misleading the media, including the Glendale Star and the Arizona Republic. We know Bill Toops repeatedly complained about Ms. Frisoni’s inability and unwillingness to release information through the public records process. We know Ed Beasley and Julie Frisoni helped to cover for Alma Carmichael as she ‘telecommuted’ from Mississippi and Art Lynch as he bleed (sic) the city for his own personal benefit. We know Julie Frisoni mislead former Mayor Elaine Scruggs and former and current councilmembers to cover for Ed Beasley’s crimes. We also know this letter will not deter you from promoting Julie Frisoni but perhaps it will make you wonder how someone with Julie’s immoral history will ever help you to become an effective city manager with Glendale employees, businesses and residents.

“We don’t know, but do hope, that both the Arizona Republic and the Glendale Star will print this letter because you asked Glendale employees to come forward anonymously and that is what we are doing.

“Ms. Fischer, we are dedicated employees who can’t afford to take your suggestion to resign if we don’t like it in Glendale so we have elected to follow your advice and make our voices heard to the media, the Attorney General’s Office and the Glendale City Council.

“We had high hopes for a new administration, but with Julie Frisoni as your side, it’s simply more of the same fear mongering, backstabbing, council destabilizing and anxiety riddled days that we have known for so long and learned in which to survive.

“Signed,

“Anonymous (as requested by you)

“CC: Arizona Attorney General’s Office, Glendale City Council, The Arizona Republic, The Glendale Star”

I don’t know if I would have expected the media to print an anonymous letter but aren’t you curious why, 8 months later, the media has not investigated any of these allegations? My apology to “Anonymous” for not blogging on this sooner…much, much sooner. My only advice would be to put “some meat on those bones.”

© Joyce Clark, 2014

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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.

During my last four years on city council, from the time the Tohono O’odham publicly announced their intent to build a casino within Glendale, I would take notes from presentations and comments of staff regarding the casino’s impact on Glendale. While they retain the essence of the statements made, I did not have the time or opportunity to write the comments verbatim. The other day I was cleaning out some old folder files and I ran across the file where I had been keeping these notes. The following was represented to me and the rest of city council by staff from 2009 to 2012.

This was said with regard to the Nation’s gaming application—  However, the issue of “first impression” within Arizona is a major one. It means that this action if granted would be precedent setting in that it would establish an Indian reservation where one did not previously exist. It may be the first attempt to do so in the nation. It is the first step to create a free for all system that establishes “off-reservation” gaming, not just in Arizona but in the nation.

Glendale staff in meeting with the Tohono O’odham attempted to ascertain more specific information. The Nation would not offer anything beyond conceptuals. Staff, after meeting with the Nation, offered the scope of the project as it was presented to them:

  • 134 acres of land
  • 1.2 million square foot complex
  • Cost of construction approx. $550 million
  • 6,000 construction jobs
  • 3,000 permanent jobs

Gaming portion:

  • 150,000 square feet
  • 1,089 machines
  • 50 tables
  • 25 poker tables
  • 1,000 seat bingo hall 

Spa/Hotel portion:

  • 480 rooms
  • 120 suites
  • 180,000 square foot convention center
  • 40,000 square foot event center

Amenities/Services:

  • 30,000 square feet of retail
  • 5 restaurants
  • 1 food court
  • 2 buffets
  • 1 coffee shop 
  • 2 bars
  • 1 nightclub

Issues identified by staff during the years of 2009 to 2012 included:

  • City’s General Plan has area designated as Corporate Commerce Center with less density and impact.
  • Sales tax revenue anticipated to be lost is $2 million a year or $40 million over 20 years as city cannot collect sales tax from federal land and that removes the land from producing sales tax for the city with other non-Indian uses.
  • There are revenues that flow to the state from gaming. However 88% percent goes directly to the state. The other 12% is distributed to all cities and counties with no larger share or preference to the host city or county.
  • The project will generate jobs but nearly all will be minimum wage employment.
  • Gaming revenues siphon off discretionary income that could have been spent elsewhere in the City
  • Staff projects water demand to be 600,000 gallons per day gpd (gallons per day). Projected wastewater demand to be 400,000 gpd. If they use the on-site well that is available to them it would impact our groundwater table. 
  • Estimated Impact fees loss is $299,500.
  • Police estimate an additional 8,500 calls for service necessitating an additional 11 officers at a cost of $950,903. There is also the problem of suspects committing crime in adjacent areas and fleeing to reservation where Glendale Police have no jurisdiction. Anticipated calls for service expected to be high due to the casino being open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. 
  • Fire anticipates the need for an additional fire station costing:
  • 18 additional fire fighters
  • $2.8 annually for Operating & Maintenance costs
  • $14.6 million for land acquisition and construction
  • In addition, there is no mutual aid agreement for off-site service (reservation). Can be negotiated perhaps but no guarantee of total cost recovery.
  • Transportation estimates 20,000 one-way trips per day on weekdays and 30,000 one-way trips per day on weekends. It will generate 8.34 million additional trips in the area per year. There could be traffic conflicts on stadium and arena event days.
  • There is a possible impact on the Northern Parkway Project. 225 feet of right-of-way is needed on the south side of Northern between the Loop 101 and 91st Avenue. Tribe may or may not participate.

 

There are several reasons why I decided to use my old, newly discovered notes. Despite the city council’s inappropriate action this issue is not yet decided. There is still Tribal litigation to be decided and there is still Congressional legislation pending. I would anticipate Referendum petitions on the 2 council actions taken on August 12, 2014. If successful, the voters will decide Glendale’s final position.

Another reason for using them is to ask the question, was this information given to the current council? With senior administrative staff knowing that a majority of council now supports the proposed casino, they may have thought it unwise to fully inform the council. That is no excuse. Council should have had this information. If council did have this kind of information and a majority chose to ignore it and its implications of cost to Glendale, then they are not serving the best interests of Glendale.

Lastly, it is information that should be public. The citizens of Glendale have the right to know that there are costs to Glendale that have not been addressed in the recently approved agreement. I would expect the current senior administration to disavow the facts presented above, especially with regard to water and public safety. They have been given their marching orders to embrace the casino project. The question remains, why weren’t these issues and the costs associated with them addressed in the approved agreement? So much for transparency.

© 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.

20140812_193537The August 12, 2014 meeting of the Glendale City Council was like watching a train wreck in slow motion. You know the inevitable outcome; you know it will be extremely painful; but you are utterly powerless to stop it. All you can do is watch it unfold. This is the first council meeting I attended since leaving office over a year and a half ago. People have been telling me for months that the animosity among councilmembers was evident. I thought OK, there were times when our council meetings were not happy affairs. Little did I know that the atmosphere reeked of councilmember nastiness and disrespect. It was palpable fueled by the absolute arrogance of the council majority (Sherwood, Hugh, Alvarez and Chavira). The meeting was not unusual as council sped through proclamations and the consent agenda. The last two items were casino related. One was council approval of the draft agreement between the Tohono O’odham and Glendale. The other was the first official groveling of the city council with a resolution supporting the construction of the casino.  All hell broke loose. The draft agreement was introduced and recited by Michael Bailey, Glendale’s City Attorney. Mayor Weiers opened the public comment portion. There were 22 speakers to the item. 15 citizens spoke in opposition to the draft agreement and 7 spoke in favor of the draft agreement. The speakers’ comments in opposition to the proposed casino revolved around these general themes: casinos produce greater crime in the adjacent area; they create a greater rate of gambling addiction and subsequent bankruptcies and home foreclosures. The two major themes were comments about the rush to get this agreement done and the fact that it simply wasn’t a good deal for Glendale. There were some memorable comments to share (my apology if I butcher someone’s name). John Burnell of the Sahuaro district related that a family member, as a gambling addict, maxxed out credit cards and lied to keep it secret. The husband had to take two jobs and it took him over two years to get the family’s finances back on track. Barbara Roberts acknowledged the casino job creation but said, “Yes, we need jobs but what kind of jobs?” Timothy Green of Goodyear said, “Casinos only succeed on the backs of losers.” A rather profound statement. Ron Kolb, Ocotillo district said, “The West Side will never be the same.” Dr. Ron Rockwell, pastor of a Yucca district church very near the casino site, said, “You no longer care about the moral and spiritual culture of this community.” Randy Miller, candidate for the Barrel district council seat, called out Councilmember Alvarez and her continual homage about the importance of listening to the people…yeah, Norma, right. It seems to be a principle of hers only when convenient. Those speakers in support of the casino were arrogant and boastful. John Mendlelberg, former Mayor of Surprise, said, “You must concede.” Reverend Maupin of Phoenix, said, “You lost the war. You should be grateful for whatever you are getting.” He accused Councilmember Martinez of being a liar and a racist. Robert Quizneros of the Ocotillo district complained about the audacity of “the other side’s hiring of attorneys and lobbyists” to defeat the casino. A special “shout out” to Lauren Tolmachoff, candidate for the Cholla district council seat. It appears that she has become a one-trick pony as she reiterated her support for the casino in the name of jobs. Hey, Lauren, don’t you know about “job displacement?” Several pro-casino speakers kept referring to, “it’s their (TO) land.” Well, yes it is after a purchase kept secret for 7 years and its newly minted designation as a reservation. It’s all about a reservation WITHIN Glendale. I defy anyone to identify any city in the State of Arizona that has a reservation within its boundaries. Then it was time for the Councilmembers to speak prior to their vote. Alvarez’ remarks were priceless in their ignorance. She made memorable comments such as, “what’s the difference between a lottery ticket and a casino?” Or, “We have casinos in Scottsdale.” Or, “They (Tohono O’odham) are going to provide a service.” That one caused audible audience derision.  And lastly, “Make us responsible for what we’re doing.” Trust me, we will.   Councilmember Sherwood, self-proclaimed negotiator and leader, was strangely silent all evening except for his monologue prior to his affirmative vote. His comments deserve a special blog and its coming. Councilmember Martinez offered a series of amendments to the draft and that’s when all hell broke loose. Councilmembers Alvarez and Chavira, repeatedly and often, yelled out while Councilmember Martinez was trying to speak, “Call for the question!” Their obvious intent was to silence Councilmember Martinez’ efforts. What were they afraid of? They knew they had the votes to defeat any amendment. Chavira was literally in a rage because of Martinez’ efforts. He lept out of his seat and it looked as if he was about to confront Mayor Weiers physically. Wow, Sammy. Finally we see the true persona and your reaction when crossed and you don’t get your way. The lack of control he exhibited demonstrated that he is unfit to serve as a councilmember and cannot conduct himself in a manner required by the office he holds. Martinez offered 4 amendments: raising the TO payment to $20 million or 3% of the Class III net; offsite infrastructure costs to be paid by the TO up front; a waiver of sovereign immunity especially with regard to fraud and other bad acts; and payments to continue beyond 2026. Each was rejected. The vote was as everyone expected. The majority of 4 – Sherwood, Alvarez, Hugh and Chavira voting to approve the agreement and Weiers, Martinez and Knaack voting against. What was unexpected to the degree it manifested itself, was the vituperativeness and nastiness. At one point a citizen called Martinez a liar and a racist. Mayor Weiers should have stopped the speaker immediately and requested a police officer escort the person from the building. There is no doubt that Mayor Weiers lost control of the meeting during the first casino agenda item. His failure fueled the majority’s contempt and rage. Kudos go to Bonnie Steiger, a Glendale resident and faithful attendee at council meetings for 28 years. She is everyone’s Grandmother. She was so disgusted with council’s behavior that she said their lack of respect for the very office they hold merited the removal of all of them. Lastly, I offer two interesting items for your attention. One is the Coyotes publicly announced today that they had accepted a deal for arena naming rights. Are you ready for this? It will be called the Gila River Arena. Hooray for the Gila River. Although it may require Glendale approval, Glendale may only reject for very narrow reasons and the new naming rights do not fit the criteria. Can you say embarrassing, Glendale?? Or perhaps the majority of 4 will figure out a way to kill the deal. The second item is that just before 5 PM, yesterday, August 12, 2014 a group filed paperwork with the Glendale City Clerk’s office for a Political Action Committee for the purpose of recalling Councilmember Gary Sherwood. Things are heating up in Glendale. As I said at the beginning of this blog, this meeting was definitely a train wreck but the pain is yet to be borne by all of the people of Glendale. © 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.

This is the proposed casino’s reality. Fort McDowell Casino isFort McDowel prime-rib 2 currently running ads that offer Prime Rib on Tuesdays for $6.99 and Crab Legs on Wednesdays and Thursdays for $7.99. It’s not possible for a Yard House, Gordon Biersch, McFadden’s or Saddle Ranch Chop House at Westgate to offer these prices.

Fort McDowell prime rib July 2014You will not see prices like these at the Westgate restaurants for very good reasons: sales tax and regulatory costs. You see, these restaurants have to collect federal, state, county and Glendale sales tax. The Glendale portion of the restaurant sales tax is 3.9%. When state and county taxes are added the total rate is 11.2%.What sales tax does the proposed Tohono O’odham casino with its planned restaurants pay? Nada…zip…nothing.

The icing on the cake is that the Glendale city council just voted to make the temporary sales tax increase permanent…just another stake in the hearts of these restaurants.

Add to the unlevel playing field of all kinds of taxes paid by businesses in Westgate the myriad of federal, state and local regulations with which these businesses must comply. It eats into Westgate businesses’ profits to do so. As a sovereign nation the TO is not required to comply with federal, state, county or local regulations. What regulatory costs does the proposed Tohono O’odham casino bear? Nada…zip…nothing.

TV Channel 5 weekly runs a “Dirty Dining” segment with recent results of inspections of restaurants in Maricopa County. Have you ever seen a Tribal restaurant inspection review? Of course not. Tribal reservations are not subject to these kinds of inspections. They are not subject to federal (OSHA), state, county or local health, safety and welfare regulations because they are a reservation and have sovereign immunity…consider the reservation as a foreign country planted within Glendale. A call placed to the Maricopa County Department of Environmental Services revealed that it has no jurisdiction over tribal restaurants and the Indian tribes regulate themselves. What regulations are there to protect the health, safety and welfare of the casino’s workers and patrons? Nada…zip…nothing.

What do you bet one of the very first elements the Tohono O’odham (TO) will build is paved parking lots. Why, you ask? So they can undercut parking prices for Cardinals games, hockey games and other non-sporting events held at Glendale’s arena, less than a mile away. Is there anything that can prevent the TO from offering cheap parking? Nada…zip…nothing.

I can see it now…shuttle busses packed to the gills disgorging seniors coming from the Sun Cities and Youngtown, spending their time playing bingo and the slots, then partaking of a buffet lunch or dinner before being whisked back to whence they came, never seeing the light of day at Westgate or Tanger Outlets.

Recently I received over the Indian gaming transom some  reliable estimates of what the proposed TO casino is projected to earn in revenue. The numbers are astounding. The numbers offered are not carved in stone but are reasonable estimates provided by people who would know within the industry. Estimates provided are that a new casino in Glendale would earn between six hundred million dollars and seven hundred million dollars a year in gross revenue.

It is estimated that the Tohono O’odham’s net will be half that amount (50%) or three hundred to three hundred and fifty million dollars a year. The net amount reflects the subtraction of all costs associated with O&M as well as an amount of 1% to 8% of the tribe’s gross gaming revenue to the state. To put that in some kind of perspective, it is estimated the TO will net a million dollars a day. Think about that…a million dollars a day.

Which leads to the question of why do the 32,000 members of the TO Nation average an income of $8,000 a year as Chairman Norris testified, under oath, before the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs this past week, “Most of our reservation land is located in remote isolated areas and our population is one of the poorest in the United States with average individual incomes of just over $8000.” The Tohono O’odham have 3 casinos operating in southern Arizona. Their website says, “The Desert Diamond Casino, owned and operated by the Tohono O’odham Nation, provides three exciting entertainment venues in Southern Arizona: Desert Diamond Casino (Nogales Highway), Desert Diamond Casino (I-19 & Pima Mine Rd) and Golden Ha:san Casino (Why, AZ).” It goes on to say, “The mission of the casinos is to provide the means for a better quality of life for Tohono O’odham Nation and all people in Southern Arizona.” If the TO are netting even a portion of these revenue estimates from its three southern Arizona casinos, why is part of the net not distributed to the Nation’s members by the Tribal leadership to reduce the poverty rates of its 32,000 members?        

It is widely known that 4 Glendale councilmembers directed staff to negotiate with the Tohono O’odham and the results will be discussed at their August 5, 2014 workshop. Rumor has it that the city council has negotiated something in the neighborhood of $100,000 from the TO. That’s got to be a joke. If it turns out to be true, once again, Glendale’s city council will get snookered…this time by the TO…all the while congratulating staff for their work and patting themselves on the back.

They should demand…not ask…demand a 5% payment of the Tohono O’odham’s annual net revenue earned by all of the development placed on that site. It has a nice ring to it, doesn’t it? What does 5% equal? How about $15,000,000 a year? Doesn’t that number sound familiar? It’s the same amount the city must pay annually to IceArizona under the management agreement. It would certainly go a long way to relieving the tremendous financial pressure the city faces annually as a result of that payment to IceArizona.

Are Glendale residents willing to sell their souls and bear yet another financial burden for not only a token payment but for the TO’s highly inflated numbers of temporary construction jobs and low-paying service industry jobs? Is this city council while pandering to a small number of extremely vocal residents that desperate and gullible? Is this the best that we can expect from our city council?

© 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.

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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