It has been 18 years and 25 days since the city’s pledge to build the West Branch Library.

Let’s talk about Glendale’s neighborhoods. Some are great. I live in a great neighborhood. Some Glendale residents do not live in a great neighborhood. Marginal neighborhoods are most generally to be found in Glendale’s Cactus, Ocotillo and Yucca districts…southeast, south and southwest.

When I was elected as the first Yucca district councilmember in 1992 (the first year of full implementation of the district system in Glendale) one of my very first actions was to invite the City Manager Dr. Vanacour, Assistant City Manager Pam Kavanaugh, and senior management (especially department directors) on a van tour of my district ending with a picnic lunch at O’Neil Park. I heard a lot of “oh mys” during the tour and when we reached O’Neil Park some needed to use its restrooms. I never saw so many people do such a quick about face opting to wait until they returned to City Hall.

My reason for this tour was that I recognized that while city resources had been used exclusively in north Glendale to support the development of the Arrowhead area it was done at the expense of the rest of the city. That figure has been pegged as north of $80 million dollars. I wanted Glendale’s senior management to refocus and to appreciate the desperate needs of some of Glendale’s oldest, long ignored neighborhoods.

Most people have heard, at one time or another, of the Broken Windows Theory.  Roughly it states that problems, if not dealt with as soon as they occur, become much worse. That is what was occurring not only in my district but in the Ocotillo and Cactus districts as well. I believed it was time for senior staff to redirect resources to stop the decay created by years of ignoring problems.

As a result of that tour then City Manager Dr. Vanacour and Assistant City Manager Kavanaugh championed my cause and developed plans to refocus on older neighborhoods. So was born the Neighborhood Partnership Program including Neighborhood Partnership Grants. It was not all that I envisioned but it was a start and committed the city’s agenda to redressing conditions in distressed neighborhoods.

As a councilmember I was often the bane of existence for the city’s Code Compliance Department. It was not uncommon for me to drive around neighborhoods making lists of code violations. I often took my council assistant with me so that she could write down addresses and violations at a jackhammer pace. I would turn my lists into Code Compliance and request periodic reports on the disposition of violations. I took the time to ride herd on the department and to require accountability.

Are there any current councilmembers that do this kind of proactive work in their district neighborhoods? I suspect not. There is a new breed of councilmember these days. At workshops and council meetings a smattering of questions sometimes surface but they are superficial at best. Once in awhile a genuinely insightful question will surface, usually from Councilmembers Turner, Tolmachoff or now, Malnar. Councilmembers Aldama’s and Chavira’s shtick is to thank everybody and his brother for everything. Vice Mayor Hugh and Mayor Weiers are often silent. Do any bother to research or do their homework on issues coming before them? Probably not…unless it’s a major public issue like the billboard controversy. Do they have neighborhood meetings…not once or twice a year district meetings but neighborhood meetings of 15, 20 people from a neighborhood where city issues are explained and neighborhood problems emerge? Probably not.

Genuine service to the community seems to be a thing of the past and when it is requested it is performed by a council assistant…not a councilmember. One of Councilmember Aldama’s constituents has been sharing the problems of her older neighborhood with me for the past year. She requested Aldama’s assistance. He was non-responsive and passed her off to others. When she directly requested assistance from Code Compliance she finally received some help. Was it all that she expected? No but it was a start. If Aldama had taken the time to intervene the assistance she received might have been even more robust.

This new crop of council assistants have no historical memory of Glendale, may not even live in our community and seem to have no investment in working with neighborhoods. Their focus seems to be political rather than service oriented.

We appear to have a council that attends requisite meetings and generally accepts all recommendations from staff; attends ribbon cuttings and events; goes to League of Cities and Towns meetings; and remains distant from the residents they serve.

The city also had a scalloped street program that used resources to finish partial streets and to add curb, gutter and sidewalks in areas where the streets had been ignored for years. Then the Great National Recession hit and all disappeared…the scalloped streets program, the Neighborhood grants program and the Neighborhood Partnership Program became toothless. Neighborhoods are once again ignored in the city’s quest to regain financial stability. That is understandable…to a point. Now the city is on the road to economic recovery. While the focus is on Glendale’s finances it can no longer be used as a rationale to ignore the basic issues confronting neighborhoods. I challenge senior staff and the city council to once again make neighborhoods a priority. Remember Broken Windows. If a problem in a neighborhood is ignored it will only get worse. Any city, even Glendale, is only as great as its meanest neighborhoods. Ignore them at your peril.

© Joyce Clark, 2016


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