Who wins? It depends what side you are on and what the ultimate definition of winning means in this instance. No one wins on so many levels. At a time when citizens no longer have full faith and trust in their national government it is disturbing and unfortunate when the same sentiment is directed toward one’s local government.
Senior administration, from City Manager Brenda Fischer on down, failed the residents of Glendale. Their unwillingness to provide full disclosure at the time of the offer to buy is appalling. To this day, we, the residents of Glendale, do not know where the idea of the sale originated. Did someone in Glendale’s senior administration suggest the idea to Midwestern University (MU)? Or as MU states in its initial February 17, 2014 letter, “Considering the current financial constraints on the City of Glendale and the dwindling use of a traditional library, we would like to express our sincere interest in exploring the possibility of a purchase…” How did MU know that there was a “dwindling use?” MU took advantage of “the current financial constraints on the City of Glendale” by low balling and offering an initial $3.4 million dollars for a building that could not be replaced for less than $17 million dollars. MU appears to have jumped at the chance to buy the building at a fire sale price. Their offer and attitude toward a proposed purchase squandered a great deal of good will between it and Glendale residents that had existed for many years.
Glendale’s senior administration lost an opportunity to demonstrate a new way of doing business. This incident reinforced many residents’ belief that attitudes and actions of senior administration has not changed despite the new faces on the senior management team. Where was the immediate disclosure in February of 2014 to council and residents of an offer to purchase the library?
This proposal had been massaged and managed secretly until senior administration thought they had all the pieces in place. Their excuse for failing to disclose was that there was a need for “due diligence.” Yet that diligence failed to take place. Part of that diligence should have been a cost analysis of a future replacement library should it be needed and an economic impact analysis to the entire city of such an action. Where was the plan of exactly how the library would be placed and work effectively in a constrained space? Instead the public was offered conceptual drawings that had no relevance to the actual space and use of the site within the Foothills Recreation and Aquatic Center (FRAC).
The senior administration lost further credibility in its failure to act as a neutral presenter of fact. For years, as a councilmember, I asked for the pros and cons of items for consideration. Under the short tenure of former Acting City Manager Horatio Skeete, we actually received that kind of information not all the time, but several times. It was a start and I, for one, was grateful. Now we’re back to square one. Instead of presenting the factual pros and cons of this idea, senior administration turned into a bunch of advertising hacks. There was no neutrality. They appeared to own this idea and worked to sell it to the public.
Why the senior administration exuberance in selling the library? They have visions of all of those dollars dancing in their heads. The sale proceeds would go into the city’s General Fund and senior administrators would have recommended that it be used to retire some of Glendale’s debt. This council, with its propensity to rubber stamp management recommendations, would have followed. Glendale remains deeply in debt and it will continue until they deal with the gorilla in the room…its ongoing, unsustainable debt for such things as the arena management agreement of $15 million dollars a year and the Camelback Park spring training facility debt.
Who are the losers? MU and its reservoir of good will among the residents of Glendale; the senior administrators of Glendale who squandered whatever credibility they had to sell a bad idea; and of course, the general public who failed to receive fair and balanced information. Who wins? The sad fact is that no one wins…no matter what the outcome.
© Joyce Clark, 2015
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