Thursday, December 8, 2011

Sal DiCiccio - Phoenix: Detroit or Austin?


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"The goal for Phoenix must not be to only be better, and being one of the best is not good enough.   In this new economy, we must be known as the best."
             - Phoenix City Councilman Sal DiCiccio
In the not-too-distant past, the engines of American commerce hummed in cities like Detroit and Buffalo. That’s where jobs, wealth and prosperity were created. That’s where new businesses moved to or sprouted. 
Eventually, they came to a point in their history when they were faced with adapting to changing economic times and business environment, or stay the course. The same naysayers’ arguments made there are what you will hear in Phoenix now: “What’s the rush?” “There’s no reason to change.” “Things will be OK if we just ride it out.” “Let’s slow things down.” 
Phoenix has an opportunity to make the Valley a national leader in job creation, to turn what was Ground Zero in the housing bubble into the vanguard solution for entrepreneurial revival.  It requires bold new ideas, doing things differently and adapting to a changing economy. Witness how adapting has benefited places like Austin, TX., or Palo Alto, CA. 
Phoenix leaders understand this opportunity and voted to create a committee with Councilman Simplot and me as chairs,  revamping how Phoenix deals with job creation. Our goal is to make Phoenix the best place in the country for business by removing the time, hassle and cost of starting and running a business here. Start up businesses will build and begin operating in a single day - not months - using certified professionals to work the process. 
I’ve always said that being better is not good enough; being one of the best is not good enough. We have to be known in Phoenix as the being the best at job creation, the most efficient and the least costly place to set up shop and start hiring. It’s “the best” that will succeed in this economic climate. 
The Arizona Republic article below outlines the goals of the committee. (Arizona Republic: Task force to ease way for small businesses)
Detroit or Austin? The road could not be more clear.
My best to you and your family,
Sal DiCiccio
Phoenix City Councilman District 6
Phoenix City Councilman Sal DiCiccio represents District 6, which includes Ahwatukee, Arcadia, Biltmore, East Camelback and North Central. He can be reached at or 602-262-7491.
Where your Phoenix tax dollars go: 
$98,322           Average  annual total compensation for Phoenix staff 
14,999             Number of city employees 
$17,975           Average compensation increase since 2005-06 
$270 million    Amount taxpayers pay more for same number of workers  since 2005 
$130 million    Increases in Phoenix taxes/fees in past 18 months 
15                    Total number of city employees laid off because of the recession 
40.5                 Days off (sick, holiday, personal, vacation) for first-year clerk 
$8,000             Education benefits per employee 
$0                    What staff pay for bus/rail (It’s free to them.) 
50s                   Age at which Phoenix staff can retire with pension 

Task force to ease way for small business

Phoenix poised to create panel that curbs red tape
Lynh Bui - Nov. 29, 2011
The Arizona Republic
When Caffe Italia restaurant owner Mirko Masini tried to expand operations with a patio and grill, he hit some development roadblocks.
This summer, Masini obtained the right permits from Maricopa County to get his patio grill going but was shut down days later after a Phoenix building inspector discovered he wasn't complying with city regulations.
Masini was told that he didn't get the right Phoenix permits to build his patio and then discovered a host of other rules he had to meet because his plan complied with county code but didn't match city standards.
The small-business owner's plans stalled as he tried to navigate two sets of bureaucratic hurdles.
"Phoenix is such a nice town, but a lot of people have been driven away by the bureaucracy," said Masini, who has spent more than $7,000 on the project, which still isn't complete.
Masini's story is the type of small-business complaint that elected officials hear over and over again, as entrepreneurs struggle to expand or open their operations amid a weak economy. But the Phoenix City Council hopes to give Masini and others a hand with a Development Task Force it plans to formally consider today.
The task force, proposed by Mayor Phil Gordon and Councilmen Sal DiCiccio and Tom Simplot, will explore ways to cut red tape and reduce bureaucracy to make it easier to do business in the city.
"I really believe if we can do this right, we can cut headaches for the people creating jobs in the community," said DiCiccio, who asked Gordon to create the task force. "This would make Phoenix the Number 1 city in the nation for job creation."
DiCiccio and Simplot will co-chair the group, which will consist of people appointed by each member of the council and people suggested by Gordon and City Manager David Cavazos.
The task force will review everything from outsourcing inspections and allowing business owners to submit plans via the Internet to giving inspectors the power to grant permits in the field that would eliminate an extra step of having to physically visit Phoenix City Hall for the paperwork.
The task force also will explore expanding the same-day permitting or self-certification program, which became a central campaign issue during the recent mayoral and City Council elections.
Earlier this year, the city revamped part of the Planning and Development Department to allow developers to bypass the city for their building permits.
The change allowed registered architects, designers and engineers who have been trained by the city to sign off on plans to ensure they comply with city code instead of requiring developers to review hundreds of pages of plans with city employees to obtain building permits.
The program, which started as a pilot in 2010, shaves days and potentially weeks off a project, which means businesses can open sooner and start pumping money into the economy, DiCiccio said. Through the task force, he hopes to see the the same-day permitting program expand.
"Instead of taking months to create jobs, it puts job creation in hyper-drive, allowing businesses to hire today," DiCiccio said.
Since the self-certification program began in Phoenix, the city's Planning and Development Department estimates almost half of the development permits issued in 2011 were issued in a single day, according to a memo from Gordon's office.
Gordon said he hopes the task force, which will include people who've started small businesses in the city, will turn Phoenix into a model for streamlining development.
Phoenix Planning and Development Deputy Director Mo Glancy said Masini's case isn't a perfect example because he built some of the patio without the right permits and didn't have the right fire-safety equipment.
"I understand he's frustrated, but there were some definite safety violations," Glancy said.
The city has met with Masini twice to help him open the grill and patio.
Masini said he plans to hire an additional cook to run the patio grill once it opens.
He said he hopes to find the extra revenue to pay for the building delays and improvements by opening for lunch.
"We really want the guy's business to be a success," Glancy said. "We could have taken him to court and charged him a bunch of fees, but he's trying to work on it, and we're here to help him as much as we can."
Balancing safety and convenience will be one of the biggest challenges for the Development Task Force as it proposes changes.
Deputy City Manager David Krietor said the goal is to make sure things run as smoothly as possible so Phoenix is ready when the economy improves.
The Planning and Development Department was nearly twice its current size during the economic boom a few years ago, but the recession forced layoffs and cuts.
Krietor said that when the economy picks back up, the goal isn't to ramp up hiring only to have layoffs again during the next downturn. The idea is to still provide the same -- and better -- service with the staff already in place.
"We have a great story to tell because of the changes that we've made in that department," Krietor said.
"This task force gives us the chance to get even better."
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