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City of Phoenix Manager’s Message: Budget Update & “Thank You”

[Source: City of Phoenix]

This message was sent to all City of Phoenix e-mail users:

Dear fellow employees:

As you know, last Sunday was the Super Bowl. As millions of Americans spent the day enjoying the big game, a Water Services crew was busy repairing a water main break at 48th Street and Charleston Avenue.

Few motorists paid attention to the city crew as they worked in the cold and dark to fix the leak. But one person noticed, and he took the time to send the city an e-mail, which says:

“I would like to thank the crew of the City Water Department who came out yesterday (Sunday) because of a water main break and stayed into the late evening to get it repaired. Then, they came back this morning and cleaned up the mud in front of our home as a result of that break. They did a great job and I’m much appreciative of their efforts.”

I, too, appreciate their efforts and the efforts of all our city employees. I know you work long hours, weekends and even some holidays to serve the community. Even if you have an 8-to-5 schedule, you’re probably checking your Blackberries, responding to pages or taking phone calls throughout the evening. Many of you probably attend community meetings at night or staff facilities that are open late. I have no doubt that some of you have missed out on important family events and celebrations because you had a job to do serving the residents of Phoenix.

The city has formal programs, such as the Employee Excellence Awards and the Employee Suggestion Program, to recognize city employees. However, there’s nothing like a heartfelt “thank you” from a customer or resident. I’m pleased to share a few more recent examples:

  • Solid Waste Equipment Operator Adrian Lopez received a special Christmas card from a little customer, a boy who is fascinated with garbage trucks. Adrian always takes the time to honk and wave to the little boy each time he passes the house. To show her gratitude, the boy’s Mom made a Christmas card especially for Adrian.
  • An Arizona Republic reader recently commended an unidentified Phoenix Police officer who bought breakfast for a homeless man who had entered a restaurant to ask for directions. “The homeless man thanked the officer, who seemed embarrassed by the attention,” the reader wrote in a letter to the newspaper. “I felt it was important to pass on this kind gesture of one of Phoenix’s finest.”
  • And this, from a library customer: “I just wanted to let you know the great experience I had at the Library on Saturday… Visiting the Library is always one of the greatest pleasures for my family.  Thanks for all that you and your staff do.”

The Mayor, City Council and I would like to join the chorus of thanks and express our gratitude for all you do for the city.

On Tuesday, we honored three city employees who were also dedicated public servants: Officer Travis Paul Murphy, Robert Scully and Hugh T. McMurray Jr. They were remembered at the annual Employee Memorial Ceremony for employees who have passed away in the course of their duties.  Thanks to everyone who attended the event or worked hard to organize it. I am especially grateful to the Mayor, Council members, department heads and other leaders of our city organization for their continued support of the Memorial Ceremony.

On a final note, I am happy to share some exciting news with you. City holiday sales tax collected in January (December 2010 sales) was 12.5% higher than the same period last year! The largest and most encouraging aspect of city holiday sales was the retail component of General Fund sales tax, which grew by 14.8% over the same period last year.

This is the highest January growth rate in total City General Fund Sales tax since January 2005 and the first positive January growth since 2008. Several categories of sales tax contributed to this positive growth, including retail, contracting, and restaurants and bars. I know many of you did your part by shopping Phoenix during the holiday season.

Thank you for your commitment to the community and for your continued hard work.

— David Cavazos


Ramada Inn in downtown Phoenix is days from demolition

Read the Downtown Voices Coalition’s position on the demolition of the hotel here and here.

There will be a public hearing to allow a use permit for an interim parking lot on the site this Thursday, August 12, at 9:00 am. It will be held at Phoenix City Hall, 200 W. Washington St. 1st Floor, Assembly Room C.  More information can be found here.  A meeting agenda has been posted here.

[Source: Emily Gersema in the Arizona Republic]

Tom Tingle/The Arizona Republic

Workers have been stripping recyclable items such as doors and wiring from the 175-room Ramada Inn at First and Taylor streets in downtown Phoenix to prepare the site for a parking lot.

A Phoenix group of concerned residents and business leaders, Downtown Voices Coalition, tried for several months to stop the demolition, arguing the hotel, once known as the Sahara Motor Inn, was a historic site and should be preserved.

City Manager David Cavazos has said the demolition is a done deal. Crews demolished part of the motel in May.

DEMOLITION: Jeremy Legg, Phoenix economic development program manager, said this phase costs about $700,000. Workers will begin razing the remaining buildings later this month.

PARKING: Legg said after the site is razed, workers will turn it into a parking lot, which could be opened to handle overflow from the nearby Sheraton Phoenix Downtown Hotel.

NEXT STEP: Within two or three years, Arizona State University hopes to expand its downtown Phoenix campus to include a new building at the site for a new College of Law. The state budget crisis has forced ASU to wait for funding.

Phoenix City Council approves budget plan, 7-2

[Source: Scott Wong, Arizona Republic] — Despite opposition from two members, the Phoenix City Council on Tuesday approved a budget plan that eliminates 520 jobs and requires $64 million in cuts to parks, public transit, after-school programs, and the arts.  But it contains none of the severe cuts to public safety, senior centers, and libraries that were proposed in late January.  Under the spending plan, no sworn police officers or firefighters will be laid off, and no senior centers, libraries, large community centers, or softball fields will be closed.  City officials clarified that fewer than 50 full-time employees would actually be laid off, due to vacancies, retirements, and efforts to transfer police officers and other workers into other departments.

The general-fund budget adopted Tuesday was drastically different from the initial proposal that called for cutting $140 million in services and axing 1,300 jobs, including pink slips for hundreds of police officers and firefighters.  City leaders managed to save city jobs and services primarily by imposing a sales tax on groceries, using unspent money in a public-safety fund, and getting labor unions to agree to a 3.2 percent concession in wages and benefits.  “Hundreds of people’s jobs will be saved because of the measures we have taken here,” City Manager David Cavazos said.

Annual budgets in Phoenix typically are approved on a unanimous vote, but Council members Peggy Neely and Sal DiCiccio voted against the budget and said this plan contained elements that lacked transparency and were impossible to support.  They pointed to Mayor Phil Gordon’s move last month to push through a 2 percent food tax without adequate public input.  And they blasted a plan by budget officials to shift more than 20 police officers into the Water, Aviation, and Transit departments to save their jobs, a move that law enforcement and management argued would boost security at water plants, the airport, and on light rail.  “I’m very concerned with how we built this,” Neely said during a seven-hour meeting at the Orpheum Theatre.

Gordon and six other council members supported the budget, which runs through June 2011.  The cuts take effect April 5.  They come just a year after the council slashed a record $156 million from the roughly $1 billion general-fund budget.  Among the most severe reductions this time:

  • The city’s after-school program will close at 25 of 55 sites during the school year and the summer program will shut down completely.
  • The city also will stop funding the Shemer Art Center and Museum and Arizona Horse Lovers Park, which could be operated by private groups.
  • Visitor centers at North Mountain, South Mountain, and Rio Salado parks will be shuttered.
  • Bus service along several routes will be reduced by 15 percent and the DASH Downtown Loop bus will be eliminated.
  • Riders also will have to wait longer for light rail during peak hours, though late-night weekend service will be preserved.
  • Some departments will be consolidated, including the City Clerk’s Office and Information Technology.
  • And cuts will claim two top officials in the City Manager’s Office, as well as positions in the mayor and council offices.

In recent weeks, 4,500 residents attended 15 public hearings on the budget. About 500 sent e-mails or made phone calls to the city. Many said that without preserving the arts, culture and recreation in the city, Phoenix would fall into urban decay.  “What I heard is that we are a city that is more than just a police force.  I also heard that we simply cannot be a city-police state,” said Councilman Tom Simplot, who attended a handful of the hearings.  “This budget reflects that to be the best we can, we need our youth centers, our libraries, our art centers.”

Added library advocate Dan Cook: “I am a retired senior citizen and my wife and I live on a fixed income, but I am willing to pay that tax to keep our city vital and alive.”  A handful of African-American community leaders made one final plea to restore year-round funding for the decades-old South Phoenix Youth Center. Food-tax revenue will keep it open only during summers.  “You’re closing the community out by closing these centers,” said longtime Valley broadcaster Art Mobley.

City of Phoenix’s budget shortfall hits $245M

[Source: Scott Wong, Arizona Republic blog] — Phoenix’s budget outlook just got a lot gloomier.  In an e-mail to city employees Tuesday, City Manager David Cavazos said the budget shortfall for the current fiscal year and next fiscal year is a combined $245 million, or 22 percent of the general fund that pays for police and fire protection, libraries, and other basic services.  That approaches the record $270 million that was cut last year from the budget, including a $156 million hit to city services.

Cavazos said the national recession and lagging tax revenues continue to hammer city coffers.  Layoffs are almost certain.  “Given the size of the shortfall, we will need to cut positions and unfortunately layoffs are anticipated,” he wrote in the e-mail.  “Our people are our greatest asset and we are focused on holding positions vacant and reducing costs to minimize the impact on our employees, and in turn, the public we serve.”

All city departments have submitted proposed budget reductions of up to 30 percent.  Public safety departments submitted 15 percent in proposed cuts.  After reviewing those proposal, Cavazos will present his proposed budget to the City Council on Feb. 2.  Community members will be able to attend public budget hearings through the month of February, with a council vote taking place in early March.  [Note: Read the full blog posting at City of Phoenix’s budget shortfall hits $245M.]

Phoenix must do more with less, new city manager says

[Source: Scott Wong, Arizona Republic] — David Cavazos has been appointed to succeed City Manager Frank Fairbanks, who is retiring Thursday after nearly 20 years.  Cavazos, a deputy city manager who started with Phoenix 22 years ago, discussed some of the changes he would like to make, the city’s financial woes and how he plans to get past a 2006 travel-abuse scandal that still haunts him.

What kinds of changes can we expect at City Hall? We have to look at the very best person for every job, that everything has to be based on merit and credentials and that we’re going to look both internally and externally for support.  We (the council and I) talked about innovation.  People need to be able to do more with less.  They need to not only be willing to change but be a champion for change.  They need to adapt to change.  One of the things I’ll be focused on is how can we partner with the private sector to do the things that we may not do as well as the private sector.  We got to look at outsourcing.  We got to work very closely with employees, with our labor groups.

The city closed a record $270 million shortfall earlier this year, largely by eliminating jobs and making cuts to services.  Now we hear that this year’s budget gap has widened again by as much as $95 million.  How do you fix that? “We need to work very closely with the mayor and council.  What are the priorities?  Obviously, public safety, neighborhoods, infrastructure, economic development.  (We have to ask) what do we absolutely have to do?  What services are the most important to the community?  The public hearings are very important, talking to people, getting their input and then realizing there will have to be some streamlining.  I think you’ll see some of it at the top, probably right here in the City Manager’s Office.

Is it certain there will be layoffs? I believe that we are going to have reductions in staffing.  There is no way to get around that.  You are going to be able to do some with lease-purchase and hopefully things get better.  [Note: Read the full article at Phoenix must do more with less, new city manager says.]

Phoenix: Meet your new City Manager

David Cavazos

David Cavazos

The Phoenix mayor and City Council voted today to select a new city manager.  In an 8-1 vote, David Cavazos was chosen.

Open public meeting to be held Oct. 26 to consider new Phoenix City Manager

The Phoenix mayor and City Council will hold a public meeting at 3 p.m. Monday, Oct.26, in Phoenix City Hall, 200 W. Washington St., regarding the selection of a new city manager.  The public is invited to comment.  This meeting will follow the 9 a.m. executive session where the mayor and city council will meet to consider the selection of, and interview the finalists for, the position of city manager.

The candidates being considered include Phoenix deputy city managers David Cavazos, David Krietor, Rick Naimark, and Ed Zuercher.  To learn more about each candidate, click on their individual name or photo.  The Arizona Republic’s article on the four nominees, and commentary on The Men Who Would Be Frank by former Arizona Republic columnist, Jon Talton.

Ed Zuercher

Ed Zuercher

Rick Naimark

Rick Naimark

David Krietor

David Krietor

David Cavazos

David Cavazos

Adaptive reuse key to Phoenix’s diverse and unique history

[Source: Kimber Lanning, Local First Arizona, and David Cavazos, City of Phoenix, “My Turn” column, Arizona Republic] — The city of Phoenix has a plan to ensure our history will become part of our future, as vintage buildings are given new vitality through a process known as adaptive reuse.  This process instills a sense of character and diversity in our city -– a balance of modern construction and the modification of existing buildings.  The process also represents a commitment to future generations and provides jobs for today. 

During the last few years, we have witnessed tremendous growth in our city.  Partners including small business owners and entrepreneurs are major components to this growth.  In exchange for sweat equity, they are looking for a simplified path through the development process. 

It is easier to see why major projects such as the Phoenix Convention Center, CityScape, and Sheraton Downtown Phoenix (to name a few), are essential to economic growth and prosperity.  However, we all need to better realize the importance of the small adaptive reuse projects, including restaurants such as Fate, Cibo, Palette, and Roosevelt Tavern, and shops such as MADE Boutique.  These new businesses offer the influx of ASU and U of A students, convention visitors, and guests of the new Sheraton memorable experiences and places to frequent.

The positive benefits of adaptive reuse come with some challenges.  Bringing older buildings up to code to meet today’s fire, structural safety, and accessibility requirements can present a financial burden for small business owners.  At the end of the day, the adaptive reuse project must be financially feasible.  To this end, the City of Phoenix developed a pilot program to simplify the process of modifying older buildings for new purposes, while continuing to ensure the safety of all construction.  This program includes a comprehensive 10-item plan that includes defining life safety issues; allowing the routine use of the International Existing Building Code (which often reduces the scope and cost of modifications to the building); internal and external education programs; and evaluating “best practices” of other cities.  A task force comprised of senior staff from a number of city departments was formed to ensure all 10 items are achieved.  The task force also will conduct focus groups to ensure that we are including our diverse community in this plan.

At this stage in the evolution of downtown, city leaders recognize the need for the city to become a partner in the growth of new businesses, both large and small.  Now is the time to encourage business growth with over 750 new student residents moving downtown in August, and over 1,000 overnight guests daily coming to our new Sheraton and new light rail connecting downtown to other parts of the Valley.  The City is committed to streamlining and deregulating the development process for adaptive re-use and new in-fill development in our city’s core without compromising public safety.  Mayor Gordon and City Council are in strong support of this pilot program and will review the task force recommendations in the fall.

City continues to hammer out adaptive reuse policies

Matt's Big BreakfastThe City of Phoenix’s internal adaptive reuse task force had its second meeting on June 2.  At the meeting, the task force reviewed the Tarver Sprinkler Ordinance, Planning Department policies for the zoning adjustment process, and Development Services Department (DSD) policies for use of the International Existing Building Code (IEBC).  DSD also circulated a list of adaptive reuse pilot projects and possible participants for an adaptive reuse task force.  The next meeting of the task force will be held on June 16. For more information, contact David Cavazos, Deputy City Manager.

First meeting of city’s adaptive reuse task force held

[Source: Barbara Stocklin, Historic Preservation Officer, City of Phoenix] — The first meeting of the City of Phoenix’s newly-created Adaptive Reuse Task Force, comprised of representatives of 13 city departments, met on May 12.  The task force is overseen by David Cavazos of the City Manager’s Office and Mark Leonard of the Development Services Department.  Its mission is to recommend and implement strategies that will make the city’s adaptive reuse process simpler and more “user-friendly.”  The task force will complete its work and report back to the City Council in early September.