Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Guest View-Shirl Lamonna and Diane Bristow: Is Oro Valley Main Streets Project a Road to More Taxes?

Is Oro Valley Staff Off On Yet Another Folly?
Were you, like us, confused by the postcard and Explorer advertisements about an Oro Valley Main Streets Project? Does Oro Valley really need a "downtown?" Is this what the residents want?

After all, Oro Valley is already 85% built out.

Isn’t a planned downtown area a little too late? Didn't Oro Valley already pass on this? Why didn't Oro Valley move forward with a "Town Center" that was originally planned at Rancho Vistoso Boulevard and Moore Road? At one time, wasn't the strip center on Oracle and First Avenue (across from Rooney Ranch) supposed to be a gathering place? Didn't the Majority-4 tout the Community Center as a gathering place? So why does Oro Valley need a Main Streets project and who will pay for the project?

Several of us attended town staff hosted workshops (See panel below).
At these workshops, we were told that the idea of Main Streets grew from the Town Council's 2015 Strategic Plan, the Planning & Zoning fiscal years 2016 and 2017 work plans and the town's 2016 General Plan "Your Voice, Our Future" project.

Even after the workshops however, we weren't clear that the desire to "create the heart" of Oro Valley and reinvent Oro Valley was a priority to residents.
So, we checked out town staff's stated justification for investing resources to even plan this concept. After all, don't they have better things to do than look for work?

We found no compelling reason for a "Main Streets" Project
Reviewing the Oro Valley 2015 Strategic Plan, we found within the Economic Development Focus Area two strategies possibly referring to Main Streets:

  • Continue developing Steam Pump Ranch as a cultural and historical destination.
  • Evaluate the development of an entertainment district that includes music, sports, museums and private/nonprofit galleries.

From the Town’s website, we were not able to locate the Planning & Zoning Commission work plans to which the staff had referred. We did find mention of it in the "Oro Valley Main Streets Background Inventory, under Project Origin". There is mentioned a Planning & Zoning Commission Commission Work Plan – Item 3: The District… “The Work Plan identifies the District project as a high priority… includes… a complete streets policy and mixed-use zoning.”

We then reviewed the 2016 yet to be voter approved General Plan, Your Voice, Our Future (90% Completion). In the Complete Community Section, "Neighborhoods", we found Policy CC.6: “Promote the creation of unique community gathering places that are inviting, walkable, attractive and vibrant and offer commercial, entertainment or cultural activity.”

We also found Action 10, relating to Policy CC.6.: “Develop a plan for designating areas of Oro Valley that serve as the community’s gathering places."

Finally, we analyzed the Your Voice Our Future telephone survey to gain a better understanding of the backing for the project. We discovered that...

The desire of the residents for a central gathering place is as rare as the demand for golf and a restaurant at the Community Center
In other words, it is so far down on the list of wants to be irrelevant.

Our conclusions:
There is minuscule resident interest in creating a downtown
Why do we say this?
First, very few residents attended the Main Street's workshops (see panel above).

Second, the statistically valid 2013 survey of residents that was used to define portions of the 2016 General Plan did not contain a single question about a downtown or community gathering place. Few people commented on a downtown area or a central location to meet people. Only 3% of the 306 respondents believed more restaurants and dining choices were required to make Oro Valley a more complete or livable community.

Third, we imagine there will be even less resident interest in this if the residents will have to pay in any way for Main Streets. At the moment, this is considered long-range planning so cost and maintenance cos was not addressed despite direct questions on funding of the project.

Our apprehension with the Main Streets Project centers on the fact that Oro Valley Council and Staff seem to have an agenda to reinvent Oro Valley into a crowded Scottsdale-like city, despite a complete lack of community interest. Instead there is an overwhelming community's desire to retain Oro Valley's small town feel. 

Diane Bristow
Shirl Lamonna
Oro Valley Residents

Monday, July 18, 2016

Guest View: Segal Says; "Good Bye Oro Valley. Good Luck. You'll Need It!"

On Aug. 1, 1993, my wife I arrived in Oro Valley, after spending the previous 28 years in our home on Long Island N.Y. Knowing we wanted to spend our remaining years enjoying the great weather, views, and everything else it afforded us,we were fortunate to buy a home in La Reserve, and watch as it was being constructed.

That was 23 years ago, and Oro Valley had a population about one-third what it is today. From our vantage point, we were able to look out at the whole valley, most of which was desert, filled with various cactus, giant sahuaros, palo verde and mesquite trees. Not surprising, thousands of other folks, both young and old, soon found what a great community lies just to the north of Tucson, and, literally, right before our eyes, the desert was filled not with the native plants, but asphalt, homes, apartments, and commercial buildings. So much for progress!

Soon after arriving, I became a little familiar with our local government, which, at the time consisted of a mayor and 4 council members. As the years went by, I got involved, attended most council meetings, and became an outspoken critic of many of the decisions made by the majority of the council.

I don’t recall the exact year, but there was a point in time, that Richard Furash and I started a local blog, that I was proud to name the “LOVE blog”-----an acronym for “Let Oro Valley Excel.” Our intention was to keeping our Oro Valley neighbors aware of the goings on in the community, and mainly the politics, and how decisions affected all our lives.

About a dozen or so years ago, the town council grew from 4 to 6 council members, plus the mayor. Although there seemed to almost always be a majority that leaned towards favoring what I refer to, as the “Special Interests,”------builders, developers, and the like, it wasn’t until the election of 2010 that it became evident a “coalition” of 4 were running as “a team,” and garnered enough votes to get elected-----and re-elected again in 2014.

After the 2010 election, it was obvious our voice was not heard by enough concerned Oro Valley voters, and, with regrets of not being able to compete with the tens of thousands of dollars the “Special Interests” were spending to get “their” candidates elected, I gave up on the LOVE blog, and turned it over to my friend Richard, who continued the yeoman task of getting the people aware of what was happening.

Well! My efforts over the years, and Richard’s efforts that are still on going weren’t enough to overcome the “big bucks,” and the results are what we see today.

While Mike Zinkin, Bill Garner and Brendan Burns did all they could, the Majority-4, were always in control of our town's destiny, and that is why, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that Oro Valley is losing millions of dollars as a result of being “snookered” by the owner of the El Conquistador resort who had to find a “patsy” to sell his losing golf,  tennis and restaurant operation, along with the golf club on La Canada, in order to maintain the Hilton as a “resort.”

From our home in La Reserve, we have a direct view to the 9 hole golf course, and can clearly see, it is almost totally void of golfers and the course is nothing but an eyesore, looking more like a weed invested place, than a golf course, while our money is being sucked away.

So---- that brings me “full cycle.” When I started this lengthy dissertation, I noted we’ve been here since 1993, and never expected to leave. As a result to seeing what 4 people---Mayor Hiremath and council members Hornat, Snider and Waters have done to our community during their tenure, my wife and I decided to leave before things get much worse.

For those old enough to remember the great Edward R. Morrow, award winning newsman from WWll and the famous CBS news show of the 1950;s, “See It Now,” he would always sign off with his famous closing; “Good night and good luck.”

Paraphrasing Mr. Morrow, I want to say to all our Oro Valley friends and neighbors: “Good bye, and good luck.” We know you’ll need it!

Art Segal
(Soon to be former) Oro Valley Resident

Friday, July 15, 2016

It's "Solomon" not "Soloman"

Campaign signs are now appearing in our community. Really not what we need after years of continuous Oro Valley elections. Just more blight to clutter our beautiful community.

Can you identify what's wrong with this  campaign sign?

Check the spelling of the names.


One name is misspelled on the candidate's own sign.

It's not like the correct spelling is hard to figure out. After all, the misspelled name is of biblical proportions. Once he was King.

We asked Don Cox, chairman of the Triple E PAC what happened.

"These are not Triple E-PAC signs. I'm kind of surprised that any [of those sign's] are out there. The error was caught pretty early.

Obviously the person/s responsible for proofing them were asleep at the wheel.

However, I thought it was a great ploy to insure that folks didn't think these three were running as a slate........SOLO MAN!!"


Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Guest View-Don Bristow: Power Elite/Donor Class and Campaign Finances (Part 2)

Monday, I wrote about how Oro Valley's "Donor Class" has taken over Oro Valley politics. Yesterday, I wrote about "contributions" to Oro Valley's political campaigns by these donors.

For the Donor Class to receive benefit, their political allies have to retain power. This is accomplished through assuring donations to the Majority-4 that give them the capability to overwhelmingly outspend their opponents.  

Today, let's focus on candidate spending because...

Spending brought control of Oro Valley Government to the Donor Class
State Statute prohibits their supporting PAC, Triple E PAC, from combining or coordinating spending with candidates. However, the spending by this PAC was to support the re-election of The Majority-4. The recall campaign expenses reported by the Majority-4 and Triple E PAC are summarized in this table.

The majority of Majority-4 expense funds, $69,958 (74%), went to a political strategy consulting firm, Saguaro Strategies, in Phoenix.  The combined expenses of Didio, Hartung, Lamonna, and Straney, including the AGN PAC, was $26,278.

In our small town of Oro Valley, why was it necessary for the incumbents to spend over $100,000 to only eke out a win in the 2015 recall election?  Why was it necessary for them to use a Phoenix political strategy consulting firm?  What happened to Shop Oro Valley?

Behind the scenes, the power elites are rewarded.  The funds spent on parks and other residents’ amenities distract the residents as to what is really happening in their Town.  

If it isn’t in their backyard, residents don’t care and don’t know about the total actions of the Majority-4.  It’s time to be concerned about all of the Town of Oro Valley.  If you haven't already been impacted, your backyard will be next.

The Majority-4 and the Triple E PAC are supporting the three candidates running against the incumbents in the 2016 Oro Valley Council Elections.

Visit the websites of Councilmembers Burns, Garner, and Zinkin to learn about these candidates for Town Council. They are your only choices to prevent the Donor Class and Power Elite from achieving absolute control of Oro Valley.  

Don Bristow
Oro Valley Resident

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Guest View-Don Bristow: Power Elite/Donor Class and Campaign Finances

For Oro Valley, the majority of the donor class are owners and developers of un-developed parcels of land, builders, commercial real estate representatives, and the owner of a local resort and apartment complex. These donor class members are a handful of Oro Valley residents,; but, they have considerable influence with Oro Valley's Majority-4 (Mayor Hiremath, Vice Mayor Waters and Councilmembers Hornat and Snider) council members. 

This table (right) summarizes the campaign contributions received by the Majority-4 and their complementary PAC. Triple E PAC.

My review of all donations to these recipients revealed that:
  • The total contributions to Majority-4 and the Triple E PAC was an astounding $107,500 in 2015.
  • 72% of actual dollar contributions received for the 2015 recall election came from the Donor Class (list right)
  • Contributions of $50 or less were less than 2% of 2015 total. 
Note that the single largest contributor, HSL Properties, got the Hilton El Conquistador and Encantada Apartments in deals made with the Majority-4. As a result, now the town owns three expensive, money losing ($3 million in the first 15 months) golf courses and a money losing restaurant.

The total contributions to the four (Steve Didio, Ryan Hartung, Shirl Lamonna, and Pat Straney,) who opposed the Majority-4 in the 2015 Recall Election, including the Accountable Government Now PAC was $35,061.   All of these contributions were made by individuals. There were no contributions from the "Donor Class."

Clearly, unlike the Majority-4, the only special interest of the challengers was the people of Oro Valley.

Tomorrow:  Read how spending buys the Oro Valley local elections.

Don Bristow
Oro Valley Resident

Monday, July 11, 2016

Guest View-Don Bristow: Donor Class Reigns In Oro Valley

Influence Rules Oro Valley
The majority of us acknowledge that big money contributions influence elections.

In Oro Valley, the wealthy Oro Valley/Pima County "Donor Class" members write the biggest, fattest checks in the high three to four digits. They are the ones who have too much influence on elections and on the candidates who win office.

Oro Valley's Mayor Hiremath and Councilmembers Hornat, Snider, and Waters (Majority-4)  have been the ones receiving the big, fat donations. These power donors made big, fat campaign contributions to these four during the last two Oro Valley town elections. In exchange, these four, with the cooperation of key staff members, have rewarded these donors by supporting actions which help these donors.

The major areas of influence have been land development and construction. The record shows that the Majority-4 have been very successful in representing their donors. (As you will see in tomorrow's posting, Oro Valley's "Donor Class" is composed of special interests, like HSL Properties, who get pretty much what they want from the town.)

Influence Seeks Complete Control
What is very alarming is the Majority-4 have put together a slate of three candidates to oppose the re-election of Councilmembers Burns, Garner, and Zinkin.

The Majority-4’s candidates were chosen because they too will support the interests of the wealthy donor class who reign supreme over Oro Valley Government.  

Absolute Power Corrupts Absolutely
If even one of the Majority-4’s three chosen candidates is elected, the Majority-4 will become the Majority-5. They will be a super majority. Their votes, controlled by the Donor Class, will be absolute. The voices of the residents will be silenced.

The residents who have experienced the impact of new development and/or land zoning changes became aware of the power of a particular Town code when a change impacts them. Otherwise, they are relatively oblivious to what is going on.

It is Councilmember Mike Zinkin who brought the code to the residents’ attention. This code allows residents to impact a developer’s plans by requiring a super majority Council vote, not the mere 4 to 3 vote, for approval of a change. This has given residents the power to negotiate compromises on how areas near them are to be developed. This has allowed Councilmembers Burns, Garner, and Zinkin to more effectively represent the residents against the Majority-4 and their donor class.

Tomorrow, we will post information summarizing Donor Class and Campaign contributions to Hiremath, Hornat, Snider, and Waters. Wednesday, we will focus on how they have so outspent their rivals in the past 2 elections.

You fill find it interesting.

You will be appalled.

Don Bristow
Oro Valley Resident

Monday, July 4, 2016

Happy July 4

LOVE wishes you a happy July 4. It's America's Birthday!

Enjoy the freedom we all share.

LOVE will return next Monday, July 11