Tuesday, March 5, 2024

OVCN Wants To Bring the “Big Yellow Taxi” to Oro Valley

Current OVCN proposal skirts council approval as no rezoning needed
The latest proposal from the Oro Valley Church of The Nazarene (OVCN) for a sports facility in Oro Valley's oldest and least densely populated community calls for a 40-foot-high gymnasium and a large parking lot. This proposal will not necessitate a rezoning of the property but will require approval from the Planning and Zoning Commission, a body predominantly comprised of the town's planning staff, for a building height variance. One approach for residents to prevent this is for the council to enact a resolution stripping this authority from the unelected group of volunteer residents.

Oro Valley resident, Anthony Ferrara, gave the following speech during the Call to Audience at the February 21, 2024 council meeting. It in, Tony requests that council consider such a resolution. The words are Tony's. The subheadings are ours.
Paving paradise

There is a 2006 animated movie called "Curious George" that included as the main conflict in the plot, a choice between keeping a museum open or demolishing it and replacing it with a parking garage.

The Curious George movie didn't have to spell out the many reasons why converting a museum to a parking garage was a terrible idea. It was obvious.

OVCN, according to their newest sketch, is outrageously proposing to pave 10 acres of land with asphalt – land that is currently zoned for rural and agricultural use.

Converting desert into parking is a bad idea. This should be as obvious as it was to the intended audience of three to six year old’s watching Curious George. But, regrettably, sometimes things need to be spelled out rather than relying on "norms" or conscience to dictate behavior.

Common sense should prevail
On November 1, 2023, this council reviewed the rules outlining the number of small animals allowed on residential lots.

Right now, on my R-144 lot, I could, according to the letter of the law, have an unlimited number of chickens. Unlimited. The only thing that would stop me from housing 2 million chickens is that it is a terrible idea and no sensible person would subject their neighbors to the smell and noise, etc. that accompanied my chickens.

Me housing 2 million chickens is just as outrageous as paving over 10 acres of desert.

Parking is not the highest and best use of 10 acres of desert in the heart of a residential neighborhood zoned for rural/agriculture/equestrian use. If I and all my neighbors started paving over our land and started housing huge numbers of chickens, I hope the council would investigate if this was in the best interest of the town.

Pass a resolution based on our town values
I respectfully request that you look into passing a resolution that sets reasonable limits on the amount of desert that could be sacrificed for parking or other non-agricultural uses like you did for setting limits on small animals -- limits that are based on our values as a town that prioritizes natural beauty, views, open spaces, the environment, agriculture and appropriate land use.

Thursday, February 29, 2024

Welcome to MARCH – Women’s History Month!

Welcome to MARCH – Women’s History Month! 
We are sure that some of you are wondering how Women's History Month even came about. Why Women’s history? Well, it could have started as early as 1776 when Abigail Adams wrote to her husband, John who was attending the Continental Congress in Philadelphia, asking that he and the other men--who were at work on the Declaration of Independence--"Remember the Ladies." John responded with humor. The Declaration's wording specifies that "all men are created equal."

But skip ahead to the 1800’s when the movement became more pronounced with women’s colleges opening, the legality of women owning their own land, forming of labor associations for women, and even the first women’s rights convention was held in 1848.

The Civil War stopped much of the activity of women’s groups, but helped women gain occupational and organizational skills to help them further the cause after the war. Just a year later, Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony form the American Equal Rights Association, an organization for white and black women and men dedicated to the goal of universal suffrage. Women were still not permitted to vote.

In 1909, a Russian refugee, labor organizer, journalist and a member of the Socialist Party of America, Theresa Malkiel, who had been pushing for women’s suffrage, saw a more active role for women, and declared February 28 as National Women’s Day. This celebration was held in Manhattan with about 2,000 people in attendance. Internationally, this caught on, and was celebrated in Europe on March 8, 1911 with marches and speeches. And then two years later, the first major march on Washington by suffragists happened on March 3, 1913.

Fast forward to March, 1917 when the National Woman’s Party was formed in the United States, dedicated to getting women the right to vote. Six years later an amendment to the Constitution was proposed prohibiting all discrimination based on sex. This Equal Rights Amendment was finally passed by the Senate in 1972. Interesting fact – it has never been ratified by Congress.

In Sonoma, California a school district organized a full Women’s History Week in March, 1978 (corresponding with International Women’s Day), due to the lack of women-focused material in the existing school curriculum. The community was treated to talks, an essay contest, and a parade in downtown Santa Rosa. The following year saw many communities throughout the country plan and carry out their own events. It took these various groups two years to have our national government recognize Women’s History Week when President Jimmy Carter issued a proclamation so doing. Congress still had to request that this be done each year, and with the popularity and the significance of movements throughout the states, Congress finally passed a joint resolution designating Women’s History Month as a permanent event every March moving forward.

Fun story – According to former legislative aide Susan Scanlan, Maryland Congresswoman Barbara Mikulski originally suggested the recognition take place in August to celebrate the anniversary of U.S. women’s suffrage. “I looked at her,” Scanlan remembered, “and I said, ‘Barbara, do you want to be outside parading on August 26 when it’s hotter than the hinges of hell?’” To avoid roasting in the late summer heat, Scanlan pushed for March, which would mean the celebrations would occur in a season that Scanlan appropriately dubbed “marching weather.” In Tucson, I’m sure we agree with Scanlan!

So, you can see that women’s history in this country is as old as men’s, they just had to work a little harder to make it happen. As Emily Taft Douglas, first female Congresswoman from Illinois said, “If women understood and exercised their power, they could remake the world.”

See how the Oro Valley Historical Society is celebrating Women’s History Month every Saturday in March from 9 a.m. – noon in the Pusch House Museum at historic Steam Pump Ranch. You’ll be amazed at some of the women who lived here before us and all that they accomplished! Tours are free and donations are gladly accepted.
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The Oro Valley Historical Society is a 501 (c) (3) non-profit volunteer organization, whose mission is “To promote research, preservation, education, and dissemination of historical information related to the greater Oro Valley area.” We invite you to become a supporter and/or a volunteer. Visit us at https://www.ovhistory.org and help keep Oro Valley history alive!

Wednesday, February 28, 2024

2023 Was Another Busy Year For Oro Valley Law Enforcement

A Community Under Watch: Exploring Oro Valley's Police Service Calls in 2023
In 2023, Oro Valley witnessed a significant array of police activities, reflecting the diverse demands placed upon law enforcement in our community. 

With a total of 15,927 service calls, the Oro Valley Police Department (OVPD) was consistently engaged in maintaining public safety and responding to various incidents throughout the year. 

Enforcing Safety on our roads
Among the notable statistics, traffic citations issued stood at 2,574, indicating a proactive approach towards enforcing traffic laws and ensuring road safety within the town.

Being First responders in action
First aid calls, numbering 1,821, underscored the OVPD's commitment to providing immediate assistance to individuals in medical distress. This aspect highlights not only the versatility of law enforcement officers but also their role as first responders in emergencies, contributing to the overall well-being of the community.

Combatting crime
In the realm of law enforcement, total arrests amounted to 1,465, reflecting the department's dedication to upholding the rule of law and apprehending individuals involved in criminal activities. Furthermore, with 358 DUI arrests and 338 drug offenses recorded, it is evident that the OVPD remained vigilant in combating substance abuse and impaired driving, key factors in ensuring public safety on the streets of Oro Valley.

Meeting challenges
Car crashes, totaling 562, and thefts, numbering 512, signify ongoing challenges in maintaining traffic safety and combating property crimes within the community. These statistics serve as a reminder of the importance of traffic enforcement initiatives and community policing efforts aimed at preventing thefts and ensuring the security of residents' belongings.

Maintaining peace and security
Additionally, with 146 reported assaults, 33 burglaries, 507 residential alarms, and 466 business alarms, the OVPD faced the task of addressing both interpersonal violence and property-related crimes. These figures underscore the multifaceted nature of law enforcement in Oro Valley, where officers must address a wide range of incidents to maintain public safety and uphold community well-being.

A full service organization
Police activity in Oro Valley during 2023 reflected the diverse challenges. From traffic enforcement to responding to medical emergencies and combating various forms of crime, the Oro Valley Police Department remained dedicated to its mission of serving and protecting the residents. 
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Tuesday, February 27, 2024

"The December Event"

The “Devil Is In The Details” 
In December, Oro Valley Council Member Tim Bohen confronted Assistant Town Manager Chris Cornelison at the town's Pusch Ridge Golf Course. The confrontation was the culmination of months of fruitless effort by Bohen to get substantiation of the reported rounds and revenue at the facility. Bohen did not believe the numbers reported to town by facility operator Indigo Golf.

Bohen searched for answers regarding Pusch Ridge rounds and revenue accounting
From June 2023 through early September, Tim Bohen tried in vain to get answers from town staff on the manner in which Pusch Ridge Golf rounds are gathered. Then, while listening to a September 19 town Budget and Finance Commission meeting, he learned that the town was going to have a special procedures audit performed on Indigo Golf financial information. This was a month and a half after the audit firm of Baker Tilly had already been engaged and actively working on the project.

As it turns out, Indigo Golf is the only organization that could provide answers to Bohen’s questions. In an email to Baker Tilly, Deputy Finance Director Wendy Gomez noted: "We wouldn’t have any of the contractor’s transaction data in our financial software system. We receive their monthly financials and book the activity in our system. Actual transaction data would need to come from [Indigo Golf]." (Source: Email from Gomez to Barter [Baker Tilly Employee], 8-31-23). Thus, Bohen sent emails to the audit firm with questions because they were going to have the access to the information he needed.

Bohen either did not get answers to his questions or received answers that were generic in nature. Indeed, the town may have played a role in that. Town Finance Director David Gephart told Baker Tilly not to respond to Bohen's questions because “…his questions only serve to generate additional questions.” (Source: Email from Gephart to Barter, 1-4-24).

(All of this is documented in the correspondence between the Town, Bohen and Baker Tilly.)

Bohen's frustration got the best of him
It was now December 18. Bohen still had no answers. The town scheduled a tour of the Pusch Ridge Golf facility to look at possible capital improvements. Bohen saw this as his chance to get his questions answered. 

According to Chris Cornelison, Bohen said that "... he didn't need the tour because he had already seen it... he wanted to see the clubhouse...he brought a list of questions he wanted to ask." Cornelison told him "... there is a process and protocol for getting those types of items...Bohen then started yelling at him." (Source V23120927). 

Three days later, Cornelison reported the incident to the police. He said he felt threatened. That was around the same time that Town Manager Wilkins told Bohen that he would need an escort to enter town facilities.

Bohen understands that his expression of anger towards anyone is unacceptable.  He has issued a statement regarding this (See panel).

Bohen never did get his questions answered...
 …even when the Baker Tilly auditor reported the results of their special procedures audit to the town at the January 10 town council meeting, Bohen's inquiries were abruptly curtailed by the Mayor. The matter should have been discussed first in a study session to give Bohen ample opportunity to ask questions because he had many.

Questions that are still reasonable to ask
At that meeting, Town Manager Wilkins told the town council that the special procedures audit gave a 'thumbs up' to the Indigo Golf reported financial results. That is an overstatement, according to the remarks of Baker Tilly partner Hemmerle.  Hemmerle stated repeatedly to the council and in communications with town staff that his firm could not express an opinion as to the fairness of the Indigo Golf provided  numbers... nor could he guarantee that there was no fraud. They had not performed an audit of the reported results. Indeed, the numbers have never been audited.

So, we will never know about the veracity of the past or future golf financial results...
… as reported by Indigo Golf to the town. The numbers have gone unaudited in the past. And as reported in a previous article, the town does not provide oversight of the numbers. As Ms Gomez said in her August email, the Town accepts the numbers and inputs them into the town's ledger.

Instead, we have Council Member Solomon leading the charge to punish Bohen
The council never did focus on what Bohen was trying to accomplish. Led by Council Member Steve Solomon, who is no stranger to threatening controversy, the council instead focused on punishing Bohen for his behavior. He was censured by the council and ordered to attend the next two council meetings by zoom or phone. The council also ratified the town manager's decision that Bohen must now be accompanied on any visits to any town facility.
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Thursday, February 22, 2024

Bits and Pieces

Caton appointed Scottsdale Assistant City Manager
Greg Caton has been appointed as Assistant City Manager in Scottsdale. He was Oro Valley Town Manager from July 2011 to 2016. Caton was an Assistant Town Manager for one year prior to that.
Since leaving Oro Valley, Caton served as the City Manager in Grand Junction and as the Assistant City Manager for the City of Durango. 

Caton holds a bachelor's degree in political science from Fort Lewis College in Durango and a master's degree in public administration from the University of Colorado at Denver. His appointment was announced by Scottsdale City Manager Jim Thompson on February 14. He will start May 6.

Oro Valley has 12% of remaining land awaiting development
Earlier this month, town planner Milini Simms briefed the Oro Valley Planning and Zoning Commission on the status of the town's land use. Land use is an important feature of the general plan. Simms noted that there's approximately 12% of Oro Valley's land that is yet to be developed. Half of the land has already been planned, while the other half has not. Existing zoning on the available land will allow for about 1,400 single-family residential units and 1,600 multifamily residential units. In other words, Oro Valley is going to continue to grow.

Town plans temporary closures as Naranja Park nears completion
As the Naranja Park Expansion Project nears completion, the Town of Oro Valley provides this update on the progress of this transformative effort.
  • March 4-5: Naranja Park will be completely closed to widen and pave the park’s main intersection. 
  • Starting March 4: The park’s south entrance at Naranja Drive will be closed for 4-6 weeks for Musette Drive bridge and storm drain work. Access to the Archery Range will still be available. 
  • March 6: The park’s new north entrance at Tangerine Road opens, becoming the sole access point through mid-April. 
  • March 6 through mid-April: The northern entrance will be the exclusive access point to Naranja Park during this period. The southern entrance will re-open in mid-April.
These temporary closures are crucial to completing the Naranja Park Expansion successfully, adhering to schedule and budget, as the Town strives to deliver an enhanced park experience for the community. (Source: Town of Oro Valley Media Release)

Take the OVPathForward Community Survey Today and get involved in future events
OVPathforward is conducting an online survey on life in Oro Valley. "The BIG Community Survey includes questions about public safety, traffic, development, views, and more" Here's the link.  In addition, you can meet with the OVPathforward team and share you thoughts on the following dates and locations:
  • February 25 - Oracle Crossings Plaza (near Sprouts) from 12PM - 2 PM 
  • February 27 - Noble Hops from 11AM - 2PM 
  • February 28 - Copper Creek HOA at 7PM 
  • March 2 - Farmers Market at Steam Pump Ranch from 9AM - 1PM 
  • March 9 - Plaza Escondida (near Trader Joes) from 12PM - 2PM
There's ample opportunity to get involved. So do take advantage of that. (Source: OVPathfoward email)
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Wednesday, February 21, 2024

Town Causes Ecological Disaster: Water Pipeline Installation on the Silverhawke Trail Wreaks Havoc on the Environment. (Part 2)

Part 1 was published yesterday. If you missed it, please scroll down to view it. Today’s article includes the Town’s response to multiple complaints filed by two Oro Valley residents regarding the destruction of a natural desert habitat on what is designated as a “Conservation Trail.”
The Town finally responded on February 7
The Town responded that an Oro Valley Water Utility Engineering Manager is overseeing the project and claimed that after reviewing the pipeline work being done, it was determined that “the contractor has properly maintained the site.”

The Town added, “Prior to construction, the water utility performed Environmental Clearance Surveys, including a Cultural Resources Inventory, Biological Evaluation, and Native Plant Inventory.”

Regarding the widening of the construction zone beyond the original plans, the Town stated that “During the design phase it was discovered that the project could not take place within the limits of the existing dirt road” which necessitated the unplanned additional clearing to the east.

One wonders if the Town Logo, “It’s in Our Nature” is just lip service

Mr. Amato pointed out that despite the additional clearing to the east, there were multiple areas where a backhoe operator went off the designated road and plowed through the plants. He informed the Town that multiple large Palo Verde trees (the State tree) were destroyed and large cactus were uprooted from the ground and rolled down a hill.

He asked, “So, it’s in the nature of Oro Valley to destroy nature? Quite a slogan there.” He continued, “Animals, plants, trees, destroyed with no regard. Where is the conscience of the Oro Valley government? [This destruction] is within your standards?”

Just an inconvenience?

The Town closed their letter with the words… ”we apologize for any inconvenience we may have caused the surrounding community” which prompted Dr. Eisenberg to respond in part…

“Inconvenience?... These workers destroyed the flora that the tortoises depend on for life. It was completely unnecessary for these careless and sloppy workers to smash living shrubs and leave them broken and dying. Roots are the command center of these sentient beings that experience the pain from the slovenly onslaught…

It is deeply regrettable that you and your colleagues do not realize this or even understand this reality…This is a very serious violation… The damage is done…I am thoroughly shocked and appalled by such insensitivity, ignorance, and disrespect for life.”

Eisenberg and Amato have implored the Town to repair the native hacked trees, remove the trunks, limbs, and branches that were dumped onto native living plants, and to refrain from any further dumping of debris onto living plants. They have also asked to meet with whomever will be overseeing this work “before more sentient beings are destroyed, injured and left to die a painful death."

Be good for the town to follow its own directives!

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Tuesday, February 20, 2024

Town Causes Ecological Disaster: Water Pipeline Installation on the Silverhawke Trail Wreaks Havoc on the Environment (Part 1)

The following information has been supplied to LOVE by Oro Valley residents Amy Eisenberg, Ph.D and John Amato. They are both devout protectors of desert tortoises and other wildlife. Dr. Eisenberg is an Associate Scholar at the Center for World Indigenous Studies at the University of Arizona and a Jane Goodall Institute grantee for Stewardship and the Preservation of Life. Mr. Amato is a visual anthropology and natural history photographer.
Purpose of the Project
According to the Town, “The purpose of this project is to provide second source of water to Catalina Shadows subdivision and Palisades area, as well as improving water quality to Palisades and Catalina Shadow...The project started early January and is expected to complete mid-March.” A separate Town document reveals that the new pipeline is 8 inches in diameter.

Total disregard for the sanctity of nature
In late January, Dr. Eisenberg and her partner, photographer John Amato, began contacting the Town of Oro Valley (mayor, council, town manager, and the planning and zoning administrator) and American Tower Corporation (the company that’s installing the water pipeline off Labyrinth Drive and the Silverhawke Conservation Trail) informing them that, “the heavy equipment operators are smashing trees unnecessarily and workers are dumping their equipment on living vegetation” that tortoises and other native creatures depend on for sustenance. They stated that the area is being “torn apart by indiscriminate driving of the large equipment.”

Although they acknowledge that the pipeline is needed, they described the method of installation as “irresponsible and careless” and asked for some oversight someone in the town.

Councilmember Bohen was the only councilmember to respond and visit the site
According to Eisenberg and Amato, the only person from the town who responded to their pleas is Councilmember Tim Bohen who agreed to visit the site. He believes that it is the responsibility of councilmembers “to oversee the Town Staff oversight of construction projects which have a negative impact on our beautiful environment…”

After visiting the site, Bohen said it was unclear to him why “more care is not being exercised in clearing the land.” He continued, “The contractor seems unaware of the habitat value of the land. Thus, standard techniques for clearing the land may be being used when there may be better options that allow the pipe to be installed with less impact to the habitat.”

What was supposed to happen vs. what actually happened
Mr. Amato informed LOVE that he encountered a town worker in that area some months ago and inquired about the plans. The town worker explained the scope of the work and assured Mr. Amato that the town would do all they could to preserve the lives of the tortoises and other wildlife, and that residents would be kept informed of what was going on and would be allowed to have input.

Mr. Amato states that this did not happen “and now life in the area where they are working is being destroyed. Trees torn apart, dens of tortoises and snakes gone…This is how to preserve and honor life? Where is the Mayor?”

20-60 foot wide swath of wildlife habitat destroyed for an 8-inch diameter pipe

The town worker told Mr. Amato that the trench for the water pipe would be about 12 feet wide, but Amato states that much of the destruction is 20 feet wide with some areas well over 30 feet wide and up to 60 feet wide. (Remember, this is for an 8-inch diameter pipe!) He asks, “Who is going to restore this area to its native state and who will oversee the restoration?”

Dr. Eisenberg stated that “this area has been severely impacted by American Tower workers, AT&T, Meritage Homes, and now Oro Valley government.” She said that the lack of response from Oro Valley government has been “deeply disheartening.”

The Town finally responded on February 7.
Part 2 of this story, including the Town’s response, will be published tomorrow.