By Mark Carlisle
Glendale Mayor Jerry Weiers touted a list of accomplishments from the last year at his annual State of the City address, Thursday, March 1 at the Renaissance Hotel and Spa, 9495 W. Coyotes Blvd.
“Deciding what to share with you tonight was very, very clear to me: our city continues to experience unparalleled growth. And that’s certainly reason to celebrate,” Mayor Weiers said toward the top of his speech. “As I reflect on 2017, I can’t help but smile.”
The event was held in the hotel’s ballroom and hosted by the Glendale Chamber of Commerce, of which Mayor Weiers is a member.
Many West Valley leaders were in attendance, including all members of the Glendale City Council, many members of city staff, state senators and representatives, mayors of Goodyear, Litchfield Park and Buckeye, leaders of Glendale schools and businesses, representatives of Luke Air Force Base, and both candidates for Congressional District 8, which contains part of Glendale, who won their parties’ primaries two days prior, Democrat Hiral Tipirneni and Republican Debbie Lesko.
Tickets to the dinner event were $95 per person and included giveaways for attendees.
The Mayor also honored handed out his “Citizen of the Year” award to two guests instead of one this year. The recipients were Bill Kelleher of Chapel of the Chimes Mortuary, 7924 N 59th Ave., and Mike Russell of Heroes Pub & Grill, 5940 W Union Hills Drive.
Financial stabilityThe Mayor boasted of the city’s improved bond ratings in 2017. In April Moody’s Investors Service upgraded Glendale’s general obligation bond and excise tax bond rating to A-1, and in November Fitch Ratings gave Glendale’s general obligation bond debt its highest rating — AAA with a stable outlook.
“These ratings represent independent and objective observations that Glendale’s finances are well managed,” Mayor Weiers said.
The mayor said that because of those improved ratings, the city was able to refinance multiple bonds, which will save Glendale and its residents $72.3 million. He also noted that the city’s levy on property tax has not raised in recent years.
Mayor Weiers then showcased the next sign of financial stability at city hall — a $40.6 million unassigned general fund balance at the end of fiscal year 2017, which ended June 30, 2017. The balance represents a drastic turnaround from the $26.9 million deficit five years prior at the end of fiscal year 2012. Mayor Weiers took office in 2013.
Glendale was on the verge of bankruptcy at the time. To emphasize the city’s financial turnaround, staff and councilmembers often point to a 2012 Wall Street Journal article that ranked Glendale as the second most financially unstable city in the country behind Detroit.
Business growthAnother focus of the speech was business expansion in the city over the past year.
The mayor highlighted a few of the businesses that completed construction, announced development or expanded their operations in Glendale in 2017. He mentioned TopGolf golf entertainment complex and BMW Arrowhead, which both plan to open in the fall; Conair health and beauty appliances, which opened the second-largest business complex county in Maricopa County in August, 2017; Bechtel Corporation construction and engineering company, which signed a longterm commitment to remain in Glendale, and Glendale’s Coca-Cola factory which added over 12,000 square feet to its facility last year.
Other business developments from the past year, include IKEA furniture store, which will break ground in fall 2018 and Drive Shack golf entertainment complex, which will open across the street from TopGolf.
“All the economic development activity resulted in over 1,900 jobs created and over 900,000 square feet absorbed,” Mayor Weiers said. “Certainly, those are numbers worth sharing… The city currently has about 6.2 million square feet of building projects in the pipeline. About 2.1 million square feet are under construction right now.”
Businesses are drawn to Glendale because of its ability to communicate with business leaders to get projects to market quickly, the mayor said.
“However, we will not lower standards of quality or safety in order to be speedy,” he said. “Our folks work hand in hand with the businesses and developers to ensure we are listening to their needs and meeting their requests in a timely fashion.”
Glendale is growing in more than just the business world. The city itself is expanding.
Mayor Weiers noted that the city had added 1,340 acres, more than two square miles, in the past year. He also highlighted StoneHaven housing complex, approved by Council last year, which will add more than 1,300 homes. The development will also bring money directly to the city and revenue to Glendale businesses, Mayor Weiers said.
“It will generate $49 million in new local city revenues, according to a city-commissioned study,” he said. “This will help improve our safety and quality of life, as it provides funds for police, fire, roads and parks. An influx of new residents also means new customers for businesses at Westgate and other parts of the city.”
In total, Council approved 29 residential projects in the past year, which will add more than 3,000 residences to the city.
VeteransThe mayor spent a sizable portion of the speech on one of his passions: honoring veterans. He discussed several events he’s started including Stand Up for Veterans, which was held Sept. 23, 2017, at Glendale Community College, where dozens of local organizations donated time and services to help more than 500 veterans and their families with a variety of services. He also promoted his upcoming Mayor’s Big Dog Run motorcycle ride which will raise money for the Veterans’ Scholarship fund at GCC.
In April 2017, Mayor Weiers hosted an induction ceremony for high schoolers who would be graduating and then joining the military. At the end of the program, all the students took their oath of service.
The mayor said that the comment he heard most from those who attended the event was that there weren’t enough tissues in the auditorium.
got choked up detailing an exchange he had at that event with a high schooler who would soon begin his military service.
“One of those young men came up to me, he said, ‘Thank you, sir. Tonight, you really made me feel special.’ It was incredible. That right there, folks, that’s why I do what I do. This is the kind of difference I want to make in people’s lives.”
The mayor also highlighted Luke AFB, and noted that because of one of Luke’s partnership with another nation, Glendale became sister cities with Ørland, Norway, last February and will soon send a delegation to the city to further the partnership.
GiveawaysAttendees of the speech did not go home empty handed. One of the Chamber’s partners is the Arizona Coyotes, who were playing next door to the hotel at the Gila River Arena during the event and could not send representatives to the speech. Chamber chair Robert Heidt announced before the mayor’s speech that the Coyotes were giving each attendee two lower- level tickets to an upcoming Coyotes game, which he said was about a $200 value.
The tickets were distributed in a copy of “Glendale Living” magazine, which each attendee took home.
A portion of the crowd also received a $100 voucher from another Chamber sponsor, Southwest Airlines. The winners were determined by a marking on the event programs; about one-third to one-half of the crowd received the vouchers.
Mayor Weiers got in on the gift-giving as well. One person in the audience won two suite seats to see Elton John perform on his farewell tour next January at Gila River Arena. The winner was determined by 12 attendees who had Elton John glasses taped under their chairs. A raffle was done to determine which pair of glasses was the winner.
In the back of the room was a white 2018 BMW M6from one of Glendale’s newest businesses, BMW Arrowhead, which opens in the fall.
“Who would like to take home a brand new BMW tonight?” Mayor Weiers said, prompting a cheer from the crowd.
The mayor said he “worked out a deal” with BMW general manager Steve Bowers, who was in the room.
“He’s agreed that everybody here tonight is taking home a brand new BMW,” Mayor Weiers said before launching into his best Oprah Winfrey impression. “You get a car, and you get a car! Everybody’s getting a car tonight!”
The audience laughed, knowing the promise was too good to be true. Members of the Mayor’s Youth Advisory Commission handed out small toy BMW’s designed to promote the dealership’s fall opening.
“I didn’t say you could drive them,” the mayor said with a smirk.
Those at the event were not the only ones to receive a gift. The centerpieces on the table had a flower in the center but were made up of colored pencils and boxes of crayons, which were donated to the Pendergast Elementary School District the next day.