At the January 7, 2014 council workshop session there were two items up for discussion and direction. Both were in Julie Frisoni’s, Interim Assistant City Manager, realm. One was municipal marketing and the other was restructuring the organization.

Municipal marketing is a strategy to raise money in a city by allowing corporations to pay for the right to advertise on city property, i.e., libraries, fire stations, police stations, vehicles and any other city asset deemed appropriate. It is used sparingly throughout the country and in the Valley.

Much was made of Mesa’s use of advertising inserts in its utility bills and the fact that since 2010 advertising has earned the city $250,000. What council failed to recognize is that it was not an annual $250,000 windfall but rather $80,000 a year. The cost to the city for implementing such a program will run anywhere from $40,000 to $75,000. Expect the higher cost rather than the lower. The options for payment of this new initiative were either (1) get the bidder to accept no upfront payment from the city. Rather there would be a reduction in the bidder’s first payment to the city to cover the cost; or (2) payment from salary savings. Salary savings are those revenues generated when a position remains vacant and unfilled for a period of time. The salary that would have been paid goes into a salary savings fund. That should be your first clue that there are still dollars to be cut from Glendale’s budget.

It was emphasized repeatedly that this would be a city-wide program. I wonder if Arrowhead residents are prepared to see their Foothills branch library renamed. It will be interesting to see their reaction should the library become, for example, the “Chick-A-Fill” Foothills Library!

All of the revenue earned will go into the General Fund. Will we see advertising revenue from the libraries, sanitation trucks or city buses go into the General Fund to pay for some inane project? Perhaps those assets that earn the revenue should benefit from it.

It was a positively “kumbaya” moment. Councilmembers Knaack, Chavira and Mayor Weiers falling all over themselves to thank Frisoni for the innovation and creativity used to raise money for the city during its current financial crisis. Martinez was part of the chorus as well but threw out the idea that councilmembers could use part of their council budgets to easily cover the cost. That idea met with stony silence. Councilmember Sherwood as well as some other councilmembers berated the previous council for not accepting this idea in 2004. Well, councilmember, it was a different environment at that time. Glendale was not in the financial morass it finds itself in today. In 2004 Frisoni presented very much the same scheme. The cost at that time would have been $39,000 and the no upfront cost idea was also floated. Even Councilmembers Knaack and Martinez though the idea of advertising on city property and assets was tacky. Especially opposed at the time was the former Mayor Scruggs. She turned up her nose and virtually declared the idea dead upon arrival. Councilmember Alvarez, whose mantra is “no” to everything and being true to form, refused to support this concept. She wanted more assurance that it would truly be a citywide program and that the Arrowhead area would not be able to opt out. She also was not happy that the revenue would be dumped into the General Fund to cover what she feels would be an inappropriate expense. Amid all of the congratulations council consensus was to move forward with this idea.

The second presentation on organizational review was presented by Frisoni and Andy Belknap, Regional Vice President and Cathy Standiford, Partner, of Management Partners, Inc. (MP). This initiative came strictly from City Manager Brenda Fischer who was able to hire this consultant without council approval because the cost was under the allowed $50,000 cap for a city manager expenditure.

This is yet another rearranging of the deck chairs. Former City Manager Beasley rearranged the organizational chart at least six times in a period of less than eight years. It is billed, as usual, as a means of improving efficiency and effectiveness but there was another goal not recognized or discussed by anyone. That goal was to physically consolidate the organization enough to free up some city property for sale or lease. Just another flag that indicates the financial stress the city is experiencing…raise revenue by selling corporate advertising rights and figure out ways such as this one, to sell or lease city properties.

What were the recommendations? There were some major ones:

  1. Reduce the number of departments from 14 to 10. Three current executive positions will be absorbed. Previously I said that no one leaves unless fired, retired or left the city for another job. Those expecting a reduction in the number of executive positions and subsequent salary savings will be disappointed.
  2. Centralize functions. One example is to lump capital improvement planning, engineering and project management together.
  3. Keep the two assistant city manager positions. One assistant city manager would supervise infrastructure and the other would supervise community programs. The second position appears to be tailored specifically for Frisoni, the Interim Assistant City Manager. Expect Jim Brown, Director of Human Relations, to have received direction to rewrite the qualifications for assistant city manager to accommodate Frisoni’s lack of qualifications for the position.
  4. Remove the title of Executive Director and reinstate the title of Director. With the inception of the Executive Director titles there was a commensurate increase in pay. With the removal of this title, all pay remains intact.
  5. No change to these departments: City Auditor, Police, Fire, Human Resources/Risk Management, Water Services, City Attorney and City Court. All other departments will be consolidated or moved.
  6. The City Manager will have direct control of the Office of Intergovernmental Programs (IGA), and the Office of Economic Development (ED). This is particularly interesting because the IGA will supervise the council’s and mayor’s offices.
  7. The City Manager will continue to receive direct reports from: Police, Fire, Finance and Technology, Human Resources/Risk Management, City Auditor and the two Assistant City Managers.  The two Assistant City Managers will supervise the departments that deal with city infrastructure and city programs.

One recommendation long overdue is to enhance the city’s use of technology. It is a concept for which I have advocated and welcome. Just one example is the use of GPS to maximize information about the city’s infrastructure and assets. The door was opened for council consideration of privatization of city service delivery. The suggestion was to look at sanitation, street sweeping, traffic signal maintenance, park and landscaping maintenance and custodial services. Last year council mightily resisted the idea of privatizing custodial services. Will this council embrace privatization?

Council’s reaction? The “walk around” performed by Management Partners did a great deal to staunch questions and criticism. A “walk around” is a tried and true technique to sell an idea to council on an individual basis and to quell any public negativism. After the usual chorus of thank yous Weiers, Sherwood, Knaack, Martinez and Chavira voiced their enthusiastic support. Councilmembers Hugh and Alvarez were glaringly silent. Alvarez was probably too stunned to speak.

This council should be commended for seeking new strategies to maximize the city’s revenue streams and to reduce expenses. The question is…do these two strategies achieve those goals?

© Joyce Clark, 2014

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