It has been 17 years and 182 days since the city’s pledge to build the West Branch Library.
Is the current recall effort by Glendale First! justified? It depends. If you are an avid hockey fan it is. Glendale First! is sponsoring two recently formed political committees, Recall Bart Turner and Recall Lauren Tolmachoff. The Recall Lauren Tolmachoff Committee is being led by Bill and Jennifer Eikost, Cholla district residents. I know them personally. They are friends and remain as friends even though I vehemently disagree with their current action. The Recall Bart Turner Committee is being led by Ben Shroyer and Paul Miller, Barrell district residents. All of these folks are not only hockey fans but some of them are season ticket holders. There is nothing wrong with that. However their current actions need to be viewed in the context of keeping hockey in Glendale’s arena by any manner and at any cost.
Glendale First! has had little success so far seeking individuals from the Cactus and Ocotillo districts to form political committees to recall Vice Mayor Ian Hugh and Councilmember Aldama as well. These districts tend to have lower socio-economic demographics and Glendale service cuts are viewed as being caused by the expense of the hockey lease contract.
This avid hockey fan group is angry with a city council that voted 5-2 to cancel a contract that requires payment of $15M annually as part of a lease management agreement for Glendale’s arena with IceArizona. But mounting a recall because they are mad about the contract cancellation won’t get them very far in Glendale as a majority of Glendale’s residents support the action. Strategically they needed another reason for the recall. What better diversion than to conveniently claim mismanagement of Glendale’s revenues by the mayor and only the 4 councilmembers that voted to cancel the contract.
So what exactly is the basis for Glendale First’s! allegation of council fiscal mismanagement? We have to go back a bit. The state legislature passed SB 1609 which made substantial changes to the Public Safety Public Retirement System (PSPRS) as it went into effect in June of 2011. Subsequently SB 1609 was challenged in Superior Court with a ruling in January of 2015 rolling back specific provisions within SB1609. The result is that Glendale (as well as all other participating cities) can expect additional expense per year to the PSPRC of an estimated $4 million (amount varies by city) and it takes effect in Fiscal Year 2016-17.
There were two options available to the city to deal with the increased expense to the PSPRS. One option was to pay as little as possible into the fund initially but it would require higher contributions in future years. The other option was to bite the bullet, add an additional $3.5 million as Glendale’s payment in Fiscal Year 2015-16. This would allow Glendale to increase its fund status (put more money in its PSPRC bank) and result in lower annual contributions in future years. Council’s policy decision was to choose the option of putting $3.5 million into the fund now. It was a prudent decision. It resulted in $3.5 million of General Fund dollars going to shore up Glendale’s PSPRC account.
Glendale First!, aided and abetted by the Glendale fire union, then accused the city council of mismanagement by not using that $3.5M of General Fund revenues for public safety. Apparently they don’t care about the city’s bond ratings and the fact that the bond agencies base part of their ratings on the cushion (contingency) a city has in reserve.
The fire union was not happy with the council’s decision for it wanted the $3.5 million dollars allocated to the fire department now. Hence we saw the media stories planted by the fire union claiming that its response times were alarming and a threat to public safety equal to that of a nuclear bomb. Keep in mind fire response times according to newly retired Fire Chief Burdick have remained at the same level over the past 5 years. The unacknowledged part of Glendale fire’s problem is that it is responding to more uncompensated calls outside of the city than ever before due to automatic aid. Therefore the closer Glendale fire units are not available partly resulting in extended response times. ( See earlier Automatic Aid, Parts 1-3 blogs)
The fire union and Glendale First! seem to have joined forces once again. They have a history of having worked together on previous Glendale issues. They worked together to insure the passage and retention of the temporary sales tax (now permanent).
This is from a former edition of the Glendale First! website: “Glendale First! is a grassroots citizen action group that was originally formed in 2012 as a political action committee in opposition to a referendum (R-12-01) that would have resulted in the Phoenix Coyotes leaving Glendale.” It went on to say, “Now that a long term arena management agreement is in place and the future of Westgate and the Coyotes is assured, it’s time to expand our efforts in Glendale. One can clearly see that Glendale First’s! agenda is in keeping the Coyotes in Glendale.
“The concerted efforts of Glendale First! were instrumental in defeating three referendums aimed at disallowing arena management use agreements between the City of Glendale and various parties. We were also deeply involved in opposition of the Proposition 457 ballot measure.”
The agenda of keeping hockey in Glendale cost money. It appears that Bea Wyatt and her partner, George Fallar, expended as much as $11,000 of their personal funds, over time, to keep hockey in Glendale.
Despite those who are on the paperwork for each recall committee the two most visible spokespersons for this effort have been Bea Wyatt and Larry Feiner. Both are principals in the Glendale First! organization and in the Desert Hockey Development organization. Both have been quoted in the media and have participated in radio interviews. They are now public figures and as public figures if there are skeletons in either person’s closet they are sure to be discovered as in the case of Larry Feiner.
Mismanagement of Glendale’s money? I’m sure Mr. Feiner has heard the old adage, “people who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones.” Because when it comes to mismanagement of money I’m not certain he is a position to throw stones. Mr. Feiner’s financial track record isn’t one that any person or institution should emulate.
I received an email recently advising me to go to this site. To my surprise this is what I found following this link: http://recorder.maricopa.gov/recdocdata/GetRecDataPaging.aspx?biz1=&biz2=&fn1=Lawrence&mn1=&ln1=Feiner&fn2=&mn2=&ln2=&begdt=1/1/1947&enddt=6/30/2015&doc1=&doc2=&doc3=&doc4=&doc5= Mr. Feiner owed property taxes for the years 2006 – 2010 in the amount of $11,041.54. Those taxes were recorded as paid by the Maricopa County Recorder and the property liens released on March 3, 2011.
It’s a little different with Mr. Feiner’s federal income taxes however. Apparently he owes Uncle Sam $169,072.70 and there is no record of payment filed as of this date available on the Maricopa County Recorder’s website. Perhaps Mr. Feiner was not Glendale First’s! finest choice as a spokesperson to allege mismanagement of money.
On the same former edition of Glendale First’s! website it goes on to say, “Glendale First! and it’s members remain extremely active in the community, including founding the Desert Hockey Development organization pledged to give back to Glendale while growing the sport of hockey.”
“We are planning a series of fundraising events to, hopefully, retire the debt the committee incurred during the successful opposition to all of the anti-Coyotes referendums. We are proud to be a partner of Desert hockey Development in their inaugural Grow The Game Classic golf tournament to be held June 14, in Glendale, at The Legend at Arrowhead.”
One may assume that the debt the committee incurred in opposition to anti-Coyote efforts was in part, an estimated $11,000 personally spent by Bea Wyatt and George Fallar. It may be fair to ask how much of the money raised from this golf tournament went to reimburse Fallar and Wyatt. If they did receive reimbursement from a golf tournament primarily publicized as a fund raising event for Desert Hockey Development didn’t they, in essence, do the very same thing that Bea Wyatt has accused the 2 councilmembers under threat of recall of doing? Instead of using all of the funds raised for Desert Hockey from the golf tournament was part of that money used to retire previous debts including that of George Fallar and Bea Wyatt? Are we witnesses of the case of the pots (Feiner and Wyatt) calling the kettle (councilmembers) black??
© Joyce Clark, 2015
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