Monday, December 17, 2018

Town Manager Jacobs Takes On The Challenge

Oro Valley Town Manager Mary Jacobs has a tough job
Jacobs has to bridge a philosophical sea change between the old and the new town council majority, councils with starkly different views of what they want for Oro Valley.

Jacobs has been town manager for a bit over a year. Yes. She was hired by the prior council. But that does not mean that she represents them. In our interview with her last week, she emphasized that she will do her best to implement the policies of whatever council is in place. (see panel quote).

Jacobs has lived in Oro Valley for more than a year. "All town managers should live in their community. Because you have to be a part of the community…" in order to experience what it is like. "You have to be invested. And I'm invested."

"I want to do the best job that I can." 
The challenge Jacobs faces in Oro Valley is that there are lot of varying, sometimes opposing positions for her to consider.

"Am I going to make decisions that people disagree with? Absolutely. But it won't be because I don't listen or I don't care. It’s because I had to consider everything."

Jacobs seeks community input 
Town Manager Jacobs leads citizen-focused forums. Recently, she led the forum on traffic control at La Canada and Moore Road. Tomorrow, she will attend the public forum on Oro Valley strategy to gather input about the community’s priorities for the new Town Council.

"I want people to know that I care about what they think," she observed. "It is important for the community to get to know who their town manager is. I don't want to be the person who never shows up; who isn't there."

In person contact with residents is important
"It's different when I have things reported to me than it is if I actually hear from people....I want people to feel like they have been heard. Everyone's opinion is valued. I believe in the ability to have healthy disagreements. Sometimes we will have to agree to disagree."

Oro Valley’s volunteer program is “amazing”
Jacobs appreciates the high level of volunteerism in our community. According to her, Oro Valley’s volunteers do “…remarkable things for the town." She pointed to the work of the CVAP (Community Volunteer Assistance Program) volunteers did on ‘Black Friday,’ patrolling Oro Valley’s shopping areas to enhance public safety. “We couldn’t do the level of service that we do without those volunteers.”

We seem to have enough volunteers at the moment with the exception of the Stormwater Utility Commission, according to Jacobs. “People need to be asked.” When they are asked, she observed, they respond. Together with the new council, she is exploring ways to increase community involvement.

"I really love that our town has something for everyone. It's a very friendly town. There is so much to do and it's really beautiful here.”
About Town Manager Jacobs
Jacobs was born and raised in Tucson. She attended Catalina High School. Mary received bachelor and masters degrees  from the University of Arizona. She interned for several public figures, including Mo Udahl. She has held positions in town government in Barnstable MA and in Sierra Vista. Mary's daughter attends Layola University in Chicago and will be studying at their overseas campus in the near future. Jacobs parents and two siblings live in Tucson. You can read more about her here.

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

A Finance Committee Can Mitigate Oro Valley's "Agency Conflict"

Do you trust that Oro Valley's town staff will serve your best interests? 
We ask because there is an inherent conflict of interest between the interest of the staff of any town and the residents of that town. While residents might be interested in slowing down the rate of growth of a community, for example, town staff generally is not. The goals of the town staff and of the residents are different, in this instance. This is called "agency conflict."  The agents' (town staff) personal goals are at odds with the owner's (residents) goals .

We see "agency conflict" in Oro Valley
Oro Valley's  "Main Streets" is an example of "agency conflict".  It is a project "...focused on creating a town center in Oro Valley". The intersection of LaCanada and Lambert Lane is under consideration for this. The "Main Streets" project is the creation of the town's planning staff. We see it as a make work project for those who had worked on the 2016 General Plan. It is a project for which no citizen asked. It is not mentioned in the 2016 General Plan.

"Main Streets" may or may not be a good thing for Oro Valley. But it most certainly spends money when money could be saved.

It is the job of town council to mitigate the agency conflict
In business, the goals of management and ownership can be harmonized. One way to do this is for management to be compensated based on achieving shareholder wealth goals establish by ownership. For example, management can earn a bonus based on achieving a target earnings per share.

There is no similar mechanism in the public sector.

A Finance Committee can mitigate the agency conflict
We think that the only way to do that is for the citizens to take tight control of the town's budget for 2019-20. That is done by council with the assistance of a Finance Committee.

Oro Valley once had a Finance Committee.  It was comprised of resident members. Mayor Hiremath and his cohorts abolished it. This move was brilliant on the part of Mayor Hiremath because, from his perspective, it eliminated a major obstacle to the way he wanted to run the town. He did not want community input regarding how the town spends your money.

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Last State Lands "Informational Meeting" Tonight

Tonight is the last of four focus area workshops on the "...rezoning of an Arizona state-owned property comprising approximately 885-acres located north and south of Tangerine Road in proximity of Thornydale Road and Shannon Road, OV1802373 6 – 7:30 pm at Casas Church, 10801 N. La Cholla Boulevard."

It is a chance for you to learn what the town is considering. You will also have the opportunity to voice your thoughts.

However, the time to present your opinion is when the rezoning is heard by the Planning and Zoning Commission; and then, by the council. So, we suggest that you go to the meeting to learn as much as possible so that you will be able to present a cogent discussion to the commission and to the council if you wish to do so.

The meeting will be held from 6 – 7:30 pm at Casas Church, 10801 N. La Cholla Boulevard.

Monday, December 10, 2018

CAP's Water Source: Lake Meade In Pictures and Words

Our "red flag"
Prior to our extended vacation, we posted a "red flag" regarding Oro Valley Water's reliance on CAP water as a reliable long term water source. Simply put, there is a continuing long term dought that has so drastically reduced reservoir water levels (Lakes Mead and Powell) that water delivery restrictions could result as soon as 2020. Lest you think we're kidding, we did even more research.

We came with 2 excellent reference sources. Both, we think are highly credible.

This chart is of Lake Meade water levels. The source of the chart is the US Department of the Interior. They manage Colorado River water.

Water levels are down 17% in twenty years. The water level is projected to drop even further.

Still not convinced that CAP Water (CAP gets it water from Lake Meade) may not be a sustainable long-term water source?

Then take a look at these 31 pictures courtesy of CBS News. Here's one that shows just how dire the situation has become.

Our point?

The drought is real. Imagining a sudden reversal of this drought is not realistic.

Advocating that Oro Valley has plenty of water to support huge annexation is foolhardy.

Oro Valley ought to consider a water future where CAP water is less, and not more of a water source.

Friday, December 7, 2018

Bits and Pieces

Oro Valley Firm Partners With Roche
Icagen, a North Carolina firm, has a research facilty in Oro Valley. They are partnering with Roche Pharmaceuticals to develop a product for neurological disorder treatment. "Under the terms of the agreement, Roche will make a cash upfront payment and provide research funding to Icagen. In addition, Icagen is eligible to potentially receive development and commercial milestone payments of up to $274 million and royalty payments should a drug be commercialized." (Source)

Native Grill Wings is closing
Native Grill Wings in Steam Pump Ranch Village has closed its doors. The result is another empty store front in Oro Valley and the loss of at least some sales tax revenue to the town.

Former Oro Valley HR Director Corbin to head Cottonwood government
Former Oro Valley HR Director Ron Corbin will be the City Manager of the Arizona town of Cottonwood. Corbin left Oro Valley a few years back to join his spouse. He joined Yuma city government where he rose to assistant town manager.  (source)

Beware Cottonwood: Corbin left his mark on Oro Valley.

He was one of the people responsible for a study that led to large salary increases that were granted Oro Valley employees in 2014.  He also "negotiated" the memorandum of understandings with our police department. There is an agreement over police salaries. This agreement is outside of other town staff salary schedules.

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Changing Of The Guard Continues At Tonight's Council Meeting

Tonight's council meeting is marked by a continuation of a conversion from the Hiremath years of leadership to the Winfield years. Here are some of the changes that will be discussed.

Volunteer Commission Liasons
The consent agenda presents an assignment of council members to town volunteer commissions. The role of the council member is to attend meetings of these commissions and to provide feedback to council on important developments. The assignments are:

  • Board of Adjustment: Solomon 
  • Historic Preservation Commission: Solomon 
  • Parks Recreation Advisory Board: Barrett 
  • Planning and Zoning Commission: Rodman
  • Stormwater Utility Commission: Jones-Ivey 
  • Water Utility Commission: PiƱa 
  • Amphitheater School District: Jones-Ivey 
  •  Legislative District: Nicolson 
  • Visit Tucson: Nicolson 
  • Greater Oro Valley Chamber of Commerce: Nicolson 
  • Pima Association of Governments: Winfield
  • Regional Transportation Authority: Winfield
There is also a liaison responsible for establishing the agenda for council meetings. It proposed that Council Member Jones-Ivey serve that role through March 1, 2019.

Volunteer Commission Term Limits
Members of Oro Valley's volunteer commissions may serve up to 2 or 3 year terms. A member can serve a third term at the discretion of the council. The council will discuss a proposed resolution by Mayor Winfield and Council Member Barrett that there be no discretionary third term. In addition, the proposal would end any current third term commission membership at the end of this year.

Council Member Barrett mentioned to us during our October interview that she was hopeful of stimulating greater community involvement by making more volunteer opportunities available. This resolution would do just that.

Nineteen 2019 Town Council Meetings
Also on the agenda is approval of the 2019 town council  meeting schedule. There are 19 of these. The next will be January 9th.

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Guest View: Mike Zinkin ~ Did our Town Manager exceed her authority in extending the Troon contract?

There have been some recent changes to the Town’s contract with Troon.

The good news
Recently, Town Manager, Mary Jacobs, removed Troon’s responsibility to oversee tennis. This reduced Troon’s management fee from $144,000 to $120,000 annually. As a result, Troon’s monthly stipend was reduced from $12,000/month to $10,000/month. These changes became effective on October 2, 2018.

I think we can all agree that this was a move that the Citizens of Oro Valley can applaud. Tennis has now become the responsibility of Jennifer Fuchs who, in the past, was the Director of Tennis for the El Conquistador Resort. Removing this responsibility from Troon was a great move because although Troon is known as the “Rolex of Golf,” they appeared to be the “Timex of Tennis.”

All the above changes are within Ms. Jacob’s area of responsibility.

The potential problem
At the same time these changes were made, she also extended the Troon contract for 6 months. Herein lies the problem.

During numerous communications with the Town, they have failed to show where Ms. Jacobs has the authority to extend Troon’s contract without Council approval. She has some authority to work within a $20,000 limit. However, the contract, which is now $10,000/month was extended 6 months. This means that she exceeded her $20,000 limit as the contract extension amounts to a $60,000 expenditure.

Town Policy #6, Unbudgeted Expenditures
This policy was adopted in March 1997 and reaffirmed in April 2005. It states that ALL expenditures not previously budgeted shall be approved by Council prior to issuance of payment. It goes on to state that it is the responsibility of the Town Manager to implement this policy.

Why does this matter?
The fiscal year ends on June 30, 2019. Ms. Jacobs extended the contract from June 30, 2019 to December 31, 2019. Therefore, the entire extension reaches into the next fiscal year, FY 2019/20. Until the Council passes the FY 2019/20 budget, there are NO expenditures authorized past June 30, 2019.  So although the Town Manager may have the authority to extend the contract, there is no authorization to expend the funding without council approval.  I wonder if Troon realizes that this 6-month extension is currently without funding.

Continuing with this kind of mentality, the Town Manager could promise employee raises of 5% next year or promise to give the Chamber of Commerce $75,000 next year...but unless and until the Town Council approves the spending, these are empty promises.

Where are the checks and balances? The Town’s Legal Director works for the Town Manager, therefore, his loyalties are with the Town Manager, NOT the Council.

The bottom line is that the Town Manager extended the Troon contract without Town Council authorization to fund it.  Whether or not this current contract extension should be funded is now up to the current council when they deliberate on the 2019-20 budget.  In the meantime, Troon has a contract without legally approved funding.  This is not a good situation for them and it is not good for the Town.
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.