08/26/2011 & 08/27/2011 – Council Retreat

How does a Conservative distill 11 hours of Council Retreat into a post for Gilbert Watch readers? By focusing on items that are interesting, useful, or downright frightening.

After the “Getting to Know you; Getting to Like You” exercises, followed by the General Plan Vision Statement; the Gilbert Build-Out Vision; Accomplishments over the Last Twelve Months, and Strategic Plan for FY2011-12, here are some observations:


Council Member Eddie Cook: “There is no way I will vote to raise taxes.”

Town Manager Patrick Banger: “We need to put a plan in place that does not require raising taxes.”

Thank You!

The question begs, why would they feel compelled to make such statements?

By the time the Department Heads presented their game plans and cost and time-saving ideas, and assorted miracles, I thought for sure I’d hear somebody blurt out, “Eureka! We should be able to reduce taxes”!

But no. Not when Finance keeps presenting budget projections that show a deficit, and keeps bringing up “sustainable revenue sources” and reminding everybody that Gilbert doesn’t have a Primary Property Tax like most other communities.

Another oft-repeated phrase is: “When the economy recovers.” Who exactly is “the economy”? Answer: Private Industry. What’s wrong with Private Industry? Answer: It’s losing money. It sees the current federal administration rewarding failure and punishing success.

I visualize a bunch of bureaucrats hovering over the sick Private Sector, watching it grow weaker and paler every day.

They talk among themselves. “Well you know, we need to sustain ourselves, so what should we do?”

Here’s an idea: “Let’s drain some blood, just a slow drip. They won’t notice it’s missing, and it will help us—and them–so much!”

What is the Town’s back-up plan in the event “the economy” doesn’t recover? I can tell you what the private sector is doing in the face of federal central planning: Taking care of its balance sheet. It is suicidal for anyone in the private sector to risk their personal finances in an unknowable, ever more federally regulated environment.

Have you ever wondered why you aren’t “getting anywhere”? Assistant Town Manager Marc Skocypec provided the answer through a video presentation titled “Wildly Important Goals” aka "WIGS" by Franklin Covey. Go on youtube and enter "The 4 Disciplines of Execution."

The problem isn’t that we aren’t valiantly doing our day to day work–all those “whirlwind” activities. The problem is that we emphasize strategic planning, but we fail to execute the goals. If you identify 2-3 goals, you will probably achieve them; identify 5-6, you might achieve 2; identify 20 goals, you won’t achieve any.

The whirlwind activities keep us busy. They are urgent, and they act on us. Goals that move us forward require us to act on them…in the midst of the whirlwind.

Several department heads presented their strategies, and identified a “WIG” that they must achieve.

Business Development Manager Dan Henderson, who now reports directly to Town Manager Patrick Banger, laid out his plans relating to attracting businesses, especially those in the bio-med industry. Dan has always been aggressive in this area, and now he has the enthusiastic support of both Town Manager Banger as well as the Council.

Bringing high paying jobs to a community is Patrick Banger’s strong suit. While the Town Manager of O’Fallon, Missouri, he recruited MasterCard’s International Global Technology Operations Center, and Citicorp, which resulted in 10,000 jobs, among others.

With companies relocating from high-tax, highly regulated environments, such as California, to more business friendly states, such as Texas and Arizona, both Patrick and Dan want to capture those companies for Gilbert. They have stressed the importance of crucial attractants such as a well-educated workforce, great schools, low crime, low taxes, streamlined permitting processes, quality housing, and parks.

Dan identified areas in Gilbert that provide the infrastructure for employment corridors. He talked about the importance of life science educational resources in our schools.

Public Works Director Lonnie Frost advised that, based on population growth and available water from a variety sources, we have enough water through calendar year 2025.

After that? Look at other, probably more expensive, options.

According to Lonnie, the largest users of water are resident for our landscaping needs. The Town uses reclaimed water for their landscaping.

LESSON: Go Xeriscape! Here’s a link to drought-tolerant plants:

http://www.elginnursery.com/products.php?catid=17&category=Drought Tolerant Plants&view_all=true&view_all_hits=0

According to Lonnie Frost, the Town hauled 109,400 tons of refuse to the Salt River Pima Maricopa Indian Community Landfill. The Town pays $23.73 per ton. That’s $2,596,062 to bury our garbage.

On the other hand, the Town receives a $50.75 per ton for recycled material.

Composting plant waste drastically reduces the amount of refuse hauled off to the landfill, and it makes a great soil enricher for home gardens.

LESSON: By recycling as much as possible, and by composting our plant refuse, we can help the Town reduce landfill costs and save taxes!

Planning and Development Services Manager Kyle Mieras gave hypothetical questions and asked the Council to find the answers in the General Plan. A couple of the scenarios were trick questions, because the answers were found in the Land Development Code.

You should take a look at the General Plan, which is approved every 10 years by the voters and was approved in May 2010. Here is the link: http://www.gilbertaz.gov/planning/GenPlan2011.cfm

Vice Mayor Jenn Daniels presented the need for an Ethics Code. She introduced the topic by discussing the issue of Trust. “You build trust when you communicate clearly and effectively; when you display genuine respect and accountability; and when you first extend trust.”

Ms. Daniels noted that, when there is a lack of trust, it amounts to a tax. And she noted that “trust is the foundation of leadership.”

Ms. Daniels noted that Goodyear went through the process and developed their own Ethics policy, and that there needs to be a mechanism in place for whistle-blowers. Also, when someone violates the code, that person must be held accountable. Here is a link to the Goodyear Ethics Code: www.ci.goodyear.az.us.

Victor Petersen stated that citizens should have a voice in the policy.

The consensus was to develop an ethics code through the use of an Ad Hoc Subcommittee, after which citizens would be involved.

First, some history. The Town Council of the past has always willingly supported charitable organizations/outside agencies with Gilbert citizens’ tax dollars. The Citizens Budget Committee of 2009/2010 recommended a cut, with the idea of gradually weaning the organizations off taxpayer dollars. The amount went from $435,000 to around $350,000 per year.

The two largest beneficiaries of taxpayer dollars are the Gilbert Boys and Girls Club, and Community Services of Arizona, which operates the Senior Center.

Vice Mayor Jenn Daniels has spent much time and energy finding organizations with whom the Town could collaborate, and which are willing to take on some or most of the responsibility. These include: “For Our City,” Community Action Network (CAN), Community Services Committee, and Neighbor 2 Neighbor.

FOR OUR CITY. This was started in Chandler as a way for public, private, faith and non-profit groups to come together for a common goal. The Town has been approached by the pastor who started FOR OUR CITY in Chandler (as have many other communities) and has offered his organizational structure and the "linkage" to the Town.

According to Vice Mayor Daniels, there is no cost to join FOR OUR CITY and it is independently run. We would need to have someone in the town – preferably Town Council – to be the designated leader. In other communities, the Mayor has given the focal point of FOR OUR CITY. For some it is gangs, graffiti, homelessness, latch-key kids, etc.

The goal is that the FOR OUR CITY group (incorporating public, private, faith and non-profits) would all come together to figure out an action plan to address the Mayor’s assigned issue. The idea is "common focus, common goal, groups coming together to accomplish something, draws the community together, etc."

Neither Gilbert CAN or For Our City wants tax money, so that is a good thing. But as with all things, there will need to be an investment of time, energy, etc.

The Council’s consensus was to move forward with a Request for Qualifications.

Here are the Town’s Minutes from The Council Retreat: