It has been 17 years and 154 days since the city’s pledge to build the West Branch Library.

Last night , June 4, 2015, the Glendale citizens’ Planning & Zoning (P&Z) Commission met to approve or deny the second round of Becker Billboards’ application to plant billboards at Loop 101 and Bell Road.  The first round occurred on February 26, 2014 with a recommendation of denial by P&Z followed by the March 25, 2014 denial by the city council. Let’s hope that city council also denies this request.

The staff presenter was Senior Planner Thomas Ritz. In summary the Planning & Zoning Department was recommending denial of the application because:

  • It does not serve the best long term interests of the city
  • It is inconsistent with the city’s General Plan
  • The specifics filed by the applicant do not match Glendale’s Northwest Plan specifics
  • It is precedent setting for the entire city

Mark Becker of Becker Billboards spoke on his own behalf as the applicant. Mr. Becker’s arguments were focused on:

  • The city has approved digital billboards similar to his request in Westgate
  • The city of Peoria has a plan to erect billboards on its side of the Loop 101 once his application is denied
  • The applicant’s billboard proposal is consistent with the surrounding commercial activity on Bell Road

After nearly an hour and a half of public comment the P&Z Commission voted unanimously to pass it on to city council with a recommendation of denial. The first hurdle is cleared. It will now be heard by the city council on June 23, 2015.

A troubling aspect of Becker’s attempt to gain approval for his digital billboards was his use of veterans and the American Legion. Apparently vets were bused in from a group home in Phoenix to speak on the issue but had to leave prior to speaking to get back to the home on time. Since Becker had used his billboards to advertise on behalf of the American Legion he asked that they speak in support of his application. It was a calculated move designed to elicit sympathy for his application.

In a rare meeting of the minds on June 3, 2015 the Arizona Republic published an editorial entitled Glendale looks too dirty to clean up its auditing mess. Stunningly their editorial calls for an independent third party to assess Glendale’s audit. In a previous blog I had raised questions about the audit after the Assistant City Auditor McDermott-Fields resigned because her findings were changed by City Auditor MacLeod. I also raised the question of the close ties between MacLeod and former City Attorney Craig Tindall, now an attorney for IceArizona.

The Republic made a good call but a better one would be for the city to release the audit findings. There is a stipulation in the management agreement prohibiting the release of actual figures as proprietary information to IceArizona. Fine — but that does not preclude the city from releasing information that either stipulates that the figures supplied by IceArizona are correct or deficient. The fact that the public cannot see the numbers does a disservice to every Glendale resident and taxpayer whose tax dollars subsidize IceArizona. So much for transparency — a pledge that every currently sitting councilmember ran upon.

At the June 2, 2015 city council workshop meeting a presentation was made by Tom Sadler, President & CEO of the Arizona Organizing Committee for the college football playoff National Championship to be held at the University of Phoenix Stadium on January 11, 2016. This event is part of a new collegiate football system to determine which college wins the annual title of National Football Champion.

It is modeled after the Fiesta Bowl for which the city receives a partial reimbursement for public safety and transportation costs. Of course, staff time in preparation and other departments’ costs are not tracked. It is a reasonable assumption that the cost to the city will be an estimated $500,000. Senior staff has budgeted $408,080.00 for the event. Even though that is the city’s current budget (sure to increase) don’t assume that the city will be reimbursed that amount for it will not. Yes, once again, the taxpayers of Glendale will be asked to subsidize yet another sporting event for which the entire Metro area of Phoenix will profit. Aren’t you tired of it yet??

© Joyce Clark, 2015


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