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         


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