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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.

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.

On Monday, 24, 2017 in an all day budget workshop city council had the opportunity to review and ask questions of about half of the city’s departmental budgets. The remaining departmental budgets will be reviewed on Friday, April 28, 2017. If you would like to see the proposed Glendale departmental budget please use this link: Budget Ap 24 2017 POWERPOINT .

Generally this year’s departmental budgets are very clean. By that I mean that whatever budget increases were proposed could be justified. The biggest drivers of this year’s departmental budgets can be attributed to several factors: across the board employees received a 2.5% increase in pay and in almost every budget fire & liability insurance costs were up. For the first time some departments received a new line item for technology charges and those who were already charged for technology saw increases in this charge…in some instances… doubled.

Keep in mind no department’s budget ever starts at zero. Presently the city does not use zero-based budgeting. I have introduced it as a Council Item of Special Interest. Last year’s budget number for each department is the starting point upon which each department’s budget is based and each department’s budget is increased, decreased or remains static beyond last year’s number.

Over the past two fiscal years the departments council reviewed on Monday have seen increases in FY 2016-17 and FY 2017-18 totaling:

  • City Attorney                              14.96%
  • Police Services                            12.47%
  • Development Services                 23.90%
  • City Auditor                                13.86%
  • City Court                                  20.09%
  • Fire Department                           6.61%
  • Human Resources/Risk Mgmt      10.72%
  • Community Services                   -1.89%

The only department in this review to see a modest decrease in its budget is Community Services with a 1.89% decrease. This department is almost completely dependent on grants, especially federal grants like the Community Development Block Grant (this funds many of the services and programs offered to the poor and economically disadvantaged). So as these grants diminish slightly, so, too, does its budget.  This department has been advised by the federal Housing and Urban Development Authority (HUD) to prepare for as much as a 20% decrease in certain federal grants.

I have taken the liberty of noting some of the changes to various departmental budgets. In the City Attorney’s office there is the addition of an assistant city prosecutor. The addition of this full time employee (FTE) is to meet the increased demands of caseloads within the city’s court. The office has a line item of $200,000 for the use of outside attorneys (consultants). This amount increased from the $135,000 granted in last year’s budget.

In Police Services the newly appointed Police Chief Richard St. John is working aggressively to fill all authorized patrol positions. Currently there are only 8 unfilled authorized and funded patrol positions. That is the lowest number I have seen in years. Through attrition during each year the city loses about 20 officers. The focus for GPD this coming year will be on speeding enforcement. It is also the Chief’s goal to reduce beat sizes within the city as soon as practicable.

Development Services includes 3 departments – building safety, code compliance and planning. The number of FTEs in Code Compliance will increase by 2.5. Despite the implementation of new strategies in the use of employees’ time and effort within Code, it is still not performing as well as hoped. I think it is time for a city council workshop to do an in depth review of code. The fact that Saturdays are not covered optimally is a cause for concern as yard sales, as an example, can only be covered on weekends. I am concerned that with development picking up considerably within the city (there are more than 8 residential development projects in the pipeline at this time) and as the economy continues to improve, the planning department does not have enough manpower to perform in a timely and effective manner.

The City Auditor department, despite its increase in funding over the past two fiscal years, seems to be static in terms of productivity and the number of audits performed annually.

In the City Court its latest initiative, the Mental Health Court, has grown dramatically. Even though our City Court has met mandated Arizona Supreme Court times for closing cases, it is disappointing to see the resolution of traffic cases within 60 days drop from 93% to an 80% rate.

Fire Department Chief Terry Garrison reported on the success of the pilot project of employing Low Acuity (LA) vehicles and 2 man staffs to respond to ordinary, non critical emergency medical calls. This initiative is long overdue. Instead of sending big trucks (with the resultant O&M costs) Glendale is using

LA vehicles to answer non-critical medical calls freeing up fire resources and avoiding the tremendous costs associated with sending ladder trucks. They should be all over the city since 80% of the calls answered by the Fire Department are medical emergency calls…but they are not.

 These Low Acuity, two man units are not part of the Automatic Aid system for as it states in Section 9.1 of the Automatic Aid agreement, “System participants recognize the importance of service delivery and personnel safety issues. The minimum daily staffing level for engines and ladders shall be four members. Henceforth this will be referred to as full staffing.”

I would love to see the fire department develop 4 man, High Acuity vehicles to respond to critical, emergencies especially when one sees the statistics. In 2017, the fire department responded to 1,220 fire related calls – everything from a structure fire to a BBQ grill fire. During the same year it answered 29,900 advanced life support or basic life support medical calls.

Another alarming statistic is this. Under the Automatic Aid Agreement on 4,300 occasions another city’s fire department responded to an emergency call in Glendale. That’s great, isn’t it? You bet it is. The closest fire unit is responding and perhaps saving your life or the life of a loved one. But there is a flip side to that coin. Glendale responded to 6,600 emergency calls in other cities, like Phoenix or Peoria. These 6,600 calls were outside of Glendale. There is an imbalance that is costing you money. In essence, Glendale taxpayers subsidize emergency services for other cities. Of the 31,120 calls to which Glendale fire responded in 2017, 7% were outside of Glendale. I believe that firefighters must answer the call in or out of Glendale but I also believe that it is time that Glendale should be reimbursed for any calls above parity. Do you think Glendale should subsidize the 2,300 calls answered in Phoenix or Peoria?

Interim Director of Community Services, Elaine Adamczyk, was an impressive presenter of her department’s budget. As an Interim Director she had an amazing grasp of all facets of her department. This is a department that saw a 1.89% decrease over two years. That is understandable. This department is almost entirely composed of grant funds such as the federal Community Development Block Fund (CDBG). If grants dry up or diminish in size, this budget reflects those changes. Ms. Adamczyk advised city council that the federal Housing and Urban Development Department has advised all grantees that the amount of grant funds could be reduced by as much as 20%.

The last department of the day to present its budget was Human Resources & Risk Management. Its responsibilities are many and varied. Perhaps one of the most critical areas for the organization is its process for hiring new employees or filling vacant positions. Many believe the process takes far too long. If a department head has done a lot of preparation work it is possible to fill a vacancy or new hire within 60 days. Often it takes much longer than that. If a new employee or vacancy were to be filled in the private sector, it can often be accomplished within a matter of a few weeks because that position often has a direct effect on a company’s profitability or lack thereof.

On Friday’s, April 28, 2017, all day budget session, department budgets to be reviewed will be Public Facilities & Events, Economic Development, Public Affairs, Mayor& Council, Innovation & Technology, City Manager’s Office, City Clerk, Water Services and Public Works.

If you have Cox Cable, you can watch the session live on Channel 11 beginning at 9 AM. You can also watch it live online by going to www.glendaleaz.com then clicking on Channel 11 TV in the left column, then clicking again on Watch Channel 11 Live on the left column.

© Joyce Clark, 2017               

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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