Tuesday, August 9, 2022

Oro Valley Council Election: Voters Rejected “Big Money Politics”

David clobbered Goliath
Oro Valley voters rejected the politics of “big money from special interests” in the 2022 council election. Just like they did in 2018. Incumbent Barrett, Jones-Ivey, and Nicolson earned 56% of the 45,750 council candidate votes cast in this election. This is comparable to the 58% they earned in 2018. They earned a majority of the votes in nine of the eleven Oro Valley voting precincts [See panel below right]. They got two of every three votes from Rancho Vistoso residents. The only place they earned less than a majority were in the two precincts that comprise the 36-holes of municipal golf. Even there, they earned almost 48% of the vote. 

Challengers got the same vote count result in 2018 when residents voted out “Special Interests”
The campaigns of challengers Joe Erceg, Charlie Hurt and Bill Rodman were financed by developer and real estate special interests, most of whom do not live in Oro Valley. You can read more on their financing in our report of July 25. They earned the same voting results as Joe Hornat, Mary Snider and Lou Waters got in 2018. These three had their campaigns financed by the same sources.

Sharp had no “coattails”
Erceg, Hurt and Rodman were running as an informal slate with mayoral candidate Danny Sharp. Unlike Sharp, whose mayor race with Joe Winfield, was tight, their race for council wasn’t close.

Sharp did well at the polls because he is Danny Sharp: A former Chief of Police who earned the respect of the community after 20 years of building the State’s top police force. That’s a reason for people to vote for Danny. It is not a reason to vote for his running mates.

Coattails are created by what the lead candidate says. It is what Danny Sharp said that caused problems for his candidacy and for that of the three challenging council members.

Sharp advocated for a “Rooftops Strategy” that was rejected by the voters in 2018
Sharp doomed his candidacy when, at the Greater Oro Valley Chamber of Commerce Candidate Forum, he announced that he was for Hiremath’s “Rooftops Strategy.” This is a strategy to build business in the community by increasing housing substantially. Hiremath tried it for eight years. It did not bring business. It brought congestion and the need to substantially increase town services. Hiremath lost the 2018 election because of this.

Whether they subscribed to this strategy or not, the candidacies of Erceg and Hurt were damaged by it. They were painted as “rooftop guys”, willing to do anything to make home growth happen. Add to this the fact that they were running with Bill Rodman, a former council member during the Hiremath days. Rodman approved all but one of the many General Plan and zoning plan amendments that he saw. Voters know this. Rodman was never going to win. Erceg and Hurt had no way to separate from him or the rooftops strategy even if they wanted to do so.

Labeling the work of the town’s police chief as severely lacking was never going to be a winning strategy in this election
Sharp did not attack Chief Riley directly. Rather, he attacked what he perceived to be the result of her three years of effort. It cost him votes. It cost the council challengers votes. He said that the Oro Valley Police Department is no longer good enough: That Chief Riley and her team, people Sharp groomed to take over, have let the department fall apart. Sharp’s claim was not believable. He had no evidence to back it up. He only had his opinion based on his observations.

Erceg did not follow suit on this in any material way; but Hurt did. From Hurt’s website: “Oro Valley is presently 14 full-time officers below the level it should be in order to maintain and ensure it continues to be the safest place to live in Arizona.” Hurt provided no basis for this statement nor does he have the skill in the area of public safety regarding what should be the staffing level. Rodman also echoed the same thoughts in his first glossy postcard to the community.

They never proved that Oro Valley is in financial trouble
Sharp and the three challenging council candidates alleged that the town is in financial trouble because it has debt and an alleged deficit. You can say it. But you have to prove it. Proving it in this instance was going to be difficult because it’s the first time residents would’ve ever heard that the town is in financial trouble. One would think that the press would’ve covered this, including LOVE. We haven’t seen it. In fact, the town has been flush with cash from the federal government. It has been pressed to spend it all.

They alleged a lack if “transparency” but they couldn’t prove it
Transparency in government is far too vague an issue. Most people don’t even know what it means. Most people don’t know how to measure it. Sharp and the challengers tried to make their case that the Winfield Council has not been transparent. Yet, they couldn’t provide any data to demonstrate that’s the case. They had one case of an alleged open meeting law violation that wasn’t an open meeting law violation.

The fact that the town has had to conduct executive sessions over the years is merely because of the nature of what is being discussed in those sessions, not because anything is being hidden. Indeed, the biggest “hiding of all” was former Mayor Hiremath’s purchase of the El Conquistador courses and the clubhouse. Nothing that any councilmember has done since that date has ever been so duplicitous.

They gave no vision of a better future under their leadership
None of the candidates presented a clear concise vision of the future under their leadership. Rather, they chose to focus on the inadequacies of the current administration and how they would not do “those bad things.” That is not really a winning strategy. Danny Sharp, the three town council challengers, and the PAC created to support them proved that in this election.
- - - 

Monday, August 8, 2022

Winfield’s Narrow Win: “A Tale Of Two Deeds”

Winfield’s 2022 Narrow Mayoral Victory is a “tale of two deeds”
There were two major events that involved Oro Valley Mayor Joe Winfield. One was saving 45-holes of municipal golf. The other was creating a nature preserve from the former Vistoso Golf Course.  Last week, at the polls, Winfield was punished for one and rewarded for the other.

Punishment for making 45-holes of municipal golf financially viable
Joe Winfield inherited a big problem when he entered office in 2018. That problem was 45-holes of municipal golf that, under the leadership of the prior mayor, was a mult-million dollars, money sucking problem. Winfield received a large percentage of the votes in that election because voters thought he would fix the problem: Fix, as in, close one of the18 hole municipal golf courses; turn it into a linear park; and lease the 9-hole Pusch View Course to HSL Properties.

Winfield started in that direction. He was met with substantial golf community resistance. Several hundred members of that community attended multiple hearings on the matter, imploring the Mayor not to close anything. 

There was so much push back that Winfield changed direction. He set out on a course to find a way to make municipal golf financially sustainable with no more than a $750,000 annual town subsidy. According to the town and Winfield, he did just that.

One would think that the municipal golf community would reward Winfield for his success. Rather, they punished him at the polls last week. The two voting precincts that essentially comprise the municipal golf community (precincts 194 and 12) voted overwhelmingly for Danny Sharp last week, Sharp received 2,276 votes. Winfield received 1,650 votes. That’s a difference of 626 votes.  For all of his effort, Winfield got 42% of the vote. That’s quite a punishment for the person who saved Oro Valley Municipal Golf!

Reward for creating the Vistoso Trails Nature Preserve
So how did Winfield win? He received overwhelming support for his work in creating a nature preserve from the former Vistoso Golf Course. What he did was to step in to make the deal happen. Negotiations between the owner of the course, involved residents, and the Conservation Fund were “dead in the water.” Winfield and Vice Mayor Barrett, together with Town Council Attorney Rothschild got involved, putting the force of the town behind the resident effort to create the preserve. They were successful. It is a reality today.

Last week’s Rancho Vistoso resident vote was a reward for Winfield for his effort. He received 5,942 votes to Danny Sharp’s 4,691. That’s an 1,251 voted difference in favor of Winfield.  Winfield received 65% of the vote in the precinct most closely impacted by the Preserve.

Fortunately for Winfield, the vote count reward he received for doing the right thing to create the nature preserve exceeded the punishment he got for saving municipal golf.
- - -

Friday, August 5, 2022

LOVE Calls It For Mayor Joe Winfield

Winfield pulls ahead by 252 votes
The Pima County Recorder counted even more mail in ballots yesterday. With the exception of provisional ballots, it looks like that’s it for the vote counting.  The county has issued a “precinct by precinct” vote count. This usually indicates that all but provisional votes have been counted.

Joe Winfield now leads challenger Danny Sharp by 252 votes. He has built his lead by gaining the advantage of mail-in votes. The number of votes cast in this election (15,864) are about the same those cast in the last mayoral election in 2018.

At this point, we see no path to victory for Sharp
Unlike the council candidate race where incumbents Barrett, Jones-Ivey and Nicolson handily defeated their challengers, the mayoral race has been close. 

Winfield’s lead is likely going to hold even after provisional votes are counted. We think this because there are probably no more than 250 provisional votes to be counted in total. In 2018, there were a total of 208 such votes. 

Join us Monday
We plan to provide a more detailed analysis of this race. And we believe we will have quite a story to tell.
- - -

Thursday, August 4, 2022

More Mail -In Votes Counted… Winfield Lengthens Lead… A Win In Sight

More votes counted
The Pima County Recorder continued vote counting yesterday. They added 2,412 mail in ballot votes and 193 in person ballots to the totals reported yesterday. This as of 6:43  last night.

We do not know why the mail-in vote count increased so substantially, Our guess is that these are mail-in votes that were received just prior to election day and/ or mail-in votes that were dropped off at the polls.

Winfield lengthens lead
Current council members Barrett, Joyce-Ivey and Nicolson hold comfortable leads in their reelection bid. Winfield’s lead over Sharp has grown to 148 votes.

Voter turnout now comparable to 2018
The vote totals now being reported by the county show mayoral vote totals that are more comparable to the 2018 mayoral race. 

Total votes cast being reported to date are now 8% less than four years ago. The Winfield vote totals are still far less than earned in 2018.

Sharp will need a major provisional vote win
Provisional votes have yet to be counted.  There would have to be quite a number of these and they would have to break sharply in Sharp’s favor in order for him to win.

Stay tuned!

Wednesday, August 3, 2022

Incumbent Council Members Win…. Mayoral Seat Leaning Toward Winfield

Barrett, Jones-Ivey, Nicolson handily defeat opponents
It looks as if the three incumbent council members will be in their seats on the Oro Valley Town Council until 2026. Vice Mayor Barrett and council members Jones-Ivey and Nicolson have substantial leads over challengers Hurt, Rodman and Erceg. 

Provisional votes yet to be counted
We believe that all that is left to count are “provisional votes.” We do not know how many of these there are. Generally, they are a small percentage of the total votes. Our guess is that there are no more than a few hundred. The closest challenger, Charlie Hurt, is currently 500 votes short of the lowest winning competitor so it is doubtful that he or his fellow challengers can “make up ground” with provisional voting.

Winfield leads, but mayoral race too close to call
We are waiting the results of the provisional ballot counts. At the moment, Mayor Joe Winfield leads challenger and former Police Chief Danny Sharp by 119 votes. This one could be close, folks!

Low Turnout
There were 25% fewer ballots cast for Mayor and 22% fewer ballots cast for council than in 2018. At that time, Winfield earned 9,242 votes. That is much greater than the 6,018 votes counted in this election so far. He easily defeated his opponent in 20% with almost 60% of the total vote. Not so this time.

More to follow as we learn more
- - -

Monday, August 1, 2022

Four More Years? Yes or No? It’s Up To You

Oro Valley votes for mayor and council tomorrow  
Tomorrow, Oro Valley votes on who will be their Mayor and town council. 

It is a “winner take all scenario for Mayor
The mayor will either be former Police Chief Danny Sharp or Current Mayor Joe Winfield. Four years ago, Winfield won a landslide victory over then Mayor Satish Hiremath. Winfield received more than 58% of the 15,817 votes cast. Four years earlier, Hiremath won a landslide victory over his opponent, receiving more than 62% of the 11,027 votes cast. This earned him a second term as Mayor. 

We’ve covered the mayoral candidates and their views during the past four weeks. Still, we think it important to hear a bit from their supporters on why they support their candidate.

Sharp supporters say Danny is the best candidate
Mary Murphy is a six year resident of Oro Valley. She is also a member or the town’s Board of Adjustment. One of the reasons she chose to live in Oro Valley was the town’s outstanding public safety record. Here’s why Mary believes that Danny Sharp would be an excellent Mayor:
  • With a forty-year career in law enforcement, he has a documented record of community and service orientation, and as the spouse of a retired first responder, I fully understand the commitments they make on a daily basis.
  • While serving as police chief, he was asked to step in as Acting Town Manager for over a year. He took on this additional challenge without hesitation. That the Town looked for him to take on this task, and his willingness to do it indicate both a high level of competence and a commitment to our community. While filling this role, Danny gained valuable knowledge and insight into all aspects of town operations and funding. This experience is something few mayors have and is critically important here in Oro Valley, considering the current financial climate both locally and nationally.
  • Danny was one of the founders of Project Graduation in Oro Valley, a program designed to keep our young people safe on graduation night, and he continues to volunteer his time to this important program. As a mom, this commitment really resonates with me. 
  • Danny and his family demonstrate their love of Oro Valley by participating in the “Adopt a Road” program. For years the Sharp family has been clearing trash and debris from a large section of Naranja Drive, helping to keep Oro Valley beautiful. 
  • Additionally, Danny is also a member of the Oro Valley Hospital Board, and as someone with a background in the medical field, I find this to be quite admirable. Viewed with his other activities, this shows Danny’s commitment to the town as a whole, one that serves all its residents.
Winfield supporters say that Joe is the best candidate
Jack Stinnett is a long-time resident and former Chairman of the town’s Parks and Recreation Commission. He is passionate about our community and passionate in his support of Joe Winfield. Here are his thoughts:
  • The Winfield council has moved Oro Valley forward in every area, and Oro Valley today is the best place to live in Arizona. 
  • They have invested in our police officer’s pay and pensions to retain the men and women who keep Oro Valley the safest town in the state. 
  • They have improved the town’s financial rating to AA+, and paid off police pension debt that will avoid millions in future pension liabilities. They have used golf savings to improve and expand recreation amenities without any new taxes. Topping it off is our new 202 acre Vistoso Trails Nature Preserve that Joe refused to rezone for high density development. 
  • Mayor Winfield’s vision is to grow Oro Valley responsibly. He has self funded his campaign and will decide what is best for residents, NOT Tucson apartment developers, and real estate PACs who have funded his challenger. 
  • Finally, Mayor Winfield is the most honest man I know, and we need leaders who tell us the truth even when it is not what we want to hear.
Don’t forget to vote for three open council seats
The Mayor does not make decisions alone. It is the town council of which he is a member, that has the final say. There are six candidates vying for the three open council seats. Here’s who they are:
  • Melanie Barrett is the town’s Vice Mayor. One of her focus areas is representing the needs of families with school age children
  • Joe Erceg is a business development candidate. Joe wants to bring more sports activities into the community 
  • Charlie Hurt has lived in Oro Valley for 16 years. He is a former member and chair of the town’s Planning and Zoning Commission and a former member and chair of the town’s Water Utility Commission 
  • Joyce Jones-Ivey is a current council member. She takes pride in being an independent thinker. Joyce does not “go along to just get along.” 
  • Josh Nicolson brings a financial perspective to the council. His insight into finance was one of the driving forces in the town fully funding the public safety pension plan 
  • Bill Rodman served as council member from 2016 to 2020. Rodman is a proponent of growing the town to support business and to support the town’s finances. He voted for all approved general plan and zoning amendments during his prior tour on council. 
These six have affiliated themselves with one of the two mayoral candidates. But you don’t have to vote for one or all of them simply because they have done that. You can “mix and match.” 

We will be back Wednesday to report preliminary results
These results will likely include about 98% of the total votes cast. However, there will still be “provisional” and possibly late mail in ballots not yet counted. It could take a few more days for those.

So, Oro Valley, it’s election time.

Do your job!