This was another mercifully short meeting. It began early, with Mayor John Lewis giving a State of the Town Address, as Gilbert approaches its 90th birthday on July 6. Mayor Lewis summarized the Town from its beginning 814 acres and a handful of farmer-citizens to its current 220,000 residents. He highlighted the Town’s reputation as being the safest town in Arizona, the site of the MD Anderson Cancer Center, and the joint venture with Chandler to build the San Tan Water Treatment plant, saving $22 million. He spoke of Air Force One landing at the Williams Gateway Airport, because that airport “is just plain easy,” according to President Bush. (I’ve flown into and out of that airport and, except for the sheer terror of flying, it is blissfully hassle free.) Hopefully, Gilbert will see some profitability over the next 10-20 years.
I also got the distinct impression that Mayor Lewis thinks that the May 18, 2010 Election regarding Prop 406 (Sales Tax) will give Gilbert citizens the opportunity to engage in a sort of quality of life special community event. I would be very surprised if this Council voted to remove Prop 406 from the ballot (which also contains the Arizona sales tax increase of 1%). So, Gilbert’s elected officials will be spending $87k to find out how Gilbert residents feel about tax increases.
Tonight, in the Council Meeting itself, citizens were given the opportunity to speak for 3 minutes each on the Sales Tax Increase, which will be voted on May 18, 2010. (Please vote NO to both the Gilbert ¼ cent increase and the Arizona 1% increase.)
To recap, this Council had informed citizens at the 2/9/2010 Town Council Meeting that due to ARS 9-500.14, citizens would not be allowed to speak out for or against the sales tax issue until after the 5/18/2010 election. This action on the part of the Council created an outcry from citizens who understood better than the Town Attorney and Council that this was a violation of their freedom of speech rights. The uproar made it to the Goldwater Institute, who sent a letter to the Council on 2/18/2010, stating, in part, “Refusing to allow residents to speak on this important political issue amounts to a complete prohibition on speech on the basis of the speaker’s content—the most highly scrutinized type of restriction on the constitutional freedom of speech.”
The Council then called a Special Meeting of the Council on Saturday, 2/20/2010 and decided they would allow citizens to speak after all.
Thus, under the heading COMMUNICATIONS ON TOWN ELECTION, there were 5 of us who spoke. Four were Pro-Tax, citing Public Safety as the reason they would vote for the tax increase. I was the only person who spoke Anti-Tax, stating that First dollars should always go to Public Safety, and that it would be irresponsible for any Council not to do so. Then, I brought up two recommendations that had been made to the Council that they had not vetted. One concerned Eddie Cook’s proposal to identify the top 10 vendor/contractor contracts and renegotiate them at 10% less, resulting in $3.2 million savings. In this economy there are few contractors who would squeak much if they had to accept a little less. The other recommendation had been offered on many occasions by Citizens Budget Committee Steering Committee member Jeff Niland, whose previous executive experience was in helping large corporations reduce costs on a perpetual basis using a proven management system methodology. “The money is here,” he had stated at the Steering Committee meeting, more than once. He has offered his services to the Town free of charge.
As for Town business, John Sentz pointed out that the contract for the Ocotillo Road Water Mains Project had decreased, saving Gilbert $750,979.02.
Marc Skocypec provided the Budget Report for January 2010. In a nutshell, revenues are up a little, expenses are down a little. The System Development Fees were up substantially by $8.2 million, however these funds are restricted for capital projects only, and cannot be used to help the anticipated General Fund shortfall. (This is Public Accounting at its most helpful.)
Some agenda items were pushed out to the next Council Meeting, scheduled for March 2. Among them are: 1) Discussion and direction regarding Outside Agency funding process (charitable organizations); and 2) Discussion and direction regarding options for Council terms, move to Fall Elections and election costs.
Also, according to Assistant Fire Chief Jim Jobusch, there was still no new information regarding building Fire Station #10. This station involves possible grant money from the federal government, and supposedly the cost to the Town will be reduced to $600k. If this station is approved and built, I will bet you that those costs will be much higher than will be stated. (Let’s watch and see….) Also, Station #10 is being built very close to the existing Station #7. You see, Station #7 isn’t situated exactly perfectly because it was built by Rural Metro, and because of its imperfect location, fire personnel, through mutual aid, must respond to some of Gilbert’s calls in that area.
The most important task ahead of us is this: Please notify all of your friends and family who live in Gilbert: VOTE NO ON PROP 406. ALSO VOTE NO ON THE ARIZONA STATE SALES TAX INCREASE. IF YOU AREN’T REGISTERED TO VOTE, GO TO WWW.GILBERTWATCH.COM, AND IN THE LOWER LEFT UNDER “PARTICIPATE” CLICK ON “REGISTER TO VOTE.”