The Quid Pro Quo that drove proposition N
Written by Steven Zorbalas.
In June of this year Proposition N was voted on in Glendale. As many readers know, the measure was very contentious and heavily supported by the city management and city insiders. A Yes vote on N -. would have eliminated a 7% tax on water and power. Funds used by city government for generous pension and retirement benefits to city employees.
Longtime residents concerned with unfettered city budgets and golden retirement benefits canvassed for the Yes on N initiative. One motive in creating the measure was the simple intent to challenge the tax and spend culture that has dominated Glendale for nearly two decades. The No on N counterargument boiled down to claims of diminished public and safety services designed to motivate citizens to vote out of fear than sound fiscal policies.
Consequently, The measure to repeat the Utility Users Tax failed due to spending of $ 175,000 by the city and insiders as opposed to $7,500 by concerned citizens. .but this measure has come and gone.
In revisiting Proposition N, the makeup of both constituencies warrants a closer look. The architects of the Yes on N initiative where comprised of ordinary residents who partook in grass roots tactics such as placing phone calls, distributing fliers and creating a Facebook media campaign. All were volunteers, the primary group supporting the Yes on N was the Glendale Coalition for Better Government.
Conversely, the No Campaign received donations totaling more than $175,000 mostly financed by developers, companies who do business with the city and special interest groups. This revelation came to light in May due to California state transparency finance laws. More importantly, two donors accounted for $100,000: $40,000 from Rick Caruso, developer of the Americana on Brand and $60,000 from a Political Action Committee . Furthermore The No on N campaign enablers were city insiders with strong ties to developers and special interest. Gathering the massive funding needed from the few developers was not difficult given their position within the city of Glendale. The contribution can be seen here.
Once the funding was secured, The management of the campaign was delegated to professional public relations firm Si3 Group and TBWB Strategies that consults in the area of political campaigns and ballot measures, claiming a 95% success rate.
During a debate organized by the Northwest Glendale Home Owners Association Mr. Tai Sunnanon the founder of the si3 group represented to the attendants himself as a concerned Glendale citizen and the funding of their campaign consisting of small donations in the amounts of $25 from Glendale residents. Unbeknownst to most of the public at that time, was that Mr. Sunnanon, the founder of SI3 public relations firm, would soon be paid $23,000 for his management
Also unbeknownst was that the massive funding was from developers and special interest encouraged by city insiders and not by average Glendale citizen donating $25.
Why should this matter? Isn’t this how it works? How could anyone expect a city council to cut a tax even with the slightest hint it could affect public services? The story of Proposition N contains many of the issues that concern citizens today, grass roots vs. special interests, public corruption, factionalism, flagrant conflicts of interest…the list continues. The argument may not be whether a proposition can pass, but rather are the levers of democracy equal enough that both sides of an issue get a fair shake, especially in an arena as local as Glendale.
Having secured more funding for now, Glendale City Council on October 21 approved an $11.1 Million increase in salary to safety employees effective October 1. The cycle of unrestricted benefit continues.
As we continue to sink further in the muck and swamp of political deceit funded by developers and sold to the public by public relations firms. Taxpayers are further saddled by more taxes, while city employees are rewarded by higher salaries and benefits.
The picture of Glendale politics comes into focus. City employee and city elite begin to capitalize on the fear and limited knowledge of the average citizen to secure more salary and benefits while developers cultivate benefits in exchange for their contributions. Will the average Glendale resident continues to sheepishly pay the taxes imposed on them?