It likely came as no surprise when two council candidates and one mayoral candidate delivered to Glendale City Manager Horatio Skeete letters from five council and two mayoral candidates calling on city council to not sign the Coyotes arena management agreement.
Opposing Sahuaro District council candidates Anthony Kern and Diane Douglas agree on this issue. They and mayoral candidate Walt Opaska met with Skeete to represent the dissenting seven candidates and explain their reasons for the request. The seven candidates who signed the letters are the three people above plus mayoral candidate Jerry Weiers and Cactus District candidates Stew Radawec, Vince Ornelas and Ian Hugh.
The candidates’ joint statement reads:
“As Glendale citizens and candidates running for city offices, we respectfully request our city manager and present council to delay signing the Jobing.com arena lease with a Coyotes owner.
“We are concerned there may not be ample funds to pay everything the lease promises.
“We also believe Glendale should take this position before Greg Jamison buys the team. The city should be able do this now without having legal problems or penalties.”
Opaska asked Skeete to request council to delay finalizing the agreement because there “won’t be enough money” to pay the arena management fee. He also said it appears the Save Glendale Now anti-sales-tax-increase people have enough signatures to place their initiative on the November ballot. This action in itself would reduce the amount of sales taxes collected, Opaska said.
Kern said, “I really think the Jobing.com arena management agreement is a bad decision. Taxpayers are paying for the reckless decision of the current city council.”
He repeated his previous comments about the fee, saying it should have been an open bid process. He said council should step back and take a look at the city’s financial picture. After knocking on doors and talking with people, he said many believe the process was done in secret.
“They’ve lost their trust in city government,” Kern said. “They feel they’re being taxed to pay for an arena they never voted for.”
Douglas agreed with “many of the same” sentiments espoused by Opaska and Kern. She said she had spent many years looking at government contracting (Douglas is in her second four-year term on the Peoria Unified School District Governing Board). She also said she would not love to have a rental property where she would pay the person renting the property, “and that’s what we’re doing.”
Looking toward Kern, Douglas added, “In all probability, one of us is going to end up with that mess.”
Skeete said he has talked with a few people off and on, and he just wanted the message to get, “if there’s anything you want from me, I’m available. Any question you ask, I’ll make sure you get the answer.
“At the end, some combination of the four of you will be my boss. I have an obligation to make sure information is available.”
As for the letters presented to him Monday morning, Skeete said he would make sure the mayor and councilmembers received copies.
In addition, Skeete said, “I will also share this information with Mr. Jamison (potential Coyotes buyer Greg Jamison) that people running for council are not in agreement, potentially in a position next year not in support of that agreement.”
In the agreement with Jamison, Skeete said if he doesn’t have a team, there is no management agreement.
Skeete said Jamison had three weeks to close the deal, “basically, the end of June.” He said the NHL was managing the arena for another month. But Skeete added that there are no specifics about how long to extend the agreement.
Kern asked how does the city stand back and look at an agreement if it is already signed.
Skeete said you always look at the annual appropriation. And, although every year, the council would act on the management agreement, if it does not renew it, there is a penalty clause.
“If we don’t honor the fee, the team has a right to leave,” Skeete said. “If we don’t have the money to pay, everything is under consideration for reduction or elimination.”
That could mean $20 million less for fire, or $20 million less for police, or $20 million less for public works, and the management agreement, Skeete said, noting that from a management and political perspective, that also means eliminating people.
Following his meeting with the candidates, Skeete was asked about the Save Glendale Now organization’s sales tax initiative. At the June 26 council meeting, Mayor Elaine Scruggs had a discussion with City Attorney Craig Tindall about the impact of the initiative. She said she had talked just hours before with someone, who told her the initiative would not repeal the tax increase, but would only limit the authority of future councils to raise sales taxes. Tindall agreed that was the correct interpretation.
Skeete said Monday there were two interpretations, and agreed with a suggestion that it may ultimately be decided in court. The question that could potentially be answered by a court would be: Will the initiative repeal the tax increase approved last week and revert to a 2.2 percent city sales tax, or maintain the 2.9 percent city sales, which goes into effect Aug. 1, and forbid future city councils from raising sales taxes without a vote of the people?
The Save Glendale Now organization is filing petitions today for “The Glendale Taxpayer Protection Initiative.” The summary of the initiative, which is a charter amendment, states the following:
“On June 12, 2012, the Glendale City Council voted to increase the transaction privilege (sales) tax rate by seven-tenths percent for all types of transactions except residential rental, mining, and transient lodging. This initiative would reverse the sales tax increase by amending the City Charter to set the sales tax rates for all transaction categories at the rates in effect prior to the increase and require the Council to receive approval from a majority of the qualified electors voting on the question at an election prior to any future sales tax increase.”