Tuesday, August 13, 2019

LOVE Returns September 3

LOVE is on vacation.  We will return on Tuesday, September 3.

"Each person deserves a day away in which no problems are confronted, no solutions searched for. Each of us needs to withdraw from the cares which will not withdraw from us."

~ Maya Angelou

Monday, August 12, 2019

State Puts Annexation On Hold

Annexation on hold
The State Land Department informed the Town Of Oro Valley that it is suspending discussion of this annexation until some later point in time. 

Lack of staffing to handle process
The reason given is lack of State Land Department staffing.

"Unfortunately, due to several staff vacancies, including the project manager assigned to Oro Valley, the Department has elected to put this project on hold for the time being." Instead, they will focus on "...other priority work." (Letter to Town Of Oro Valley from State Land Department, July 31, 2019)

Will be revisited in the future
The project is not gone, however: "We still do intend to follow up on the project at some point in the future."

Contentious issue for many residents
The annexation of these state lands and the conversion of these lands to large tract housing has been a contentious issue in Oro Valley. Oro Valley is the only community that can do anything by annexing this land because it is the only community that can provide water to it. As we have reported, Marana does not want it.

Read more on this annexation here.

Thursday, August 8, 2019

Greetings IPv6:2607:f8b0:4864:20::830: "Cease and Desist"

Greetings: IPv6:2607:f8b0:4864:20::830
That's the internet protocol ("IP") address of the individual who has set up a google account using a user name of "Richard Cranium"; with a Gmail address of "letorovalleyexcel@gmail.com" The individual sends us several emails each week. Each email is derogatory to LOVE's publisher, LOVE contributors, LOVE supporters; and negative toward anything published in LOVE.

This is a formal notice...

IPv6:2607:f8b0:4864:20::830: Cease and Desist Use Of The 'letorovalleyexcel' name
The individual who has set up this address, and we think we know who this is, has committed a copyright violation by using the "letorovalleyexcel"name in the Gmail address. 'letorovalleyexcel'. That name is the copyright of LOVE.

We are, herein, public this noticing person:
Cease use of the email address "letorovalleyexcel@gmail.com". Attempt no further use of the "letorovalleyexcel" name in any form at any time.

That said...

This person is clearly intimidated by LOVE and our thorough reporting of the issues and facts. If LOVE was as ineffectual as this person claims in their many emails, the person wouldn't be exerting so much time and effort creating fake email accounts and sending a dozen emails to LOVE every month.

If the person had the courage of their convictions, that person would send the emails under their own name, using their own email account.

If they truly were a person of integrity, they would enter into open and honest discourse, rather than violate our copyright.

Wednesday, August 7, 2019

Town Owned Golf Course Community Threatens Council

Scare Tactic...Intimidation?
The flyer below was posted on mailboxes within the Canada Hills Community Association. It doesn't say who or what is behind this. It does, however, note that "the event" is NOT organized or sponsored by any HOA".

No decision made
The Council has not made a decision regarding the future of Oro Valley's 47 holes of town owned golf.

For what are they being held accountable?

They are not like the Hiremath Council who pushed the sale through without any due diligence; and with public input that they completely ignored.

Council considering all options
This Council is taking its time, verifying the information.They will make a decision based on what they learn, not from threats.

By the way, the picture of the lush green golf course is not a hole on the Town owned courses. The only holes with a lake are #16 Canada (viewed from La Canada) and #5 Conquistador.

Tuesday, August 6, 2019

Behind the Scenes: Director Lemos Resigns

Town Finance Director Resigns
Our sources reveal that Town Finance Director, Stacey Lemos, has tendered her resignation effective August 24th.

LOVE is not surprised. For 8 years, Lemos was used to being handed softball questions by the former Hiremath council; questions designed to elicit answers that would always portray the Town’s Community Center and Golf Course finances in a positive light.

All that changed when the new council took office in the fall of 2018. Lemos was now being asked more probing questions and being asked for more clarification on her answers. One of our LOVE readers wrote about Ms. Lemos’ visible discomfort during the March 20th council meeting when Mayor Winfield questioned her regarding losses vs. surpluses at the Aquatic Center and at the Golf Courses.

From a LOVE Guest View published on April 29th
“Lemos appeared uneasy when answering Winfield’s question regarding the difference between a loss, a subsidy, and a surplus. My impression was that she does not like to answer questions that haven’t been scripted in advance (as many people believe was the case during the Hiremath reign in order to paint the Community Center and Golf financials in a positive light.) Winfield was trying to point out that you don’t have a surplus when the expenses are higher than the revenues and she just wouldn’t say it.”
After that incident, many suspected that she would tender her resignation within six months. Hopefully, her replacement will be someone whose loyalties are to the citizens who pay his/her salary rather than to the Hiremath “holdovers” of Pina-Rodman-Solomon who continue to try to paint the golf course financials in a positive light.

GRFD To Seek Bond Approval In November

$26 Million Sought
Golder Ranch Fire District (GRFD) is holding a special election in November for a $26 million bond and secondary property tax.

The benefit to Oro Valley residents is diminimous
The purpose is to build new future stations in Pinal County (Saddlebrook and Arroyo Grande), to upgrade existing lightly used facilities in Pima County and Oro Valley and to upgrade their technology.

Deadline is August 9 for public comment in bond pamphlet
"The Fire District will prepare an informational pamphlet that will be mailed to households of registered voters within the Fire District. Such informational pamphlet is to include arguments for and against the authorization of the issuance of bonds payable from a secondary, ad valorem property tax by the District to be considered at the Election. Any person interested in providing any such argument (not to exceed 200 words) is hereby requested to provide the same by mail or hand delivery of the argument to the Fire District at 3885 East Golder Ranch Drive, Tucson, Arizona 85739.

To be included in the information pamphlet, the argument must be received in the office of the Fire District on or before 5:00 p.m. (AZ) on August 9, 2019. Such statement should include the author’s name, address, telephone number and whether the name can be printed in the informational pamphlet."

The bond offering was reported later this week by the Arizona Daily Independent. You can read their anaysis here.
Source: grfdaz.gov

Monday, August 5, 2019

Summary: Oro Valley Town Council Special Session – July 24, 2019 – Part 4. Town Council closing remarks on Golf Course Options

Along with the Town Council’s closing remarks, this article also reveals the appalling behavior of a very vocal and disrespectful minority who appear to think that they are the only ones who should have a say in this matter.

After Mayor Winfield respectfully and quietly listened to the residents speeches for 3 hours, when it was finally his turn to speak, he was met with residents talking over him, laughing at comments with which they disagreed, booing, and some rudely getting up and walking out while he was speaking. Some residents were even yelling at him on their way out the door. Someone placed a “Recall” sign in the lobby for residents to see as they were leaving the meeting.

Why is this disrespectful behavior noteworthy?
For 8 years we suffered through a bloviating mayor (Satish Hiremath) who was consistently disrespectful and rude to the citizens. A mayor who placed his wants and the wants of his wealthy campaign donors over the wants of the people. That’s how we got stuck with 45-holes of golf that nobody ever requested, because he made “a deal” for the town to purchase them from Humberto Lopez, one of Hiremath’s biggest financial supporters.

It took 8 years, but Oro Valley voters were finally fed up with being treated like second-class citizens, and in August 2018, they replaced Hiremath with Joe Winfield, a mayor who is humble and respectful of everyone. A mayor who accepted no campaign contributions from wealthy special interests and who was elected by the people in a grassroots campaign that promised to address the financial losses at the golf courses, slow the pace of development, and return civility to the Town Council.

What happened next? Well, instead of having a mayor who is rude to the citizens, we now have a particular group of citizens being rude to the mayor.

The rudeness of the pro-golf crowd
Fifty residents spoke for 2½ hours. When the time ran out for the audience to speak and there were still about 50 more people waiting to speak, Mayor Winfield continued to be accommodating to the residents by informing them that the council would shorten their closing remarks from 7 minutes to 5 minutes in order to allow 5 additional Blue Card speakers. He offered that anyone who still wanted to have their voice heard, could either email the town clerk with their comments which would be distributed to the council, or they could speak during the council meeting on July 31st.

Watch how rude the audience members are despite Mayor Winfield’s repeated attempts to accommodate them.

Mayor Winfield’s closing remarks

Despite the mayor reading from published studies, audience members laughed while he was speaking and many of them began getting up and walking out. Keep in mind that after he listened to them for 2½ hours, they didn’t have the courtesy to listen to him for 5 minutes.

Observe their continued rudeness and their mass exodus below:

Vice Mayor Barrett’s closing remarks

Barrett (along with the town staff) researched other communities in Arizona that have municipal golf courses to see what their tax subsidies were. She found that Oro Valley’s 45,000 residents are paying more in golf course subsidies for just 45 holes of golf ($1.8M in the previous fiscal year) than what 5.5 million Arizona residents are paying to subsidize 25 municipal golf courses throughout Arizona combined ($1.75M in the previous fiscal year).

Councilmember Solomon argues against a linear park

Does he ever think before he speaks?
“What is a linear park? It's a solution looking for a problem. No one has ever asked for a linear park. I’ve never heard of it until the last few months…We don’t need a statistically valid survey.”
We’d like to remind Councilmember Solomon that no one ever asked for a golf course, let alone three of them, and yet he has continued to endorse them and fight for their continuation. We’ll say it again…In the 2014 Statistically Valid Survey of amenities that residents would like to see in our town parks -- golf courses came in #33 out of 34 possible amenities.

And, as previously stated in Part 3 of this article, a Flash-Vote survey conducted by the town earlier this year showed that multi-use paths were the recreational facilities most used by the town residents. Shouldn’t we be using taxpayer money to fund the recreational activities that are the most used and enjoyed by our residents?

The “Pass the Buck Musketeers”
We’re going to close with this comment that we found on social media:
“Which town council members own the current golf course financial mess? Solomon, Rodman, and Pina of course. They have continually endorsed the purchase and voted via the bond issue to spend additional tax dollars. Yet they put the blame for the financial/revenue misses elsewhere: the opposition, instability, headwinds, rebranding, etc. Let's just call them, “The pass the buck musketeers.”

Friday, August 2, 2019

Summary: Oro Valley Town Council Special Session – July 24, 2019 – Part 3. Arguments in support of closing the golf courses.

Losses are just shy of $9 million through May 2019
• I’ve read the 286 pages of letters submitted to the town by residents of the golf communities, primarily Canada Hills. Their unwavering opinion is that all 36 holes must be retained. In my observation, that’s not the opinion of thousands of other Oro Valley residents who find that unreasonable.

The Town’s original revenue projections indicated that the half-cent sales tax and the Community Center Fund would cover ALL expenses including capital improvements. Troon projected golf losses of $2M through FY 2017/18 with a slightly positive return starting in FY 2018/19. Instead, the losses are just shy of $9M through May 2019. Yet now we’re supposed to believe that golf will only require $1M in annual sales tax support if the Town retains 36 holes and if they spend almost $4M to replace the irrigation system and refurbish holes as part of the $6M bond package?

Two key points in the National Golf Foundation Study were quite clear:
(1) The financial condition of Oro Valley’s golf operation is considerably worse than most public sector golf operations in the U.S. where 67% of municipal golf course operations are able to cover their expenses.

(2) There are far fewer permanent households and resident golfers in the greater Tucson markets to support each 18 holes of golf in the area.
While I understand the concerns of those that paid premium prices for golf course views, there are many others in town who also paid higher premiums and lost their views due to the rampant development in town.

Golf is in decline, water is a precious resource, and real estate law does not guarantee property values
• I play golf but I cannot afford to live in a golf community. The Town of Oro Valley purchased the golf courses despite a large segment of the community voicing dissent. The face of our Town government has changed in large part due to that decision. The revenue and expense projections have proven to be faulty and continued support of the golf properties are a drain on the town budget with taxpayer money that would be better spent on services enjoyed by the entire community…Golf is in decline, water is a precious resource, and real estate law does not guarantee property values…There are many other golf options available. I use them. Those who want to play golf can use those options just like I do.

Troon's forecasts are not accurate and are not to be relied upon
• The purpose of a forecast is to as accurately as possible, project the future both in revenues and in costs so that when management makes a strategic decision, they have the best basis for doing so. In witnessing the Town’s forecast for the 36-hole option, I don't believe it does that. The town implies that the 36-hole option will cost only $11M in the future 10-year period. It understates the cost and misrepresents the losses that the town will incur.

In December 2014, the same forecasters, Troon and the town, said that we would lose $2M before turning golf profitable this year. Through May of this year, we have lost over $8.8M in golf and restaurant operations and are budgeted to lose more than $1.8M this year. That will be $10.5M in operating losses in 5 years.

The Town forecast conveniently picks a period of time 3 years in the future. This occurs after repairs costing us another $4M are completed and provides a best case hypothetical of what the 36 holes could look like if everything went right. And that hypothetical said that we will still lose $1M a year…I find that very unlikely.

The forecast conveniently ignores over $5M in losses for the next 3 years - the $1.8M this year and the several millions that we will lose while we’re restructuring the courses. The town says that since the irrigation repairs will be so disruptive, the losses can’t be estimated. Troon’s wage and benefit inflation increased $100,000 over the past year. A first look by the Budget & Finance Commission showed that the 36-hole option might cost $30M over the same period.

The Town’s projection indicates that the 36-hole option is probably the best, and in my opinion, it’s the worst. For the council to decide on what makes the best decision, the financial basis of that must be based on accurate forecasts, and the town and Troon have shown in the past that their forecasts are not accurate and are not to be relied on.

I know that decision-making can be difficult, especially for complex and controversial issues like this. For 6 years before I retired, I was the Director of Planning for the largest park and recreation district in (it sounded like he said Oregon)… It was generally recognized that almost all facilities and programs required some level of subsidy. So it’s not surprising to me that golf courses would have to be subsidized for the long-term.

The question is, how much subsidy should they receive from the town relative to other recreational facilities and programs that the town provides? It seems to me that subsidies should be highest for facilities and activities that are used by the greatest number of town residents such as parks, ball fields, and multi-use paths.

A Flash-Vote survey by the town earlier this year showed that multi-use paths were the recreational facilities most used by the town residents. Although I’m not a golfer, I’m not against subsidies for a golf operation, I just don’t think that golf should be subsidized to the detriment of other parks and recreation facilities and programs.

Of the options under consideration, I think retaining an 18-hole public golf course with conversion of the other 18 holes to well-manicured park space and pathways would be your best choice unless other parties, such as the HOAs, are also willing to participate in subsidizing a 36-hole operation.

Listen to Anna Clark’s speech below. A partial transcript appears below the video.

One percent of the population is utilizing 75% of the Parks and Rec Budget
• Golf alone consumes about 75% of the Parks and Recreation budget. What about the rest of us who don’t golf? I have 4 sons who play field sports. Oro Valley desperately needs more soccer and baseball fields to accommodate the many other families with children who play sports….At Naranja Park, because of the lack of field space for kids, soccer players of all ages are forced to practice on the same field at the same time. This is a recipe for disaster…What about the kids who want to play basketball? The Town only has one basketball court.

All of us are paying an extra half-cent tax on everything we buy in Oro Valley, but what is our money getting us? Why are we subsidizing an under-used Town golf course for less than 1% of Oro Valley residents? We need to reduce the number of golf holes to match the demand for golf and make it pay its own way. Imagine what Parks and Rec could offer our residents if it was no longer shackled with millions of dollars in golf losses.

Part 4 will be published on Monday and will include closing comments from Mayor Winfield and Vice-Mayor Barrett.