Saturday, July 7, 2012

Puck and Gavel Interviews Joe Cobb


Joe Cobb is one of the two named plaintiffs in the recent court challenge to the City of Glendale's ordinance granting its City Manager and City Clerk the authority to enter into a 20 year lease and arena management agreement for the Jobing.com arena. Mr. Cobb graciously consented to an interview which has been conducted via e-mail over the past two days. Because the interview was conducted via e-mail, follow up questions were not posed until other series of questions were answered. With permission from Mr. Cobb, the order of the questions has been rearranged to accommodate a better flow in reading. Please note that the views expressed by Mr. Cobb are his own. Puck and Gavel takes no position with regard to any of the views expressed by Mr. Cobb.

P&G: Can you briefly tell me about yourself (where are you from, what do you do, etc.)?

JC: I am retired, age 68. Born at USMA West Point, New York, 1944. See http://joecobb.com/front-page/about-2/

P&G: Why did you seek to have the Glendale City Council's approval of the Jobing.com lease/management agreement declared invalid?

JC: I believe it is fundamentally immoral to take tax money (with the tool of coercion, compulsory exaction) and give the funds to a private, for-profit organization. The Arizona Constitution, Article 9, Section 7, http://goldwaterinstitute.org/sites/default/files/Regifting%20the%20Gift%20Clause.pdf, prohibits giving tax money to corporations:

[N]either the state, nor any county, city, town, municipality, or other subdivision of the state shall ever give or loan its credit in the aid of, or make any donation or grant, by subsidy or otherwise, to any individual, association, or corporation, or become a subscriber to, or a shareholder in, any company or corporation, or become a joint owner with any person, company, or corporation, except as to such ownerships as may accrue to the state by operation or provision of law or as authorized by law solely for investment of the monies in the various funds of the state.

So, as you can see, not only is my personal sense of Right vs. Wrong at issue here, I have our Constitution on my side.

More on my attorney's track record suing local governments that violate Arizona's Constitution, Art.9, Sec.7, "Gift Clause":

We have a hammer and the smelly political insider cronyism of the Glendale government is an anvil.

P&G: It's interesting that you have cited Arizona's Gift Clause as the basis for your opposition, yet the complaint filed by you and Ken Jones on behalf of the taxpayers did not list a gift clause violation as part of the reason to invalidate the ordinance. Was there a reason that you and the Goldwater Institute chose to focus only on the grounds of the lease not being issued by proper ordinance or passed pursuant to the emergency clause, and the management agreement not being subject to competitive bidding, and not to focus on the state constitution issue that you just discussed?

JC: One files motions on the basis of the development of a case. The earlier Goldwater law suit, filed two years earlier as a Gift Clause action, is still active and in the Maricopa court, but the judge in that case was not available to hear the further – and new – arguments in this case. But this case has been joined with the older case and will next be heard in front of the original judge. The Gift Clause action will require the city “to sign” and then be ordered to defend its action; we cannot expect the court to issue a prior restraint. The Goldwater attorneys attempted a prior restraint before the city voted June 8 and the judge said he didn’t have the power to enjoin a legislative body not to vote. But everything goes back to the Gift Clause.

Judge Fink ruled (1) this is not an “emergency” law, thus it cannot take effect (the contract cannot be signed) until the period allowed by law for a Referendum petition has run, or a Referendum election has given approval; and (2) the court will not substitute its opinion/judgment over the claim by the city that “professional services” – which are exceptions to the city charter requirement for competitive bidding – does include “hockey arena management” in the same category as physician, attorney, architect, et al. services. The judge had asked the city attorneys whether a high-rise window washing company was an exempt professional service, too, but did not take that obvious play on the concept of “professional service” into his final order.

P&G: Hypothetically, if the management agreement alone, not including the lease, had been subject to competitive bidding, would you still have sought to oppose it?

JC: We would have sued after the fact on the grounds of Gift Clause violation. The city has never attempted to defend itself against the charges of gift violation, but has instead refused to release documents from the closed-door negotiations with team buyers.

P&G: While Judge Fink's opinion denied the relief you and Ken Jones sought in your complaint on behalf of the taxpayers against Glendale to invalidate the ordinance granting the City Manager and City Clerk the authority to enter into a 20 year lease agreement for the Jobing.com arena, the taxpayers were still free to collect signatures to refer the ordinance to the ballot via public referendum. How many signatures do you require, and how is that number calculated? When must you have the signatures by and how is that date calculated?

JC: 10% of the city vote for Council on November 2, 2010, which is 11,309 voters is needed as signatures on our Referendum petitions. The deadline is 30 days from (1) June 8 – city’s view; or (2) June 15 – our attorneys’ view. The later date is when we actually were allowed to obtain blank petition forms by the court order overturning the claim of “emergency” status.

P&G: Assuming the city's view is correct, the deadline would be July 8, which is a Sunday. Would the deadline be extended to Monday, July 9 as a result?

JC: That is common practice: “next possible business day.”

P&G: Do you think there will be legal action brought by Glendale over the filing date of your petition if it is filed after the July 9 date?

JC: Certainly. They fight hard.

P&G: I have seen Glendale state previously that the number of signatures required would be around 1800. Where did you get your number from, and what do you think forms the basis for the discrepancy in those numbers?

JC: Pam Hanna, city clerk, told us we had to use the voter turnout from the 2008 mayoral election, which is the number in the media you cite. She has been corrected, as we know when the anti-sales tax initiative was turned in on July 5 by a different group of Glendale taxpayers. The correct voter turnout is that of November 2, 2010 = 11,309.

P&G: How many signatures do you currently have?

JC: No comment.

P&G: Timing is often the best weapon in legal challenges such as this. If you are successful in getting the referendum on the November ballot, it could likely scuttle the proposed deal to the Jamison group without it ever being voted upon. Is there any provision in Arizona for a special election to have the voters decide sooner?

JC: No.

P&G: Let's assume that you are successful in getting a referendum on the Glendale City Council ordinance on the November ballot, that the Jamison group does not pull out prior to the vote, and the vote goes in favor of Glendale. What would be your next course of action?

JC: If the contract is signed, even in mid-November after an upholding Referendum vote, we would ask the courts to apply the Gift Clause prohibition to the subsidy. Arizona was set up as a republic in 1912 with many rights retained by citizens that under other U.S. state and federal constitutions are wrapped into the hands of government. Among them is the right not to have taxpayer’s money given to private parties as “gifts,” even if a majority did vote for it. A majority cannot vote away certain rights.

16 comments:

  1. What's your prediction, P&G?

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    1. Before I spoke to Joe, I thought getting 1,800 signatures would be a pretty significant task. However, once I found out it was only 1,131, I changed my mind about the likelihood of their success.

      I think they manage to get it on the ballot and I think that it might kill the sale to the Jamison Group.

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    2. Problem is that the AZ charter that governs referendums specifically says citywide election where all electoral votes are allowed to be cast. That vote they point to was only for a couple of Glendale districts, thus not every vote was able to be cast, thus rendering it no longer "citywide" and, last thus i swear, making his point and number invalid.

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    3. kaleb, but not invalid enough to make his claims as to the number needed completely uncolorable. IT will be enough that they will be able to file suit and have it go before a judge, the delay of which could be all that is needed to kill the deal to the Jamison group. Look back tomorrow for a look at how this will all affect the Shane Doan situation.

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  2. Oh god. I have a lot of reading and learning to do. That was a bit difficult to understand for me but it was still cool to read and I understood the basic concepts behind what is going on out there. I think I have to agree with what Cobb is saying about -- "A majority cannot vote away certain rights". But on the other-hand if a majority of Glendale wants the lease and the lease will benefit the community why is Cobb pushing so hard for this?

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    1. Well I obviously don't know Mr. Cobb's "true" motives but if he truly believes this is against the Arizona Constitution then he's fighting against it for a good reason. You cannot violate the constitution just because you think it'll be a good result. A violation is a violation even if you feel that means justifies the end.

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    2. Unless there is a vote to alter the Constitution, you can't violate it, no matter how well-intentioned your violation may be.

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    3. Exactly PG. The only issues are of course the determination of whether something is a violation and that someone needs to challenge the violation in the first place.

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  3. You know, I've always wondered about public financing of arenas. I know the rationale is that the arenas will help out the city (I've seen that with my own eyes in Newark) but do you know how often the city ends up losing money on these deals?

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    1. I don't know how often, and to be honest, it would be very difficult to tell. Certainly in the short term the municipality would take a loss. But in order to truly determine whether the investment by the municipality was worthwhile, the analysis would have to be done at the end of the life cycle of the arena. I should clarify that I know absolutely nothing about economics.

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  4. What other motives could Cobbs have?

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    1. Well I suppose there's a lot of possible motives but I personally feel that Coobs is in fact driven by his belief that what the City of Glendale is doing is wrong and is perhaps unconstitutional.

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    2. Dig around his webpage and you'll learn a lot more about him.

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  5. In response to the anonymous commenter: I don't mind angry ranting, in fact, I encourage it. But I will not tolerate any anti-semitism. If you want to repost without the anti-semitic remark, you are free to.

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  6. Voter turnout on November 2, 2010 was 14,052 voters, not 11,309.
    http://www.glendaleaz.com/Clerk/agendasandminutes/Special/Agendas/112210-S01.pdf

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    1. fishbert, How did you get to 14,052? I added it up and came up with 11,309. 7,725+3,584=11,309.

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