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American Democracy

Happy Birthday, American Democracy! Wow, it feels like we haven’t been hanging out as much recently. Haven’t seen you much in the last three years, it seems like! Last winter was great, though—remember canvassing together? Still, the good old days with Jefferson and Washington seem so far away. These days, no one remembers the core values of our great nation—that all are created equal, that life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness are inalienable rights, and that government derives its power from the consent of the governed.  Our founding fathers understood that the backbone of democracy is having a well-informed electorate. When voters can rely on factual information, they can cast an informed vote.  

Today it is very difficult for the voters to be truly informed.  Ever since the Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United decision, much of the information we receive at election time comes from anonymous sources.  Federal and State campaign finance laws aimed at preventing corruption do not apply to the corporations that Citizens United allowed into the political process. Citizens United created a loophole in the fabric that protects our elections from corruption.

The potential for our government’s transparency and safety has not been reached due to our politicians being bought out by large corporations that are not disclosed to the public. It is not democratic for our legislators to make decisions based on their source of campaign funds instead of the actual opinions of the citizens they have power over. The situation is incredibly undemocratic and brings the roots of this country to shame. Do you want to change that?

We have the opportunity to close the loophole by signing the Outlaw Dirty Money petition.  If enough people sign, Arizona voters can vote for or against closing the loophole on the 2020 ballot.  If the voters approve, corporations that currently hide their contributors will be required to report those who give $5,000 or more to finance political speech over a two-year period of time. It doesn’t stop anyone from spending - it only requires the large donors to identify themselves.

Today marks the 243rd year of our nation. Let’s try harder to keep the essence of America in our modern government. Demand campaign finance transparency and help us Outlaw Dirty Money by signing our petition.

—Ruby Velez, Tucson

Modern Tragedy

As an Oro Valley resident I am extremely concerned to see no reporters or readers of the Explorer mentioning the concentration camps on our southern borders. They are a modern tragedy and human rights violation. 

The current presidential administration is separating the families that come to this great country for a better life. Yes they are entering illegally, but entering this country illegally is only a misdemeanor. How can someone argue that children guilty of a misdemeanor deserve to be imprisoned indefinitely without adequate foods, beds, soap or toothpaste? (Yes an official for the Trump administration really did argue it was not necessary for the government to provide these to the children.)

On top of this the border patrol claims it costs $750 to imprison each child each day. This is being paid for by taxpayers. It only costs $80 dollars to hold a normal prisoner per day. Some folks are getting very rich off the mass incarceration of children and we’re 

all paying for it. If you voted for the current presidential administration, you voted for this. But even worse this is an appalling situation to which we are all guilty of ignoring. 

—Bill Christy, Oro Valley

Dear Mayor

Because of prior council’s foresight (sales tax) the community center purchase isn’t a financial drain on the town. The general fund has been repaid for the purchase loan and a surplus exists for revenue. If you approve the upgrades to the courses water systems and take advantage of proposals by groups like the Golf Association and the Home Owners Associations.

You’ll free up revenue for other community needs and keep the town’s commitment per the purchase date. It’s not a property tax or a tax on necessities like groceries and gasoline, but a tax on uses like golf, restaurants and hotels. In fiscal year 19, $900,000 was paid by non-residents from hotels/motels tax revenue.

From that budget’s analysis: 53,000 rounds of golf generated $59 per round or $3,120,000 in revenue versus  $2,500,000 in sales tax. There are an estimated 55,000 rounds in the current fiscal year. Also the cost to individual households of all the taxes paid by Oro Valley residents is $562 per household per year. The community center portion $2.00 using these criteria. It’s clear golf is not a budget drain or a facility for a few but is an asset to the total community. 

Don’t try to convert an existing valuable commodity to other uses with unknown cost and impact, which devalues property values and decreased winter visitation.

The path forward is clear: increased rounds played, marketing, partnering with interested groups, adding revenue and upgrading the water system to decrease operating costs.

—Wallace and Judie Hufford, Oro Valley

Understanding Education 

Might an Arizona teacher introduce a topic in the classroom that is objectionable to a student or that student’s parent? I would certainly hope so! More than just reading, writing and arithmetic, a quality education in a democratic society is all about developing citizens who can make decisions about sometimes controversial social issues such as fairness, equality, justice, respect for others and the right to dissent. And in our democratic society, a student or parent who has a concern regarding teacher input can take that concern to the school administration. 

Perhaps our legislature is unaware that individual school districts typically have complaint procedures in place for addressing concerns that students or parents might have regarding a teacher’s words or actions. No new “code of ethics” is required. Our constitution already gives teachers the right to speak and students and parents the right to dissent and our public schools provide the environment for both

—Judy Kay, Oro Valley

Financial Liabilities

With the council’s police pension study session and new policy to address the $22.8 million in unfunded police pension liabilities, town residents are becoming aware of the unfunded police pension exposure.  Equally large is a $19 million shortfall in employee pension funding.  Promises have been made to town employees and the police and these must be kept.

I would add to these liabilities the cost to properly maintain and repair existing town facilities. Manager Jacobs raised this issue with council in her fiscal year 2019/20 budget summary describing her actions as follows:

“During the current fiscal year, a comprehensive facility assessment was conducted by Public Works to assess the condition of Town facilities and repair needs for all Town buildings.” 

I filed a public record request and learned that the identified cost of facility repairs over future years is $11.2 million. These are not expenditures to expand town facilities and parks but to keep what we have working. 

 Here are the largest exposures: community center and tennis court repairs, $3.1 million; town administration, $1.7 million; parks, $1.4 million; the Oro Valley Police Department, $1 million, civil engineering and public works, $1.2 million; town courts, $600,000; and the library, $400,000.

A major theme of the last election was that Oro Valley needed to get its fiscal house in order. Since the election, manager Jacobs has revealed over $50 million in future town financial liabilities to the new mayor and council. Who knew it was this bad? Unfortunately, all this comes on top of the town’s five-year forecast of flat future revenue growth.

Oro Valley must conduct a “bottoms up” review of town expenses and cut wasteful spending. We need to refocus on core services for residents and provide for future liabilities we know are coming and do so without raising taxes.

—Kim Krostue, 

Oro Valley

Adios, Albatross

Why doesn’t the Town of Oro Valley sell the unprofitable golf courses to the adjacent home owners associations for $1 an acre. Each HOA can determine what acreage should be awarded to each property owner, and Pima County can reassess and tax those expanded properties accordingly. 

The Town of Oro Valley will have this albatross off its books. The HOAs can decide whether to continue to run the golf courses publicly or take them private. They can also decide how to pay for their maintenance and upkeep. Or not. 

No longer a public issue, other Oro Valley residents will not be burdened long- or short-term with what happens to the acreage. The town can auction off the equipment that is dedicated to the golf courses. Oro Valley employees dependent on the golf courses for work can apply to the HOAs or find other jobs. There’s no such thing as a free lunch.

—Lois Berkowitz, 

Oro Valley

Critical Competency 

On the Fourth of July I reflected upon the principles on which our nation was founded and which we hold so dear: the freedoms of expression, assembly and participation in our government. As a teacher, it is critical that my students consider conflicting sides that are presented and then develop the skills they need to form their own thoughts and beliefs. These skills come from critically examining all aspects of issues, examining controversies and forging ahead with their own ideas and beliefs. 

This could not be done without the thoughtful presentation and respectful discussion of all sides. How can students grow, learn about our country’s principles and establish their beliefs without looking at controversial issues? Maybe if more of our students were competent in the process of analyzing all sides of issues we would have better civil servants who are more collaborative and bipartisan.

—Carol Trunnell, 

Oro Valley

Slide Concerns

With the summer heat upon us and the swimming season in full gear, I was recently made aware of the fact that the water slide at the Oro Valley Aquatic Center is the only slide in all of southern Arizona that my 7-year-old grandson cannot ride. 

Someone, in their infinite wisdom, decided that riders needed to be 48” tall to ride the OV slide (which is 130’ long). Meanwhile, the Ritz-Carlton (235’), the Westin La Paloma (177’), the JW Marriott (175’) and the Hilton El Conquistador (143’) slides only require riders to be 42” tall. The City of Tucson’s Quincy Douglas and Clements slides (both 142’), and Pima County’s Manzanita, Kino and Northwest YMCA slides only require riders to be able to swim unassisted with no height requirement. Rancho Sahaurita’s slide (142’) has no requirements to speak of. 

All of those slides empty into a pool, whereas the Oro Valley slide ends in a 30-foot run out. Yet my 7-year-old grandson, who has been swimming since he was 3.5 years old, but is only 46” tall, won’t be able to use the Oro Valley water slide again this year. For that reason, we now have a membership at the Northwest YMCA, where he and his brother can use the waterslide to their hearts’ content.

—Skip Stevens, Oro Valley

Want to see your opinion in the paper? Send letters to logan@tucsonlocalmedia.com or 7225 N. Mona Lisa Road, Tucson, Arizona 85741 ATTN: Letter to the Editor.

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