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Trending Topics: I can’t believe what a disaster Glendale is

Ryan Lambert
Puck Daddy

Trending Topics is a column that looks at the week in hockey, occasionally according to Twitter. If you're only going to comment to say how stupid Twitter is, why not just go have a good cry for the slow, sad death of your dear internet instead?

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If you've been reading What We Learned every Monday here on Puck Daddy pretty much since the lockout began, you've probably noticed that the Phoenix entry each week has more or less served as a chronicle of the city of Glendale's woeful fiscal irresponsibility.

Let's take the time, right off the bat, to remind you how broke Glendale actually is: very broke. Like, crazily broke for a city of its size. The city's outgoing mayor, Elaine Scruggs, left the guy who's taking over from her with a deficit— and I can't even believe this is a real number — of $1.2 billion. With a frickin' B.

And that's not including the $16 million a year on average over the next two decades the city council just voted to give Greg Jamison and the Phoenix -- I mean Arizona -- Coyotes. (Scruggs, to be fair, voted against the deal, along with one councilwoman, though that was a reversal of her previous position.)

The reason the vote took place now, by the way, is that the current mayor and more than half the city council got voted out of office pretty convincingly. And, in an attempt to pass through unpopular legislation by a lame-duck legislature not seen since Lincoln hit theaters, they decided that now was a perfect time to give a bunch of rich dudes millions of dollars per year in public funds. Which, by the way, they could ill afford to dole out.

Because, I don't know, having a hockey team is good for your civic self-esteem, even if (relatively) nobody goes to the games or cares about them. Libraries and public services not so much.

Mike Sunnucks, who has absolutely killed it for the Phoenix Business Journal in covering this entire mystifying debacle, told Marek and Wyshynski the other day that if the decision to fund the Coyotes with that much money for that long a period was put to a public vote, it would have an incredibly hard time passing. Which is why opponents of the decision, including many incoming city councilors, want to get it to just such a public referendum.

Now, you might be wondering just what business a city that's now one and a half billion dollars in the red has in giving large sums of money to anyone at all, and that's a reasonable enough question. Before any of this latest flap even started, and before the elections earlier this month, the city was planning to cut all kinds of services from its budget for a total of $29 million in savings until residents voted to increase the city's sales tax temporarily. It's now the highest in the state.

Oh, and as an aside, just to touch on what put Glendale in debt in the first place: The real estate meltdown pretty much crushed the entire state of Arizona, but Glendale was hit pretty hard as well. Moreover, it also has a lot of debt related to a spring training baseball park called Camelback Ranch, for which it will have to pay $13 million in 2013.

Clearly this is a city that's very dedicated to making itself a kind of sports hub for the greater Southwest, and that's at least an admirable goal if a bit of a misguided one. Again, the desire to keep throwing money down the hole on a hockey team with minimal support, even when it's one of the best teams in the Western Conference, doesn't seem like the wisest idea. But then, my city has never been in danger of losing a hockey team, and I'm not an elected official here trying to save face on paying the NHL $50 million over the last two seasons to run the team because no one else with any kind of money behind them wants to do it.

All of which, by the way, is only a problem because the city wants it to be one. Because of the sales tax hike, the city wouldn't have had to cut any services or lay anyone off if it had just chosen not to continue subsidizing the Coyotes to the tune of $71 million over the next five years.

This is Scruggs giving these numbers, for the record. Not one cut, not one layoff. Nothing.

Instead, Glendale is opting to suffer massive cuts to city services, including closing two of its three libraries (who needs books anyway?), a municpally-run aquatics center, and 250 jobs, mostly impacting police and fire department employees.

The money quote from after those details: "Councilwoman [Joyce] Clark maintains keeping the team is in the city's best interest." Clark, who seems like a swell lady, voted for the arena deal on Tuesday, as you might imagine. Her logic is that the city is already paying $10 million a year in debt on the arena's original construction, so why not throw good money after bad? The interim city manager estimates that if the team left the city, it would cost $2.5 million in direct losses.

Oh, and Clark is one of the four lame ducks who got crushed on election day, but you probably figured that out for yourself.

And I guess that brings us to Greg Jamison. Now, you might say that if you were a city councilor in Glendale and you thought there was a really good chance the team could thrive if it just had the right ownership -- which is why you're willing to pay whoever ends up running the arena $16 million a year -- then that's all well and good. But wouldn't you want that owner to be, I don't know, forthright? Maybe not, like, totally shady?

Well, Jamison doesn't really fit that bill.

What we know about the shadowy cadre of people who (maybe) helped him come up with the $170 million (maybe) necessary to buy the team, is pretty much that Jamison, when directly questioned by Scruggs, wouldn't name names as to who his investors are.

As was discussed in Sunnucks' interview on Marek vs. Wyshynski, this is fairly common practice in the private business world. Your company makes a deal with my company, we don't have to tell anyone anything about it. Now, when you're backing up a dump truck full of money and leaving it, with the keys in the ignition, next to the zamboni entrace to Jobing.com Arena, you might, as a city councillor, want to make sure one of the backers isn't the second coming of Boots Del Biaggio, or the third John Spano, if you want to get technical.

But now it seems Jamison is positioned to actually buy the Coyotes (unless he doesn't actually have the money, which would be incredible), and has to do so by mid-January so none of these incoming city councillors, who might have their heads firmly on their shoulders when it comes to giving failing professional sports teams lots and lots of money for no reason, can prevent the deal from going through.

People act like this is all out-of-the-woods stuff for the Coyotes and that Jamison doesn't still have a fight on his hands, and when it comes to buying the team, that may well be true (possibly). The only hurdle that's left to clear is getting people to give half a crap about the team and actually show up. Which might be the toughest part of all of this.

Oh and getting the lockout solved. That too.

Pearls of Biz-dom

We all know that there isn't a better Twitter account out there than that of Paul Bissonnette. So why not find his best bit of advice on love, life and lappers from the last week?

BizNasty on staying regular: "Just a heads up guys. Don't eat to much kiwi because it makes you constipated."

If you've got something for Trending Topics, holla at Lambert on Twitter or via e-mail. He'll even credit you so you get a thousand followers in one day and you'll become the most popular person on the Internet! You can also visit his blog if you're so inclined.

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