Letters to the Editor week of August 8, 2018:
Vote ‘em out
At the end of May the owners of the Vistoso golf course announced the course closing. As a private for-profit business, the course could not sustain annual operational losses.
The macro trends facing Arizona golf, increasing water costs and decreasing play, say the future won’t get any better. So they folded their tent and now are in discussions with creditors.
But what also impacted Vistoso was competing against the Town of Oro Valley’s two subsidized 18 hole courses the Cañada and the Conquistador golf courses. Never mind that Vistoso has a better layout with more challenging play, Oro Valley has deep pockets and plans to continue town tax payers subsidizing golf. The new approved budget included repairs to town courses.
Some say Oro Valley accepts the losses to support the property values, and votes, along the town courses, but the Vistoso course is also bounded by many fine Rancho Vistoso homes. Oro Valley should not be picking winners and losers in the competitive golf market and taxing resident purchases to do it.
We need a mayor and council that support all Oro Valley residents, not just a select few. Residents didn’t get a vote on the country club purchase, but we have a vote on who we can trust to lead Oro Valley. I say vote ‘em out.
—Margaret and Dick Leonard
I joined the Planning and Zoning Commission in 2014 after the incumbents proposed rezoning the large Desert Springs parcel East of Oracle Road where Tangerine ends, next to Catalina State Park, the jewel and essence of what makes Oro Valley special. In 2013 we were driving around the state park and I looked up at where the town council was proposing rezoning from to medium density for many homes. I thought to myself if houses overlook the campsites and trails in the state park they will rob the park of its essence, and residents their brief escape from our busy world. With a residential neighborhood practically in Catalina State Park, that serenity would be lost.
It was time to get involved, so I volunteered to be a Planning and Zoning commissioner. I met councilmember Joe Hornat and Planning and Zoning chair Don Cox for the commission interview where Cox asked what I thought of the direction of Oro Valley. I knew this was a do or die moment at the Good Old Boys Club. So I bit my tongue and said I think it’s great. Cox and Hornat both beamed with pride over their Oro Valley open space reduction plan, thought I was a yes-man and selected me for the commission.
The rezoning of the property overlooking the state park came up and Hornat explained how he would like to see the ridge overlooking the park lined with quality homes. I ground my teeth and smiled. During my tenure on the commission I learned this council is all for rezoning to maximum density with no planning.
Oro Valley is a pretty nice place to live: low crime, good roads, good schools, good housing, plenty to do and nice town amenities. Perhaps there is too much taxpayer funded gold plating, but that is minor. All in all, the town is well run by the current council and mayor.
I’ve read the challengers comments, heard them speak, and one of them rant on the radio. Their platform seems to be a single plank that they are angry about the golf course, that the incumbents need to be punished by being fired. Well, nobody is happy about the golf course.
However, I’m not sure an angry cabal will manage the town any better, and it could do a lot worse. One certainty is that if the angry cabal were to be elected, there will not be the giant epiphany that will magically solve the problem of the golf course. All the ideas to deal with the golf course are already on the table. The baby is here, and it needs to be supported.
I have yet to hear a single rational reason put forth by the angry cabal as to what they would do any differently than the current management. And as angry rookies they could make rookie mistakes that would make things worse. No leadership team is perfect. However the incumbents are doing a good job in general. This is one case in which I’ll take the devil I know versus the angry devil I don’t.
The town of Oro Valley, in the last eight years, has become a wonderful place to live and play.
The town made a very strategic acquisition a little more than three years ago when they were able to purchase El Conquistador. When they purchased this asset they put it on a six-year pro forma which is to say that it would be at par of breaking even by the end of its sixth year. The town just completed the third year of operation and they are at par they broke even in half the time of their pro forma. How many new business can claim that kind of successful operation?
As we all know there are all kinds of rhetoric in the community about this and other subjects. I have always been unwilling to just listen to what everyone is saying without checking the facts for myself which is what I have done. We must all take responsibility for knowing the truth before we vote!
A vote for Joe
As a long time resident of Oro Valley, I have been watching the current mayoral race with interest. I believe that our town needs new leadership, so I was thrilled to learn Joe Winfield is running for mayor.
I’ve had the privilege of knowing Joe for over a decade, and I cannot imagine a better, more honorable candidate for mayor. On a personal level, Joe is exceptionally relatable. He listens when people approach him for advice, and is a hard worker always ready to roll up his sleeves to help others. His strength of character is evident in the way he has run his campaign, pledging not to accept donations from special interest groups or developers.
Joe has actively contributed to the betterment of our town for years. He contributed to Oro Valley’s General Plan in 2006 and 2016. He has served as the vice chair of the Oro Valley Parks and Recreation Advisory Board and has also served as the HOA President of Catalina Shadows. Joe, through his 35 year Park Service career, has extensive experience in strategic planning, design and project management.
With the staggering losses town golf courses are incurring, we need a mayor who can fix this problem. As mayor, Joe will be able to leverage his considerable experience to improve the courses and redevelop excess acreage into neighborhood parks. In short, I believe that a vote for Joe is a vote to restore our voices to local government and change our community for the better.
With Mayor Hiremath and councilmembers Hornat, Snider and Waters vying for a third term in office, this is a good time to reflect on what these four hath wrought over eight years. They raised our sales and utility taxes, they approved numerous high-density re-zonings including all the new apartments on Oracle Road, they approved a five-story building, they’ve repeatedly voted to allow cluster homes on 7,000 square foot lots despite incompatibility with adjacent neighborhoods. They’re rude towards citizens who disagree with them.
Groupthink council meetings involve little discussion and no counterpoint, leading up to unanimous approval on development projects. The only counterpoint comes from residents who are summarily ignored during public hearings as they attempt to bring some semblance of balance to the discussions. Three volunteer boards were also eliminated, further limiting resident input. They purchased three golf courses from their biggest campaign donor, ignoring the results of a town survey revealing that golf was at the bottom of the list of what residents wanted for parks and recreation. That enterprise has bled taxpayer dollars over the past three years.
And have you seen the handicapped “accommodations” at the community center? Park in the handicapped spots and then you must walk (or push a wheelchair) up a hill on an uneven surface, then cut through a service area to get to the handicap ramp and then walk or push a wheelchair uphill on the long and steep ramp to finally reach the entrance. Three years and this building is still not ADA compliant.
I’ve been following Oro Valley politics for 15 years. The current patterns do not reflect responsible leadership. If you want your voice to be heard, I urge you to vote for Joe Winfield, Melanie Barrett, Josh Nicolson, and Joyce Jones-Ivey.
Here’s a news bulletin: The community center fund will meet its budget as of June 30, three years ahead of council’s expectations who initially predicted a break-even point at about six years. The current council has always had a plan, and it’s working.
Another news bulletin: it represents a small portion of the town’s budget. No danger of running out of money! The worn-out claim by former councilmember Mike Zinkin on radio, blogs and anywhere someone will listen that golf losses are millions a year is not true. During numerous council meetings before Zinkin’s demise, and despite repeatedly being corrected by the town’s finance director, he misrepresented the finances of golf.
The challengers continue his rhetoric, citing the expenses and leaving out the income. This is equivalent to tracking the checks you write and ignoring your deposits. Challengers suggest a conspiracy is happening in town involving employees who are doing the council’s nefarious work when reporting the financials. Let’s get real. Audited financials by outside professionals say differently.
The community center purchase was paid for with cash. A half-cent sales tax was instituted three years ago earmarked only for the community center including the golf operations. No conversation yet from the challengers how they would manage responsible growth bringing needed revenue to the town.
Time for change
Oro Valley will decide over the next month who should lead our town going forward. The incumbents, citing their accomplishments, are saying at this critical juncture we should not change the town leadership to four newcomers and political novices.
I think it comes down to a single question. Who will the town’s leadership work for and represent. Oro Valley residents developed their vision for our future in the 2016 Voter-approved general plan which the incumbents have chosen not to follow with several changes supporting developers.
It is clear after special interest contributions buying incumbent election success, and numerous council approvals of every land speculator request for re-zoning and amendments to the general plan, the incumbents do not work for us. They mock residents who dare to speak out at council meetings and have even increased developer flexibility after the Planning and Zoning Commission rubber stamp. The incumbents “know what’s best for us:” buying a money pit country club, adding town staff we don’t need, squandering park money on sports tourism and bonding unpopular projects without voter approval. When they put the Prop. 454 property tax on the ballot to create another income source for Hiremath’s sport tourism scheme, town voters rejected overwhelmingly
Mayor Hiremath, and councilmembers Hornat, Snider and Waters do not represent us, they represent their contributors who sign the big donation checks. My vote is for the four honest political newcomers Joe Winfield, Joyce Jones-Ivey, Josh Nicolson and Melanie Barrett, who stepped forward to save our town from four more years of special interest influence and restore our faith in elected officials.
Editor’s Note: Jack Stinnett is an advisor for the Winfield campaign.