Blog Archives

Phoenix planning director named mayor’s chief of staff

[Source: Scott Wong, Arizona Republic] — Debra Stark, who has served as Phoenix’s planning director for the past five years, will be Mayor Phil Gordon’s next chief of staff, he confirmed Friday.  Stark replaces Toni Maccarone who after a year and a half is returning to her former role as director of the Public Information Office.

Gordon said he had tried to bring Stark on board as early as two years ago.  She has had significant interaction with the public, as well as experience with zoning, economic development, and public-safety permitting, he said.  “I thought Debra Stark would make a great chief of staff and a great addition to the Mayor’s Office,” Gordon said.

Stark’s appointment comes at a time when the Planning Department is being consolidated with Development Services because of budget cuts.  Before coming to Phoenix, Stark had served as a planning manager and community development director in Peoria.   She also was the planning manager for Maricopa County, and started her career as a Phoenix planner.

Rumors quashed about demise of Phoenix’s Village Planning Committees

[Source: Paul Barnes, Neighborhood Coalition of Greater Phoenix] — In October and early November, the Neighborhood Coalition of Greater Phoenix began hearing rumors that as part of budget cuts, the City of Phoenix may eliminate Village Planning Committees as well as the entire Village System. These rumors were brought to the attention of Mayor Phil Gordon.

Below are e-mail communiques from Mayor Gordon and City Manager Frank Fairbanks assuring the Coalition that regardless of whatever severe budget cuts might have to be initiated, the Village Planning Committees and Village System will be retained.

November 17, 2008 e-mail from Mayor Gordon to Paul Barnes:

Dear Paul,

Per your personal request, I am providing you with the following response to your e-mail so you may read it, send it, or discuss it with anyone you choose:

Paul, while I have not heard nor was I aware of any rumors that the city, due to “budget cuts and perhaps for other reasons as well, Phoenix may eliminate the village planning committees as well as the village system,” I informed you that I “would not support either of such actions should they be formally recommended.”  I am not only reaffirming that pledge, but am committing that I would aggressively oppose any such action, formal or informal.

Please assure everyone that this won’t happen.  However as we did discuss, substantial cuts will occur in all departments thus reducing service; increasing wait times; and delaying planning activities, meetings, and special projects in many cases.  We did discuss that some village committees that form ad hoc or subcommittees may have to do without staff as the city may not be able to continue overtime salaries till the budget picture greatly improves.  The village committees could seek through the full council, a waiver to a village subcommittee request for staff resources which if granted would then be allocated from the city’s general fund (thus taking away dollars from something else). However, let me again stress that no villages nor the system itself or any portions thereof will be eliminated.  If anyone has any concerns, please have them contact me as I represent everyone in the city.

Phil Gordon, Mayor, City of Phoenix

November 17, 2008 e-mail from City Manager Frank Fairbanks to Paul Barnes:

Paul,

The Mayor copied me, so let me add some information to this discussion.

First; The City by State law must have a balanced budget.  City revenues are declining and will not support the current level of activity.  The City has no proposed cuts at this time.  We have not identified what we will propose to balance the budget. I have not yet seen all of the options yet. Budget & Research is examining all the options in cooperation with the departments. “The City,” meaning the Mayor and City Council or City Management, has not yet proposed any cuts to the Village Planning process or anywhere else.  Any cuts would be proposed on January 6, 2009.

Second; About a month ago, each department head (Debra Stark in the case of Planning) was required to submit a list of what she would cut from their own department, IF their department were to be cut 30%.  The Planning Department 30% list included cutting 4 of the 11 Village Planners as the worst case scenario.  I am told that currently, 11 Planners staff 15 Village Planning Committees.   If these 4 positions were cut, then 7 Village Planners would remain to staff the 15 Committees.  Under this Planning Department submitted proposal, all Village Planning Committees would continue.  If these cuts proceeded, Planning proposed that all Village Planning Committees would remain is operation, some lighter agenda meetings might be cancelled and the amount of fresh research would likely be reduced.

Third; City revenues continue to decline.  We have not hit bottom.  We do not have a final estimate of the percentage cuts that will be necessary because the situation is still very fluid and we don’t need a final estimate until we propose cuts.  The target cuts for all civilian general fund departments are between 25% and 45%.  Because of massive community support, the Police and Fire Departments will have an increase in their budgets, but this increase will not be as much as their normal cost growth.

Finally, let me add that city management also supports the village planning program and model and we have no interest in eliminating it or reducing this important part of our community.

Frank Fairbanks

Downtown Phoenix parking debate grows along with ASU

[Source: Associated Press] — Some downtown Phoenix residents living in the Roosevelt Neighborhood are expressing concern about parking for Arizona State University students both now and in the future.  Some condo and office building developers waiting for the soft real estate market to rebound are instead turning their downtown land into parking lots for ASU students and others.  That has some members of nearby neighborhood associations worried.  “Ideally, we don’t want a parking lot there,” said Steve Brueckner, president of the Roosevelt Action Association.

Neighbors said they fear that parking, even if it’s temporary, could lead to more permanent downtown lots.  Besides relying on light rail to get students downtown, ASU will also need thousands of parking spaces, according to university figures.  This fall, ASU expects to have 4,500 students and as many as 900 staffers on campus, said university planner Richard Stanley.  The school currently has 1,100 parking spaces and agreements to lease 3,400 other spaces some for daytime use only from the city of Phoenix, near Chase Field; the Mercado complex; and the Phoenix Convention Center.  By 2020, ASU estimates it will have 15,000 downtown students and may need up to 6,000 spaces by then.

Hoping to calm neighborhood fears, the City of Phoenix says some landowners must seek a zoning change or special permit to create a parking lot, said Debra Stark, the city’s planning director.  “The city also has specific lighting and landscaping requirements,” Stark said.  ASU officials said they are still working on a long-term parking fix downtown.  Planning for parking does not include disrupting residential neighborhoods surrounding ASU, Stanley said.