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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.

The next Yucca district meeting in Glendale is Thursday, November 14th at 6:30 PM at Heroes Park Library (northeast corner of Bethany Home Road and 83rd Avenue).

Speakers will be:

  • City Manager Kevin Phelps
  • Assistant City Manager Chris Anaradian
  • Interim Police Chief Chris Briggs
  • Director of Transportation Trevor Ebersole
  • Planning Director Lisa Collins

These speakers will use the first half hour.  After their remarks, the floor will be open for residents to ask general questions and to make comments. Please use this time to make comments or ask questions that apply to the city as a whole and not specific to your situation.

After resident questions and comments, the speakers will be available to meet you individually and you can ask questions or make comments that are specific to you or your neighborhood.

Light refreshments will be provided. Please RSVP by Friday, November 8th so that we have a count on how many refreshments to provide. RSVP to sbeck@glendaleaz.com or call Shannon Beck at 623-930-2250.

Thank you. I’m looking forward to seeing you there!

Joyce

© 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.

In all of my years of blog writing I have probably written follow up blogs about half a dozen times. I felt it necessary this time because of all of the misinformation on this issue. Let’s look at the allegations being thrown around about this issue.

Secrecy of process

The first time the issue of council pay raises was mentioned was at the city council workshop meeting on May of 2019. Councilmember Ray Malnar introduced a Council Item of Special Interest (CIOSI) requesting that council and staff take up the issue of city council pay raises stating that it had been 13 years since the last increase. The Mayor and I supported Councilmember Malnar’s request. In June of 2019 at its workshop city council authorized a citizen Compensation Committee. The committee started meeting immediately and met for 5 or 6 work sessions prior to making their recommendation. In July of 2019 at a city council workshop direction was given to place the question of council raises on the Special Election ballot already approved for this November. Much has been said about this meeting. Yes, it was a special workshop called because of the time requirements that had to be met for the Special Election. Remember the Special Election was called to meet the state mandate to conform to its requirement that the Primary Election date be moved from the 3rd Tuesday in August to the 1st Tuesday in August. Adding the question of council pay raises to an authorized Special Election made sense in terms of cost avoidance.

 In attendance at that workshop meeting were Mayor Weiers, myself, Councilmembers Hugh and Malnar. Councilmember Tolmachoff was on vacation and had notified all that she would not be able to attend. Councilmembers Turner and Aldama simply did not show up. They could have attended but they chose not to.  It is safe to assume that they are opposed to city council pay raises. However, if they were so intensely opposed rather than being ‘no-shows’ it was incumbent upon them to articulate their opposition.  Can we assume that if this question passes, they will stand by their opposition and reject increases to their salaries?

All workshops are public meetings and televised. Their agendas are posted as are the subsequent minutes. There are also videos of the workshop meetings posted on the city’s website. This issue was never a secret. The council held at least 3 workshops in which this issue was discussed. Typically, the majority of issues are discussed and direction given in just one workshop…occasionally there might be two workshops on the same issue and the second workshop is usually a follow up to the initial discussion. Three workshops on the same issue are unusual. So, where is the secrecy? It was an open, public process that if a citizen wanted to follow could be done. By the way, the citizen Compensation Committee’s meetings are also required to be open to the public and were publicly noticed. Where were all of the current protestors? Did any make an effort to attend even one of their meetings to offer public comment and to learn of the committee’s work and deliberations?

Pay raise methods

Traditionally Glendale has created a citizen’s committee and taken the recommendation to the voters. That would continue to work well if there were a regular, periodic schedule when this process would occur. That is not the case. The last two citizen recommended pay increases have been 13 years apart. That explains the large increases recommended. If you had to wait 13 years until your next pay raise you would expect it to be substantial.

Cities nationwide are moving away from this system and many now have an annual or biennial review that no longer requires voter approval. It is automatic and is usually based on the Consumer Price Index (CPI) increase or comparisons to other similarly populated cities. For example, Surprise which just increased council salaries by resolution also established a new policy in which the mayor and council salaries would be reviewed, and perhaps adjusted, every city election year, which is every other year. The Surprise council pay adjustments will be based on the average of the mayors and the average of council members in other Phoenix-area cities with populations of 100,000 to 300,000 as of Jan. 31 of the election year. Gilbert has had an automatic system based on the CPI in place for years. Glendale’s move to an automatic process is no longer an unusual practice.

Opposition’s motivations

A hit piece by a reporter who is identified as an “investigative reporter” has worked hard to make it appear that this is skull duggery and some kind of nefarious plot. That is the job of an investigative reporter. Keep in mind the goal is to stir the pot and create a fire where there is none.

Citizens who have voiced their opposition are free to do so and as you can see from the comments I do not reject or censor their thoughts. But they, too, have their motivations. Some are angry because the city has sold Glen Lakes Golf Course. Others dislike our Mayor or City Manager and some are displeased with other council decisions that have been made on issues such as the downtown events. It is understandable when viewed in the context of their displeasure on other issues for I note that nearly every comment begins with, ‘I believe city councilmembers deserve a raise but…’ Their objections are not to the question of the worthiness of a council pay raise.

Creation of a PAC

PACs are formed all the time in support of or in opposition to a ballot issue. My goodness, look at a recent Phoenix election on light rail. PACs were created all over the place both for and against the issue. A PAC called Best of the West was formed by some of the members of the citizen Compensation Committee. I haven’t talked to them but I assume they felt passionately enough about the issue to advocate for council raises. That is their right just as much as those who have publicly come out in opposition to this issue. Nothing they have done is illegal. It is not illegal to form a PAC on a ballot issue or to solicit contributions for a mailer supporting it.

As for allegations that somehow Councilmember Hugh is the mastermind behind it, I seriously doubt it. If the PAC asked him for advice or help he was free to provide it if he so chose. If I had been asked I would have helped as well. Each of us has made no secret of our support for council pay raises.

Lastly, there is a reason to support council pay raises that I did not speak to in my last blog because I chose to educate about the duties of a councilmember and that is “You get what you pay for.” At a salary of $34,000 you will get people who must have another job or seniors who are retired and can afford it. Yet it is recognized this is a full time job. I honestly don’t know how some councilmembers juggle two full time jobs. I know of one giving up a business to insure the necessary time can be given to this job. If you want to attract and to motivate younger, bright, capable individuals to this work then enough compensation is needed to create an opportunity for them to do so.

I continue to support council pay raises and it should be obvious to you, the reader, as to why. I urge you to vote “Yes” on authorizing the change of the Primary Election date and authorizing city council pay raises. Again, as I said previously, no matter your position, please, please, do vote. It is a right often ignored and taken for granted.

© 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.

For those of you who vote by mail you have probably received your Glendale ballot. In fact you may have received two ballots thanks to Adrian Fontes, the current Mauicopa County Recorder. Once again, the County Recorder messed up. Instead of putting the school district issues and Glendale issues on one ballot, they printed two separate ballots for about 4,000 of Glendale’s voters. I am one of those. When you receive them vote on both ballots and mail back both ballots in their correct envelopes.

This blog is devoted to the question of city council pay raises. Let me start at the beginning. The State of Arizona delivered another mandate to cities requiring all Primary Elections to be moved from the third Tuesday of the month to the first Tuesday of the month. It required all charter cities (Glendale is one) to be in compliance prior to the first Tuesday of August, 2020.

City Council made the decision to hold a Special Election to bring the city into conformance as soon as possible. The first date a city election could be held was November 5th of this year. Council decided that as long as a Special Election was to be held for one issue, it might as well add the question of city council raises, if that was the citizen Council Compensation Committee’s recommendation.

The citizen Council Compensation Committee made their recommendation to raise council salaries and place it on the ballot. Council agreed and added the question to that of the question of changing the Primary Election date to come into conformance with the state mandate.

Not all Metropolitan Phoenix cities allow voters to approve council salary increases. In Surprise, for instance, their Council approves pay increases by resolution. Recently they did just that and increased their salaries by resolution. Their salaries will be reviewed and adjusted in every city election year—in other words, every other year.

I believe I have earned a raise and I make no apology for stating such. In 1992, my first year as a councilmember, Glendale had a population of about 158,000, about 1200 employees and a total budget of about $500 million dollars. In 2019, Glendale has a population of about 250,000, about 2000 employees and a total budget of about $750 million dollars.

The first council raise I received was in 2006 after 10 years of service for me (I had a 4 year hiatus). It was in actuality, 14 years before councilmember salaries were raised from $12,000 to $34,000 a year upon recommendation of a citizen Council Compensation Committee and subsequent voter approval. It was an increase of $22,000 over 14 years or $1571 per year.

If the voters approve the current recommended salary increase it will have been another 10 years of service for me (I had a second 4 year hiatus). It will have actually been another 14 years if councilmember salaries are raised from $34,000 to $52,000. It would be an increase of $18,000 over 14 years or $1285 per year.

I said I earn it and I will try to convey why. I don’t think that unless you’ve been a local elected official that one can appreciate the requirements of the job. I think that everyone assumes that we vote at a council meeting every other Tuesday and that’s all there is to it. Not so. Hours and days are highly irregular and can include every day of the week (including Sunday) from an early morning breakfast event at 7 or 7:30 am to a regional dinner or banquet that ends at 10 or 11 pm. Because of the irregular hours and days, there are days that are 12 hour days and other days (not as often) that can be 4 or 5 hour work days.

Add other activities, meetings and events.  I chair the Council Business Committee and the Council Government Services Committee. I also serve on the Council Code Review Committee and the Arizona League of Cities Budget and Finance Committee. Add preparation time and travel time for those meetings.

Speaking of travel time, I still drive a 2004 model car. I am certainly not living high on the hog. After taxes, I take home about $25,000. The major annual mileage (80%) on the car is strictly for city business. I pay for all gas and maintenance. The city does not reimburse me and if it did, I would not put in for it. My cell phone is my personal cell and I pay the monthly bill. Again the majority of use (90%) is city related for I still have a landline at home that is used for friends and family. The city does not reimburse me and if it did, I would not put in for it. Or how about the use of my personal computer and tablet and related costs for an internet connection and for paper and toner?  I often print material so that I have something on which to make notes as I study the issue. I pay personally for all of those items.

Speaking of paying for work related items, I consider some civic memberships to be essential as an elected official but I pay for those memberships personally. One, for example, is the Glendale Chamber of Commerce. When I have a working lunch that does not include city topics exclusively, I pay for the attendees (sometimes accepted, sometimes not) or at least my own tab from my personal funds. If it is strictly city related, such as meeting high school principals for breakfast, I will use my city credit card. It’s a fine, ethical line and I tend to err on the side of caution. I’m sure I’ve forgotten some expenses but you get the idea.

Then there are meetings, seemingly endless meetings…with staff on issues from streets and traffic light issues to Police and Fire Promotion Ceremonies. There are also monthly one-on-one meetings with our City Attorney, City Manager and Council Office Manager on current or upcoming issues. There are texts, emails and one-on-one meetings with my Council Assistant. Then there are one-on-one constituent or HOA meetings that can last from an hour to several hours.

Now add a sprinkling of City Events from Caesar Chavez or Martin Luther King Day to Glendale Glitters to Tractor Days at Sahuaro Ranch. Everyone assumes that we get lots of freebie events such as concerts at the city owned Gila River Arena.  I have never gone to a concert that I have not personally paid for. The city does have a suite at the arena and when asked by the City’s Economic Development department to attend I go because it is my job. I barely pay attention to the event because we are asked to attend to make connections with economic development prospects in attendance. The city has no suite in the football stadium and I have never attended a Super Bowl game hosted by Glendale. There was one time that I was offered the opportunity to buy 2 Super Bowl tickets at the face value of $600 each. I passed. I couldn’t afford it. The 2 times I attended a Super Bowl it was out-of-town when the city was preparing to host it’s first ever Super Bowl and those were big time learning curve trips.  If I attend anything at the stadium I have paid, just like you, to be there. The city does have a suite at Camelback Ranch and I have only been in it as part of my job, for events such as Opening Day or for the closing ceremonies of a Youth Baseball League.

I’m not done yet. A major part of my job as a councilmember is solving constituent problems. The majority of the time I am successful but not always. In some instances the city has no law or code to address an issue. I am readily accessible by cell phone, 602-320-3422, and have received calls at 10 pm at night regarding football game day parking in a neighborhood to a 6 am call advising me that the Grand Canal Park’s sprinklers were flooding an area. Sometimes I can’t answer because I am at an event or in a meeting but I do try to return them at my earliest opportunity.  I attend neighborhood meetings, HOA meetings and one-on-one meetings with constituents. Each typically lasts from one to several evening hours. I host district-wide meetings twice a year and mail out a district-wide newsletter twice a year as well. I offer an online E News letter once a week. I use social media and have a Facebook page devoted to city news and events. I can’t write this blog as frequently as I would like to. Here it is, nearly 11 o’clock this evening and I may finish writing and editing by 1 am. It’s quiet now and I can think about this issue yet I know I will pay for it tomorrow as my first city commitment is at 9:30 am.

Here is another task to add to this ever growing list and that is research and preparation for council workshops and voting meetings. Forget having a free weekend. Typically we receive the council workshop agenda on a Wednesday before the Tuesday meeting and the council voting meeting agenda on the Friday before the Tuesday meeting. Since there isn’t much free time during the week, I like most of the other councilmembers, end up using either our Saturday or Sunday afternoons doing our “homework.” It often entails a flurry of emails to staff members to get further information or to ask questions on an agenda topic. It easily consumes all afternoon. Follow up often takes additional time on Monday mornings.

Once again, I know there are probably other activities that I have forgotten to include as I write this. I think you get the idea. It is a job that requires flexibility; intelligence; curiosity; and patience.

In some instances it can be a thankless job for never, ever, is everyone pleased with a decision made or a vote cast. I rarely receive a ‘thank you’ nor do I expect it. I will often hear from some citizens when they think my decision or vote was not what they wanted or expected. Despite all of that I love my job. Why? Because of the variety of the job. No two days are ever alike. There is always something new to learn.

 I think I am good at my job. I’m accessible and committed. I love Glendale and I love my district, the Yucca district. My district is hot. It’s where the majority of new economic development and new residential development is occurring. It keeps me busy meeting with potential economic developers.

In 1992, when I first became the Yucca district councilmember it was a part time job. Today, it is a full time job. City issues are far more complex. The city’s population increase means there are more constituents in each district and hence more constituent demands on a councilmember’s time. The use of the internet and social media has added a whole new dimension to the job. Have I earned a raise? I believe so and I hope after reading this you believe so too. No matter how you vote on the two Glendale issues please remember to vote and to exercise a freedom not found in many countries in our world. I already voted. Did you?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

© 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.

Prior to the September 10th city council workshop meeting, reporters representing a local TV station descended upon us and incessantly questioned the mayor and councilmembers regarding the hiring of former Glendale Police Chief Rick St. John as the city’s first Public Safety Director. Not surprisingly Councilmembers Aldama and Turner offered sound bites intimating that the council had authority over this City of Glendale employee hire.

It’s time to set the record straight.

It states explicitly in the city’s charter with regard to the city council, “Sec. 19. – Interference in administrative service. “Except as otherwise provided in this charter, neither the council nor any of its members shall interfere with the execution by the city manager of his powers and duties, or order, directly or indirectly, the appointment by the city manager of any person to an office or employment or his removal therefrom.”

The charter then goes on to specifically authorize as a power of the city manager,”Sec. 3. – City manager; powers and duties. “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 and shall be required to:

        “(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;”

The city council, by charter, has no power to hire, fire, suspend or in any way affect the position of any city employee. The only direct hires of the city council are the city manager, the city attorney, the city clerk and the city’s chief judge. That’s it. The council has no authority regarding any other employee position. The city manager could have hired the Easter Bunny for that position and council has no say…no authority with regard to his choice.

The only way the city council has any power over employees is during the budget cycle. Council can approve or deny new employee positions or can increase or decrease the number of full time employees (FTEs) within any city department’s budget appropriation. In June of 2019, council approved the creation of several new city positions by authorizing the funding of those positions. Among them was a Public Safety Director and a Council Assistant. I mention these two positions specifically to demonstrate what occurred after those positions were approved by city council at its budget process.

Here is a case in point. Council approved the addition of one FTE who would be destined to become my new Council Assistant. In July the position of Council Assistant was posted. It is my understanding that there were nearly a 100 applicants. The Human Resources Department went through every application and determined which of the applicants met the qualifications for the job. I asked and was told the process reduced the list to about 60 applicants. Those applicants were then reviewed by an appropriate staff member based upon specific criteria for the council assistant job requirements. Those finalists were interviewed by a panel of city employees resulting in a final list of three applicants. Since I was the councilmember who would be using this new hire, I was invited to meet the three finalists. Please note it was not within my authority to demand or even to ask to interview the finalists. I was asked for my opinion and offered it knowing full well that I had no authority in choosing the person who would be my council assistant. Fortunately for me, the person I felt would do the best job was the choice of senior management. That position was filled in early August.

In the case of the Public Safety Director, city council authorized the position’s funding with its approval of the Fiscal Year 2019-20 budget. On August 27, 2019 city council approved an agreement with Interim Public Management LLC (IPM) to secure candidates for the position. As was stated by Jim Brown, Human Resources Director, the applicants for the position were narrowed down to three finalists. I do not know who or when or how many staff was involved in the interview process but Mr. Brown stated that the selection was made after interviews were conducted. The decision was strictly within the authority of the city manager. It was not city council’s decision to make and the city charter does not grant the council any authority over the process or the selection.

Occasionally, and not in every instance, council has been invited to attend a reception for the finalists for a position such as Assistant City Manager. It is a reception open to many employees not just councilmembers. Sometimes a few of the city councilmembers will attend. Rarely, if ever, are our opinions solicited and even if they had been, they have no bearing on the final selection.

Why the intense media scrutiny? Is it to gin up their ratings? Does it reflect anti-police sentiment expressed by some of the general public? Perhaps because they haven’t done their homework as to how the selection process works? Or does it have to do with the intense media attention given to “use of force” policy by the Glendale Police Department?

I would just remind everyone that government employees are terminated all the time and knowing government as we all do, it’s got to be something pretty serious to get fired or to resign in lieu of termination. Yet I don’t see the media hounding any local governmental leaders if an employee other than a police officer or fire fighter is terminated. This statement in no way diminishes employee bad conduct for public safety employees are held to a higher standard since their mission is to protect the public. All leadership within Glendale does not condone or support bad acts committed by any employee within the City of Glendale. It doesn’t matter if it’s within the finance department, the water department or the police department.

Within any organization, public or private, there are employees who are terminated or should be. Why, I bet there are one or two at your place of work that you’ve wondered why they haven’t already been fired. That does not mean that aberrant, out-of-the norm behavior is condoned by the organization’s leadership. It does signify that there is a long process, often expensive and often painful for both sides, designed to protect the rights of both sides and sometimes the outcome satisfies no one.

Glendale is deserving of criticism when criticism is due but in this case I suspect the media didn’t do all of their homework on this one or perhaps they are in a vendetta mood. Who knows? It may be both.

© 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 Tuesday, August 28, 2019, the Glendale City Council held a workshop session. Mayor Weiers was an excused absence as was Councilmember Malnar, although Councilmember Malnar could listen to the deliberations telephonically and could text periodically. One of the agenda items was a recommendation from senior management based upon the downtown Strategic Leadership Group’s (SLG) advisory recommendations regarding special events. The SLG suggested that it was time to rethink how Glendale offers special events downtown. Rather than one major weekend event they suggested offering 4 April weekends of music as a way of generating more foot traffic over a longer period of time. They characterized it as an experiment designed to collect data on the change to compare to the data generated in past years from one major weekend event.

The SLG started meeting this past spring and did not finalize nor present its recommendations to senior management until June and by the time senior management received their recommendations the Fiscal Year 2019-20 budget had already been approved as part of the city’s balanced budget. The amount of dollars allocated for special events downtown was already established. Senior management would have to reallocate dollars within the $186,015 special events budget to accommodate the group’s advisory recommendations.

Council’s mandate for that workshop was to come to some sort of consensus on the advisory recommendations that the SLG offered to Glendale’s senior management for presentation to the city council at a workshop session. The recommendations finalized by senior management were:

  • Allocating $56,805 for 3 weekend Friday and Saturday nights in December
  • Adding $4,210 to Glitter and Glow event
  • Allocating $90,000 for 4 weekends of music in April
  • Adding $15,000 to other special events
  • Allocating $20,000 to Arrowhead Towne Center and Westgate for special events

The original budgeted amount for special events of $186,015 would remain the same. The recommendation included the removal of hosting the Chocolate Affaire for one weekend in February and those funds would be reprogrammed as shown above. That was council’s charge at the workshop: to accept, amend or reject these recommendations. Several councilmembers questioned SLG’s origins, its method of operation and its advisory recommendations. Here’s a sampling of their comments and questions:

  • Councilmember Aldama, “So 16 individuals on that leadership committee would be guiding those decisions being brought to the city manager, bringing to us for decision. Any idea that would occur downtown would have been made up by this group here?”
  • Councilmember Tolmachoff, “I have a question about leadership group. Is every person on this list able to vote or is it just the business owners that’s able to vote? There’s a city employee on here and there’s two Chamber people. Do they vote? Or is it just the business owners?”
  • Councilmember Turner, “Who appointed this Strategic Leadership Group? or elected? or how was this created?”

The origins of this group were that the Glendale Chamber decided to advance this idea by inviting those identified downtown merchants and leaders who, while representing diverse points of view, were committed to achieve consensus on the advisories it would present to the city. Their mission is to positively advance the downtown interests.

What is amazing is that never in the long, one hundred years plus history of downtown Glendale has such a group ever coalesced. Over the years, there have been many think tank sessions that made suggestions. I go all the way back to the 1990’s “Miracle Mile” group’s discussions and all of the iterations that followed. All resulted in…nothing.

There remains a small group of downtown merchants who abhor the SLG’s efforts and prefer to reject change and want things to remain exactly the same. Hence, former Vice Mayor Knaack’s comment to Councilmember Tolmachoff’s recitation of the definition of insanity, repeating the same thing over and over and expecting a different result. This small, dissident group resents the activities of the SLG. If the SLG were to say the sky is blue, they would dispute that notion. They sat in the back of the council chamber holding up already prepared signs impugning the comments of the SLG.

So, instead of discussing the proposed recommendations council spent the first hour of discussion about the Strategic Leadership Group. Once it got past that discussion, the next issue to arise was the fate of the Chocolate Affaire in February. The proposed recommendation was to take the funds from that event and reallocate it with the bulk of the funding to go to four musical weekends in April. Here is a sampling of councilmember’s thoughts on the elimination of the Chocolate Affaire:

  • Councilmember Turner, “But we’re being asked to eliminate the Chocolate Affaire which to me is an event that has very positive, um, connection to the city of Glendale plus to one of our major tourist attractions here in the downtown area.”
  • Councilmember Tolmachoff, “But moving on to the Chocolate Affaire, um, was there any discussion? Because the Chocolate Affaire is something that is widely recognized all across the Phoenix area and it’s a recognizable Glendale event.”
  • Councilmember Aldama, “…I vehemently…completely think it’s absurd to end the Chocolate Affaire. It is absurd to suggest that we do that.

These councilmembers, as is their right, expressed real concern about eliminating the Chocolate Affaire. After they expressed their points of view the discussions began to take on a more positive tone as councilmembers struggled with a way of preserving the Chocolate Affaire:

  • Councilmember Malnar texted that he supported the work of the merchants’ SLG group.
  • Councilmember Tolmachoff, “But try the Chocolate Affaire if we can do it in the Civic Center this year. We can try it this year and let’s see if we can do it.”
  • Councilmember Turner, “If that’s where we’re at with the Chocolate Affaire then let’s look at it. I like the idea of doing something in the Civic Center.”
  • Councilmember Aldama, “I don’t want to end the Chocolate Affaire but I want you to recreate it. If that’s what this consensus is, recreating but not eliminating it, then I can give my consensus.”
  • Councilmember Hugh, “Let’s try it in the Civic Center and I bet it’s a huge success.”
  • Vice Mayor Clark, as Chair of the meeting, agreed with the council’s final recommendations.

Two contentious hours later, consensus had finally been achieved. Allocating $56,805 for 3 weekend Friday and Saturday nights in December; adding $4,210 to Glitter and Glow event; and allocating $90,000 for 4 weekends of music in April were accepted as presented. Adding $15,000 to other special events and allocating $20,000 to Arrowhead Towne Center and Westgate special events for a total of $35,000 were reprogrammed by city council  to be using for hosting the Chocolate Affaire in Glendale’s Civic Center this coming February.

I suspect the small group of downtown merchants opposed to any change will not be happy with the amended recommendations consented to by city council. There was another, more subtle consensus achieved that day and that was that council publicly acknowledged that change is needed in downtown Glendale and they seem hopeful that the Strategic Leadership Group will be the catalyst to finally make it happen.

© 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.

Yesterday, August 13, 2019, the city council’s workshop was devoted exclusively to a potential sale of Glendale’s cemetery. I wanted to wait to write about the issue but waited until I had all of the information I required, including the staff presentation and my own research.

Let’s begin with some history. The Glendale Cemetery Association, comprised of 3 local churches, established the Glendale Memorial Park Cemetery in 1900. By 1962 the Association realized it was struggling financially and asked the City of Glendale to assume ownership of the cemetery. The city agreed and received all land owned by the Association to be used exclusively as a cemetery as well as $12,831.21 in cash and $40,005.00 in stock investments.

Within that agreement there was no restriction placed on the city preventing it from selling the cemetery or its assets. For the past 57 years the city has faithfully owned and managed the property. Sometimes it did it well, sometimes (during recessions), it did not.  For nearly 60 years the city has supported the operation and maintenance of the cemetery from the city’s General Fund (taxpayer funds) while putting the proceeds from burial plot sales into a Perpetual Card Fund. Staff researched old records and could establish that the city subsidizes the cemetery at an estimated $30,000 to $50,000 a year. It also provides indirect support (personnel and equipment) from the Landfill, Solid Waste and Transportation departments. The Perpetual Card Fund is now about $5.8 million dollars and the city can document that an estimated $3.2 million dollars has come directly out of the city’s General Fund to pay for annual operations and maintenance. If a sale occurs, the city would retain about $2 million as reimbursement to its General Fund to offset what had been spent over the years for operations and maintenance. The buyer would retain about $3 million that would stay in the Perpetual Care Fund.

If you wish to see the workshop discussion you can go to the city’s website or the city’s Facebook page. The city is now live streaming all city council workshops and voting meetings. In my remarks from yesterday I delivered the following thoughts. The city council is not part of a nefarious plot (this was a pun…note the word ‘plot’ in reference to our discussion of the cemetery. Only the city manager got it…oh well). City council’s (and mine) decision will be based on a great deal of research and deliberation. We have a fiduciary responsibility to be wise stewards of your taxpayer dollars and that responsibility is taken very seriously.

It appears there are 3 options:

  • The city can continue to operate the cemetery as is. It would continue to subsidize the operations and maintenance from the General Fund. The city would use capital only to make repairs that were absolutely necessary and would continue to only allow services Tuesday through Thursday. It would continue to do little to no marketing. There is no guarantee under this model as to what future city councils may decide to do.
  • The city can enhance the cemetery operations and maintenance and make further capital investments. There are some things cities are good at doing and some things cities are not so good at doing. Running a cemetery is one of those things cities are not so good doing. It can hire a professional to run the operation and it can invest taxpayer funds to build infrastructure for cremation niches (which the city does not provide at this time). I estimate the additional cost to implement this model at an estimated $150,000 to $200,000 a year in addition to capital for infrastructure improvements. Again, there are no guarantees as to what future councils may decide to do.
  • The city can sell to a professional within the industry with a proven track record of successful management. The proposed buyer and the industry are heavily regulated. It seems the state legislature takes death and burial very, very seriously.

One of the emails I received implied that the proposed buyer may not have the financial credentials necessary. So I did some research by going to Arizona Revised Statutes, Title 32, Chapter 20, Article 6 which contains all of the regulations with regard to cemeteries. I won’t cite all but I do want to highlight several regulations that should put Glendale residents’ concerns at ease.

  • 32-2194.19. Investigation of applicant before granting of certificate of authority where needed. “Upon receipt of an application for a certificate of authority to operate a cemetery, the commissioner shall cause an investigation to be made of the physical status, plans, specifications and financing of the proposed cemetery, the character of the applicant, including its officers, directors, shareholders or members, and any other qualifications required of the applicant under this article.”
  • 32-2194.24. Trust fund to be established before certificate of authority granted. “No certificate of authority shall issue to a corporation or limited liability company organized for the purpose of maintaining and operating a cemetery unless the articles of incorporation or organization certify to the establishment of an irrevocable trust for maintenance and operation in accordance with the provisions of this article…”
  • 27. Restrictive use of income from endowed-care fund; obligation. “There shall be designated a trustee for the endowed-care fund that is a financial institution authorized to do business in this state…The principal of the trust fund shall remain permanently intact, and only the income …shall be expended…the fund shall be used solely for the care of the plots or other burial spaces sold to third persons with a provision for perpetual or endowed care…The fund or its income shall never be used for the development, improvement or embellishment of unsold portions of the cemetery…”
  • 32-2194.30. Restriction on the use of endowed-care funds. “Endowed-care funds shall not be used for any purpose other than to provide for the care of burial spaces…”

State regulations require a thorough background check, including financial,  of the potential buyer and associates and also require the Perpetual Care Fund to remain intact and only the interest earned on the Fund may be used for specific, regulated purposes. There are so many state safe guards to prevent fiduciary abuse and that should ease concerns of anyone who is frightened about a proposed sale.

There are positives to a sale. A professional would keep the cemetery open seven days a week. The proposed buyer has promised to keep the name of the cemetery as is and would still recognize preferences to Glendale residents. There are only 1.000 burial plots left. At an average of 100 plots purchased per year this model only has a life span of another 10 years. The buyer has indicated that his model will emphasize cremation niches and has plans to develop the infrastructure for such.

How will I vote? I don’t know. I am leaning toward a sale but council has requested further information that will result in a second workshop on the issue. Once I believe that I have all the information I need, I will make my final decision.

© 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.

At a recent city council workshop further medical marijuana dispensary restrictions were considered. Councilmember Ray Malnar, as a Council Item of Special Interest (CIOSI), asked for a more explicit definition of “schools.” It will be brought back to council again in the near future because Mayor Weiers and Councilmember Tolmachoff said that the proposed definition of schools was too restrictive. Here is an article from Your Valley Net: https://yourvalley.net/yourvalley/government/glendale-council-to-decide-if-pot-dispensaries-must-separate-from-more-than-just-schools/ .

I guess another background narrative is in order. In the state-wide November 2, 2010 election voters weighed in on Proposition 203, approving the use of medical marijuana by 50.13%. That’s a slim margin but it is all that was needed to permit the use of medical marijuana throughout the state. In order to implement this new mandate, the Arizona Department of Health Services (DHS) created approximately 126 Community Health Analysis Areas (CHAA). One dispensary is allowed per CHAA. Here is a map of all of the CHAAs in the state.

CHAA map

I said something during the city council discussion I had read somewhere and it resonated with me. That was, “It is one thing to permit marijuana but it is another to promote it.  I am not interested in doing anything to promote marijuana.” I think it is a good concept to adopt and so I have.

 Cities have no choice. Voters have approved it use and the state mandates that cities may not prohibit a dispensary in any CHAA. Cities can, however, use their zoning authority to regulate the location of dispensaries…but that’s about all the authority a city has.

Federal research on the effects of marijuana is in its infancy despite its use (legal or illicit) for many years.  As more states have authorized its use, medically and now recreationally, the federal government is pursuing greater research on its use and the effects of such use.

Preliminary results suggest that marijuana is not a gateway drug. It appears if one is predisposed to use marijuana the disposition to graduate to harder drugs is already there. That preliminary conclusion is at least comforting. Other preliminary data is not so comforting.

It appears that marijuana can have negative effects on the brains of adolescents. These effects can include and are not limited to:

  • Changes to the brain’s structure (including size and how areas are connected)
  • Lower quality of brain connections
  • Less blood flow to parts of the brain

Preliminary research has demonstrated it’s possible that marijuana use can hurt brain functions in teens. Marijuana use in teens has been shown to lower IQ scores and create poor memory and attention. These findings are important because young people’s brains are building the connections to improve executive functioning ( self-control, creative thinking, and decision-making skills). Do we really want to encourage a generation of “dumb-downed” teens?

In consideration of these preliminary research findings I am not inclined to promote the use of marijuana. By broadening the definition of schools we, as a city, will discourage the location of an “attractive nuisance” close to all types of schools.

Why bother? Well, not everyone who patronizes a marijuana dispensary may be a pillar of the community and an upstanding citizen. It has been reported previously that there is a growing industry of “pot doctors” who locate nearby dispensaries and are prone to facilitate the approval of medical marijuana cards to those who ordinarily would not qualify for such a card.

I also think it’s not OK to trivialize the use of marijuana in order to make it so acceptable within our society. As our society changes rapidly not all that comes with change is in and of itself good. Are we becoming a society that promotes individual indulgence no matter the consequences?

© 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.

One more swipe at the state legislature

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.

In a previous blog I shared how the state legislature mandates fiscal policies that often harm cities. This issue is more nuanced. It is the issue of short-term rentals. In fact, the Arizona Republic has a front page story today about this very subject.

Two years ago, Debbie Lesko, now a congressional representative for Glendale and the surrounding area, sponsored a bill which became known as the “AirBnB Bill.  Governor Doug Ducey signed it into law. The original intent was give property owners the ability to rent out a bedroom as a way of making extra money.

Sometimes we have to be careful what we wish for as there are often unintended consequences. This bill has delivered more consequences than anticipated. What has occurred is far different from the bill’s original intent. In places like Sedona investors are buying homes or building new ones and turning them into mini-hotels. This action is unsustainable and destabilizing. One consequence has been to reduce the amount of available long-term rentals for those who work in a community. It has also reduced school age populations as long-term renters with families are frozen out of the market in favor of short-term, far more lucrative rentals.

This turn of events has hit Arizona’s major tourist destinations the hardest but it has also set up every city in the metropolitan area to become a victim during major sporting events such as the Super Bowl, Final Four and major NASCAR races. Homeowners from all over the state are now complaining about issues such as increased traffic and noise in their once quiet neighborhoods.

A bill sponsored by Representative John Kavanaugh passed through the legislature this year. It was designed to deal with these very issues but a funny thing happened on its way to passage by the state legislature…it was emasculated. The very restrictions on investor-owned rentals and limiting the number of guests per rental that would have alleviated the situation were stripped from the bill.

No doubt this is a difficult question. At what point do rental properties diminish existent homeowners’ quality of life? How are we to balance a property owner’s right to do what he or she wishes to do with the property against quality of life issues for nearby residents leading to a loss of their property value? Who prevails and how? Perhaps the state legislature’s passage of the original Air BnB Bill mandating how cities can regulate short-term rentals within their communities was ill advised. After all, Arizona is the only state in the Union to have imposed this mandate on cities. We should wonder why no other state has messed with this issue. Sometimes local control is the best control.

© 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.

The state legislature seems to have a love/hate relationship with every city in the state. Here are some of the more egregious examples. One is the state’s diminishment of the cities’ ability to collect Impact Fees; another is the state usurpation of every city’s ability to collect sales tax; and lastly the state’s reduction in the distribution amount of Highway User Revenue Funds (HURF) it is required to share with every city in the state.

In 2011, the Arizona legislature passed Senate Bill 1525. This bill restricts cities’ ability to collect Impact Fees from the development community. This diminishes the amount of money needed for libraries, community parks, streets and infrastructure, open space and trails.

So what, what do you care? Well, you should care because the restrictions on the collection of Impact Fees don’t mean that these things are not built. They still are…only now; you the taxpayer are paying for new growth in your town or city.

How does it impact you? It used to be in this state the mandate was “growth should pay for growth.” That no longer applies. Here’s a hypothetical. A developer wants to build a subdivision of 250 new homes on the periphery of your city. That developer would have to pay a set Impact Fee per house to help cover the cost of infrastructure to support and provide services to the new subdivision. Perhaps the arterial street abutting the subdivision would now require widening to accommodate the new traffic from the subdivision. Or perhaps the nearest fire station or library was pretty far away requiring a new fire station or library.  The Impact Fee charged by the city would help to defray the cost of widening the street or putting in a new fire station or library. The Development Impact Fee cost to the developer is added onto the price of each new home. The developer might raise the price of the new home by a $1,000 or $2,000. That money would go into the city’s accounts to help pay for the new infrastructure causing new growth to help pay for itself.

What happens when the Impact Fees have been reduced or eliminated by the state legislature? The city still needs to widen that street or to build that fire station or library. Where will the money come from? Why, the taxes you pay, of course. Now you are paying for that new growth.

There is one case when the loss of Impact Fees is not as detrimental to a city or town and that is with Infill Development. With Infill Development a developer takes a piece of land within an established area of a city and builds maybe 30 or 50 new homes on it. That land has been vacant for years but already has an adequate arterial street and a nearby fire station or library. There is no need to build new infrastructure. In that case the Development Impact Fees are used for any needed expansion of nearby infrastructure.

Yet in its heavy-handed way, the state legislature makes no distinction on the imposition of Impact Fees between an Infill Development in an established area of a city and new development that is sited where there is no city infrastructure. Why has this happened? Because the pro-development lobby is the 900 lb. gorilla with deep pockets that contributes to every state legislator’s election campaign (if the legislator is on the ‘right’ side of the issue). Taxpayers have no such lobby and therefore in a battle between the pro-development lobby and the taxpayer, guess who wins?

Another example of the heavy handedness of the state legislature is the mandate passed in 2016 requiring all cities and counties sales taxes to be collected by the state by January of 2017. To add further insult to this injury, cities must pay the state to collect sales tax…they must now pay the state to do what they did for a hundred years. Glendale paid over $650,000 this fiscal year to the state to pay for what it had collected on its own previously.

To make matters worse, in an audit of the state Department of Revenue released in June of this year it was revealed that the state does a lousy job of collecting sales tax. The department simply missed identifying businesses and erased a bunch of active businesses that were paying their taxes. After the department took over collection from the cities at one point just stopped checking to see whether all businesses were even licensed.

Cities are now forced to retain their employees that check payment of business sales tax. In other words cities have to double check the work of the state department to insure that not only the tax is being paid but that it is a correct amount. So much for a better state ‘mouse trap’.

Why would the state take over sales tax collection? The state says it’s in the name of efficiency and simplicity for businesses paying sales tax. If a business does business in more than one city, it has to file a sales tax return in each city monthly. Now the business, no matter where or in how many jurisdictions it does business sends all sales tax collected to the state who then distributes it to the appropriate jurisdiction.

But there could be another reason. When cities collected the sales tax they would send the state’s portion to the state in a day or two or perhaps even in a week. While the cities hold the sales tax funds the cities are collecting interest on that money. Obviously the amount of sales tax collected monthly is enormous. With the state collecting the sales tax, it puts the proceeds in an interest bearing account and now the state is receiving the interest until it remits the proper amount to each jurisdiction.  Now the state earns the interest on the funds it collects until it disburses it to the jurisdictions.

Some of the money every taxpayer pays to the state is known as state shared revenue. One is the Highway User Revenue Fund (the tax you pay on each gallon of gasoline and is known by the acronym HURF). There is a formula that dictates a portion of HURF must be distributed to cities based upon their population. When the Great Recession occurred the state unilaterally slashed the amount of HURF state shared revenue it distributed to each and every city to help cover the state’s shortfall in its budget. While that was a great move to keep the state budget whole, it hurt every city that relied upon HURF dollars for part of the revenue for their budgets during that same recession. The state is only now beginning to share all of the state shared revenue amounts with cities that it is mandated to do.

It often appears to city leaders that the state will favor the interests of their business or pro-development friends over those of cities. Often that means that you, the individual, pays for the state’s decisions that favor interests other than yours.  The state continues to demonstrate over the years that it is not always fiscally friendly to the city in which you reside.

© 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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