08/19/2010 Town Council Meeting Summary

This is the Formal meeting following the 8/16/2010 study session. Recall that Minutes are not kept for Study Sessions. The Town Clerk determined that they are not required by law, so there is no need to keep them. The Council did not override her poor decision. No one took into account that keeping Minutes might ease the burden of ordinary Gilbert citizens who might wish to spend 10 minutes reviewing Minutes, rather than two plus hours slogging through sometimes garbled videos. These citizens want to know and understand the “why” of decisions, not just get a report on the vote. Citizens want transparency in government. Hopefully the Council will take a stand on the side of Gilbert citizens.

This meeting was important in many ways: The Council made a decision regarding their own next election. A private citizen exposed a statement made by the Town attorney that contradicted advice she had received months prior. Linda Abbott chose to abstain on a vote that she has repeatedly been emphatic about in the past. And yet, this meeting went unreported in the news. Parker Leavitt of the Arizona Republic was there. But this particular meeting was of no interest to him. Why not?

1) There was an interesting Citizen Communication from Gregg Olsen representing the Gilbert Small Business Alliance, asking that the Council revise the sign code relating to Special Events. (The GSBA has struggled with the Town to approve changing the code for other business-related temporary issues. You have to wonder why these things take so long. Where is the bottleneck? Why is there a bottleneck?)

2) The Council approved several agreements, contracts, easements, zoning changes, a liquor license, etc. Some projects received “block grants.” (That’s state/federal money taken from taxpayers that is then requested by “municipal grants specialists” per tedious documentation, and finally awarded to the municipal government for specific projects. How efficient is that system, do you think, by the time it shuffles through various government hands before it is used to pay for the intended products and services?)

The Council approved spending nearly $2 million on plumbing products/services, many road improvements, Southwest ambulance contracts, fleet manager salary, etc.

3) The Council agreed to “support” the Center for the Future of Arizona, which was originally suggested by Linda Abbott. (I’m still not sure anybody knows what that support will entail, or for what purpose. The Center “serves the public interest and the common good.”)

4) The budget of $594,808,550 for July 1, 2010 to June 30, 2011 was approved.

5) Elections. Three citizens wished to speak out. Just as Victor Petersen, a Gilbert resident, walked to the podium to give his 3 minutes of citizen comment, Council Member John Sentz stated, “We set some ground rules—I don’t want to hear 9 minutes of the same thing all over again. If they’ve got something different, that’s one thing. If it’s a regurgitation of the same thing, I think we should limit the public comment.” (As an aside, Mr. Sentz knows that these three citizens do not favor his own desire for Fall Odd year elections. He complimented Parker Leavitt for his "wonderful" article about favoring Odd Year elections. Mr. Sentz also listened patiently when 2 citizens spoke out in favor of Odd Year elections on 7/27/2010.)

And so, with Council Member Sentz’s snide introduction, Victor Petersen spoke for 3 minutes stating that he felt it would be bad policy for Council members to lengthen their terms of office, with no check on their power. He cited reports of various programs that proved that more voters voted during even year elections. He cited evidence that there is no voter inattention and confusion when voting is consolidated into a single even year election.

Anita Christy reminded the Council that they have been responsible for the discussions on this issue going on for nearly a year, with no vote, no decision. She stated that it is the proliferation of elections that leads to voter apathy, not long ballots. Consolidating elections will allow voters to focus their attention less often, increase voter turnout, and save money. She asked the Council to seriously consider the impact of those savings. At build-out the savings will be over $500,000 for every “special” Gilbert election.

Eddie Cook informed the Council that he had discovered in reviewing various Minutes and Council Communications that Attorney Susan Goodwin had advised the Council on 3/2/2010 that “shortening terms of office is not legal.” However, she had shared with Council on 2/9/2010 in a private meeting (not released to the public) the opinion of outside Counsel (Perkins Coie) in which they stated, “there may be opportunity to shorten terms.” Eddie asserted that it is indeed legal to shorten terms. Council should hold their next election this Spring, but new Council members should have shortened terms, with their next election to be held Fall 2014.

6) Linda Abbott moved, Les Presmyk seconded, that the Clerk have nomination packets available 120 days prior to the election. (This gives candidates little time to obtain required signatures, but incumbents who have strong Union backing do not have much problem with obtaining them.) Linda’s motion passed, with John Lewis voting against it.

7) Linda Abbott moved, seconded by Les Presmyk, that the Primary Election be held 3/8/2011; General to be held 5/17/2011. (Ben Cooper voted against.)

Council Members up for reelection are Linda Abbott, Dave Crozier, Les Presmyk, and Ben Cooper.

8) Jenn Daniels moved, seconded by John Lewis, to move to an even year election cycle beginning in the Fall of 2012. Motion failed 3-3-1, with Cooper, Crozier, and Sentz voting against. Linda Abbott abstained! Why, after the many, many times over the last several months she has expressed her preference for odd year elections, did she NOT VOTE?

And so, the Council members elected 5/17/2011 will decide the issue?