Wednesday, July 6, 2022

Council to Consider Land Swap and One-Time Town Staff Compensation Increase Tonight

Lasting impact
There are two items on tonight‘s Oro Valley Town Council meeting agenda that will have a long-term impact on the town. One, is a land swap that will increase the size of the parking lot at the Community Center. The other is a one-time increase in compensation of the town’s employees.

Land swap will increase Community Center parking
There is a lot adjacent to the Community Center parking lot. It is privately owned. It is a one acre lot. The town has negotiated a land swap for land which is approximately the same size located in Rancho Vistoso. The swap, which is likely to be approved by council tonight, will enable the expansion of the town’s very crowded Community Center parking lot. This will also provide the opportunity to improve mobility challenged access, which is something that has been neglected by the town until recently. There is no monetary cost to the town for this land swap.

Town staff will get one time bump in compensation 
Council is being asked to approve a “2022-23 General Pay Plan” for town employees. The pay plan does not show the increases, but does show the new levels of compensation in tiers. The tables, which comprise 18 pages, are the result of study prepared by a consulting firm. The tables have 37 job classifications with a compensation level for each.

It is curious to us that the Town Manager midpoint compensation is almost $230,000 while the Police Chief’s is $172,000. That is a whopping $58,000 difference. The Police Chief is far more critical to the town than the Town Manager. Fortunately, the Police Chief reports directly to council and should be compensated based on their judgment, not based on some table.

The consulting firm’s study is not included as part of the agenda materials. Supposedly, the consulting firm compared town employee compensation to other communities. We cannot provide details of these comparisons until we receive a requested a copy of the consultant study. We do wonder, however, how council can make a decision on the pay plan without vetting the study at a council meeting

“The additional cost to implement this pay plan is approximately $825,000 across all funds and includes pension costs, Social Security, and Medicare contributions. The cost of this change was included in the Town’s budget adopted on June 15, 2022.” [Source: July 6, 2022 Meeting Agenda]

These compensation increases are in addition to the step and merit compensation staff is to receive this year.

Tuesday, July 5, 2022

Guest View-Tim Bohen: When It Comes To Safety, Foresight Beats Hindsight Every Time

Players injured by light poles at Naranja Park
Some time ago, we learned of an incident in which a player at Naranja Park  ran in to a light pole, causing injury. This is the second time something like this has happened. The poles are not padded and they are mere feet from the playing area. Perhaps, the Town of Oro Valley lacks the experience of running “big time parks.” If they had the experience they should have known and acted on this simple fix to that particulate problem. 

Council Member Tim Bohen has brought this to the attention of the current town council.  We asked Bohen his thoughts on what needs to be done. Here is his response.
- - -
Missed safety issues are costly to the town
“When Oro Valley misses a safety issue, we pay three times when an incident occurs. Also, our reputation for safety suffers
  1. We need to investigate the incident 
  2. We pay restitution to someone who may be injured 
  3. We fix the safety issue so it does not happen again 
Proactive action reduces injury and costs less
When we proactively detect a safety issue we pay once. We fix the safety issue and our infrastructure is in better repair. Oro Valley has slightly lower reserves.   However, the infrastructure on our balance sheet is also improved by an offsetting amount. And we move forward confident that we have acted responsibly. 

With the Town running huge operatonal surpluses, the two safety incidents I have seen resulted in serious injuries and cost our Town needlessly. Everyone knows inadequate safety is costly for the victims. But inadequate safety is also bad business for the Town as we run surpluses. Also, safety issues such as the root cause of the Leonard Lawsuit should never be resolved behind the scenes as we saw on August 18, 2021 [Executive Council Session- details not revealed by town as the Council met in Executive Session to settle this situation].

The lessons learned can be missed
A budget surplus is only a surplus if all of the work for which the budget is allocated is actually done. In these two incidents the Town needlessly deferred a small expense we can afford. Oro Valley later assumed a much larger expense in a later budget cycle while people were needlessly injured on Town property. This failure to act when we should is both tragic for the victims and poor management by the Town.”

Tim
- - -

Thursday, June 30, 2022

Guest View-Diane Peters: Danny Sharp’s Claim Is Quite A Stretch

Mayoral Candidate Danny Sharp’s comment in the Explorer
In the June 22nd edition of the Explorer, Oro Valley mayoral candidate Danny Sharp continued his battle cry that the OVPD is understaffed, and then says, “I mean this town was founded on the premise of strong public safety. They [the Winfield council] are not attending to that strong public safety piece that the Founding Fathers of Oro Valley thought was important."

This is the first time I’ve heard that Oro Valley was founded on the premise of strong public safety. Every article I’ve read on this topic over the years has stated that Oro Valley was founded because residents didn’t want to be annexed into Tucson. They wanted to control their own destiny. They wanted to protect the desert landscape. The founders also promised that Oro Valley would never have a property tax. Now that the former chief of police is running for mayor, suddenly we’re told that Oro Valley was founded on the premise of strong public safety.

The Oro Valley Historical Society (OVHS) published an article on LOVE in April 2021 about Oro Valley Founding Father, Jim Kriegh. They listed all of the reasons that he wanted to incorporate Oro Valley. Strong public safety is not mentioned.

Here is what was mentioned in the OVHS article:

The Main Reason was to continue “Country Living”
When asked why he wanted to incorporate Oro Valley, Kriegh said the main reason was that he believed that Tucson was “going to spread to the North and Northwest, and there goes country living. Country living is why I am here.”

With that, Kriegh ensured that his core value of protecting the environment was encompassed in Oro Valley’s first General Plan which included the following objectives:

• Ensure that development is compatible with the area’s topography, natural landscape and resources

• Promote physical forms which are in harmony with the natural environment and reflect a design quality appropriate to the area

• Protect the natural beauty and qualities of the existing desert environment

• Encourage the preservation of the mountains, foothills, and hillsides

Police protection was barely a blip on Kriegh’s radar screen
In a video interview that Jim gave many years ago, he was asked why he wanted to form a separate town. In that interview he again spoke of land use issues and that the founders were not happy with the Planning and Zoning being approved by the Pima County Board of Supervisors and that the Board was not responding to their desires and requests. This was why the founders wanted to “gain control of our area.” He briefly mentioned that the Pima County Sheriff’s Department was “spread too thin and just could not cover the area” and as such, he felt that our police protection could be better. But this comment was barely a blip on the radar screen and he never said that Oro Valley was founded on the premise of strong public safety.

The recurring theme in Jim Kriegh’s plan
As you can see, the recurring theme in Kriegh’s desire to incorporate was to preserve country living. Therefore, Sharp’s assertion that “this town was founded on the premise of strong public safety” is quite a stretch.

Our public safety is doing just fine under Mayor Winfield
In April of this year, the Town announced that, “OV was ranked the #1 safest place to live in Arizona for 2022 by Elite Personal Finance, using FBI statistics and crime scores.”

Additionally, as reported on LOVE on May 16th, during the May 2022 Budget Study Session, Chief Riley stated that she got everything she asked for in her $19.1M police budget request. (Town Manager’s Recommended Budget for FY 2022/23 which begins on July 1, 2022). You can read about it HERE. And on June 24th, the OVPD announced that they were hiring more lateral police officers.

---
Diane Peters has lived in Oro Valley since 2003, moving here to escape the humidity of the East Coast. She’s been involved in OV politics and development issues since 2006, including organizing a citizens group in 2014 that spent 9 months negotiating a controversial 200-acre development project. In her past life, she worked in medical research at various University Hospitals in New England. Her interests include reading, writing, nature photography, travel, art galleries, museums, and politics.

Wednesday, June 29, 2022

Guest View-Kathleen Robinson: Danny Sharp Is A Leader For Our Times

I want to thank LOVE for the recent work and time you have devoted to sharing the current activities occurring in Oro Valley with the public. 

The recent topics you’ve covered in LOVE about the upcoming elections and the decisions made by our current Mayor and Council need to be discussed and heard. 

I have been a resident of Oro Valley for more than 25 years. After working and living in the City of Tucson, my husband and I chose to relocate and move our family north to the town of Oro Valley. Many things factored into this decision, to include the educational opportunities for our children and their safety. We wanted to raise our children in a safe and vibrant community. We watched Oro Valley grow and prosper and were excited to be a part of its development. Back then, the government was open and transparent, and the community was fully involved and engaged in its growth and progress.

One of the reasons for this was the leadership and direction provided by the Oro Valley Chief of Police, Danny Sharp. I spent close to 32 years with the Tucson Police Department and have known Chief Sharp for more than 40 years. As a young officer, and later as a Commander and Assistant Chief, I worked closely with him and his wife at the Tucson Police Department. When he accepted the job as Chief of Police in Oro Valley, I was thrilled and excited for him. I watched him set the tone for the department and the agency. Under his leadership, the officers flourished and performed at their optimal level. The training he provided and obtained for his officers and the relationships they developed with the community was outstanding! The development and mentoring of his Commanders, to include the current Chief Kara Riley, was second to none. His ability to communicate, engage the community, build trust, and his desire to help others really put his agency and the town of Oro Valley on the map. His focus on public safety in our schools and the community was vitally important to him. Oro Valley developed a reputation as one of the best and safest cities in the State of Arizona.

In recent years, that has all changed! The current lack of transparency, decision making and toxic dynamics in our Mayor and Council Offices is hurting our community.
 
Public Service, no matter what office you hold, is not just a job, it’s a lifestyle. We need a change in our leadership. The town is floundering. The weak leadership and decisions being made by our town government is having a detrimental effect on Oro Valley. The town deserves better! I love Oro Valley and I know that we can do better! It is time for a positive change, and I believe that Danny Sharp is the one to lead the town and this change. I fully support Danny Sharp in his quest to be elected Mayor. I am hoping that the community is ready to get involved and vote “Danny Sharp for Mayor” on August 2, 2022.

Sincerely, Kathleen Robinson
Assistant Chief of Police (Retired)

Tuesday, June 28, 2022

Candidate Forum Tonight

Candidate Forum Tonight
There is a Candidate Forum tonight. The Oro Valley Church of the Nazarene is hosting it. The council forum starts at 6pm. The mayoral forum starts at 7:15pm. Those attending can meet with candidates starting at 5:15 pm. It is free to all. You can watch it here if you can not attend. The Greater Oro Valley Chamber of Commerce is the sponsor. You will be able to watch a video of the sessions by visiting their site.

Dave Perry, head of the Chamber, will be asking questions of the candidates. There will be no audience questions. You can submit questions to dave@orovalleychamber.com.
- - -

Guest Opposing View: Golf Is Not A Financial Drain On Oro Valley

Last week, Mike Zinkin reported his views on the operating and financial health of the Oro Valley town’s Community Center Fund. His assessment is that the Community Center fund is certainly not doing as well as the Town Manager says it is. 

The implication is that golf is the problem.  Former town Budget and Finance Commission member David Newell does not agree. Writing on LOVE’s facebook page he noted the following.
- - -
“This might be the most erroneous thing I have ever seen written about the town golfing operations. A correction should be made. Mike Zinkin is correct when he says there were 2,627 public pay rounds played on town courses. But on the exact same line of the spreadsheet in the Town Manager's Executive Report to Council, it SPECIFICALLY SAYS an additional 2828 rounds were played by members, 673 rounds were played by Outings, and 84 rounds were played by Comps (reimbursement for advertising and selling rounds on GolfNow and other sites). There were 6212 rounds played in May on the Town Courses.

Mike Zinkin's argument is the mental equivalent of saying a local Subway sold 2627 Roast Beef Sandwiches in May. A local Arby's Sold 3700 Roast Beef Sandwiches. The Subway sells less sandwiches than Arby's, even though the Subway sells 3582 Ham Sandwiches as well.

Oversight is important, and we want to make sure that we can identify places where town services can improve, but the count of public play rounds is simply not a key performance indicator. The citizens of Oro Valley would surely prefer selling 2000 rounds of golf at 100 dollars a round for 200,000 dollars of revenue, rather than 3000 rounds of golf at 50 dollars a round for 150,000 dollars of revenue.

The true key performance indicator, and a simple one to understand, is how much profit or loss the golf operation sustains over a period of time, and how much if any subsidy of tax dollars is required to keep it from losing money. From the latest town financial report: "With the most recent year-end projections provided by the golf contractor, the Town is not expecting any year-end sales tax support for golf operations. The projected net loss of $36,172 for contracted golf operations will be covered by $159,050 in outside HOA contributions, and approximately $83,000 in local sales taxes generated from golf related operations." Golf is projected to turn over 200,000 dollar Profit to the town's bottom line this year. When Mike Zinkin was on the council, Golf routinely lost the town close to 2 million dollars a year. Obviously, things are very different, and improved, now.”
- - -

Monday, June 27, 2022

Guest View-Charlie Hurt: A Disturbing 2023 Budget Picture When It Comes To Spending On Naranja Park

Oro Valley voters will be receiving ballots for the 2022 (primary) election for Mayor and three town council members in early July. It is likely that all council seats will be determined based on this election. LOVE plans to keep you informed regarding each candidate. In this regard, we’ve offered the pages of LOVE to each candidate. 

We’ve asked that they submit guest views. Council candidate Charlie Hurt has provided the following “Guest View”. 

- - - 
A disturbing 2023 budget picture
Oro Valley now has a budget for next year. I love budgets and I love to peel back some layers of the onion here to see what we really have. For the most part, this is a simple, straightforward budget. However, if we start looking at some of the items that make up the budget, we see what for me, is a disturbing picture.

As an example, examine the projected expenditure for Naranja Park. Skipping over the fact that until now Parks and Recreation investment has operated with a pay as you go mandate, the costs for the improvements are not known. The bonding, in this case $25 million for Naranja Park, received minimal public scrutiny, emerging as yet another closed door decision. 
 
There is no budget for the Naranja Park refurbishment… costs are really unknown
The Council study session on this issue was illuminating. The Town Engineer, Paul Kessler, noted that he had no way to determine what the costs for the re-imagining of Naranja Park might be (and should not be faulted for his lack of knowledge since he had received no estimates or proposals). The Town Manager weighed in that there could be a $5 million cost overrun. There was no discussion as to why the $5 million cost overrun was determined. Could it be more? Bottom line: how much will a splash pad cost? Unknown. How much will a pump track cost? Unknown. 

This is a recipe for financial disaster along the lines of classic over billing and cost over runs. There are no firm or even soft estimates or projections for the costs. Yes, there is a plan but there are no costs associated with those plans. The public needs to know what the costs are, in detail, for the Naranja Park refurbishment. 

Do we need more amenities in our parks? Yes. But we need to do so with eyes wide open. 
We need to follow the wishes of the residents of Oro Valley who indicated, for instance, that splash pads and pump tracks tracks were rated below 50% in the statistically valid survey. Now they are priories. Why? We need to recognize, as did the respondents to the Town survey, that a higher priority is to maintain and enhance what we already have in our parks.

Going into debit without asking Oro Valley residents was and always will be the wrong thing to do. 
Now that we have this debt, we as residents, need to make our voices heard as to a budget for the Naranja Park expansion. Budgets need priorities—residents need to be willing to come forward and make their priorities known. That is what Oro Valley needs. We do not need a group of officials telling us what we need; we need Oro Valley residents telling Council what we need and what to do.
- - - 
Charlie Hurt is a candidate for Oro Valley Town Council in the upcoming primary, August 2. He has lived in Oro Valley for 16 years. He is a former member and chair of the Planning and Zoning Commission and a former member and chair of the Water Utility Commission.