05/23/2011 Council Meeting Highlights

Will a gorgeous, beautifully landscaped 365-space parking garage in the downtown Heritage District, at the corner of Vaughn and Ash, be the “catalyst to draw new businesses” to Gilbert? If the Town “builds it, will they come”? “They” are private entrepreneurs who will locate their businesses in downtown Gilbert, thus generating much needed tax dollars for Gilbert.

Those are the assertions of the presenters of the project, including Assistant Town Manager Tammy Ryall, Development Services Director Greg Tilque, Chair Marc Barlow of the Redevelopment Commission, the owner of Joe’s Real Barbeque Tad Peelan, and Brian Martin, representing the developer.

These people have one thing in common: THEY HAVE NO SKIN IN THE GAME.

They can be pretty clairvoyant when spending other people’s money: The Taxpayer’s. But if it were their own money, what then?

Since the Vaughn Avenue parking garage will be of benefit to those in the Heritage District by increasing their business, how about setting this up as a “special assessment” district? You pay for it! Pledge your business!

I don’t see any serious studies to back up a single assertion, not even the assertion that “there isn’t enough parking now.” Sorry, but Tad Peelan’s observation that people “slow down” in front of his restaurant, then move on” doesn’t mean they can’t find a place to park. Maybe that potential customer suddenly developed a taste for some Chicken McNuggets.

I didn’t see any serious comparisons of Gilbert to other communities that succeeded in the same kind of project. Keep in mind that the Heritage District has no freeway access.

It isn’t just the “slowdown” in the economy that is the problem, or the overbuilt and abandoned shops and offices that stand empty all over Gilbert.

Consider who the Town is relying on to turn the economy around: Capitalists. These people are willing to risk their own money in business ventures, and that of other willing private investors, because they are confident they can get it back and then some.

Capitalists are responsible for the engine that runs our economy. Yet, they are facing more hurdles than ever, in a political environment that considers their profit-making motive an immoral activity.

So, what stops the Capitalist from taking “the risk”? Uncertainty. You can be confident in the marketability of your product, its quality and pricing, your business acumen, your skills in being efficient and effective, and your ability to compete, but those must be weighed against variables that are completely out of your control.

And what might those variables be that are outside the control of the Capitalist?

Government-imposed rules and regulations that are so voluminous, esoteric, and Byzantine, it is impossible to know if the business owner is or isn’t in compliance. He has no idea what those regulations could possibly cost him. Add to this the knowledge that, if at any time the government wants to shut him down, they can find some code, regulation, rule, or law to do it.

The Capitalist won’t bet on a game he can’t win. He’s out there, waiting.

In the meantime, I suggest that the Council do some serious research, and not rely on anecdotal data and dog and pony shows to guide them in making this decision.

The Parks and Recreation Board has reported to the Council that “unruly” patrons are making life uncomfortable for the better behaved patrons. The “unruly” ones seem to not want to play nice regarding computer usage at the SE Regional library. These "patrons" threaten and assault staff and have been using computers to view porn. Don’t those computers have filters???

Can we put on our thinking caps and come up with a less costly solution than reinstating the $96k security guard? Please recall that this position was eliminated on 7/1/2010, at the recommendation of the Citizens Budget Committee.

How can we discourage “unruly” patrons? Since use of the library is not a right but a privilege, perhaps the privilege goes away. How many people are causing the problem? If the police are called to the library on these people, they aren’t "patrons" any longer. They are criminals. Are any of them arrested and removed to a location where they cannot create problems? Such as jail?

Also, whether these people are mentally ill or just plain criminal, and they assault a security guard, what happens next? Call the cops!

Council Member Abbott has requested police reports, which will most likely be presented by Chief Dorn at the 6/6 Study Session.

Now that the Arizona State Legislature has passed SB1525, Gilbert will have to be very careful about which “necessary public service” projects can be funded using System Development Fees (SDF’s). In essence, that’s what Budget administrator Dawn Irvine explained to the Council.

In the past, Gilbert has theorized that “growth pays for growth.” So, any new infrastructure that is required due to the addition of new residences and population is paid for by that new population, not the current taxpayers. This is achieved by assessing an SDF for every new residence. Currently, that fee is about $20k for a single family home, charged to the home builder, who pays the Town, and then builds it into the cost of the home. Ultimately, when the home sells, the home buyer pays it.

The problem is that various communities have used SDF’s to fund every sort of “building project” under the sun. HB1525 restricts that.

Affecting Gilbert will be future “general government” and “parks and recreation” projects.

Tonight the Council approved 3 Resolutions which identified prior allocations and pledges of system development fee revenues to debt service or other financing obligations related to construction of Town general government, wastewater and fire facilities.