Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Jim Williams: Oro Valley "Claims The Desert"

From time to time, LOVE will be featuring Oro Valley author Jim Williams and his book Claiming the Desert: Settlers, Homesteaders and Ranchers in Oro Valley, Arizona, 1865-1965. This is an excerpt from his book.
"What was it like to ride a stagecoach from Tucson to what became Oro Valley in 1900? Stagecoaches were used to transport goods and passengers in Great Britain from the 1700s onward, and they became common in the western United States in the late nineteenth century. A stagecoach carried people and freight from Tucson to Mammoth from the 1880s to at least 1908. After that, railroads, buses and automobiles replaced the stagecoach.

In 1900, the stagecoach followed Oracle Road, a rough, dirt highway. Passengers were in for a dusty and bumpy ride. The stagecoach left central Tucson and followed much of what is now Oracle Road to Mammoth. The roadway crossed the sandy bottom of the Rillito River about one-half mile west of the current bridge crossing.
A bridge was not built until the early twentieth century, and the current location for crossing the Rillito was not established until 1951.

The stage continued northward and often stopped at Steam Pump Ranch to water the horses, or at Francisco Marin’s ranch one mile further north (and 12 miles from the start in Tucson) to hitch up fresh teams. After 1899, the stagecoach primarily stopped at the Marin ranch. The significant elevation near Marin’s property, called Marin Hill, was the steepest climb for the horses and stagecoach (located on Oracle Road today, between the entrance to Catalina State Park and Tangerine Road). Some of the stagecoach operators and teamsters included local settlers like William Sutherland, Jesus Maria Elias and Teodoro Marin. Some of these men left jobs with the stagecoach and settled on ranches in the area."
"Claiming the Desert" is available at the Western National Parks Association and through Amazon.com.

Jim will speak and sign books at Western National Parks on December 8, 2018. The location:12880 N Vistoso Village in Oro Valley.

Monday, November 19, 2018

Opinion: Oro Valley's Water Is A Strategic Resource

In the near term, the Oro Valley Town Council and staff will be holding strategic planning meetings. We think that water should be on the agenda. Specifically: How should the town best deploy Oro Valley's water capacity for the benefit of the community?

We've provided a basis for this discussion though our past three water articles. The first article asked whether Oro Valley has plenty of water. The second article analyzed why Oro Valley's water is very expensive. The third article,"Western States Drought Could Restrict CAP Water", discussed how the current prolonged Western US drought could impact Oro Valley's water supply.

This article is our opinion of the strategic positioning of Oro Valley's water capacity.
Water is a shared resource. It is not an economic development weapon.
A colleague of ours, an Oro Valley resident, shared some thinking with us about our town's water cost. Our colleague is relatively new to Oro Valley. "Boy, Oro Valley water is expensive" my colleague observed. Continuing: "I never even looked at the water bill when I lived in Michigan. But here, I have to budget to pay it and we don't use that much water."

Our Response: "Welcome to Oro Valley's de facto property tax where your pocketbook's punished because of inverted water rates, two monthly water fees and three different taxes."

To add insult to injury...

While Oro Valley homeowners pay excessively for the privilege of water, while they scrimp on water use, while they invest in water saving devices, the head of the Town of Oro Valley's water department, Peter Abraham, touts that Oro Valley's water supply is sufficiently ample to support annexation, annexation that could result in thousands of new homes using all that water capacity that residents so carefully built through conservation and investment.

Using water to encourage growth is an insult to residents who have worked so hard to conserve water use...and it's dangerous
Residents are insulted.
Oro Valley residents have been told for years that water is a scarce resource. We live in the desert. Water should be conserved. We agree.

The 2016 "Your Voice, Our Future" General Plan also agrees. This voter approved vision or our town calls for water conservation. Annexations, land use changes, and zoning changes are not part of the plan. In fact, these types of changes go against the plan for they encourage, not conserve total water use.

Encouraging water use is dangerous.
The question must be asked: Can Oro Valley maintain a long term sustainable water supply if it does not have Central Arizona Project ("CAP") water?

CAP water is truly the only renewable water source Oro Valley has. But, is it a reliable source? Will it continue forever?

CAP water is an important source of Oro Valley's water. For example, CAP water was 21% of the water delivered in the third quarter of this year (Source: November 2018 Town Manager's Report, p 13). That is 21% less groundwater that would have been drawn from Oro Valley's wells had there been no CAP water.

There is an extended Western States drought that could result in CAP water restriction as soon as 2020. The drought is real. It shows no sign of abatement.

The danger of encouraging more and more rooftops is in assuming that CAP Water supplied to Oro Valley will continue forever.
There is water available because we, the residents, have made it so
Oro Valley has a decent water supply because residents of Oro Valley have been forced to conserve use through water rates and taxes that punish water use; and because they have paid for investment to bring CAP water to our town.

Our Opinion:
Use water for the purpose that the general plan intended: Conserve and supply water for growth based on current land use and current zoning.

Friday, November 16, 2018

Jacobs To Hear Your Concerns on Moore and LaCanada Traffic Control

Town Manager Jacobs issues a monthly to council. The report is now available on line. The following "items in quote" are from the November report.

Jacobs to hear your thoughts on traffic control at Moore and LaCanada
"The Town Engineer and the internal Traffic Safety Committee are recommending to me [Jacobs] that the Town install a roundabout rather than a traffic signal at the intersection of Moore and La Canada. Since there was significant interest in the intersection at a neighborhood meeting held earlier this year, I will hold a final neighborhood meeting on Monday, December 3 to personally listen to issues and concerns prior to making a decision." The budget for this project is $1million.

Strategic Planning in store for council and executive leadership team
"The Town received eight responses from firms interested in providing strategic planning services to the new Council and Executive Leadership Team. The proposals are under review and we anticipate awarding a contract to the selected firm later this month."

Economic development creation plan in progress
"The CED Director is working with the Town Manager to finalize an Economic Development Strategy outlining specific strategies and tactics on how to retain, expand and attract new primary and service sector investment and job creation in Oro Valley. The finalized report will be forwarded to the Town Council in the near future."

Community Center getting facelift
"The Community Center lobby will have a facelift in November. New carpet and front desk reconfiguration will result in improved aesthetics, improved customer service flow and improved staff security and safety. Minor disruptions on Nov 20-21, but members will be notified well in advance"

Overlook restaurant still in business
"The Overlook restaurant will continue to facilitate the very popular Family Fish Fry, Second Saturday, Date Night and Third Thursday Pasta and Pizza. New fall hours went into effect on October 1. The Overlook will serve lunch daily from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. The annual Thanksgiving Holiday Buffet will be served on Thursday, November 22, from 1-5 p.m."

Thursday, November 15, 2018

Western States Drought Could Restrict CAP Water

CAP water comes from the Colorado River by agreement, not by right
The Central Arizona Project (CAP) channels water from the Colorado River to cities and towns in Arizona. CAP gets its water from Lake Mead.  CAP  has an agreement with six other states and Mexico.

The amount of water Arizona is allowed to take for CAP is designated by agreement with two other states, Unfortunately, a huge water hog, California, drinks from the same trough. Nevada, another water hungry state (how many water displays are in Las Vegas?) also partakes.

CAP water came to Oro Valley in 2012
CAP water was not used by Oro Valley until six years ago. That was because there was no way to get water to Oro Valley from the reservoirs in Avra Valley. First, the reservoirs had to be built; then the City of Tucson had to get the water.  Oro Valley Water signed an agreement with Tucson Water to "wheel" water through
them to Oro Valley. Oro Valley needed the water because growth had caused the town to draw more than it target maximum groundwater target water usage.

CAP water is a significant contributor to Oro Valley's water supply
Oro Valley uses CAP water to recharge its wells. As this chart shows, Oro Valley now uses less groundwater than its target maximum groundwater use. Prior to CAP becoming accessible, this was most certainly not the case.

Oro Valley now depends on CAP water to replenish its wells. Oro Valley can not provide water at a "safe well usage" level without it.

The prolonged western states drought threatens the Colorado River water supply
There is a prolonged drought in the West that has reduced available water levels.

"The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, responsible for divvying up Lake Mead’s water and electric power, in August reported a 57 percent chance that Lake Mead’s water levels would be so dismal in 2020 that Arizona and Nevada would face cutoffs." (Source)

Specifically, Lake Mead and Lake Powell that feeds it, are at 38% and 45% of maximum levels. (Source) The sources that feed these lakes aren't in much better shape. (Read more about the CAP water situation here and here.)

Our conclusion: Be good for the town to consider whether it really is wise to encourage growth in total water consumption given the possibility that CAP water could be restricted. 

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

The Watchdog Report: August 2018

Community Center Fund
The August 2018 Community Center/Golf numbers are in. The Community Center Fund (funded with your sales tax revenues) to pay for ALL the expenses for the Community Center/Golf ended August 2018 $215,610 in the red. This is what Hiremath-Hornat-Snider-Waters referred to as “breaking even” during their 2018 re-election campaigns. This deficient includes $356,161 in your sales taxes to offset the losses.

Revenues were 869,664. Expenses were $1,121,274. When you add the fact that this fund started the year $74,010 in the hole, you get a fund balance as of August 31st of minus $325,620.

We lost $75,177 more in August 2018 than in August 2017.

Troon Golf
Troon’s revenues were $13,345 less in August 2018 than August 2017. This is partially because the dues the members pay were $10,752 less in 2018. What happened to the robust membership income? As of September 30, 2018, golf membership is down to 214. For comparison, golf membership in August 2017 was 238.

The Overlook Restaurant
The Overlook Restaurant lost $21,661 in August 2018. They pay no rent, they pay no utilities, and they do not pay for advertising, yet they still lose almost $700.00 a day. Since the close of FY 2015/16 (the first year of operation) the Overlook has lost $384,685 yet the “Hiremath” Town Council and Town Manager kept it open.

The golf membership is at an all time low, the Overlook continues to lose money, your sales tax revenues continue to increase, the Community Center Fund continues to be in the red, yet the Troon contract has been extended for another 6 months to December 2019. Additionally, the Pusch Ridge course was reopened on November 1st and we will continue with the same 36-hole model that includes private membership.

We still have September and October numbers to see before we can close out the legacy of Hiremath-Hornat-Snider-Waters. Although those two Watchdog Reports will be published after the new Council is seated, the numbers posted in those upcoming reports will still be the responsibility of Hiremath et. al.
Mike Zinkin has a Bachelor’s degree in history and government from the University of Arizona and a Master’s degree in Social and Philosophical Foundations of Education from California State University, Northridge. He was a commissioned ensign in the United States Navy Reserve. He was an Air Traffic Controller for 30 years. He and his wife moved to Oro Valley in 1998. Mike served on the Oro Valley Development Review Board from 2005-2009 and the Board of Adjustment from 2011-2012. He served on the Town Council from 2012-2016 during which time he was named a Fellow for the National League of Cities University, he was a member of the National League of Cities Steering Committee for Community and Economic Development, and a member of the Arizona League of Cities Budget and Economic Development Committee.

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Guest View: Diane Peters ~ A New Beginning

Please watch the included video of Mayor Winfield’s opening remarks after being sworn in as mayor last Wednesday. Contrary to the openly hostile and “I’m always right” demeanor of the previous mayor, I believe you will find Mayor Winfield to be amiable, humble, and respectful.

Highlights from Mayor Winfield’s opening remarks
Winfield stated that in working with many elected officials over the years, he has learned that “Our elected officials are (1) simply ordinary people for the most part and (2) they clearly are individuals that have a desire to serve and make their community a better place.”

Mayor Winfield graciously thanked the outgoing mayor and council
He shared anecdotes to include Mary Snider’s long-standing involvement with school students and how it “speaks to her devotion to our community.” With Veterans’ Day approaching, Winfield honored Joe Hornat’s military service, noting that it “exemplifies a lifetime of service that Joe has dedicated to our country and to this community.”

The video also includes Winfield’s kind remarks and anecdotes about Mayor Hiremath and Vice-Mayor Lou Waters.

Winfield also shared his vision for leading our town
Winfield extended an inclusive outlook in defining his vision. “It’s our greatest desire to serve all the members of our community and we know it takes collaboration and cooperation and civility to make that happen…certainly we can be civil and collaborative in our efforts to serve you.”

“We are anxious to build a relationship with you, our community. We pledge that we are here to serve you and we are going to do everything we can to make you a part of that process. We don’t want anyone to feel disenfranchised or out of the loop, so to speak…We’re here to govern for all the members of our community.”

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. In 2014, she organized a citizens group, Citizen Advocates of the Oro Valley General Plan, who over a 9-month period, successfully negotiated 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.