If you ask me Mark Mitchell just wants the loot so he can hob nob at expensive bars with the rich and famous!!!
Tempe City Council debates using $37,500 for civic memberships
By Dianna M. Náñez The Republic | azcentral.com Tue Nov 27, 2012 3:57 PM
The Tempe City Council will continue in December a discussion it started this month that at times grew heated over whether to use $37,500 for memberships to regional civic organizations, such as the East Valley Partnership and U.S. Conference of Mayors.
The discussion came as the council prepared to vote on the expenditure. Councilwoman Onnie Shekerjian pulled the item for discussion at the study session before the Nov.15 council meeting, saying that the $37,500 was in the city budget only because the council had decided in the past to forgo its car allowance during the economic downturn.
That decision, Shekerjian said, was an act of solidarity as the council cut community services and asked employees to accept pay freezes.
“I have issue with this because … we all gave up our car allowances in order to preserve services and in order to preserve jobs when we were having to do the major cuts that we did a few years ago,” she said. “I don’t think it is an appropriate thing for us to put money back into that budget that will only benefit mayor and council.”
Shekerjian said that she would not support spending the money on the council when the city may have to make more cuts as it prepares to deal with the 2014 expiration of a temporary city sales-tax hike.
Mayor Mark Mitchell countered that the funds would be used to support membership to regional groups, which foster local and national partnerships, with goals that include saving money, advocating for cities and garnering federal funding. Mitchell noted that several major Valley cities fund membership to such groups.
“We look at this as an investment in partnerships and relationships,” Mitchell said. “I don’t think it’s more for our council, I think it’s more for an investment for our community and our city in terms of developing those relationships for items that could potentially help us down the road — for example, items that (Mesa) Mayor (Scott) Smith has done for the city of Mesa because of his involvement with the U.S. Conference of Mayors.”
Mitchell said that transferring the money to the mayor and council’s budget would not increase Tempe’s overall budget because city staff had restored the council’s $37,500 car-allowance funds in 2012-13. The funding appropriation would allow the council to spend the money on the memberships.
City Manager Charlie Meyer confirmed that the money is available in this year’s budget. Shekerjian argued that the expenditure could be viewed as a “slush fund” for plane tickets and hotels since the mayor and council budget also allows for spending on travel.
Councilwoman Shana Ellis complained that the issue was “slid in on a consent agenda” and should have been discussed before a vote. Ellis said that the rules garnering use of mayor and council’s budget are unclear, adding that in the past when she asked to use money to pay for a civic trade magazine she was refused.
Mitchell and Meyer reminded the council that it had discussed finding funding for these memberships during an August council retreat.
Councilman Corey Woods and Councilman Kolby Granville suggested that the council schedule an in-depth discussion about revamping the mayor and council budget. Granville said that should include updating the budget so that it mirrors Phoenix’s, in which council members have individual budgets with set limits that they may access for approved city business.
“I think these memberships are important,” Woods said.” I think it is important to have Mayor Mitchell involved in the U.S. Conference of Mayors. I do think East Valley Partnership is important.”
Councilwoman Robin Arredondo-Savage also supports Tempe being a member of the regional groups. She added that she did not believe that anyone had tried to nefariously slip the agenda item through the council.
The discussion concluded with a council consensus to further discuss the mayor and council’s budget at a Dec.13 study session.
Tempe City Council to tackle payment of civic-group fees
By Dianna M. Náñez The Republic | azcentral.com Wed Dec 12, 2012 12:53 PM
The Tempe City Council on Thursday is expected to revisit a council-spending discussion that triggered a heated debate last month over whether to pay for membership dues to the East Valley Partnership and U.S. Conference of Mayors.
The argument concerned a Nov. 15 vote to transfer $37,500 to the mayor and council budget to pay membership dues to the regional and national civic organizations. The money also would have funded conference registration fees and travel-related expenses.
The council postponed the discussion to Thursday’s council meeting, asking for more information on the membership costs and associated travel expenses, as well as in-depth discussion of the mayor and council budget.
Councilman Corey Woods was among several council members who supported the investment in the high-profile regional groups, which commonly lobby for cities’ rights and economic opportunities. But Councilwoman Onnie Shekerjian railed against Mayor Mark Mitchell’s support of the travel-related expenses as the city seeks to secure an economic rebound.
Shekerjian argued that the $37,500 was in the city budget only because the council had decided in the past amid the economic downturn to forgo its car allowance. Shekerjian said that the council gave up the perk to benefit the city as community services were cut, adding that she did not support transferring the funds for an expense that would only benefit the mayor and council.
Mitchell said the funds would be used to support membership to organizations that garner broad business, civic and community support and that foster local and national partnerships.
The organizations aim to save money, advocate for cities and secure federal funding, he said, adding that several major Valley cities fund membership dues because of the return on investment.
Mitchell said that transferring the money to the mayor and council’s budget would not increase Tempe’s total budget because city staff, expecting to restore the council’s $37,500 car-allowance funds in fiscal 2012-13, had set aside the funds. The vote on the funding appropriation would allow the council to spend the money on the memberships.
Councilwoman Shana Ellis alleged that the issue was placed on the agenda with little notice to the council. Ellis complained that in the past when she asked for a pittance of money from the council budget to spend on a civic-magazine subscription, she was refused and told that the budget did not allow for such expenses.
Councilwoman Robin Arredondo-Savage said that she did not believe anyone had tried to nefariously slip the agenda item through the council, adding that she supports Tempe benefiting from being a member of the organizations.
A December city report drafted for council review before Thursday’s vote notes that the expense for membership dues and travel-related expenses is less than the $37,500 appropriation discussed last month. The proposal has been revamped to place the majority of the funds in the Government Relations budget, not the mayor and council budget.
If the council approves the spending, according to the December Tempe report, $16,376 would be transferred to the Government Relations budget to pay for prorated membership dues. The funds would be allocated at $6,121 for U.S. Conference of Mayors; $7,500 for East Valley Partnership; and $2,755 for Tempe Chamber of Commerce.
An additional $3,000, for a total expense of $19,376, would be transferred to the mayor and council budget for conference-related travel expenses.
Shelley Hearn, Tempe community relations director, told TheRepublic on Monday that the vote would approve the one-time expense, allowing the council to decide in the future whether it wants to fund the memberships permanently.
Hearn produced a report detailing the mayor and council budget for the past few years in response to council members who had asked for a more in-depth discussion of how that budget is allocated.
Tempe Center for the Arts
Tempe Cesspool for the Arts