I intend to let the sun shine in on Oro Valley government. Too many decisions about the direction of growth in our Town have been made under cover. An atmosphere of mistrust between the citizens and the Council and Town staff continues to deepen. I'll work to improve communication.
Although my opponent ran as a candidate of the people in 1996 and again in 1998, he has apparently forgotten his roots. Instead he voted to weaken our slope ordinance and failed to fight hard to oppose building on the slopes of the Tortolita. This action and others like it have reinforced the perception that the Town cannot be trusted to safeguard our natural resources or our investments. I'll work to change both the perception and the reality. There was a board majority during some of his tenure that was inclined to vote for any and all upzonings, allowing him to vote against much of it. However, he could have done more to speak out and oppose these issues. There was a time in the late 90's when he had a majority of the council to work with, but he failed to accomplish anything significant in the conservation area. He voted to raise our water rates to cover the cost of effluent when developers should have paid more. He sat on the Regional Transportation Authority Board while it discussed developing a torpedo bomb for the Tortolita Mountain Park known as the extension of La Cholla Boulevard. Why didn't he inform the La Cholla airpark residents before they were annexed or at least his fellow council members? Why has he not instructed staff in a process for sharing critical information with the rest of his team? My approach would be different. I do not support this destructive, expensive idea.
He has not worked cooperatively with the Amphitheater School District to plan proactively for schools. He has instead told me that it is "our problem" even though it is the Town council's votes that have overcrowded our schools. We cannot build schools in Arizona without the approval of the State School Facility Board, and they don't agree that we need additional schools for many years. When he was asked to help mediate in the efforts between the District and a developer to secure a promised 35 acre middle school site in Rancho Vistoso, he exhibited support for the developer. It's been four years, and we are still patiently negotiating for the school. He backed out of Amphi's efforts to support impact fee legislation for school construction. At my urging, Amphi developed our "Pay it Forward" program which has been very successful in securing developer donations to help with school construction. I would work proactively to ensure cooperative planning for the schools we need.
Relationships between the Town and Pima County have further deteriorated during his tenure. I have excellent working relationships with elected officials at Pima County and the City of Tucson, and I will work cooperatively to address our needs. I will build bridges between the business community and the neighborhood community. I've been on both sides of the table as an activist and as a school board member trying to build schools, which gives me a broader perspective on these issues. I'll begin a sincere public outreach program to create an open dialogue in which all community members are invited to participate to discuss our future needs. This process cannot be dominated by "spin" efforts of the Town staff or it will not work.
I bring 20 years of experience in working on civic issues to employ on your behalf. I've scrutinized and objected to detrimental development proposals and I've advocated for impact fees. I've made the tough cuts at the school district to get the money to the classrooms and to the teachers. I helped form the Town's first Parks Board, worked on the first Parks Plan, the Honey Bee Canyon Management Plan and the Town's first General Plan. My husband was the Vice-chair of the second one. If my opponent had not interfered with the language of the plan by removing all of the "shalls" and other protective measures, we could have avoided a costly failure. Citizens clearly said they wanted a document that was strong and would stand up over time. His interference cost us dearly in time and money.
We have been balancing our budget by tapping our reserves; this is fiscally irresponsible. We shouldn't give away millions of dollars in sales tax revenues that could go to meet our needs. My opponent has voted to spend thousands of dollars fighting our citizens for the right to conduct a referendum vote on the Vestar tax give away. Has he forgotten his own referendum attempts to prevent apartments in his own backyard?
We've had a lot of bad decisions in the past, such as building on the slopes of mountain sides, riparian area encroachment, and destruction of wildlife corridors. We've asked residents to subsidize development. We don't have to make the same mistakes we did in the past; we can preserve our quality of life and offer a better business climate. A vote for me is a vote for openness, fiscal accountability, and a brighter future. I will work hard to foster trust and communication, which are the cornerstones of accountable government. I hope I can count on your vote in the upcoming election.
MAYOR PAUL LOOMIS RESPONDS
Normally, I do not reply to opinions. But it is campaign season and the EXPLORER has offered additional free space for my message:
I believe in action not rhetoric.
Our Town Councils' have continuously strived to find new ways to get information to our residents. Council briefings are now available on the web. We audio broadcast our meetings live on the web and are trying additional outreach efforts with newsletters, attendance at the farmer's market and other events. All suggestions are welcome.
The most difficult part of working as a member of the Council, especially when in the minority, is working to make legislation which is destined to pass but that you don't support, better or less offensive. I've been able to do that and we have mitigated the impact of many of the changes that have been approved by split votes through study sessions and additional conditions of approval. The approach used by my opponent simply creates greater division of the Council. The duty of all elected officials is to provide their perspective and experience to Council decisions, not simply oppose without constructive improvements. The Town and its Citizens deserve better.
The future road concept mentioned by my opponent is simply a reporter's mis-interpretation of a concept provided to ADOT regarding future concerns, and was never discussed with the RTA. In our future, we will need additional ways to move people north and south through Oro Valley, and we will accomplish this by planning ahead, recognizing the needs, identifying and evaluating alternatives, and developing sensible solutions with appropriate community involvement.
My opponent talks about relationships with Amphitheater School District. When I was first elected, I instituted joint sessions with the School Board. When my opponent became President of the Board, she stopped those meetings. Four years ago, the Town Council appointed a Councilmember to serve as the liaison to the Board; she has not brought anything back to the Council. My opponent asked the Town to get involved in a lawsuit regarding municipalities imposing school impact fees on new residential developments. After discussions with the Town attorney, the Arizona League of Cities, the Mayor of the town in the lawsuit, the recommendation was not to spend Town resources on that suit. My opponent criticizes me for the decision but she is well aware that issues are decided by a vote of the majority not by the whim of a single member.
Tucson's Mayor Walkup stated in his State of the City, "Regional relationships have never been better". I agree with him and strongly believe that our relationships with our neighbors are much better now than when I was elected. This is frequently expressed by other community and state officials.
My record on fiscal responsibility and conservation is above reproach and covered in depth in other articles and on my website.
We have done a great job making Oro Valley a "Community of Excellence". Together with your vote for Paul Loomis, we can CONTINUE to make it happen!