Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Editorial ~ Thumbing their noses at the citizens

Below is a timeline of events surrounding the development of the new Oro Valley General Plan, “Your Voice, Our Future,” and the mere eight days that it took for the new town council (The Majority-7) to begin dismantling it with a Major General Plan Amendment at the request of a developer (The WLB Group).

Many Voices – A Clear Vision
[May 2013 – September 2016] A Public Participation Plan was created in May 2013 and residents began working on YVOF in September 2013. Individual committees were formed to focus on issues including Community, Environment, and Development. Over the next three years, numerous committee meetings, briefings, and public hearings were held. The council adopted the new General Plan in September 2016. It would now go to a vote of the public.

The “Forward” to the new General Plan states, in part: “We, the residents of Oro Valley, Arizona, have inspired and created this Your Voice, Our Future General Plan for the future of the community…Your Voice, Our Future was created from many voices coming together with a clear vision for the future.”

Voters Ratify the Plan 
[November 8, 2016] Oro Valley residents voted to approve the “Your Voice, Our Future General Plan.” According to the town website, “The Your Voice, Our Future General Plan will help determine decisions made for Oro Valley over the next 10 years.”

Majority-7 Immediately Alters the Plan
[November 16, 2016] A plan that was three years in the making, a plan written and approved by the people of Oro Valley for the people of Oro Valley, has already been altered by the Majority-7 during their very first meeting, just a mere eight days after it was approved by the voters.

The Town website describes the citizens’ involvement as follows:

“The success of Your Voice, Our Future is due to the hard work of the community. Over the past three years, residents helped create the Plan by:

  • Imagining Oro Valley’s future
  • Sharing ideas on how to achieve that future
  • Joining Your Voice committees to help build the plan
  • Providing feedback to ensure it reflects community values.

Town Media Release cites Overwhelming Support for General Plan
[November 23, 2016] According to a Town Media Release published today:

Oro Valley’s General Plan update passes by 70% vote, Council adopts official canvass at special session. Oro Valley, Arizona (November 23, 2016) – During a Special Session held at noon today, Oro Valley Town Council voted to declare and adopt the results of the Oro Valley General Election held on November 8, 2016. On the ballot was the Town’s Your Voice, Our Future General Plan, which appeared as Proposition 439. According to the official canvass that was prepared by the Pima County Elections Department, Your Voice, Our Future received more than 70% of the vote.

“Seventy percent is significant," said Oro Valley Town Clerk Mike Standish. “This is certainly confirmation of our voters’ overwhelming support of this community-developed general plan.”

Recap
The Majority-7 voted to amend a plan that was:
  • only eight days old
  • three years in the making
  • developed by the citizens to reflect our community values
  • ratified by the citizens with “overwhelming support”
Their first night in office and the new council’s first order of business was to thumb their noses at the citizens. Apparently, all those Oro Valley voices coming together to present a clear vision of what we want for our town is of no value or importance to the Majority-7.

You can read the new General Plan here.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Guest View ~ Diane Peters: Just As We Predicted


Oro Valley Town Council: No Dissent. No Citizen Representation
Prior to the election, Mike Zinkin warned voters that electing Pina-Rodman-Solomon to the town council would result in, “a council that will ignore your needs and agree only with each other.” Supporters of Burns-Garner-Zinkin opined that there would be no more “healthy debate” and “no discussion.” They told you to expect a lot of 7-0 votes as the Town Council would now operate with a “group think mentality.”

Their supporters also warned citizens that the mayor’s goal was, “getting rid of those who oppose him and replace them with those who will fall in line.” Brendan Burns stated at the Sun City Candidate Forum that electing even one of the challengers would give the mayor a supermajority that “will allow them to easily amend the General Plan.”

In my previous Guest View, What you need to know about Rhonda Pina” I observed that Pina appeared to be in way over her head as evidenced by her abysmal performance in both candidate forums. She had difficulty answering questions that hadn’t been scripted for her in advance by the Majority-4. Pina had no thoughts or ideas of her own and just kept repeating that she planned to solve all the town’s problems by “being part of a cohesive council.”

So it comes as no surprise that all of the above predictions came true at the first meeting of the new council held on November 16th.

Prediction #1: Agreeing Only With Each Other – Group Think Mentality
There were three items on the Regular Agenda, all related to development issues, and as predicted, all three passed with a 7-0 vote. They even ignored a plea by former Oro Valley Mayor, Paul Loomis, detailed later in this article.

Prediction #2: No Healthy Debate – No Discussion
There was an item to approve a Conceptual Site Plan for Alterra at Vistoso Trails subdivision. This includes 150 single family homes and the addition of a traffic light at Moore Road and Rancho Vistoso Blvd. Waters motioned to approve the item. Solomon seconded it. Motion passed 7-0 with no discussion.

There was also an agenda item to approve a grading exception on the rolling hills on the east side of First Avenue at Naranja. This will allow the developer to grade the hills in excess of the 6 feet that is allowed by Town Code in order to build an access road into the future residential development known as the Sanctuary at Silverhawke. The rolling hills are approximately 20 feet higher than the adjacent intersection. Solomon motioned to approve. Hornat seconded. Motion passed 7-0 with no discussion.

Prediction #3: A Supermajority Will Easily Amend the General Plan
Probably the most contentious item on the agenda was a Major General Plan Amendment to convert 17.8 acres at the NW corner of Rancho Vistoso Blvd. and Vistoso Highlands Drive from Neighborhood Commercial/Office to Medium Density Residential.

This item was originally on the September 21st agenda, but was postponed at the suggestion of Mayor Hiremath until November 16th. This just happened to be the night that the new council members would take office. Clearly, this was done so Hiremath could avoid any conflict since Burns-Garner-Zinkin had the potential to prevent the approval of this amendment which required 5 votes to pass.

Despite the fact that the new General Plan (Your Voice, Our Future) had been approved by the voters just 8 days earlier, Rodman motioned to approve, Waters seconded, and the new Majority-7 council voted 7-0 to approve the amendment!

They also made this decision despite a very well-presented argument by Oro Valley citizen and former Mayor Paul Loomis, who reminded them that the General Plan vote had not even been certified yet and they were already considering amending it and that “past policy was to not allow amendments in the year of revisions or for a year after voter approval.” Of course, it didn’t matter what Paul Loomis said or that he was right, because this council agrees only with each other.

Prediction #4: Rhonda Pina is in over her head
Not only was Pina the last one to say "Aye" after waiting to see how the others voted, but she also never uttered a word during the entire council meeting. She didn’t ask any questions of staff. She didn’t offer any opinions. She never motioned to approve anything. She never seconded anyone else’s motion. The only thing she did was to chime in with her “cohesive” votes, just as she was hired to do.
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NOTE: The Town Council did not certify and adopt the final results of the OV election until November 23rd.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Oro Valley Resident: Golf's A Losing Proposition

We received this email from an Oro Valley resident. The individual is personally knowledgeable of the golf business. We thought we would share it with you.
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"I worked for [name of golf firm withheld from publication] from the years 2000-2004.  If a person were to google that company they would see that in 2001 the company managed 295 golf courses world wide. The company then began to sell parts of the holdings, reducing those to owning 27 leasing 54 and managing 11. At that point time the days of building and running Golf courses was a losing business.

My point why do a city council think feel they know better to own and run a golf course.

Troon golf is a top notch company and if they can't make it work, it won't work. It seem to me the only way out is a property tax. Thanks to the people of Oro Valley who trusted our council we all will suffer!

I wish I could say something positive, but can't.
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Monday, November 21, 2016

Guest View-Mike Zinkin: One Quarter Through Oro Valley' Fiscal Year and Golf Course Goes Deeper In Debt

The financial report for September 2016 has been published and nobody should be surprised that the Oro Valley Community and Recreation Fund (CRF) is deeper in debt. To remind everyone, the CRF was the fund set up to pay for all the expenses for the foolish purchase of the El Conquistador Golf, Tennis, and Community Center.

This fund takes into account all the revenues derived from golf, tennis, fitness, swimming (except the Aquatic Center), food and beverage, and the 25% increase in the sales tax.  This fund also pays for all the expenditures, including the capital improvements and an annual obligation of a $120,000 pay-back to the General Fund Contingency, from which $1.2 million was borrowed to start the CRF.

CRF Balance is in the hole
At the start of the current fiscal year [July 1, 2016] the balance of the CRF had been reduced from the original $1.2 million to $161,744. (This carry-over would have been only $41,744 had the majority of the Council not reneged on their obligation to re-pay the first year’s $120,000 payment back to the General Fund.)

After the August financial report was published, it was noted, and acknowledged by the Town's Finance Director, that the CRF had lost $215,912, leaving a CRF balance of negative $54,168 ($161,744 minus $215,912). The September financial report indicates that the CRF continues to lose money and now lost $363,038, which leaves the CRF balance at a negative $201,294 ($161,744 minus $363,000).

Sales Tax Revenues not Covering Losses
Since July 1st, golf has lost $760,069 and the Overlook has lost $48,902. This amounts to $801,971 in losses yet the sales tax revenue through September was $485,428, leaving a deficit of $316,543, and we are only 25% through the fiscal year. This indicates that the increase in the sales tax is NOT covering the losses in the CRF. With 75% of the fiscal year still in front of us, the report shows that the town intends to spend $479,291 in additional capital outlay, and transfer the obligated $120,000 back to the General Fund. This amounts to a $599,291 obligation. With the CRF already $201,294 in the hole, where will this money come from?

Golf Memberships are down
Staff tells us not to worry because golf is cyclical and that the revenue producing months are ahead. However, the much needed increase in golf members is not happening. As of October 31, 2016, the golf membership was down to 226 from 250 when the fiscal year started in July. To make matters worse, this 226 number includes 6 members who are over the age of 90 and 4 members who are on medical leave, all of whom pay no dues. So, today there are only 216 dues paying golf members. Troon tells us they hope for a membership total of 318 by December 31, 2016. That doesn’t seem likely at this point.

Does staff know that Golfsmith went bankrupt ? Does staff know that Nike no longer manufactures golf equipment? Does staff know that Adidas is no longer involved with Taylormade and Adams golf? Why would staff think that we in Oro Valley are special, and that golf can thrive here?

The Scapegoats have left the building
The Mayor now has a Council that is completely in sync with him. They are now a “cohesive” unit, the word liberally used by Rhonda Pina during both candidate forums. With Burns-Garner-Zinkin no longer on council, the "headwinds" that Councilmember Snider claimed were keeping the Community Center and Golf from thriving are now gone. There will be no more excuses for them to fall back on as we continue to witness this slow motion train wreck.
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Thanks to former council member Mike Zinkin for his continuing coverage of this important issue.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Zinkin Is Victorious

We are happy to report that due to Mike Zinkin’s relentless pursuit to obtain copies of Town Council Reports and Council Forwards, the Town has improved their online document management system and will now be uploading the aforementioned reports onto the Town website as they become available.

The link can be found on the Town Clerk’s page.

Once you click the link, click on “Browse all other documents.” Then click on “Town Clerk.” Council Reports can be found under “Informational Records.” Council Forwards can be found under “Activity Records.”
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Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Editorial: The Fight for Transparency in Oro Valley, Part 2

This is Part 2 of an article that appeared on Monday discussing Mike Zinkin’s ongoing battle to persuade the town to comply with the law regarding public records requests.
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In Part 1, we left off with Zinkin asking the following question of the Town Clerk: “Is my request against the law or is it against Town ability?”

Standish replied, “It is not a legal problem, it is a staffing/tracking/software problem.” He explained that the system has limitations in that it “can’t manage a continuing future request” such as the one that Zinkin submitted. Standish said that the town is working to fix it.

He added that if he accepted Zinkin’s request to be copied on all reoccurring future Council Reports and Council Forwards, that he would have to accept “any/all reoccurring future requests and re-open old ones.” He felt that this would become “burdensome.”

This begged the question…How many people are actually asking for ongoing documents? It’s not burdensome if the town clerk’s office has received only a few requests of this type over the past year.

Proof of Burden
Zinkin then inquired: (1) How many ongoing requests are on file at this time? (2) What is your timeline for having the problem fixed?

Standish responded that he could not answer the questions until he spoke to Town Manager, Danny Sharp who was currently out of the office, to which Zinkin replied, “There is an acting Town Manager to fill the responsibilities until the Town Manager returns. What is the point of the ‘acting’ Town Manager if he/she cannot make any decisions?” Standish then agreed to speak with the Interim Town Manager.

At this point, Zinkin learned that there are no continuing requests on file at this time and that staff is reviewing several options to remedy the current limitations of the system including, “working with the vendor to reconfigure the public record request system to allow for the processing of reoccurring future requests.”

Will Legal Action be Necessary?
Zinkin is considering legal action if the town cannot process his request which becomes effective on 11/16/16. As Mike stated in his final e-mail, “it should become a priority of the Town to comply with the law.” It has been four weeks since Zinkin made his request, giving the town ample time to come up with a solution.

Legal Precedent
For some clarity on this topic, in a recent legal opinion [West Valley View, Inc. v. Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office], the Arizona Court of Appeals concluded that nothing in A.R.S. § 39-121.01(D) precludes an ongoing request for disclosure of a narrowly defined, clearly identifiable category of to-be-created documents that the public agency concedes are public records.

Mike Zinkin’s request clearly falls into the above category.
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Editor’s Note
Although Mike Zinkin believes that Town Clerk, Michael Standish, has integrity and is committed to open government, the chronic history of citizen obstruction by the town clerk’s office during the tenures of former clerks Kathy Cuvelier and Julie Bower, leads us to wonder if the ongoing obfuscation isn’t perhaps the result of “marching orders” handed to the town clerk by the town manager and the mayor. Time will tell.