Former Page director of community development Ernie Rubi, who was laid off as a result of the city’s budget crisis, spoke during the “public hearing” segment of the April 25 city council meeting.
What follows is the written statement on which his remarks were based:
Ernest Rubi, resident at 60 1st Ave. where I am also a taxpayer, voter and concerned citizen of the City of Page. I wanted to take this time to publicly thank the Council, the City and particularly former City · Manager Bo Thomas for adding me to the staff here at the City of Page in 2008. It has been a mysterious roller coaster ride for myself and possibly for other Bo Thomas hires like Charlie Dennis, Brett Godown, Howard Rosenberg, and Pam Nomann.
As a concerned citizen I would like to address the issue, your issue, of perception, the perception that these folks in the audience and the citizens of Page might have about recent council directives.
What would you imagine the public perception is when the citizens of Page read that the City of Page is going to chip in an additional $400K for the Roundabout that Walmart has been obligated to build since 2004. Walmart, a $419 Billion Company...yes that's right with a capital B...with $25 billion in net profits for last year and a return to their shareholders of over $19 Billion. An offer to "heip out Walmart" as quoted in a recent AZDailySun article creates a certain perception to the voters of Page wouldn't you say. Along with recent bribe allegations worldwide regarding WaiMart activities a real perception problem could exist, wouldn't you say?
Whether or not the $400K windfall could be used for other purposes such as staving off the alleged budget shortfall or not, the public perception is that you are benefiting this mega corporation at the expense of the citizens of Page. This $400K is from a land sale, a previous land sale but none the less a land sale...and this council has publicly directed that moneys from land sales would be used to PAY DOWN THE BOND DEBT. Instead of paying on the debt the public perception is that you have decided to chip in and help a $419 Billion company and meanwhile lamenting the lack of current land sales and the impact on the budget.
In escrow today is a pending land sale with Page Steel for acreage that is being traded to them in exchange for the construction of the Amphitheater stage on the sole direction of the former mayor. So once again there is a public perception that land sales dollars have not been paid to the city but rather land has been "traded" to pay off a questionable debt to Page Steel. The perception is that this questionable land deal was entered into for the construction of the Amphitheater stage to benefit a select few at the expense of the citizens of Page. Although the City Council, acting upon the advice of Counsel, voted to authorize and effectuate this land exchange after the fact it has produced a perception of shady dealings and a gift of public funds.
State law requires that all actions of the city must be in compliance with the City's General Plan. The Amphitheater is located on land designated as Business Park on the General Plan Land Use Map and Future Development on the Zoning Map. The Future Development zoning designation states that no permanent structures are allowed to be built in that zoning district and there is an obvious perception that the Amphitheater is definitely a permanent structure. Somehow the construction of the Amphitheater stage was initially authorized by the former mayor without council approval, a valid building permit or required engineered drawings. This City Council adopted the 2006 International Building Code via ordinance No. 543-09 on 22 January, 2009. Section 7-1-2 of Ord. 543-09 is entitled MUST CONFORM TO ZONING ORDINANCE and the public perception is that it definitely does not..... I personally know that this fact was brought to the attention of the mayor at that time, the city manager and the city attorney. Again the perception, and possible reality, that a violation of State law, the City General Plan and the City Zoning Ordinance have occurred.
Now let's touch upon perceptions on the budget projections or as Mark Twain once said, "lies, dammed lies and statistics," and how that $400K windfall to Walmart could have been possibly used in the so-called deficit. An option considered, and rejected by the powers at being, was a move to a 4/9 workweek instead of the adopted 4/10 work schedule. By the City's own estimates the across the board savings would have amounted to approximately $SOOK ...along with the Walmart $400K windfall it seems we are getting real close to that magic $800 to $900 K deficit estimate that has been bantied about by the powers at being.
Moreso it was also stated and acted upon by the Council that ALL City enterprise funds would be utilized to build the Sewer and Water accounts for a rainy day and that it was necessary to transfer control of those funds to PEU so that the funds could not be utilized by any other City Manager for General Fund operations. In reality, you, the City Council either knew or should have known how the funds were being used as you, the City Council approved the budget and you, the City Council share culpability if in fact mistakes were made. The public perception is that you, as the Council, could and should have directed the City Manager, whomever that may have been, to leave those funds in place and not use for any other purpose, period end of story.
Another recent AZDailysun article published on 4/17/12 in regards to the RtF's states that "the positions will go unfilled and that responsibilities of those cuts would be assumed by their next of charge." That would be true only if there is a next of charge as in the Police and Fire Departments, but does not apply to the Community Development Dept. or the Page Airport as there are no longer warm bodies to assume those responsibilities. Again the perception is that the community will be left to suffer the consequences of a rudderless ship.
The article also stated that, "This is no reflection on their job performance," indicating the individuals on the RIF list. The public perception is "Why the hell not?" as most prudent businesses make intelligent decisions by culling their layoff lists based upon mission critical importance, productivity and performance. A public perception exists that perhaps things were politically motivated for reasons that will play out in future "deals"cut by this council.
Most of the folks on the RlF list were involved with the review and enforcement of laws and codes. The Police and Fire Chiefs in the area of public safety, the Fire Marshall in the arena of enforcement of the Fire Code, the Building Specialist in the review for Building Code compliance, and the CD Director in the review, adherence, and enforcement of State law in regards to the General Plan and Zoning Code. Again, a real and troubling public perception that ulterior motives on the part of certain council members to represent a select few at the expense of the whole community by running the errands of those that employ or direct their actions on council. Many have said that perception is reality and I am sure that question will dog you all until election day.
I have spoken to Council previously in regards to economtc development and the critical mission that it plays for the economic well being of the community. Business retention, keeping what we already have, Business expansion, helping those local business to grow and prosper which in turns prospers the community, and Business attraction, searching and marketing what Page has to offer for a new business to locate here. I currently sit on the Economic Development Committee for NACOG where I have a proposal moving forward for a much needed water line in and around the Amphitheater area which would benefit tourism, fire water flow in the industrial park and commercial retail opportunities to east along Highway 98. The perception is that your myopic view of slicing and dicing the General Fund pie will somehow fix what's broken without taking efforts to grow the size of the pie is well taken. Economic Development is a long range vision and business model that seems to have taken a back seat to the perceived political back room machinations of this Council and will set the City of Page back in helping itself out of the economic malaise that your all bear responsibility for.
I guess in retrospect it is solely Mr. Thomas that deserves thanks for bringing me onto the staff here in Page. Although frustrated and confused that my talents and experience have not been recognized and utilized by the powers at large here in Page I leave knowing that I have done my best to drag the Council and community into the 21st century. There is but one constant in life and that is change and as a professional planner I take pride that I have exhibited nothing less than exemplary service to the citizens and business community in Page.
I would, however, like to thank you all for allowing me to shake the dust from my shoes and move on with my professional career in a locale more adept at progressive economic thought and accepting of professional adherence to the laws and ordinances established and adopted by this very body. There is a public perception that if you condone questionable activity with your silence that you are somehow complicit in that questionable activity.
Author Gary Zukav has penned a very apropos analysis on perception as follows;
Reality is what we take to be true.
What we take to be true is what we believe.
What we believe is based upon our perceptions.
What we perceive depends upon what we look for.
What we look for depends upon what we think.
What we think depends upon what we perceive.
What we perceive determines what we believe.
What we believe determines what we take to be true. What we take to be true is our reality.
Good luck with your efforts moving forward. I will await the results from afar and whether perception is indeed reality for Page America.
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