In August 2018, voters by a 56-44 margin refused the then-mayor a third term. Instead, they elected Joe Winfield and a new town council. Mr. Winfield’s campaign, in large part challenged Mayor Hiremath’s overall vision for the town, but in no small measure it reflected citizens’ questioning Hiremath’s purchase, and commitment, to 45 money-losing golf holes.
Now, dissatisfied with the new administration’s attempt to wrestle the golf/less golf/no golf issue to ground, the disgruntled are shouting, “Recall!” To what end? If the old administration had appropriate solutions and a trajectory toward break even, they would not have been binned. If an unidentified recall savior doesn’t come with full-blown, voter vetted proposals, who needs her or him?
Voters should bite down, and see this through to a conclusion, before acting out. Otherwise, we risk becoming Oro Valley: 45,000 people waiting for Godot.
—Nicholas H. Kondon, Oro Valley
Right now, the Town of Oro Valley pays its own water service for water it uses to irrigate its golf courses, so I assume also for other irrigation and potable water it uses. I do not understand why, if that water use drops due to the town closing any or all of its money-losing golf courses, the water utility needs to increase its rates to other customers to compensate for the increased water reserves that would result?
There are multiple large tract-home communities being built that are going to increase water revenues. What possible overhead can the water utility have that requires it to maintain an artificially high level of revenue at its water-conserving customers’ expense? When was the last time someone independently audited Oro Valley Water Utility?
PROTECT OUR LEGACY
As a long-time resident of Oro Valley, and as a former employee of Amphitheater Public Schools for over 30 years, I am outraged at how the current town council is approaching the heated debate regarding the golf course.
The golf course has been here as long as I have been a resident of the town—or longer. In fact, it is why most people chose to live in this area. The golf course is part of the identity of the town of Oro Valley. The overwhelming opinion of the town is leave the golf course alone and let it continue to be here for the enjoyment of the town and the enhancement of our community. The town has an excess of money, the golf course is doing better financially than it ever has.
We should be looking for ways to increase youth involvement in the sport and focus energy on improving the town. What will happen if the golf course is closed? Our economy is going to crash. Our small businesses that depend on tourists that come here to use the course will experience substantial loss. We, as residents, will pick up the cost of the lost revenue for water.
According to Golder Ranch fire, we will also lose revenue for our fire departments. And the change of the course will increase fire danger.
It doesn’t take a rocket scientist or a landscape architect to realize the golf courses should remain open and the community center and restaurant needs to be improved and developed so more people will use them. I have attended several meetings and the majority of the people have spoken in favor of the golf courses. Surely, if the mayor and council decide to close down our legacy, it will be time for law suits and a recall.
The Oro Valley Gang of Four has once again demonstrated their disdain for any dissenting opinions and continues their condescension of residents and community as a whole who have turned out in record numbers to voice their support of maintaining 36 holes of public golf in Oro Valley.
Obviously the issue is more complex than just converting golf fairways to open spaces, and entails unintended consequences this mayor and council have failed to appreciate from decreasing property values to increases in water rates to impact on fire department funding, to the degradation of the Oro Valley brand and image.
After shutting down Councilmember Solomon’s motion to maintain 36 holes, as is the most financially viable of the alternatives presented by town staff, the mayor has asked for yet another study from (you guessed it) a landscape architect to come up with yet another set of numbers regarding the expense and environmental impact of repurposing the golf course. He has ballpark numbers from the $50,000 study done by NGF two years ago, and of course is now out of date. What he didn’t say is what exactly he wants to repurpose and how; I doubt if he knows. But I also doubt whatever that study shows, the numbers won’t be adequate enough for a decision.
As Councilmember Piña advised, we have audited financial statements from the last five years of operation upon which to plan. Don’t like those numbers? Have the Finance and Budget Commission come up with some new ones—that don’t match anything from audited financial statements or town staff analyses. Don’t like what the community is telling you? Delay and maybe they’ll go away.
In the meantime, uncertainty continues to prevail and will negatively affect not only the operation of the courses, but real estate (private and commercial) values in the town. Several speakers reported decreases in the value of their homes just in the last 30 days.
Not to make a decision is to make a decision. Unfortunately we’re now continuing the charade of transparency while the mayor and his three supporters give lip service to public input, refuse to work with affected neighborhoods, plan the rezoning of the courses and grasp at straws to support a decision they’ve already made and attempt to convince us all we really need is another desert park.
—Janis Johnson, MD,
TIME TO RESIGN
It should be crystal clear that four members of council showed their true colors in the meeting of July 31. They had the chance to put to rest the long simmering golf course issue by voting “yes” or “no” to Councilmember Solomon’s well-crafted motion to keep the two 18-hole courses open. They didn’t even have the backbone to be honest with themselves to cast a “no” vote (which has been their admitted predisposition from the time of their unfortunate election). They took the coward’s way out by moving to table the motion—leaving the three rational members of council and overflow spectators shaking their heads in utter disgust.
This mayor and vice mayor along with their two “lackey” council members clearly don’t care about what the overwhelming majority of people have asked for; apparently have failed to read or understand their constituents’ letters and emails; aren’t even listening to the needs and pleadings of hundreds in attendance in just the last two public meetings alone; have no plan other than to close two golf courses regardless of the projected drop in property values, property taxes, commercial revenue, sales taxes and disintegration of one of the finer features of attraction for Oro Valley. They have ignored audited numbers, conjured up reasons for more delay with the new excuse that more studies are needed (which they never bothered to undertake in the first place), and all the while their lack of good governance has already caused property values to start dropping.
Their actions show a callous disregard of the best interests of Oro Valley and its residents. These four are incapable of governing and should resign from office.
I attended the last two town council meetings and have to agree with the woman that eloquently expressed July 31 that the council should fix the microphone because the council “wasn’t hearing the public.” The testimony/comments at both council meetings were indisputably pro-golf courses. There was imperceptible support for the Four Horsemen’s position. Where were Joe Winfield’s yellow shirts?
I attended a number of the Four Horsemen’s campaign events, and their stance on the golf course was unmistakable, it had to be shut down. For them to say last night that they had no preconceived ideas was a flagrant display of deception and incompetence. Their overconfidence and lack of political awareness coined the phrase, “we were elected to close the golf courses.” They have forfeited their honesty and credibility with deception, delay and defer tactics until any golf option becomes unfeasible. Why?
Numbers! This is one of the oldest cons in politics. Add to the confusion with an endless stream of incompatible financial statements. Add to the confusion. The town has years of audited financial statements and to cast doubt on their legitimacy can only conclude that the Four Horsemen are politically motivated, incompetent and void of any ability to make a logical decision.
Property Values. We heard many people last night tell the council that their property values have depreciated, in some case, $50,000 in the last several months. My property value depreciated $10,000 in the past 30 days. By comparison, Joe Winfield’s property value depreciated .002 percent in the last 30 days. Property values are not important to the Four Horsemen.
I believe the Four Horsemen have poked a nasty hole into a hornet’s nest. My advice, don’t get comfortable in your new chairs.
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