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Joyce Clark Unfiltered

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

© Joyce Clark, 2017        

FAIR USE NOTICE

This site contains copyrighted material the use of which is in accordance with Title 17 U.S. C., Section 107. The ‘fair use’ of any such copyrighted material as provided for in Section 107 of the US Copyright Law and who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. For more information material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. We are making such material available in our efforts to advance understanding of environmental, political, human rights, economic, democratic, scientific and social justice issues, etc. We believe this constitutes a ‘fair use’ of any such material. For more information go to http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/17/107.shtml. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond ‘fair use,’ you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.

It has been 18 years and 99 days since the city’s pledge to build the West Branch Library.

At the Glendale city council meeting of March 22, 2016 during Council Comments Sammy stated that he will request a review by council of its travel policy. And so the story of his questionable travel expenses lives on. If he thought announcing that he was requesting a review of the policy would put him on the right side of the issue he was wrong. Once someone in the public eye has committed a transgression it lives in the public eye forever. Sammy’s travel expenses are an election issue. They go to the character of the man and to his ability to make sound, ethical judgments.

Paul Giblin of the Arizona Republic has another story on Sammy’s travel out today, March 25, 2016. Here is the link: http://www.azcentral.com/story/news/local/glendale/2016/03/24/glendale-councilman-sammy-chavira-seeks-review-travel-policy/82181492/ .

In Giblin’s story there are quotes from a recent Chavira email and City Attorney Michael Bailey’s email response on the issue. Chavira emailed City Attorney Michael Bailey and City Manager Kevin Phelps saying, “I would appreciate if you confirm that I followed all the rules and regulations regarding my travel expenditures. Additionally I would appreciate it if you would confirm that I submitted all my receipts and appropriate paperwork.” Note Sammy’s choice in wording. He used the word “confirm.” Hmm…it’s pretty obvious that Sammy is seeking someone, anyone to provide cover for his ethically challenged travel expenditures.

Mr. Giblin received Public Information Requests not only for Sammy’s email but for City Attorney Michael Bailey’s response. Now it gets interesting.  Bailey noted that the council’s travel policy is lax as no prior approval is required by anyone and the councilmember has the responsibility to decide if an expense is reasonable. What appears reasonable to Sammy may not be reasonable to you or others.

Giblin quotes from Bailey’s email, “Noting the foregoing (council’s lax policy and the absence of any standard for reasonableness) and based upon the information I have been provided regarding travel expenditures, the information does not conclusively establish any unlawful expenditures or any expenditures in violation of council policy.” How is that for making sure Bailey has wiggle room? You have to especially like the use of the word “conclusively.”

Then there is the issue of lost receipts raised by Councilmember Turner. Council has no policy regarding how to handle them appropriately or to establish a cap on reimbursements made with no paperwork to confirm the amount being requested. Apparently Sammy was reimbursed for lost receipts as well.

It gets even better. Giblin asked former Fire Chief Mark Burdick, now a mayoral candidate, about the situation. Burdick’s answer? He thought Sammy used his personal credit card and had no idea that Sammy used the city’s credit card to pay for the infamous $420 dinner. Where is Burdick’s announcement that under those circumstances, he too, will reimburse the city personally? Where is Burdick’s statement on the propriety of a dinner that included one of his subordinate fire fighters, Glendale fire fighter Danny Valenzuela?  According to Giblin, Burdick goes on to request a citizen’s ethics commission to oversee councilmembers’ expenses. That idea may be a bit of overkill as a remedy but hey, Burdick’s got to distinguish himself from the incumbent mayor somehow. This is as good a way as any.

In Giblin’s online Arizona Republic story there are graphs and charts comparing the travel expenditures of all of the councilmembers. Note that the two highest spenders are Sammy and recalled Councilmember Gary Sherwood. It appears that both fancied themselves as high rollers. They were buddies. They often went on the same trips. They voted together on many high profile city issues. Many citizens believe that they might have traded votes. The most notable being Sherwood’s flip-flop on the casino issue voting in favor and Sammy’s flip-flop on the $15 million a year arena management contract to IceArizona voting in favor. Each of these men voted in direct opposition to their campaign promises to their voters.

The ethical action for Sammy would be to reimburse the city for his problematical travel expenditures. He can’t do that although he should. If he were to reimburse the city that is tantamount to an admission of wrong doing. Sammy has no choice but to continue his mantra of I did nothing wrong. We’ve all heard many politicians say the same only to have them end up in jail.

The problem for Sammy is twofold. This issue is not going to go away before the Primary Election on August 30, 2016 and it forever defines his ethics and character for the voters of the Yucca district. They are angry and disgusted to learn Sammy wasted nearly $25,000 of their hard earned tax dollars.

Sammy has never addressed the primary purpose of his trips. To all appearances his primary purpose was to have fun in Washington, D. C. on your money. His perceived secondary purpose was to throw in some sort of brief meeting on a city related topic to provide him with just enough cover to be considered legal. The primary purpose and secondary purpose of a trip on taxpayer money is the distinction that many are missing. If the primary purpose is conclusively for city business that is legitimate. Perhaps secondary, unrelated to city business, portions of trips should be paid by the individual.

The voters of the Yucca district are angry. Glendale city councilmembers should be angry as well. They made appropriate and ethical decisions regarding the primary purpose of their travel. Unfortunately the ethically-tainted brush being used on Sammy will be used on them. Sammy’s apparent unethical decisions have now called into question their decisions.

Sammy’s questionable ethics is a story that is not going to go away although he may on Primary Election Day.

© Joyce Clark, 2016

FAIR USE NOTICE

This site contains copyrighted material the use of which is in accordance with Title 17 U.S. C., Section 107. The ‘fair use’ of any such copyrighted material as provided for in Section 107 of the US Copyright Law and who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. For more information material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. We are making such material available in our efforts to advance understanding of environmental, political, human rights, economic, democratic, scientific and social justice issues, etc. We believe this constitutes a ‘fair use’ of any such material. For more information go to http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/17/107.shtml. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond ‘fair use,’ you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.

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