Thursday, June 13, 2024

Bits and Pieces

Saturday, celebrate Henry King Zipf
Henry King Zipf was a fifth-generation Tucsonan, born to Henry George Zipf and Ann Lourie Zipf, and the great-grandson of George Pusch, for whom Pusch Ridge, Pusch View Lane, Pusch Ridge Golf Course, Pusch Ridge Christian Academy, and many other areas in Oro Valley are named. Henry was also a lifetime active member, Board member, and past President of the Oro Valley Historical Society. He was born on June 15, 1956, and he died on May 7, 2023. 

In honor of him, on the anniversary of his birthday, the Oro Valley Historical Society will hold a commemorative gathering at the Pusch House Museum on the historic Steam Pump Ranch at 10901 North Oracle Road on June 15 at 10 a.m.

Henry and his father loved riding horses through the Catalina Mountains (before it became a state park). With donations made in Henry’s honor from friends, members of the Society, and family members, the Society has purchased and will dedicate a memorial bench that will sit in front of the Pusch House, facing his beloved mountains and his great-grandfather’s home. The Society welcomes all who visit the Ranch to enjoy the view from this site, which contributed significantly to the early development of the Tucson region.

Before and after the dedication, enjoy the Saturday Heirloom Farmers’ Market and tour the Pusch House Museum from 9 a.m. to noon. Docents will be available to answer questions and provide additional information about the Oro Valley Historical Society, formed to keep Oro Valley history alive. Join us – history loves company! (Source; OVHistory.org)

Oro Valley celebrates July 4
"Join the Town of Oro Valley at James D. Kriegh Park for its annual July 4th Celebration. This free, family-friendly event begins at 5 p.m. on Thursday, July 4, with live entertainment and fun activities throughout the night. Then, at 9 p.m., we’ll light up the sky with fireworks!"  (Source: Town of Oro Valley Media Release)

Key council election dates
Just a reminder to act now to make sure you vote in the July 30 election.  Here are the key dates:
  • July 1: Last day to register for the election
  • July 3: Mail in ballots sent and mail in voting begins
  • July 19: Deadline for getting a mail in ballot
  • July 23: Get you mail in ballot in...
  • July 30: Vote in person or bring your mail in ballot to the polls if you have one and did not mail it. 
Questions: Call the Pima County Recorder's office: 520-74-4330.

Wednesday, June 12, 2024

Guest View-Jack Stinnett: “Mo” Greene’s Shocking Ties to Developer Donations

Accused Price Fixer, HSL Properties, bas been a fixture in financing Oro Valley candidates since 2014
Since 2014, their practice has been to invest in the campaigns of development-friendly candidates. Their goal is to displace non-aligned, self-funded candidates on the council, none of whom were development-inclined. 

This approach reached a zenith in 2016 when HSL-funded council members Steve Solomon and Bill Rodman were elected to the council by outspending and defeating incumbents Mike Zinkin and Bill Garner.

The HSL strategy of financing candidate campaigns paid off for them
Since buying the El Conquistador resort in 2015, HSL Properties has developed apartments along Oracle Road. In addition, it has 500 apartments approved for their Oro Valley Marketplace development and is Oro Valley’s largest rental landlord. HSL is currently charged with price fixing rents.

Residents said "No" to developer campaign financing in 2018

Oro Valley residents voted out HSL-supported candidates in the 2018 council election and in 2022 rejected the HSL candidates once again. This occurred despite more than $81,000 of HSL-directed donations to mayoral candidate Sharp and council candidates Rodman, Hurt, and Erceg.

These donations included $32,000 from four HSL family trusts, which constitute campaign finance violations. That matter is currently being investigated by the Pima County Attorney.

Solomon and Greene, HSL-financed current council members, championed high-rise apartments for the Oro Valley Marketplace in 2022
Re-elected in 2020, council member Steve Solomon was the HSL spokesman for their proposed five and six-story apartments at the Oro Valley Marketplace. Dr. Harry “Mo” Greene, newly elected in 2020, provided the necessary second for Solomon’s pro-HSL Oro Valley Marketplace motions and voted with Solomon to approve the Town West / HSL plan for these apartments. Fortunately, the Winfield majority voted down the Solomon-Greene motion and approved two and three-story apartments at the Marketplace. These apartments will be adjacent to the Tangerine Road and Oracle Road scenic corridors.

Now, HSL funds Greene’s re-election campaign
In the first quarter of this year, HSL’s owner and employees contributed $13,050 to “Mo’s” re-election campaign [panel above right]. None of the contributors are residents of Oro Valley. The second quarter campaign finance report may show more.  Even, then, there will be a campaign finance report filed after the election. That may contain more.  For example, Greene reported an added $4,500 recived  from HSL officers and employees after the 2020 election. 

With council member Solomon’s recent announcement that he will not seek re-election in 2024, it looks as if Dr. Greene, if re-elected, will likely be the HSL spokesman on the Oro Valley Town Council. So look for HSL funded campaign ads and thousands of mailers supporting “Mo” and attacking his opponents to help re-elect their main man.
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Editor Note: No other candidate has accepted donations form the development community.
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Tuesday, June 11, 2024

The Battle for Oro Valley: Which Three Candidates Will Secure Your Vote?

Four candidates seek three open seats
There are four candidates for three council seats. You will be voting for them in the July 30 primary. If you are a registered independent, be  sure to order either a Republican or a Democrat Ballot or you won't be able to vote unless you go the the polls. You can order your ballot by contacting the Pima County Recorder's Office at 520-724-4330.

Vote only for those you want in office
Now that you know how to vote, you need to decide for whom you are going to vote. There are three council seats so you can cast up the three votes. You're not required to do so. You should cast a vote for only those whom you want on council. Otherwise, if you vote for a person you don't want on council, you increase the vote count threshold for those you want on council.

LOVE's "Candidate Snapshot" can help you decide
We've created a "Candidate Snapshot"which summarizes each candidate.We created the snapshot based on research and based on our discussions with three of the  candidates. 

The candidates share common ground on issues such as water conservation, public safety, fiscal responsibility, and community engagement. They differ in their approaches to revenue diversification, growth management, specific water conservation initiatives, and their methods of collaboration and engagement.

While the candidates do agree on the following...
    • The importance of water conservation and sustainable management of water resources. 
    • The importance of maintaining strong public safety services and ensuring that police officers are well-compensated and supported. 
    • The need for fiscal responsibility, though they have different approaches to achieving it 
    • The importance of community engagement and collaboration with regional authorities and state agencies.
There is some divergence in their approach
    • When it comes to fiscal responsibility, Bohen wants to focus attention on improving the efficiency of town operations and better prioritization of spending, while Greene, Robb, and Murphy are open to diversifying revenue through various means. 
    • When it comes to growth management, Bohen emphasizes infill development, while the others are more open to strategic growth in areas with infrastructure and preserving the town’s character. 
    • Regarding water conservation, Bohen proposes direct non consumption drinking water use reduction actions, while others focus on using technology, promoting responsible usage, and water harvesting.
    • In the area of collaborating with other entities, Bohen focuses on direct engagement, Greene emphasizes strategic planning and grants, Robb highlights proactive partnerships, and Murphy emphasizes regional planning and resource sharing.
Tomorrow, Sun City is holding a candidate forum. This is something they've done for years. However, we've learned that this time the forum is not really a forum and that it is not open to the public, so we're not sure whether will be able to report on it or not. If we can will let you know what we learn.
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Friday, June 7, 2024

Respect Campaign Signs: Vandalism is a Felony

Substantial damage to Robb and Bohen signs
It's political season in Oro Valley, and with it comes the unfortunate act of vandalizing candidate signs. We want to remind everyone that tampering with a sign is a felony, with penalties that can include imprisonment, fines, and a permanent criminal record. The cost of replacing damaged signs, often rendered unusable due to damage, adds up. Let's respect the democratic process and each other's property.

In the area of the OVCN
The damaged sign are located in the area of the Oro Valley Church of the Nazarene (OVCN). This raises questions about whether this is a general political statement or specifically targeted at those opposing the Concordia Buena Vista group's ongoing effort to prevent OVCN's efforts to build sports facilities in their peaceful neighborhood. We say this because signs opposing the church's efforts have been vandalized in the past. The perpetrator was found by the OVPD.

Regardless of the motive, such acts undermine our community's values and carry serious legal and financial consequences.

Police will be involved
Representatives from the campaigns of Robb and Bohen, whose signs were damaged, and Council Candidate Mary Murphy, have all condemned these actions. We have not spoken with candidate Mo Greene, who is a member of OVCN. These incidents have been reported to the Oro Valley Police, who will investigate and pursue remedies once responsibility is determined.

Let's work together to ensure a fair and respectful political season in Oro Valley.

Thursday, June 6, 2024

Bits and Pieces

“Lift Plant” Sewer Line replacement in Valley Vista as County sues developer...residents forced to use porta potties and wash stations!
In February, we wrote about subsidence affecting two homes and the sewage lift station in Valley Vista. This development is built on the edge of Big Wash. Two significant events have occurred since then. First, in April, Pima County sued Pulte Homes and all parties involved in building the property in a “placeholder lawsuit.” The suit reminds Pulte that Pulte is responsible for remedying any defects found in the lift station. Second, a few weeks ago, one of Pulte’s subcontractors, Hunter Construction, began replacing the sagging sewer lines in that section of Valley Vista. On Tuesday, residents in the area of the lift station found porta potties and wash stations in the street. There’s one set of these for every two homes. Residents have been informally told they will have to use these facilities until the project is complete. There is no announced timetable for the project’s completion.

FOPRG to focus on water conservation
Friends of Pusch Ridge Golf (FOPRG) are dedicated to enhancing the Pusch Ridge Golf Course while addressing water usage concerns. Over the past few years, the course has grown in popularity, with rounds played increasing significantly from 3,875 in 2019-2020 to an anticipated 19,000 in 2023-2024. Despite this success, the use of potable water remains a challenge.

To tackle this, FOPRG has introduced a new mission focusing on water advocacy. They aim to educate the community on water-saving techniques through newsletters featuring tips, strategies, and events. Additionally, they plan to collaborate with the Town and Indigo to implement water conservation measures, such as reducing turf, using drought-resistant grass, and improving water usage audits. This dual approach seeks to balance the recreational benefits of the golf course with sustainable water management practices. (Source: FOPRG Newsletter)

Red Lobster is no more
Red Lobster closed its Oro Valley location earlier this month. The chain has been facing significant financial challenges nationally, including high lease and labor costs, and substantial losses from promotions such as the expanded all-you-can-eat shrimp deal. Earlier this month they filed for bankruptcy. The company plans to use the bankruptcy proceedings to restructure its finances, optimize its real estate footprint, and pursue a sale of its assets. Despite these challenges, Red Lobster intends to keep some of its locations open and operational during the restructuring process.

Oro Valley Receives Federal Grant for Stormwater Improvements
The Town of Oro Valley's Stormwater Utility has secured $210,990.75 in federal funding for Fiscal Year 2024/2025 through the Arizona Department of Emergency and Military Affairs (AZDEMA) and FEMA's Hazard Mitigation Grant Program. This grant will enable essential upgrades to the box culvert outlet structure on Sierra Wash at Via Mandarina, addressing localized erosion concerns and enhancing community safety and infrastructure resilience.

Town Manager Jeff Wilkins emphasized that the funding will maximize the utility of Stormwater Utility Fee dollars, aiding the finalization of the fiscal year budget. The project, set for completion within FY 2024/2025, will proceed following Town Council endorsement. The federal grant, complemented by a $70,330.25 local match from the Stormwater Utility Fee, highlights Oro Valley's commitment to infrastructure maintenance and proactive risk mitigation. This grant marks the second DEMA allocation for Sierra Wash improvements, following previous funding in 2019. (Town of Oro Valley Media Release)

Courts Remodeling Project on Time… and potentially under budget
Judge Hazel, the presiding magistrate of the Oro Valley Court system, provided an update on the remodeling of the Town court at the TMRB study session last month. Last year, LOVE reported on the need for this remodeling. Nothing has changed regarding that need since then. "We are now entering the construction phase. Phase one includes the attorney meeting room and the jury assembly room. Everything is going as planned, and a year from now, everything will be completed," Judge Hazel stated during a recent Courts Study Session.

Hazel emphasized being a steward of the town’s investment. Total bids for the project came in a million dollars less than planned. "That doesn’t mean it’s going to come in that way. That’s why we have to be vigilant throughout the whole process," she cautioned during the Courts Study Session. (TMRB Council Study Session, May 9, 2024)

Timetable for the Oro Valley Marketplace revisioning “Revealed’
Town staff projects that the hotel to be built at Oro Valley Marketplace will go online in February 2026. They anticipate that the Tangerine Road apartments will be available for occupancy in May 2027, and the Oracle Road apartments will be available for occupancy in May 2029. (TMRB Study Session May , 2024)

Enjoy Disc Golf at Pusch Ridge Course
The town is offering disc golf at the Pusch Ridge Golf Course from 7am to 7pm until September 22.

Wednesday, June 5, 2024

Council To Consider $151.2 Spending Limit For 2025 Tonight

$151.2 million expenditure limit 
Tonight, the Town Council will approve an expenditure limitation of $151,210,253 for fiscal 2025. This is the first step in a two-part process for approving the budget for the year. The second part, where the Town approves the actual budget, will take place in two weeks.

This limit is the only absolute control council has over spending
The expenditure limitation is the only control the Town Council has over spending. This limitation ensures that overall spending is kept in check, even though individual budget items may not see significant changes through council discussions. Discussions around individual budget items, such as those conducted in council study sessions on May 8 and 9, are interesting; however, these discussions rarely result in significant changes to the spending proposed by town staff. This has been evident in this year’s budget process to date.

$5.2 Million less than what the Town Manager wanted... achieved by reducing "contingency reserves"

The expenditure limitation is $5.2 million less than the amount requested in the town manager's recommended budget. This difference stems from a reduction in what the town calls contingency reserves. Contingency reserves are funds set aside in the budget to cover unexpected expenses and unforeseen events.  They can be set at any level desired. The total included in the budget for these reserves now is $8.2 million, with $6.0 million of that amount under the control of the town manager in the "unassigned" and "administration" departments.

Key budget adjustment is in the water department contingency reserve
A notable change occurred when the town reduced the Water Fund by $11.5 million after increasing spending on the NWWRDS project by $6.1 million. Other than this, there is only a minor difference between what was recommended by the town manager for fiscal 2025 and what is being proposed by the Town Council, as presented in the detailed budget information provided.

Want to learn more about the 2025 budget?
Read our analyses of the Town Manager Recommended Budget. It is the same budget as is currently proposed with the exception of the items noted in this article.
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Tuesday, June 4, 2024

Guest View-James Prunty: Oro Valley Faces An Impending Wake Up Call

Community apathy toward local government runs high in Oro Valley
The overwhelming majority of the town's residents show little interest in local politics, the town council, or the town staff. 

Their engagement with these aspects of community governance is minimal, largely because they perceive no immediate impact on their daily lives. 

For most residents, the critical indicators of a well-functioning town are the effectiveness of the police force, the absence of graffiti and other signs of vandalism, well-maintained roads, and safe schools. As long as these basic needs and services are met, they see little reason to invest time or energy into understanding or participating in local political processes. This apathy toward local governance is surprising, as the majority of residents prioritize tangible, day-to-day concerns over the intricacies of political engagement.

An impending wake-up call on the town's financial future 
There is a wake-up call on the horizon. The assertion that "the government has no money of its own" underscores the reality that governmental funds primarily originate from taxation, borrowing, or other revenue-raising mechanisms imposed on individuals, businesses, or organizations within a society. Consequently, the government functions as a redistributive entity, collecting resources from one segment of the population and allocating them to support various programs, services, or initiatives that serve broader societal needs or governmental objectives.

Not enough future revenue to cover ever increasing costs?
At a recent council meeting, the town’s Chief Financial Officer announced that key revenue generators are projected to fall short of the income levels they have achieved in the past few years. This revelation has raised concerns about the town's financial stability and sustainability. The CFO highlighted that declining revenue from various sales taxes and state-shared revenue will create a budgetary gap that needs to be addressed.

Causes staff to look for more revenue sources... hold on to your wallet
The announcement has sparked a discussion among council members about how the town will compensate for these financial shortcomings. Potential measures to bridge this gap include cutting non-essential services or finding new revenue streams. The town will need to explore various strategies to ensure it can continue to provide essential services and maintain infrastructure without compromising on quality or safety.

Important to get in front of the problem now
This financial challenge underscores the importance of proactive fiscal planning and the need for innovative solutions to adapt to changing economic conditions. The town council is now faced with the task of developing a comprehensive plan to address these revenue shortfalls, ensuring the town’s financial health and stability in the coming years. The town has decided to look at neighboring Marana for ideas on potential revenue generators to compensate for its own financial shortfalls. Marana's financial structure includes revenue from communication taxes, a source of income that Oro Valley currently does not utilize.

Crucial decisions ahead
The potential introduction of new taxes would not only test the council's political integrity but also highlight the challenges of governance, where practical financial needs often clash with ideological commitments. The decisions made in the coming months will be crucial in determining both the town's financial future and the political careers of its current council members.
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