10/03/2011 & 10/06/2011 Town Council Study Session & Meeting

July/August Budget Report FY2012. Good News!
Dawn Irvine, Budget Administrator, presented the first Budget Report of Fiscal Year 2012.

1) Local and state shared revenues are up slightly from expectations.
2) General Fund expenses are slightly less than budgeted.
3) System Development Fees/single family home permits are up considerably from the originally budgeted average of 100 permits per month. There were 126 permits issued in July, and 180 in August. Gilbert is #1 in Arizona for having the highest number of new permits year to date.
4) Gilbert has one of the lowest vacancies of any other community in Arizona.

American Flags for Gilbert. A Grassroots Patriotic Citizen Organization Becomes Controversial.
The Council was poised to consider approving a contract with Constitution Week USA dba American Flags for Gilbert for the posting of American flags to certain street light posts, and to authorize the Mayor to execute the required documents.

Gilbert Watch rarely second-guesses a Council decision, but I thought this one would pass.

That was before David Gray and Marcie Norton, representing the American Legion Post 39. spoke in opposition to the project.

The Legion is one of the most well respected organizations in Gilbert. Their membership includes former military personnel who have put their lives on the line for their country, and they continue serving their community. They provide the motorcycle motorcade that escorts our military heroes at Operation Welcome Home. They provide the Honor Guard for the same event. They are a charitable organization that quietly contributes to our community on a daily basis.

Their opinions have value.

So it was painful to see two organizations that want only to honor and respect our flag and the people who have died for our freedoms, to be at odds with each other.

David Gray and Marcie Norton, veterans speaking for the Legion, spoke out stating that the flag should be displayed only on certain special occasions to maintain its integrity and honor. It is our most patriotic symbol. It represents lives sacrificed in the name of freedom. They are very concerned that the continuous display of the flag will dilute its impact and that pretty soon, we won’t even notice it anymore. Ms. Norton stated that American Flags for Gilbert is “not a recognized expert on patriotism” and that their efforts would “degrade its significance" and portray Gilbert as a “town with a flagrant disregard for accepted flag protocol.”

Lee Simonich of American Flags for Gilbert feels just as strongly that displaying the flag on a continuous basis, in small groupings, and along American Heroes Way (formerly Civic Center Drive), will create a dynamic presentation and engender more patriotism among Gilbert citizens. She stated that the flags are displayed in conformance with proper flag protocol.

To provide some background, Ms. Simonich had come before the Town Council several months ago to present her proposal to display the flags. She had traveled in Montana in August 2010 and saw displays of the flag that impressed her so greatly that she felt that Gilbert would be an ideal place to display the flags, especially because Gilbert is in fact a patriotic Town. We are home to Constitution Week USA, the largest celebration of its kind in the United States. Gilbert also hosts Operation Welcome Home to our returning military heroes.

She approached Mayor Lewis with her idea and then the Town Council. They approved a 6-month pilot. Ms. Simonich explained that she wanted no tax dollars. The project would be 100% funded through private donations.

And so, the pilot went forward and ended successfully. Ms. Simonich returned to the Council to obtain approval for placement of additional groupings, beginning with 37 flags to be displayed on American Heroes Way.

John Sentz agreed with the Legion. He cited his long military service stating that the military put their lives on the line. “Others haven’t.’ He thought it would be fine if the flags were brought out during specific holidays and along American Heroes Way and then taken down.

Ben Cooper expressed support for the Legion’s position.

Vice Mayor Jenn Daniels expressed support for the Legion and for Flags for Gilbert. She was instrumental in establishing Operation Welcome Home and suggested that a compromise be reached that would allow flags to be flown along American Heroes Way (formerly Civic Center Drive). Her thought was that it is a fitting place to display the flag.

Victor Petersen stated support for both organizations. He did not agree that the continuous display of the flag would dilute its patriotic effect. He stated that he has religious symbols throughout his home and that they remind him of who he is. The flag reminds us of who we are. He state concerns about the long term viability of Flags for Gilbert, in that the Council communication lacked solid financial resources, and suggested that the contract be more clear.

Jordan Ray expressed support and appreciation for both the Legion and Ms. Simonich’s group. He also stated concerns about the vagueness of financial support.

Mayor Lewis expressed appreciation for both groups.

The Council directed staff to work with Council Member Ray on the contract, and asked that fund-raising efforts continue, and that there be a meeting between Flags for Gilbert and theAmerican Legion to hopefully come to some kind of agreement. The final decision is scheduled for the 11/3/2011 Council meeting.

Arizona Independent Redistricting Recommendation.
After hearing Intergovernmental Relations Coordinator Hubbard’s explanation of the AIRC process and status, the Council gave their unanimous support to Legislative Map Option #1, version 8a, dated October 3, 2011. Some of the reasons for choosing this version included: 1) Even though it splits up Gilbert, the pieces are large so that no matter which section residents are in, they will be fairly represented. 2) This version is very similar to our current LD22 and LD21 split, so it is not disruptive. 3) It does not splinter off a small portion of the NW corner of Gilbert, which other maps do.

Council Member Eddie Cook volunteered to speak at the next AIRC public hearing on behalf of the Mayor and Town Council in support of the Option #1 map.

UPDATE: Council Member Cook spoke at the 10/7/2011 AIRC meeting. The AIRC ignored the Gilbert Town Council’s map and instead approved a map that splinters off a small portion of the NW corner of Gilbert, but includes Queen Creek. Ironically, Council Member Cook lives in the small section of Gilbert that will be splintered away from most of the community.

Sign Code. A small victory for business.
The Council decided to leave the tenant size minimum up to the discretion of the business community. The Council voted in favor of allowing freestanding monument/electronic message displays to cover 100 percent of the sign area. They voted to expand the size of service station signs to allow 12 square feet. Also, the service station signs may include the logo and/or the name.

Gilbert Days – Gilbert Promotional Corporation.
Melanie Dykstra, management assistant, presented an update on the continuing saga.
The Council was asked to approve a contract with the GPC that has a shortfall in funds, with the Town picking up the expense if the GPC can’t close the gap.

In a flurry of fund-raising activity, the GPC received commitments of $12,100. Part of this was due to the fund-raising efforts of Council Members Cooper, Cook, and Daniels. There continues to be a shortfall of $4400.

Victor Petersen read a brief 2-paragraph history of Gilbert titled, “Gilbert: Town at the Crossroads.” He cited the fierce independence of the townspeople of 1959 who did not need, or want, and who did not accept tax dollars to fund the first swimming pool and the first library.

He went on to say that the first Gilbert Day celebration was on Cinco de Mayo, but due to the heat, it was changed to November. It was a celebration of Gilbert’s self-reliance and free will. (Maybe our first clue that Gilbert was foregoing self-reliance was when they decided they couldn’t “take the heat” anymore.)

Gilbert Chamber of Commerce.
The Council approved a month-to-month contract with the Chamber to provide visitor center operations, at $2,000 per month. The contract will end 4/6/2012. It has a 30-day cancellation clause. Town Manager Banger explained that it will be a straightforward contract to include visitor center operations, hours, and drop-in traffic but will not include development of a website which was a part of the Chamber’s original proposal.

To read the Town of Gilbert’s full Minutes: http://www.gilbertaz.gov/minutes/default.cfm

To view video of Council Study Sessions and Meetings: http://gilbert.granicus.com/ViewPublisher.php?view_id=4