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PROBABLY NOT

Regarding July 31 letter “Shut Up”: Ms. Platt, thank you for your input and question. But the short answer is, no.

You, like many others, have obviously not been paying attention for the past five years. The purchase of a community center and 300-plus acres in the middle of Oro Valley was not a “pig in a poke.” It has turned out quite well. If you had paid attention to the public information available to you and others, you would know that from a fiscal standpoint, the community center and the associated golf courses and tennis courts are performing far better than the aquatic center. There are no calls to close that facility. Ponder that for a while.

You refer to my previous comments as “carping.” Mayor Winfield and Vice Mayor Barrett have violated open meeting laws on multiple occasions and it is documented. Their appointees to the Planning and Zoning Commission and the Budget and Finance Commission have done likewise. The town can be fined/sued for their conduct. Is that carping? One of their handpicked members on the in P&Z read into the minutes a statement that he had reached a decision on a multi-million dollar project before the hearing. 

Another Winfield/Barrett appointee when faced with a vote on what date to hold a meeting, replied that she didn’t understand the question.  How can you not understand that question?  Is that carping?

Yet one more appointee, the chair of the budget commission (a close friend of Mayor Winfield), refused to allow residents to speak at the “Call to the Audience” at the July 16 meeting. Not all of the blue cards were about golf. At that same meeting Mayor Winfield called him out of the meeting room for a private discussion which is a violation. It also caused the meeting to start late with 65-plus local residents waiting. Is that carping?

These newly elected members to the Oro Valley Town Council are a train wreck. Mayor Winfield is inept, rude and a 10-plus on the disingenuous scale. The vice mayor has, during a public meeting, questioned why Oro Valley government needs to be efficient. She has no concept of town codes and is nothing more than a Winfield go-fer. I suppose you will consider that carping?  

Do us a favor. Explain to us why you think the town manager’s numbers are inflated. You have nothing to support your opinion. So at this point all you have done is carp. I have presented supporting facts with every incident I have highlighted. 

Government at all levels generate income and spend it on services. We are not a profit center. You say the golf courses are “an ongoing financial drain.” So are parks. So is the aquatic center. So is street maintenance. So is public safety. But all of it is affordable as are the golf courses. That’s the nature of local government. And as we know in Oro Valley—It’s in our nature!

—Don Cox, Oro Valley

LET COUNCIL DECIDE 

The National Golf Foundation ran a story in May 2019 entitled, “Not all Golf Closures are Failures.”  It highlighted exit strategies in closing golf courses, including ASU’s Karsten course.  I believe this is true for Oro Valley.  

It seems that the lackluster interest in golf is not going to improve.  For the under-40 crowd who have grown up in a high-tech world of instant downloads, commercial-free television, and social media, golf takes too long to play, is too expensive and too difficult—especially when you can sit and eat with friends at Top Golf. 

Another problem is we have way too much golf in Oro Valley. The National Golf Foundation recommends 25,000 residents to support a 36-hole course. Oro Valley owns 45 holes. Then there is Stone Canyon, Oro Valley Country Club and Sun City. Crooked Tree, The Gallery, Ritz Carlton and Omni International are within a 10 minute drive. No Vistoso closed!  With less than 45,000 residents, Oro Valley has more than double the amount of holes it can support. 

After watching millions of dollars go down the golf drain annually, the new mayor and councilmembers ran on a platform that included reducing golf losses. They won, and if they mitigate golf losses by closing some holes, they will do so with the support of the majority of Oro Valley residents. 

But closing areas for golf does not mean disaster for home prices.  When stories run about golf closures, they usually describe privately held courses which have been abandoned by the developer.  A deserted golf course full of weeds will lower property values, but that is not what the town leadership is proposing.  They are looking at rehabilitating areas to either parks or open desert.  We need only look to neighborhoods like Coyote Ridge to understand that open desert is beautiful and valuable.  I think natural space within a community that homeowners can access without paying a fee would be a boon.

So let’s allow our new council to decide the best path forward.

—Emily Funk, Oro Valley 

SWITCH SIDES 

I couldn’t help but notice at the July 31 town council meeting that Mike Zinkin, a previous council member and the architect of the town golf course closure movement, slipped out the back door in the first few minutes leaving Mayor Winfield to twist in the wind.  At the ensuing meeting roughly 15 town residents stepped up to the podium and gave well thought out rationales for continuing to improve the current 36-hole configuration rather than repurpose it.  

Some pointed out that the reported losses are inflated, others that the golf course has intrinsic value for adjacent homeowners and is an attraction for outside tourism, and others that a municipal golf course’s primary purpose is not to make money for the town but rather to allow town residents of all ages an affordable opportunity to connect with each other. Councilmembers Rodman and Solomon noted that the mayor’s visions for repurposing the golf course make no financial sense whatsoever.  

As always, the mayor picked himself up from the floor, studiously ignored the presenters and council and instructed staff to continue their efforts to find financial justification for transforming the golf course into a 180-acre javelina preserve, the first of its kind tourist attraction. He acts with impunity on this issue, mindlessly burdening the same town staff that has invested enormous effort to date to make the golf course a success. This is made possible by the unquestioning support of Vice Mayor Barrett, and councilmembers Jones-Ivey and Nicolson, a slam dunk voting majority of the council.  

It is increasingly evident that the mayor has a personal obsession with the golf course that transcends consideration of the town or the residents. This shouldn’t necessitate a threat of recall or lawsuit. It just requires that one of his supporters on the council realize the situation that is right in front of them and break their tie to the mayor and his vision. Just one switched vote, in one moment, at one public council meeting, and the craziness stops. That person will have earned my lasting respect.    

—Don Schmidt, Oro Valley

STICKS AND STONES

After reading the opinions in the Aug. 7 edition, it is apparent the opposition to the new mayor and councilmembers must gather regularly to brainstorm on how to bash them. It seems the opposition just wants to get a quick OK and do whatever it takes to save the failing golf course because their property values will go down and they don’t care that the majority of us others that live in Oro Valley will have to pay for it and continue to pay for it.

When they say things like “the majority of the people have spoken in favor of the golf courses,” “overwhelming majority,” “property values,” and “lawsuits and recalls,” I don’t think that speaks for everyone in the town in Oro Valley.  Otherwise, the old mayor and council members wouldn’t have been voted out in the first place.

Asking the rest of the town to pay for a mistake because a few residents’ property values may or may not decline who live on or near the failing golf courses is selfish.  While I feel sorry that their property values may drop, we all take our chances when it comes to appreciation/depreciation when we buy a home no matter where it is located.

The new mayor and councilmembers seem to want to do their research and get it right before a decision is made unlike the previous leadership. Calling them names like coward, lackeys and the Four Horsemen shows great disrespect for a group that wants to do the right thing for everyone and not just a few residents of Oro Valley.  

Next thing you know the opposition will be calling the mayor and council racists, xenophobes, and Nazis.

 —Steve Tom, Oro Valley

GOLF DILEMMA

I’ll state up front that I never supported the purchase of the golf courses from HSL properties for many reasons that have all been voiced ad nauseum in the past.  I likewise believe it is wrong to blame the current administration for unraveling what exists.  I believe that two wrongs don’t make a right, so taking the time to make the correct decision once and for all, and then put it to rest, is the right thing to do.  We don’t need another $50,000 study to determine what steps to take.

However, there is one potential solution that has not been seriously considered as far as I know.  That solution is to develop a plan that will allow the homeowners around the golf courses to take ownership of the courses with transitional monetary assistance from the town.  Cost and revenue sharing over a transitional period would underpin this approach, with the homeowners “phasing in” and the town “phasing out.”  

Several HOAs across the country have seen the wisdom in taking creative steps to save the golf courses around them to protect the investment in their homes. In June of 2018, the HOA around Arizona National leased the golf course for five years for $100 per month for each homeowner. Many of those homeowners don’t play golf.  It’s way overdue for Oro Valley residents to stop the carping and offer solutions that are “outside the box.”

—Danny Leon, Oro Valley

ANOTHER BOND?

A $6 million bond? Is this a replay of the 454 Bond defeated by Oro Valley Residents three-to-one?

An item in the recently approved fiscal year 2019-20 budget that has not gotten much attention is town manager Jacob’s proposal to borrow $6 million to repair and enhance Oro Valley’s 36-holes of golf and clubhouse.

Jacobs developed this funding for the previous mayor and council who approved borrowing the money hoping to spend their way out of the golf problem. She now wants the new council to approve borrowing the money and spend it on golf.

What about pay as you go? Remember the $17 million dollar secondary property tax, Prop. 454 bond rejected by the town voters?

The newly elected council was dealt a tough hand of cards by the previous mayor and council, but borrowing $6 million to repair and upgrade a losing golf operation residents don’t want is nonsense and it should be the last card the newly elected mayor and council should be forced to play. 

The best way I can think of to fix golf losses is to reject this $6 million bailout bond which we will pay for over the next 20 years. Manager Jacobs will then have to ask the council to reduce other needed town services to pay for golf, and town residents will again say “no.”

—Steve Denning, Oro Valley

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