08/02/2010 Town Council Study Session Summary

Beginning with this Study Session, the Gilbert Town Council has changed its meeting format. Previously the Council held Regular Meetings on Tuesday evenings (generally twice a month), beginning at 7 pm. Council discussion, staff presentations, citizen communication, and votes occurred during the Tuesday meetings. This has changed. Now, the Council is trying something new. They will hold Study Sessions on 1st and 3rd Mondays beginning at 4 pm. These meetings are open to the public. However, there is no opportunity for citizens to speak. These meetings are solely for Council discussion and staff reports. Of special concern to Gilbert Watch is that, even though these meetings can be viewed on a video, formal Minutes are not taken. Why? Because the Council doesn’t vote on anything. So, if you were not able to attend the meeting, you will not be able to go online and read the Minutes. Instead, you will have to watch 2.5 hours or more of video.

The formal Council meetings will be held on Thursday evening, in the same week as the Monday Study Session. It is worth noting that many of those Thursday meetings will conflict with the LD22 meetings, held on the 2nd Thursday of each month.

Here are the highlights of this Study Session:

1) Mayor Lewis reviewed the format, procedures, and ground rules for Study Sessions. Council members asked questions, offered opinions, etc. Les Presmyk noted that he wouldn’t expect the public to attend both meetings (study sessions and regular meetings). The idea seems to be that citizen communication is expected at the regular meetings, prior to a vote being taken on items of concern to citizens.

2) Linda Abbott introduced for discussion a resolution of support for the Center for the Future of Arizona. Following Council discussion regarding the correct protocol to be used to bring an item up as a resolution of support, Linda reviewed the concept of this organization. The Center is seeking support from Gilbert for “their efforts to develop and maintain relationships between leadership organizations and community organizations to improve issues such as education, healthcare, jobs, infrastructure, and energy independence.”

Council members discussed this, after a fashion. It was difficult to net out exactly what value it might have for Gilbert, or what Gilbert’s role might be. Even though the Financial Impact is supposedly $0, there are actions required of Council and Staff, and those folks don’t work for free. More discussion will occur in future meetings. Here is a website if you’re interested:

http://www.thearizonawewant.org/

3) While the lengthy report on chickens, pot bellied pigs and undefined rodents presented by Mike Milillo, Senior Planner, was riveting, what I found even more astonishing was another rehash of the Odd Year versus Even Year Fall Elections round robin. As Jenn Daniels pointed out, nobody’s position has changed, and it isn’t likely to change, so why not just vote on it at our next opportunity and be done with it?

The Council started the discussion in early January 2010, when the Citizens Budget Committee recommended going to Fall Even years in order to save the taxpayers $232k per election cycle.

In the meantime, here is a brief recap of the Odd/Even Year Rehash of 8/2/2010:

Jenn Daniels stated that the largest number of voters turn out in Even years which she supports. That is the most representative of Gilbert’s total population. To the concern of Council members worried about their additional personal costs to campaign, she stated to go door to door in your campaigning.

Les Presmyk stated the legislature did not identify their intent relating to Odd or Even. They left it up to the municipalities. He focused on the autonomy of the municipalities. He thinks that Even years “gives up our identity.” We get lost in the shuffle,as Cynthia Dunham stated in a recent citizen communication. He appreciates the issue of cost, “but we’ve been incurring this cost for years.” There is precedent to doing it either way, since different cities do it either way. (Note: Avondale, Phoenix, Surprise are Odd. Chandler, El Mirage, Glendale, Mesa, Peoria, Scottsdale, Wickenburg are Even.)

Dave Crozier stated that he thinks the “community is best served by going to Odd years.” Also, Crozier stated that eventually the state legislature might adjust the wording to state Even years. He said that Rep. Andy Biggs had introduced the change but it didn’t get out of committee.

Ben Cooper is concerned that the General Plan is to be voted on in the Spring 2011. But the budget might require some “changes in funding” and this might be a topic of discussion. (What does he mean by “changes in funding”?) He doesn’t see the additional $533k cost to the taxpayer as an expense. He sees it as an “investment.” He stated that Odd years are less expensive for the candidates. Even doesn’t do the community justice.

John Sentz: Ditto re Cooper.

Linda Abbott: She expressed her support for Odd years, although she sees both sides of the issue.

John Lewis stated that he likes the idea of Odd years, to maintain the “small town atmosphere,” but he sees the additional cost of $533k for odd years staring at him. (He is referring to the additional cost to the taxpayer of a Special election at build-out.) “I remember when we were looking at every dollar during our budget process. I can think of a lot of ways to invest that $533k.”

I have a solution for future Town Council meetings when it comes time for this agenda item. Simply play the recording of this portion of the 8/2/2010 Study Session, and save yourselves from having to work up the energy to restate your positions. Take a nap during the video.

Gilbert Watch favors Even Years for two reasons: 1) More people vote during the Even Years, so you get most Gilbert citizens voting. This is when voters are most attuned to the voting records and performances of their elected officials. This is when the issues are debated. This is when citizens participate the most in the political process. 2) The costs to the Gilbert taxpayer are significantly higher for a “Special” election. The estimate now is $356,476 per election cycle. The estimate at buildout is $534,000.

No official Minutes were kept for this Study Session.

To see the video recording of the Study Session, go here http://gilbert.granicus.com/ViewPublisher.php?view_id=4

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