Disclaimer: The comments in this blog are my personal opinion and may or may not reflect an adopted position of the city of Glendale and its city council.

A little over a week ago a ribbon cutting occurred for the newly renovated downtown alley connecting Glendale Avenue and Glenn Drive between 57th Drive and 57th Avenue. It is always welcome when the city completes projects like these to continue to improve downtown Glendale.

Downtown Glendale continues to have a difficult time getting its ‘mojo’. I can remember 20 years ago when I participated in the “Miracle Mile” citizens’ committee to envision what downtown Glendale could be. Since then there have been many iterations of the same visioning process with the latest being Centerline, courtesy of consulting professionals from ASU. Yet progress remains static. There is no one factor that inhibits the renaissance of downtown Glendale. There are multiple factors.

One factor is the inability, to date, of the downtown merchants to form a cohesive group determining their own destiny and putting skin ($$) in the game. One faction believes that it is the city’s sole and exclusive responsibility to revitalize the downtown. Another has accepted that their destiny lies in their active participation. Another faction is composed of mom ‘n’ pop owners who set their own — often casual and inconsistent – hours of operation. Another faction, more professional, not only keeps consistent hours of operation but tries to stay open a few evenings a week. Until these factions coalesce downtown is destined to remain basically the same — struggling to survive.

Another factor is the city’s lack of funding to use to remove vacant buildings on city parcels or simply to renovate a city owned vacant building. There are just so many needs competing for the limited city funding available. Witness the residents who are pushing the city council to save the city owned Glen Lakes Golf Course for a little under a half million dollars a year…or west Glendale’s residents’ urging to finish Heroes Park, now languishing for nearly 30 years.

In steps the Glendale Chamber of Commerce does what it can to inject new life into the downtown. There is no doubt that under CEO Robert Heidt’s leadership the Chamber has become a highly successful gorilla. With over 1,200 members it has developed a political power base that surpasses that of Glendale’s fire union. While the fire union is viewed with distrust by many in the community who disagree with its political motives, the Chamber enjoys a more benign relationship. However, as with any entity that wields tremendous power comes an equal responsibility to be use it judiously and wisely. The Chamber would be wise to be mindful of the admonition.

Perhaps that is why I received commentary from some residents after they read an article in the Your Valley edition of May 25, 2018. Here is the link: https://yourvalley.net/yourvalley/news/renovated-alleyway-step-toward-livelier-nightlife-downtown-glendale/ . Their concern seemed to center around the tone of the article creating the inference that the alley renovation project was funded by the Chamber. That is not the case. It was a city funded project and in attendance to celebrate its completion were Mayor Weiers and Councilmembers Hugh, Turner and Aldama. Perhaps their concern centered around the fact that nearly every quote was attributed to either Chamber CEO Heidt or Downtown Director (city employee) Katy Engels, whose work is directed by the Chamber under a city paid contract. In passing there was one statement attributed to Councilmember Aldama and two attributed to Mr. Higgins of the city’s Economic Development department. However the bulk of the article was all CEO Heidt.

Make no mistake, the Chamber is not just a business organization but is a political one as well.  Among other things it interviews and endorses local candidates for city council and mayor. To date, their long standing policy has been to automatically endorse the incumbent. That action does a disservice to its members and to the residents of Glendale. Endorsements should be given on the merits of a candidate’s policies in continuing to grow a Glendale that is business and job creation friendly — for that is the Chamber’s base of membership.

Make no mistake, a healthy Chamber signifies a healthy Glendale. The Chamber’s efforts in the areas of downtown development and vet outreach are most welcome but it would be wise not to over reach. For years the Glendale fire union was a political gorilla. Glendale cannot afford to replace one gorilla with another.

© Joyce Clark, 2018         


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