BY LINDA BENTLEY | JUNE 27, 2012
Nine small cities and towns team up to compete for big city grants
‘The last thing any of us need is meetings that don’t go anywhere’
Photo by Linda Bentley
CAREFREE – Small cities and towns with populations of only a few thousand were routinely overlooked when it came to the distribution of funds for transportation projects through Maricopa Association of Governments (MAG), a council of governments that serves as the regional planning agency for the metropolitan Phoenix area.
Cave Creek Councilman Dick Esser and Youngtown Mayor Mike LeVault, through their networking efforts, helped form the Small Communities Coalition, which is made up of nine small cities and towns that collectively represent approximately 53,000 Arizona citizens.
Through that coalition – made up of Cave Creek, Carefree, Gila Bend, Guadalupe, Litchfield Park, Paradise Valley, Tolleson, Wickenburg and Youngtown – Cave Creek and Carefree were able to obtain a $250,000 grant for a joint transportation framework study of the two towns’ transportation issues, at a cost of only $5,000 to each town.
Representatives from several of the coalition’s towns met in Carefree last Wednesday, along with MAG Executive Director Dennis Smith, MAG Transportation Director Eric Anderson and League of Cities and Towns Executive Director Ken Strobeck.
LeVault, who chaired the meeting, said, “There is a unique set of needs for small communities,” indicating they might have better purchasing power and lobbying efforts as a group.
In asking the group if it wanted to continue to meet each month, LeVault said, “The last thing any of us need is meetings that don’t go anywhere.”
One of the issues brought up by representatives from Litchfield Park was they didn’t have enough knowledge about what projects were even available to apply for through MAG.
Coalition members also wondered if they could group multiple municipalities’ projects together “in the same pot” to apply for larger grants, for which they might not otherwise singularly qualify.
Smith stated MAG has an IGA (Intergovernmental Agreement) meeting once per month and said city managers needed to be in on those conference calls.
He also said ADOT (Arizona Department of Transportation) is getting reorganized and looking at upping its review fees.
According to Smith, ADOT doesn’t have any state funds and is doing mostly federal projects.
He said Queen Creek, which was approved for a federal project through MAG, gave the money back because the federal requirements made the project too costly for the town.
Smith also suggested MAG hold a small cities workshop to help with filling out applications.
Strobeck told the group the League would be more than happy to come out to council meetings to talk about a variety of subjects such as open meeting laws.
He discussed the ramifications of the new law that requires all elections, other than a few exceptions, to be held in November.
Strobeck indicated there will probably be a legal challenge filed by Tucson and possibly Phoenix, to determine whether the mandate applies to charter cities, which they claim trumps state statute.
He also said there were some minority groups objecting to the new law, claiming to be disenfranchised.
According to Strobeck, the law will kick in for 2014, so those municipalities with elections for two-year council terms held during the spring of odd-numbered years, would end up with a 3.5 year term until the next election. He said it is always best to lengthen the term of office rather than shorten it.
Cave Creek Town Manager Usama Abujbarah noted the primary election would then be in August and called claims that the change was to facilitate a “fall” election a misnomer.
Carefree Mayor David Schwan said the new law would have a large impact on Carefree residents because the town is made up of numerous snowbirds who have not yet returned for the winter and the post office is prohibited from forwarding ballots.
Strobeck said Arizona’s 19 charter cities are the only ones that might get a reprieve by a challenge to the law.
Strobeck also said the League was opposed to the ballot initiative that would extend into perpetuity the 1 percent sales tax from Proposition 100, otherwise scheduled to sunset next year.
He explained how the ballot initiative is not simply an extension of the provisions of Prop. 100 but makes funding for education inflexible by removing legislative discretion and stating the funding level cannot be lowered regardless of revenue.
Now that issues have been unearthed with regard to the signature petitions carrying different language than that which was turned into the secretary of state’s office, it appears the initiative most likely will not make the ballot.
Strobeck said they have Kevin McCarthy to thank for discovering the language problem and stated, “We’ll be delighted if it does not make the ballot.”