Meet your City Council candidates

By: 
CARY HINES, Assistant editor
Five candidates are running for Glendale City Council.
Newcomer Ray Strahl is running against incumbent Bart Turner in the Barrel District; incumbent Lauren Tolmachoff is running unopposed in the Cholla District; and incumbent Jamie Aldama is vying against Emmanuel Allen in the Ocotillo District.
The primary election is Aug. 28. Any candidate who receives more than 50 percent of the votes will win outright. If no candidate reaches that number, a runoff will be held on Election Day, Nov. 6.
Early voting for the primary begins Aug. 1. The deadline to mail back early ballots is Aug. 22, and early voting ends Aug. 24.
To register to vote, go to www.arizona.vote/ or servicearizona.com/voterRegistration.
To request an early ballot, go to https://recorder.maricopa.gov/earlyvotingballot/earlyvotingballotrequest.aspx.
To find out which City Council district you live in, go to https://www.glendaleaz.com/CityCouncil/districtmap.cfm.
To find your polling location, go to https://recorder.maricopa.gov/pollingplace/ or https://voter.azsos.gov/VoterView/PollingPlaceSearch.do.
The Glendale Star recently sent questionnaires to all candidates running for Glendale City Council. Last week, Barrel and Cholla district candidates’ responses were featured. This week, read the Ocotillo District candidates’ responses.
 
 

What is your age, marital status and children, if any?

Jamie Aldama: I am 49 years of age, a husband of nearly 30 years, a father of three adult children, and a grandfather of five beautiful grandchildren.
Emmanuel Allen: I am 38 years old, happily married for 17 years, with one amazing son.
 

What is your educational and career background?

Aldama: Employed in the public education sector for nearly 30 years. Currently the interim director of facilities for the Maricopa County Community College District.
Allen: I studied computer science at Milwaukee Area Technical College. I hold a Bachelor of Arts in theology from Grace Christian College and Seminary, and I’m just shy of completing a Masters of Divinity degree. I have over 15 years of management experience, serving as office manager and sales manager for a very successful small business in the print industry. I also owned and operated a print brokerage firm for about six years. I currently pastor a church in Glendale, and I am the founder and president of a nonprofit organization for at-risk youths serving over 500 youths in the Ocotillo District.
 

How long have you lived in Glendale?

Aldama: 49 years, I’m a fourth-generation Glendale resident and have lived in the Ocotillo District for 42 years.
Allen: I have lived in Glendale and worked/served in the Ocotillo District for seven years.


Why are you running for City Council? Why do you believe you are better qualified than your opponent?


Aldama: I am running for re-election to continue my service to my community. And there is still much to be done in the Ocotillo District. For further information, see my answers to Questions 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14. As for being better qualified than my opponent, that is subjective. The better question is what makes me qualified to be the City Council member for the Ocotillo District? I am born and raised in Glendale. I have lived in the city of Glendale my entire life, and in the Ocotillo District for most of it. I am a product of the public school system in Glendale. My friends growing up lived in Glendale. My wife, Monica, and I were childhood sweethearts in Glendale before we married. My children were raised in Glendale. My grandchildren are being raised in Glendale. I believe I know Glendale better than most, and certainly better than my opponent. My past and current experience in public office sets me apart from my opponent.
Allen: I’m running because I believe in the city of Glendale, and its potential. I believe we’re heading in the right general direction, and I think my ideas and experience can help guide our city into a great future of renewed vitality and a greater sense of community. Community service is at the core of my heart and as a member of the City Council, I will serve my district and city with passion, commitment and integrity. The job needs to be about the people we serve, and I don’t see that from the incumbent. The people in our district are looking for, and deserve, an authentic voice, someone that will listen and take action on their behalf. I believe I can be that person. We are facing some difficult challenges, and I have a record of success in taking on tough challenges. When the Orchard Glen neighborhood needed to be revitalized, I connected with the leaders of that community and coordinated neighborhood cleanups. When the O’Neil Rec Center was shut down due to budget cuts, my team and I stepped up to fill the need and solve the problem. We dedicated our time, sweat and love to re-open the center, and provided effective programming to help reduce crime in the area, and give children a safe place to be. That’s a record of success and of delivering for Glendale that my opponent does not have.
 

How many City Council meetings have you attended (or watched) in the last year?

Aldama: All of them. I have not missed any meetings.
Allen: I try to make all the City Council meetings. I have attended/watched approximately 31 City Council meetings and numerous city workshops.


Have you ever served on any city boards or commissions? If so, which?

Aldama: Yes, I served as vice chairman for the Glendale Planning and Zoning Commission, vice chairman of the Glendale Parks and Recreation Commission, and am a former member of the Mayor’s Water and Sewer Task Force. I am a graduate of the Glendale University 101 program, and Glendale’s emergency preparedness classes.
Allen: I have served on the Advisory Committee for the city of Glendale Police Department - Gateway Division, Glendale’s “From the Heart” grant review committee, the city of Glendale General Plan Steering Committee, the city of Glendale Community Development Advisory Board, and I’m currently serving on the brand new Human Relations Commission. I have also served as a panelist for the Glendale Police, Gateway Division, Commander selection process.
 

What is the biggest issue Glendale faces? If elected, what would you do to fix it?

Aldama: I believe there are three major challenges facing the city of Glendale today. Fiscal stability, economic development and public safety — safe communities. Prior to my election in 2014, the city’s financial future was bleak at best – we were in serious financial trouble. Today, we celebrate AAA bond ratings and have saved Glendale taxpayers approximately $72 million in interest by refinancing several bonds. Ending a contractual agreement with the Coyotes’ organization has proven to be a successful decision. Currently, the city has a new agreement with AEG, and operating costs are under $4 million, leading to a great partnership. An ongoing fund balance with a goal of $50 million in reserve by year 2020 will continue to solidify Glendale’s financial stability. I am confident we will be recognized as a success story across the country. Economic development has significantly increased in the past three years. It is imperative we continue this uptick. New business developments such as Top Golf to the west, the BMW dealership to the north, and the implementation of the downtown manager in the south is proof the city is diversifying our economic development citywide. The creation of thousands of jobs is sending the message that Glendale has recovered. Regarding public safety, a core mission of local government is to provide law enforcement, fire and EMS services. An important priority, I will continue to work with the police and fire departments to accomplish our mission. Implementing community policing by our police department has been a key factor in making our neighborhoods safer. The expansion of our school resource officer (SRO) programs in our schools is a huge step in community safety. Equipping our police officers with body cameras has been a positive step towards community trust. Installing red-light cameras at various intersections should lead to a reduction in collisions. Recognizing a national trend on how fire departments respond to non-emergency medical incidents, Glendale now has “Low Acuity” response capability in our fire department. This means a more rapid, strategic and cost-effective response to those who are in need of care.
Allen: I think the most challenging issue our city faces is the growing problem of homelessness and transients in our parks and public spaces. The challenge for the city is to address this issue in ways that help the individuals involved, and mitigate the risks and harm these individuals represent. I think one of the answers is to bring a “Homeless Work Program” to our city. This will give people experiencing homelessness the dignity of earning a paycheck, while also providing them with assistance in tapping into housing, health, employment, veteran and other services that are available. The city of Glendale, and particularly the Ocotillo District, is in desperate need of this type of solution, and I am committed to making it happen. Another community project I would focus on is partnering with organizations that provide ESL classes as well as citizenship classes to our Ocotillo residents. Working in the community, I’ve encountered numerous residents who want and need these types of services. I have already partnered with the Glendale Strong Family network, which is a multidisciplinary collaborative, harnessing the existing infrastructure and human capital of Glendale to connect families to existing services, but more can and should be done.


What grade would you give the current council and why?

Aldama: B. There are issues on which there are divides based upon political ideology instead of what is good overall for the citizens of Glendale. In a city the size of Glendale with our diverse makeup, I believe we can do better. Overall, doing well.
Allen: That’s challenging, because the council is made up of individuals, and grading the council as a whole doesn’t properly reflect that. The council has to get some credit for our economic recovery. The city went from a very poor bond rating to a AAA rating. For that alone, I would give the mayor and the majority of the council an A grade. I also give the majority an A for acting swiftly to address the issue of school safety. We all know that tragedies like the attack in Parkland, Fla., are contagious, fed by the excessive media coverage, so immediate action was needed. Assigning school resource officers to all of our high schools certainly wasn’t the only answer, or necessarily the best answer for the long-run, but it was the best that could be done affordably and quickly to help reassure our students and parents, and provide an immediate deterrent to anyone considering such an atrocity. Subsequent attacks on schools around the country show that this was indeed the right decision at the time. It is stunning to me that this decision was criticized by my opponent.


If elected, what would you do to address Glendale’s growing homeless population?

Aldama: While not at a critical stage in our city, we do have issues around homeless individuals in certain “pocket” areas. Some in the downtown area, some in the parks across the city, and some scattered about. The first step in resolving the issue is identifying who the homeless are in Glendale, why are they homeless, and do they want help to get off the street? Clearly there are mental health issues with some. Others are experiencing temporary problems (loss of job leading to a loss of a home or apartment). And still, more are homeless by choice. This number is not large. Partnering with area faith-based organizations and county resources is a step in the right direction. There are also options such as Massachusetts Home & Healthy for Good (HHG) program, a Pay for Success initiative that provides 500 units of stable supportive housing to 800 chronically homeless individuals. There are a number of similar innovative programs already being utilized across the country. I believe Glendale could learn from some of the more successful ones. As a councilmember item of interest, I asked the council to create a dedicated funding source to reduce homelessness in our city.
Allen: As stated above, I consider this one of the biggest challenges we currently face. As a member of the Advisory Committee for the Glendale Police Department, I learned of the many calls for service regarding this issue, and many of our downtown merchants consider this to be a major problem for their businesses. With my work at local recreation centers, and as an advocate for our parks and the “Live — Work — Play” model of community development, I run up against this issue on an almost daily basis. As a city, we must be humane and helpful to our residents who have fallen on difficult times. At the same time, we must not create an environment that encourages and attracts dependency without accountability. That’s why I strongly support the idea of a “homeless work program,” and partnering with churches, veterans groups and state and federal programs to provide a “hand up, not a hand-out.”
 

Do you think the city is a good or bad steward of its residents’ tax dollars and why?

Aldama: Yes, I believe the council has held our city officials accountable. We have insisted on a high level of transparency and accountability. Ending the prior agreement with the Coyotes’ organization is one example of good stewardship saving taxpayers millions of dollars. Our partnering agreement with AEG to manage the arena is costing taxpayers less. And the city receives revenues as part of a profit-sharing agreement. Balanced budgets over the past four years demonstrate the council is working to be good stewards of taxpayers’ money. By refinancing some of our debt, we saved taxpayers an additional $72 million. As a result, our bond ratings have increased to AAA. In fact, Glendale is on track to “bank” at least $50 million in its savings account on behalf of our citizens. I will continue to work to ensure we are good stewards for our taxpayer dollars. I will point out that I do not hesitate to raise questions of our staff when I feel the city is not being a good steward.
Allen: In general, I believe the city is a good steward of its residents’ tax dollars, as demonstrated by our dramatically improved bond rating. The challenge going forward will be to avoid assuming that the improving economy will necessarily continue. We must be prudent, cautious in our spending, avoiding debt and maintaining reserve funds for the inevitable downturns of the future.


How do you feel about Glendale landing another Super Bowl? How do you feel about Glendale’s bid to land another Final Four? If elected, would you push for more non-game events to be held within the city?

Aldama: The Super Bowl is good for Glendale. Glendale will not have to provide public safety services for the Super Bowl because this will be in the control of the state. Glendale won’t be burdened with this cost. This is an opportunity to promote Glendale as a whole — sharing our recent economic development and the possibilities of doing business in Glendale. I recently voted to approve having the city of Glendale at the table during the discussions with the Arizona Sports and Tourism Authority to ensure Glendale’s concerns are represented, and to advocate for events here in Glendale.
Allen: It’s exciting and a momentous occasion for the city of Glendale and the region to have some of the biggest sporting events in the world held right here in our community. I believe it would definitely be beneficial for us to land another Super Bowl and Final Four, but we must approach such negotiations with caution. We musn’t “bet the farm” on big returns from single events. These sorts of events are investments, and we must be sure that our return is going to far exceed our costs — including police, fire, infrastructure wear. We certainly want to keep those sports fans right here in Glendale as much as possible when they come out for these major events, so yes, I would definitely push for more non-game events to be held in conjunction with any major sporting events, and I would look for ways to share the inevitable costs with the businesses that are going to be benefiting the most. Too often, public-private partnerships result in the public paying the bills, while the private entities reap the rewards.


Do you think the city should continue to work with the Arizona Coyotes to keep the team at Gila River Arena and why?

Aldama: Yes. I value the organization and feel they have created a fan base right here in Glendale. Having the Coyotes in the arena provides an opportunity for continued economic development in the Westgate area. The arena, when built, was designed to be a hockey arena. Because of this design, it makes sense to keep the team in the facility. The team draws visitors to Glendale and Westgate that might not have visited absent the team playing at the arena. AEG is managing the arena well and is working well with the organization. My hope is the Coyotes will continue be a part of Glendale.
Allen: Yes, I believe the city should continue to work with the Arizona Coyotes, as long as we can negotiate a deal that is beneficial to the city and our residents. The Coyotes have the second best lease agreement in the NHL, so it would be crazy for them to leave. The city and AEG, who manages the arena, continue to make improvements in the arena to enhance the fan experience, and as long as the Coyotes are reasonable in their expectations of the city’s investments, and continue to build excitement and their fan base with new young players and solid promotion, I believe we can have a mutually beneficial future working together.


How do you feel about the monetary contribution the city gives to Catlin Court/Historic Downtown?

Aldama: The dollars invested in the Catlin Court/Historic Downtown area of Glendale come back to the city many times over. Both areas are huge draws for local and Valley residents, as well as tourists from around the world visiting Glendale. The investment has paid off in new businesses and opportunities either expanding, or relocating, to those areas.
Allen: The city simply can’t afford to allow the downtown core to deteriorate, and the various festivals and activities hosted in our city’s heart help keep it alive and thriving. As always, our investment must be measured and prudent, and I believe the city has been doing a good job. Teaming up with the Glendale Chamber of Commerce to provide a director of downtown development is a good move, and will hopefully help generate some fresh ideas and innovation to attract more businesses and visitors.


If elected, how would you make yourself available to your constituents?

Aldama: When elected in 2014, I immediately implemented mobile office hours, the first of its kind in Glendale by any City Council member. On the first Monday of each month, I hold mobile office hours in various areas in the district. These informal meetings provide our residents and business owners with an opportunity to meet with their representative to share concerns, ideas and have a “no agenda” conversation about issues that impact them. In the past four years, I have met with many district residents and business owners. These meetings have been very productive. Very selfishly, they have provided me with a keen insight into my district. I will continue to host mobile office hours. I also host more formal district meetings twice a year. I also meet regularly with district residents on a one-on-one basis. I try to do this in my office or by telephone — whatever is most convenient for the constituent. Then there are times when I am invited to someone’s home, or place of business, and we meet there because it fits their schedule better. My office sends out a weekly email newsletter updating district residents on issues, events and other important happenings in the district. One of my favorite things to do is the Ocotillo District “Glendale Today” show on Glendale Channel 11. We highlight city departments such as public safety, parks and recreation and the many programs available to our residents and businesses. Another favorite of mine is to visit the local senior center and catch up on all the “gossip.” It also gives me an opportunity to visit many of the adults who guided me as a kid growing up in their neighborhood. Then there are the many annual events and shows held downtown, along with my favorite, our Annual Hook-A-Kid-On-Fishing at Bonsall Park. My personal cell phone number is on my office business card, and on all of my campaign materials. I am very accessible and will continue to be available to my constituents.
Allen: Even before I considered a run for City Council, I was out in the community every day, and that’s not going to change if I’m elected. I’ll be reaching out through social media and official venues, but more than anything else, I will be out meeting, talking with and listening to my constituents. I’m all about building relationships, and my goal is to develop a personal relationship with every one of the residents of Ocotillo District, and on out to Glendale at large. I know that’s not realistic, but that’s how I’m going to approach it every day.


How are you campaigning?

Aldama: I am going door to door in the Ocotillo District, meeting with voters at their door, in their home, on the front yard, or wherever there is an opportunity to talk about the race. There will also be yard signs and street signs. I have a campaign web page, along with Facebook and Twitter pages.
Allen: I’m going directly to the voters, and inviting them to come to me. Every day, I walk the neighborhoods of Ocotillo District, knocking on doors, introducing myself, and listening to the needs and concerns of the people. I’m also inviting people to events in the parks and local restaurants, and asking them to invite friends over for pie and ice cream. I provide the pie and ice cream, and just ask them to provide the friends and their home for an hour or so. Of course, I’ll also send postcards and make phone calls, but my main strategy is to meet 25 to 30 new potential voters every day, so that by the time we get to the August primary, I’ll have personally met over 3,000 of my fellow residents. I’m loving it.

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