Oro Valley residents had the opportunity to hear from the six candidates running for Town Council, when Sun City hosted a forum on Feb. 18.
The candidates include Fred Narcaroti, Mike Zinkin, Bill Garner, Mark Napier, Steve Solomon, and Brendan Burns. Three council seats are to be filled, with current Councilman Barry Gillaspie choosing not to seek reelection. Garner is up for reelection, and Solomon is looking for his first four-year term after being appointed to Council 18 months ago.
Oro Valley residents filled out index cards with questions relating to some of the town’s major concerns, which were then read aloud by moderator Jack Evert. Each candidate was given two minutes to speak on some of Oro Valley’s hot topics.
Split opinions were heard when the candidates were asked to share their thoughts on an independent case management being conducted to examine the police department’s budget.
Zinkin, Garner, and Burns expressed their support for an independent case study.
“When you’re doing a management study on your planning and zoning department, IT department, and legal department, why would you not do a management study on the one department that chews up 44 percent of your budget?” said Zinkin.
Solomon, and Narcaroti opposed a management study without prior evidence of an existing problem.
“The simple answer is, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” said Solomon. “If we have the safest town, with a police chief that is not just nationally recognized as an expert, but internationally recognized as an expert, why do you need an outside department to come in and tell you that?”
Solomon said a management study would only tell the Town what it already knows, making the expense that comes with a case study not worthwhile.
Zinkin argued he is confident the expense could be made up in savings based on the study’s findings.
Napier said he is on the fence about the issue. He said he is not afraid of a study, but isn’t sure it is a good allocation of the Town’s money since the police department seems to be running well.
On the topic of the Oro Valley Library, candidates were asked to share their feelings on the potential of the library shifting from affiliate status to branch status under Pima County.
Each of the candidates recognized the importance of the library to Oro Valley residents, but voiced concerns over the library’s double taxation by Pima County under its current status.
“We’re paying $2.8 million on a program that costs $1.2 million to run,” said Burns. “We only get about 27% back from Pima County. If we negotiated with Pima County and got 50/50, that would pay for the library and keep it in affiliate status. Town Council needs to start being firmer with Pima County. The days of us begging for table scraps are over.”
Narcaroti said the issue comes down to citizen demand versus fiscal responsibility.
“I understand that it’s a very passionate place for a lot of people in Oro Valley,” he said. “With that being said, we all want to remain fiscally responsible. If we can increase the service to the library, and still maintain a high-quality library as we have come to expect and deserve, then we should maybe look at saving the $600,000.”
Garner added with the upcoming intergovernmental agreement between Oro Valley and Pima County, it will be most important to examine whether the current level of service can be maintained, regardless of the whether the library is affiliate or branch status.
“If we don’t turn it over, and we do an IGA, and it’s not maintained in its character, that does you no good either, because now you are stuck with that IGA for several years until it is renegotiated again,” he said.
A moment of tension arose when the candidates were asked about accepting endorsements. Solomon said while he has been honest about his endorsement by the Fraternal Order of Police of Oro Valley, other candidates, specifically Mike Zinkin, have not been forthcoming about theirs.
After Zinkin spoke against accepting endorsements, Solomon held up a printed article he said provided evidence Zinkin and some of the other candidates were accepting endorsements from political action groups, who are also allegedly collecting money for them.
“That’s what I find troubling, folks,” said Solomon. “I’m up front and honest. I represent all of you, not a special interest, and I’m not ashamed of telling you who endorses me.”
Little time was left for rebuttal, as the candidates next moved on to their closing statements.
The Northern Pima County Chamber of Commerce will hold an event at the Hilton Tucson El Conquistador on Feb. 29, where residents will be able to meet the candidates.
The official Primary Election date will be held on March 13.