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Downtown Phoenix DREAMRs chosen

[Source: Phoenix Business Journal] — The Downtown Phoenix Partnership will honor six downtown champions with its annual DREAMR awards Feb. 1.   Honorees are for the Downtown Revitalization Effort Awards of Merit and Recognition are:

  • Project/Program Award, Freeport-McMoRan Center, formerly One Central Park East, developed by Mesirow Financial
  • Private Sector Individual Award, Mike Ratner, owner, Tom’s Tavern
  • Public Sector Individual Award, Don Keuth, president, Phoenix Community Alliance
  • Outstanding Organization Award, two-time WNBA champions, Phoenix Mercury
  • Unsung Hero Award, recently retired city of Phoenix manager, Frank Fairbanks
  • Visionary Award, Outgoing DPP Board Chair and Bryan Cave attorney Neil Irwin

The 16th Annual DREAMR Awards luncheon will begin at 11:30 a.m. at the Phoenix Convention Center with an expo of products and services from central city merchants.  For more information, call 602-254-8696 or visit DPP’s website [Note: To read the full article, visit Downtown Phoenix DREAMRs chosen.]

Viewpoint: Phoenix budget woes, big art, light rail made ’09 quite a year

[Source: Arizona Republic; section headers organized by yours truly] — With this being Christmas week, we figured you wouldn’t want to read a traditional editorial any more than we wanted to write one.  So today, we lighten things up a bit with awards for notable achievements in 2009.

Phoenix Overall

  • Story of the year: Phoenix did the virtually impossible this year — it cut $270 million from the general fund to balance the budget due to low sales-tax revenue.  Residents are feeling the effects with reduced hours or closures of swimming pools, libraries, and senior centers.  They also see more graffiti and potholes because staff is stretched so thin.  Now the city is talking about cutting an additional $100 million or so.  This story is getting old.
  • Best cheerleader: Mayor Phil Gordon earns this award again.  With frequent trips to Washington, D.C., to lobby for stimulus funds, and Janet Napolitano resigning as governor to lead Homeland Security, Gordon is the face of Arizona.
  • Embarrassment: Rep. Ray Barnes’ rambling reasons for voting to cut $144 million from public education.  Grab some eggnog and watch this Phoenix Republican go off.
  • Hot potato: The idea to raise the sales tax temporarily to generate revenue quickly.  Mayor Gordon suggested a community member take on his idea.  But no one wants to touch it.
  • Landmark: The city became the second in the state to offer a domestic-partner registry to gay or straight couples who share a Phoenix residence.  Among other privileges, the registry grants partners visitation rights in hospitals.
  • Pillar: City Manager Frank Fairbanks earns this award again.  He retired this year, but not before balancing the nastiest budget deficit in city history.  Thanks, Frank.

Downtown Focused/Strong Influence

  • Pushin’ on: Light rail has its fans and its foes.  But ridership is up and businesses have sprouted along the line.  The system is approaching it first anniversary.  We say light rail is on track.
  • Newcomer: Janet Echelman’s “Her Secret Is Patience” at the new Civic Space Park downtown opened to much criticism.  Meant to resemble a cactus bloom, the floating sculpture was called everything from a basketball hoop to a male contraceptive.  Not that we mind.  Some of the best artwork in the world drew heavy criticism.  We’re just glad people are noticing what downtown Phoenix has to offer.
  • Comeback: Phoenix Urban Market Grocery and Wine Bar at Central Avenue and Pierce Street is the first grocer to serve the area in 30 years.  It only carries the basics.  But milk, vegetables, bread, pasta and other staples are welcome.
  • Bragging rights: President Barack Obama made three visits to the Valley this year.  One of those was to the new Phoenix Convention Center, where Obama addressed the Veterans of Foreign Wars national convention.
  • Feather in the cap: A budding knowledge-based economy, parks and preservation efforts, and teen spaces at public libraries make Phoenix an All-America City.  Now it has the civic award to prove it.  This was Phoenix’s fifth win.  It would be a shame to lose these gains to budget cuts in the down economy.

Other Parts of Phoenix

  • Senseless act: A photo-enforcement-van driver was shot to death while deployed near Loop 101 in north Phoenix.  Thomas DeStories was indicted in connection with the shooting death of Douglas Georgianni.
  • Tallest story: Despite opposition from neighbors, the City Council approved a Mormon temple whose steeple and spire will rise 86 feet above the Deer Valley area.
  • Unsung hero: The Macehualli Day Labor Center in northeastern Phoenix provides a central location for day laborers and potential employers to negotiate business.  The center is for sale.

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.]

Alton Washington retiring as Phoenix assistant city manager


Alton Washington

[Source: Scott Wong, Arizona Republic] — Alton Washington, Phoenix’s No. 2 city staffer and considered by some the leading candidate to replace retiring City Manager Frank Fairbanks, said Tuesday that he planned to follow his longtime boss into retirement next month.  Washington, 55, said he did not apply for the city-manager post.  But if the City Council does not appoint a new chief executive by Fairbanks’ Nov. 5 departure, Washington said he would stay on as acting city manager

“I would not leave this organization in the lurch,” Washington said in an interview in his 12th floor City Hall office.  “I would delay any final decisions with my retirement until a new city manager has been selected.” [Note: Read the full article at Alton Washington retiring as Phoenix assistant city manager.]

Issues and challenges facing Phoenix’s next City Manager

From Bob Murray & Associates, the official executive search firm in charge of collecting candidates to replace Frank Fairbanks, here are the highlighted issues, challenges, and opportunities facing the new Phoenix City Manager:

“The severe recession that began in 2007 has had a significant impact on the City of Phoenix.  The FY 2009/10 General Fund budget shortfall of $269.7 million has been met by service and program reductions of $156 million.  Another $113.7 million in savings was realized by shifting some pay as you go capital investments to lease purchase.  The decline in sales tax revenue, which began in the fall of 2007, has had the greatest impact of the financial resources available to the City of Phoenix. Authorized positions have been reduced by a total of 1,073.

In the long term, the City Council is concerned about the City’s future revenue base and how that can be balanced among different revenue sources more effectively.  The City Council realizes the need for a broader local economy in the City. Economic Development will play a key role in the diversification of the economy.

Infrastructure needs from transportation to water supply will continue to demand the attention of the City.  Developing a long term strategy to insure the integrity of the City as it grows will be key to the future of Phoenix.

Phoenix recognizes that is has grown in its diversity and will continue to do so.  As a City it has embraced its differences and has encouraged working as a team to reach its greatest potential.”

Interested in applying?  Click here.

City of Phoenix’s development services department cut by 81

[Source: Scott Wong, Arizona Republic] — Phoenix eliminated 923 positions in the latest round of general-fund budget cuts.  But City Manager Frank Fairbanks wrote the City Council last week that those reductions didn’t include 81 additional jobs that were cut from the Development Services Department.  The department, which enforces building codes and issues permits for residential and commercial property, operates under a cost-recovery model.  That means DSD relies on customer fees rather than public tax dollars. 

The need for the cuts is evident after reviewing the sharp drop in demand for permits.  During the construction boom, the city averaged about 1,500 single-family housing permits per month.  Phoenix granted builders just 35 in February, though demand has picked up slightly in recent months.  Only three people were laid off from DSD in the latest round; the other cuts were achieved by eliminating vacant positions or moving employees to other jobs in the city. 

The July reductions bring to 374 the number of positions that have been axed from the department since 2007, when it had a high of 578 employees, said spokesman Michael Hammett.  But less manpower doesn’t mean a decrease in service levels, Hammett assured.  “When someone comes in, we want to make sure we can serve them in a timely manner,” he said.  “That’s revenue, and that’s key.”  [Note: Read the full blog entry at City of Phoenix’s development services department cut by 81]

Viewpoint: Opportunity for Downtown Phoenix?

[Source: Adam Klawonn, Phoenix Magazine, June 30, 2009] — Last week, Phoenix City manager Frank Fairbanks announced he was retiring in November after nearly 20 years in the driver’s seat at City Hall.  Today, Phoenix has grown to become the fifth largest city in the country with more than 1.5 million people.  Obviously, Fairbanks was successful.  But even as thankful as some folks are for his work, there are others who are just as thankful that he hung up his shingle.  This is not in a negative way, mind you, but in a way that looks forward to hiring a fresh set of eyes — one that focuses more closely on Downtown development.

Despite his good work, Fairbanks was often viewed as a hurdle by hardcore fans of the Downtown lifestyle.  Even as they pleaded with City Hall to focus more on the area, Fairbanks was loathe to invest more public money there for development and infrastructure because, thus far, he felt he wasn’t seeing a real return on the city’s investment.  As a result, most of the new policies affecting Downtown came from the community-at-large and the office of Mayor Phil Gordon — and sometimes encountered resistance from Fairbanks.

There’s already talk of where the next city manager should come from. City officials have said they will conduct a national search.  The final approval rests with the City Council.  Some folks would like to see Phoenix court managers from cities with vibrant downtowns and light-rail transit.  This includes places such as Denver, Salt Lake City, and Portland.

This could be a the turning point for Downtown that those Phoenix crowds were looking for, says Dean Brennan, a former Phoenix planning official who is now a principal with the Project for Livable Communities.  “Getting someone with downtown [development] experience in a city where they have a light rail system would be a great combination,” he says.

You haven’t heard the last of this topic.  The conversation will only get louder as November gets closer.  We’ll have a feature that paints the complete picture later this fall.  [Note: For other viewpoints on this topic: “Phoenix will miss Frank Fairbanks,” Arizona Republic editorial; “The model modern city manager,” Jon Talton, Rogue Columnist blog]

Phoenix city manager Frank Fairbanks to retire this fall

[Source: Scott Wong, Arizona Republic] — Frank Fairbanks, Phoenix’s longest-serving city manager who steered the city through two decades of extraordinary growth and three economic recessions, will retire this fall. In private phone calls this morning, Fairbanks told Mayor Phil Gordon and other City Council members that he will step down as the city’s top non-elected official on Nov. 5. The council will conduct a national search for his replacement, though several of Fairbanks’ deputies are expected to put their names forward.

Fairbanks, who is 62 and has been eligible to retire for the past decade, said he is leaving the city with a balanced budget and strong management team in place. “This has to happen sooner or later. I will not live forever and I will not work here forever,” the Phoenix native and third-generation city employee told the Republic. “I just think the timing is good. The reason to announce now is to give them (the council) time to select somebody.” [Note: To read the full article, click here.]

Phoenix City Manager offers proposed budget for Council vote, Feb. 3

Click here for the Feb. 3 Phoenix City Council Report containing the City Manager’s Proposed Budget.  Each section of the report is broken out in the first nine links, or the last link contains the entire report.

Phoenix restricts rehiring of retired city workers

[Source: Michael Ferraresi and Scott Wong, Arizona Republic] — Retired Phoenix city employees may no longer be rehired to perform their previous duties, according to a policy authorized by City Manager Frank Fairbanks this week.  And employees now must wait at least six months after retirement before they can begin to negotiate another role with the city.

Critics say the new regulation would have prevented top cop Jack Harris from being rehired by the city as a public-safety manager just two months after he retired as police chief in 2007.  Under the arrangement with him, Harris was expected to draw a $90,000 pension while collecting an annual salary of at least $120,000 for his current job, according to past media reports.  “Personally, if you call him police chief, I think you’re putting his pension as risk,” said Mark Spencer, president of Phoenix Law Enforcement Association.  Police administrators defended Harris, saying he was rehired into a different role with expanded emergency-management responsibilities critical to keeping Phoenix residents safe…

Several years ago, as the Valley’s economy was charging ahead, Phoenix had a difficult time recruiting certain types of employees, Fairbanks said.  To fill vacant positions, the city began hiring retirees as part-time employees.  “We actually took a look at the practice and decided it was the wrong thing to do,” Fairbanks said.  “The Personnel and Law departments have come up with new regulation to make sure it doesn’t occur in the future.”

The rehiring policy, known as A.R. 2.92:

  • Prohibits retirees from being rehired to perform their original job duties.
  • Requires retires to wait at least six months before they can sign a contract for a new role with the city, though there are some exceptions.
  • Requires the heads of the Personnel and Budget and Research departments to sign off on the rehiring of a retiree.
  • Limits contracts with retirees to one year.
  • Allows the city manager to grant specific exceptions to the rule “in extreme and unusual circumstances.”

[Note: To read the full article, click here.]