Recently members of the Town Council and Gilbert staff have been complaining about Mr. Jim Torgesen’s ethic’s complaints on Mayor Brigette Peterson. In their whining, they claim that Mr. Torgesen has wasted many hours of staff time and tens of thousands of dollars in taxpayer dollars to investigate and follow up on the complaints.
A short history lesson of waste in Gilbert is much needed. These are examples Town staff and the politicians don’t want you to hear.
In the recent past, Gilbert staff and many Town Council members have pushed a $500 million bond for projects that they could not even name. As usual, they promised that this debt could be incurred without raising taxes. As with other bonds, this will be a lie when debt is issued and payment demanded by the bondholders.
Add to that, Town staff and politicians like Gilbert Mayor Peterson misled Gilbert voters regarding the massive Public Safety Training Facility. Peterson, Gilbert Police, Gilbert Fire, Town Management and others claimed that no tax increase would be required to fund the facility. As it turns out, there has been three tax increases to pay the debt on this gold-plated campus. Remember, this project was built at three times the market rate of similar facilities wasting millions more of Gilbert taxpayer dollars. When Peterson ran for mayor, the police and fire unions rewarded her with many donations for her role in getting this item past the voters.
Oh here’s another one, Gilbert taxpayers were forced by the Council to pay $84 million to construct a four-story building for a private university called St. Xavier University out of Chicago, IL. This project failed within 9 months and now the taxpayers of Gilbert are not just paying the debt service on the building, but also tenant improvements and other operating losses. Recent estimates of these additional loss are $2 million per year. Year over year, staff continues to claim that they are “very close to selling the building,” but nothing has happened going on 10 years.
Previously, Town staff and other Town Councilmembers voted to pay over $40 million to build a softball facility for a private operator named Big League Dreams. This amount was twice the original cost estimate of the project that ultimately failed due to faulty facilities and poor operations. To make it worse, Gilbert taxpayers are now paying the whole bill of this re-branded boondoggle named Cactus Yards. When this park was taken over by the Town government, the best estimates showed this faculty losing over $1 million annually. With the new Bell Bank Park in East Mesa, Gilbert’s Cactus Yards is going to lose even more taxpayer money.
And how can we forget this one, the Zinke Dairy land sale. In this transaction, Gilbert wasted millions to buy a dairy for approximately $300k per acre when the land was only worth $50-60k per acre. Gilbert staff pushed this as a great deal and the existing Council simply rubber stamped it as they normally did. For this project, Mr. Torgeson was instrumental in uncovering the real facts and waste.
The list could go on and on with things like wellness coordinators (to remind administrators to get their physicals) and $80,000 social media analysts to sent tweets. But the facts show clearly that the Gilbert Town Council and Gilbert Staff have wasted and continue to waste millions and millions of dollars each year. Mr. Torgeson and many others have tried for decades to stop the wasteful spending, but it’s completely fallen on deaf ears.
Clearly, the pot is calling the kettle black when staff is complaining about wasting money. They really need to look in the mirror and be honest with themselves and the citizens of Gilbert.
Don’t ever believe the Town doesn’t have enough money for police, fire, streets, parks, or anything else. We are flush with COVID cash and other tax revenues and always have been. Gilbert simply needs to be a better steward of our hard-earned money.