The Glendale City Council Workshop of May 6, 2014 had 4 items: the 2035 General Plan Update; the West Phoenix/Central Glendale Light Rail Update; discussion of adding electronic voting to council meetings; and the ever present FY14-15 budget follow up.
The 2035 General Plan Update discussion was led by Jon Froke, Glendale’s Executive Director of Planning, joined by Celeste Werner and Rick Rust, VPs of the Matrix Group. The Matrix Group is the consultant hired by the city to conduct the 2035 General Plan Update at an unbudgeted cost of $110,000 to be paid over two years: $31,000+ the first year; and $78,000+ the second year (FY2014-2015). Here is the link to their presentation: http://www.glendaleaz.com/Clerk/agendasandminutes/documents/01A-Glendale2035GeneralPlanUpdatePowerPoint.pdf .
The city has put up a website for the General Plan Update at www.glendale2035.com. It’s in its infancy right now and there isn’t much to see when you visit the site. At some point there will also be Facebook and Twitter links. Perhaps the greatest take away from the presentation was the continual emphasis upon the Citizen Steering Committee’s role in the process which is advisory only. It was made clear that the final approval rests with council before it goes to the voters in a General Election on November 8, 2016.
As citizens what can you do? Get involved…learn as much as you can…voice your opinion, your vision for Glendale’s future… and concerns, if you have any. There is a natural tension between property owners of vacant land and citizens and their neighborhoods. Make no mistake. Property owners will work hard to maximize the designated zoning for their vacant property because when it is sold a more intense zoning designation means more money for them. Sometimes what they may want will be in direct conflict with what is compatible with your neighborhood. Be vigilant. Check what’s vacant around you and then find out what kind of zoning designation may be placed on that land. Make sure it works to the betterment of your neighborhood. As an example, a property owner may want a multi family (apartment) zoning designation. Your neighborhood might be made up of large or medium sized lot homes. Apartment zoning on vacant land adjacent to your neighborhood will inevitably create future problems and could lower your property value.
Next up was the West Phoenix/Central Glendale Light Rail Update. Cathy Colbath, Glendale’s Interim Executive Director of Transportation Services, introduced Stephen Banta and Benjamin Limmer of Valley Metro. Both men made an excellent presentation. Here is the link: http://www.glendaleaz.com/Clerk/agendasandminutes/documents/02B-LightRailUpdate-PPT.pdf .
Funding for mass transit will be generally along the lines of: 50% from the federal government; a large percentage from voter approved Proposition 400 administered by Valley Metro; an undetermined percentage by the cities in which the mass transit is sited.
Take aways were, in terms of cost per mile: light rail, as most expensive, at $60 to $90 million per mile; a modern streetcar system at $40-$60 million a mile; and bus rapid transit at between $2 to $20 million a mile.
Valley Metro is still in the initial planning stages identifying which of the 3 modes of service would work the best and identifying a corridor extension from 19th Avenue and Bethany Home Road, Phoenix into Glendale. The study area is from Northern Avenue to Camelback Road, including the use of Grand Avenue. Based upon their findings Valley Metro has excluded Northern Avenue, Bethany Home Road and Grand Avenue. It appears the final corridor will be either the Glendale Avenue or Camelback Road. Mass transit is becoming more and more of a necessity in the Valley as resources shrink and the costs of purchasing fuel continue to rise. Did you know that for every billion dollars invested in mass transit in the valley there was a return of $7 billion in economic development along the light rail lines?
Valley Metro will host a public meeting and present their latest information on the study and will offer the public a chance to comment and ask questions. The meeting will be on Thursday, May 22, 2014 from 6 PM to 8 PM at Glendale City Hall, Council Chambers. It’s worth it to attend and to share your opinion on what kind and where mass transit should be sited in Glendale.
Economic redevelopment is critical along all of Glendale Avenue. Redevelopment of Glendale Avenue has been planned to death for at least 20 years with no discernible results to date. I was on the Miracle Mile Committee years ago as a private citizen and was a councilmember when the latest plan, Centerline, was approved. I can’t even remember all of the iterations of planned redevelopment that occurred in between those two efforts. Glendale Avenue is our namesake street. All of it, from 43rd Avenue on the east to Sarival Road on the west, deserves special recognition in terms of development and redevelopment planning. Centerline, the current name for Glendale Avenue redevelopment, only targets 43rd Avenue to 67th Avenue. If I may be so bold as to suggest, a broader, long term vision is required for all of Glendale Avenue and perhaps it should be considered as a whole but in phases. Phase I could be the current 43rd to 67th Avenues. Phase II could be 67th to 105th Avenue (location of our airport and public safety training facility). Phase III could be 105th Avenue to Sarival Road. We should cherish this entire corridor and plan for its future now.
Most of council was receptive to the Glendale Avenue corridor with the exception of Vice Mayor Knaack. Her reservations are understandable. After all she owns property at 55th and Glendale Avenues. However, she is being short-sighted. She is thinking in terms of short-lived financial pain, in the form of relocation or construction, creating financial hardships for business owners such as herself. The long-term gain of finally securing a tool for the economic development /redevelopment of Glendale Avenue between 43rd and 67th Avenues is too important to Glendale’s future viability.
The third agenda item just boggles the mind. Vice Mayor Knaack, under Council Items of Special Interest, brought up the subject of electronic voting at council meetings. Someone on staff may have slipped her the suggestion. Chuck Murphy, Glendale’s Executive Director of Technology & Innovation, and Diana Bundschuh, Deputy Chief Information Technology Officer introduced Chris Voorhees and Thao Hill of Granicus, Inc. Granicus is the provider of the current system used at council meetings.
Two questions should have decided the fate of this idea in short order. Is it critical to the current operation of council meetings and what does it cost? Now, I’m a technology nerd. I love new technology but in the light of Glendale’s current financial crisis electronic voting is not a necessity…now, at this very moment. Yes, it’s sexy and new. Yes, some other cities already have the technology but we can do without it for now. It is not critical to the process of council meetings. What about the cost? Well, Glendale can have the new, sexy technology for a mere upfront cost of $23,000 and an annual cost of approximately $18,000. And that doesn’t include the cost of replacing hardware such as tablets on a periodic basis – perhaps every 3 to 4 years. Hardware is expensive and is used by all personnel including council. Of course this is all unbudgeted. Of course Glendale has no money for a Cadillac right now.
It didn’t faze a majority of council for one single minute. It didn’t bother Councilmembers Knaack, Martinez, Sherwood and Chavira who constituted a majority giving direction to move forward with the new system. Mayor Weiers was decidedly uncomfortable and observed that the cost equates to one position within the city. What was the point of Councilmembers Martinez and Knaack urging all councilmembers to give back a portion of their council budgets if they are all too willing to be imprudent about Glendale’s unbudgeted expenditures such as this one. It’s ridiculous. If they cannot control their spending on relatively small items, God help us on the really, really big ones.
The last agenda item was Fiscal Year 14-15 Budget Follow-Up Items presented by Tom Duensing, Glendale’s Executive Director of Financial Services. By the way, I keep waiting for City Manager Fischer to live up to her pledge to get rid of all of these Executive Director titles…still hasn’t happened…wonder if it ever will? Here is the link: http://www.glendaleaz.com/Clerk/agendasandminutes/documents/04-POWERPOINT-FiscalYear2014-15Follow-UpItems.pdf .
Following Glendale’s budget this year is like trying to find your way through the smoke and mirrors. It’s the same pot of money no matter what new names are used. Now we have General Fund Sub-Funds, a Permanent Fund and an Internal Service Fund. Go figure. When you watch senior management discuss the budget this year you end up feeling confused, down right befuddled and just as if you had been sold a bottle of snake oil.
The take aways are that your Primary Property Tax Rate will increase by 2%, the Temporary Sales Tax increase will become permanent and there’s a new strategy called Alternative Service Delivery. The least offensive of the two increases is the increase in the primary property tax rate. Glendale’s portion of your property tax bill is relatively small. Hence the increase in real dollar terms is also proportionately small.
What should be of concern is making the temporary sales tax increase permanent and eliminating the sunset provision that was to occur in 2017. In an attempt to avoid painful cuts to the budget council took the easy way out. It’s a promise broken. Instead senior staff ratified by this council continues to overextend Glendale’s finances and to spend more than is in the budget.
Alternative Service Delivery is the new buzz word for privatization of services Glendale residents receive. The problem is, that while senior staff implements this strategy, no one and most certainly the public or even council for that matter, have been told exactly what they are doing. Then again, it’s another refusal on the part of senior staff to share information. If you were to ask any councilmember about Alternative Service Delivery they would parrot the explanation they heard at this workshop meeting. That is, positions when vacant are being evaluated. If you asked what specific evaluation criterion is used and what jobs have been privatized, they would not be able to answer. After this article, they probably will.
Tentative budget adoption is scheduled for the May 27, 2014 meeting of council with final budget adoption scheduled for June 10, 2014. At the June 24, 2014 council meeting the increased property tax rate and the permanent sales tax increase will be adopted. Glendale’s voters got what they wanted…a tax and spend city council.
© Joyce Clark, 2014
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