Concrete canyons visually pollute OV
Randy Metcalf/The Explorer, A new sound wall erected along Oracle Road near the Canyon del Oro wash is an eyesore, Oro Valley artist and resident Matthew Moutafis believes.

Commitment is a word that comes with great ease to say or write in clever brochures and marketing strategies. It has been used time and again to an exasperating public that seeks meaning beyond simple rhetoric.

To place the word commitment into action and achieve a true "community of excellence" requires a constant endeavor beyond the 9-to-5 work hours.

Over the last several years, the Oro Valley I love has slipped into a downturn. The community has slowly worn into a pattern of mediocrity like a C student drifting to get by. Growth and beauty, two words that were once blended with harmony, are now in opposition. It has taken only 10 years to lose our vision, our purpose, and replace it with indifference.

It is time to redefine ourselves as a community and the direction we seek for ourselves and future generations. The political and special interest groups have far too long been allowed to lobby and transform our local government into a dysfunctional amoeba, seeking only to further its own agenda without considering community desires. Without definition, goals, or community input, all you have left is independent political power transforming democracy to autocracy.

Each day, the citizens of Oro Valley do their best to survive the economic downturn while taking care of their families, cutting costs, and working hard to keep the American dream alive. These are the silent majority, who ask only for an honest and truthful government to understand their needs and treat them with respect. Home values have declined, retirement age has risen and healthcare costs have become disgraceful.

Every morning the sun rises, lighting up Pusch Ridge, and sets in the evening, leaving the warmth of a golden hue on the Oro Valley landscape. It is this beauty that makes Oro Valley unique and a place we as its citizens have chosen to make our home.

Oracle Road was described by town planners as a scenic corridor, and plans called for a well-designed and peaceful drive for one to admire the beauty of our town. Now, heavy equipment, road blocks and an enormous wall of concrete sticks out like a gangrened thumb, distracting drivers, and making many of us wonder how such beauty can be abstracted by something so repulsive.

There are thousands of homes projected to be built in the future north of the Pima County line. The widening of Oracle Road in Oro Valley is in anticipation of projected traffic in a 20- to 30-year pattern. We have been told it is for our own benefit due to increasing traffic. However, no modification that could have been made to the wall design was ever explored.

I spent a few hours with the Arizona Department of Transportation project manager and their public relations manager. Although courteous and informative, they reminded me that no town official in attendance during four years of planning ever raised a question or concern. Town officials were not engaged and never asked the questions that might have mitigated some of the impact of these walls. In addition, they said that if the town cared so much about Oracle Road corridor aesthetics, it certainly was asleep at the wheel when it approved the Oro Valley Marketplace.

Twenty-five years ago, I designed the Oro Valley logo. I'm sure most of you have seen it. The logo depicts our natural and outstanding geographic land formation, Pusch Ridge. In addition, it also depicts a beautiful ribbon of a road that undulates at the base of the ridge, rolling along a landscaped foothill. A white ram's head, high above, is nestled next to the ridge in a bright blue sky. The ram's head signifies the loss of an animal that once roamed Pusch Ridge and the Oro Valley area. I chose white because it's a ghost of what we had, a testament to our impact on nature. Does the logo need to be altered to reflect the concrete scarring of this community?

The widening is heading north. I am urging the citizens of Sun City and Rancho Vistoso to be diligent and attend every meeting. Speak up and ask for scale models if you care about a lifestyle that doesn't include towering concrete barriers. Get everything in writing and don't count on elected officials to help you, they are AWOL. All you have to do is look at the monster wall across from the Oro Valley Marketplace.

Matthew Moutafis is a longtime Oro Valley resident who serves on the town's art review committee. He is a previous chairman of the Oro Valley development review board.

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