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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.

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.

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.

 I felt compelled to react to Bill Toops’, Glendale Star’s Administrator, editorial of November 15, 2018, regarding downtown Glendale. Here is the link: https://www.glendalestar.com/glendale-star/downtown-dissidents-nix-city-manager%E2%80%99s-vision . Mr. Toops said, “In a Nov. 2, 2018 letter to the mayor and City Council, Glendale City Manager Kevin Phelps said he’s had enough opposition from downtown merchants to shift the focus of city resources elsewhere. While detailing a number of significant accomplishments since his hire in February 2016, the continuing frustration from a vocal band of naysayers has effectively halted his efforts to pursue a new strategy for the city’s downtown district.”

I support our City Manager’s take on downtown Glendale.  Here is the link to his comments regarding Glendale and downtown: https://www.glendalestar.com/glendale-star/city-manager-shifts-economic-focus-away-downtown .

 There is an old saying, “the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.” For years…no, for decades… the city has underwritten 3 major festival events downtown – Glendale Glitters, Glendale Glow and the Chocolate Affaire. Granted these festivals bring shoppers to downtown for a brief period and I suspect during those few weeks they generate as much as 70% of a downtown merchant’s annual net. But at what point do diminishing returns set in? I contend they already have.

The downtown merchants have been content to allow the city to do the heavy lifting. In what other area of the city does our government finance any major festivals especially for the benefit of private businesses? Arrowhead Mall area? Westgate area? Nope.

Successful businesses and downtowns are constantly reinventing themselves by changing what they offer and how they do business offering the customer a new, fresh, convenient and relevant experience. If downtown merchants don’t embrace change they will be swept aside by, among other things, internet shopping. The change required for downtown is to offer experiences that cannot be acquired by shopping on the net.

Has it occurred to anyone that as Westgate grows always seeking new entities within it, that it has a direct impact on downtown? What will motivate anyone to go downtown when they can go to a sporting event, a movie, shop at Tanger Outlets or dine at a dozen different restaurants? What will downtown offer to attract those very same people? To make them want to visit downtown as part of their Glendale experience?

The city manager came to Glendale three years ago and offered a fresh look at many things, including downtown. His proposal was designed to create a destination location all year long. Instead a small group of perhaps twenty downtown merchants, newly created as the Historical Downtown Merchants Association, protested in horror at the very thought of change. I should note that there are over 250 downtown merchants yet this small handful was silently allowed by the majority to determine the destiny of all.

Mr. Toops goes on to observe, “While many downtown merchants prefer to hang their financial solvency on a handful of mega events they say ensure throngs of visitors over two weeks’ time, city management sees greater value in scaling events back and adding frequency, up to 150 annually. Further, merchant perspectives tend to support little or no change to the traditional festival concept with the exception of additional funding, yet city management contends downtown Glendale needs an entirely new direction for long-term prosperity.” The city was willing to invest in innovation and change while using its success as a catalyst to attract new, vibrant business entities. A relatively small group killed the concept.

So the city will continue to pour $1.2 million annually into the downtown sieve but it has also announced that this amount will remain constant and not increase. Mr. Toops rightly observes, “While many merchants may be pleased with this decision for now, rising costs within a fixed budget will only serve to erode the glitz and glitter of every event and the commensurate draw from each.” Add to this observation that other cities have created their own events that now directly compete with the 3 events hosted by Glendale government.

Downtown saw its last “hey day” when it had over 100 antique shops. It was the antique capital of the west. Visitors could be seen going from one shop to another, even on the hottest days of summer. But that is long gone with only a few antique shops remaining.  It has become stale and tired with no destination to attract those same visitors.

Make no mistake. I want a proud downtown bustling with visitors and shoppers. We all do. I want to able to boast about its vibrancy instead of apologizing because a visitor went to a restaurant during the week only to find it closed because there was not enough business to warrant it being open. What a sad state of affairs.

When will a majority of its 250 merchants embrace change? When will they reclaim their voice instead of allowing a few, very vocal merchants clinging to the status quo determine their destiny? When will they realize the insanity of repeating the same thing expecting a different result? When will they realize that we’re all in this together eager and willing to work toward reinventing a vibrant, successful and proud downtown?

© Joyce Clark, 2018         

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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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 July 19, 2018 the Glendale Star ran a story entitled “Petitions ready to keep festivals in place.” Bud Zomok, a local downtown Glendale resident, was interviewed about his effort to run an online petition using the internet site ipetitions.com. The purpose of the online petition was to garner support for preserving Glendale’s downtown festivals exactly the way they have always been.

Let’s take a closer look at the representations of support depicted in these petitions. Zomok said he collected 958 signatures. That is factually correct. He said that people for all zip codes in Glendale responded. That is factually correct.  I reviewed all of the petition signatures Zomok presented to each member of the city council. Here is the signature break down by zip code in Glendale:

  • 85301 43 signatures
  • 85302 40 signatures
  • 85303 10 signatures
  • 85304: 30 signatures
  • 85305: 5 signatures
  • 85306: 18 signatures
  • 85307: 1  signature
  • 85308:  21 signatures
  • 85310: 11 signatures
  • Glendale, AZ no zip code:    8 signatures

The total number of identifiable, provable signatures representing Glendale total 187. The balance of the signatures, another 771, had no zip code or if a zip code was entered it was outside of Glendale. In fact, one signature was from France.

Yet Mr. Zomok says, “There were 400 signatures from within the city, while 500 were from the rest of the state and beyond.” I went back and took a closer look at the petitions to see if there was some marker that I missed that would allow Mr. Zomok to definitively identify 400 signatures from within the city. I could not find anything. Did he contact all of these people by email to confirm their residency in Glendale? I doubt it and you should as well. It would be difficult to convince anyone that he had personal knowledge of the claimed 400 Glendale residents.

Now, it is possible that more of the signatures could be from Glendale residents but without a zip code or other descriptor it is not possible to verify. Therefore the only rational course is to accept those petition signatures with stated Glendale zip codes.

While many of the 187 Glendale residents who signed the petition left a comment in support of the festivals there were many more respondents who did not leave any commentary at all.

I selected one page, page 27, at random and reproduced it below:

There is nothing wrong with the use of petitions to convey support for an issue. However, an online petition becomes suspect when anyone who is online can sign it, without claiming a Glendale zip code and without any comment about the festival which indicates a lack of knowledge about the festival. Petitions generally work and have meaning (except for the 1,000 Glendale residents who signed a petition in opposition to an amended Stonehaven plan and were ignored) when locals circulate them among the local population. It does a disservice to every reader of this news article to represent that there is overwhelming support from scads of Glendale’s residents.

No one has suggested that the festivals be eliminated in their entirety. Far from it. In fact, it appears that the city manager has identified enough funding to add one of the three weekends back to Glendale Glitters. So instead of four weekends of city funded programming there will be two. 

In an informal poll that ran with this blog 53% of the respondents approved of changing the festivals while 47% of the respondents did not.

There is nothing to preclude the downtown merchants from getting together, seeking sponsorships and developing programming for the two weekends that will not be funded by the city. It’s not too late to do so. I am sure the city would work with the merchants to facilitate their needs should they decide to take up the task. The merchants would have to raise the money needed for associated production costs such as police, security and sanitation. The city has made clear that it believes the dollars used to cover the costs associated with four weekends can be used more effectively with other initiatives to achieve the goal of driving visitors downtown on a yearlong basis.

The general sentiment seems to be that the festivals need refreshing, not elimination in their entirety. I have some ideas and I have heard some good ideas from the merchants as well. I hope they will come together as one voice and share those great ideas with the city. Let’s work together.

© Joyce Clark, 2018         

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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