Monday, October 23, 2017

A Message from Axe the Tax regarding Naranja Park Bond Campaign Contributions

Lets take a look at who’s really supporting this cause.
There are signs all over town proclaiming “It’s for the kids.” There are “Why axe kids sports?” signs. There are “454 4 kids” signs that are designed to pull at your heartstrings by being designed to look like they were painted by the children.

At Town Council meetings earlier this year, kids were rounded up and sitting in council chambers wearing their sports uniforms. Many parents and coaches spoke up in an emotional plea to give the kids a place to play; a place in Oro Valley to call their own.

But how many parents and coaches contributed to the Yes on 454 PAC? How many parents contributed to the “It’s for the kids” campaign?

Sadly, not one of these parents has given more than $50.00 to the Yes on 454 campaign. In fact, the total amount of under $50.00 donations amounts to…..wait for it…..just $50.00. If the parents of all of these children gave a combined total of just $50.00, how important can sports fields possibly be to these parents?

Even more enlightening is the amount of donations from developers and businesses that most likely hope to profit, in one way or another, from the building of this park.

The list of contributors to Yes on 454:


Now let’s look at who funded the Axe the Tax PAC.
Here’s the breakdown of donations to the Axe the Tax PAC. These aren’t “get off of my lawn” curmudgeons. These aren’t people who hate kids. These are people who advocate using a pay-as-you-go approach to the build-out of Naranja Park.

These are people who understand the real drivers behind Prop 454…that the $17 MM bond is just Phase I and more than half of it ($8.2 million) is for the building of the infrastructure for the future Event Center (which isn’t included in this bond and is covered over in gray on the map that the Town released.) The Event Center is slated for construction with a second bond in the future.

The list of contributors to Axe the Tax:


Axe the Tax Chairman, Jim Horn, stated it best in a recent press release:
“What surprised us though was the lack of donations by parents to Yes on 454…But with all the talk of ‘desperately needed park improvements’…well, the parents sure didn’t put their own money behind it. All the special interest donations make you question if its really ‘all about the kids’ or whether these major contributors are trying to influence Council votes.”

Thursday, October 19, 2017

The Watchdog Report: August 2017 Community Center Financials

The Community Center financials are now posted for August 2017. The good news is that we are doing better than last August. Unfortunately, the numbers are still nothing to celebrate.

End of month balance
The Community Center Fund (CCF), the fund that was set up to collect ALL the revenues and pay ALL the expenses, ended the month with a NEGATIVE balance of -$94,456. This negative balance takes into consideration the cumulative sales tax revenues of $341,949 collected so far this fiscal year (July 1 through August 31, 2017).

Sometime during this fiscal year, this fund must also pay the $120,000 annual loan payment to the General Fund. The fund has also budgeted another $77,680 in capital outlay. Apparently making the facility ADA compliant is not in the cards for this fiscal year either because that will cost about $400,000. So this is another year where the Town's disabled citizens must utilize the loading dock to enter the Community Center. This continued lack of ADA compliance should be an embarrassment to the Town.

Revenues, Expenses, and Losses
Total revenues through August 2017 are $127,803 higher than at the same time last year, BUT the total expenses are also higher at $88,324. Even with this trend, the total losses in the CCF are $176,433 for July and August. If it were not for these losses, we could build out Naranja Park without asking for a bond and secondary property tax.

Total losses attributed to golf for August 2017 are $239,805, which is more than the cost of a Little League field. The total losses attributed to food and beverage (the Overlook Restaurant) through August 2017 are $25,701, which is equal to the cost of some playground equipment or a ramada. (Items the citizens requested in the June 2014 Parks and Recreation survey).

Show me the money
The Town’s contracted Golf Study recommended that the Town spend $7 million dollars to transition the Pusch Ridge course to a 12-hole par three course and transition the remaining 36 holes of golf to 27 holes.

With the continued negative balance in the Community Center Fund, where is this money going to come from? Where is the money needed to make the Community Center ADA compliant going to come from? Where is the mandated $120,000 annual pay back to the General Fund going to come from?

The “Cohesive” Council needs to make a decision
So as you can see, even though the numbers are better this August than last August, there is little reason to rejoice. As a result of the very unwise vote by 4 members of the current Council to purchase the Community Center and Golf Courses, the existing Council has to make some tough decisions and they need to do so ASAP. Pushing a Property Tax on the homeowners of Oro Valley is not the answer, and as we’ve stated previously on LOVE, it amounts to punishing the taxpayer for the sins of the council.

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 in 1969. He worked as an Air Traffic Controller for 30 years. He and his wife moved to Oro Valley after retiring in 1998. Mike served on the Oro Valley Development Review Board from 2005-2009, the Board of Adjustment from 2011-2012, and the Town Council from 2012-2016. During his time on council, he was named as one of 23 Leadership Fellows 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.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Behind the Scenes of the Naranja Park Bond

How many times have we heard from the Town Council and the Town Staff that it was the Oro Valley Sports Alliance and the parents of youth athletes who came to them requesting that they find a way to fund new ball fields?

This assertion was made by various council members during multiple Town Council meetings beginning in February 2017. It was stated again during the Town’s slide show presentation at the September 13th Naranja Park Bond Open House. One of the slides shown stated the following:
"When did the community make this request?

At the February 15, 2017 Council Meeting, members of the community – including youth sport parents, athletes, and Oro Valley user groups – asked Council to accelerate the development of additional sport fields to meet user demand.”
Your recent water bill also included a flyer from the Town entitled, “Prop 454/Naranja Park Bond 2017.” That flyer states:
“The community spoke and we listened.”

Rumors began circulating that there was much more to the story
Rumors have been circulating for months that it was actually the mayor who initiated this plan rather than the Oro Valley Sports Alliance and the parents of youth athletes. According to the rumor, the mayor wanted to build a sports complex and event center at Naranja Park but he wanted the initial request to come from the athletic community in the form of a request for ball fields. Once that was on the table, the plan would be altered to include a sports complex and event center.

Residents were told that the request for new ball fields was first brought to the council’s attention in February 2017. However, LOVE was recently presented with some new information that shows, once again, that the town is not telling you the whole truth.

Oro Valley Little League Website reveals the truth
On December 15, 2016, Oro Valley Little League (OVLL) President, Ben Weege, wrote the following on the OVLL website:
There are new developments regarding the possible construction of baseball fields at Naranja Park. The town council recently reached out to our league and community requesting signatures in support of the project. This turn of events is very exciting news, as so many volunteers have worked tirelessly to help make baseball at Naranja a reality.

OVLL now asks for your support. Mayor Hiremath told me personally that the Council is also exploring the addition of soccer fields as well, so let’s get to work! Signatures from residents of Tucson and other surrounding communities are valid and highly encouraged. (A link to a petition site was included.)
On December 28, 2016, Ben Weege wrote the following update on the OVLL website:
Mayor Hiremath has requested Oro Valley Little League’s signed petitions preferably by January 3rd so that they might be available for the town council’s next meeting January 4th.

So according to the Town, it was the youth athletes, coaches, and parents who reached out to the Town Council. According to the president of the Oro Valley Little League, it was actually the Town Council who reached out to the Little League. Additionally, the mayor also chose the deadline for when the petitions should be submitted. (NOTE: Of the approx. 10,000 signatures obtained on the petition, only 168 of them were from residents of Oro Valley!)

Our Gang
An Oro Valley resident recently referred to the Town Council as “The Gang who can’t spend straight.” Apparently they’re also “The Gang who can’t get their stories straight.” It looks like it was the mayor and council, rather than the OVLL, who initiated the action that led to the $17 million dollar Naranja Park Bond and the secondary property tax to fund it.

You can read the above-mentioned postings from Oro Valley Little League website HERE

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Guest View: Ally Miller ~ Bond Notice and Disclosures to Voters

This posting is a clarification and expansion of Supervisor Miller’s earlier email that was posted on LOVE last Tuesday. This is being provided to help our readers more fully understand the issue. Although this information pertains to Pima County bonds, the information provided ties in to the upcoming Naranja Park Bond Election in Oro Valley.

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After the 2015 Pima County Bond Election which included 7 bond propositions, I realized that reform was needed of State Statutes governing the bond notice and disclosures to the voters. These disclosures are provided via the Publicity Pamphlet for bond elections. I worked with State Representative Vince Leach to draft the legislation to update Arizona Revised Statute 35-454. Representative Leach ran this bill twice and it was killed by the lobbyists who didn’t support improved transparency to the voters.

I identified 3 deficiencies in the existing Statutes governing disclosures to voters:

1. Interest rates are not calculated at the maximum rate
The "estimated" bond payments provided to the voters weren’t shown at the maximum interest rate that voters were being asked to approve. In the upcoming Oro Valley Naranja Park Bond election, the estimated payment is calculated using a 5% interest rate. However, voters will actually be approving an interest rate up to 7%. The proposed amendments to the statutes would have required the payment to be calculated with 7% interest and disclosed to the voters.

2. Project Lists and Maps are Non-binding
Most voters believe that maps and project lists are binding. They are NOT. The town will be held to the “Purposes” only.   In the upcoming Oro Valley Bond Election, the purposes are listed as: Parks, Open space and recreational bonds. Any spending that falls within those categories is appropriate and legal to spend the monies on.

The 2013 Audit of Pima County Bonds clearly shows how monies can be moved around as well as showing projects which were canceled altogether.

You can access the link to the Pima County Audit HERE

Go to Appendix D, Table 8, “Project Changes: Reasons for changes in bond proceeds allocated to projects or changes in project timing, May 1998 through May 2012” towards the end of the document (Pages 52- 57). This is the list from the auditor showing all the monies that were moved into or out of bond projects. You will see many projects that were never done due to millions of dollars that were moved to other projects.

For example, you will see on the last page of Table 8 that the money from a previous Pima County NARANJA PARK project ($2.9 million) was taken away due to “Proceeds moved to cover costs in another project.”

3. Operations and Maintenance Costs are not included
Voters often don’t think about additional costs that come with Bond Projects. Operations and maintenance costs are not part of the disclosure to voters. My bill would have required a statement that primary tax rates could increase as a result of bond passage. Operations and maintenance costs typically start out low and increase over time as projects age.

I believe transparency to the voters is critical and that knowledge is power. I am hoping this bill will be presented at the state legislature again. In the meantime, I believe it is important for elected officials to provide the information to you so that you make an informed decision when you vote.

Ally Miller is a Pima County Supervisor in District 1
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Editor’s Note: As noted in the article, the $3 million dollars that was transferred from a previous Pima County Bond from Naranja Park to another park appears to be the type of bait and switch that Supervisor Miller was referring to in her email of last week, published on LOVE, entitled, “Ally Miller Cautions Voters on Naranja Park Bond.”

Monday, October 16, 2017

Axe the Tax Issues Press Release regarding Campaign Finance Reports

PRESS RELEASE

Prop 454 Campaign Finances Revealed. Axe the Tax donations are dwarfed by HSL and Developer donations to Yes on 454.

Oro Valley — October 15, 2017: Axe the Tax, a group of concerned Oro Valley residents opposing the Naranja Park Bond - Proposition 454, is not surprised to find their donations dwarfed by the massive contributions to the Yes on 454 PAC.

The cumulative $3,627 in Axe the Tax contributions were primarily sub-$50 donations from Oro Valley residents who are concerned with loss of their community park for a sports complex and the high costs of infrastructure related to a future event center that will require another bond. Many have also expressed concerns with the Town Council's lack of fiscal responsibility related to the golf courses. Large contributions included three donations of $500 each, counting the one from the PAC chairman.

Operating expenses were $2,157.

“Never underestimate the power of a grass-roots effort,” commented Jim Horn, Chair of the PAC. “We knew all along that we’d get smaller, individual contributions from members of the community who believe in fiscal responsibility. And, that the same donors who funded the Mayor and all six of the Councilmembers’ campaigns would donate generously to ensure support for their pending General Plan amendments, rezonings and new construction projects.”

"What surprised us, though," continued Horn, "was the lack of donations by parents to Yes on 454. The PAC chairman donated $100 to the cause. There were $50 in miscellaneous cash contributions - equal to about 10 lattes - that likely came from parents. But with all the talk of "desperately needed park improvements"...well, the parents sure didn't put their own money behind it. All the "special interest" donations make you question if it's really "all about the kids" or whether these major contributors are trying to influence Council votes."

Yes on 454 contributions totaled $36,600. Significant contributions were made by various HSL entities which totaled $5,000. HSL (Humberto Lopez) owns the Hilton El Conquistador hotel. Other significant contributors include developers with projects in Oro Valley and a management consulting firm that is often used to broker deals for developers within Oro Valley and Pima County. These donations ranged from $2,500 to $5,000 each.

Unisource Energy, the parent company of Tucson Electric Power (TEP), and Cox Communications also contributed $5,000 each to the Yes PAC. TEP was granted a rate increase in February 2017.

The YES on 454 PAC paid Saguaro Strategies, a Phoenix political consulting firm, $35,886 to run their ballot measure. This is the same firm that ran the recent campaigns of the Mayor and current councilmembers.

Axe the Tax in Oro Valley stands by its position that the Naranja Park Bond, Proposition 454, is an unreasonable and irresponsible property tax for homeowners and commercial properties when the Town has resources to “pay as you go.” Axe the Tax recommends using the FY 16/17 $2 million budget surplus for an immediate start of construction of the baseball complex. The project can be completed within five years by adding $1.1 million annually into the Town's budget through FY 22/23.

Friday, October 13, 2017

This Just In! No Surprise ~ Campaign Finance Report for Yes on 454 PAC reveals major funding from the development community.

Before you complete and mail your ballot for the $17 million Naranja Park Bond election, you should be aware of who funded the Yes on 454 PAC. LOVE recently reviewed their Campaign Finance Report (submitted October 11th). Here’s what it reveals.

As usual, anything that is wanted by Mayor Hiremath and his loyal followers (to include the 6 members of his Town Council) is always generously funded by what we like to call “the usual suspects.” Keep in mind that these substantial donations were made in large part by wealthy builders and developers whose development applications will be presented before the Town Council for a vote over the next year. You scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours?

In a nutshell, Yes on 454 collected $36,600 and spent all of it ($35,886) on the Phoenix consulting firm of Saguaro Strategies (yes, this is the same firm that was hired by the mayor and all six current councilmembers during their election campaigns). The majority of donations came from the development community including Humberto Lopez of HSL Properties.

Humberto Lopez (famous for his “back room deal” with Mayor Hiremath for the town to purchase the run-down community center and golf courses) donated a total of $5000 to the cause. Do you think that he is scratching Hiremath’s back as a thank you for being allowed to unload his money-sucking golf courses on the town?

The attached slide gives the breakdown of these contributions.


How do you feel about wealthy developers having such a substantial say in what goes on in our town? They are pushing for the building of multiple ball fields, nighttime lighting intruding on the surrounding residential neighborhood, plus sports tourism and an event center along with all of the noise and traffic it will bring…all in a residential neighborhood and all to be paid for with your tax dollars. 

Also of note, if it's "For the Kids" where are all the contributions from the parents and coaches?

We urge you to VOTE NO on Prop 454 – The $17 million Naranja Park Bond.

You can read the entire Campaign Finance Report HERE

County Administrator Responds To Miller Assertions

Tuesday, we posted a guest view by County Supervisor Ally Miller. In that guest view, Supervisor Miller made assertions regarding County Administrator Huckleberry's alleged actions regarding garnering support for county bonds. The administrator wrote us regarding this as he does not believe this view to be supported by fact. We don't want to be involved in county politics so we don't intend to allow pursuit of this issue further. We are positing the following response as part of our fairness doctrine.
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To Whom It May Concern,

In a post on your blog October 10, 2017 you published a portion of an email purported to be from Pima County Supervisor Ally Miller in which she referenced the Pima County Bond Program.

According to your post, she wrote:

“One of the things that Chuck Huckelberry (Pima County Administrator) does to garner support for bonds (and I will use a Parks and Recreation bond to illustrate) is that he will list every park in the county and list $1 million for each park.”

“Then after the election, he uses all the bond money for one park. Voters are outraged. “

Neither assertion is true. You and your readers should know you’ve been purposefully lied to.

Pima County has an extensive bond program and has had such for 20 years. There are strict controls on how bond projects are funded. We have a Truth in Bonding Code that governs the expenditure of bond funds and requires the Board of Supervisors to hold an advertised public hearing before voting to approve any change in bond funding. We have a Bond Advisory Committee that reviews every bond project and has public discussions and votes at publically noticed meetings to recommend any suggested changes to projects. Any change affecting a project requested by a city or town also requires a public hearing and approval of that municipality’s elected council. The County Administrator has no authority to make decisions about bond project funding as asserted by Supervisor Miller.

All of the information about our bond program is available online at www.pima.gov/bonds . There are over 700 completed bond projects since 1997. There is an interactive map online where you can click project-by-project and review the project scope of work, status and funding.

In 1997, voters approved $52.65 million for parks and in 2004, $96.45 million. It is verifiable that Pima County never proposed $1 million for every county and municipal park and it is verifiable that in neither election did all of the parks money approved by voters end up being used for a single park.

If you don’t believe me, go the state Auditor General’s website and look up the 2013 state Legislature-ordered audit of Pima County’s bond program. It proves Miller lied in her letter published in your blog. It also shows that Pima County’s bond program is exemplary.

Finally, Supervisor Miller’s argument about moving bond funds from one project to another doesn’t apply to Oro Valley’s bond election since it’s a single project bond – there’s no other project to which funds could be moved. So why bring it up?

I’ll leave it to you and your readers to fathom why a Pima County Supervisor would write such demonstrably false and misleading statements. Perhaps she’s trying to affect the outcome of the Proposition 454 vote?

Sincerely,
Chuck Huckelberry
Pima County Administrator

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Ally Miller cautions voters on the Naranja Park Bond. The Devil is in the Details.

We recently received an email from Pima County Supervisor, Ally Miller, with her thoughts on the Naranja Park Bond. Ally has worked with State Representative Vince Leach on bills to clean up the laws for Publicity Pamphlets sent out to voters because they are misleading. Unfortunately, lobbyists have twice killed these bills.

Below is a portion of that email:

……………………

Below are some of the things that I noticed in the Publicity Pamphlet for Oro Valley’s Naranja Park Bond. These are the issues that everyone should understand and question.

1. PURPOSE: “Parks, Open Space and Recreational bonds”

These monies can be used on any parks, for purchase of open space, and any recreational purpose.

The list of amenities and all the renderings listed are nonbinding. The PURPOSE stated above is the only binding use of these funds.

If you want clarity…it must be stated in the PURPOSE.

2. Voters are approving up to 7% per annum Interest Rate.

The calculations were done using a 5% per annum interest rate. Ask the Town for the calculations at the 7% interest rate that voters are being asked to approve. 2% will make a huge difference. (My bill would have required them to show the calculation at the maximum interest rate).

3. They list the average cost per year for a homeowner with a $250K home as well as the estimated cost over 20 years. However, for the 20 year cost, they simply multiplied year-1 times 20 years.

This assumes that your valuation stays at $250K for the entire 20 years.


One of the things that Chuck Huckelberry (Pima County Administrator) does to garner support for bonds (and I will use a Parks and Recreation bond to illustrate) is that he will list every park in the county and list $1 million for each park. This sounds great to voters. They think, “My park will get some improvements. You’ve got my vote.”

Then after the election, he uses all the bond money for one park. Voters are outraged. An audit is ordered but of course it passes with flying colors. Why? Because the audit is focused only on the bond PURPOSE listed in the Publicity Pamphlet.

Allyson Miller
Pima County Supervisor

You can read the Naranja Bond Publicity Pamphlet HERE