Today marks the 2nd Anniversary of my blog with 181,497 reads. Thank you to all who have taken the time to read it.

Thank goodness the Super Bowl is now over. It feels so-o-o good to be back to normal. Congratulations to the Seahawks and Patriots for a great game. I’m please that my team, the Patriots won.

In my previous blog information on a proposal to relocate the Foothills Branch Library was offered. It is agenda item #1 on the Glendale city council workshop this coming Tuesday, February 3, 2015. In the second agenda item Fire Chief Mark Burdick is seeking approval to pursue an award of a Certificate of Necessity (CON) for the Glendale Fire Department. The third agenda item is a discussion of allowing the mayor’s and council’s support staff to become at-will employees.

What is a CON? It is permission granted by the Arizona Department of Health Services (AZDHS) that allows an entity to provide specific medical services, in this case, permission to medically transport people after a 911 call or on a non-emergency, routine basis. What is the rationale for our fire department’s request? Southwest Ambulance and Professional Medical Transport (both with CONs to operate in Glendale) are subsidiaries of Rural Metro Corporation. Rural Metro is proceeding with a Chapter 11 bankruptcy and court ordered reorganization. American Medical Response, the largest national provider of medical transport, has applied for a CON for all of Maricopa County, including Glendale. After reading 75 pages of an administrative hearing regarding granting a CON to American Medical Response, the hearing officer has recommended approval to the Director of AZDHS. It appears it will be granted.

How does response to a medical emergency in Glendale work now? Someone has, for example, a heart attack. 911 is called and a big Glendale fire truck with paramedics (one is usually Advanced Life Support [ALS] certified) on board arrives. While stabilizing the patient an ambulance is called to transport the patient to a hospital. In our city that is Southwest Ambulance.

If Glendale pursues and is granted its own CON, Glendale can get into the medical transport business in the city. Does Glendale have fully outfitted ambulances now? The answer is no. There would have to be a major, capital investment in fully outfitted ambulances and additional firefighter/paramedics would have to be hired. In the American Medical Response hearing minutes it was stated that a basic ambulance costs about $125,000 and another $75,000 to outfit it properly. It appears each ambulance would cost in the neighborhood of $200,000. Would 5 ambulances be enough to cover Glendale? Just five of them would cost a million dollars and that’s without any Glendale firefighter/paramedics salaries and benefits to be paid for staffing the vehicles. That’s an additional cost that I cannot calculate. In Glendale’s current financial condition these are costs that it cannot afford to take on at this time. It is simply not an absolute necessity.

Everyone is waving the Rural Metro bankruptcy flag predicting dire consequences for medical transport in Glendale. I am not convinced of that. Its subsidiary that serves Glendale, Southwest Ambulance, has been a wonderful partner to Glendale. Rural Metro has been dealing with this bankruptcy for several years and the performance of Southwest Ambulance has not suffered. Southwest committed to leasing out a majority of Glendale’s downtown parking garage’s first floor office space when no one else would. It has donated thousands of dollars to many significant medical awareness issues within Glendale. When the city has needed a donation for nearly any cause it could always count on Southwest Ambulance. Southwest has partnered with Glendale on many innovative projects over the years. Why is Chief Burdick so willing to kick it to the curb now?

It presents quite a dilemma for Councilmember Sammy Chavira, who is a Phoenix firefighter (Phoenix has its own CON and does its own medical transport). Will he abandon his good friend, Martin Nowakowski, former Director of Public Relations for Southwest Ambulance until 2013 and a major advocate/supporter of Sammy’s 2012 run for city council? Or will he be in favor of Glendale Fire Chief Mark Burdick’s request? Burdick works closely with Kara Kalkbrenner, Phoenix’s newly appointed Fire Chief and Chavira’s boss. Hmmm, this should be interesting.

The last agenda item will be discussion of at-will positions for the staff members of the mayor and city council. It is an action long overdue. Under the current system, mayoral and council staff is ultimately responsible to supervisory employees, including the City Manager. Currently the Supervisor of mayoral and council staff is Intergovernmental Director Brent Stoddard. This unusual situation is a result of the removal of the position of council staff supervisor by the Human Resources Department. In some cases, there may be no loyalty to the elected official. In a few instances, council staff has been asked to report on councilmember activity to City Manager staff. It happened when I served on City Council. When an elected official leaves and is replaced, there have been occasions when staff members deemed not to be a good fit with an elected official, have been moved to another equivalent position within the organization but they are not fired.

With an at-will system, the elected official can select and hire his or her own staffer. That person serves at the pleasure of the elected official. There is a strong bond of loyalty. When the elected official leaves the staffer is no longer employed by the city and when a new official comes on board, he or she will hire a new staffer of their choice. This is an action that should occur to preserve the discretion and independence of the elected official.

© Joyce Clark, 2015


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