I Do Not Support The Net Metering/APS Proposal

Tempe City Council has not taken a stand on net metering.  Net metering is a pending proposal by APS to add a $60+ fee for new residential solar customers.  Like abortion, immigration, or a host of other State and Federal issues, it is appropriate that city government, as a body, not take a stand.  However, as an individual, I certainly have an opinion.  I do not support the APS proposal.  There is quite a bit of rhetoric about this proposal so, before I explain my opinion, I feel I should explain the proposal.

APS argues there are three costs to power; the fuel, the transmission lines, and the power plant.  Now, let’s say you get solar installed.  During the day when you aren’t home and the sun is shining your meter spins backwards.  You give power to APS.  At night you are home and the sun is down.  The meter spins forward and you take power from APS.  At the end of the day you’ve given as much power as you’ve gotten so, based on power usage, your usage bill is effectively $0.  APS bills you nothing, but still has to pay for the transmission lines and power plant that took power from you during the day and delivered it to you at night.  However, your net usage is zero, so APS can’t bill you.

APS says the cost of the power lines and power plant is about $1,000 per customer per year.  There are 18,000 solar customers; thus $18 million is lost revenue.  Who makes up the loss?  Other power users make up the loss to a tune of, on average, $1.33 per user per month.  APS thinks the solar user should pay this $1,000 instead, but with fewer people to distribute the cost to, the fee would be roughly $80 per month.  APS says this is about fairness, but APS misses the point.

First, an $80 monthly solar fee would kill new solar in Arizona.  Second, APS fails to take into account the new plants and expanded transmission lines it would not, over time, need to build.  Third, APS fails to mention that solar users are giving power when APS most needs it, and taking it when APS least needs it, thus smoothing out peak demand times.

Assuming APS’s numbers are correct*, at a basic level the question is simple; am I will to pay, or charge others, $1.33 per month to allow solar to thrive and to support the secondary benefits it provides?  Am I willing to pay $1.33/month for clean air and to promote jobs (and an industry) we know must be part of our future?  Yes.

No doubt, there will come a day when 180,000 users are on solar and the bill per remaining customer will be $13.30 per month.  At that time it may very well be worth discussing a solar user fee.  At that time solar will be a more mature industry and the burden to remaining users will be greater.  At that point, rather than discussing killing an industry we will be talking about fairness.  However, now is not that time, and that time is years, if not more than a decade, away.

* I have used numbers from APS for purposes of my illustrations; however, there is conflicting research on if APS’s numbers are correct, or inflated.

Cost/Benefit Sharing…Who Pays?

I have not written a policy paper in some time.  The reason is simple, most of what I do on Tempe City Council is fact specific and not overarching “policy/government theory” in nature.  However, of late, a “policy theory” has emerged, that being, who should pay the burden for the benefit?

If it is a private benefit, I believe, the person who benefits from the purely private benefit should pay 100% of the cost.  For example, I want a TV that I am going to put in my living room.  I think we can all agree I should be the one to pay 100% of the cost of that TV when I buy it at the store.

If, however, it is a totally public benefit, I believe 100% of the public should share the cost.  Clean tap water in your house, assuming everyone has it, everyone likes it, everyone wants it, and everyone drinks it, would be a 100% public benefit.  Under this example, everyone should pay the cost of producing clean drinking water and delivering it to homes.

Of course, it does not take much thinking to realize that there is no purely private or purely public benefit.  TV’s run on electricity, create waste for landfills, are produced by labor, generate pollution, and have a host of secondary effects.  So, while it may seem a purely private benefit, there are secondary public benefits (or detriments) by having things done a certain way.

Likewise, in the drinking water example, each buyer of tap water may have a different standard for how clean they want their water to be, and yet, they are paying the costs that the cleanest water consumer (or, in this case, the EPA) sets.  They are paying for a benefit beyond that which they value.

The entire field of pure public benefit vs. pure private benefit quickly disappears and everything turns into shades of gray.  Public parks in south Tempe are not typically used by those in north Tempe, yet everyone funds the park.  The orbit busses run in north Tempe only, yet people in south Tempe pay for them as well.  Couples without children pay property taxes to schools they will never use.

Truthfully, about 1/4 of all council emails I have received in the last 3-6 months fall into the “why am I paying for something I don’t use?” category.  The answer to “why?” is a combination of factors that include (1) tradition, (2) public vs. private benefit analysis, and (3) the “rising tides lift all boats” theory.

In a perfect world we might accurately know the public vs. private benefit ratio of every government action and appropriately bill in a correct % individuals based on the % of the benefit they receive.  This is, of course, impossible in most instances.  Clearly, those who have children attending a strong public school receive a greater direct benefit, but those who have an educated workforce, less associated crime, and lower unemployment rates down the road also receive a secondary benefit.  For that matter, cities that hire away the best and brightest to work in their community get a benefit from the children we educated; should we send them a bill?

Tradition plays a role as well.  Roads on the west coast have always been paid by the general public through taxes.  We could, however, equip every car, bike, and person with a mileage tracker, determine the cost they put on the transportation system by going somewhere, and bill them at the end of the month for their “road cost” they produced.  We do not do that.  Most people do not suggest we should do that.  For that matter, we do not charge a private toll road fee for driving the I-10 from Phoenix to Tucson, even though most of the public rarely drives that road.

The problem is complex, but the answer is simple in how I deal with this issue.  When it comes to determining who pays for police, fire, water, parks, roads, the arts, the town lake, public transportation, and a host of other things; I make educated estimates.  I do my best to think of the direct public vs. private benefit, while taking into account secondary costs and benefits, and I make an educated guess.  A guess which, I freely admit, could be wrong and to which reasonable minds could differ.

The town lake has a disproportionate benefit to developers and residents near the lake.  I agree with the council policy of having land owners near the lake pay a lake assessment fee to help pay for the lake on top of their usual taxes.  I disagree with having residents within a 1 mile radius pay that same special fee.  (However, the increased property taxes caused by being near the lake may mean they actually do pay more.)  I agree with having properties that have the police out because of repeated crime (or loud parties) pay a greater share of the cost of paying that officers salary.  That said, clearly, the entire city benefits by having a less crime friendly environment.

I could list additional examples, dozens of examples…the point I am trying to make is simple.  First, I do have a philosophical underpinning for my decisions; the public pays for public things, the private pays for private things.  Second, it is a very gray and complicated area and I understand reasonable minds can differ on the public vs. private benefit ratios.  Third, I am working from best guesses and imperfect information.  If we disagree, it does not mean I dislike you, your neighborhood, or do not care about your concerns.  It simply means I am weighing things differently than you and, very likely, with less bias.

In short, be kind, I am doing my best.

~Kolby Granville, Tempe City Council

* * *

Tempe’s momentum heralds recovery, opportunities

By Mayor Mark Mitchell

 

My first State of the City address, in November 2012, was a chance to reflect on Tempe’s hopes and plans as our community moves forward into a thriving future. I spoke about how the City Council had been working to prepare Tempe for better economic times and predicted that we were poised for significant economic growth.   I was confident that our upcoming successes would bring returns on investment for everyone involved – especially our residents.

Since then, we have been honored to announce and welcome exciting new ventures with big names and great plans. The high point of these announcements came on May 24, when the City of Tempe and its partners revealed that our community soon will be home to the largest commercial development in Arizona history.

Arizona State University, Ryan Companies and Sunbelt Holdings will develop a 20-acre site at TempeTownLake on the north side of Rio Salado Parkway, west of Rural Road. It will be leased to State Farm and will become one of three national hubs for the insurance giant. Consider these project numbers: $600 million construction value; 2 million square feet; five buildings; two parking garages; up to 60,000 square feet of retail space; and a 10-acre public plaza next to Town Lake.

It’s an unprecedented development that will have untold benefits for our community. It is expected to serve as a catalyst for more high-quality business growth.

The State Farm hub is one of several recent successes in bringing new jobs and potential to Tempe. Others include GoDaddy, Direct Energy, Union Bank, Wells Fargo, AMC Theatre and several residential projects. In addition, the City Council acted in February to lease 106 acres of city land west of TownLake for a future office building complex that could bring as many as 6,500 jobs.

These high-profile successes signal the return of a momentum that we haven’t seen since before the Great Recession. Tempe is pulling itself out of the economic doldrums every city fell victim to – and we’re doing it because of the wise investments we have made together to create an environment where companies want to do business.

Yes, we are in the middle of the Valley and we have crucially important partners like ASU. But as a community we also had the foresight to build TempeTownLake and the TempeCenter for the Arts. We built light rail and a robust transportation network. We host internationally known events. We foster a healthy and vibrant downtown. We have solid schools and great quality of life. We have done these things together and they are yielding successes that will keep that momentum going long into the future.

What do these new developments mean to you? First, they mean good jobs right in our backyard. They also mean sales taxes and property taxes that pay for the services we provide and the assets we build and maintain. Our community – like many others – suffered financial blows these past several years. Each new development announcement means we are further climbing out of that place and ascending to a new one.

This is a proud moment for Tempe – for all of us.

A private conversation with Sparky and Wilbur (with special permission from Wilma the Wildcat)

Talking about mascots, Sparky and Wilbur caught up on things just yesterday…(With all due respect to the late, great Bob Moran!)

Sparky: What’s new, pussy cat?
Wilbur: Me and Wilma, you know my darling wife and her sense of humor, were just having a good laugh over your “makeover.” That’s epic.
Sparky: What would you know about makeovers, Wilbur? You are a retread cat; the mascot of the University of Kentucky, aka “Wild E. Cat” at the University of New Hampshire, Wildcat Willy at Northern Michigan University, “Mr. Cat” at Davidson College and “Will D. Cat” at Villanova.
Wilbur: Okay, I’m not the only cat, but I’m the best cat.
Sparky: Did Wilma give you permission to slam other kitty kats?
Wilbur: Well, no. But I have a mind of my own. I can handle Wilma.
Sparky: I recorded that comment. I’m letting her hear that. See, I have this little hidden microphone in my impish mustache.
Wilbur: C’mon, Sparky! Please don’t tell Wilma, she thinks I’m cleaning out the litter box!
Sparky: Ah pipe down, furball. No worries. So, why you in my grill today with this kitty litter sass?
Wilbur: Well, now that you mentioned it, I think your university has you tabbed to look a bit like Jay Leno with a Buzz Lightyear facelift.
Sparky: You don’t get it do you?
Wilbur: Get what?
Sparky: I don’t just roll over and purr every time somebody tries to rub my belly.
Wilbur: What’s wrong with a little belly rub? I love to lie down and purr.
Sparky: Sun Devils don’t lay down, my little kitty friend. We don’t just “bear it” or “bear down” either. We come together and rock!
Wilbur: But what’s wrong with your 1946 look? (giggle, giggle)
Sparky: Not a thing, my cheap, shag rug-wrapped mild cat. But Sun Devil Nation is getting me ready for the opener at Sun Devil Stadium; an even bolder, sassier Sparky. It’s what I feel inside, but more importantly, it’s what every Sun Devil sees in me, because you know what, we loathe fur balls and Sun Devils hate litter.
Wilbur: It’s not nice to make fun of our scat. Or fur balls. Did you ever try to lick yourself clean?
Sparky: Okay, Puss In Boots, that’s just gross.
Wilbur: So, Sparky, tell me how a Sun Devil rocks?
Sparky: Well, we enjoy a good glass of Chianti with a plate of fava beans in a wildcat remoulade.
Wilbur: Whatever. Nothing beats a bowl of cream. It’s time to put up or shut up, Sparky.
Sparky: Bark! Bark! Bark!
(Wilbur runs away, screeching in terror.)

Gee, I hope Wilbur tells Wilma how much the Sun Devil Nation appreciates the purr-loined football trophy called the Territorial Cup that resides at Sun Devil Stadium. It’s real purrr-ty. And for the record, Sparky seems just fine to me.

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Tempe is looking forward

By: Tempe Mayor Mark Mitchell

 The history of any city is guided by change and transition—the election of a new council, the revitalization of a blighted section of town, or the building of a new mode of public transportation.  Progress can often be difficult and raise the level of debate, but that doesn’t mean that cities should stop moving forward.

I’ve often said that Tempe is different, but when it comes to evolving, we are not unique.  Every few years, we reinvent ourselves.  We are given that opportunity today.

The City Council recently decided to go in a new direction with the position of city manager.  This decision does not negate the positive contributions Charlie Meyer made to Tempe during his tenure.  We appreciate his dedication, but times and situations are ever-changing and now is the time to look forward.

Decisions of this magnitude are not taken lightly.  But the majority of the Council felt that it was time to advance a new direction for Tempe, and we took the first step to finding a city manager who will work collectively with Council to implement our strategic goals and vision.  It was the majority of Council’s belief that a change of staff leadership would allow this community to grow and realize its full potential.

Communication between a City Council and its chief appointed officer is critical.  Open dialogue can help grow a city’s reputation, prevent conflicts, and foster cooperation.  It is the job of a city manager to execute the policies and priorities of the City Council within the parameters it sets forth, and when communication breaks down, that job becomes all the more difficult.

Tempe is in the midst of a critically important time.  We are at the forefront of recovery from one of the worst economic crises we have ever seen.  But Tempe is in an extremely positive position, with a number of economic development projects coming to our city, from Arizona State University’s Stadium District to the groundbreaking of the third tower at Hayden Ferry Lakeside to the development of the Discovery Business Campus.

My Council colleagues and I take our responsibility as caretakers of this city seriously.  We will move quickly in our search for a new city manager.  We are committed to our residents and employees alike to ensure stability throughout this process and to make it as transparent as possible.

I invite you to share your thoughts and ideas with us as we move forward.  And, as always, Tempe will be here providing the same quality of service that we have always provided.

Change may be hard, but often it has to be done in order to achieve something extraordinary.  Change isn’t something we should fear, it is rather an opportunity for progress.  These are dynamic times and Tempe is ready to move forward

Our communities deserve protection from downtown Panhandlers

By: Dick Foreman

A recent Court of Appeals ruling struck down a city of Phoenix ordinance on panhandling. But does this mean that Mesa, Chandler, Tempe, Gilbert or Higley cannot protect residents, families and visitors from approaching strangers in their downtowns? Does the First Amendment trump “No Solicitation” signs? Maybe we should just wear a sign around our neck. Everywhere.

C’mon. We all know that this isn’t about free speech. It’s about the money. Hello.
Compassionate citizens like Jenny Norton, Bob Ramsey, Larry and Donna Mischler and so many others support homeless, elderly, unemployed workers and the mentally ill. Every one of our southeast valley communities share this compassion with a variety of public assistance programs.
But aggressive, unemployed by choice, usually youthful pranksters are having free reign to harass downtown patrons for money. Downtown visitors are often scared or intimidated and solve what our city councils don’t by simply not coming back.
My family, for example, enjoys Tempe’s Mill Avenue dining, shopping and strolls. But a few weeks ago, my seven year old daughter was grabbed, not hard, by one of these panhandlers. She was just trying to have a yogurt with her family, okay? Instead of enjoying it, she was made to feel guilty for eating it. City councils ought to care more about her safety at least, if not her rights. And so should the courts.
Nancy Hormann of the Downtown Tempe Community has significant concerns, too. She knows that Mill Avenue merchants experience panhandlers harassing shoppers and visitors every day. They patrol Mill Avenue and literally stalk patrons.
So do businessmen and women, many with their life savings on the line and in full compliance with city licenses and codes, have a right to the safe, peaceful conduct of their enterprise? Or not?
The current panhandling scene is a tragic default to inaction. The safety of residents and especially children ought to be more convincing. Other cities have found ways to deal with this; even as Tempe, for example, grapples with this issue again.

Dallas created a “Central Business District Solicitation-Free Zone.” Nobody was criminalized or banned from downtown. But panhandlers had to deal with the rights of visitors to simply shop and conduct their business in specified, downtown areas. Is it constitutional? Try it! Clearly defined “downtown zones” are a worthy idea to test the constitutional “protections” of free speech versus the individual liberty to simply take a walk without fear.

Our southeast valley downtowns provide jobs and tax dollars that benefit everyone. Business owners have every right to expect municipal support for customers and citizens to safely walk around and enjoy the eclectic atmosphere they’ve so proudly invested in. It’s time to make our downtowns “solicitation-free zones.”

Dick Foreman, Tempe community/education volunteer

Termination of City Manager

I have had a fair number of people ask me about my vote regarding the termination of City Manager Charlie Meyer.  The vote was held on January 28, 2013 at a Special Council meeting.  The vote was 5-2 to terminate.  I voted NOT to terminate.  If you don’t much about this, a pretty good news story can be read here.

So, in an effort to answer the question just once, I’ve posted my explanation at the meeting of why I voted to keep the city manager on Youtube.  You can view it here.

Feel free to email me directly if you would like to discuss it further.  kolby_granville@tempe.gov

~Kolby

Employment is Job #1 in Tempe

By Tempe Mayor Mark Mitchell

 

There are few things that can help a city rebuild its local economy more than jobs.  Tempe is fortunate.  We have worked to maintain our reputation as a forward-thinking, business-friendly magnet for economic development, and now as our economy rebounds, we are seeing the benefit of the decisions made along the way.

 

From business and financial services to high tech and manufacturing,Tempehas grown its employment base by nearly 3,200 jobs since February 2012.  These employers are taking advantage of all Tempe has to offer- an educated workforce with over 40% of our workforce holding Bachelor’s degrees or better, an extensive public transit system, and a proximity to Sky Harbor.

 

The investments made by the companies who have chosen to call Tempe home build a strong and diverse economic base for Tempe that attracts additional private capital investment. In just the past 10 months, Tempe has welcomed new companies like Silicon Valley Bank, Allstate, Amazon, IPower, Monogram Aerospace, IFactor and Clear Energy.

 

These companies improve our community’s quality of life by sparking renewed investment in the community and by offering employment opportunities close to home to our residents.  They also bring hundreds of new residents into our community, which creates a ripple effect in generating the need for new housing and creating new opportunities for additional commercial and retail developments.

 

As a landlocked community, Tempe has to plan smart for its future.  Recent multifamily projects are projected to inject over $232.5 million into our local economy.  One such project is Mark-Taylor’s San Capella, a $50 million, 384-unit luxury apartment community at Hardy Drive and Elliot Road.  As this area is home to large technology companies, Mark-Taylor has decided to market this development to high-tech workers, providing additional housing options for those highly-educated employees, and boosting the area’s retail and service businesses.

 

New office and residential development projects immediately contribute to our city’s general fund through the collection of impact, review and permit fees.  They also create temporary jobs in the design and construction industries, temporary jobs which are quickly replaced with permanent employment as businesses open.  And while these new workers bring with them energy, experience and innovation, they also bring tax dollars which are returned to our community and neighborhoods through road projects, park improvements, code enforcement and social services for our most vulnerable residents.

 

In Tempe, we understand that economic development is the driver that moves Tempe forward.  In fact, we are in the position to recover quickly because we take seriously Tempe’s reputation as a business-friendly community.  We strive to invest in projects that will bring us a return, and remain a community that is attractive to employers and employees alike.

 

My General Election Take-aways or Please, somebody stop me!

There will be lots of spin put on this general election, and many of the races were indeed important to Tempe as well as Arizona and the nation. Here are just a few observations on the impacts.

Republicans swept all statewide, Arizona offices, but thanks to the Independent Redistricting Commission, Democrats could control 5 of 9 congressional districts, as planned. I am reminded of the movie, The Princess Bride and with all due respect, that word “independent” now has an “inconceivable” definition from a Republican point of view. We do not think that means what you think it means.

The state Senate changed from a veto proof 20 to 10 Republican advantage to what I would characterize as, “17 Yes, 12 No and 1 not voting (sorry Senator-elect Ableser).

Proposition 204 advocate Ann-Eve Pederson kept saying that Arizona citizens were up against lobbyists and politicians who opposed 204. As it turned out, that was a public service, as we have now identified 544,500 lobbyists and politicians masquerading as citizens.

Overheard election evening in the Hyatt where Republicans were gathered and wondering where State Treasurer Doug Ducey’s “No on 204” campaign suite was, “204 is in 321.” No doubt.

Winners: Statewide Republican candidates

Losers: Arizona Republican voters in congressional elections

Cause: Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission

Best kept secret: The best way to gerrymander political lines is behind closed doors; as always.

Likely Congressional District 9 Congresswoman-elect Kyrsten Sinema may have regretted her words about “stay at home moms” but apparently it all worked out just fine. They must have stayed at home.

School override elections failed across the state in record numbers; over 50%. The next time we collectively agree we need to deal with educational funding, can we please agree on the word “agree” and what that really means? Or perhaps we can agree on this, we all mostly want a 21st century education. Apparently, most of us think we can do it on the cheap. Nearly everyone agrees it is not working under the current funding formulas. We also seem to agree we do not want more federal intrusion, state intrusion, and now, we do not want local intrusions of tax dollars. I guess that leaves us with home schooling and a tax cut. Now, what do we do with all those empty buildings that used to house teachers, students and dreams?

Men elected Romney. Women elected Obama. Analysis: Republicans need women more than women need Republicans. Anyone have an estrogen shot? Oh, never mind. Abort that idea.

Minority voters backed Obama in greater percentages than ever before. Arizona Latino voters have substantially grown in both population and registration. Republican leaders have a sure cure to continue the trend. Do just what you did, just what you are doing, and just what you are now promising to do even more. Doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result is becoming a very Republican thing to do.

Senator Jerry Lewis reminds me of Dick Foreman. Nuff said.

Support Tempe’s November Bond Election

Barb Carter, former Tempe City Council Member

Tempe citizens will once again have the opportunity to vote for the upcoming bond election, and it isn’t just an opportunity, it is a responsibility.  We have made the investment in our parks, and police communication equipment, and city buildings, but it is now time to do some major repair and replacement of those investments.  Tempe is our home, and like your own house, you must maintain it in order for it to retain its value.  These three bond questions are straight forward, and when passed you will NOT see any increase in any of your taxes.   This measure simply gives the city the ability to go into the market and sell bonds in order to make the improvements.  The city continues to have superb bond rating due to competent fiscal management.  This November’s election is very important, although our votes may not fix Washington DC, we can make sure that our votes count to secure the investment in our city.  Please join me in voting yes on all three of the bond questions so we can all continue to be proud of our great city.

 

TEMPE First – November 2012 Bond Election Fact Sheet

 

A bond election is the means by which the residents of the City of Tempe provide authorization for the City to issue bonds to fund large capital projects that are part of a well-defined Capital Improvement Program (detailed descriptions of all projects in the five-year Capital Improvement Program are provided on the City’s Website at http://www.tempe.gov/index.aspx?page=710).  Due to economic conditions in recent years, the City of Tempe has limited its Capital Improvement Program to projects that are required to maintain and replace existing assets and infrastructure.

 

Bonded debt is the primary mechanism established by state statute that enables municipalities to build, maintain and replace public assets and infrastructure.  The City of Tempe issues tax-exempt bonds as part of a comprehensive debt program to fund these projects.  Tempe’s interest rate on these bonds is very low due to the City’s well-managed debt program and superior bond ratings.  In its justification for the City of Tempe’s most recent AAA bond rating, Standard and Poor’s stated that Tempe has “strong financial practices” and “very strong coverage of annual debt service.”

 

The City of Tempe has estimated the costs of projects necessary to maintain the public’s assets over the next five years and now asks City residents to authorize the issuance of bonds to support those projects.  The total bonding authorization of $29,800,000 being requested by the City is a fraction of the $241,310,000 approved by voters in 2008 and is representative of the City’s focus on maintaining existing assets and infrastructure at the lowest reasonable cost.  Tempe residents have the opportunity to vote on three separate initiatives that provide authorization to issue bonds in the following categories and amounts:

 

1)        Public Safety — $6,400,000

•          This bonding authorization will allow the City to continue the upgrade of the radio system used                         by the Police and other departments to enable digital interoperability.  Hardware and                software upgrades for the Police and Fire Departments are also planned during the five-year capital              program.  Scheduled replacement of public safety vehicles and equipment and                              improvements to public safety facilities are also scheduled.

 

2)        Parks Improvements/Community Services — $10,500,000

•          This bond authorization will provide the necessary funding to replace the downstream dam in Tempe                    Town Lake in order to maintain Town Lake parks.  The City is pursuing alternative funding for the                     dam construction, which would enable this bonding authorization to be used for other park and               community service projects, however, this bonding authorization provides necessary assurance to                         move the downstream dam project forward.

 

3)        Municipal Infrastructure Preservation — $12,900,000

•          This bonding authorization will fund repair and rehabilitation of City buildings,                              infrastructure and facilities.  Projects include the replacement of inefficient heating and air                        conditioning systems, upgrades to lighting systems and the repair and replacement of flooring and                      roofs.