Blog Archives

Provide Feedback on City of Phoenix’s Draft Strategic Plan

[Source: City of Phoenix]

Recently, the Phoenix City Council completed its initial review of the city’s draft strategic plan and proposed mission statement.  Going forward, the plan will help guide city decision-making and focus the city’s efforts on its core priorities.

The plan concentrates on 10 study areas, which are: Economic Development and Education; Financial Excellence; Infrastructure; Innovation and Efficiency; Neighborhoods and Livability; Phoenix Team, Public Safety; Social Services Delivery; Sustainability; and Technology.

The plan’s priorities and strategies were drafted by teams of city staff and members of the private sector.  The teams relied on existing department strategic plans, public documents and other sources of community input while writing the draft plan.  The last strategic plan was released in 1990 and has not been formally updated in more than 20 years.

Residents may learn more about the process, view the draft strategic plan, and provide feedback by visiting the Phoenix Strategic Plan website or by calling 602-262-6941.  Residents also can provide input on the strategic plan as a part of the city’s budget hearing process in April.

Below is a list of scheduled strategic plan and budget hearings.  The start times listed below are for the strategic plan hearing, and the budget hearing will begin one hour after the stated time.

  • 5 p.m. Wednesday, April 13, Burton Barr Library, Auditorium, 1221 N. Central Ave.
  • 9 a.m. Thursday, April 7, Devonshire Senior Center, Multi Purpose Room, 2802 E. Devonshire St.
  • 5 p.m. Thursday, April 7, Paradise Valley Community Center, Multi Purpose Room, 17402 N. 40th St.
  • 5 p.m. Thursday, April 7, Neighborhood Resource Center, 2405 E. Broadway Road
  • 5 p.m. Monday, April 11, Cowden Center, Barb’s Room, 9202 N. Second St.
  • 5 p.m. Tuesday, April 12, Manzanita Senior Center, 3581 W. Northern Ave.
  • 5 p.m. Tuesday, April 12, Black Mountain Police Precinct, Community Room, 33355 N. Cave Creek Road
  • 5 p.m. Tuesday, April 12, Cesar Chavez High School, Cafeteria, 3921 W. Baseline Road
  • 5 p.m. Wednesday, April 13, Goelet A. Beuf Community Center, Multi Purpose Room, 3435 W. Pinnacle Peak Road
  • 5 p.m. Wednesday, April 13, Longview Neighborhood Recreation Center, Gymnasium, 4040 N. 14th St.
  • 5 p.m. Thursday, April 14, Madison School District Office, Board Room, 5601 N. 16th St.
  • 5 p.m. Tuesday, April 19, Shadow Mountain Senior Center, 3546 E. Sweetwater Ave.
  • 5 p.m. Tuesday, April 19, Maryvale Community Center, Auditorium, 4420 N. 51st Ave.
  • 5 p.m. Tuesday, April 19, Pecos Community Center, 17010 S. 48th St.
  • 5 p.m. Wednesday, April 20, Carl Hayden High School, Auditorium, 3333 W. Roosevelt St.  This meeting will be conducted in a bilingual (English and Spanish) format.

For more information, visit the Phoenix Strategic Plan website.

 

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Phoenix City Council to Discuss Proposed Water Rate Increase on Wednesday

Main entrance, with fountain.

Flickr photo by sea turtle

Phoenix City Council is taking public comments on the water rates proposal (see below) and will be discussing the issue at 3 pm on Wednesday, February 23rd.

The meeting will be held at City Council Chambers, 200 W Jefferson St.

Proposed Water Rate Increase Overview

[Source: City of Phoenix]

Priority:

To provide safe and reliable drinking water to Phoenix businesses and 2.3 million residents – a critical public health issue.

Need for proposed 7 percent water rate increase:

  • Debt service to repay more than $1 billion in bonds issued in last five years for projects already completed
  • Maintain AAA credit rating, which saves taxpayers money on interest
  • New unfunded, federally mandated requirements

— $200 million – Safe Drinking Water Act
— $15 million per year in related operating expenses

  • Over the last 10 years, for every million gallons of water produced, chemical costs have increased by 493%; electricity costs by 68%; and raw water costs by 41%
  • Proposal increases average water bill by $2.21 per month
  • No increase in wastewater rates; 4.4 percent combined increase

Water Services has instituted significant cost cuts and generated millions in revenues:

  • Reduced water and wastewater capital budgets by $621 million – delaying, reducing and eliminating lower-priority projects
  • Cut operating budget by $10 million; eliminated 25 percent of management position
  • Raised $4.5 million per year by selling reclaimed water to Palo Verde Nuclear Generating Station; $30 million region wide over four years
  • Collecting $5 million/year with new late payment fees; sold land assets for $2.1 million
  • Contracting with private sector for bill-payment processing, capital construction, and pipeline repair projects

Water Services employees:

  • 803 employees – just 17 percent of Water Services Department budget is personnel costs
  • Responsible for operating, maintaining and repairing 540-square-mile system, including six water treatment plants, 7,000 miles of pipeline, 50,000 fire hydrants, and customer service needs for 403,000 water accounts
  • Lowest number of employees per capita in 10 years
  • Funding rate increase solely through personnel costs requires cutting approximately one-third of Water’s employees

Comparison to other water providers:

  • Phoenix’s water and  wastewater average family costs are sixth-lowest of 20 largest U.S. cities
  • Phoenix’s rates are third-lowest of 11 large, southwestern cities and lower than most Valley water providers

Costs of not implementing water rate increase:

  • Risk of losing AAA bond rating; leading to higher borrowing costs and larger shortfalls
  • Capital funds for rehabilitation and replacement programs would need to be reduced, which may lead to decreased levels of service, increasing risk of system failures
  • Significantly higher rate increases will be needed in future years to maintain system

Additional information:

The Phoenix City Council will consider the water rates proposal at 3 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 23, at City Council Chambers, 200 W. Jefferson St.

View a video on water rates

Want to see a Dog Park in Downtown Phoenix? Then Read This and Act!

Downtown Phoenix‘s St Croix Villas needs your help.  If you like any of the following things, you’ll want to help them:

  • Downtown Vibrancy
  • Pedestrianism
  • Community
  • Dogs

DOGS MATTER IN PHOENIX

In Phoenix the dogs to humans ratio is slightly more than one dog to every two humans — the Phoenix human population is 1,512,986 and the Phoenix dog population Is 768,000 (according to “Dog Fancy Magazine“).

There are only 5 dog parks in Phoenix. The closest one to downtown is Steele Indian School Park.  Dogs cannot travel on the Light Rail.

Information Session

The  “Ramada Inn Dog Park Endeavor”  will be discussed at Thursday’s (Oct 21st) Phoenix Historic Neighborhoods Coalition meeting. The meeting will be at 1817 N 7th St. at 7 p.m. (Phoenix Elementary School District offices, N.E. corner).

 

Public Hearing

St Croix Villas is challenging the Zoning Hearing Officer’s decision to turn the site of the historic Ramada Inn into a temporary parking lot. The “Notice of Public Hearing” for November 4th at 12:00 is attached.

Notice of Public Hearing

Petition

Here is the text of the peition that St Croix Villas is circulating.

Dog_Park_Petition (.doc)

“I, the undersigned, hereby petition the Phoenix City Council to create a public dog park on the northern half of the block formerly filled by the Ramada Inn Phoenix Downtown, a 300 ft x 300 ft property at 401 NORTH FIRST ST., PHOENIX, AZ 85004. The parking lot currently planned to fill this property will add to Phoenix’ heat island effect and will encourage more and excessive downtown automobile traffic. Our property values, and the desirability of our community, are based on both the current and potential ‘pedestrianism’ of downtown.  A new 90,000 sq. ft. parking lot is not needed and will reduce the value of our property and all downtown properties. A dog park balancing a smaller parking lot will mitigate these effects.”

If you would like to see a dog park instead of another parking lot in downtown Phoenix, please print it out and circulate it amongst your office, neighborhood,  friends and/or family.

Contact Sean SweatYuri Artibise, or the DVC to submit completed petitions


 

 

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Adam Diaz, downtown Phoenix advocate, dies at 100

Adam Diaz, Phoenix's first Latino city council member, and family

[Source: Connie Cone Sexton, Arizona Republic] — An interviewer once asked Adam Diaz why, at age 77, he continued to be so politically and socially involved.  Why not just take up bowling or golf?  Diaz politely discounted the suggestion.  “My time is limited,” he responded.  “Every day you get up is a bonus day.  But having a goal keeps you young.  It helps keep you alive and vital.”  His positive attitude paid off.  Diaz died Friday.  He was 100.

Diaz led an accomplished life.  A highlight reel would include, of course, being the first Latino councilman of Phoenix.  He served four years, starting in the 1950s.  One year, he was vice mayor.  He later spent five years on the Phoenix Elementary School District board.  He championed downtown Phoenix decades before it was the hip thing to do.  He pushed for historic preservation and pushed even harder for preserving the spirit and legacy of the Hispanic people.  He helped establish Friendly House, helping the poor.  He was a board member for Chicanos Por La Causa.  President Bill Clinton tapped him for his Task Force on Aging.

Accolades and honors followed his every project.  But he would point to the two things that made him strong: his family and his community.  He embraced Phoenix with warmth and pride.  He sought improvements for all but was a constant advocate for the Latino community, especially in south Phoenix.  He lived there most of his life.  He lived during the years when Hispanics were not welcome by many to live north of Van Buren Street and were prohibited from going to certain schools.

Diaz’s gentle nature became passionate about bringing change and taking on responsibility for getting things done.  It had been that way since the death of his father when he was just 13.  He went to work as a delivery boy for Western Union, then as an elevator operator in one of the buildings owned by prominent Phoenix businessman George Luhrs.  Diaz was popular, engaging.  Luhrs took him under his wing, eventually making him a building manager.  The job put him in the path of many early Phoenix movers and shakers.  Arizona Sen. Barry Goldwater became a friend and urged him to run for the City Council.

Diaz’s daughter, Sally Feight, said he liked being on the council because it gave him greater access to knowing the community’s needs.  “He really was a man of the people,” she said.  Granddaughter Lisa Urias said he never retreated into old age, adding, “every morning he would say, ‘Que bonito el dia’ (What a beautiful day).  He loved life so much.”

City agrees to buy/raze downtown Phoenix Ramada Inn for ASU expansion

[Source: Jahna Berry, Arizona Republic] — The same week that Phoenix leaders imposed a 2 percent food tax to prevent layoffs and painful cuts to city services, City Council members agreed to spend $6 million to buy a vacant motel so Arizona State University can expand its downtown campus.  The city plans to buy the old Ramada Inn at 401 N. First Street with $5 million left over from a 2006 city bond that was enacted largely to help construct ASU’s downtown Phoenix campus, plus roughly $1.3 million from the city-owned Sheraton Phoenix Downtown Hotel’s capital improvement fund.

The city and the motel property’s owner, Phoenix-based City Centre LLC, have not finalized the sale but hope to before it is due to be sold at a foreclosure auction on March 2.  The city has been eying the property for years but was put off by the price, which was once as high as $30 million.  Now, it wants to buy the property before it goes to auction, where it may lose it to another buyer.  Records show City Centre owes its lender $5.2 million.  Until ASU officials decide what to do with the site, Phoenix plans to raze the motel and build an overflow parking lot with up to 250 spaces for the Sheraton.

The Phoenix City Council unanimously approved the deal Feb 3. The city-controlled hotel board approved the transaction on Friday.  “I felt this was a good purchase for the city at this time,” said Councilman Bill Gates.  “The city could acquire property important to downtown and important to the ASU campus.”  But a taxpayer advocacy group said the city should at the very least use the extra money to pay off debt already incurred for the campus.   Kevin McCarthy, president of the Arizona Tax Research Association, said the hotel purchase also highlights government tactics to spend money on projects not specifically approved by voters.

Buying the Ramada Inn was not specified in the spending plan detailed on the city’s Web site and to the media in the days leading up to the bond vote, city officials acknowledge.  But it was part of early plans for the campus, city officials said.  The vote gave the city permission to borrow $220 million to build various ASU facilities.  The city sells bonds to raise money, which it pays off with property taxes. But the taxpayer group concedes the city’s deal still is legal because the property fits within ballot language for long-term plans for the campus.  [Note: Read the full article at City agrees to buy/raze downtown Phoenix Ramada Inn for ASU expansion.]

Citizen feedback important as Phoenix City Council debates more cuts, food tax

One Tuesday, January 12, the Phoenix City Council is discussing the current budget outlook at a Work Study Session, set for 2 p.m. in the Council Chambers, 200 W. Jefferson St., in downtown Phoenix.  Review and download the meeting notice (note the meeting will now be in the Council Chambers) and the staff memo explaining the depth of the ongoing budget crisis.  In a nutshell:

  • The expected budget deficit for the remainder of this fiscal year and for FY 2010-2011 is $245 million, even after $156 million in cuts a year ago.
  • The elimination of all programs and departments not related to public safety would still not allow a balanced budget.
  • Because state-shared revenues are distributed on a two-year delay, the City faces at least several more years of cuts or no-growth budgets, even if local sales tax collections start to rebound next year (at the earliest).
  • While this budget document refers to the City’s general funds, a variety of other funds that rely on sales tax collection have the same budget issues, including Transit 2000, Phoenix Parks and Preserves Initiative, Prop 1 Public Safety, and the Phoenix Convention Center.

Two related newspaper articles are available:

While there will be a series of budget hearings over the next six weeks to discuss specific programmatic recommendations, Tuesday’s work study sessions will be an excellent opportunity to weigh in on the general direction budget cuts should take, or whether the Council should consider increasing revenues.  For more information about the City’s budgeting process, click here.

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.]

Alton Washington retiring as Phoenix assistant city manager

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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.

Phoenix’s “New Vision” city council slate unveils Plan 468

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Proposed Playa del Sol along the banks of the Rio Salado.

[Source: Scott Wong, Arizona Republic] — Free health care for all Phoenicians.  The creation of a Mexican Riviera-type development along the Rio Salado.  And a new Phoenix energy board to oversee the city’s sustainability efforts.  They are just a few ideas from Plan 468, which the New Vision slate unveiled during a Thursday evening news conference attended by one reporter.

City Council candidates Robert Dennis Johnson (District 4), Nathan Oshop (District 6) and Jon Garrido (District 8), all Democrats, published the six-point strategy online.  “Everybody talks about a comprehensive plan.  We’ve done it,” said Garrido, who is in a three-way race with incumbent Michael Johnson and Darlene Jackson. The plan calls for:

  • Transforming the Rio Salado, or Salt River, into a giant lagoon that would anchor a multi-billion dollar beachfront development called Playa del Sol.  It would serve as a world-class destination, attracting 8 million new tourists to its resorts, golf courses, shops, casino, and Phoenix SeaWorld.
  • Free health care insurance for all Phoenix residents, paid for using $1 billion in casino revenue from the Playa del Sol project.  The only caveat: The proposal relies on Arizona voters to pass an initiative allowing a casino to be built on non-tribal land.
  • Refocusing economic-development efforts from downtown to the Indian School Road Corridor by creating jobs in research and development, light manufacturing, and international trade.  The city would forge business ties with Brazil, Argentina, Chile, and Spain.
  • Forming a city energy board charged with reducing the city’s carbon emissions by 30 percent within 10 years, and redeveloping blighted landfills into revenue-generating commercial developments.
  • Widening the reach of city community centers so they serve all segments of the population.
  • Developing urban mixed-use “nodes” where people can work, shop and play.

Even though the slate is being outspent by incumbent candidates, none have put together a more ambitious and complete plan than New Vision, said Robert Dennis Johnson.  “We realize we are outgunned.  This is a David vs. Goliath fight,” he said.  “But what we have, when you look at this, is substantially more than any of our challengers are offering.”  [Note: Read the full blog post at Phoenix’s “New Vision” city council slate unveils Plan 468.]