For many, Friday, Jan. 1, represented a long-overdue turn of the page from a year that lived up to no one’s expectations. From the beginning of 2020, news trickled into American airwaves and newsprint that a mysterious virus had secretly wreaked havoc throughout much of China and had begun spreading at uncontrolled levels through South Korea, Iran, Italy and Spain. Reports of overwhelmed hospitals, mass graves and widespread lockdowns also spread. And then the accounts started coming out of New York City. And Seattle. And a well-known pork processing plant in South Dakota. By March 11, the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19 was declared to be a global pandemic. Locally, by March 13 — auspicious, indeed, as a Friday the 13th — school districts were closing, cities were declaring states of emergency and officials were openly discussing what would become the Safer at Home orders. Restaurants were limited to takeout or delivery. Personal care services, entertainment venues and bars closed. Nonessential retailers had to close. The NBA suspended its season.
Steve Zurn announced this week he will retire as general manager of Glendale Water and Power on Dec. 31, marking the second retirement of a prominent city administrator this fall. The departure of Zurn, who has been with the city for more than 34 years, follows longtime City Manager Yasmin Beers’ October exit. The city’s plan for possibly appointing an interim GWP leader and searching for Zurn’s successor was not immediately clear. The city named Zurn as the head of the utility in 2012, after he’d served as the interim general manager for around five months. At that time, he also was the city’s public works director, a job he started in 2003 and held through 2014. His prior roles with the Public Works Department included budget officer, project manager, special project liaison and assistant director/chief administrative officer.
Financial contraction for the city’s government does not appear to have been as severe as anticipated, based on updated numbers on the close of the 2019-20 fiscal year that the City Council reviewed on Tuesday. To be sure, the city did experience revenue loss late in the period as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, which planners and the council adjusted for in the spring. However, the final numbers seem poised to land somewhere between those in the original budget and the revised projections that officials made after the pandemic shut down large parts of the economy.
Glendale officials plan to continue researching specific past actions that contributed to a local culture that discriminated against black residents and workers, as part of a long-term reckoning with the city’s former reputation as a sundown town. The pledge comes after administration officials joined in a variety of outreach sessions with local civic and cultural groups to plot a course to promote racial equity in city government and healing from past practices that excluded minorities from the community. The next step of this process will be a panel discussion hosted by the city on Thursday, July 30, titled “Racism: Past and Present.” In preparation, city employees are diving into the city’s history. Meanwhile, the city plans to join a regional coalition that works to promote racial equity practices, but City Council members — at the urging of local residents — pumped the brakes Tuesday on adopting a formal resolution acknowledging the past for now. “Our staff is working on looking through our [past] ordinances at this time and our library staff is working on going through whatever they have in their archives of articles and whatnot and other resources we can go through,” Christine Powers, a senior executive analyst for the city, said at the council’s meeting.
A special budget workshop for the City Council this week included a look at potential capital projects as well as uses for the city’s Measure S sales tax revenue.
In this particular instance, the city will be able to consider whether to merge the two, as both of the capital projects that got a preliminary approval on Tuesday might fall under the umbrella of Measure S, which was marketed as a quality of life and essential services tax when voters approved it in 2018. Continue reading “Council Considers Bike Path, Traffic Study for Capital Projects”
City councilmembers aired skepticism at what they deemed to be a relatively upbeat outlook for the upcoming fiscal year, which will assuredly be marred by the continuing market slide and volatility as a result of the pandemic.
Uncertainty, city officials asserted, ultimately plagued any previously reliable projection techniques, which means that the City Council and city administrators are going to have to be much more hands-on in adjusting the bottom line throughout the year once they agree on a budget. The City Council took its first look at what the soon-to-come budget proposal will be at a special meeting Tuesday morning. Continue reading “City Council Analyzes Budget Proposal at Special Meeting”