Infallibility City Managements Worst Mistake
by Glendale Chamber of Commerce on January 29th, 2015

Posted The Glendale Star: Thursday, January 29, 2015 3:00 am

​Though many of the names and faces of Glendale’s top leadership have changed over the last few years, a decades-old culture of condescension prevails among some of the city’s top brass.

Further, it seems the flow chart of the city places citizens below their elected representatives in order of importance, with city management reigning above all. Citizens are treated as subjects and discouraged, if not overtly prohibited, from communicating with their mayor and council except through city management and staff.

From the mayor’s office and downtown business owners to the chamber of commerce and taxpaying residents, all are equally subject to a standard practice of elitism that is neither necessary nor warranted.

Considering the substantial progress our new team has tallied in a relatively short time, it is their prevailing arrogance that routinely frustrates nearly every category of the city’s publics and ultimately diminishes or dismisses the importance and value of their collective accomplishments.

During a heated, one-sided exchange between Glendale City Manager Brenda Fischer and Glendale Chamber of Commerce President Robert Heidt, Fischer concluded her public admonishment by stating she had more important things to worry about, specifically, a Super Bowl to plan for.

That Super Bowl is here and will be gone come Monday, but the culture of management’s elitism remains indefinitely.

If you’re looking for some insight as to how condescendingly some of our city leaders view the general public, look no further than their own words and actions.

It’s telling the CEO of this city would act in such a manner to aggressively exert her perceived authority in a public setting, and it’s even more telling that her unapologetic recollection of the event contrasts that of every eyewitness willing to talk. But there are more subtle ways in which we can glean just how noxious the superior culture of city leadership has become.
Fischer was recently interviewed for a story in this very newspaper regarding the uncertainty about the balance of power among administrators and council:

Fischer related that her specialty is being a “change agent.” She describes herself as a “visionary administrator.” Communities and organizations “need different leaders at different stages in their evolution,” she said.

Some of her recommendations for the city might be “unpopular,” but in five to 10 years the council and community might say, “Aha, that’s why she brought that up, it makes sense now,” she explained.

What Fischer seems to be saying here is what Glendale City Hall has been saying for the past 20 years. We know better than you. They are not stewards of our tax dollars, but entitled to do with them what they please. One can almost hear the echo of past city administrators who, despite “unpopular” yet wise-in-their-own-minds decisions, managed to bring the city to the brink of bankruptcy. It’s simply astounding that the city continually asks for our real currency while simultaneously demanding the currency of unconditional trust.

The recently proposed anti-discrimination ordinance has provided the backdrop for much of the internal power struggle. Assistant City Manager Julie Frisoni spoke to that when asked in the aforementioned story that appeared here.

“The administrative option was always on the table … We knew that we didn’t need an ordinance. We could handle it administratively,” Frisoni recalled.

As council and the city’s administrative force try to parse who can lead or squash any anti-discriminatory action, the one entity left out of it all was the same entity that would be most influenced by any decision - the general public.

Glendale’s business community in particular has real concerns about what these anti-discrimination measures will entail financially and otherwise, not because they are pro-discrimination, but because they have a right to a say as taxpayers. But these concerns have been brushed aside in familiar fashion because, you know what? “We could handle it administratively.”

No, you can’t. In fact, it was this very inability to “handle it administratively” that prompted the chamber president to, politely and professionally, reach out to the city on behalf of a local business. And it was the I-know-better-than-you mindset that prompted Fischer to react by publicly dressing down someone she should consider an ally. By questioning his right to copy on an email “her council” - not ours, not his, but hers - Fischer displayed a gross misunderstanding of her authority and an inexcusable abuse of power.

There are signs things are changing, including the fact that our new city council has been audacious enough to question roles. Further, it appears they just may have the political will and embrace their elected obligation to act upon the interests of their constituents over and above the recommendations and preferences of staff. But for now, the culture of arrogance and indifference apparently remains in force.

The Super Bowl would be a welcome distraction were it not also yet another reason to dismiss public concerns. When the game is over, however, and the stress of planning such a big event subsides, here’s to hoping our CEO and key members of her management team gain the clarity of remembering who they ultimately account to and that the mayor and council have the courage and commitment to make citizens their top priority. After all, it is the taxpayer that picks up the tab for both.

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