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Joyce Clark Unfiltered

For "the rest of the story"

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.

 Many people assume the most powerful person in local government is the Mayor. Unless it’s a ‘strong mayor’ form of government, that isn’t so. I contend the city manager is the most powerful person in local government. This debate has existed as long as local government has existed. Over the years many U.S. cities have done 360s reversing their government structures to a strong mayor form of government and then back to a manager/council form. Neither satisfies completely.

What are the powers and responsibilities of a city manager? Generally, he or she coordinates and oversees the activities of all city departments, provides direct staff assistance to city council members, including the mayor, and council committees. His/her staff leads the financial and budget management process for a city and directs its planning and economic development efforts. His/her staff also conducts research, develops policies, and evaluates potential public programs.  He/she deals with all personnel issues exclusively including the hiring and firing of personnel.  More often than not, councils accept and act on his/her recommendations. What he/she and staff do behind the scenes has a very real impact on the policies and direction of a city.

In Glendale the city charter states in Section 2-53 (a), “Pursuant to article III, section 3 of the Glendale City Charter, the city manager is the chief executive officer of the city and shall have all authority and powers, not inconsistent with the city Charter, to manage and administer the affairs of the city. The city manager, as he or she deems appropriate, may delegate and assign duties and responsibilities to the administrative officials, department heads and employees of the city.”

Under Section 3 of the city charter, the city manager’s role is more specifically defined, “The city manager shall be chief executive officer and head of the administrative branch of the city government. He shall be responsible for the proper administration of all affairs of the city and to that end, subject to the provisions of this charter, he shall have the power (bold is mine) and shall be required to:

(1)

Devote his entire time to the discharge of his official duties, attend all meetings of the council unless excused there from by the council or the mayor;

(2)

See that all ordinances are enforced and that the provisions of all franchises, leases, contracts, permits and privileges granted by the city are observed;

(3)

Appoint, and when deemed necessary for the good of the service, lay-off, suspend, transfer, demote or remove all department heads, officers and employees of the city, subject to such merit system regulations as the council may adopt;

(4)

Prepare the annual budget estimates and submit them to the council and be responsible for the administration of the budget after adoption;

(5)

Keep the council advised at all times of the affairs and needs of the city, and make reports annually, or more frequently if requested by the council, of all the affairs of the city;

(6)

Repealed (3-16-76);

(7)

Have such other powers, duties and functions as this charter may prescribe, and such powers, duties and functions consistent with this charter as the council may prescribe.”

As can be noted, the city charter goes into rather specific detail about a city manager’s role and responsibilities. That is not the case for the city council. The charter broadly states in Article II, Section I, “All powers of the city, not in conflict with the constitution and subject to the limitations of this charter, shall be vested in the council, who shall enact appropriate legislation and do and perform any and all acts and things which may be necessary and proper to carry out these powers or any of the provisions of this charter.”Generally, a city council oversees local policy decisions, reviews and approves the city budgets and appoints a professional city manager (as well as the City Attorney and City Clerk) to handle administrative tasks on a day-to-day basis.

In Glendale as with all other cities money is power. In other words, a city’s budget is where the power resides. Based upon that premise is the City Manager the most powerful person in a city? I say ‘yes’. The City Manager reviews and approves all budget items that are presented to a city council. He/she reviews and recommends to city council any increase in the number of employees and where those new employees will work. He/she reviews and recommends all departmental supplemental requests for additional funding that are presented to a city council.  A city council does not see any supplemental requests until after they are reviewed and approved by the City Manager. He/she, by virtue of departmental line item recommendations to a city council, determines the direction and the priorities of the city for the upcoming Fiscal Year.

 A city council is never presented a raw budget that offers options for the direction of placement of new revenue. Quite frankly, there is continual pressure by city councils to get more of the raw data from which budgetary decisions are made. It’s the silent, often unrecognized by the public, power struggle that occurs every year prior to a city’s formal Fiscal Year budget adoption.

What some City Managers and senior staff rely upon is the lack of a committed majority of opinion on any city council. Without a clear majority of council, that council cannot give direction to a City Manager. Sometimes it is easy to pick off councilmembers by doing what are commonly called “walk-arounds.” That is a practice where city staff talks individually to councilmembers making the case for or against an issue. Obviously, you can see how this practice could be used to work in favor of senior staff. They can make an argument for or against any issue or initiative virtually guaranteeing the outcome they desire.

In addition, many councilmembers have not been educated on the scope of their authority. Many city councilmembers do not realize that there is, indeed, power in numbers and that they have the absolute authority to shape policy and therefore the priorities and direction of the city requiring that funding be used to accomplish those identified priorities. City Councils are the 400 lb. gorilla in the room but often they don’t know it or they remain divided with the inability to create the majority needed to craft direction for the City Manager or senior staff. The only ones to blame for a City Manager’s absolute power are city councils themselves. So until city councilmembers unite the most powerful person in a city will continue to be the City Manager.

© Joyce Clark, 2019         

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.

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.

What is a BFR?  It stands for “Built for Rent” and is the current ‘flavor of the year’ in the building community. It is a community of single family rentals between 100 and 250 units.  That number of units is required to make it a viable project. Usually three or four different floor plans are available. The amenities vary by community and builder.

 Here are some photos of one such community under construction by Hancock Builders on the west side of 99th Avenue, just north of Camelback Road in Phoenix. . Hancock has already built 1,300 of the single family rental homes with 4,000 more in the development pipeline spread across 10 communities.

 

The builders producing these communities have similar business models. They build the communities themselves and then turn maintenance over to a third-party property manager with experience in multifamily. After the community is fully leased and operational, the builders have the option to sell individual houses within the community or sell the entire community itself to a high-net-worth individual, a multifamily real estate investment trust (REIT), or a single-family rental (SFR) operator like Invitation Homes or American Homes 4 Rent.

Ideally they are designed to be located where there is mass transportation and nearby amenities available such as in a Westgate or Zanjero. A BFR within or very near the Westgate/Zanjero developments is appropriate. But it is not appropriate in an area farther away from commercial/retail/entertainment areas and instead is surrounded by a sea of residential, owner occupied properties. The location at 75th Avenue and Bethany Home Road is not appropriate with the kind of density a project such as this brings.

Yet that is the request of Gammage & Burnham, attorneys representing the proposed developer, Elux and the Brown Group, is desiring to put a BFR community at the northeast corner of 75th Avenue and Bethany Home Road. Since 1984 the property has had a zoning designation of R 1-6 (residential, one to six homes to the acre).

 

Let’s look at what surrounds this parcel. To the east and south is R 1-6 zoning with established neighborhoods. To the west, just across 75th Avenue is Tessera, a gated community of R 1-7 (larger properties and homes). To the north it is zoned R 1-6 but the properties are at least one acre in size. Most are larger and are horse properties and include Griffin Avenue, a historic area.

The proposed developer has the property in escrow and it is assumed that a decision will not be made until after the neighborhood meeting occurring this week. That neighborhood meeting scheduled for:

this Wednesday, June 5th

at 6 pm

at Heroes Library (at northeast corner of Bethany and 83rd Avenue)

It will be your opportunity to learn the proposed details of this project but more importantly it will be your only opportunity to express your approval or disapproval of the proposed project.

I believe the location as well as the assumed density is not appropriate and I have expressed that to the applicant’s attorney already. But now they need to hear from you. I’d like to see 50 or more people at this Wednesday evening meeting. That would be a strong voice to convince the developer that their project is in the wrong location.

Please share this blog freely with your neighbors and friends. Information is critical. It is important that the people of Glendale come out to this meeting.

© Joyce Clark, 2019         

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.

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.

Let’s face it. Downtown Glendale is not robust despite years of community stakeholders’ discussion and strategic planning. It’s time to think differently. One of the endemic problems continues to be that downtown property owners think their properties are worth more than the market will bear. As an example, a local restaurant is about to close because they can no longer afford to pay the rent. One would think the property owner would work with them to keep the property in use but that is not the case. After all, some reduced rent is better than receiving no rent at all. So the space will turn into another vacant store front for months, maybe even years.

A little history is in order.  In 2008 the city council began preparations to construct a new court house due to the inadequacy of space in the existent building. Workshops were held and in 2009 council hired the International Facilities Group (IFG) as Project Manager with Populous as the architect and New Construction-Arena as the builder to construct a new court house. The project cost was $42 million and it was supposed to be completed in 2010. Some initial underground work was done and then the project stopped. Why? The council realized the city saddled with debt, simply could not afford to build it. I was never very supportive of the project because the cost was exorbitant. I thought we were building a Mercedes when we needed a Ford. In other words I thought the initial cost was too high and as with most construction projects the eventual cost would have ballooned way above the original $42 million. In the past 10 years the court conditions have only become worse and the space they have is woefully inadequate. Here is the conceptual of the 2010 building. Grand isn’t it?

This year the city council is also dealing with the city prosecutors’ facility. They have been using a modular building that has seen better days and that was only supposed to be a temporary fix. The roof is a sieve and in the last monsoon work spaces and many important work documents were flooded. They have need of new work quarters as well. City council is considering moving them to the Sine building.

That got me to thinking. What could be done if we thought “outside the box” to address not only the court space issue and the prosecutors need for a new facility but create a major downtown revival as well?

Downtown Glendale needs a transfusion…in thinking. So here’s a radical proposal. We need to shake things up and rearrange the deck chairs. Let’s move the City Court, the Prosecutors’ Office, Police and Fire Administration into the current City Hall. There is enough room to co-locate a satellite county court into the building as well. There is already adequate parking to service the facility. It would remain a robust facility filled with workers as well as visitors.

Where would the current occupants of City Hall go? How about building a new City Hall? The city already owns land (approximately 14-20 acres) at the southwest corner of Cardinals Way (former Bethany Home Road) and 91st Avenue right next to the city owned Black parking lot. The Black lot was constructed to satisfy the city’s contractual obligation to provide parking spaces for Cardinals games. It would provide instant parking for a new City Hall as the Black lot is unused during weekly business hours. The new facility would not occupy all of that acreage and would provide much needed stimulus to create office development on the remaining acreage surrounding the new City Hall. Glendale is currently at a major disadvantage as there is no available office space in our town. With a location close to the Loop 101 a new City Hall would become more accessible to visitors and residents alike.

The city is currently planning to sell the Bank of America building. If the court, prosecutors’ office and public safety administration were moved into our existent City Hall, the city could also sell the city court building and the public safety building. While we are at it the city should also sell the Civic Center. The proceeds from these sales could pay off bonds issued for a new City Hall. These city owned downtown buildings should be sold only for commercial use that would immediately create a constant and reliable day time worker population for downtown and would in fact create more reliable revenue opportunities for downtown businesses.

Since the historical Sine Building would become vacant let’s consider turning it into a business incubator or museum or art space. How about linking up with the Smithsonian Museum and become eligible for their rotating exhibits?

While we are at it let’s relocate Velma Teague Library to the Bead Museum and bring this much loved library asset technologically into the 21st Century. Then sell or rent the vacant library space to perhaps a restaurant like Positano’s. Let’s remodel the amphitheater space and get programming in it as many nights a year as possible (200 nights?).

I have not articulated nor shared this vision for downtown Glendale with anyone until now. I am sure heads will explode all over the place. How dare she suggest a new City Hall or selling three major city buildings?

This may not be the perfect way to move the city’s deck chairs but I think these ideas could grow not just the daily downtown population but grow consistent evening traffic as well. Then perhaps the downtown merchants won’t have to rely on just a few major festivals every year to produce enough sales for them to keep them afloat. Keep in mind that people like to live close to where they work and this concept could stimulate the need for a downtown apartment building and begin to create permanent residential density that the downtown so desperately needs.

I certainly hope the downtown stakeholders read this blog and once they get over the shock of  the idea of radical transformation they will embrace the idea that we can’t keep doing the same things over and over again with exactly the same outcomes for that is the definition of insanity. My ideas may not be the exact way to go but I hope it provokes a real discussion for revitalizing downtown. I would love to get feedback on the concepts I have presented, especially from the downtown community. Perhaps a major change such as I envision will finally make the downtown owners have buildings that are really worth what they think, unrealistically, they are presently worth right now.

© Joyce Clark, 2019         

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.

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.

Despite being approved unanimously by the Arizona State Legislature, (60-0 in the House and 29-0 in the Senate), Governor Ducey vetoed HB2473 STATE LIQUOR BOARD; MEMBERSHIP.  This bill began with an idea I brought forward to the Glendale City Council in late 2017.  It was and still is a very reasonable solution to begin to address many of the critical issues of concern with liquor licenses in all of the communities in Arizona. I would like to provide some background and commentary on where the Governor’s actions leave us today.

There is a lot of frustration among cities and towns across the state from city councils who spend a lot of time reviewing, listening to their communities, residents and law enforcement officers in order to make a recommendation of approval or denial on liquor licenses for establishments that will be in their communities.

A council’s recommendation for approval or denial then goes on to the State Liquor Board and cities (most noticeably some of the smaller rural communities) have felt for a long time that the licenses are quickly approved by the liquor board often without any consideration or even discussion about any concerns raised by local city leaders. Cities that recommend denials are usually over ridden by the Board.

The Board’s long history is one of generally ignoring city recommendations. I guess the Board thinks a city can never have enough bars, package stores and convenience stores selling liquor. I know of several square miles within Glendale that have over a dozen of these establishments within them, often in very, very close proximity to one another. Just how many liquor establishments in a small geographical area are necessary “to serve the public’s need and convenience?”                                                                          

For several years now, cities throughout Arizona have started a rallying cry for major reforms to the State Liquor Board and how we deal with the proliferation of liquor establishments in certain areas of our cities.  Having been an elected official for many years, I have learned that you cannot introduce major reforms in one fell swoop at the Legislature. You have to take baby steps, particularly in an area like liquor.  Instead, you have to incrementally and strategically introduce ideas that can begin to address the underlying problems associated with the bigger issues.  It was with this wisdom that I introduced, as a Council Item of Special Interest, the idea of running legislation that would designate one of the 7 seats on the State Liquor Board as a municipal representative which could be a current or former elected official.                                                                                                                   

Currently there are 7 seats on the State Liquor Board, 2 of which are designated for representatives of the liquor industry, 1 that is designated for a neighborhood group representative, and 4 at large seats.  This bill would simply have designated one of these at-large seats for a current or former elected official, who would be nominated by the League of Arizona Cities and Towns (the League) and appointed by the Governor.                                      

The purpose was simply to ensure that municipal perspectives are clearly understood when the Liquor Board is considering license applications.  Having a municipal representative on the board would allow them to share information related to local operations as well as to answer questions from other board members from a local government perspective.  Since these businesses will ultimately be operating in cities, it is important that the board clearly understand the potential effects, both positive and negative, on cities when making a determination on a liquor license application. The industry has several dedicated seats and we felt it was appropriate that cities and towns also have a representative since we bear the burden of their decisions.                     

In my concept, the process of identifying a municipal representative that the Governor could consider was also very simple.  The Executive Committee of the League of Cities, which is made up of 25 Mayors from around the state, would forward 3 names to the Governor for his consideration for that dedicated at-large seat.                                                                         

This concept was modeled after the 2016 bill (SB 1428) that Governor Ducey supported and signed  allowing  mayors to forward at least 3 names to the Governor for the new dedicated municipal seat on the Public Safety Personnel Retirement System (PSPRS) Board of Trustees. It also allowed that if the Governor didn’t like the names he wouldn’t be forced to appoint anyone.  In fact, there are already two vacant at-large seats that have been left unfilled by the Governor for several years now. When that occurs the League’s mayors can submit additional names for the Governor’s consideration as an appointment.                                                                     

With unanimous support of the Glendale City Council, I worked with Glendale’s Public Affairs staff to have the concept introduced in 2018 into the policy making process of the League so that it could be considered by all cities and towns for inclusion in the League’s legislative agenda for this session.  Again, I was attempting to turn the temperature down on the larger rallying cry and calls to go to war on the liquor issue.  What I was proposing was a common-sense compromise.                                                                

 I attended the League Military and Public Safety Policy Committee and advocated for it to be approved and forwarded by the committee to the League’s Resolutions Committee for full adoption.  The Committee did so unanimously. Next, it went to the Resolutions Committee of the League which is made up of the Mayors from all 91 incorporated Cities and Towns in Arizona.  They unanimously approved it for inclusion into the League’s 2019 State Legislative Agenda.

Prior to the start of this current session, the legislative proposal was then brought to the liquor industry in an attempt to get it included in the annual “Liquor Omnibus” bill.  Essentially this is the bill that packages all of the liquor legislation for the upcoming session.  Here is the catch though, nothing can be included in the omnibus bill unless there is unanimous support from the liquor industry lobbyists and their attorney representatives. The industry, of course, declined to provide unanimous support even though they were unable to identify any concerns. They just wanted things to stay the way they are right now on the Liquor Board, meaning only industry reps should have dedicated seats. They were guarding their turf while doing a disservice to the state’s general public.

Having been rebuffed by the liquor industry, in consultation with staff, we approached Representative Anthony Kern, Republican from District 20 in Glendale to sponsor the stand-alone bill and lead it through the legislative process.  He agreed and did a fantastic job.

The bill was introduced in the first few days of the legislative session in January, 2019.  Over the next 4 months, staff, elected officials and neighborhood leaders reached out to their legislators and educated them on the issue all the while advocating for them to approve the bill in committees and on floor votes.  There were many conversations, meetings and work, but it paid off. 

The bill was well received by all legislators as it should have been. It had already been unanimously supported by all 91 cities and towns, which doesn’t happen very often.  The mayors of these cities are the mayors of the residents of their legislator’s districts. The legislative members unanimously supported it (which is a rare feat in a split party legislature), because they have consistently been hearing for years from their mayors and councils how upset they are with having no voice at the Liquor Board. 

This bill was a great opportunity to support a change that didn’t affect the balance of the board, didn’t threaten the liquor industry’s majority, and wouldn’t have any impact on the liquor businesses who many of the legislators also support.  It simply gave the cities a voice and someone they could talk to about their concerns.

So why did Governor Ducey veto this bill which had nothing but complete support and no voiced opposition?  In his veto letter he states; “this bill adds an extra step to the nomination of one of the seven seats on the State Liquor Board, resulting in the inconsistencies in the selection process and creating a new, burdensome hurdle for appointment. We should be focused on reducing red tape not adding to it.”

What is ironic is that this “new hurdle” was modeled after something he had already supported and which he approved in a previous PSPRS bill.  So tell us Governor, why was that not considered red tape when approving the PSPRS bill but its red tape as you veto the Liquor Bill? I suspect you can’t with a straight face.

It is also puzzling that he would say that it creates a burdensome hurdle for an appointment when the whole intent was to get one of the two seats that had been left vacant by the Governor for many years, quickly filled with a municipal representative.  Governor Ducey ends his letter by stating, “I am open to discussions to include a municipal representative on the Liquor Board, but adding a new step in the nomination process is unnecessary”. 

What the Governor is really saying is he wants to appoint who he wants to appoint, when and if he wants to appoint.  He is open to conversations, but he doesn’t want to have to consider a slate of names forwarded by the State’s mayors.  After all, the individuals they forward may not be liquor industry cronies.  In other words, if there is a former elected official that is in cahoots with the liquor industry he might be willing to consider them as they would fit into the “liquor industry only” qualifications that seem to make up the existing Board.  However, that would be worked out through “conversations” not state statute.  It’s unclear who the “conversations” he refers to would be with, but I have a pretty good idea.

While I am angry, I can’t say that I am shocked. What might not be so well known is that while Doug Ducey was pursuing a Finance degree from ASU, for four years (1982 – 1986) Ducey worked at the Hensley & Company, an Anheuser-Busch distributorship, now owned by Cindy McCain, widow of former U.S. John McCain.  He is well known within political circles to have very close relationships and ties to the liquor industry, their lobbyists and their well paid attorneys. 

Once the liquor industry lobbyists stopped this bill from becoming part of their legislative omnibus package, they obviously just sat back and said nothing during this legislative session. They offered no opposition to a common-sense package that would be impossible to oppose publicly under any circumstances.  They were able to take comfort in the fact that they had the ultimate backstop, their friend, Governor Doug Ducey.  All they had to do was whisper in the Governor’s ear, once it got to his desk, that things should remain as they are on the Board – “Liquor Industry Reps Only” – and out came the veto stamp and some ridiculous statements on the bill creating “red tape” as a red herring. 

If we really want to cut red tape here’s a novel idea.  I would propose that any liquor license denied by a city or town council should die right then and there with no advancement to the State Liquor Board.  Imagine the time, energy and resources that would be saved by the State Liquor Board only having to consider those licenses which have been recommended for approval by a city council.  After all, cities are the ones that have to deal with all of the public safety, human and neighborhood related costs of liquor establishments in their communities. It’s where the rubber meets the road.

So where does that leave us today? I wish I could say that we are back to square one. However, I fear we have taken two steps back from square one with this veto.  In an attempt to start solving the larger concerns, I introduced a simple, low hanging fruit solution. Cities were then told with this veto, that it was too much reform, that it went too far and that we should have “conversations” not “representation”. I don’t anticipate this Governor or his liquor friends will change their minds anytime soon.  If I am honored to be re-elected to another four-year term to represent Glendale’s Yucca District in 2020, I am committed to introducing this bill again, when there is a new Governor of Arizona sworn in on January 2023.

I want to especially thank Representative Anthony Kern for his hard work in getting this bill through the state legislature as well as the other 91 city councils and mayors in the State League for their unwavering commitment and all of the Arizona State Legislators for their leadership and unanimous support of this bill.

© Joyce Clark, 2019         

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.

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.

On Saturday, May 18, 2019 at 9 A.M. the City of Glendale will host the Grand Opening celebration of its newest library branch at Heroes Regional Park located at the northeast corner of 83rd Avenue and Bethany Home Road.

In all honesty, I don’t know whether to laugh or to cry. Why? You’re asking. It should be a day of celebration and it most certainly is. But there is so much more to this happy ending. Let me tell you about it.

Way back in Fiscal Year 1998-99 two projects simultaneously appeared in the city’s Capital Improvement Program (CIP). One was the West Branch Library allocating funds for its design in FY 2001-2002 and its construction was slated to begin in FY 2004. The other was the Multi-Generational Center North allocating funding for FY 2000-2001. The branch library and the multi-gen center were slated to begin in FY 2001-2002.

 In FY 2001-2002 a new major project is added, the Recreation/Aquatics Center North appears. That same Fiscal Year the slippage of just one project, the library, begins. The design of the library is still in FY 2001-2002 but actual construction is moved to FY 2004-2005.

These projects remain constant until Fiscal Year 2003-2004. In 2003-2004 the city experienced some economic difficulties, yet that year, both north projects, the Multi-Gen Center North and the Recreation/Aquatic Center North are approved and merged into one major project for $13,896,012 with a Groundbreaking in April of 2005. The west branch library construction is moved once again…now to Fiscal Year 2005-2006 with an opening in 2007.

Then what do you know? In Fiscal Year 2005-2006 the year that library construction is to begin, a majority of city council moved $6 million in funding for the library to the Glendale Regional Public Safety Training Center construction. Library construction is moved back once again to FY 2008-2009 with an opening in FY 2010. In 2009 the national recession began and I stopped keeping track knowing the city had no money.

To sum it all up, in 8 years the Recreation/Aquatics Center North was open and another 12 years later we are finally opening a branch library in West Glendale. Why? It wasn’t just “economic difficulties.” It was far more than that. The former mayor and I often butted heads on many issues. I was certainly not one of her council “mushrooms.” (Mushrooms are kept in the dark and fed ca-ca.) She and her mushrooms were not about to give “evil” (her nickname for me) a win in my district. As far as I am concerned, it was spiteful retribution. Rest assured she will deny and offer plausible sounding reasons as to why the library was never constructed during her tenure. Consider the source and the motivation.

That is why I could cry. It has taken so bloody long to get this long needed and awaited amenity for the people of West Glendale. An entire generation has grown up without the benefit of a nearby library. That is just not right.

I laugh because the next generation will benefit. Reading must not become a forgotten art. Libraries teach young ones the love of reading and for many it becomes a lifelong habit. For 20 years the Yucca district has been without a public facility in which to hold meetings. Finally the library will have a Community Meeting Room that can be reserved for neighborhood meetings, etc.

Admittedly, the library is tiny at 7,500 square feet but it is not what was first proposed, that of a modular building ( which I considered to be an insult implying that West Glendale residents were not even worthy of a permanent structure) and it is constructed to be expanded. Velma Teague and Foothills are approximately 25,000 to 35,000 square feet and the Main Library is 65,000 square feet. I suspect the pressure of use on this new branch will be so great that expansion will have to occur in a couple of years.

In the meantime there is so much more to be completed at Heroes Regional Park. Projects still to be done include a water feature, a dog park, a Recreation/Aquatics Center West and sports fields – all part of this Park’s Master Plan. I am pleased that there is funding allocated in the upcoming FY 2019-2020 CIP for the water feature. It is the next element of the park that will be constructed.

I guess it’s better to look forward than back but it’s easier to do once one vents and my venting is done. Now I celebrate our new library, soon to be much loved and over used. No longer will we have to wait 15 or 20 minutes at the train tracks just to make a simple trip to the library.

Please join me on May 18th to celebrate. Please bring the kids. Heroes from the Arizona Avengers and Justice League of Arizona will be available for photos. There will be face painting, a balloon artist and a scavenger hunt with prizes for the kids. Adults can check out the new 3D printer, get a library card, use the computers for public use and learn about the Discovery and Exploration Backpack Program. Find out how this library can fit into your family’s fabric of life.

There is also a Heroes Park Brick Walkway Campaign under way. For $100 (individual) to $250 (corporate) one can purchase a brick to be engraved with 4 lines of text. I am placing my order for one this Monday. From the rendering I have seen, it looks like the opportunities to get a commemorative brick in the front entry walkway are limited. I would suggest that you place your order as soon as possible. I don’t know if orders can be placed online but I will find out and update this blog when I do.

So, I will laugh and be joyful. We have a library. Tiny though it might be, it will be mighty in changing the character of the community it serves. For me, it is symbolic of more to come and the completion of Heroes Regional Park after so many years.

© Joyce Clark, 2019         

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.

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.

On April 26, 2019 Jen Fifield had a story in the Arizona Republic about Mayor Weiers’ trip to Norway and France.  Here is the link to the story: https://www.azcentral.com/story/news/local/glendale/2019/04/26/heres-what-glendales-mayor-did-his-5-k-european-trip-taxpayers-dime/3562785002/ . There is so much about this story on which to comment.

The reporter, Jen Fifield, calls herself “a city watchdog reporter covering Surprise and Glendale.” Others call her a “muckraker.” This term is usually applied to journalists who intentionally write (for profit or personal gain) about alleged corruption of public officials. Take your pick…watchdog or muckraker?

Any story about any event or person is fair game for any reporter but the tone of an article can always be the subject of debate. Journalists always tout being fair and unbiased but often the words, especially descriptors, used in an article will reveal any bias. In addition, Fifield’s use of Mark Burdick, Weiers’ opponent in the last mayoral election, is suspect. Did she really expect Burdick to be unbiased on the issue? If your answer is ‘yes’, I have a bridge in Brooklyn for sale. Another person, Yvonne Knaack, quoted by Fifield in her article, was an ardent Burdick supporter and who knows, may run for Mayor this time around.

The information chosen by the reporter to use with respect to the audit is also suspect. I believe this trip occurred in the summer of 2018 and the mayor reimbursed the city for his wife’s expenses in the fall of 2018. The audit occurred in the spring of 2019 with the auditor calling Weiers’ wife’s expenses as “disallowed” many months after the fact, even though the auditor knew that those expenses had been fully reimbursed many months earlier. The auditor’s use of the term “disallowed” implies that the action was purposefully illegal.

Fifield then refers to former Councilmember Chavira and cites his more than a dozen frivolous trips to Washington, D.C. at a taxpayer expense of over $25,000 during his term of office. Citing Chavira’s well known and notorious antics in a story about Weiers implies that Weiers is a bad actor like Chavira. That implication leads the reader to accept the bias in the article. Chavira abused the use of taxpayer funds repeatedly. Linking Weiers’ one trip to Chavira’s repeated abuses is certainly suspect in terms of bias.

To be clear, all members of the Glendale Sister Cities organization received the same blast email advertising the trip. All councilmembers who are members of the organization received it including me. I chose not to go for a variety of reasons both ethical and financial as I assumed I would be paying for my trip. Whether to go or not to go on any trip using taxpayer funds is a personal and ethical decision as a public official. For the hundred or so elected officials throughout this Valley, one could expect multiple decisions to go or not to go and to charge the city or not to charge the city as varied as the councilmembers themselves based upon each councilmember’s experience and standards. Some would have chosen to go considering it valid representation of a city. Others may not have chosen that option. There is no hard and fast rule in any city in this Valley. Should there be? You should be letting your elected officials know where you stand on this issue.

Did Mayor Weiers do something wrong and underhanded? That’s for you to decide. I have worked with him personally for the past several years and in my judgment that was the furthest thing from his mind. Having observed his actions he is a man who genuinely cares about Glendale and especially the least fortunate among us including our veterans’ community. His non-profit work is well known throughout the Valley.  This man would not deliberately cheat the taxpayers of Glendale. It was a decision Weiers chose to make in good faith. I would have made a different choice. Does that make him right and me wrong or vice versa? No.

I am not joined at the hip to Mayor Weiers. We have had our differences. The most important one to me was his vote in favor of Stonehaven while I was adamantly opposed. I see a distinct difference between Chavira who blatantly and repeatedly abused his office and Weiers one trip to Norway when he genuinely believed he was going as a representative of our city.

I am always concerned when we enter a political season. We are in one now for the 2020 election. It’s early I know but election cycles now seem to start almost immediately upon the completion of the previous election. This story appears to have been shared with the reporter in an attempt to bloody Weiers’ nose politically by linking him with Chavira’s abuses. This happens all the time and every politician is fair game during an electoral season but it is important that you, the reader, understand the context in which the story is framed.

© Joyce Clark, 2019         

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.

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.

I often find that I no longer have the time to write. I confess I miss not being able to write several times a week. My city council job, which I love, is now a full time but for this evening, I am caught up. I have already done my ‘homework’ for this Tuesday’s city council workshop and voting meeting. That, of course, doesn’t mean that there aren’t things on my ‘to do’ list. I will spend part of this week reading “A Report on EMS Field Experiments” and read the sign codes from Peoria and Surprise in preparation for my Council Business Committee meeting. There is always more to read, more ‘homework’ to do, more events to attend and endless meetings…with council, with staff and with constituents about an issue or developers with another new project to consider.

Right now council is deep in the belly of budget season. Council started its budget meetings in March and just this past week had 2 all day budget meetings. Staff prepared a proposed budget for council’s consideration and we review every element within it. The old adage that “money is power” still rings true in government today whether it’s local government or the federal government. He who controls the purse strings wields the power. Budget is a season of the tug and pulls between staff, continually seeking more funding for its projects or personnel, and that of council with its own set of priorities. It’s never a fierce issue when the economy is bad and there isn’t discretionary funding. When the economy is healthy, as it is now, polite but intense warfare ensues.

One of the priorities for me for the past two years has been the implementation of a dedicated council assistant for each councilmember. For several years the council office has been on a     3-2-1 model meaning that there are 3 council assistants, each of whom staff 2 councilmembers; 2 ‘rovers’, each of whom takes direction (often confusing and without identification of priority) from the 3 council assistants; and 1 secretary.

There is a litany of reasons why this model does not work. One of the results has been that long term projects and research on topics are shelved simply because of the need for a council assistant to meet the daily tasks of the two councilmembers being staffed. Often the council assistant’s work time for each councilmember is uneven as one councilmember’s needs may, and often does, take priority.

This budget year I have requested that the full time employee (FTE) position that council gave up voluntarily last year to partially cover the costs associated with implementing the School Resource Officer (SRO) program be restored. By adding that one FTE, converting the 2 ‘rover’ and 1 secretary position to council assistant positions will finally allow for one council assistant to serve one councilmember. Because of the State Open Meeting Law restrictions I have only been able to discuss this issue with 2 other councilmembers. If I were to talk to 3 councilmembers in a private setting it would constitute a majority of council. It is a violation to establish consensus of the majority without the benefit of a public meeting. The 2 councilmembers with which I have discussed the issue share my belief that we need dedicated council assistants. However, 4 councilmembers are needed to give staff policy direction. I am hopeful that when this issue is discussed at our next budget meeting on April 30th there is a 4th councilmember that will support this initiative.

It’s a delicate dance because by charter, council’s role is policy making and staff’s role is to administer policy and their role includes managing personnel. However, it is within council’s purview to direct senior management, as a matter of policy, to staff each councilmember with an assistant. It then becomes staff’s responsibility to carry out this policy. As salaried employees each council assistant is ultimately managed by the city manager in his role as CEO of all employees within the organization.  

In an acknowledgment of zero based budgeting each year council receives a detailed report on two selected departments. This year it was the Budget and Finance Department and the Information and Technology Department. I find the detail very helpful and informative but I would appreciate it if they were not the last two departments to be discussed at the end of two very long days.

Other things…there are some members if the public that do not like our City Manager, Kevin Phelps. The reasons are many and varied…some reasons may be valid…from their respective perspectives. I do like and appreciate our City Manager. I have served with quite a few…Dr. Martin Vanacour, Ed Beasley, Dick Bowers, Interim Horatio Skeete and now Kevin Phelps. The only one with which I never served is Brenda Fischer and for that I am extremely grateful. The one who stands out above all is Marty Vanacour but Kevin Phelps runs a close second. No one is perfect…certainly not me…and certainly not any of Glendale’s City Managers. Kevin Phelps took a city on the verge of bankruptcy and implemented policies that have made Glendale financially healthy once again. He is a man driven to make Glendale prosper and to make it a vibrant job center for Glendale residents. Along the way he has had a few missteps but generally he has been good for Glendale.

His past experience in Washington State includes running a major convention center, experience as an auditor as well as experience as an appointed and elected official. He retains my vote of confidence and I hope he will stay on for several more years and continue to ‘make Glendale great again’.

The West Branch Library at Heroes Park at the northeast corner of 83rd Avenue and Bethany Home Road is nearly ready to open. Look for it to open to the public in mid-May. As soon as the date for the Grand Opening is finalized I will announce it on social media. It’s been 20 years since the branch library first appeared in Glendale’s Capital Improvement Program (CIP). An entire generation of children in the Yucca district has grown up without the benefit of a nearby library.  I have no doubt that this branch library will be extremely popular and statistics about its use will far surpass any staff estimates.

Library staff will start preparing for the opening by having library furniture and shelving delivered today. The digital sign at the park alongside 83rd Avenue funded from my city council budget (taxpayer funds) has been installed and is functional. The first major message that the public will see on the sign will be the announcement of the library’s grand opening date. It will be used to announce district and city-wide events. Look for a Yucca district meeting to be held at the library toward the end of May or beginning of June. The date of the Yucca district meeting will be advertised on our new digital sign.

The next Heroes Park element to be developed is the water feature. Funding is secured (once the budget is approved) for the design of the water feature. It is my intent to request funding for its construction in the following fiscal year. There is still much to be done at the park but by taking one bite of the apple at a time, I have no doubt it will be completed.

So much is happening in Glendale and most of it is positive. While the economy is good and we reconstitute our rainy day fund, there are opportunities to not only bring new amenities to Glendale’s residents but to improve the look and feel of Glendale (neglected for years because of a poor economy). Glendale is on the move! Look for more great  things in its future and yours.

© Joyce Clark, 2019         

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

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.

It’s easy for many in the media to find something unpleasant about Glendale to write about but a good news story is often not reported or under reported. Two rating agencies, Standard & Poor’s Rating Agency and Fitch Ratings Agency, independently and objectively, increased their ratings for the City of Glendale in February. Standard & Poor’s increased its rating for the city’s General Obligation debt to AA with a stable outlook. Fitch granted the city its highest rating of AAA with a stable outlook.

What does all of this really mean to you and me? Let’s use a simple example. You want to do some remodeling on your home. Your budget is $10,000 and you assume that you are going to have to pay 10% in interest on the loan. One bank is willing to lend you $10,000 at a 10% interest rate meaning you would pay $1,000 APR. Another bank is willing to lend you $10,000 at a 5% interest rate meaning you would pay $500 APR. Obviously you will use the bank that is charging you 5%. It poses an interesting dilemma. You had planned to pay an interest rate of 10% and now that has dropped to 5%. You could, if you chose, increase the amount of the loan to $20,000 while still paying what you had planned to pay in interest on the $10,000 loan or you can plan to pay less for your loan over time freeing up $500 that you expected as part of the interest payment on other things or just bank the extra interest you would have been paying.

It’s the same with the city. Higher (better) credit ratings means the city pays less to borrow exactly the same amount of money or the city can afford to issue additional debt and still be paying what it had anticipated if the debt had been issued at a higher rate of interest. If the city chooses, it can do more with a reduced interest rate.

Who is responsible for this good news? Kudos to City Manager Kevin Phelps and his finance team of former Assistant City Manager Tom Duensing (just recently having left Glendale) and our Budget & Finance Director Vicki Rios. Your city council deserves some credit as well for its ability to remain disciplined in working toward the goal of growing the city’s fund balance to $50 million and its repeated approval of senior management’s strategies to maintain strong financial management policies.

Other reasons for Glendale’s ratings increases include council’s direction to encourage commercial development (and jobs) west of 115th Avenue in the city as well as its plan to continue to develop a strong, diversified taxpayer base. Senior staff has contributed to this success by its continued emphasis on sustainable and strong management practices.

Senior management and the City Council are both committed to reducing city debt over the long term. It’s a goal to which we don’t pay a lot of attention but it has resulted in a good news story for the taxpayers of Glendale.

© Joyce Clark, 2019         

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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