Oro Valley Mayor Satish Hiremath called a recent effort to recall fellow council members Joe Hornat and Mary Snider nothing more than an “unneeded distraction.”
The Politician Accountability Coalition for Oro Valley Recall filed the necessary paperwork on May 25 to begin gathering signatures on a petition to recall Vice Mayor Snider and Councilman Hornat.
“The recall effort in general is just more of the same thing Oro Valley has had to deal with,” Hiremath said. “People have a right to voice their opinions, but they don’t have a right to be a distraction to town progress.”
The coalition now has 120 days to gather 2,615 signatures for each council member facing a recall.
Hornat and Snider are in their first year of service, with their terms slated to expire in June 2014.
Hornat said he doesn’t understand why he has been targeted.
“I was very surprised,” he said. “I really don’t understand what they have a problem with. I have no idea why they chose us when they could have chose anyone of us. And, choosing Mary doesn’t make sense. She has been here a long time with strength in the community.”
Former council member Conny Culver is chairman of the PAC.
When asked why the group is targeting Snider and Hornat, Culver said, “They have consistently voted not to examine the budget and look at ways to decrease costs, but they have always been ready to vote for increases.”
Culver and other residents have been vocal since April over the council approving a utility-tax increase, and considering a move to eliminate funding for the Coyote Run transit service.
Snider said it doesn’t make sense to just target her or Hornat, when three other council members cast the same vote.
In a 5-2 vote in May, the council approved increasing the utility tax from 2 percent to 4 percent, which amounts to an added $6 a month to residents. The council also approved a measure to stop funding for the Coyote Run transit program, which is estimated to save the city $320,000 in the next fiscal year.
Council members said the increased tax was needed to balance the $94.2 million budget. The tax increase is expected to bring $1.3 million in added revenues for fiscal year 2011-2012.
Councilman William Garner voted against the tax increase and the elimination of the Coyote Run funding. Councilman Barry Gillaspie voted against the tax increase.
Voting in favor of both controversial measures were Hiremath, Snider, Hornat and council members Steve Solomon and Lou Waters.
When asked why the coalition is not seeking to recall all five council members, Culver explained that stability is important and they had to look at the best options.
With Solomon being appointed to the council, his term expires in 2012, and recalling the mayor is not a good idea for the town’s stability, Culver said.
“I don’t agree with a lot of (Hiremath’s) decisions,” Culver said. “But it’s not in the community’s best interest at this time to pursue that recall.”
Hiremath said if the coalition thought they had a chance of getting him out of office they would have jumped at the chance, but because they can’t, he feels they turned to Snider and Hornat as a “Plan B.”
Agreeing with Hiremath, Hornat said it seems like the citizen organization is overreacting to decisions being made by the young council. Five of the seven council members have been serving for less than a year.
“A lot of this budget this vocal minority seems to disapprove of was inherited from the last council,” Hiremath said. “(The former council) had the opportunity to fix the problems and didn’t. I hope the public can see through this distraction and allow this council to make a difference.”
Culver said she is confident the coalition will gather enough signatures for the recall.
“A lot of people want to see all of these council members recalled, but it’s not good for the town,” she said. “Judging from the response we are getting, I think we will be able to accomplish this goal and gather all the signatures well ahead of schedule.”
Culver is hoping enough signatures will be collected to force Hornat and Snider into a November election; if not, the group will try to get the measure on the March 2012 ballot.
If the election is held in November, it will cost the town an additional $70,000. If held in March, Bower said it will coincide with a regular city election, can cost the town $10,000.
Snider called the group’s actions “irresponsible” because of the cost and the damage to the Oro Valley image a recall will cause.