Friday, May 24, 2019

Mighty Strong Headwinds

Below is what former Councilmember Mary Snider asserted at the April 6, 2016 town council meeting as being the reason for the lacking interest in golf memberships at the Town-owned El Conquistador Golf Courses.

“One of the reasons I believe we are lacking in revenues, frankly, is Mr. Zinkin’s constant attack on the viability -- his opinion of the viability of this property. It’s creating a headwind in town. You constantly question the staff. You make the staff look like they don’t know what they’re doing. You go on radio shows, hold meetings, give information out. You’re creating negativity in the community about this project… Your negativity is impacting the memberships in golf…”

We’re bringing this up because LOVE recently learned that the Oro Valley Optimist Club held an annual “Scramble for Youth Fundraiser” on May 11th. The fundraiser was a golf tournament that was held at The Golf Club at Dove Mountain in Marana.

Mary Snider and former Planning and Zoning Commissioner Don Cox, have been long-time members of the Oro Valley Optimist Club. On the members roster, Cox is listed as “District Representative.” Cox and Snider have also been big proponents of the town-owned El Conquistador golf courses.

So why didn’t these two “El Con Golf Cheerleaders” advocate to hold this golf tournament at the El Con? We doubt that it was fully booked that day because Troon admitted at the recent budget study session that the golf courses were only at 60% capacity.

If the El Con was booked that day, they still could have supported the town of Oro Valley by holding their golf tournament at The Views Golf Course or the Oro Valley Country Club. Why did the Oro Valley Optimist Club decide to support a Marana golf course?

If it was due to the strong headwinds at the El Con, we have to ask…Were there strong headwinds at The Views and at OV Country Club as well?

Below is the Optimist Club membership roster and the fundraiser information from their website.

Thursday, May 23, 2019

Winfield and Barrett Explain Vote In Favor of Area 4 PAD Zoning Amendment

We asked Mayor Winfield and Vice Mayor Barrett why they voted in favor of the Town Centre Area 4 zoning amendment of which we wrote yesterday.. The following is their individual response.
Response of Mayor Winfield
"Development of Area 4 under any scenario because of the steep terrain and proximity to Oracle Road is a challenging proposition to say the least. I believe voting in favor of the Town Center PAD Amendment was a reasonable compromise because the final plan was respectful of competing interests, created contiguous perpetual open space, provides meaningful recreation opportunities, and I hope will give birth to a neighborhood of individuals and families that love the Town of Oro Valley as much as I do."
Response of Vice Mayor Barrett: 
"I first heard the Town Centre PAD Amendment proposal at neighborhood meetings over a year ago when I was serving on the Planning and Zoning Commission. At that time, the proposal included apartments that were separated from the commercial, nearly unlimited vertical grading waivers, and many more 2 story homes.

Without the election, it is likely that plan would have been approved. The applicant has met with and worked with neighbors for months to come up with a proposal that addressed many of the neighbors concerns. While many compromises were achieved, including leaving the apartments in the area out of the re-zoning request and limiting the homes to single story, when it came before the council the first time, I had some real concerns.

My concerns primary focused on the vertical grading, the distance between homes, and exceptions that were being made to the Oracle Scenic Corridor Overlay District. The applicant returned 4 months later with a revised proposal which increased the variety of lot sizes, the distance between most of the homes, fixed much of the vertical grading issues, and came into complete compliance with the Oracle Scenic Corridor Overlay District. It also included the addition of trails, 72%
preserved open space that is not on anyone’s property, and an improved recreation area. While this was not a perfect proposal, my position was and is that developer dollars should not run the Town Council, but that reasonable and moderate development should be approved.

This particular parcel was a Planned Area Development Amendment, and did not change the General Plan in any way."
LOVE clarification:
The General Plan assigns land use in broad categories such as residential, commercial, tech park, and golf course. In the General Plan, Area 4 is designated for residential land use. The change in zoning from one form of residential use to another form of residential use is not a change to the general plan. It is a change in zoning.

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Paradise Lost: The Town Centre Area 4 Amendment

Town Centre Area 4 rezoned last week
Last Thursday, LOVE reported that the Oro Valley Town Council unanimously voted to increase planned home density in Town Centre. The land (designated as "Area 4") is located directly across from Pusch View Lane, at Oracle Road. Council approval followed the unanimous approval by the town's Planning and Zoning Commission.

The land use for Area 4 was created in 2002. The land use remained the same. Every person, for the past 17 years, has had an expectation that the property would be developed as designated: Beautiful, large lot homes. This council with one vote changed all of that.

Now zoned for much smaller lots and more homes
This chart compares the land use as it was zoned and as it was approved by council. By every measure, the approved zoning even further extends density of land:
  • 12 more homes
  • Much smaller lot sizes
  • Less open space
  • More grading
  • Some lot fill as much as 13 feet
  • A home closer to Oracle Rd
"Town Planners pushed for more density on this property as opposed to less impact on the scenic corridor"
Residents of El Conquistador Patio Homes abut the property. They will lose their scenic views and use of this land, land which many had hoped would be donated by the Rooney Family. These residents have had no choice, over the years, but to try to mitigate the damage that this development will do to them and to their community.

According to town resident Tracey Smith, "What we soon won't have is natural desert scape and scenic corridors." She blames the town for this: "In fact, endless times the Oro Valley planners told me that they were responsible for increasing the density of this property. They told Rooney to go back to the drawing board and increase density. I, for one, have been heartbroken and feel betrayed by the town leadership desire to build high density housing in such a precious part of Oro Valley."

John Rooney would roll over...Paradise Lost...
Years back, the Rooney Family, from Oklahoma, wintered in what would become Oro Valley. Their landholding was vast. John Rooney, son of the owner, attended Russell School. One resident, Ms. Whatley, speaking at the meeting (1:03 mark) grew up in Oro Valley. She worked for John Rooney's real estate attorney. Saddened by what is going to happen to the property, she spoke from the heart of Oro Valley's paradise lost. Her remarks are quite poignant. They appear in the box at left.

Winfield is responsible for this zoning change
It was clear at the March meeting that approval of this zoning change was split among the six council members. Mayor Winfield held the deciding vote. He did not call the vote. Instead he chose to table the measure; and, from the dais, to advise the developer of the things the developer had to do to assuage council concerns.

In doing that, Winfield backed himself and his fellow council members into a corner. They had no choice but to support the measure because, by last week, the developer had done so much more work in addressing their concerns.

"Is this everything I want this project to be?", Winfield stated at the meeting, "I would say no. But I believe that the applicant has made a genuine effort to address many of the concerns of the residents and concerns of this council. And, at this point, I would like to approve." (Meeting Video, time 2:14:00)

It seems to us that Winfield felt he had no option of voting "No" since he had taken the option of voting "No" off the table in March, when he actively worked to defer a decision and to then counsel the applicant.

Monday, May 20, 2019

The Watchdog Report: March 2019 Financials, 75% of the way through FY 2018/19

When one first looks at the Community Center Fund balances for March 2019, one might be impressed and think that we are working ourselves out of this mess. After all, they show a surplus of $565,372. However, the balance sheet also shows that the annual $120,000 transfer to the General Fund has not been accomplished, and there is still $46,669 in capital outlay to be spent.

March usually marks the end of the prime months for golf, but with April and May temperatures being cooler than normal (it’s reportedly been 8 degrees cooler than normal), we might actually see better golf revenues this spring than in years past.

What is interesting is that when you compare March 2019 to March 2018, you see that the total revenues were $94,231 higher in 2018, but the expenditures were $434,143 lower in 2019. Your sales tax revenues totaled $1,792,890 in 2019, which is $78,901 more than 2018.

The Bad News
Even though Troon states that they made $30,410 in March 2019, their total losses to date are $209,773 higher than in 2018. Member dues were $15,003 lower in 2019 vs. 2018. Golf revenues were $108,338 less than budgeted and Troon is still forecasting to lose $1,775,622 in fiscal 2018/19.

The Town spent only $4,281 out of a promised $50,950 in Capital outlay.

The Good News
The number of rounds of non-member play for March was 5,457 (on 45 holes).  However, another course within 5 miles had 5,165 rounds on just 18 holes.

Thanks to the very rainy winter, Troon’s utility expenses have lowered.

The Overlook Restaurant actually made $771 in March. Their total losses for the fiscal year (to date) are currently $87,447.

The Town has made $73,467 through their programs (tennis, fitness, recreation). Maybe the Town can start sharing in the utility costs. (For more information on why the Town has paid ZERO in utilities since the Community Center opened in May 2015, please read our January Watchdog Report, under the subheading of “Clever Bookkeeping.”)

All things considered, March 2019 was not a bad month. We will see what the remainder of the year brings and if the Town Council will be able to transfer the Hiremath council’s promised $120,000 annual loan payment back to the General Fund.
March Financials - Click to enlarge
Overlook Restaurant March Financials

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.

Thursday, May 16, 2019

Council Adds Four Police Positions To Budget

Council approves 2019-20 spending cap with proviso to add four Police positions
The the Oro Valley Town Council approved a budget expenditure limit of approximately $111 million last night, which is about $3 million more than last year's limit. Council directed Town Manager Jacobs to add four police department positions to the budget. Since total spending is now capped, Jacobs will need to shift spending from other areas to accommodate this.

In other actions last night...

Council approves increase in home density in Town Center
The council approved re-padding the southern portion of the town center. The decision increases potential home density and will likely accelerate the development of the property. According to the developer, the property now "matches market demand".  Entry to the property will be at the traffc light at Oracle Road and Pusch View Lane.

Council raises water cost
The council approved an increase in water rates. The increase is 11% on the base connection rate. It's about $30 per year for 85% of Oro Valley's residents.  Water Director Peter Abraham stated that the department will seek a rate increase every year.

All three of these measures were approve 7-0 by council.

Update: 2019 Town Staff Salary Analysis

Last week, LOVE ran an article about the Town Manager’s Recommended Budget for FY 2019/20. The budget recommended salary increases for town staff based on a salary and benefit analysis that the Town recently conducted analyzing “comparable” jurisdictions across Arizona. If you missed it, you can read it HERE

Today we are presenting the list of cities and towns from the 2019 salary analysis along with population figures from the 2017 U.S. Census. The Town analyzed 13 cities/towns in the 2019 study. (They analyzed 11 cities/towns in the 2013 study.)

City/Town/County ------ Population 2017

Cities shown in blue were included in both studies.

Apache Junction. . . . . . . . . . 40,500
Avondale. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 84,000
Chandler. . . . . . . . . . . . . .  . 253,000
Flagstaff. . . . . . . . . . . . . .  . . 72,000
Marana. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 44,800
Mesa. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 496,400
Peoria. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .168,000
Pima County. . . . . . . . . . . 1,000,000
Queen Creek. . . . . . . . . . . . . 39,000
Scottsdale. . . . . . . . . . . . . . 250,000
Surprise . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .134,000
Tolleson. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 7,200
Tucson. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 530,000

Our Analysis
The 2019 salary analysis relies heavily on cities/towns in the Phoenix area.

The only towns with a population comparable to Oro Valley are Apache Junction, Marana, and Queen Creek.

Oro Valley does not have a property tax. The following cities/towns used in the 2019 study all have a property tax:

Avondale, Chandler, Flagstaff, Peoria, Queen Creek, Scottsdale, Surprise, Tolleson, and Tucson.

Therefore, the only towns in the 2019 study that are actually “comparable” to Oro Valley (similar population and no property tax) are Apache Junction and Marana.

The reason employees leave the Town of Oro Valley is not because of the pay and benefits. It is because of the working conditions. Former Town Manager, Greg Caton, eliminated the “360 Evaluation” which was a confidential way that employees could rate and discuss their superiors.  Of note is that Raytheon Missile Systems in Tucson, with over 10,000 employees, utilizes the "360 Evaluation."  They apparently understand that there is more to employee satisfaction than what’s in their paycheck.

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

After Six Years Of Funding Neglect, Public Safety Is On The Front Burner

Lack of public safety funding support during Hiremath years
Last week, Chief Daniel Sharp of the Oro Valley Police Department said that he felt that the town needed 4 additional police positions in fiscal 2020 (Begins July 1) and four more for fiscal 2021. The 2020 recommended budget submitted by Town Manager Mary Jacobs does not include these four positions.

Sharp states that there has been police understaffing for years
Speaking at last week's Town Council Study Session, Sharp said: "We knew there was going to be a point at which we were not going to be able to continue [being short positions]; and we’ve deferred [adding positions] every year. As I signaled last year, we aren’t going to be able to defer [adding positions] any more unless there is going to be a cut in service…. We’ve been band-aiding. This is the year [we need more police]. I tried to defer as long as I could. We’ve started slipping faster in the last few months that I even anticipated....we didn’t have enough officers to dispatch..” (Town Council Study Session of May 8, 2019: 1:16-1:17 minute mark)

Astounding but true
LOVE researched police department staffing over time. The chart that follows confirms that police positions have not been added during the past six years (2013-2019). The budget for these years was determined by former Mayor Hiremath and his council majority.

Double Click On This Chart To  Expand To Full View

Hiremath started his tenure by reducing police staffing from 135 to 125 in his first two years as Mayor. These are years in which current Council Member Solomon served. In 2011, the council doubled the Utility Tax from 2% to 4% to pay for police. This provided about $1.4 million in added funding. According to then Council Member Joe Hornat: "...1 percentage worth $720,000 to the town." (source).

The added utility tax funds did boost police staffing. By 2013, police staffing had increased to about 132 positions.  Since then, however, police staffing has been relatively flat. It was even reduced in 2016, the first full year of town ownership of the El Conquistador Country Club.

The result: Six years, from 2013 to 2019, of approximately the same level of police staffing.  

It's up to Council, not the Town Manager, to properly assess and fund our public safety needs
In 2010, the Hiremath Council voted to have the police department report to council and not to the Town Manager. Town Manager Jacobs plays an advisory oversight role when it comes to the budget for the police department. The police department budget that she submitted this April is her budget. It is not the budget of any member of this council.

It's the responsibility of the Council to listen to the Chief, as they did last week, to truly understand the needs of the public safety. Council should meet again with him, meet without the hoopla of political rhetoric demonstrated at last week's budget study session. Indeed, it may be time to catch up on years of public safety neglect on the part of Hiremath Council.

Guns or Butter? Golf or Cops?
Where should the funds come from to support new public safety positions? The decision is easy. The funds should come from the Community Center/Restaurant/Golf Course budget. That endeavor is a complete luxury. Public Safety is not a luxury.

There is no other place we can see it coming from.

The town must start to property fund its pension lability to ensure that we keep our promise of retirement for our employees. The town should not jeopardize our excellent roads by taking funding from the highway department. The town should not take this money from needed parks for our children. They are, after all, our future. We can't take it from a necessity like our water department, a department that will likely be successful tomorrow in raising rates to cover its costs.

The council can and should fund the public safety needs of 43,000 residents over the needs of 200 users of the town owned country club.

It's time to get real. The town cannot do everything on everyone's wish list.

Now is when the "rubber meets the road."

Monday, May 13, 2019

Scheming in plain sight. The Hiremath gang continues attempts to undermine the Winfield Council.

On May 8th, The Town Council held a Budget Study Session to discuss the Town Manager’s Recommended Budget for FY 2019/20. A LOVE reader found the following synopsis, posted on the Next Door site by an Oro Valley resident, and sent it to us. We think it’s worth sharing. We’ve added the subheadings.
Elevating the political discourse
In my opinion, Mayor Winfield and the three new council members are to be commended for embodying the spirit of "more elevated political discourse" in last night's budget meeting for Oro Valley.

Solomon makes a spectacle of himself…again
In terms of substance, the most controversial and contentious issue in my opinion was that the budget requested from the Town Manager included no additional FTE's [full-time equivalent positions] for any department, including the police. Councilman Solomon made a spectacle of this issue. He pressed the police chief [Danny Sharp] as to whether he had requested more police and not gotten them, and eventually he said yes. He also revealed, apparently for the first time in this budget cycle, that at certain peak times, 20% of requests for police officers had to go unanswered because no officer was available. There was no discussion of how long these peak periods were, how many "not available" situations were simply postponed without danger, like fraud reporting. All council members were shocked.

Chief Sharp admits that there is no crisis
This triggered an immediate, persistent, angry tirade from Solomon. He said that Oro Valley's sterling reputation for safety was being endangered, this was unacceptable, and that a firm and final decision should be immediately made to give the chief whatever he needed. Under questioning and clarification as to why the chief had not sooner made the danger clearer, the police chief confessed that it is normal to have peak periods with no officer immediately available for around 10% of requests; that the statistic had worsened slowly over the years; and that there was no immediate crisis. Eventually, he [Chief Sharp] apologized that the issue had arisen in this manner at this time.

Mayor Winfield remains composed
Winfield graciously said that of course it would be given another look and asked that the Town Manager give options for moving money around to make room for more police funding. Solomon was undeterred in his crusade for immediate action. He did not want options; he wanted a decision, now, with instructions to the Town Manager. This, despite that the meeting was a study session where no decisions were to be made, said Winfield, several times, very politely, until Solomon grudgingly capitulated.

It was an ugly, inappropriate, and unnecessary display in my opinion. People were relieved when the topic changed to parks and recreation, which began with the joke: "Next year, I refuse to be put on the agenda after the police." The tension finally broke.

Dave Perry’s lead balloon
Quite some time later, after much post-police discussion had occurred, Chamber of Commerce President Dave Perry asked to speak and gave an impassioned plea for more police funding, complete with extended anecdotes designed to project poignancy, like the Target employee who told him that in Tucson, police didn't even bother to come when called about shoplifting incidents. His performance had the buoyancy of a lead balloon.

Solomon’s palpable antagonism
After 4 hours of discussion and very few people were left, Solomon yet again found a back door into re-raising "prioritization of public safety." He pointed out that while no department, not even police, had gotten a single FTE, the Town Council had gotten a net increase of approximately ½ of an FTE in legal services. This triggered another hammering from Solomon. Why more legal service and not the police? Exactly why? What message does this send? Why did we never need this before? Was this a temporary increase just until the new and inexperienced council members are trained? No? What then?

It was tiresome and overdone; nothing more than political grandstanding in my opinion. Winfield and his allies met all this palpable antagonism with patience, forbearance, politeness, facts, perspective, and logic.

Hiremath’s cowardly absence
Conspicuous in his absence was Satish Hiremath who, [as published in his Explorer Op-Ed on May 1st] characterized them as liars who are threatening and intimidating the Town Manager into formulating an austerity budget guaranteed to result in an exodus of key personnel and a crime-ridden community without adequate police protection.

I have to say the Town Manager did not look in the slightest bit intimidated or threatened. She projected 100% calm professionalism. Moreover, her budget summary was exceptionally well-written so she is obviously competent and can find another job; she makes $180,000/year and probably has savings to carry her through a job loss, should that happen. I doubt that she perceives herself as "succumbing to threats of retaliation and intimidation by liars who are forcing her to compromise on principles."

Hiremath's method of elevating public discourse is apparently to let the remnants of his administration and former allies act as proxies for his bitter partisan rhetoric while he remains above the fray of face-to-face public meetings via cowardly absence. What a negative role model for the children and young adults who will lead us in the future.

A kinder, gentler mayor
What a refreshing and promising display of hope I saw last night for a kinder, gentler, unified community where elected officials are role models of public service for all citizens, regardless of age.
LOVE’s Analysis
There is clearly a concerted effort going on by defeated former mayor Hiremath and his proxies to take down Winfield, Barrett, Jones-Ivey, and Nicolson. Solomon has spent the past 6 months using his position as a council member to launch into his bi-weekly lecture series attempting to discredit and minimize Winfield, et. al., while Hiremath and former councilmember Joe Hornat, along with the incorrigible Don Cox, take their phony rhetoric to the pages of the local newspaper.

Pavlov’s Dogs
It’s no coincidence that Hiremath’s May 1st Explorer op-ed, followed by defeated council member Joe Hornat's May 8th letter to the editor have both come exactly 6 months into the reign of the Winfield administration. What’s the significance of rearing their heads at the 6-month mark? You have to wait 6 months before initiating a recall against a newly elected mayor and council members.

It appears that the Hiremath posse is salivating in anticipation of a recall in hopes of retaking their majority voting block on council. And it appears that they are planning to use their repetitive and worn out scare tactic of being the only ones who will make public safety a priority.  And we all know that is not true. 

Be sure to read tomorrow's article on public safety funding during the Hiremath years.