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Joyce Clark Unfiltered

For "the rest of the story"

AS THE BIGGEST SPENDER WE BEGIN WITH CHAVIRA

Chavira photo

Sammy Chavira

We start with Councilmember Chavira who, in 6 months, spent $27,748.18 and is the biggest spender on council. The six district councilmembers have 2 distinct budgets. These budgets do not include staff salaries or office operations (the mayor’s budget does include these items).

One budget will be identified as “Communications” and is for outreach to district residents and totals $15,000 a year. Its purpose is to allow the councilmember to hold district meetings, neighborhood meetings and to publish a district newsletter, if he/she so chooses. It is fortunate having been a councilmember there is personal knowledge with which to make some comparisons. I used the “communications” budget to mail a spring and fall district newsletter to every household in my district for I knew that not all households in my district were connected to the internet. Currently the only other source of district information is an electronic newsletter via the internet and the resident must sign up for it. This funding source was also used to rent space for district meetings and to provide refreshments for the attendees. Those two major activities would consume nearly all of the funds available in this budget.

The councilmembers’ other budget will be identified as“Infrastructure” and is used for physical improvement projects within the councilmember’s district and totals $18,000 annually. Typically it is used for those items that do not make it into the city budget because there is no available funding source. Examples of its use are district park improvements and physical improvements to a specific neighborhood. I have also used this funding source for pilot projects. The two most notable are a pilot project to put up mid-block identification signage for vehicular traffic. The white street identification signs seen as you approach an intersection in your vehicle began as my pilot project. It was later adopted throughout the city. Another pilot project was the purchase of E-readers for loan to district residents. After the project concluded I donated the E-readers to the city libraries and my project provided the impetus for the city’s library system to loan out E-readers to all library users.

My travel expenses were limited. As the National League President’s appointed Arizona representative to the National League of Cities Public Safety and Crime Prevention (PSCP) Policy Committee I attended 2 mandatory policy development meetings a year. I did not consistently attend the annual National or State League of Cities conventions. Those trips were paid from the “Communications” budget. Since 80% of that budget was consumed by district resident outreach I was very selective about travel.

money 4Chavira appears to have a very different philosophy with regard to the spending from these two budgets.  He did spend $7,000 (25%)on park benches for the Western Area Regional Park but his major priorities (40% of his 6 months of expenditures) are a donation to a for-profit corporation and travel. In March, 2013 Chavira attended the 4-day National League of Cities (NLC) Congressional City Conference. Directly attributable to his budget, he spent $2,507.28 on airfare, meals, lodging, registration, etc. Ah, but there’s more. Mayor Weiers and Councilmember Sherwood also attended. All three gentlemen were staffed by Brent Stoddard, Glendale’s Intergovernmental Program Director.  Stoddard’s total travel costs for that conference were $4,568.94. Stoddard’s expenses often include the cost of cab fare, dinners, etc. for elected officials. That expense, divided 4 ways among Stoddard and the three men he staffed, adds another indirect $1,142.23 to Chavira’s direct expense of $2507.28 for that March conference for a total of $3,649.51. That figure averages nearly $1000 a day ($912.38). Sammy spent 10% of his total 6 months worth of expenditures on one trip.

money 3Even more incredibly this past June Sammy gave $8,000 of your taxpayer dollars (29% of the $27K spent) to the Arizona Melon Festival LLC, a for-profit corporation, to host the Arizona Watermelon Festival in downtown Glendale on June 8, 2013. Now it gets interesting. The organizers of the event were the Arizona Melon Festival, LLC; AZ Culture; and the City of Glendale. The sponsors were Coors Light (Beer Garden area); G Farms (donated all of the watermelons); AZ Weekly (small independent entertainment magazine); TSO Apparel (small embroidery business); Southwest Ambulance; the City of Glendale; and the West Valley Resort (the Tohono O’odham’s proposed casino whose project the City of Glendale legally opposes). The relationships of some of these organizations’ principals are interesting to note. In a future blog you will see that Councilmember Alvarez gave $3,000 to the Arizona Melon Festival, LLC. and another $3,000 to Jivemind as well.

Who are the owners of the Arizona Melon Festival, LLC?

  • Its statutory agent is Dustin Chaffin of Jivemind (the city rents this property at below market rate to Jivemind — former site of the bead museum. Go to http://www.glendaleaz.com/Clerk/Contracts/7901.pdf for its rental contract).
  • Gabriel Bey, of AZ Culture
  • Lulu Rodriguez of Bitzee Mama’s
  • Linda Moran-Whittley of Papa Ed’s Ice Cream
  • Jeff Rose of Jivemind
  • Danica Coral of the Pink House

If this festival earned any profit those proceeds would go to the people listed above. The sponsorship of Southwest Ambulance is not surprising. Martin Nowakowski, its Community Relations Director, happens to be a close friend of both Chavira and Alvarez and avidly supported both in their election bids. So did the Tohono O’odham (TO). They not only bore the cost of political campaign mailers endorsing them but solicited campaign contributions.  Yet the city is fending off the proposed TO casino. How embarrassing for the city to be intimately associated with the TO as a sponsor of this newly created, for-profit festival.

money 1At least 40% of Chavira’s 6 months worth of expenditures went for a trip to Washington, D.C. and to assist a for-profit corporation in their production of a new downtown event. And let’s not forget the $75 a month that you, the taxpayer, pay for his monthly cell phone. It is more than ironic that in Sammy’s campaign literature mailed to voters in October, 2012 he said, “Glendale is in fiscal danger and Sam is coming to help.” Was this the kind of help you expected? Or how about this from another campaign mailer, “Sammy is running to fix the budget and save Glendale.” Somehow or another, spending $8,000 on a festival doesn’t seem like the right road to fixing Glendale’s budget or saving Glendale.  Next up will be Councilmembers Alvarez and Hugh with positions #2 and #3 as Big Spenders.

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THE TEASER

This, for those of you not in the media business, is called a “teaser.” Over the coming weeks each councilmember’s budgetary spending will be explored for the past 6 months, from January 15, 2013 when 4 new members took office, to June 30, 2013, the end of Fiscal Year 2013.

greed 1Here is the roster of spending from the highest to the lowest for the last 6 months of Fiscal Year 13:

  • Councilmember Chavira, Yucca district…….$27,748.18
  • Councilmember Alvarez, Ocotillo district ….$26,151.34
  • Councilmember Hugh, Cactus district………$19,711.12
  • Mayor Weiers…………………………………………….$14,041.33
  • Councilmember Sherwood, Sahuaro district..$11,516,89
  • Councilmember Martinez, Cholla district……$  7,717.47
  • Vice Mayor Knaack, Barrel district……………$  3,672.29

Why did Councilmember Chavira spend 7 ½ times the money spent by Vice Mayor Knaack? These are your taxpayer dollars. Is your district representative practicing fiscal restraint at a time when the city has fiscal problems?

Check back over the coming weeks as each councilmember’s budget is reviewed. The answers are revealing.

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Below is a verbatim transcript of the Bettman press conference. I prefer to personally hear what is being said about important issues and to make my own verbatim transcript for reference. I did this often when I was on city council and made verbatim transcripts of the former mayor’s remarks as well as staffers and other councilmembers.

It begins with the end of Commissioner Bettman’s opening remarks. I have only transcribed those portions of the press conference relevant to the Coyotes issue but I have inserted time markers for unrelated reporters’ questions. The video is posted on many sites. I pulled it from the Coyotes team website.

Bettman

NHL Commissioner
Gary Bettman

Gary Bettman (GB): “Phoenix. No doubt we’ll get a question. Obviously, we’re getting to the point where some decisions are going to have to be made both by the City of Glendale and by us. I haven’t set a deadline but time is getting shorter. We’re looking forward to realignment for next season. We’re looking forward to the future. But as we look back on this season and take a deep breath before we look ahead to the Stanley Cup Final and then to next season, we find ourselves in a good, strong place. And we’re grateful to be there. And we’re grateful to be here with all of you. So, we’ll take your questions.”

4:55 Reporter question 1 (RQ 1):  What preparations for stormy weather in Chicago?

6:20 RQ 2: Why is Olympic process dragging on so long?

7:52 RQ 3: Question about realignment, names of conferences, etc.

RQ 4: “Bill, you mentioned that Phoenix somewhat impacts the schedule being released. Does that mean or suggest the team won’t be playing there next year?”

Daly

Deputy NHL Commissioner
Bill Daly

Bill Daly (BD): Yes. It’s certainly possible the team won’t play there next year. Look at the short strokes in Phoenix now. The ownership group we’ve negotiated a deal with has been negotiating with the City of Glendale. I think everybody knows kinda what’s on the table. I think the puck is pretty much in the City of Glendale’s end with respect to how they want to deal with that.”

RQ 5: “Just to go a little further on Phoenix. Time is short. How much time do you have left? Why not have a deadline at some point?”

GB: “No reason to. It’s been a complicated process. In our minds understand that we’re dealing with a time frame. But a specific day isn’t going to do it but time is getting short and as Bill said, this is really going to be a decision that the City of Glendale is going to have to make.”

9:27 RQ 6: Stanley Cup questions

RQ 7: “Bill or Gary, I’m sure you have a Plan B or even a Plan C for Phoenix. But if they’re not playing in Phoenix next year will Quebec City, might be a Plan B or Plan C for the league?”

GB: We’re still focused on making it work with the Coyotes staying in Arizona. I don’t wanna begin a process, particularly publicly, with, where there’s gonna be a lot of speculation where the team might go, if it moved because all that would do would be to unfairly raise expectation in places and I don’t want to do that to fans in these communities. So we’re just going to leave it that we’re still focused on the Coyotes in Arizona.”

10:52 RQ 8: how were revenue earnings in a shortened season?

11:21 RQ 9: officiating during the play offs

13:38 RQ 10: Original 6 final game?

14:42 RQ 11: despite loss of 42% of season is NHL impenetrable?

16:53 RQ 12: low scoring in playoff games

RQ 13: “Does the Phoenix issue affect realignment at all especially if they have to move somewhere?”

GB: “Since one’s hope is that they’re going to stay where they are it shouldn’t and if the team is forced to relocate then we’ll have a look at it and make a decision as to whether or not it is impacted.”

18:19 RQ 14: concessions

19:51 RQ 15: after lockout will there be better revenues in the future?

RQ 16: “Two questions on Phoenix that perhaps Bill could answer. If we understand that you’ve got an ownership in place who will only take control of the team once the city council of Glendale strikes a deal, it seems that we’re working off a timeline that is controlled by the city council of Glendale. Is that correct?”

GB: “No. I’ll answer the question. The answer is no. At some point we’re going to have to make a decision.”

BD: “In other words, delay could be a no decision. Or no decision could be a decision in this case. So they understand. There’s no misunderstanding with respect to when our time table is vis a vis the city of Glendale. They know what our decision time line is and what are the decisions we have to make. There’s no misunderstanding on the parties.”

RQ 17: “You’ve spoken of keeping the team there and relocation. Does a third option of having the franchise in hiatus exist?”

GB: “There are a myriad of options and we’re not prepared to engage in speculation as to what the optionality (sic) is. The focus, at least for the time being, remains on having the Coyotes in Arizona. Obviously, we’ll have lots of choices, options and decisions and at the time, if we get to that point, and hopefully we won’t, then we’ll focus on which one is the best.”

21:40 RQ 18:  has a series with two of original 6 teams been achieved?

22:44 RQ 19: results of investigation into deaths of 2 NHL players

RQ 20: “Do you need a decision on Phoenix by the Board of Governors’ meeting on June 27th?”

GB: “Maybe. Are you trying to get me to set a deadline?”

RQ 21: “I’m just curious.”

GB: Listen. There’s a Board of Governors meeting on the 27th. There’s a city council meeting on June 28th.”

BD: “June 25th.”

GB: “I’m sorry. June 25th. Stuff’s gonna happen.”

24:10 RQ 22: world cup hockey

RQ 23: “Gary, question #15 on the Coyotes, if I may. You mentioned that you don’t want to make expectations in other places. Are there that many markets out there available that you could turn around and go to?”

GB: “There are a number of markets that have been expressing an interest to us over the years and the phone keeps ringing more regularly the longer that the Coyotes situation stays unresolved and based on the dates we just happened to talk about with the previous question, it’s causing the phone to ring even more.”

26:01 RQ 24: will acrimony of lockout be present and will GB present Stanley Cup?

26:28 RQ 25: will players participate in future world championship?

RQ 26: “If the phone is ringing about interest from other markets why is Phoenix still the best option for the NHL and can the franchise not just survive but thrive with new ownership?”

nealy

Mike Nealy

Maloney

Don Maloney

GB: “That’s a great question. So let me answer it in two parts. The first is, we try to avoid franchise relocation. We try to do everything possible. We don’t think it’s fair to fans and we don’t think it’s fair unless you have to move, to do it to communities that build you buildings. And so we’re not going to get involved in a bake-off where we’re gonna say, you know, we’d rather be here than there. We’re gonna try to preserve what’s in place. That’s what we’ve always done even when it’s resulted previously in franchise relocation. That only happens when we’ve exhausted all possibilities. We’ve now operated this club for about three years indirectly. We’ve had ownership of it. We’ve had great support by the people on the ground doing there. Mike Nealy and Donny Maloney in particular, have done a particularly strong job. We actually believe that if you gave the community an owner, not the league, who said, I’m committed to being here, this franchise could actively be successful from a business standpoint. We’ve seen what the fan base will do with all the uncertainty. We understand the dynamics from the business community and the broadcasters and the media and the people who buy suites and naming rights and all that stuff. If there was certainty surrounding this franchise its fortunes would improve dramatically and immediately just by virtue of putting in a real owner.”

BD: “No matter how this plays out I don’t think anybody can accuse us of a kind of grass is greener type approach to this. We’ve been committed to this market. We’ve done everything humanly possible to make this franchise work in this market. And now’s the time we’re gonna find out if that works.”

Glendale City Council

Glendale City Council

GB: “And again, when the obligation that we take so seriously, it starts with the fans and the community but for those of you who have been to the arena in Glendale, you know, I worry about what’s gonna happen to the arena if the team isn’t there. I think it’s likely to get boarded up because they’re not gonna have enough events to sustain it. I worry about what happens to Westgate and all the businesses and people who are employed there. I worry about the impact it may have on the football stadium, having a situation on its front steps that may not be ideal anymore and so we’re taking, we’ve taken all of those things into account over the last three years as we’ve tried to make it work. That’s why ultimately it’s up to the City of Glendale to make the decision that they think is in the best interest of their constituents and whatever they decide, we’ll abide by but ultimately whether or not this team stays at this point is their call.”

END OF PRESS CONFERENCE

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convention 2Wow! It’s difficult to summarize the 2 1/2 hour, April 2, 2013, Glendale city council workshop into about 1,500 words – but here goes. First up was the city’s Intergovernmental Director, Brent Stoddard, reporting on HB 2657 before the state legislature.  In a nutshell, cities can support 7 provisions of the bill but 3 provisions are in dispute with the state.  The legislature wants the state Department of Revenue (DOR) to collect all sales taxes from all cities in the state. Currently Glendale and 17 others collect their sales taxes, report and remit the state’s portion to the state. Guess the state doesn’t trust those cities. The cities have countered with a proposal to offer a one-stop portal through a third party that would be managed by the DOR. I guess the state doesn’t trust cities to audit businesses either and want to take over that function exclusively as well. The cities have proposed the creation of uniform auditing standards; and the ability to request of and notify the DOR so that a city could still perform the audit. Lastly, the issue of dreaded construction sales tax issue was discussed. It appears that both sides, the state and the cities, are miles apart on this one. No resolution to be had as of this date. Stay tuned for the next chapter on this issue.

Chavira photo

Sam Chavira

Next up was the Police department presentation by Interim Chief Black. Our fearless leader of and advocate for all things Public Safety Councilmember Chavira asked, if the department was adequately staffed to protect residents and keep officers safe. After winnowing through all of the rhetoric, Chief Black reluctantly said, yes by saying, “we are meeting the needs of the community as best we can with the allocated funding.” How’s that for threading the needle?

Chief Black and her department are to be commended for their innovation and creativity. As a result of their reorganization efforts patrol staffing will go from 166 to 182 officers, increasing an officer’s pro-active patrol time from a low of 11 minutes to about 16 minutes per hour. That is phenomenal considering Glendale’s current financial position.  Their adoption of a new CAD system this fall will include an automated vehicle locator on all patrol cars enabling the dispatcher to send the closest available unit. This new system will create fuel cost savings and reduce response times.

Norma Alvarez

Norma Alvarez

Naturally, Councilmember Alvarez admitted that she didn’t understand all the numbers and “stuff.” Based upon her Ouija board, she KNOWS that the city’s residents are not well protected, especially in south Glendale, the area in which she lives and which she represents. The heck with the entire city. She went on to say that she didn’t want Chief Black to be a good employee and to work within the city’s fiscal constraints. Alvarez also said “we have to put more officers out there” and we can take dollars from programs that are a luxury. It will be interesting to see what she defines as a luxury.

There was a lot of discussion about the 8 police zones into which the city is currently configured. It seems no one on council could wrap their heads around this concept. What was not communicated is that all zones are not created equally, at least in size. Their dimensions are based on the number of calls for service as well as what makes sense geographically for patrol and response times. The more calls for service in an area, the smaller the zone gets.

Knaack

Yvonne Knaack

Vice Mayor Knaack then said the level of police staffing was “unacceptable.” By whose or what definition?  I guess the fact that our police department in July, 2012, was re-accredited by the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement (CALEA) once again and for the first time was awarded the Gold Standard doesn’t mean anything and can be ignored. Really? When pressed by Knaack, Chief Black indicated it would be nice to be at fully authorized strength by adding another 31 officers. Bingo. Yet the police department has $7M as contingency in their public safety sales tax fund. I, like Vice Mayor Knaack, remember distinctly that one of the purposes of this public safety sales tax was to hire more officers.

Fire Chief Burdick’s presentation was interesting for what he said but also for what he did not say. The fire department still holds to a 4 person staffing model on all of its engine and ladder trucks and one is a firefighter/paramedic on each truck. Four men on a truck to answer fire calls is necessary to meet OSHA’s 2-in-2-out law. That mandate makes sense. That means for a working fire, while 2 firefighters are in a building, there are 2 on the outside to make rescue if necessary. Perfectly logical for working fire service calls. True, the number of working fires has increased by 26% due to automatic aid. Are all of those working fires in Glendale? Probably not.

The vast majority of calls are medical (estimate is that they are at least 80% of all calls for service) requiring either advanced life support or basic life support. Why doesn’t the city have smaller vehicles staffed with paramedics?  When a fire unit is dispatched it is told what kind of call to which it is going to respond. Smaller vehicles used for medical calls would be more fuel efficient and cost less to operate and maintain and would not require 4 man units. Or perhaps a medical transport vehicle with 2 Glendale paramedics on board should be sent. There has to be a better, more cost efficient way to respond to medical calls than sending a very big and very expensive fire truck.

Weiers

Jerry Weiers

Mayor Weiers did ask about automatic aid and what was the ratio of calls between Phoenix and Glendale and Peoria and Glendale.  Bravo. Not surprisingly, Chief Burdick didn’t have that information and said he would provide it. This is typical of staff when there is a question that they would rather not answer publicly.  Usually it’s because the answer doesn’t advance their cause. Weiers did bring up another suggestion, the use of an LPN in answering medical calls. The LPN could write prescriptions and make a determination if medical transport was needed.  That idea met with a great deal of resistance by Chief Burdick despite his admission that it is a model being used in Mesa. It could very well be an idea whose time has come. Using a truck that gets 5 miles to the gallon with 4 firefighters/paramedic is no longer cost effective at a time when the majority of calls for service are medical.

Chief Burdick, after this annoying interruption with questions of fact, was then asked by Councilmember Chavira if the department was adequately staffed and if firefighters were safe. Once again, cutting through the rhetoric, his answer was, yes today, quickly followed by a need to address excessive call volume. Whose? Those of Glendale residents? Phoenix residents? Peoria residents? We don’t know because that information was not provided.

Vice Mayor Knaack cut to chase and asked what he needed. Immediately the chief responded with another 15 firefighters and another truck ($650,000 price tag but would pay $65K a year in a lease back). Bingo.

greed 1The councilmembers’ questions certainly fed both departments’ agendas of “gimme more.” And why wouldn’t they? Look at some facts. In the last election cycle both unions, police and fire, supported Weiers, Sherwood, Hugh and Chavira. Vice Mayor Knaack and Councilmember Martinez received the same healthy union support in their last reelection bid in 2010. The police union was a minor player in both elections not having the same political war chest or available personnel as the fire union. The fire union, on the other hand, made sure there were cash contributions by individual, non-Glendale, firefighters to their campaigns, paid for printing and mailing campaign literature and paid for and put up campaign signs for these very same people now deciding to beef up these departments-because staffing levels are “unacceptable.” There is nothing illegal about any of these actions. It’s Politics 101 but it doesn’t serve, you, the taxpayer very well. Perhaps the parks and recreation people or the finance people need a union to level the playing field.

Sherwood

Gary Sherwood

Under Council Items of Special Interest, Councilmember Sherwood called for starting a search for a permanent City Attorney. What was truly mind-boggling was Councilmember Alvarez’ request that the City submit grant applications to the Tohono O’odham tribe for Public Safety dollars. What about we are still in litigation with the TO doesn’t she understand? When one is in a legally adversarial position with another, one does not ask for handouts from his adversary. She also thinks the city is mean and nasty because it owns the web page for the West Valley Resort and the TO has to pay the city annually for the right to use it. It is true. Congratulations to the city for pulling such a wonderfully, snarky yet brilliant move.

Council then adjourned into Executive session. Topics up for discussion: external audit, arena RFP, compensation for departing City Attorney and compensation for the new Interim City Manager. I suspect we will find out the results in a day or two.

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