Thursday, March 5, 2015

Watch Oral Arguments In The TOOTHINOV.ORG Appeal

Yesterday, the Arizona Appellate Court heard oral argument in the matter of that town's summary rejection of the TOOTHINOV.ORG petitions. The rejection, which was upheld by a lower court, was because the petitions did not contain a state required, town assigned serial number.

AuditAZ Arizona has posted two videos relate to this. One is of the hearing itself. The second is a post hearing interview with attorney Bill Risner. The appeal is based on the argument that a technical detail such the requirement of a serial number should not negate the will of the people.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Hiremath Accuses Garner Of Lying About El Conquistador Country Club Purchase

On February 26, Mayor Hiremath called Council Member Bill Garner a "liar" several times during an interview with KNST host Garrett Lewis. The interview regarded the town's purchase of the El Conquistador Country Club. You can listen to the mayor's comments here.

The Mayor had requested the interview. Lewis had  interviewed Garner two days earlier.

Mayor Hiremath provided his view on why he feels that it was right of the council to approve the purchase of the El Conquistador Country Club. However, rather than simply refuting what Garner had said in a respectful manner, Mayor Hiremath chose to call Garner a liar.

So, we investigated the Mayor's charges:

Garner Asserts: A Rushed Decision To Purchase The El Conquistador Country Club

Mayor Hiremath said the Council Member Bill Garner is "flat out lying. As a matter of fact I know that he is flat out" lying.  Garner had said that the council members had been rushed into the decision to purchase the El Conquistador Country Club.

You can watch the video of the December council meeting in which the decision to purchase the El Conquistador Country Club was made. The minority members of council felt that Mayor Hiremath had exceeded what he was authorized to do and that they were blindsided by the rush to make a decision give the lack of accurate, thorough information.

We can not confirm that their allegations because the minutes of the special council sessions in which this information would have been provided are not available to the public.

We can confirm the following:

  • The numbers the town was presented in relation to the purchase were constantly changing. 
  • In addition, during the December meeting, Council Member Burns says that it was he who authorized the Mayor to pursue discussions but that the Mayor was never authorized to make a deal to purchase the El Conquistador Country Club.

Garner Asserts Costs of Building a Community Center Are Far Less That Town Guesstimates

Later in the interview, Mayor Hiremath said that Garner lied about the cost of building a community center.

The Mayor said he has never seen "anything detailed that shows what the cost [of building a community center] are going to be."

Council Member Garner's estimates of what it would cost to build a center are based on looking at what he considers to be comparable facilities that have been recently built.  Town Manager Caton has also done an estimate.  The numbers differ substantially. That does not mean that either is lying. It simply means that no one, in this case the town, invested the time to get the kind of detailed estimate the Mayor has never seen. This is standard procedure in making a purchase versus build decision.

Mayor Hiremath Says Garner and Zinkin Want A Property Tax and Sun City Will Welcome It Gladly

Next, Mayor Hiremath stated during his interview that:
"I've heard Council Member Zinkin say that  for the sun city residents, he is sure that they won't mind paying a property tax."  (KNST Interview: 25 minutes).
When asked by LOVE, the Mayor said that he had not heard this directly. Rather: "I heard this comment second hand because I was not there. but it came from a very reliable source who wrote it down."

We checked with Debra Arrett of Sun City Oro Valley. Debra is Chair of the Government Affairs Committee who organized and  attended the meeting where Mike Zinkin spoke. She reported, "I never heard Mike Zinkin or Bill Garner say that they wanted a property tax or that they think the voters of Sun City would approve it."

Apparently on some sort of "roll" during the interview, the Mayor felt compelled to continue: "...Council Member Garner and Council Member Zinkin have repeatedly wanted that subject [of a property tax] put up.." for council discussion.

We asked the Mayor to clarify this: "Councilmembers Garner and Zinkin have advocated for other revenue sources to include discussions of commercial lease tax, renters tax and property tax because we need to diversify our revenue sources and all three of those would have to go to the voters."

Mayor Hiremath believes that asking that something be discussed is same as "advocating" for that something.  "I find it illogical to think that if they do not support something then why would they bring it up?"

We asked Council Member Garner why he even brought it up.

Garner told us that he has done so because he feels there needs to be a discussion as outlined in the strategic plan of 2014. He never has advocated for a property tax and never will as the Town of Oro Valley founding fathers wanted to keep the property tax out of our Town and continues to run on a fiscally responsible platform.

Garner has reminded us that the majority four would not even allow for a discussion of alternative revenue sources over the course of several attempts at various meetings throughout 2014. In Garner's mind, a discussion of alternative revenue sources to be potentially taxed is far different than voting to put one on the ballot for a vote.

Those are the facts.

So, was Council Member Garner lying? You tell us.
---

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Heather's Corner: Oro Valley Hot Spots for Spring Birding:


We are into the early days of the 2015 Spring migration. This is an exciting time for those who enjoy the opportunity to see non-resident birds on their way further north or the neo-tropical birds that migrate only as far as southeastern Arizona in order to breed. Chances are, whether you consider yourself an experienced birder or not, you probably don't need to look further than your own backyard to view some of the 150+ species of birds we are lucky to house year round, or as a pit stop, in Oro Valley. For those of you that pleasure an actual birding excursion, there are two places you must check out.

Honey Bee Canyon Park offers quiet easy trails for beginners with interesting rock formations and vegetation. A total of three miles of hiking gives plenty of opportunity for viewing.

Fellow blogger, Bob Bowers of birdingthebrooke.com, shares some of the birds he's encountered:
  • "Nesting birds included Common Raven, Bewick’s Wren, Lesser Goldfinch and Great Horned Owl, and notable birds were a pair of Gilded Flickers, Hooded Orioles, Rufous Hummingbird, Ash-throated Flycatcher and Green-tailed Towhee. 
  •  The other birds: Turkey Vulture, Cooper’s Hawk, Cactus and Rock Wren, Brewer’s, White-crowned, Chipping and Black-throated Sparrow, Northern Cardinal, Pyrrhuloxia, Curve-billed Thrasher, Verdin, Northern Mockingbird, Gambel’s Quail, Gila Woodpecker, Anna’s and Costa’s Hummingbird, Canyon and Abert’s Towhee, Black-tailed Gnatcatcher, Phainopepla, Tree Swallow, Mourning Dove and House Finch."
Catalina State Park has 5,000 acres with vast trails for birding but one of the best trails for birding is the Canyon Loop Trail.  The park offers a bird list at the ranger's station with detailed information on the resident and migratory birds found in the park.

An interesting note about Catalina State Park, there are two special birds on their list: the Rufous-winged Sparrow and the Crissal Thrasher. Both of these birds have limited U.S. ranges, and outside of Catalina State Park are not easily found. For unexplained reasons, however, both of these birds are common to the park.

The Tucson Audubon Society is a great source for birding information. Their newly revised guide to birding locations, maps, species, and tips called, "Finding Birds in Southeast Arizona," is considered by many to be the birding bible and is available on their website. As always, we'd love you to share any photos or birding spots you've encountered in Oro Valley!
---
Heather Nenadovich has lived in Oro Valley for 6 years. She has a B.A. in Psychology from the University of Arizona. She loves gardening, nature, art, and travel. Currently her two young children fill up most of her days (and nights) with chaotic bliss. Oro Valley favorites: memorial bench at the entrance of Romero Canyon Trail in Catalina State Park, Toscana Studio and Gallery, OV Fall Festival, the gumption and determination of OV residents!


Monday, March 2, 2015

KVOA Reports On OVCOG Recall Effort

KVOA reported last evening and this morning on the recall effort that is underway. The effort is lead by a group called Oro Valley Citizens For Open Government ("OVCOG").

Click on the picture to watch the KVOA report,
Group calls for Oro Valley's mayor and three council members to be recalled

Court Appeal Continues .. Appeal Heard Wednesday


In January, Oro Valley town clerk Julie Bower rejected more than 3,000 voter signatures that were requesting a vote on the town's purchase of the El Conquistador Country Club.  Bower rejected the petitions on the basis that the petitions submitted did not contain a town assigned serial number in the right bottom corner.

The rejection set off two continuing events.  One, as we reported on last Thursday, is the creation of a group focussed on recalling Mayor Hiremath, and Council Member's Hornat, Snider and Waters.

The other event is a legal action on Bower's decision.

In round 1, Bower's rejection of the petitions was upheld in Superior Court. This is the case of Arrett and Lamonna v. Bower (Pima County Superior Court Case No. C20150346). The judge ruled that the town acted properly in applying the rules that the town had used.

Round 2 is an appeal of the decision by the Arrett and Lamonna. The basis of the appeal is whether the requirement of a serial number on the bottom right hand corner is constitutional.

It is on this basis that the plaintiff is appealing the court decision. (Case No. 2 CA-CV 2015-0017) In order to win, the court will have to agree that the serial number requirement "...offends the essence of a fundamental right" to referendum.

According to the plaintiff's brief in this case:
"Our constitution’s most important provision cannot be destroyed by a form requirement of a “serial number” on the corner of a petition unless such a requirement “supplements” the constitutional purpose. To “supplement” is defined in Random House Dictionary, as “something added to complete a thing, supply a deficiency, or reinforce or extend a whole." 
The practically useless serial number requirement does not supplement the most important right of referendum."
(Source: Plaintiff Brief to Court of Appeals, Page 25).

The defendant, the Town Of Oro Valley, replied in their brief this past Friday. They assert that:
"The uncontroverted evidence establishes that the petitions submitted did not comply with the requirements."
The Town Of Oro Valley also believes that administrative requirements, such as paper size and the number of signatures per page, provide "... for consistent regulations to establish an efficient, fair, and equitable referendum process....Such regulations prevent falsification of signatures and of the petition pages themselves...The ultimate goal of these laws is to protect the public and preserve the integrity of the process and the authenticity of the petitions and signatures." (Defendant Brief, Page 2).

The requirement of a serial number on a petition is not mere window dressing, according to the town:
"Among the regulations to preserve the integrity of the [referendum] process is the requirement that signatures may not be collected on a petition until a serial number for the petition is issued." Thus, the appearance of the serial number on the document is proof that such has been obtained and the signature collection process can begin.
Arrett and Lamonna have until tomorrow to submit a brief that responds to the town's position. Then, the 3 judge court of appeals will hear oral arguments Wednesday at 3pm.

This is going to be one interesting week.
---
Our thanks to Oro Valley Communications Director Misti Nowak for so quickly providing the town's brief.

Friday, February 27, 2015

Bits and Pieces


Happy Birthday LOVE

Tomorrow is LOVE's 8th birthday!

Here are the facts:
  • 8 full years of publishing
  • 2,408 postings
  • 10,000 plus reader comments
  • A half a million page views
Yes. We are patting ourselves on the back!

It is job well done. It is job that is not easily done. And we do it for free.  No paid advertisers. No kickbacks.

One goal: Provide Oro Valley residents with the unvarnished truth!

Register now for 4th annual hiking challenge, Move Across 2 Ranges

Oro Valley, Arizona (February 24, 2015) - The Town of Oro Valley and Town of Marana will once again partner to host the third annual Move Across 2 Ranges hiking challenge on Saturday, February 28, 2015, from 6:45 a.m. to noon.

Move Across 2 Ranges gives outdoor enthusiasts of all ages and abilities the opportunity to hike, stroll or trail run two beautiful mountain ranges in the Marana and Oro Valley area: the Tortolitas and Santa Catalinas.

Participants can choose one of four hiking challenges:
  • Mighty (my size) Move - 5 miles 
  • Major Move - 10 miles 
  • Mega Move - 15 miles Massive Move -21.5 miles 
The $35 registration fee includes participation in the hiking challenge, a shirt and an invitation to the "Managed the Move" after-party from 3 to 6 p.m., with prize drawings beginning at 4 p.m. The party will be held at the Oro Valley Summit Hut, 7745 N. Oracle Road, and includes hors d'oeuvres, beverages and live music.

For complete details on the hikes and registration, click here or visit www.orovalleyaz.gov and click on the event banner. You may also call (520) 229-5050.

Sales Tax Hike Starts Sunday

The Oro Valley half percent sales tax starts Sunday. The Oro Valley Town Council approved the hike in May to finance the operation of the El Conquistador Country Club. This Wednesday the council declined to defer the hike until after the court challenge to the purchase is complete or, if the court so deems, a vote of the people ensues.

"Smile. You're On Candid Camera"

The Oro Valley Police Department must be the best equipped police force in the country. We know they have the best motorcycles. And they have super fast cars.  And, according to a KGUN9 report, they have police body cameras. "Oro Valley police have 2 years experience using it... A lot of use will be on Oracle Road and traffic enforcement." The cameras connect to  iPad's.

So, the next time you meet an officer, "Smile...."

Garner Weighs In On Community Center On KNST

Listen Council Member's Bill Garner's comments the purchase of the El Conquistador Country Club.

Bill was interviewed by Garrett Lewis of KNST earlier this week. TOOTHINOV.ORG  has published a commentary on the interview.

We spoke with Bill after the interview. Bill observed that projected future of the purchase of the El Conquistador Country Club and its conversion to a community center remain of concern.  He continues to believe that a community center that part of Naranja Park is a more financially feasible, viable alternative.

Mayor Hiremath Weighs In The El Conquistador Country Club Purchase on KNST

Mayor Hiremath was yesterday by Garett Lewis of KNST. Listen to the Mayor's remarks. Mayor Hiremath appeared to provide information he learned as special council sessions. These sessions are supposed to be private.

He also asserted, as he has previously, that Council Member's Zinkin and Garner advocate for a property tax to pay for the community center. We have never heard either state such.
---

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Effort to Recall Oro Valley Mayor Hiremath and Council Majority Begins

Oro Valley Citizens Ready to Recall Town Mayor and Three Council-members

February 26, 2015 – (Oro Valley, AZ) – A group of Oro Valley citizens opposed to the Town Council’s split decision to purchase the Hilton El Conquistador Country Club, Golf and Tennis facilities for the purpose of creating a community center, have begun the process of ordering a recall to remove Town Mayor Satish Hiremath and three Council members.

Oro Valley Citizens for Open Government (OVCOG) will begin collecting signatures the first week of March. With the previous referendum failing due to a technicality, they are optimistic that the number of signatures needed to order a recall are attainable.

Ryan Hartung, who is heading up the recall effort said, “The residents of Oro Valley spoke loud and clear when they penned over 3,000 signatures in less than three weeks’ time calling for a referendum vote on the El Conquistador purchase.” Hartung went on to say, “However, due to a technicality, these signatures were rejected by the Town. We believe that even if the referendum does eventually pass, the current makeup of the council is not in the best interests of Oro Valley and its citizens.”

The Oro Valley Town Council voted 4-3 at their February 18th meeting to not suspend the sales tax increase which was approved for the purchase of this property, even though the purchase is not yet finalized.

If enough signatures are collected, a special election would take place in November, when Oro Valley residents will have the opportunity to remove Mayor Satish Hiremath and Council members Lou Waters, Joe Hornat, and Mary Snider.

OVCOG in Oro Valley, Arizona is a Citizens Action Committee formed following the Town Council’s vote to purchase this property and the referendum’s initial failing. For more information contact OVCOG2015@gmail.com, or visit www.OVCOG.org.

(Source: OVCOG Press Release)

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Oro Valley's 2016 Strategic Plan Is A Guide To The 2015 Budget.. But Is That Good Enough?

Last week, the Oro Valley Town Council approved by 4-2 vote a strategic plan for 2015.

"The overall purpose of the Strategic Plan is to direct decision-making and budgeting by the Town of Oro Valley and provide guidance to staff. The Strategic Plan also communicates to the residents or stakeholders the town’s priorities."

The plan identifies five focus areas. Each of these has a goal. Each goal has one or more strategies to achieve it. Each strategy has one or more steps.

For example, one area of focus is fiscal responsibility. The goal is to maintain thelong-term financial health of Oro Valley through diversified revenue sources while strategically investing in community initiatives. One strategy is to evaluate opportunities to diversify the Town’s revenue sources. One step to achieve this strategy are was to "Review and update Town-wide fees and charges for services, as necessary, to ensure appropriate cost recovery.

Three action areas of particular interest include:
  • "Explore the possibility of a special taxing district for a cultural/historical center or downtown area.
"Special taxing districts, often referred to as special districts, are usually created to fill a need and to enable the provision of services in an area that might otherwise be limited from receiving those services." The State of Arizona allows for 42 types of special taxing districts. For example, Golder Ranch Fire district is a special taxing district. Generally, voters must approve its formation. The services provided by the district are paid by property taxes.
  • "Evaluate the development of an entertainment district that includes music, sports, museums, and private/nonprofit galleries."
  • "Improve processes to allow appropriate flexibility to regulations (e.g. sign code), streamline processes, determine new practices, encourage innovation, and implement new ideas."
At least one Oro Valley resident, Bill Adler, is not completely happy with the strategy. Bill asserts that the strategy is far from satisfactory in recognizing the contributions of strategic partners SAACA and the Oro Valley Historical Society.

In a message sent to Mayor Hiremath, resident Bill Adler wrote:
"SAACA continues to provide economic development, cultural and educational programs in Oro Valley with very little Town support, acknowledgement or participation. ...The strategic plan makes no mention of SAACA or the Historic Society as existing partners in these efforts. Talks about "event planner" when SAACA and the Historic Society have both demonstrated success in both capacities. The Town chooses to manage some events in-house, and the resident attendance is consistently lower than when SAACA handled the same events in the same locations, but with different levels of skill, talent and attendance."
What do you think? Is the strategy balanced? Or is the strategy missing something?
----