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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.

The choice for a new Mayor of Phoenix is less than 2 weeks away.  I really have no dog in the fight regarding the Phoenix mayoral election but I was intrigued by a recent opinion piece by Robert Robb in the Arizona Republic questioning why the position of Phoenix mayor should be a full time job. In an October 14, 2018 column entitled Here’s why Phoenix needs a part-time mayor Mr. Robb states, “Making decisions about overall policies that put city government on a stable and sustainable path, rather than temporizing and punting, is difficult. But it doesn’t have to be terribly time-consuming.” He goes on to say, “The only way to turn the mayor position, and the city council position as well, into a full-time job is to expand its activities to include political pursuits only marginally related to the charter function of setting sound overall policy.” Here is the link: https://www.azcentral.com/story/opinion/op-ed/robertrobb/2018/10/14/phoenix-mayor-should-part-time-daniel-valenzuela-right/1606614002/ .

One can understand Mr. Robb’s point of view if you accept that he an outsider looking in. His premise is that all activities unrelated to establishing city policy are purely political in nature with the ultimate goal of furthering the elected official’s political career and agenda.

So, Mr. Robb, when an elected official sits on a regional or local committee or board, according to your premise it’s only to advance a political career and not to represent or advance the interests of or the position of that community? Really? So when the elected official sits on a council subcommittee it’s only to advance a political career and not to represent or advance the interests of the represented constituency? Really? So when the elected official is invited to a neighborhood meeting or a local event it’s only to advance a political career and not to communicate with one’s constituency? Really?

There are many events and activities that are outside the scope of sitting at a dais and voting on policy. There’s also a great deal of ‘homework’ for the conscientious elected official to research and consider before casting that policy vote.

Seventeen years ago when I was first elected as a city councilmember it was a part time job and I received commensurate part time compensation. Over the years the job has grown in the complexity of the policy issues about which we decide as well as time spent on regional cooperation and constituency services on a one-to-one basis. In a large city it can no longer be considered a part time job. Then magnify the responsibilities of a councilmember for that of a mayor of a large city. It is most definitely a full time job that admittedly has the elected official pursuing some political agenda but predominately serving the needs of the city and its constituents.

The past mayor of Phoenix, Greg Stanton, received a salary of $88,000 a year. I do not know if he received a cell phone or car allowance but benefits would include at a minimum, medical benefits and a city contribution to his pension.  If the Phoenix mayoral position is considered as a part time job surely the compensation would reflect that as well. A salary of $88,000 a year plus benefits is more than many Phoenicians earn. So, Mr. Robb, a part time job deserves a part time salary.

This issue is pertinent because on October 4th, Valenzuela’s campaign made the following announcement, “I will put my firefighter career on hold during my term if elected as Mayor of Phoenix.” Apparently the candidate has tacitly recognized that being the Mayor of one of the largest cities in the country is a full time job.

His announcement raises a whole new set of questions. What does putting his Glendale fire fighting career on “hold” mean exactly? Is he proposing a sabbatical or leave? With or without pay? When he decides to resume his fire fighting career would there have to be a city commitment offering him his job back immediately?

Nearly every city will grant sabbatical or leave time. It has been typically and historically used and granted to city personnel called up to active military duty, short sabbaticals for research, maternity leave, etc. To my knowledge sabbaticals and leaves have never been granted for a strictly political reason such as holding elected office or for such a long time…4 years. Phoenix voters and Glendale taxpayers have the right to know exactly what putting Valenzuela’s career on hold entails. The voters should know whether they are really getting a full time mayor. The taxpayers of Glendale should know if Valenzuela will continue to receive his current salary if he is on “hold” and if his “hold” time impacts his pension.

There was one other comment made by Mr. Robb in his opinion piece that was of interest and that was, “Valenzuela is the candidate of the status quo powers: the firefighters union and the business community. As mayor, he is unlikely to rock many boats.” This is probably the understatement of all time. He is more likely to advance the firefighters union and business community agenda. After all, they will have brought him to the dance.

Mr. Valenzuela’s campaign has relied heavily on his position as a Glendale firefighter. His campaign signs shout fire fighter. His campaign website has photos with Glendale fire trucks at one of the city’s fire stations. How can one tell? Glendale fire vehicles are yellow and Phoenix fire vehicles are red.

Is this a violation of the federal Hatch Act? I’m not an attorney so obviously I don’t know. But here is some background on the Hatch Act. It is a federal law passed in 1939. It limits certain political activities of federal employees, as well as some state, D.C., and local government employees who work in connection with federally funded programs. ​In 1940, the law was expanded to cover state and local employees whose salaries are paid, in part, by federal funds or whose duties are connected to federally funded activities. The Supreme Court has on two occasions upheld its constitutionality. It prohibits the use of government resources or position to affect the results of an election.

Over the years the Glendale Fire Department has been the recipient of federal grants. The most notable and frequently received have been the Urban Areas Security Initiative (UASI) grants, just one of a menu of Homeland Security grants available to cities. It would seem that Mr. Valenzuela has participated in or benefitted from UASI grants and that his duties are and have been, from time to time during his 15 years as a Glendale fire fighter, connected to federally funded activities. Therefore the use of government assets and equipment for his campaign could be a Hatch Act Violation.

It is up to the Phoenix voter to decide whether you will be getting the benefit of a part time or full time mayor. It’s up to the Phoenix voter to decide whether Mr. Valenzuela’s use of Glendale resources to tout his position as a fire fighter in his campaign is appropriate.

© Joyce Clark, 2018         

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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.

It has been 17 years and 287 days since the city’s pledge to build the West Branch Library.

On September 20, 2015 former Glendale Fire Chief Mark Burdick pulled a packet to begin the process to run for mayor of Glendale. That sparked many asking if I would run for mayor. The answer is “no.” I am really enjoying my retirement as well as my new found freedom to comment on Glendale’s issues.

Personally, Mr. Burdick is gregarious and affable. He is a nice man but I know a lot of nice people who do not possess the qualities one would expect of a mayor.

There are two major factors about Burdick that voters should consider a year from now when the election occurs. One is the history of his past associations. Burdick was in the Beasley/Fischer-Frisoni-Tindall inner circle.  Apparently Beasley left as city manager while he could for surely he would have been terminated for his alleged favoritism, i.e, allowing Alma Carmichel, former HR Director, to telecommute from Mississippi; and allowing Art Lynch, former Finance Director, to profit handsomely as a consultant after he left Glendale’s employ. Fischer left as city manager after her actions of publicly berating the Glendale Chamber of Commerce President and in a retaliatory move requested councilmember emails. Tindall and Frisoni were employees who allegedly used their positions to further the goals of the Coyotes ownership group in its dealings with the city. Also Burdick appears to support Councilmember Sherwood who is facing recall on November 3, 2015. Burdick continues to maintain a relationship with Frisoni for he hired her to design the marketing package for his brand new company. In fact, I still remember the evening at a function at Westgate when Burdick and Frisoni lobbied me to choose Tindall as Glendale’s Interim City Manager. There is an old adage that you are judged by the company you keep.

The other major issue is the question of the effectiveness of Burdick’s leadership while he was Glendale’s Fire Chief. It appears that Burdick ceded his vision and leadership to the Glendale Fire Union. Fire union employees are sprinkled throughout the organization in decision making positions and other positions of power. Burdick seemed powerless to rein in the fire union’s agenda and goals. He didn’t seem to have the backbone to stand up to them and to advance an agenda that was good for all of Glendale – not just the fire union. Burdick, as fire chief, would have occasional but regular lunch meetings with councilmembers. I always felt as if I were listening to the fire union’s emissary. Several times I suggested that Burdick had to gain control of his department and I would get silence and this seemingly “deer in the headlights” look from him. His leadership skills are in doubt.

Make no mistake; Burdick will enjoy the full force and resources of the fire union’s support in his quest for mayor. That means that every Valley fire union chapter (except Glendale for that would violate the federal Hatch Act) will donate to his campaign. All of these chapters will “volunteer” labor to put up his campaign signs (while helping opposing candidates’ signs to disappear or be vandalized) and droves of firefighters will walk the length and breadth of Glendale handing out pro-Burdick flyers. The big gorilla, the Phoenix chapter, will do the same in spades, in addition to making independent expenditures for campaign mailers. They want Burdick in as mayor…badly. Can you imagine the coup of having a former fire chief as the mayor of one of the largest cities in the state?

Again, Mr. Burdick is a nice man but you vote for him at your peril. Do you want a mayor who will advance the fire union’s agenda by pouring resources into the fire department at the expense of every other department in the city? The city only has so much money in its General Fund. Do you want your General Fund tax dollars being used for fire almost exclusively while ignoring libraries, parks, streets and a host of other essential needs?

Mayor Jerry Weiers will face a tough reelection. If he expects to prevail he had better get out into the community now. To this day many consider him invisible. He needs to up his public profile. Burdick is already hitting Weiers on the decision to cancel the Coyotes contract and to enter into a two year deal with them. That decision will play well with many voters because it reduced the burden on taxpayers considerably and they like that. Weiers still faces the possible specter of having Sherwood and/or Aldama run for mayor as well.

Burdick will receive a lot of help in his campaign. Don’t become mesmerized. He, like anyone else, has feet of clay. His associations with seemingly bad actors within Glendale government and his seeming inability to lead his own department are Burdick’s feet of clay.

© Joyce Clark, 2015

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 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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