Oro Valley residents had another chance to hear from the six Oro Valley candidates running for the Town Council during the final candidate forum on Feb. 29.
The Northern Pima County Chamber of Commerce hosted the forum, which was moderated by chamber President/CEO Dave Perry.
Similar to the format seen at the Sun City Social Hall forum on Feb. 18, candidates were given a series of questions to answer regarding some of Oro Valley’s hot topics. Afterward, citizens were able to ask questions of their own in a one-on-one format.
Certain topics, like police funding, showed the dissention amongst the candidates.
Incumbent Councilman Bill Garner said the Oro Valley Police Department budget, which makes up about 48 percent of the town’s general fund, is considerably higher than most in Arizona and should be subject to a management study to better measure town spending.
“The average police budget to their general fund is 24 to 30 percent,” he said. “Obviously we are way above the average in Arizona.”
Councilman Steve Solomon, running for his first four-year term after being appointed 18 months ago, said he is confident there is no need to adjust the police budget.
“I’m glad we’re not average when it comes to police,” he said. “I’m glad we’re not an average town. We are the safest town in Arizona, and I am proud of that.”
Despite the frequent disagreements between Garner and Solomon, Oro Valley resident Ron Todd said they each have his support in the upcoming election.
“I’d like to see the both of them in the middle of the road, but I like the variety of viewpoints,” he said. “You don’t want to have everybody saying exactly the same thing, because you’ll never get any intelligent discussion at all. Just because I disagree with them on certain issues doesn’t mean they’re not good councilmembers.”
With a variation of questions, the candidates found comparatively more agreement than was evident in the Sun City forum, speaking harmoniously in favor of subjects like multi-family residences.
“Sure we need more multi-family dwellings in Oro Valley on the land that’s already been zoned for it,” said candidate Mike Zinkin. “We have the land in Oro Valley for apartments. The general plan is a document that you voted on. You designated that land as high-density residential. Build the apartments there.”
Candidate Mark Napier said multi-family residences are increasingly important for young professionals who are not stationary in their professions.
“I have four adult children,” he said. “I remember as a kid growing up, my father told me ‘How you know you’re successful is the day you can buy a house.’ My children don’t see it that way. They see the home as a liability, as an anchor. It’s something to encumber their mobility. They need these multi-family housing opportunities.”
Brendan Burns, the youngest of the candidates, said more and more young people are moving to Oro Valley, making not only multi-family complexes a necessity, but young representation on Council an important factor.
Burns received some favoritism by one Oro Valley resident, who referred to him as “The Negotiator.”
“I’d like to see a little more opposition on Council than we have seen in past years,” he said. “I like the young point of view.”
Oro Valley resident John Musolf said he would make his candidate selection based on voting record and past actions, and not mere promises for the future.
“Show me your voting record, show me what you believe, show me what you did,” he said.
Musolf said the current council is too lopsided in its voting for his liking.
“We call them the gang of five,” he said. “They all vote in lockstep. Every subject brought up by one of those five ends up six to one or five to two. I would think there would be some diversity.”
The five council members Musolf is referring to are Mayor Satish Hiremath, Vice Mayor Lou Waters, and council members Joe Hornat, Mary Snider and Solomon.
Garner and outgoing Councilman Barry Gillaspie generally act as the vote of dissention.
Voters still have some time to decide for themselves, with Primary Elections taking place on March 13.
Ballots were mailed to registered voters in Februray.