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Joyce Clark Unfiltered

For "the rest of the story"

Recently the Glendale Star ran an article about the “great fire truck mess.” Here’s the link: http://www.glendalestar.com/news/article_43959c72-8cf1-11e3-ace9-0019bb2963f4.html .

In one of my recent blogs, “Choices…so many choices,” we learned the proposal to be ratified by council was to buy a new fire truck for more money ($484K) than was granted ($424K) for the purchase and was pulled from the agenda. The reason for its removal was due to public comment offered by two gentlemen representing Freightliner of Arizona who reported on the RFP process and gave examples of why it was flawed. The City Manager, Brenda Fischer, always on top of every issue, indicated that she wanted to learn more and it would either come back to council as presented or a new RFP would be conducted. The Star reported that Fischer would be issuing a new RFP. How’s that for a demonstration of Fischer’s being on top of the very issues approved by the City Manager to go before council? She ought to be embarrassed.

However, the more interesting part of the story is what happened AFTER the council meeting. Fire Chief Mark Burdick confronted the two men, Freightliner’s Attorney Evans and Freightliner’s General Manager, Tim Noeding.

Burdick told Noeding that he was “shocked” that Noeding went public with his complaints about the RFP process and Burdick thought it was “unfair” because Noeding’s “side of the story” got out publicly first. Noeding shot back with perhaps Burdick needed to look at his people and their level of performance in handling the RFP process.

Good for Mr. Noeding. Too often the Glendale system is to try to waylay those who have a grievance, schmooze with them privately and then send them packing – all the while, they leave scratching their heads, wondering what had happened. It is a time-honored Glendale strategy used to prevent any negative from becoming public.

It raises some rather interesting questions, however. Who is running the Glendale Fire Department? The Fire Chief or the Fire Union? For many years it was John Holland, President of the Glendale chapter of the Fire Union. He was the power broker and if anyone wanted anything done they went to him. Alas, Holland was under investigation after having been caught with his hand in the Union cookie jar. Strangely, but not unexpectedly, nothing ever came of that investigation. It seems to have been buried deep within the bowels of the Union, never to surface again after Holland went quietly into the night. Others have assumed Holland’s mantle and may have just as much power.

In one of my many conversations had with the Fire Chief over the years, when questioned about certain policies and practices, he would shrug and refer to some concession the Union had been granted that allowed the policy or practice.

In some ways Chief Burdick’s hands are tied, especially in his efforts to control the fire department budget. It has become more and more difficult as the Union continues to stave off questions about overtime, the use of 4-man trucks or the use of big, expensive trucks answering medical calls which make up nearly 80% of the department’s Calls for Service. If those are sacred cows then Burdick must get a handle on his departmental budget and make cuts in other areas. It’s time for Burdick to manage more effectively and just like the City Manager, be knowledgeable about his employees’ decisions and actions. He and the City Manager should not be the last to know but rather the very first to know.

In other news, congratulations to Jerry McCoy on his promotion to Executive Director of Communications and Marketing. It is well earned and well deserved. But wait, you say, isn’t that Julie Frisoni’s position? Well, yes it is but apparently not any longer. It’s the signal that Fischer is about to make Frisoni permanent as Assistant City Manager, despite the fact that Frisoni does not meet Human Resources defined qualifications for the position.  But that’s just a minor roadblock. Fischer can certainly order Jim Brown, Executive Director of Human Resources, to change or modify the qualifications for the position. Hmmm…I thought the City was removing all those pesky Executive Director titles. Keep in mind, Frisoni was part of the former City Manager Ed Beasley’s “inner circle.” She knows where all the bodies are buried and may have even helped to bury some. Yet when faced with ethical issues such as former City Attorney Craig Tindall’s alleged email solicitation on a city computer for tax deductible tuition donations for his son she said nary a word. What exactly are her ethical standards? After all, she probably advised Beasley on how to handle the Alma Carmichael debacle when it became public knowledge.

I haven’t even commented on the February 4, 2013 city council budget workshop or regular workshop yet. It will just have to wait for the next edition of the blog. Burdick’s show of outrage was just too good to pass up.

© 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.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014 was the regular city council meeting…and I had choices, so many choices. Go to a Coyotes game vs. the LA Kings, watch the President’s State of the Union speech or watch the Glendale city council meeting. Hands down, no doubt about my choice. I chose to go to the game and what a game it was! It was the Coyotes of old. They played with consistency, passion and fire. They couldn’t help but win, 3-0, with that kind of play. It reminded me of the very first games I attended several years ago. I hope the Coyotes are back.

The council meeting had two hot topics: the purchase of a fire truck and the move to move public comment to the end of the meeting and limit speech from 5 minutes to 3 minutes.

The fire truck issue arose when Andy Evans, an attorney for Frank Leonard, owner of the country’s second largest vendor, spoke during Public Comment. Both gentlemen alleged that the city’s procurement process was flawed and that different specifications were provided to different vendors. The budget for the new fire truck was $425K yet the final purchase rose to $486K. Hmmm…something is rotten in Denmark. Did fire make sure a crony received the contract? City Manager Brenda Fischer pulled the item from the agenda and said she had questions. Based upon the information provided to her she would either bring the item back or start over. As City Manager she should have had information about this item and should have been prepared to share it with council.  At the very least she should have received the necessary information through a Fire Department Memorandum. Who is in charge?

The item that drew extensive comment was item #11 which would change the public comment to the end of the meeting and limit speaking time. The usual suspects spoke against the proposal: Ken Jones, Gary Livingston and the Marwicks. What was truly eye popping was Andrew Marwick’s attempt to explain why they reside in Phoenix yet speak at Glendale council meetings. Marwick’s premise was he had once lived in a city similar to Glendale with the same kinds of issues and that he was merely sharing the benefit of his knowledge from that previous situation with Glendale. His attempt to explain himself resulted in a rambling dissertation which was brought back to earth by the Mayor’s and the City Attorney’s admonishment to speak to the agenda item. If nothing else and I assure you there is nothing else…the Marwicks have a lot of chutzpah.

Whether Public Comment is at the start or at the end of the Council meeting is not a critical issue. Glendale has always invited public comment and televised it as well. Council has always listened respectfully to citizen comment…some more respectfully than others. The former Mayor Scruggs would roll her eyes and purse her lips, virtually sneer, when she disliked or disagreed with the comments being offered.

What should be of concern is this council’s move to limit free speech by cutting public comment from 5 minutes to 3 minutes. Not everyone is a polished speaker and should be allowed the time some need to get to their point. The only occasions when speaker time has ever been an issue in the past were related to discussions of Coyotes’ ownership deals over the years. The truncating of speaker time to 2 or 3 minutes made sense on those occasions especially when the comments were repetitious. Mayor Weiers made a good point when he said the mike and TV were very powerful…and they are. They provide citizens with an opportunity to gain a wider audience for their point of view.

Councilmembers Knaack, Martinez and Sherwood all expressed the general opinion that they were not taking anything away from the right to public comment while ignoring the fact that they were indeed LIMITING free speech. Weiers and Alvarez defended the current practice. Weiers said he would give speakers 10 minutes each if he could and Alvarez said there was a sense of a “power play” taking place. Councilmembers Hugh and Chavira were silent on the issue. The votes were done by roll call at the request of the Mayor. Councilmembers Sherwood, Knaack, Martinez and Chavira voted for moving public comment to the end of the meeting and limiting speech to 3 minutes. Mayor Weiers and Councilmembers Hugh and Alvarez voted to keep the practice. It is very difficult to put the genie back in the box after it has been freed. The four councilmembers who voted to do so, Sherwood, Knaack, Martinez and Chavira, could find that this move comes back to bite them.  However, with Martinez’ and Knaack’s retirement, it may only be an election issue for Sherwood and Chavira.

Item #21 was the affirmation of Vice Mayor Knaack to continue for another year as Vice Mayor. As expected Alvarez was the only “no” vote.

During the Council Comments which occurs at the end of the meeting Vice Mayor Knaack used her opportunity to try to rationalize her public comment about the sales tax increase when she said that the sunset provision was adopted to “make it more palatable to residents.” It demonstrates a very cynical attitude. I was the councilmember who offered and succeeded in getting the sunset provision adopted because I fully anticipated that council would adopt budgetary cuts in expenses every year leading up to the sunset. A budgetary cut plan was proposed by former Interim City Manager Horatio Skeete and I expected council to follow through. If council had followed through as proposed, by reducing the budget by several million dollars each and every year, this council would not be taking such radical steps this year. If some councilmembers such as Knaack accepted the sunset provision to make it more palatable to voters they might have been better served to voice their concerns about the provision at the time. Instead it was accepted with nary a comment. This is a major issue and council’s decision to make the sales tax increase permanent by removing the sunset clause with a simple council vote and their intent to raise the sales tax increase is a not right. It is a major violation of public trust.

Last up was Mayor Weiers who admitted that he had not done a good job working with his peers, councilmembers. He said he was working to rectify the situation by meeting with them one on one to find ways to help them to succeed. Good for him. It’s a practice long overdue. God knows it was never an agenda item for former Mayor Scruggs who believed in keeping all power to herself.

Reminder the next City Council Budget workshop is Tuesday, February 4, 2014 at 9 AM to be followed with a regular council workshop at 1:30 PM on the same day.

My informal poll to the right of this column becomes even more relevant as council continues to shape next Fiscal Year’s budget. Also take the opportunity to sign up for email notices of upcoming additions to my blog. It is to the right of this column.

© 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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