Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Guest View- Mike Zinkin: The "Devil Is In The Lack of Detail" in Town Manager's Recommended Budget

TMRB is incomplete and misleading
The Town Manager's Recommended Budget ("TMRB") is out for FY 2020/21. This document is incomplete and hardly gives enough information for the Council to make an informed decision.

I suspect that there are sitting Council members (the Hiremath holdovers) who have no idea that a lot of information is missing. The unfortunate thing is they probably don’t care or couldn’t be bothered with such details. After all, consider how many times we’ve heard them say that the staff gets paid to do this, they’re the experts, and we don’t need to get into the weeds.

The council needs to get into the weeds to understand this budget
In my years on council, I spent countless hours pouring through budget information. It was my job to do that for the people. You have to get into the weeds when it comes to understanding a budget, otherwise some spending will get a perpetual life. Some of these spending items were given life in the Hiremath years and really do need a hard look by the council majority.

Partial information
It's important that all areas be discussed completely. An example is the budget for amounts the town plans to contribute to other organizations.  "Page v" the TMRB states that the Town is budgeting $30,000 to give the UA for recruitment and support of new businesses, $275,000 (down from last year’s $300,000) to Visit Tucson, and $40,000 to the Greater Oro Valley Chamber of Commerce. All of this spending was ramped up under Hiremath.

But that is not the whole story. Because the town is actually planning to give away more.

It was only after I communicated with Town Manager Jacobs did I find out that: “The town manager message preface of the TMRB is intended to hit highlights and does not specify all expenditures. Additional details will be covered in the study session presentations."

So the TMRB didn't mention that a continued Children’s Museum contribution of $75K is included (General Admin), that continued membership in Sun Corridor for $10K is included (CED) or that  $25K is planned for the Southern Arizona Arts Council.

Why wouldn’t this be in writing in the document?  Was it an oversight, or was it that the Town Manager did not want the Council know about these additional expenditures?

 Detail Included In Prior TMRB Documents
"The devil is in the detail"
The TMRB has no pages indicating how each department is allocating their expenditures. In recent memory, all TMRB’s have included this kind of information; what I like to call “onion skin.” Onion skin details how much is spent on line items like travel, training, supplies, overtime, and vehicles.

When I questioned why this TMRB had no onion skin, the Town Manager replied: "We have a new CFO who is bringing new ideas, approaches and best practices to the budget development.  We look forward to hearing feedback from the Council on the new format.”

Ms. Jacobs, need I remind you that your new CFO works for you. Could it be you that does not want the decision makers (Council) to have all the information? Without this information, the Council cannot make an educated decision.

I could go on forever, regarding this TMRB
For example, Page 26 of the TMRB shows that there is a $3,000,000 bonding source for the Community Center. It wasn't even mentioned in the Town Manager's statement. Its just buried in a schedule. Seems to me that $3million in bonding for Community Center is something that should have been highlighted. Didn’t the Council mandate Community Center improvements were to be on a pay as you go basis. If so, just what is this for?

I have not completed my review of this 126-page document, but from what I have reviewed so far, this document is severely lacking. It appears to contain only the information that staff wants to present, but NOT the information needed for the Town Council to make an educated informed decision.

Oro Valley's Parks and Recreation Random Survey Missed The Mark

Last week, The Oro Valley Town Council held a special session to review to Phase 1 Parks and Recreation Master Plan study. This session was dedicated to understanding and asking questions regarding the study we reported last week. This study focussed on what residents say they want.

Mike Svetz, project leader for Pros Consulting, the firm retained to do this study, emphasized that the goal is to develop master plan that is “realistic, implementable and financially sustainable. Anything that you build has life cycles to them… need to insure that you have the operating and maintenance dollars to maintain and replace things as they age. The plan needs to consider both the short term investment and the ongoing cost.

Svetz observed that the town should develop a plan  that meets the needs of all residents, not simply the needs of one dominant population segment. In Oro Valley, that would be senior and retirees.

Svetz: People don't know what we have
The study of wants highlighted paths and walking trails as a must investment. Svetz stated that these were not new trails, but the upkeep of exiting trials plus the creation of some loop trails in park areas. Council Person Solomon observed the the town has 54 trail miles. He wondered if residents knew that. Svetz stated that they did not know but he had not basis for this statement. The study did not "test" people on their knowledge of what Oro Valley has. It asked only what they wanted.

The devil is in the detail and the detail is missing
Responses specific to location
Council Person Barrett wants more detail of information by area of the town. For example, the stated need that town needs more restroom facilities most certainly does not apply to the town's parks. Each has restrooms. However, the many HOA parks don't. Those would be the responsibility of the HOA and not the town. Thus, the need for more restrooms is not a town challenge.
The bathroom puzzle
While the study is able to segment results by age group it is not able to do it by geographic location. According to Svetz, the statistically valid survey, a survey of xxx people, was geographically representative of the town's population locations, but Pros Consulting never associated a response with the geography. Thus, the study does not tell what people in, say Rancho Vistoso want versus what people in the original section of Oro Valley want. This seems like a very significant oversight on the part of the town and study designers. Barrett wants that information so the "the town can invest strategically."
What kids want
Mayor Winfield observed that detail is needed regarding what Oro Valley's kids want. The survey did not include them, It included their parents who, according to Svetz, were supposed to respond to questions with the whole family in mind.  This really is not a valid gauge even though Svetz plans to provide responses based on family demographics. Given the methodology, we now understand why Baskeball Courts (Oro Valley has one) or new fields, items that were important in the last survey of 2014, suddenly dropped to low priority. Youth baseball and little league, a big concern a few years ago, fell of the chart. Other then refurbishing four of the five fields at Kreigh Park, nothing has been done. Pickleball Courts, on the other hand, jumped from the bottom in 2014 to near top. This, after the town has added pickleball facilities.

Town on its own?
The town plans to reduce the use of an external consultant in completing the master plan, spending no more than $30,000. According to Oro Valley Parks and Recreation Director Krisy Diaz-Trahan, "We have a meeting with Mr. Svetz scheduled to determine where the greatest talent pool exists" to do each one of the remaining steps to complete the master plan.

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Oland: Town Needs More Rooftops

Kai Amendment justification: Oro Valley needs more rooftops
The narrative that “more rooftops” are needed to justify more retail presence continued as the justification for approving a general plan amendment. This is an amendment of a commercial parcel located near the first avenue and Tangerine Intersection. We call this the Kai Property because it, like the entire Silverhawke area, is owned by the Kai family.

The justification was stated a last week's public meeting by Paul Oland of Paradigm Land Design, the land engineering company representing the owner.

Request at odds with town's "economic development strategy"
The owner is presenting this general plan amendment to reduce commercial land at a time when the town's economic development strategy is to increase commercial land and to speed its development.

There are many uses for commercial property other than the neighborhood shopping center that the developer presented in 2015, when the entire Silvehawke land mass was amended. The property could be used for a variety of non retail commercial needs as currently zoned. Some of these could be very specific to the area such as medical offices or a workout facility.

Lots of rooftops proposed
This latest proposal shows a road connecting First Avenue and Tangerine Road.  As for the land use, Oland presented five alternatives, none of which are binding if and when the amendment is approved:
  • 10 apartments, 2-stories each, a gated community
  • 100 plus 1-story casitas with a tiny recreation area
  • Senior care facility and independent senior living housing
  • A  cluster of townhomes
  • 55 single family homes like Silverhawk
Terrain has not changed since 2015 amendment
Tim Bohen: "What's really happened since 2015 to require this amendment?"
There were two audience questions.  Oro Valley Town Council candidate Tim Bohen referred to the slide at right. The slide highlights the area north of the property. Its hilly nature, according to Oland, blocked the line of sight  from Tangerine Rd, making the property unsuitable for retail use.

Bohen had asked what has happened between 2015 and today to cause the need for a change in land use. After all, the terrain was the same in 2015 as it is today.  Oland did not respond directly to that question. Rather, he repeated his assertion that Oro Valley needs more rooftops. 

The second question from an attendee was about Kai Drive being connected to Tangerine Road. Could a traffic-safe connection to Tangerine Road be made? Town Engineer Keesler said that the town will look into this as part of the application process.

Friday, May 22, 2020

We Remember Those Who Made The Ultimate Sacrifice

Printed with the permission of Dave Granlund. You can visit his website to see his rich body of work.

Thursday, May 21, 2020

Kai Property Amendment Virtual Public Meeting Tonight

The Town of Oro Valley is hosting a virtual neighborhood meeting at 6pm tonight. The subject of the meeting is the proposed general plan amendment for the Southeast of Tangerine Road and 1st Avenue Intersection. This property abuts the northern edge of the Silerhawke development.

This is an "... opportunity for residents to ask questions directly to the applicant and Town staff as well as build-on the information, questions and comments that have been generated by the 1st and 2nd informational videos posted on"

This virtual meeting is a step the process that the town created to facilitate community input on the proposed general plan amendment. The town created the process to accommodate Covid-19 social distancing requirements.  This meeting is not a substitute for in-person neighborhood meetings that are to be held later in the the August-September time frame. Virtual meetings will happen if in-person meetings can not safely occur.

Use to access the meeting:
  • Click on this link
  • Enter the meeting ID number: 986 3253 1728
or join the meeting by phone: 253-215-8782

You can learn about this project by reading LOVE articles or the town's postings.

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Parks and Rec Phase 1 Study Recognizes That Oro Valley is an Older Community With Senior Rec Needs

Consultant's study released
The Oro Valley Parks and Recreation department has released the Phase One report of a many months consultant study of town recreation facilities and future needs. This report will set the table for recommendations from the consultant and town staff to the Mayor and council.

The methodology included a statistical sampling of 443 randomly selected households. It also considered some “not so random” information from “stuff the box” town flash surveys to meetings with stakeholders. like the the men’s golf association and theCanada Hills HOAs.

Confirms Oro Valley's senior-dominant demographic
What really jumped out is the demographic data. For the first time, a town document recognized reality: Oro Valley’s residents are mostly over 55. We’ve been saying this for years. This was something we pointed to in 2013. However, then Mayor Hiremath was bent on telling everyone that Oro Valley was a younger community and that business should come here to employ these young people. He had the demographics wrong then. And the demographics have not changed.

More seniors coming
Indeed, this older group will grow larger in the future years with a coming wave of baby boomer new residents. Here are some points that caught our attention:
Facilities Currently Used
  • In 2019, 48.7% of Oro Valley residents were over 55. That will grow to 55.2% in the next 10 years residents .
  • Sports fields in Naranja Park are adequate for the town’s youth, when we look at real needs rather than promoting sports tourism. 
  • There is a major unfilled need for paved paths and hiking trails for young families and seniors - highest rating 
  • Performance venues and community celebrations at Steam Pump Ranch are strongly supported. 
  • Archery has little support. 
  • There is an unaddressed golf demand for lessons and play. Maybe our new golf operator, Billy Casper Sports, should court Oro Valley residents to grow outside play instead of marketing to Phoenix visitors 
  • There is a strong demand for senior programs that have gone unaddressed. For example: Pickle ball is more in demand than our 30 tennis courts.
Steam Pump Ranch and multi-use paths most used amenities
Looking at the statistically valid survey chart Q4  (see panel above) shows that Steam Pump Ranch and the town multi-use path are the most used town facilities with 54% of respondents using these facilities in the past 6 months.

High Priority Wants and Needs
Survey respondents want more of the same
We've listed the high priority wants and needs expressed by the residents in the panel at left.

The consultant made a point that grants must be pursued if residents want to avoid property taxes.

However, our takeaway is that what residents really want- paths, trails, picnic ramadas, and more senior programs  require less capital than the professional sports fields we have installed in Naranja Park.

Plus paths don’t need to be irrigated like golf nor lighted to Fenway Park standards for MSL games so they will be financially sustainable.

We will wait to see if the town staff recommendations are in line with the study data, and hope they don’t massage the statistically valid survey data to blend it with “stakeholder” bias.

Tuesday, May 19, 2020

The Watchdog Report: Troon Is Out. Billy Casper Is In.

According to Tucson Local Media, the Town of Oro Valley is finalizing an agreement with Billy Casper Golf  to operate the Oro Valley Golf courses…but will it make a difference?

Troon wasn’t entirely to blame
We know that Troon inflated their forecasts, especially in the first couple of years after we purchased the property. To be fair, however, Troon was working to please the then Town Manager, Greg Caton and the Hiremath regime. Troon also catered to the members and the “green shirts,” but was it Troon’s fault that their responsibilities as the “contracted operator” cost the Town millions?

I don’t think you can place all the blame on Troon as I doubt there is any company that can turn our 45 holes of golf into a profit, or even an acceptable loss. Unloading the 9-hole Pusch Ridge course is a start. Billy Casper will now only be responsible for a 36-hole operation. However, Billy Casper will not be subsidized with Town monies for food and beverage.

Mayor Winfield and the Council chose the 36-hole option
This is with the caveat that we pay-as-we-go and do not bond for any improvements. This is admirable but might be unattainable. Their decision prompted a failed recall attempt by the “Green Shirts.” The “Oro Valley Thrives” people believe that without borrowing money for golf course/community center improvements, the Town will go deeper in debt.

Closing the Overlook will save us about $100,000 and making people pay for the driving range will supplement the CCF about $90,000-$100,000.

Capital Improvements
The Town Manager only forecasted $106,500 for capital improvements for the Community Center Fund (CCF) during FY 2019/20. The last I heard (from former Town Manager Greg Caton and current Town Engineer, Paul Keesler) was that an elevator to make the facility ADA compliant would cost around $400,000 . (This includes the cost of the elevator, installation, and architectural modifications that need to be accomplished).

Canada Hills HOA and the Town are working on an agreement
The Canada Hills Community Association (CHCA), the HOA that surrounds the Conquistador course, is working on an agreement to give the Town $100,000/yr. However if the Town closes the 18-hole Canada Course due to financial strain, it remains to be seen if the CHCA contract will remain, or if they will contribute the money only if the Town continues to operate all 36 holes.

Golf memberships and non-member rounds
Golf membership has been as high as 262. As of April 30, 2020, it is at 260. However, that’s still an improvement over April 2019 when golf membership was 236.
Comparison Of Rounds

However, it is the number of non-member rounds that are the real money maker. Members pay the same whether they play 1 round or 100 rounds. That’s why it’s the outside play that counts.

In FY 2018/19, the number of non-member rounds through April 30th was 29,234. In FY 2019/20, the number of non-member rounds through April 30th is 28,182. That’s 1,052 LESS than the previous year. Keep in mind that the Town’s numbers are for 45 holes of available golf.

The chart at left shows a comparison of the Town’s non-member golf rounds over the past 7 months compared to a public course within 5 miles that has only 18 holes of golf available.

Is Billy Casper going to make a difference? 
Maybe, but it appears that it will only happen if we allow them to manage 18 holes of golf instead of 36. Mr. Mayor, Madam Town Manager, and Oro Valley Thrives: 36 holes is continuing to kill us. How can you continue to justify this?
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.

Monday, May 18, 2020

Oro Valley Police Chief Riley Manages In A Crisis

Managing in a crisis 
Kara Riley has been Oro Valley's Police Chief for thirteen weeks. Most of that time, Riley has been dealing with the impact of Covid-19 and the resultant economic shutdown. According to Riley, "Its been very busy but very rewarding."

First step: Protect the Officer
Working on ensuring that the police force was healthy and could maintain its health was the first step. "We immediately began mitigating things and looking at their personal protective equipment ("PPE")." Initial focus was on dispatchers and first line patrol officers.

To an extent, the officers were already prepared.  In 2017, Lt. John Teachout invented a “Go Bag”. Every officer gets one the day they start. It has PPE gear such as an N95 mask, booties, a full outfit, and gloves. In addition, the spouse of one officer made masks for all.

Some procedures were changed to protect the officer. For example, rather than stepping into a home on a call, the officer will ask residents to step out to reduce exposure.

In addition, the town has altered its: "You call for a cop. You get a cop." approach. Medical calls go to Golder Ranch Fire District ("GRFD"). A police officer joins the call if there is potential violence involved.

The challenge is to protect the health of the officer and the caller. The result is that there have been no officer exposures to Covid-19 and no active cases.

Second Step: Reach out to the senior community
"We've reached out and phoned every member [of the voluntary police], 100 people, to make sure that they are doing OK. Daily we reach out to Sun City just to make sure that there is nothing we are missing with our senior community. They are our most vulnerable. I want to insure that they have everything that they need." This includes following up on the many calls the department received from worried family members requesting house checks.

Third Step: Stay ahead of the "bad guys"
Oro Valley's retail stores are opening. Riley anticipates an increase in crimes of opportunity, particularly shoplifting. "I believe we will see an uptick in crimes there."

Use a community approach to Covid-19 restriction enforcement
The Oro Valley Police have taken a soft approach to enforcement of restrictions. The officer provides a letter of rules and recommendations when there is a complaint. "And then, we leave it at that."  Enforcement in this area is a challenge because "...these are not laws we were brought up under."

Focus on seamless service
"We want residents to see no transition," regardless of how long the pandemic emergency lasts. When it comes to our town, "Service will be seamless."