The Explorer recently sat down with Oro Valley Mayor Satish Hiremath to discuss his and the town’s plans and some possible changes to expect with the coming of the new year, as well as what he sees as key factors to finding success in 2017.
Before delving into his goals for the rest of the year, Hiremath took a moment to set the scene with what he believed to be Oro Valley’s crowning achievement last year: the passage of the new general plan by the town’s residents.
“The most notable highlight of 2016 was voter ratification of Your Voice, Our Future, the town’s general plan update,” he said. “This plan is the community-developed product of a three-year effort and reflects the values and goals of Oro Valley and its stakeholders. As such, this plan will be the springboard for some of 2017’s big projects, such the new Strategic Plan, financial year 17-18 budget and department work plans; all of these documents will be in alignment and guided by the general plan.”
Some of the big developments Hiremath said would have a more noticeable impact on everyday life within the town included roadway improvements set to begin on East Tangerine Road, West Lambert Lane and North La Cholla Boulevard. While drivers will need to take caution while traveling on those roadways, Hiremath mentioned that all drivers within the town must also take heed to the distracted driving ordinance passed by town council at the end of the year restricting the use of all electronic devices to “hands-free” mode while driving.
To make driver’s more aware of the changes, Hiremath said that the Oro Valley Police Department, alongside the town’s outreach efforts, will be conducting an education-focused campaign in order to make the town’s roadways even safer.
Another upcoming concept for which Hiremath said the community should look is the Main Streets project, which is looking to create a communal space for dining and shopping and a town center. The community’s first chance to hear about and provide feedback to the concept will be at the “Walk the Block” event on Saturday, Jan. 21, starting at 4 p.m. at the intersection of West Lambert Lane and North La Canada Drive. Hiremath said that more updates will be made available through the “MainStreetsOV” Facebook page.
At the helm of the town’s seven-member council, Hiremath and the rest of the legislative body experienced a change on the dais last year when former councilmembers Mike Zinkin, Bill Garner and Brendan Burns were unable to retain their positions during the primary campaign against councilmembers Rhonda Pina, Bill Rodman and Steve Solomon. With the new makeup, Hiremath said he expects the council to affect some real change this year.
“With a new slate of councilmembers in 2017, there will be a new dynamic among the elected officials, added expertise and fresh perspective,” he said. “This is a council that is engaged and unified in moving the town forward in a positive direction.”
The council will have several key items to consider this year, Hiremath said, including the hiring of a new town manager; overseeing the installation of two new fields at Naranja Park; continuing the development of the parks and recreation program; continuing to foster relationships between the town and the Southern Arizona Arts and Cultural Alliance, the Children’s Museum, The Amphitheater Public School District and other members of the community; pursuing future annexation opportunities and continuing to attract major sporting events to the town.
Regardless of the goal, Hiremath said that his philosophy has always been to take intentional steps so that the town remains in control of its own destiny. Hiremath said that examples of that practice can be seen in the handling of the water utility, the development of Naranja Park and the acquisition of the community center.
In regards to what may be the most talked-about piece of property within Oro Valley, Hiremath said that the new council will not have to “have to expend energy fighting internal negativity” regarding the new community center and will therefore “focus on evaluating and analyzing the best uses and efficiencies for the facility.”
“The first step was to own the property,” he said. “Now that we have a better understanding of what success looks like for that facility, we can take a practical approach to ensuring that success.”
When looking at the potential for development and growth in 2017, Hiremath said that he will maintain his philosophical guide, and said that means handling the town more like a business.
“Like any successful business, we want to ensure that we are operating efficiently and maximizing our resources,” Hiremath said. “Previous councils, including ours, accomplished so many great things. Unfortunately, we also put in place too many restrictions. Success requires flexibility, and flexibility leads to success. If ordinances are too rigid, they will hamper success. As a community largely dependent on sales taxes in lieu of property taxes, we need to provide an environment in which our businesses can flourish. As such, with the added expertise and fresh perspective of new councilmembers, we will be doing a review of all the town’s ordinances related to economic development.”
Regardless of what may land on the town’s plate this year, Hiremath said that he and others will take on any challenge with renewed enthusiasm and insight.