Candidates for mayor and town council in Oro Valley, in keeping to the high ground in their speeches over the past week, may have left some members of their audiences wondering if this was really an Oro Valley campaign they were observing.
Past campaigns have been known to be less than diplomatic, but this time around candidates for the most part are sticking to the issues.
Over the past week the candidates have addressed residents at forums sponsored by the League of Women Voters at the Sun City Social Hall in Rancho Vistoso, the Oro Valley Republican Women's Club at Keaton's Arizona Grill, 7401 N. La Cholla Blvd., and the Northern Pima County Chamber of Commerce and Northwest EXPLORER at the Casas Adobes Baptist School, 10801N. La Cholla. This is an amalgam of their remarks.
The forums have not been without the occasional snipe, such as this comment made by mayoral candidate Wayne Bryant : "One of the main concerns I have about this town is the fact that it is run by the Gestapo."
The comment was made in reference to two lawsuits that have been filed against the town in connection with the display of political signs. The town lost the first and the second involving Oro Valley Neighborhood Coalition members Hector Conde and Nancy Young Wright is being taken under advisement by U.S. District Court Judge William Browning.
Then there was council candidate Paula Abbott's swipe at her opponent Lyra Done in questioning where Done was getting the money for her seemingly expensive newspaper ads. Done said her financing has come as a result of relationships developed over the past 40 years.
But for the most part, each of the three mayoral candidates - Bryant, incumbent Mayor Paul Loomis and Ken Kinared, and the three council candidates, Abbott, Done and Emily Smith Sleigh, focused on their backgrounds, why they thought they should be elected, and what they considered to be the key issues facing the town.
Bryant, a marketing representative for the United Association of Plumbers and Steamfitters and former town councilman and president of the Oro Valley Neighborhood Coalition, sees the town's debt, which he placed at between $53 million and $58.6 million, as its major problem.
"During the past four years, the strongest period of growth in our town's history, the town's debt has doubled," he told guests at an Oro Valley Republican Women's Club luncheon Feb. 8. attended by all the candidates. Until that debt is taken down the town will be unable to address issues such as bringing Central Arizona Project water to Oro Valley because there will be no revenues for it, he said. Getting deeper and deeper in debt is what has taxed his patience with Mayor Loomis, he said.
Water and the town's reshaping of the General Plan are his other priorities.
"Every report I have read concerning Oro Valley's water system says we are depleting our ground water," Bryant said. "I am deeply concerned about the lack of significant progress that has been made to connect us to the Central Arizona Project. Politicians tell us not to worry, but when we deplete the aquifer, how can this community provide drinking water for our families. Equally significant, how will we raise the $30 million to $90 million we need to connect us to the CAP?"
To address these issues, the town must cut spending, increase impact fees on developers, back off new annexations and, if necessary, implement a property tax, he said.
Bryant said he's afraid the town's new General Plan will have so much commercial land proposed in it that it will destroy the quality of life in Oro Valley.
Loomis says he's running for mayor because he wants the town to continue the progress it has made over the last four years of his tenure. "Together we are making it happen," is his campaign slogan. His major concerns are water, growth and the state's impact on the town's budget and how Oro Valley relates to other communities in the region.
"Four years ago we needed to change how the town was spending its money," Loomis said. "We needed to repair and enlarge our roads, develop our infrastructure. Over the last four years we've done that." Today the town is requiring development to pay for itself through impact fees and Oro Valley is the first town in the state to include the cost of bonding as part of those impact fees, he said.
Loomis stressed that the town is financially sound and pointed to marathon budget sessions of the council he began as a means of keeping it so. "We've ensured our financial future and are accessible to the public," he said. "I want this to go on for the next four years. We have to decide what kind of government we want. One that's responsive to the people, one that wants to become a big city or one that wants to go back to 6,000 residents. I want a town that looks to the future, that responds to the people and looks for creative ways to reach its goals."
Kinared's emphasis is on the development of a General Plan that will provide the necessary balance of residential and commercial retail uses so that when Oro Valley reaches buildout it will have a source of revenue to replace those that will be lost by the falloff in construction.
His key concerns are getting water for the community's residents and figuring out a way to do that efficiently, developing a General Plan with land uses that will balance the budget and achieving economic sustainability. He has stressed family values, community values and his experience over 30 years in dealing with growth, planning, transportation, environmental and budget issues in the private sector.
"We're just 12 to 15 years away from what we're going to be as a town," Kinared said. "We need to figure out now what we're going to be and how we're going to pay for it."
Kinared said he supports the Sonoran Desert Conservation Plan as a foundation for Pima County's Comprehensive Plan with one caveat: "There's an awful lot of open space that belongs to somebody else in the private sector and it's going to need to be acquired. We need to figure out what role we're going to play in the acquisition of those properties that are in private ownership.
"I think we're a little bit behind in some of our planning and certainly for financing some of the proposed town improvements," Kinared said. "But what I want to share with you is that I have the experience to look at these issues and frame these issues and with your help resolve them. That is what I'm here for, to ask for your help."
Among the council candidates, Done's top concerns are bringing the CAP to Oro Valley and getting golf courses off ground water and developing a General Plan that provides for financial sustainability. She's interested in the possibility of the private and public sector, other municipalities and water companies joining in to absorb the costs of a CAP pipeline and distribution system for effluent.
On the issue of annexation, Done said it's important for Oro Valley to control the boundaries of the town and to keep them as we want them to be. "If we walk away from annexation, then we're not controlling our own destiny because right across the street from our town boundaries things can happen over which we have no control," she said. But people must want to come into Oro Valley and impact studies must be done to show it's a win-win situation in terms of the services Oro Valley will provide to the people in the area being annexed and the increased revenue flow it will provide to Oro Valley, she said.
Done is a supporter of the Sonoran Desert Conservation Plan but also has concerns about where the money will come from to buy the land that would be set aside as open space.
For Abbott the key issues are water, the budget and the General Plan. She wants the town to bring in the CAP and effluent at the same time because of the town's lowering water table. She would like to see developers contribute more land for children's recreational areas.
"The population explosion here has definitely put a strain on our financial, educational and environmental resources and threatens to jeopardize our town's abilities," Abbott said. "Where we get the financial resources to support the effluent we desire will determine how we grow as a community.
"I will use my leadership skills to work with the council toward resolving its toughest issues such as managing a $53 million debt by levying fair impact fees on new development, bringing in an alternative water source and respecting and upholding the General Plan so that residents know what's being planned for their surroundings and can trust the council to uphold its promises. And I will continue to protect Honey Bee Canyon as I have for the past four years."
Sleigh is against property taxes and opposed to spending the estimated $40 million it will take to develop the 214-acre Naranja Town site. She said she believes that's too much to be spent on one park and that funding for the project should be provided by private sources and grant money. She supports development that would cluster businesses in a commercial zone, believes the CAP should be financed through bonds, and would speed up the town's permitting process for construction and demand that builders meet the standards they promise.
She believes that the town has lost its connection with the people and advocates an economic development plan that would allow for development at a pace citizens would be comfortable with.
Oro Valley sent out ballots to residents Feb. 7 for the town's first all mail election. They are due to be mailed in by March 12. As of Feb. 11 there were no other large campaign functions planned before the voting deadline.