Submitted just days before tomorrow’s primary election, another campaign finance report from candidates, political action committees and other politically involved members of the Oro Valley community has shed light on the inner workings of each campaign.The council seats on the ballot this year belong to the three incumbent candidates: councilmembers Brendan Burns, Bill Garner and Mike Zinkin. Hoping to claim a spot on the town’s ruling body are residents Rhonda Pina, Bill Rodman and Steve Solomon. All reports with the exception of Rodman’s covered June 1 until Aug. 18, Rodman ended his reporting on Aug. 26.Much as she was at the end of June, Pina sits as the highest drawing candidate in terms of finances. As of Aug. 26 she had raised a total of $27,240. Following behind her was Rodman at $26,375.00 and then Solomon at $23,441.43.The greatest contribution came from Humberto and Carina Lopez, the former the cofounder of HSL Properties, who gave $5,000 each to all three campaigns. Omar Mirales, Lopez’s nephew and current president of HSL, contributed $3,000 to Pina and Rodman and just over $2,900 to Solomon. Other notable contributions came from Jim and Vicki Click, Jr. ($2,500 each) and Peter Fasseas ($1,000).Additionally, Pina, Solomon and Rodman each received $1,000 from the Realtors of Arizona PAC and $250 from the Southern Arizona Home Builders Association. Though not has large individually, seven employees of investment firm Diamond Ventures, Inc. each donated to the challengers totaling nearly $2,000.
Though he may have not been on the dais during the second candidate forum, or even in the room, one member of the Oro Valley community had both his name and political action committee brought forth multiple times.Initially formed last year in opposition to the referendum effort involving the acquisition of the community and recreation center, Don Cox and his Triple E PAC have become entangled within the town’s current political struggle.Cox and his PAC were first brought up during councilmember Brendan Burns’ opening statement at the Aug. 10 candidate forum hosted by the Greater Oro Valley Chamber of Commerce at the Hilton Tucson El Conquistador Golf & Tennis Resort. During his speech, Burns challenged candidates Rhonda Pina, Bill Rodman and Steve Solomon to disavow Cox and the Triple E for “his hateful actions” for the rest of the campaign cycle.What Burns referenced is a four page, full color mailer sent by the PAC to town residents containing information on all six candidates in the election: incumbents Burns, Mike Zinkin and Bill Garner and challengers Pina, Solomon and Rodman.Clearly supportive of the challenging candidates, the mailer contains negative information on Zinkin, Garner and Burns, including negative statements allegedly made by Zinkin’s son, excerpts from a 2014 Explorer article regarding Burns’ legal troubles and a 2014 article from The Arizona Daily Star regarding comments Garner made about the Oro Valley Police Department.Cox, who said the flyer was made by just copying and pasting information from the internet and requested documents, said he was just looking to educate the voting public in Oro Valley. Instead of the “two or 3,000” people in the town that Cox said pay close attention to local politics, he said the mailer was aimed at those “less informed about what’s going on.”
More than 200 Oro Valley residents and other interested parties were in attendance last Tuesday when the Sun City Government Affairs Committee hosted the first candidate forum of the Oro Valley town council primary race. Attended by five of the six candidates vying for three spots at stake on the town’s ruling body, the forum was the first opportunity for many in the community to meet face-to-face with their potential council representatives. Up for grabs are the seats of councilmembers Mike Zinkin, Brendan Burns and Bill Garner—all running as incumbents. Zinkin and Burns are finishing up their first terms, having both been elected in 2012. Garner, the longest active member of the town council, will be looking to retain his seat for a third consecutive term. Garner was unable to attend the forum as a professional obligation had sent him to Texas.Running in opposition are residents Rhonda Pina, Bill Rodman and Steve Solomon. Both Rodman and Solomon are familiar names from within towns various commissions and council. Rodman was on the planning and zoning commission and Solomon was an appointed councilmember appointed in 2010 to finish two years of a vacated term.The night’s event, moderated by Sun City Oro Valley Democratic Club President Maureen Salz, was broken down into three sections: introduction, answers and closing statements. Each candidate was given two minutes to make opening remarks, one minute to answer each of the 12 questions and one minute to make a closing statement to the crowd.With an election in full-swing, each of the candidates immediately took to laying out their various life stories—education history, experiences working in the public sector and a host of other self-promoting achievements. While most of the candidates kept their introductions about themselves both Burns and Zinkin also used the introduction to take aim and voice their concern. “We already have a mayor and certain council members who believe that the general plan is too citizen-oriented and that the plan is just a guide that you don’t need to abide by,” Zinkin said. “They don’t need to feel to support the ideals that you set forth. I am a strong supporter of following your general plan as a guide to the town’s future.
Though the Oro Valley primary election is in full swing little action seems to occur outside of news headlines, blog posts, signs and mailers – quite a domestic showing for a town supposedly embroiled in a race many have called an extension of last year’s raucous recall election.On the line this year are the town council seats of councilmembers Mike Zinkin, Brendan Burns and Bill Garner. Zinkin and Burns are finishing up their first terms, having both been elected in 2012, while Garner will be looking to retain his seat for a third consecutive term. The town’s longest active member of council, Garner first earned his place on the dais in 2008.Running in opposition are residents Rhonda Pina, Bill Rodman and Steve Solomon. Both Rodman and Solomon have previously been involved with town operations; Rodman on the planning and zoning commission and Solomon as a councilmember – having been appointed in 2010 to finish two years of a vacated term.Though campaign literature and internet posts have alluded to heaps of differing opinions among the six candidates, the Sun City candidate forum held on Tuesday, Aug. 2 was the first opportunity for members of the community to not only see each candidate in person, but to hear their takes on a wide variety of subjects concerning the town and its residents. Garner was the sole candidate not in attendance, as his job had sent him away to Texas on short notice.Despite a relatively calm demeanor at the event, tensions soon came to the surface as the candidates made their opening remarks. Both Zinkin and Burns took aim at the four members of council not running for election this year, as well as the three challenging candidates.“We already have a mayor and certain council members who believe that the general plan is too citizen-oriented and that the plan is just a guide that you don’t need to abide by it,” Zinkin said. “They don’t need to feel to support the ideals that you set forth. I am a strong supporter of following your general plan as a guide to the town’s future.
The site of the Amphitheater School District’s new STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) elementary school is beginning to develop within Oro Valley. While much of the natural desert has been removed from the area located along Desert Fairways Drive just northeast of the North LaCanada Drive and West Moore Road, much of the native cacti which lend beauty to the often rugged terrain has been saved and will be made available for purchase to the public.Thanks to the efforts of a cactus rescue crew from the Tucson Cactus and Succulent Society, approximately 1,600 plants at the STEM elementary school site were saved. The Tucson Cactus and Succulent Society, Inc. is a 501(C)(3)tax-exempt organization dedicated to “education, information, conservation and discoveries about cacti and succulent plant” and is an affiliate of the Cactus and Succulent Society of America, according to its website.While preserving the natural desert flora was a huge win for the district, executive director of operational support James Burns said the nature-friendly focus also ties into the school curriculum. With science playing the introductory role within the STEM acronym, Burns said that paying mind to environmental science was important in building the school’s concept. “Not only are we saving the cactus, because there is no reason to just bulldoze them, but our entire building’s concept and the entire STEM concept is focused around preservation, too,” Burns said. “We’ve got the water harvesting systems being built throughout the school so that we can have students see what an Arizona wash looks like, not just based solely on when it happened to rain, but utilizing water through those environmental practices so that we can simulate a wash runoff or other engineering and mathematics concepts; how much water does a cylinder hold, how much pressure can it sustain?”For information on where to buy cactus and other plants rescued by the Tucson Cactus and Succulent Society, visit www.tucsoncactus.org.
The primary campaign in Oro Valley is in full swing, with each of the six candidates either vying return to one of the three seats up for grabs or unseat one of the incumbents on the seven-member town council. Up for reelection are sitting councilmembers Brendan Burns, Bill Garner and Mike Zinkin. Candidates Rhonda Pina, Bill Rodman and Steve Solomon are working for a place on the dais.In a race where candidates aren’t spending a lot of money on TV ads, one way that candidates can persuade voters to support may lie in landing endorsements from different organizations or high-profile individuals in Oro Valley.Playing a visually bright role in this year’s campaign signage are the yellow banners attached to the signs of Pina, Rodman and Solomon indicating that the candidates are “endorsed by police and fire.”The challengers have won endorsements from several first-responder organizations, including the North Tucson Firefighters Association Local 3832, the Arizona State Lodge of the Fraternal Order of Police and the Oro Valley Police Officers Association.The yellow banners do not literally mean the endorsement of the respective police or fire departments which serve the Oro Valley community (and surrounding areas), but instead signifies endorsement
The presence of political signs is a surefire indication that the political season is in full-swing. Dotting the sides of right-of-ways and private property are signs from political candidates, political action committees and private citizens expressing support or distaste for the candidates running for office.But with the signs come a variety of minor controversies swirling around disclosure, theft and improper placement of signs. Last year Oro Valley was rocked by allegations of sign vandalism during the contentious recall election. This year, question have emerged about the identity of the citizen who last week erected “pointer signs” next to the signs of the candidates who trying to unseat the incumbents.Aimed at the signs either owned by the independent political committee “Triple E” PAC or by the challenging candidates Rhonda Pina, Bill Rodman or Steve Solomon, the various signs display the messages “Paid for by $pecial interests,” “BAD for OV” and more.Oro Valley resident Rick Hines said that he was one of several individuals who were making use of signs saved from previous elections.“They’re just old signs that happen to apply and we’re reusing so we don’t have to put our name on them, but they can see us putting them up and if anyone wants to ask…I’ll tell them, ‘Yup, I’m one of them, I help them put signs up,” Hines said. “I think any citizen has the right to exercise their free speech, and that’s all that is. There’s probably six of us eventually that will go out and oppose these new candidates for council, so that’s all they’re doing.” Political signs generally must contain information regarding who paid for the campaign effort under state disclosure laws.
An 18-year-old Tucson man who was charged with terrorism for allegedly plotting to attack buildings in Tucson and Phoenix apparently had plans to attack the Tucson Jewish Community Center, according to information which came to light last week during a bail-hearing held for the suspect.Mahin Khan was arrested July 1 after a joint investigation including the Federal Bureau of Investigation Joint Terrorism Task Force. Khan has pleaded not guilty to terrorism charges, including inciting or inducing terrorism, financing or managing terrorism and manufacturing, possessing or selling a prohibited weapon. Since being booked into jail in Maricopa County, Khan has been assaulted in jail by other inmates. Khan’s lawyers say he suffered minor injuries and was evaluated at a hospital, and is in segregated housing at the Lower Buckeye Jail. Special Agent Benjamin Trentlage with the joint terrorism task force testified during last week’s hearings that that the JCC was a target in which Khan was interested. As previously reported, Khan also had plans to attack a Motor Vehicle Department office in Maricopa County, as well as an Air Force recruitment center in Tucson. Trentlage said Khan revealed his desire to attack the JCC during a 2015 discussion with an undercover FBI employee involved in the case. “He requested information about building explosives and said that he wanted to join ISIS and he would do whatever was needed,” Trentlage said.
Buckle in and slap on that helmet. Tucson now has its very own indoor, high-speed go-kart racetrack.The go-karts started roaring around downtown’s Autobahn Indoor Speedway at 300 S. Toole Ave. earlier this month after much anticipation from gear-heads and motoring enthusiasts throughout the region. The cavernous 63,000-square-foot space features two tracks, each one-eighth of a mile.Tucson’s Autobahn is the national company’s first steps in the Western United States. General manager Joel Lipp said the next-closest location is in Birmingham, Ala., making Tucson the ideal place to begin expanding.“We were looking for a location out west with a good college demographic,” Lipp said. “Our target demographic is the 18 to 40 working professionals. We have the UA, we have Raytheon, we have Davis-Monthan, so we have a lot of those pieces in Tucson that are a good fit in for us. … This was a good place for us to get a hold on the western market, and then branch out from there.”Opening earlier in July, Lipp said the response within the community has been extremely supportive and positive, with more than 600 racers showing up on Saturdays. Autobahn Indoor Speedway has 44 full-sized adult cars which are easy to operate and can achieve speeds up to 50 miles-per-hour with a limited-slip differential and four YELLOWTOP® Optima batteries under the hood. Add in the chain-driven drive train, and the track sounds more like an Indianapolis 500 race than go-karting.
The three challengers who hope to unseat the incumbents in this year’s Oro Valley Town Council races have each begun to work with political consulting firm Saguaro Strategies.Rhonda Pina, Bill Rodman and Steve Solomon, who are facing council members Brendan Burns, Mike Zinkin and Bill Garner, have turned to the Phoenix-based firm.Saguaro Strategies is a Democratic-leaning political consulting firm looking to create a “future of progressive politics in the West.” Last year, it worked on behalf of the campaigns of Mayor Satish Hiremath, Vice Mayor Lou Waters and Councilmembers Mary Snider and Joe Hornat when they prevailed in a recall election. Adam Kinsey, who founded the company with his partner Andy Barr, said that the firm can handle every aspect of a political campaign, from designing direct mail to organizing entire campaigns. Though the firm is based in Phoenix, Kinsey said that Saguaro Strategies is concerned with bettering the political environment of the entire state, including Pima County. Kinsey himself is a former executive director of the Pima County Democratic Party and has worked for Strategic Issues Management Group, which does political consulting in Southern Arizona and elsewhere.Saguaro Strategies is also working on Dan Post’s campaign for Marana mayor this year.Having been involved in the Oro Valley political scene before, Kinsey said he believes the town has a bright future, though he said that from his perspective the town council doesn’t always seem to be “the most productive” of bodies.
On Dec. 17, 2014, the Oro Valley town council voted 4-3 in favor of purchasing the former El Conquistador Country Club and associated amenities to create the Oro Valley Community and Recreation Center. Mayor Satish Hiremath, Vice Mayor Lou Water and Councilmembers Mary Snider and Joe Hornat voted in favor, while current incumbent Councilmembers Brendan Burns, Bill Garner and Mike Zinkin—who are all up for reelection—voted in opposition. For $1 million paid over three years, the town acquired the former El Conquistador Country Club and amenities and began operation May 1, 2015. To fund the operation, the council also approved—by the same voting spread—to institute a half-cent sales tax increase without sunset to dedicate to the community and recreation center fund, with projected yearly revenue of $2 million.The purchase of the course and country club led to political turmoil in Oro Valley, with opponents first trying to force referendum on the decision that was tossed out on technical grounds. That was followed by unsuccessful 2015 recall of the four members of council who voted in favor of the deal.Since the town took over the property, the golf courses operations—managed by Troon Golf—have regularly underperformed in terms of revenues generated, and Zinkin, Garner and Burns have remained vocal critics at every opportunity. Each has presented several of what they deem “alternative” proposals for the property—selling courses, rezoning for a possible future sale, installing solar panels, changing management companies—all without gaining traction. While the town can sell and alter some of the courses, part of the purchase contract requires that as part of the consideration for the sale, the town must maintain “the Resort Course and the La Canada Course in its current configuration… plus the pro shop, cart barn, driving range and other golf facilities utilized by the La Canada Course” and used for golf recreation or resort open space purposes.The associated golf courses include The Canada Course, the Conquistador course and the newer, rebranded nine-hole Pusch X-9.
While there is a trend for golf courses and other amenities to bear the name of the municipality in which it is built, the story of the Oro Valley Country Club and the town of Oro Valley is quite the opposite. A part of the community since first opening in 1959, the country club included a planned 200-home sites which would be one of the foundations on which the town was built.Nearly 60 year later, the Oro Valley Country Club, a vision of Lou Landon and the architectural hand of Robert Bruce Harris, is still providing high-end country club experience and golf play beneath the same breathtaking peaks of the Santa Catalina Mountains which originally drew its founders. Originally an oasis within the great expanse of the Sonoran Desert, the country club new finds itself within the center of a bustling and every expanding Oro Valley.While the names and faces may have changed over the years, the business which Landon envisioned still remains. How did the country club make it through nearly six decades? According to membership director Jack Talmage, the longevity can be traced back to loyal members.“People wanted to be a member of a private club, and they have been willing to put money into the club to keep is sustained,” Talmage said. “I don’t look at it as being in the food and beverage or the golf business—we’re in the membership business. You want to join a club because there are people just like you that want to get to know others, make friends, interact with them and have it centered and focused on something that they love, and that’s golf.”From February 1961 until December 2014, the country club was under the ownership of its members before being sold to Dallas-based ClubCorp for nearly $3 million. According to Talmage, the decision to sell the country club came about after the financial crisis.
The six candidates for Oro Valley Town Council are bucking the trend of big money in political campaigns.As they gear up for the Aug. 30 primary, the most any of the candidates have raised is $3,060, according to reports filed at the end of June.The council seats up for grabs this year belong to the three incumbent candidates, councilmembers Brendan Burns, Bill Garner and Mike Zinkin. Hoping to claim a spot on the town’s ruling body are residents Rhonda Pina, Bill Rodman and Steve Solomon. Generally speaking, the challengers were more active than their incumbent counterparts, as incumbents Burns, Garner and Zinkin have all openly stated their opposition to being beholden to what they call “special interests.” Both Burns and Garner filed statements saying they had done no fundraising activity.Pina has raised the most money, pulling in $3,060 in contributions. Major contributors to her campaign include CAID Industries President William Assenmacher ($1,000), Pina’s husband Raul ($600), former Pima County supervisor Dan Eckstrom ($300) and Pima County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry ($200).Behind Pina is Rodman, whose major campaign contributions come in the form of funds he loaned himself, totaling $2,050 over three installments. Rodman’s total fundraising came in at $2,100.
In the coming weeks, countless students will be making a return to the halls of their elementary, middle or high school for the first time since leaving behind the books and the study sessions back in May. While the hustle and bustle of the back to school season is felt by everyone from students and families to teachers and staff, Elizabeth Thies and Eileen Finnerty-Rae at BASIS Oro Valley will be looking to make a good first impression on their students as the new heads of school for the 6-12 and K-5 schools, respectively. Taking over for former head of school Michelle Mason, who moved on within the BASIS family to develop programs at a more regional level, Thies and Finnerty-Rae both expressed an overwhelming sense of excitement at the opportunity to play leading roles in one of the most highly successful programs not only within the state, but the entire country. Most recently, BASIS Oro Valley was named “America’s Most Challenging High School” by The Washington Post, out of nearly 2,300 other institutions. BASIS Oro Valley also placed third in the state and sixth in the country according to the most recent U.S. News & World Report “Best High School” rankings.Though the two women have spent the summer getting settled and planning out their futures in Oro Valley, both are veterans of the BASIS program and proud parents of BASIS students of their own.Prior to taking over at the upper school, Thies was the dean of students, athletic director and a physical education teacher at BASIS Tucson North. She holds a BS in sociology and is currently beginning work on her masters in educational psychology from Northern Arizona University, Before her time as an educator, Thies was a member of the Tucson Police Department as a patrol officer on the city’s south side of town. She also served the country as a signal corps specialist in the United States Army. Despite serving in the world of criminal justice, Thies said she became interested in education after volunteering the classroom of her oldest daughter.
After first meeting in executive session, the Oro Valley town council unanimously decided during the June 6 regular session to hire California-based executive recruitment firm, CPS-HR Consulting, to find candidates for the new town manager after the departure of former town manager Greg Caton earlier this year. Caton filed his 90-day resignation on April 7 and worked until June 2. He is temporarily replaced by the now-interim town manager Daniel Sharp, who has been Oro Valley Police Department’s longtime police chief. Filling in for Sharp is interim police chief Larry Stevens.The process of finding a recruitment firm for the job initially began in May when council made a request for proposals for eight firms under contract with the City of Tucson and the City of Peoria with a proposal submission deadline of June 1. Of the eight, six firms responded with proposals: Mercer Group, Slavin Management Consultants, Ralph Andersen & Associates, Bob Murray & Associates, CPS Human Resources Consulting and the Novak Consulting Group.By unanimous decision, council decided to go with CPS, with a backup option with Ralph Andersen & Associates if a compromise is not found with the town’s first choice.Due to the timing of the adoption of the town budget by council, funding for the executive recruitment process was not included in the budget year that started July 1. To pay for the cost of a recruitment firm, the authorized the use of general fund contingency reserves with a cap of $30,000.Councilmember Mike Zinkin expressed dissatisfaction with paying for the cost out of general fund contingencies, saying that there is space within the town’s adopted budget to pay the cost.