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.

In my previous blog I’ve described the various groups that have coalesced supporting the candidacies of Michelle Robertson and Bryce Alexander. Why? It seems to be an “anyone but the current leadership” kind of moment where these groups are encouraging voters to support a rock, a clown or a zero rather than leadership that brought the city off the cliff of possible bankruptcy.

What is the union’s beef in this election cycle? Arick O’Hara is the Glendale chapter President of the International Fire Fighters Union (IAFF). Justin Harris is the President of the Glendale Law Enforcement Association (GLEA) and Julie Pendergast is the President of the Glendale chapter of the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP). All of them are leading the charge to unseat Mayor Weiers and/or me. There is no polite way to say that they hate us, have declared war and will use whatever is necessary to get rid of us.

Did you know that you, the taxpayer, pay union representatives to conduct union business during their working hours instead of paying them for their duties as a firefighter or police officer? It’s called union “release time.” What other cities in the Valley pay for union release time? Only Phoenix. No other city, not Scottsdale, Chandler, Mesa, Tempe, Peoria or Surprise pay employees to conduct union activities during that employee’s work day. If you think they are not heavily involved in Glendale’s election activities, you are mistaken. Even though such election activities are in violation of the federal Hatch Act.

Every two years the city negotiates a renewal of an agreement on the pay and benefits for all public safety employees (commonly known as “represented employees”). When the previous agreement (2017) was negotiated and accepted, it included two union release positions for the fire union and two union release positions for police unions, one for GLEA and one for the FOP.

Think about this. You, the taxpayer, pay for union representatives to negotiate enhanced fire and police pay and benefits agreements with the City, which is, in essence, you. So you’re paying both sides of the table. You’re paying city employees to negotiate on your behalf and to protect your interest as a taxpayer and you’re paying for union representatives to negotiate for their union members getting the best pay and benefits possible for their membership – at your expense.

Subsequent to the agreement accepted two years ago, there was a rash of school shootings. Council wanted to make sure every high school in Glendale had a school resource officer. A few schools did have a resource officer and paid for the position. Others did not and chose to use their school funding for things other than a school resource officer. So the city council stepped up to the plate and with each high school’s approval placed a resource officer on each high school campus, paid for by the City of Glendale.

The funding had to come from somewhere else as the yearly budget and its expenditures had already been approved by council several months earlier. Council decided to eliminate one taxpayer funded fire union release position and one police union release position leaving each union with one release time position. No one lost their job. With each release position there were also extra hours of release time. The cost of each release position and the extra dedicated hours is in the $200,000 to $250,000 range per representative. Four union release positions and additional hours came to between $750,000 to a million dollars a year.

Each union went ballistic. How dare the city eliminate a release time position! A release position in fire was eliminated and the person occupying that position, Tony Butch, left and went to another city. FOP President Julie Pendergast’s release time position was eliminated. Julie remains in a non-patrol position within the department and has never forgotten or forgiven the loss of her use of release time.

There is more to this story. Here are the real funding numbers for each department for the past 5 years:

Fire Department

  • Fiscal Year 2017 actual budget                      $43,637,282.00
  • Fiscal Year 2018 actual budget                      $46,472,394.00
  • Fiscal Year 2019 actual budget                      $49,866.189.00
  • Fiscal Year 2020 budget estimate                  $52,127,595.00
  • Fiscal Year 2021 budget request                   $53, 501,963.00

In 5 years the Fire Department budget increased by nearly $10 million dollars or about 20% a year, far above any annual inflation rate.

Police Department

  • Fiscal Year 2017 actual budget                      $87,206,875.00
  • Fiscal Year 2018 actual budget                      $91,831,365.00
  • Fiscal Year 2019 actual budget                      $98,529,310.00
  • Fiscal Year 2020 budget estimate                 $102,471,164.00
  • Fiscal Year 2021 budget request                  $104,742,510.00

In 5 years the Police Department budget increased by $17 million dollars or about 5% a year, again greater than the yearly inflation rate.

In addition, the Fire Department, in this year’s budget alone, received additional, one-time, supplemental funding of $411,000 and the Police Department received $100,000 in supplemental funding.

One final fact to consider is that both Glendale firefighters and police officers rank among the top three paid agencies in the Valley. And oh, by the way Glendale firefighters work 52 hours compared to every other agency in the Valley that works 56 hours.

Here’s something else to think about. Fire and Police are the largest consumers of the city’s General Fund operating budget coming in between 65% and 70% annually. This council can always give them more money but when is enough, enough? More money to Public Safety means less money for every other city department funded by the General Fund. What are you willing to cut to increase Public Safety’s insatiable appetite for funding? Parks, Libraries, City Court, Community Services to the underserved and Transportation, including our streets repair program, all compete for the same funding as Public Safety. Each year’s budget is a balancing act by city council through prioritization to fund as many departmental needs as possible. Clearly this council has been generous to both departments over the past 5 years.

Why go after the mayor or me for the elimination of union release positions? We are running opposed and Councilmembers Hugh and Malnar have no opposition. They would have taken out these councilmembers as well if the opportunity existed. It is a given that they would support anyone running against any of us. If any opposition was talking and breathing, that was good enough reason for the unions to support them. 

Their goal is to get rid of the mayor, or me, hoping that there will no longer be council majority support for decisions not to their liking.

What is disappointing is that the police unions have joined the fire union is this political warfare. They should heed this warning: the fire union will stab you in the back if it is in their best interest. They come first. Police unions, you are a distant second and you know this. A stunning question to ask is why would the police unions support Democrat candidates whose presidential nominee has finally come out in favor of ‘defunding the police’?

If they succeed they will acquire political influence with the installation of Robertson and Alexander, willing to grant the fire union its agenda. Glendale could repeat the debacle of Ed Beasley and a fire union influenced administration, plunging the city into debt once again. After all, who will Robertson and Alexander owe if they win? Both are relative unknowns and neither has historically been part of community leadership or been involved in Glendale’s affairs by serving on a city board or commission and has no real working knowledge of Glendale’s affairs.

Anyone can run for any elected office as long as they meet the minimum qualifications such as being of a certain age and living in the jurisdiction to be represented. You, the voter, should expect more than that. What experience within the community do they possess? What do they plan to do to make your life better? Where do they stand on raising taxes? If Robertson and Alexander are not offering that kind of information perhaps they don’t deserve your vote. How long can they hide behind the buzz words we have heard ad nausea…like ‘transparency’? What the heck does that mean anyhow?

Glendale is the 7th largest city in the state with the adoption of this fiscal year’s budget of $747 million dollars…nearly ¾ of a billion dollars. It is the country’s 88th largest city out of nearly 20,000 incorporated cities in the United States. Glendale is no longer a small, ‘podunk’ city. It is a large suburban community reflecting the diversity of our country. You, the voter in Glendale, deserve to know each candidate’s position on a variety of issues that are important to you. Yet all Robertson and Alexander have offered is what’s wrong with Glendale. How about some positivity by sharing their vision and plans for Glendale and you? That’s not what you are getting from them.

Glendale deserves better than two liberal Democrats, whose seats were bought and paid for by the unions. Two politicians willing to sacrifice your needs for those of the unions.

Unfortunately that is politics.

Now you know who is backing Michelle Robertson and Bryce Alexander and their motives for doing so. It is important information that every voter in Glendale deserves to know.

© Joyce Clark, 2020         


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