Leader of La Canada panel resigns post - Tucson Local Media: Pima Pinal

Leader of La Canada panel resigns post

Group, neighborhood were ignored, Hilwig claims

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Posted: Tuesday, July 21, 2009 11:00 pm

Ron Hilwig, chairman of the citizens advisory committee for the La Cañada improvement project from Calle Concordia to Ina, has angrily resigned his position.

In a letter to the Pima County Department of Transportation dated July 17, the veterinarian and longtime La Cañada Magee Neighborhood Association leader argues the citizens committee has been "a 'straw man' since its inception," with "not one of its recommendations or concerns, or those of many independent citizens," having "any influence upon the attitude or stance of county administrators relative to the project."

Hilwig resigns just as the La Cañada project has been advertised for bids to be opened in late August. Expansion of a 3.07-mile segment from two to four lanes just south of the Oro Valley town limits through rural, residential Pima County is estimated to cost between $22.6 million and $24.5 million.

Neighbors have exclaimed the need to mitigate visual, noise and property value impacts along the project. They have been dissatisfied with the county's commitment to noise walls, in particular, and have questioned engineering analyses.

Priscilla Cornelio, director of the county department of transportation, said in e-mail Monday she had not seen a resignation letter from Hilwig. She had read a July 2 letter Hilwig wrote to Cornelio, Pima County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry, the Pima County Board of Supervisors and Regional Transportation Authority Chairman Mayor Ed Honea of Marana regarding the road project development process.

"Although his letter comments that the community was ignored in their requests for noise walls, they were not ignored; we could not satisfy their requests," Cornelio writes.

Hilwig said the committee was not involved in creating a road location report, a design concept report or the environmental assessment and mitigation report, "as it should have been according to the ordinance which established it."

Instead, the committee has been "used merely as a paperwork vehicle to satisfy the tenets of the ordinance to (quote) '…provide input and feedback to the Department of Transportation' …" Hilwig writes.

"Intense community efforts requesting county officials to reconsider the negative impacts of the road improvements upon the quality of life, safety and property values in the community, among other issues, were ignored or rebutted using faulty and shoddy test results, double talk, arbitrary cost estimates, purported fiscal shortfalls and improper use of contrived policy," Hilwig argues. "This behavior is unprofessional, without conscience, unethical and unacceptable of elected and appointed public officials.

"I can no longer associate with people or agencies that do not honor their obligations to the citizenry," Hilwig said.

Hilwig wrote a five-page letter dated July 2, assailing "the failure" of  citizen advisory committees and other public processes "to have any influence or persuasion upon county officials' positions relative to design and / or construction for improvements of roads in their neighborhoods."

"The adopted system for seeking public input does not work," Hilwig writes.

He claims the La Cañada public was ignored at several steps along the way, including petitions in April 2002 and October 2008, and that suggestions were "summarily dismissed."

"I am sorely disappointed and profoundly disgusted with the manner in which the citizens have been treated and ignored relative to this important issue in their lives," Hilwig concludes. "The callous, portentous attitude and unwillingness of county administrators to acknowledge and address the concerns and will of a majority of affected citizens does not speak well of public officials who are charged with attending to the best interests and concerns of their constituents.

"You should not be surprised by the possibility of a justifiable backlash from the citizens whose concerns and welfare you have so callously discounted," Hilwig concludes.

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