Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Guest View-Mayoral Candidate Pat Straney: "What A Difference A Year Makes"

ONE YEAR LATER
Ever since July 28 of this year when I declared my candidacy for mayor in the 2015 Oro Valley Recall Election, I have been asked many times why I am running again for the Office of Mayor. “What is different from a year ago?”

The short answer to that question is, “A whole lot has changed and – unfortunately – a whole lot has not changed!”

Allow me to share my thoughts, and provide some of the details and context behind my statement. During the 2014 election, very few “hot button” issues that had been created (or were in the process of being created) by the dysfunctional town council were commonly recognized or acknowledged by the Oro Valley community-at-large. The issues were starting to boil over but did not break through the “all is well in Oro Valley mantra” declared over and over again by some of the town leadership. Too many residents liked what they were hearing and did not look deeper into the truths behind the headlines being touted as facts.

The subsequent divisiveness in the community created by the actions of the current town leadership is stunning!!

I campaigned on the need to improve the overall municipal governance and leadership of the Town of Oro Valley and described several areas of opportunity for improvement:
  • Bring an atmosphere of civility, integrity and teamwork to the town council, town staff and the community-at-large. (Interestingly, the Majority 4 have borrowed my slogan for their use in their campaign efforts this year.); 
  • Utilize “best practices” and “lessons learned” employed by successful businesses and other municipalities to improve town governance; 
  • Improve transparency and openness in town governance to facilitate an atmosphere of “inclusiveness” for all residents.
In spite of these goals, the “uncommon timing” and “partisan balloting requirements” of last year’s election cycle coupled with low voter turnout failed to bring needed change to our town. But 2015 brings us a whole new set of circumstances that directly affect all residents and businesses and cannot be ignored (panel on left)

In addition, “self-serving” interpretation of the intent of the General Plan, along with Planning and Zoning change requests approved by the current town leadership, have resulted in the type of home and overdone apartment construction we are currently witnessing in Oro Valley.

To top it all off, we have the controversial El Conquistador “deal” that commits us (the tax payers) to large capital investments, long-term subsidies and significant operating losses for the foreseeable future. This “deal” was accomplished in a “less than open manner”, and is based on a flawed business plan and incomplete due diligence prior to the purchase of the properties. Very importantly, it puts Oro Valley in direct competition with private businesses in our community.

We are at the point where it is necessary to take an honest look at the governance of our town and what steps to take to begin the healing of this great town.

Oro Valley residents and business alike deserve a professional, respectful and transparent mayor and town council that functions in an atmosphere where all resident’s feel welcome to share their opinions and are respected for their positions on important town issues and decisions. As mayor, I pledge that I will make you - the citizens of Oro Valley - my special interest group. Thank you for your support and for your vote.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Oro Valley Recall Election Challengers File Their Nomination Petitions

The following is the full text of a press release:
---
 FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
August 31, 2015

It’s Official: Oro Valley Residents Ready to DRIVE out the Recalled Incumbents; 2,944 Signatures Filed by Challengers

Oro Valley, AZ — Mayoral Candidate Pat Straney and Town Council Candidates Steve Didio, Ryan Hartung and Shirl Lamonna have filed their nomination petitions to run in the November Recall election in Oro Valley. A minimum of 221 signatures was required for the Mayoral seat and 526 signatures for Councilmembers.

All four candidates significantly exceeded the signature threshold for the office they are seeking. The individual totals filed by each candidate were:
  • Pat Straney: 491, 
  • Steve Didio: 827
  • Ryan Hartung: 793
  • Shirl Lamonna: 833. 
The incumbents were recalled over their rushed decision to purchase the El Conquistador Country Club, Golf and Tennis Facilities from HSL Properties, among several other issues.

These challenger Nomination Petitions were, in fact, the culmination of Referendum and Recall petition drives throughout the year with a combined total of nearly 16,000 signatures.

The high numbers gathered in such a short time frame are “indicative of broad support within the town for change in local government” stated Steve Didio, a retired US Navy Officer who is running for a Council seat. “Citizens sought us out to sign all four petitions at multiple locations throughout the town,” he added.

Ryan Hartung, who led the successful recall effort, indicated that he’s “ready to focus on the issues facing Oro Valley and any upcoming debates” now that his petition signatures have been filed.

Former General Motors Executive Pat Straney was a late entry to the race and attributed his rapid success to resident distrust of the recalled Mayor. “As a result of the many volunteers that supported me, 491 signatures were obtained in a little over 3 weeks in response to a requirement of 221.” Straney further commented: “I look forward to the active campaigning phase of this election effort and earning the honor of becoming the Mayor of Oro Valley and representing the interests of all residents and businesses in our community.”

Shirl Lamonna, who led the T.O.O.T.H. (Tee’d Off Over Tax Hike) referendum effort said her candidacy isn’t just about the El Con Golf Course deal. “It’s about retaining our small town character and following the General Plan. It’s also a matter of trust. It’s about the influence of campaign donations from special interest groups. It’s about the recalled incumbents’ voting pattern for a whole series of questionable decisions to increase taxes, to approve nearly 800 apartments and high density subdivisions and to saddle Oro Valley families with millions of dollars in liabilities that could require the incumbents to raise taxes even further to make up for unintended losses. This recall election at last provides voters a voice and a choice on November 3rd. It’s time to change the course in Oro Valley.”

In Recall Elections, candidates must declare which recalled incumbent they will run against. Pat Straney will face Mayor Hiremath; Steve Didio will face Lou Waters; Ryan Hartung will face Joe Hornat and Shirl Lamonna will face Mary Snider on November 3rd.

For more information on each of the candidates, their campaigns and priorities, please visit their websites at: www.electpatstraneymayor.com, www.steve-didio.squarespace.com, www.ryanhartung.com, www.shirlforovcouncil.com

Monday, August 31, 2015

Oro Valley Considers Rezoning For 5-Story Apartment-type Buildings Near Oracle Road

Slated to be a five-story assisted living facility, Nakoma Sky's future is a bit "up in the air." The facility is to be located where Lambert Lane ends at First Avenue. The zoning for the five-stories was approved in January by Mayor Hiremath and council members Hornat, Snider and Waters. Council Member's Burns, Garner and Zinkin did not approve the rezoning. They stated that a five-story building is not appropriate for Oro Valley.

Oro Valley "Arch" is not going to happen
Rocky Berg of Dallas-based three-living architecture was the original project architect. He said that he designed Nakoma Sky after the concepts of Frank Lloyd Wright, the famous Phoenix-based architect. Mayor Hiremath was so enthused over the prospect that he was heard to say: "St. Louis has the arch and we will have this building."

Mayor Hiremath is wrong.  We will not have this building. The only thing remarkable about this project will be the 5 story height of its buildings! The buildings will be visible from Oracle Road.

Nakoma Sky design dramatically changed
"The proposed design is more reflective of a traditional apartment design versus the original resort appearance of the original approval." (Daines staff report, p 2-3)[See panel right].

This new design is the creation of another architect, Talley Associates of Dallas. They replaced Berg as the architect.

In June, the Oro Valley Development and Infrastructure Department filed an administrative decision that the plans submitted by the developer, La Posada, did not "conform to the conditions of the rezoning and associated Tentative Development Plan." The zoning and Tentative Development Plan for the project was for a 77-acre senior care facility.

The applicant had submitted plans that the department could not approve because the changes to the original plan were substantial. For example, the plans made the buildings even bigger than they were before, reduced the size of a small "park", which is actually in an non usable flood plain, and removed some of the more appealing architectural features.

"They moved the assisted living/ memory care building to the main building and replaced that area with a public park. Well, it turns out that the area where the building was originally going to be is within a federally designated drainage area. They could not build there anyway," according to Oro Valley town council candidate Shirl Lamonna.

Lamonna has been following the project closely. "The problem it seems was that the original architect had never designed a retirement facility. His design for multiple buildings would have been too costly. Each, for example, would have required separate kitchens."  The new architect does have  experience in designing healthcare and senior living experience.

In early August, the Oro Valley Development and Infrastructure Department held a neighborhood meeting to present new plans for the property. Tomorrow, the Oro Valley Planning and Zoning Commission will hold a public hearing on the new plans.

These plans include a mediation garden, a water splash park, a vegetable garden and greenhouse, and a dog park.

November 4 timing of council hearing, one day after the recall election, gives political cover to the Majority-4
In what some assert to be a political move, Mayor Hiremath and Council Members Hornat, Snider and Waters will not have to vote on this rezoning before the election. They will not have to disclose, by council vote, whether they want Oro Valley to have these apartment-type 5-story buildings. This is because the matter will not come before council until November 4.

Generally, after the Planning and Zoning Commission meeting, the item appears on the next town subsequent council meeting. That would mean that it would be on the September 16 meeting.

On November 4, the day after the election, the Majority-4 can move to approve or deny the rezoning regardless of the election result because the election result will not be certified at that time. In other words, regardless of the election result the Majority-4 can opine and vote on this rezoning. They just don't have to do so before the election.

The political advantage of this timing for Mayor Hiremath and Council Members Hornat, Snider and Waters is that they will not have to make their position public before this election. They can justify not doing so on the basis that they do not feel it proper to opine on a future major council agenda item. 

If this vote does take place on that date, it will be before the candidates file their final campaign report so there will  be no way for the public to discern, at that time, if any of those affiliated to the project have made political contributions to Mayor Hiremath and Council Members Hornat, Snider and Waters.

We urge all Oro Valley residents to attend tomorrow night's Planning and Zoning Commission meeting. Voice your opinion. Is this project what you want for Oro Valley?

Friday, August 28, 2015

Bits and Pieces

Adler sponsors September event on Pima County bonds and on environment challenges
Oro Valley resident Bill Adler is sponsoring a public awareness event regarding this November's Pima County Bond election. "I have asked Carolyn Campbell of the Coalition for Sonoran Desert Protection to speak to citizens on the ballot issue, pros cons; and her commitment to wildlife over and underpasses at Oracle road."

The discussion will be at 2pm, September 9. It will be in the general meeting room of the 2pm at the Oro Valley Public Library.

Carolyn's talk will be followed by a question and answer session and then followed by a general discussion on a few world topics, including the pending Iran agreement and the debate over the quality of the US criminal Justice System.

Sign up with Amy.Williams@pima.gov

KOLD and Mayor Hiremath enthuse about Oro Valley
TV Station KOLD teamed with the Town Of Oro Valley and Mayor Hiremath to create a 2 minute video extolling the virtues of life in Oro Valley. Front and center is a discussion of the Oro Valley Community center and all its amenities. The video is posted on the town's web site.

The piece is part of of KOLD's "Business File" series. It is hosted by Joan Lee of KOLD.

The interview is not an independent news report. It appears to be an advertising piece. According to the town, Oro Valley has a contract with Raycom Broadcasting (Tucson News Now-TV Channel 7), for regional online/digital advertising. (Source: Email communications with between LOVE and the Town Of Oro Valley).

Wilcat Tennis at El Conquistar Country Club in October
The University of Arizona will host its third women's tennis wildcat invitational in October. "The team will host the Wildcat Invitational Tournament for a third consecutive year. The event takes place Oct. 2-4th at the El Conquistador Country Club in Oro Valley. This will be the first opportunity for fans to see the 2015-16 Wildcats in action. Visiting teams include Tulane, New Mexico, Marquette, Utah State and Northern Arizona"

Candidates File Nomination Papers
This week  two more candidates, Steve Didio and Shirl Lamonna, filed their nomination papers. This will make them "official" candidates for council on the November ballot. As previously reported, Pat Straney has already filed his nomination petitions.

Wednesday, Resident Steve Didio submitted 827 signatures. This is well over the 526 signatures required for a council candidate. "So now it's on to the Recall Election in November," writes Steve.

Mail-in ballots will be sent out on October 8. The walk-in election is November 3.

Oro Valley To Host Flag Raising Ceremony on September 11
"Join the Town of Oro Valley in a day of remembrance on Friday, September 11, 2015, at 8:30 a.m. as we raise the inaugural flag on a new flag pole at the Oro Valley Community & Recreation Center, 10555 N. La Cañada Drive. A moment of silence will be held for the lives lost on 9/11." Learn more at panel on left.
(Source: Town Of Oro Valley Press Release)

Oro Valley Police Department has room in upcoming police "Citizen Academy"
"The Oro Valley Police Department (OVPD) is hosting a Citizen Academy starting September 1, 2015. The goal of the Citizen Academy is to provide information about police operations and increase rapport and trust through an educational process. For more information, contact Officer Rick Rendon at 520-229-2900 or rrendon@orovalleyaz.gov" (Source: Oro Valley Police Department Press Release)

Oro Valley and Tohono Chul Park to hold public hearings on "Event Pavilion"
"The Town of Oro Valley, in partnership with Tohono Chul Park, will hold two public meetings to gather stakeholder input and present an overview of a proposed event pavilion at the park.

The public meetings are a result of a July 1, 2015 Town Council Meeting, in which Council directed staff to enter into a public-private partnership with Tohono Chul Park to perform a feasibility study for the construction of an event pavilion, to include stakeholder meetings.

The dates for the public hearings are:

Thursday, September 3, 2015
4 - 6 p.m.
(4 p.m. site tour; 4:30-6 p.m. presentation and discussion)
Tohono Chul Park - Wilson Room of the Garden Bistro, 7366 N. Paseo del Norte
Presentation and Discussion from 4:30 - 6:00 p.m.

Thursday, September 24, 2015
5:30 - 6:30 p.m.
Town of Oro Valley Council Chambers, 11000 N. La Cañada Drive"
(Source: Town Of Oro Valley Press Release)

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

The Dots Connect Between Mayor Hiremath and HSL Properties

On May 2, 2014...
Mayor Hiremath receives a $5,000 political campaign donation from Humberto S. Lopez. Lopez is not an Oro Valley resident. Lopez owns and operates Tucson-based, HSL Properties. The amount of the contribution is so large that Mayor Hiremath amends his campaign filing report to split the donation between Mr. Lopez and his wife.

From June through December 2014
Mayor Hiremath leads a negotiation between Town Of Oro Valley and Lopez' HSL Properties to purchase and operate the El Conquistador Country Club. Oro Valley will make this purchase once HSL buys the Hilton El Conquistador Hotel and Resort out of bankruptcy.

Though other council members could have been appointed to lead this effort, Mayor Hiremath takes the lead in these negotiations. He does not recuse himself. That would have alleviated concerns by the public of a conflict of interest.

The deal is rushed to council because, according the Hiremath, HSL must have an answer on whether Oro Valley will buy the property because "...there are 2 other buyers in line." He does not identify the other buyers. None materialize after a 6 month delay in the actual purchase. As a result, people believe that there were no other buyers.

The deal negotiated by Hiremath is of great benefit to HSL Properties (See panel on right).

December 17...
The deal goes before council for final approval. There is a "faux" public hearing.

Many respected Oro Valley residents speak on the matter. They include residents you may not know like Marv Snyder, George Kates, Bill Ayers and Wally Vetty. They include some you should know like Helen and Alan Denkwerth.

The vast majority of the 39 speakers are either against the purchase or urge greater caution before making the purchase decision. They raise issues such as inadequate plans, financial forecasts that are far too optimistic, the negative impact on property taxes because the town, and not a private enterprise, will own the golf course, the downturn in the game of golf, and Oro Valley going into competition with private enterprise.

One Oro Valley resident, Lori Pettijohn, reminds the council that not all people who live in Oro Valley can afford the sales tax increase to pay for this transaction. Her family is a military family. She reminds the Mayor: "Not everyone has a dentist's income."

The deal is so confusing, so rushed and so poorly studied that the minority says that they will vote "no."

The Mayor brooks no motion to delay the decision. "I promised HSL that they would have an 'up or down' decision tonight."

A vote ensues. It is 4-3.

Mayor Hiremath and council members Hornat, Snider and Waters approve the purchase of  45 holes of golf, tennis courts, 2 small swimming pools, a snack bar, a full service restaurant, and a clubhouse. They state that the town will convert the clubhouse into a community and recreation center.

Next, the four approve a sales tax increase from 2.0% to 2.5%, a 25% increase in the rate, to cover some of the losses from the golf course and community center.

The result...
This deal splits Oro Valley residents apart such that residents become active. Some form a PAC to put the purchase to a vote. This effort fails because of the use of the wrong reference number on the petition form. Others turn to their next avenue: A recall vote on the four incumbents. They spend enormous effort (See Monday's post) to make this happen.

Their assertion is that Mayor Hiremath and council members Hornat, Snider and Waters disregarded substantial resident input against the deal or the caution that further study and public vetting be done. They assert that the four ignored the fact that a 25% increase in the sales tax rate has a significant impact on families who are struggling to make ends meet. They assert that the Town Of Oro Valley should not be in competition with private enterprise. They assert that the purchase commits Oro Valley to multi-million dollar deficit spending on the golf course. They assert that the purchase commits Oro Valley to decades of a contract with Troon Golf to manage and operate the course and the restaurant even if these facilities lose money (Town forecasts show millions is losses).

As LOVE reported Monday, Mayor Hiremath and council members Hornat, Snider and Waters, the four being recalled, have yet to directly address these assertions. Instead, they focus on anything but what they did since last August.

November 3...
 The trail of "quid pro quo" between Mayor Hiremath and Lopez is documented by fact. Lopez donated $5,000 to Hiremath's reelection in May. In December, Oro Valley facilitated Lopez' purchase of the El Conquistador Resort. Oro Valley did so by purchasing and then agreeing to operate, virtually in perpetuity, 45 holes of money losing golf. It is Hiremath who led the negotiations and who pushed the purchase through with the help of council members Hornat, Snider and Waters.

It is possible that these events are non connected. It could be a coincidence.

What do you think?

This is what actually happened. It's documented. However, the story is not complete.

You will write the rest of the story on November 3.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Heather's Corner: The Best Of Heather

Heather's Corner will return September 8.

In the meantime, take a  moment to read some of her many prior columns. Which did you like best?

Monday, August 24, 2015

Incumbents Must Address The Issues Raised By Their Recall Election

Oro Valley voters face a recall election decision on November 3. Do they want to retain Mayor Hiremath and council members Hornat, Snider and Waters? Or do they want to replace them?

Making this decision will be challenging. They will need to choose between two very different views regarding what this election is about.

The incumbents assert that voters should look at this election as if it were a general election. They assert, through their web sites, that the voter should judge them on their 5-year record of service (Source: web sites of the incumbents).

The challengers assert that this is not a general election. It is a recall election. The four incumbents should be replaced because of what the incumbents did during the past year.

There is a recall election because of a rushed purchase of golf courses from a major campaign contributor; and a decision to fund millions in losses through a sales tax increase. The purchase places Oro Valley in competition with private golf courses and restaurants.

Oro Valley's recall election is a reality because a large number of voters were so angst by this transaction that they expended enormous effort (see insert right) to make a recall election happen. They want Mayor Hiremath and Council Members Hornat, Snider and Waters replaced.

Specifically, they assert that these four elected officials acted improperly by:
  • Negotiating for and purchasing the El Conquistador Country Club
  • Hurrying the transaction
  • Basing their decision on last minute, possibly misleading information
  • Ignoring significant unfavorable citizen input
  • Negotiating for and purchasing the property from one of their major campaign contributors, thus lacking sufficient independence to make a decision on behalf of the people of the community
  • Signing an agreement that benefited this contributor by requiring the town to maintain the golf courses for decades
  • Purchasing a stream of millions of dollars of losses to fund the golf courses
  • Increasing the sales tax to pay for these losses
In response, the four incumbents and Oro Valley Town Administrator Greg Caton have asserted that the Town Of Oro Valley got a "bargain" sales price ($1million paid over three years) for the land and buildings, refurbished tennis courts, two swimming pools, and a clubhouse that the town is converting to a community center. They further assert that this is a better alternative than building a community center in Naranja Park. This is where the center was to be.

Voters must decide: Was getting a community center so important as to overshadow the manner in which it was done, the acquisition of golf courses and an increase in the sales tax?
As one recall supporter wrote us:
"Mayor Hiremath and Council Members Hornat, Snider and Waters have had total disregard for the wishes of the citizens. The fact is: Over 65% of all the citizen input on the El Con deal was 'don't do it'.
Council Member Hornat said; 'They [the people] don't make the decisions'.
My response is: 'Yes. You are correct; but your job is to reflect what the people want'.  The El Con deal brought to a head that the Majority-4 have no concern for anybody except their special interest community and those who agree with them."
Those who support the transaction include members of the El Conquistador Country Club, those who live on property abutting the golf course, and the Greater Oro Valley Chamber of Commerce.

The voters need to hear directly from Mayor Hiremath and Council Members Hornat, Snider and Waters about the key issues:
  • Why did they feel that they were "independent" in making this purchase from a major campaign contributor? 
  • Why did they not order that detailed feasibility studies be done to compare the option of building a community center at Naranja Park to the purchase of the El Conquistador Country Club?
  • Why were they justified in committing future generations to debt by entering the Town Of Oro Valley into a several decade agreement to own and operate golf courses for the benefit of a private enterprise?
  • Why did they rush the decision without doing detailed due diligence or holding true public hearings?
  • In what way did they consider the obvious anger of at least half the community?
  • Whey did they feel justified in raising the sales tax to accomplish this? 
  • Why should the town, as a result, be in competition with private golf courses and restaurants in our community?
To date, the incumbents have chosen to not address these key issues. 
In fact, their websites indicate that they do not want to do so. Only one of the sites even mentions the purchase of the El Conquistador Country Club.

The purchase of the El Conquistador Country Club is what they need to talk about.

At some point they will need to answer these questions.

It will be up to the challengers to make them do so.