Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Guest View-Diane Peters: Musings on the September 7th Oro Valley Town Council Meeting

One of the items on the September 7th agenda was a vote to permanently allow A-frame signs and outdoor merchandise displays for businesses. These signs were allowed on a temporary basis beginning in 2011 to help businesses attract more customers during the recession.

Three people spoke during the Public Hearing
  • Oro Valley Resident, Don Bristow presented statistics from a University of Arizona Economics Report noting only a 0.15% difference in increased sales tax revenues in Oro Valley vs. Tucson and Pima County from 2011-2014. (3.75% vs. 3.6% respectively). He added that if the signs were truly effective, they would have resulted in a much greater increase in sales tax revenues. 
  • Chamber of Commerce President, Dave Perry offered only anecdotal “evidence” of their value. In addressing the council, he stated, “I’ve sent you a dozen or so anecdotes from our members, many of whom couldn’t be here tonight.” Perry noted that Don Bristow is always looking for “statistical verification” of whether A-frame signs work or not. Isn’t that how government should operate? Decisions made based on actual statistics and genuine needs? 
  • Jennie Ritchie, owner of Trouvaille Salon, stated: “I use my signs on a daily basis, every time we’re in business. I would say last year my business was up 15%. I do think the signs contributed to that greatly. We get walk-ins off of them. I have a sign that says available appointments and we put down what’s available and clients come in, people come in off the street all the time and say, ‘Oh, I saw you have time for a pedicure. Can I get one done?’ So it does definitely benefit my business and it benefits my employees as well. I used it this year to market for additional employees as well since we are growing so much.”
With no supporting evidence that her business was up by 15%, she also admitted to using the sign improperly (listing available appointments and using it as a “Help Wanted” sign.)

Intent of A-frame Signs; Temporary Sign Code, Section 28.6

“A sign that identifies a business and/or service for the purpose of directing pedestrian traffic to the business location.”

Granted, using the sign to advertise appointment openings may have increased her business, but the bottom line is that she violated the code and the town didn’t even bat an eye. What’s the point of having a code if you’re not going to enforce it?

Council Discussion ~ Zinkin vs. Waters

Council member Zinkin noted that there was no empirical data showing improvement in sales tax revenues.

This led Vice Mayor Lou Waters to opine, “We talk about empirical evidence. To me, Jennie coming here, increasing her business by 15% and owing it to A-frame signs, that’s empirical evidence.” Apparently, Waters doesn’t know the difference between statistical vs. empirical vs. anecdotal any more than he knows the difference between a few sheets of paper and a ream. (Those who followed the 2015 recall election will appreciate this reference.)

Town Engineer, Paul Keesler indicated that for the business owners, “It’s a perception that this helps them.”

Then, despite any statistical evidence of improved business revenues during the 5-year trial period, the motion carried 4-3 with Burns-Garner-Zinkin opposed.

It’s frustrating to witness how the Majority-4 on this council continually bend over backwards for anything that the business community wants and how they will turn even the weakest of testimonies into a compelling reason to vote YES.

Between 2011-2016, out of a total of 1,076 Oro Valley businesses, only 70 obtained permits for A-frame signs. Why are we changing the town code to accommodate the wishes of so few, especially when the few have offered no statistical evidence that A-frame signs have improved their businesses?

These businesses should have been required to submit receipts for a 6-month period both before and during their use of the signs, preferably comparing the same months against each other in two consecutive years. The Town Code is the law and laws shouldn’t be based on anecdotes and perceptions.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Guest View-Mike Zinkin: Community Center, Golf Course, and Restaurant Sucking The Life Out Of Oro Valley


The Oro Valley Community and Recreation Fund (CRF) is the fund the Oro Valley Town Council established to cover the real estate purchase of the El Conquistador Community Center and Golf Courses.

 The Mayor and the council majority told the citizens that all monies spent would only come from revenues derived from the Community Center and the 1/2 cent sales tax increase. There would be no General Fund money utilized, only CRF money. They were wrong.

This fund was originally established by transferring $1.2 million from the General Fund Contingency, with the promise that this money would be paid back at the rate of $120,000 a year for ten years. Unable to make the first year’s payment when revenues were much less than expected, they claimed that the recall election, coupled with factual information to the public, created “headwinds” that caused a lack of interest in memberships.

The CRF started FY 16/17 with a balance of $161,744. This is all that was left of the original $1.2 million. However the staff has assured the Council that the CRF will be able to make its $120,000 payment to the General Fund Contingency next year and also spend $527,200 in capital improvements. However, in the first month of the fiscal year (July 2016) the CRF lost $82,069. Deduct that from the starting balance of $161,744 and you’re left with a balance of $79,675. As of August 2016, the CRC lost $215,912.  This means that the CRF is now in the RED for $54,618.

Further inspection shows that the fund has not spent any money for capital improvements. However, the cart paths on the Conquistador Course have been resurfaced, so where did that funding come from? I suspect the answer is that the funding came from the Public Works Department, which is NOT funded through the CRF, but through the General Fund. If I’m correct, then the Mayor’s claim that the CRF would cover the investment is no longer true.

When staff is questioned about this, they insist that the revenues, coming from both the sales tax and the golf/tennis/fitness, are cyclical and that the fund will rebound before the fiscal year ends on June 30, 2017. In fact, they forecast that the fund will end the fiscal year with a positive balance of $25,325.

As of today, the CRC has a $120,000 payment to the General Fund and $527,200 in promised capital improvements. Historically the fund has never had a month where there was a positive cash flow. There were 250 golf memberships in July 2016. This is now down to 232 memberships. Troon says they need 318 memberships by December.

We are only two months into the fiscal year. Golf is not rebounding, the restaurant continues to lose money ($37,157 in two months) golf membership is dropping, capital improvements are being covered by the General Fund, and the "special" fund to cover all this is carrying a NEGATIVE BALANCE.

Now the Mayor and his new "civil" council all believe that this is a 5-year project, despite the fact that there is so much that doesn’t add up. Be assured that myself and others in Oro Valley will be keeping a close eye on the evolution of this project and how it is being funded.

Monday, October 17, 2016

Anonymous Writes: "The Truth About Don Cox"

A month or so ago, we published a posting that was authored by Oro Valley resident Don Cox. He was celebrating the election results. Cox is chairman of the Triple E Pac and, we believe, publisher of his own blog that he calls "The Truth." We published his work because our pages are open to all and he asked us to do so.

The following was submitted to us by one of our regular readers. This individual wants you do know who Don Cox is. The person asked that we post it without attribution to them.
"If you have followed Oro Valley politics for any amount of time, you have most likely heard the name, Don Cox. He appears during every election cycle and for years afterwards, in his ongoing attempts to sway OV voters to vote for his chosen candidates and to remove anyone from office with whom he disagrees. Below is a primer on Mr. Cox.

Don Cox twice ran for Town Council, losing both times. A few years later, during Mayor Hiremath’s first year in office, Cox was named Oro Valley Volunteer of the Year. He served on the Oro Valley Planning and Zoning Commission, also serving as Chairman during a portion of his term. Sounds good initially, until you dig a little deeper into Mr. Cox’s behavior.

Cox Violates Town’s Code of Conduct
In 2012 and 2014, two different Town Attorneys wrote the Council advising them of Mr. Cox's inappropriate behavior while serving on the Planning and Zoning Commission. Both Attorneys stated that, in each instance, Mr. Cox had violated the Town's Code of Conduct for appointed officials.

Cronyism Anyone?
What happened as a result of those letters? Mayor Hiremath and Councilmembers Snider, Hornat, and Waters ignored these communications and re-appointed Cox to P&Z for his final two years despite being well-aware that Cox had twice violated the Code of Conduct. When the Majority-4 were reminded of the attorneys letters, they claimed to know nothing about these communications, even though they were among the addressees.

Triple E PAC Violates State Law
Currently, Don Cox is the Chairman of the Triple E PAC. This PAC was responsible for the billboard signs promoting the recent Town Council challengers…..signs that were posted in violation of State Law as they were installed 48 hours earlier than the law allows.

Tabloid Politics – Lies and Defamation
Cox was the author of the outrageous 2016 election mailer that was full of bold-faced lies, including the false claim that Councilmember Burns was on parole. Burns has never been in prison and has therefore never appeared before a parole board! This fish-wrap mailer also claimed that Councilmember Zinkin was accused of 11 different violations of conduct. Zinkin was accused only once, and the investigation showed that there was NO basis for the accusation and that it was likely politically motivated. But Mr. Cox has repeatedly shown that he is not interested in conveying the truth.

Another example of Cox publicly spreading lies was when he stated in a letter to the editor that Councilmembers Burns, Garner, and Zinkin voted in favor of all three apartment complexes on Oracle Road. The facts are that Burns and Zinkin were not even on the Town Council when those votes were taken, and Councilmember Garner approved only one of the apartment complexes.

Cox was also the subject of a defamation lawsuit brought by Councilmember Zinkin after Cox made repeated false claims about Zinkin in order to drum up support for what would become the failed 2014 Zinkin recall. Cox settled the suit out of court, most likely to avoid a deposition where he would be required to answer questions under oath. Mr. Cox’s insurance company paid the settlement.

Don Cox has violated Oro Valley's Code of Conduct for Appointed Officials, has perpetrated outrageous lies about opponents, settled a defamation lawsuit against him, and over a protracted time, has been dragging Oro Valley politics into the gutter.
This posting was written by "anonymous"

Monday, September 12, 2016

Guest View-Don Cox: Mandate Of Historic Proportions

I doubt many, if any, of those who read this will give it much thought. And that’s part of what is wrong, in my opinion, with most of the ‘LOVEite’s’.

You lost an election two+ years ago when the Majority 4(M4) were elected because you had no vision of the future. You ran a “We Are Opposed” campaign. You then pounced on the failed referendum effort. And while the ruling made by then Town Clerk Julie Bowers, was 100% accurate and in accordance with the law, as demonstrated by the resulting rulings at three different court levels, you refused to accept it. Your position was, “We was robbed!”

Then, in a fit of anger over the ineptitude of two of your own, you gave birth to the recall. Now I have to admit that you did a very good job of disguising the truth and were far louder than the M4 supporters. But you lost that one in a close contest. What should have happened after that loss is the Minority 3 (M3) should have joined in and gotten behind the Community Center. This could have resulted in having something positive to talk about in the upcoming primary. But the continued lack of vision for the future prevailed and you kept beating the dead horse. For five months you whipped that carcass.

Then the primary election was upon us. And the signs came out. And then the tacky, childish modifying signs came out. What you forgot was that during the recall election there was a lot of dissatisfaction expressed by many residents about the “tacky signs” and the number of unreadable signs. The M3 also made a series of political fatal mistakes. They made the M4, the carcass of that dead horse, and my mailer the focal points of their campaign. They totally forgot who they were running against. They also ONCE AGAIN, expressed no vision for the future. They ran a “this is what we are against” campaign.

On August 30, 2016 you were handed the most lopsided defeat is recent Oro Valley history. You said after the recall that the 51% to 49% wasn’t a clear victory. What is your opinion of a 58% to 42% whuppin’? Hopefully that made everything clear enough.

At some point I would hope that most of you would take stock in the fact that you are on the wrong side of the vast majority of folks in this town on many issues of importance. I think that dissent is healthy and in most cases it produces a better end product. But when the end product is produced EVERYONE should get behind that product and support it. It’s good for the future. ….for all of us.

Don Cox
Oro Valley, AZ

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Guest View-John Spitler: A Special Thank You To Mike Zinkin

After the votes are counted and the doors close, we as voters get to contemplate what has taken place and if we are dissatisfied, we start to think…….. what just happened and why?

In these strange times, this is becoming the world of the “Whistle Blower”.

It takes time for the people to appreciate what the whistle blowers do for us and how they bring attention to points that effect all of us, whether we know it, or not. We have just witnessed the removal of one of our whistle blowers to that faction that would want to keep us, the town’s people of Oro Valley, under the covers.

In time, this will become clear, but for now, all we can say is Thank You Mr. Zinkin, you have served us well!

John Spitler
Oro Valley Resident

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Challengers In. Incumbents Out.

Challengers Pina, Rodman, and Solomon are in. Incumbents Garner, Zinkin and Burns are out.

This is according to preliminary results from yesterday's Oro Valley town council primary election. Each of the challengers earned more than the required threshold votes to remain in the election. Each of the incumbents did not. Therefore, a final vote in November will not needed if these results hold.

The results are preliminary because there may be a few provisional ballots and possibly some mail in ballots delivered to the polls that have not yet been tallied. In order for the result to change, however, these ballots would have to total at least 700 and all of them would have to have contain votes only for the incumbents. Even at that level, only one of the incumbents would remain on the ballot.

The numbers posted as of 5AM MST on September 2:

Candidate Votes Threshold Excess over Threshold
Pima 6794  5,648  1,146
Solomon 6706  5,648  1,058
Rodman 6105  5,648  457
Garner 4954  5,648  (694)
Zinkin 4787  5,648  (861)
Burns 4544  5,648  (1,104)
Total Votes 33890

"Threshold" is the number of votes that a candidate must achieve to remain on the ballot for November. It is calculated by taking the total number of votes tallied and dividing by 6.

Monday, August 29, 2016

Still Undecided?

So, tomorrow you vote. Are you still undecided? If so, please take some time to select and read out postings regarding this elections.

Our editors worked furiously and tirelessly this summer to bring you the real facts about the candidates. These aren't a few glossy, screaming, tasteless postcards. These postings paint a rich mosaic from which you can choose those best suited to lead Oro Valley for the next 4 years.

Please do your homework!  Enjoy!

What you need to know about the incumbents

 Why it's important to re-elect the incumbents

Who's Paying for This Election

 What you need to know about the challengers

Guest View-Mike Zinkin:

Tomorrow's election is upon us. Her are a few thoughts from me to you as you consider your vote.

My Philosophy
I believe that the Town of Oro Valley is responsible for serving the needs of its citizens. Essential services, including Public Safety, Parks and Recreation, city infrastructure and water utilities are paid for with your tax dollars.

Encouraging local business growth should be a key activity of the Oro Valley government.  Increasing business enterprises encourages employment opportunities and helps reinvest tax revenue in our community.

Oro Valley should not be in business to make money or to compete with the private sector.  The Town should not own restaurants or golf courses.  Nor should it seek to make profits in these enterprises thus limiting private sector establishments the opportunity to succeed. If re-elected, I plan to pursue opportunities to:

  • Contract the Overlook restaurant to a private entrepreneur
  • Lease the golf courses, thereby maintaining ownership and control of the land while reducing expenditures
  • Secure citizen input for public policy decisions

I am a fiscal conservative who will continue to guard your tax dollars just as I have during my past four years on Town Council.  I will separate the wants from the needs, ask questions, and demand justification for every dollar spent.  

My Work to Achieve Sensible Development
Oro Valley residents value the scenic and natural beauty of our Town, as well as the small town feel.  During the past several years, we experienced greater residential growth which caused some contention between the developers and the community.  I believe it’s vital that Council supports land use that is in harmony with our native setting and the character desired by those who live here.

I’m an independent thinker with a demonstrated ability to work with proposed developments so long as they are keeping with the Town’s General Plan. 

For example:

  • The first neighborhood meeting introducing the development of the Kai property at First and Palisades was filled with over 200 yelling and frustrated neighbors.  I coordinated a series of meetings between the property owner and the HOA leaders that continued for more than 15 months. Ultimately, a compromise was reached and the development came to the Council with the support of the neighbors and was unanimously approved by Council.
  • A Major General Plan Amendment request for the property along La Cholla - from Lambert to Naranja was met with much resistance from those living near this project.  The project required a super majority vote of council to pass (5 votes).  I facilitated meetings with the citizens and the developer that resulted in numerous restrictions that the developer was willing to accept.  Once again, the project was unanimously approved when it came before Council for a vote.

After these projects passed, I sought further input from the developer and the neighbors.  Their response was "There are things I still don't like, but I can live with it."  This is an example of compromise.  This approach to problem solving is what we need more of in Oro Valley.  If elected, I pledge to continue to work with all parties to achieve what is best for the Town – not a select few. Elected officials should represent the People.  The People desire responsible development that conforms to the General Plan.  I will continue to do my best to see that this is achieved.

My guiding principles

  • I pledge to be fiscally responsible and accountable to the people, not special interests.
  • I have not voted, nor will I vote for any tax increase.
  • I have not accepted, and will not accept money from any special interests.
  • I will continue to work with both sides to identify what is best for Oro Valley. 

My vote will always be for the constituents who I represent. 

I hope I can continue to count on your support and your vote to allow me to be your voice and continue working for you and the future of Oro Valley.
About Mike Zinkin

Mike Zinkin earned his Bachelor’s degree in history and government from the University of Arizona and earned a Secondary Education Teaching Certificate. Mike earned a Master’s degree from California State University, Northridge. Mike was a commissioned ensign in the United States Navy Reserve. For 30 years, Mike worked as an Air Traffic Controller for the FAA. After Mike retired, he and his wonderful wife moved to Oro Valley. They live on one of the Town’s golf courses and love Oro Valley. Mike is a member of the National League of Cities, serving on the Steering Committee for Community and Economic Development, and serving on the Steering Committee for Small Cities Council. Mike was named as 1 of 23 Leadership Fellows for the National League of Cities University. He is also a member of Arizona League of Cities and Towns, Budget and Community Committee. This has allowed Mike to go outside the constraints of local knowledge and network with officials throughout the nation to see how other communities have handled situations that are similar to Oro Valley’s.

Guest View-Diane Peters: Challenges Bring No Solutions To Stem Golf Course Losses

The following is article appeared in the Arizona Daily Independent earlier this month
--- In the July 15th edition of the Arizona Daily Star and the July 20th edition of The Explorer, the candidates for Oro Valley Town Council were asked how they would handle the growing losses of the Community Center and Golf Course operations.
While the incumbents (Brendan Burns, Bill Garner, and Mike Zinkin) all offered actual ideas and solutions, the challengers (Rhonda Pina, Bill Rodman, and Steve Solomon) offered no new ideas or solutions at all.

Below are quotes from the articles:

The Incumbents
Brendan Burns:

  • “Take a portion of the $2.1 million in sales tax revenue and bond for enough capital to make the improvements to the fitness portion of the community center.”
  • “Establish a sub-committee that can bring together the various interests such as the golf members, fitness members, homeowners that abut the courses, and the public.”
  • “The logical first step is to determine the savings if we close the 9-hole course. Closing the course could bring an immediate savings of approximately $500,000.”
  • “Use the land for green open space, a linear park, running trails or a host of other uses that can be developed by the sub-committee.” 
 Bill Garner:

  • “Separate the golf course and Community Center operations.”
  • “Lease out the restaurant or completely shutter it.” 
  • “I would like to see a future study session dedicated to a discussion around specifically the golf course operation…a negotiated meeting of the minds to allow all sides on this issue a seat at the table.” 
 Mike Zinkin:

  •  “First and foremost, the citizens need to be consulted on what they desire to do with that acreage.”
  • “Options could include leasing the golf course or installing a solar farm which would allow the town to raise revenue by selling energy.”
  •  “Close the golf course.” 
  • “The restaurant lost $220,000 in the first 10 months. Contract the restaurant out or close it.” 
The Challengers
Rhonda Pina:

  •  “I’d like to do whatever is possible to try to make the venues a success.”
  • “See if we can continue to keep the operations running.” 
  • “The best course of action for the golf courses is to examine all the facts and work collaboratively as a council to establish realistic solutions.” 
 Bill Rodman:

  • “Provide the oversight necessary to make sure that we’re analyzing it properly.”
  • “If at some point the expenses continue to outstrip the revenues…the golf courses can be closed, partially closed, leased or sold to a third party, and/or made open space.” 
Steve Solomon:

  • “I believe it is the Town Council’s responsibility to ensure that it will be successful.”
  • “I will work with everyone involved to improve its success.” 
Pina and Solomon’s “solutions” are nothing more than vague responses offering no solutions at all, while Rodman’s “solution” is to replicate ideas already being performed quite skillfully by the incumbents and/or offering solutions previously suggested by the incumbents over the course of the past year. One has to wonder why Pina-Rodman-Solomon are hoping to unseat Burns-Garner-Zinkin when the challengers clearly have nothing new to offer to the conversation, to the debate, or to the citizens.

Diane Peters
Oro Valley Resident