Council Recap

City Council 7 Feb 2012 meeting video is now posted. For the issues I covered in the Council Preview, I have the following to report:

Public Comment

starts at 00:06:30. Dick Alt’s comments on the public notice deficiency of the Scottsdale and Lincoln mixed-use project start at 00:10:30; followed by Sam West on the General Plan changes contemplated by the March election; Copper Phillips on the City Charter amendments; and Guy Phillips on Entertainment District issues.

Design approval for the Blue Sky apartment project

with 749 units, and three, 13-story buildings revealed a slightly less ugly project than previously seen. It also revealed some rather silly deck chair rearranging in the previous review by the Development Review Board. Among other things, DRB had told Gray Development to change exterior trim color “from gray to taupe,” and put more stone on the front of an otherwise all-glass building. Personally, as I said in my comment at about 00:41:00, I think it would be much less offensive if the buildings were all glass.

The council grilled the developer more than I expected, with especially good input from Borowsky and Littlefield. However, in the end Milhaven (of course) made the motion to approve, with Robbins seconding, and the council approved the design, 4-3. McCullagh threw us a symbolic bone, but I’m sure he was well aware there were 4 solid votes on the other side.

Downtown Parking.

A long and convoluted discussion and finger-pointing session heard Milhaven and Robbins essentially agree with me (I know!); Galleria attorney Lynne Legarde claimed to be an innocent “good guy” (when have you ever heard an attorney say otherwise?); and one of the two petitioners who asked for city intervention essentially said that the parties were exercising good faith negotiations to resolve the problems WITHOUT city intervention!

The most interesting part of the parking discussion started with public comment. I got to speak first at about 01:17:00. Attorney Lynne Legarde basically took charge of the council meeting at a couple of points in this discussion and was allowed by Mayor Lane to basically ramble at will. Keep that in mind when you read this next item.

I note with some humor that in response to me pointing out the need for the City to do a real assessment of parking need, city staff said they’d undertaken an extensive assessment and analysis to conclude that there is no parking problem, except when there are parking problems. Yes, you heard me right. I almost felt like I was listening to Doc Daneeka in Catch 22. I guess if I’m capable of thinking that I might be crazy, I must not be crazy.

Renegotiation of the SkySong lease

of city property and the sale of soon-to-be-former city property began with a housekeeping measure at 00:20:00. Some pertinent materials were added to the Council packet inside the ten-day deadline. Councilman Littlefield is on the record as opposing both these items, so voted against adding the materials. Mayor Lane registered the vote as, “…6 to 0, with Councilman Littlefield opposing.”

Some will take me to task for picking nits, but I think there’s a significant Freudian slip to be noted here. I’ll leave it at that, except to quote one observer who said, “This must be ‘the new unanimous’ in Scottsdale.”

Renegotiating the SkySong lease with ASUF, and no-bid sale of the relinquished property to apartment developer Mark-Taylor was agendized as two separate items. I submitted a card to speak on each item separately. When I got up to speak, I pointed out to Mayor Lane that I filled out a card to speak on each item, but he countered that since the council was hearing the two items as one (notwithstanding the agenda and the fact that they had to have a separate vote on each item) he was only going to allow me 3 minutes to speak. So much for civility and following the rules.

That aside, my comments began at about 02:30:00. The discussion that followed was interesting and worthy of note. Particularly I point to McCullagh’s comment in reference to the possibility of a default by ASUF on the SkySong deal as justification for lease concessions, he said, “We don’t want this property back.” Really? I’d LOVE to have this property revert to City ownership! Isn’t this guy supposed to be a finance professor or something?

Lane and McCullagh waived the “partnership” flag. In response, Littlefield said, “Real partnerships are people sharing equally.”

Robbins made the motion to accept the lease amendments AND the property sale to Mark-Taylor, Klapp seconded. Naturally on both counts. I wonder if they’d have voted the same way if it THEY owned the property under discussion.

Milhaven moved to “call the question,” in essence asking for a vote on whether to cut off discussion. The vote was 5-2 (Littlefield and Borowsky). Milhaven had heard enough of the opposition to these items and she got her wish. The vote to amend was the same two 5-2.

Robbins made the motion to approve the land sale item, McCullagh seconded. No surprises there.

Emergency Medical Services Contract.

00:03:19 is the time index for this discussion, which boils down to a rather embarrassing public spanking of our new Fire Chief Garret Olson. In an article published in the Republic Monday, Chief Olson made a decision perfectly within his purview to send NOTICE he was not going to renew the current contract with PMT Ambulance in order to provide flexibility for negotiating a new, potentially more economical (for the taxpayers) contract for emergency medical services. How dare he look out for the lowly taxpayers in this dastardly manner!

Unfortunately for the Mayor, the Chief was working with the City Attorney’s office long before the Mayor turned this into an issue. I can hardly believe the issue of policy decisions vs. administrative decisions never came up.

This act was completely an administrative decision on the part of city staff (the Fire Chief), outside the scope of policy decisions and/or approval authority of the City Council. Interfering with the administration functions of the City by the City Council is strictly prohibited by the City Charter.

If you read my report on Mayor Lane’s campaign finance report last week, you know that PMT Ambulance is a SIGNIFICANT contributor to Lane’s re-election campaign. Lane put this item on the agenda. Draw your own conclusions.

McCullagh claims that Olson’s action amounted to a policy decision. Clearly he was advised by the City Attorney’s office that this was NOT a policy decision. When McCullagh finally announces his decision to run again, I’ll be sure to check his campaign finance report, too.

Robbins got on the “policy” whipping horse, too. City Attorney Washburn made it clear that this non-renewal was an administrative decision.

In spite of that, McCullagh got right back on the horse as soon as Robbins got off it, and then Lane got on the horse with him.

As a resident of Scottsdale, this discussion has embarrassed me deeply. Not only that the Mayor and some members of the Council are participating in this type of activity, but also that they did it in PUBLIC. On behalf of all the other residents who appreciate Chief Olson’s efforts to give us better EMS at a better price, I apologize to you Chief Olson.

Legislative Agenda.

An interesting final note to this long recap is that this item (which was heard out of order in deference to public comment by PMT on their item), included a reference to lobbying for federal funding from the FAA for Scottsdale Airport. Given all drama about the airport apartments, this may actually turn into a larger story. Stay tuned.

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6 Comments

  1. Some of the paragraphs got jumbled in this post and it was rather confusing. I fixed it several times before I finally got it to the point where it makes sense. Thanks for your patience.

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