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Joyce Clark Unfiltered

For "the rest of the story"

On the December 3, 2013 city council workshop there were 6 topics. This was not one of council’s short, one-hour, “whizz bang, thank you ma’am” kind of meetings. It seems whenever there is discussion related personally to council the discussion is intense and prolonged.

Let’s take a look at each one. First up was the issue of 2 hour downtown parking. Someone had complained to Mayor Weiers and so it surfaced as a Council Item of Special Interest. Since the parking restriction was not being enforced there was a question of keeping the signage up. Councilmembers Martinez, Knaack and Sherwood felt there was no problem but supported Weiers, Hugh and Chavira in their request to survey the downtown merchants about the issue. So there will be a second installment on this issue after the survey is completed.

Next item was the city suite policy and its use. This item was requested for discussion by Vice Mayor Knaack who explained that she wanted to disabuse the public of the notion that council had free and unfettered access to the city suites at Jobing.com arena and Camelback Ranch. This notion is widely held when the public sees Mayor Weiers and Councilmember Sherwood often and regularly in the city Jobing.com arena suite. The policy as I remember it allowed for 2 uses: for non-profit use and for city business use (economic development). Apparently there is now a third use allowing for city council city business.  Council finished by directing staff to make more use of the suites as a reward to city volunteers. A good idea. Sources have said that Interim Assistant City Manager Frisoni was able to rent the Jobing.com arena suite in the past for her daughter’s birthday party. If that did occur it most certainly violated stated city policy. Hmmmm…

The third item was allowing citizens to donate a greater amount monthly to the From the Heart Donation program — another Mayor Weiers topic. After much discussion council gave direction to increase the donation option from $1 a month to $2 a month on citizen utility bills. The thinking was that it would double the amount received monthly for the program. Maybe, maybe not. When the price is increased on anything the number of purchasers usually decreases. Let’s see how this works out.

Undoubtedly the hottest topic was the discussion of council budgets. Vice Mayor Knaack requested this item and made the point that she did not think the use of council funds (read your taxpayer dollars) should be given from councilmember budgets to non-profits.  Martinez and Sherwood agreed but it raised Councilmember Alvarez’ blood pressure by at least 100 points. She had been silent on all previous items and did not wake up until this topic came forward. Then she was off and running!

She made sure she cited every past transgression from Knaack benefiting from the city’s VIP (Visual Improvement Program) for businesses to the city’s decision to enter into the $15 million dollar a year management agreement with IceArizona to the absence of recreation programming for kids. She made sure she recited every past sin. She made clear she would not go along with any prohibition council might create regarding council budget donations to non-profits. Hugh and Chavira stood fast with her.

Councilmember Martinez, joined by Vice Mayor Knaack, once again asked that councilmembers reduce their discretionary and infrastructure budgets so that the funds could go back into the General Fund. There is no doubt that Martinez, Knaack and former Vice Mayor Steve Frate believed strongly in doing so. Here is the past history on council budget reductions;

  • Barrel district (Knaack)      reduction of $26,571 and district improvements of $197
  • Sahuaro district (Frate)      reduction of $24,729 and district improvements of $4,965
  • Cholla district (Martinez)    reduction of $23,796 and district improvements of $2,998
  • Cactus district (Lieberman) reduction of $2,563 and district improvements of $500
  • Yucca district (Clark)          reduction of $1,188 and district improvements of $15,445
  • Ocotillo district (Alvarez)    reduction of $0 and district improvements of $9,545 

Donations to non-profit/school districts:

  • Ocotillo district (Alvarez)              $22,134
  • Cactus district (Hugh)                  $11,849
  • Yucca district (Chavira)                $  8,000
  • Cholla district (Martinez)              $  1,000
  • Barrel district (Knaack)                $     609
  • Sahuaro (Sherwood)                    $     419

You can see from the figures above there are two competing philosophies regarding the spending of council budgets. There being no consensus on anything related to how they spend your taxpayer dollars there was no direction given and things will stay just as they are.

The next item was a topic generated by Councilmember Sherwood. Currently all councilmembers can offer a Council Item of Special Interest without having to get 3 other councilmembers to agree to the topic. Sherwood wanted to go back in time and reuse the policy that required 3 other councilmembers to support any Item of Special Interest. As he said, “It was better to have staff work with ‘real’ issues” and he summarily dismissed the value of any Item of Special Interest brought forward by a councilmember. His suggestion went over like a lead balloon and he received no council support for his latest idea.

The last item was city generated and was a presentation on the proposed financial policy on transfers. After the presentation by Tom Duensing, the new Director of Financial Services, he was thanked profusely (especially by Chavira who has become quite adept at thanking everybody for everything) but there was nary a question. The longest part of this item was the presentation by Duensing.

On another unrelated issue, lately there has been a fire storm of public discussion on the siting of billboards in the Arrowhead area adjacent to the Loop 101. I bring this up not to take a position on the issue but because of something I read recently. A Cholla citizen reacting to the billboards said, “How ghetto could that be, to put up signs like that?” This is not an aberration but the typical attitude exhibited by Arrowhead folk. So, billboards are ghetto-izing? It’s OK for billboards to be placed in the rest of Glendale along with pawn shops, loan stores, massive apartment complexes and liquor stores? I’m surprised that Arrowhead has not ceded from the city. It must be embarrassing for Arrowhead people to have to say they live in Glendale with all of its ghettos.

© Joyce Clark, 2013

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Jerry Weiers


Gary Sherwood

There is no earth shaking surprise in either of these gentlemen’s budgetary expenditures. Certainly they have not adopted the philosophy or practice of giving your taxpayer dollars away as Chavira, Alvarez and Hugh have done. Mayor Weiers 6 months of expenditures comes in at $14,041.33 and Councilmember Sherwood is not far behind with expenditures of $11,516.37.

It’s common knowledge that they don’t like each other very much as each vies for the title of ultimate power broker in Glendale. They are discussed in unison because they share commonalities when it comes to spending. Both like to travel with each racking up substantial travel expenses and each spent about the same amount for the use of phones whether land line or cell.

money 3Mayor Weiers spent $4,729.15 (33% of his 6 months of expenditures) on travel for 3 trips. In March he and Councilmembers Sherwood and Chavira, staffed by Intergovernmental Director, Brent Stoddard, went to Washington, D.C. for the National League of Cities (NLC) Congressional City Conference. In April Weiers and Stoddard went to Washington, D.C. for the Greater Phoenix Economic Council (GPEC) Executive Mission. In May Weiers was back in D.C. with Stoddard. If Stoddard’s expenses to staff Weiers and others in D.C. are added those trips become pricier at $8,541.00.

money 5Sherwood spent $3,927.22 (34% of his 6 months of expenditures) on travel as well. If a quarter of Stoddard’s expenses (Stoddard staffed 3 elected officials on the March trip to D.C.) are added, Sherwood’s tab for travel cost the city $5,069.45 in direct and indirect costs. Stoddard typically pays for meals, especially dinners if the elected officials have not been invited by another party. He will pay cab fare and miscellaneous expenses on behalf of the elected officials.

Weiers’ phone bill comes in at $1,259.52 and Sherwood spent $449.10 for his cell and another $789.85 for his land line totaling $1,238.95. Their phone expenditures in 6 months are virtually the same. Is it appropriate to cover their phone expenses? That is a judgment call and something you must decide.The balance of their budgetary expenditures is ordinary and appropriate.

These trips were probably meaningful and were dedicated to lobbying for the city’s interests on issues such as the F-35 to be based at Luke and the casino issue. Everything in D.C. is pricey but we expect moderation. Their lodging and airfare are reasonable for a trip to D.C. but Stoddard’s expenditure of $1,284.52 for meals (dinners for 4) is on the high side.

In an era of frugality and tightened budgetary expenses in Glendale it is more important than ever before that our elected officials spend their travel dollars wisely. A reminder that these trips are funded with taxpayer dollars may encourage them to be more mindful.



Chavira photo

Sammy Chavira

We start with Councilmember Chavira who, in 6 months, spent $27,748.18 and is the biggest spender on council. The six district councilmembers have 2 distinct budgets. These budgets do not include staff salaries or office operations (the mayor’s budget does include these items).

One budget will be identified as “Communications” and is for outreach to district residents and totals $15,000 a year. Its purpose is to allow the councilmember to hold district meetings, neighborhood meetings and to publish a district newsletter, if he/she so chooses. It is fortunate having been a councilmember there is personal knowledge with which to make some comparisons. I used the “communications” budget to mail a spring and fall district newsletter to every household in my district for I knew that not all households in my district were connected to the internet. Currently the only other source of district information is an electronic newsletter via the internet and the resident must sign up for it. This funding source was also used to rent space for district meetings and to provide refreshments for the attendees. Those two major activities would consume nearly all of the funds available in this budget.

The councilmembers’ other budget will be identified as“Infrastructure” and is used for physical improvement projects within the councilmember’s district and totals $18,000 annually. Typically it is used for those items that do not make it into the city budget because there is no available funding source. Examples of its use are district park improvements and physical improvements to a specific neighborhood. I have also used this funding source for pilot projects. The two most notable are a pilot project to put up mid-block identification signage for vehicular traffic. The white street identification signs seen as you approach an intersection in your vehicle began as my pilot project. It was later adopted throughout the city. Another pilot project was the purchase of E-readers for loan to district residents. After the project concluded I donated the E-readers to the city libraries and my project provided the impetus for the city’s library system to loan out E-readers to all library users.

My travel expenses were limited. As the National League President’s appointed Arizona representative to the National League of Cities Public Safety and Crime Prevention (PSCP) Policy Committee I attended 2 mandatory policy development meetings a year. I did not consistently attend the annual National or State League of Cities conventions. Those trips were paid from the “Communications” budget. Since 80% of that budget was consumed by district resident outreach I was very selective about travel.

money 4Chavira appears to have a very different philosophy with regard to the spending from these two budgets.  He did spend $7,000 (25%)on park benches for the Western Area Regional Park but his major priorities (40% of his 6 months of expenditures) are a donation to a for-profit corporation and travel. In March, 2013 Chavira attended the 4-day National League of Cities (NLC) Congressional City Conference. Directly attributable to his budget, he spent $2,507.28 on airfare, meals, lodging, registration, etc. Ah, but there’s more. Mayor Weiers and Councilmember Sherwood also attended. All three gentlemen were staffed by Brent Stoddard, Glendale’s Intergovernmental Program Director.  Stoddard’s total travel costs for that conference were $4,568.94. Stoddard’s expenses often include the cost of cab fare, dinners, etc. for elected officials. That expense, divided 4 ways among Stoddard and the three men he staffed, adds another indirect $1,142.23 to Chavira’s direct expense of $2507.28 for that March conference for a total of $3,649.51. That figure averages nearly $1000 a day ($912.38). Sammy spent 10% of his total 6 months worth of expenditures on one trip.

money 3Even more incredibly this past June Sammy gave $8,000 of your taxpayer dollars (29% of the $27K spent) to the Arizona Melon Festival LLC, a for-profit corporation, to host the Arizona Watermelon Festival in downtown Glendale on June 8, 2013. Now it gets interesting. The organizers of the event were the Arizona Melon Festival, LLC; AZ Culture; and the City of Glendale. The sponsors were Coors Light (Beer Garden area); G Farms (donated all of the watermelons); AZ Weekly (small independent entertainment magazine); TSO Apparel (small embroidery business); Southwest Ambulance; the City of Glendale; and the West Valley Resort (the Tohono O’odham’s proposed casino whose project the City of Glendale legally opposes). The relationships of some of these organizations’ principals are interesting to note. In a future blog you will see that Councilmember Alvarez gave $3,000 to the Arizona Melon Festival, LLC. and another $3,000 to Jivemind as well.

Who are the owners of the Arizona Melon Festival, LLC?

  • Its statutory agent is Dustin Chaffin of Jivemind (the city rents this property at below market rate to Jivemind — former site of the bead museum. Go to http://www.glendaleaz.com/Clerk/Contracts/7901.pdf for its rental contract).
  • Gabriel Bey, of AZ Culture
  • Lulu Rodriguez of Bitzee Mama’s
  • Linda Moran-Whittley of Papa Ed’s Ice Cream
  • Jeff Rose of Jivemind
  • Danica Coral of the Pink House

If this festival earned any profit those proceeds would go to the people listed above. The sponsorship of Southwest Ambulance is not surprising. Martin Nowakowski, its Community Relations Director, happens to be a close friend of both Chavira and Alvarez and avidly supported both in their election bids. So did the Tohono O’odham (TO). They not only bore the cost of political campaign mailers endorsing them but solicited campaign contributions.  Yet the city is fending off the proposed TO casino. How embarrassing for the city to be intimately associated with the TO as a sponsor of this newly created, for-profit festival.

money 1At least 40% of Chavira’s 6 months worth of expenditures went for a trip to Washington, D.C. and to assist a for-profit corporation in their production of a new downtown event. And let’s not forget the $75 a month that you, the taxpayer, pay for his monthly cell phone. It is more than ironic that in Sammy’s campaign literature mailed to voters in October, 2012 he said, “Glendale is in fiscal danger and Sam is coming to help.” Was this the kind of help you expected? Or how about this from another campaign mailer, “Sammy is running to fix the budget and save Glendale.” Somehow or another, spending $8,000 on a festival doesn’t seem like the right road to fixing Glendale’s budget or saving Glendale.  Next up will be Councilmembers Alvarez and Hugh with positions #2 and #3 as Big Spenders.


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