Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Guest View: Brian Gagan ~ Oro Valley’s epic fiscal mismanagement from the Town Hall to the OVPD. Part 3.

Part 2 (published yesterday) revealed how over-staffing and poor management of the OVPD have cost taxpayers anywhere between $2.8 million and $4.6 million per year.

The Naranja Park Connection
The latest example of the Town’s disregard for fiscal responsibility is the $17 million Naranja Park Bond/Proposition 454. It appears that nobody at town hall is even slightly skilled at procurement analysis and negotiation skills because the costs for quality work and build-out at Naranja Park are currently overstated by approximately 28% to 33% for the current plan.

Is the Naranja Park build-out really desirable or necessary?
The Naranja Park plan was developed without considering the interests of the very citizens who will be forced to fund it and who are being duped into believing that this facility is wanted or needed by the majority of Oro Valley residents.

According to the National Education Association, the national range of team sports participation in public schools is 19-23%. This is a significant minority of students.

Back-scratch fever?
The overstated cost to construct the sports fields alone is only $5 million of the proposed $17 million dollar bond. With interest paid back over the 20-year life of the bond, this is a $28 million dollar unnecessary expenditure.

It’s hard for me to imagine that there are reasons other than back-scratching, favor-mongering, and/or kickbacks on the part of some or all prospective contractors that account for this egregious state of affairs.

Stop the next fiscal folly
In November, voters will have to decide whether to approve $28,000,000 more in spending while increasing taxes on ALL property owners rather than just on those without mathematical skills and those wishing to play softball, football, and soccer.

Remember, this is the same crew that raised our sales tax by $2 million dollars per year in order to fund three losing golf courses. You can have a say in preventing this town’s continued epic fiscal mismanagement by VOTING NO on The Naranja Bond/Prop 454.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Guest View: Brian Gagan ~ Oro Valley’s epic fiscal mismanagement from the Town Hall to the OVPD. Part 2.

Part 1 was published yesterday.

Below are some indicators that the Chief of Police and the Town Council are unskilled regarding contemporary and effective town staffing and law enforcement practice:

• Operational rejection of the fact that most law enforcement officer capability growth occurs largely from officers handling approximately 80% of case responses alone (there is no need for 2-6 officers on the scene more than approximately 20% of the time).

• Very significant and unnecessary headcount leading to excess expense for payroll, employment taxes, facilities, equipment, vehicles, training, and overhead.

• A command staff that is 50% larger than necessary for Oro Valley’s demographics and low incidence of felony and other serious crimes as revealed in the Uniform Crime Report (UCR).  Excess employees always correlate with excess command staff.

• Living a lie regarding supposed Community Policing in Oro Valley. Community Policing is always evidenced by things like foot beats, bicycle beats, always responding to and learning from citizens, and rejection of petty traffic enforcement activities that skilled officers have little interest in. Dispatching four officers or four officers simply showing up anywhere (except for felonies in progress and active shooter calls) is evidence of rejection of community policing by any agency including the OVPD.

• Almost no dash-cams and body-cams (body-cams are worn only by Oro Valley motorcycle officers). This appears to indicate that the OVPD is not concerned about either serious crime or officer safety. Yes, body-cams are slightly expensive, but the savings from laying off three officers is enough to buy body-cams for all remaining officers.

• No drug unit and a false belief within the OVPD that opioids are of no issue whatsoever in Oro Valley.

• Excess delineation and false specialization of duties, divisions, operational silo's, and responsibilities.  Silo's detract strongly from team and agency efficiency.

(Silo's refer to the multitude of separate operating units such as detectives, motorcycle division, school division, special operations, volunteers, etc. each with their own delineated command structure.  This approach is not taken within municipalities of less than about 75,000 population unless it is within a high or very high felony rate location.)

• A substantially under-capable special operations unit (CAT Squad) that works only 4 days per week…and not individually.  Criminals do not take three days off per week and most skilled investigators accept that working alone about 80% of the time leads to more arrests and a much greater conviction rate.  It is easier for a felon to know when he/she is being surveilled by police novices when four officers are engaged in it.

• A pointless (and bordering on useless) training function. Two examples: No officer has ever been trained to stay on their beat or to handle over 80% of their citizen contacts alone.

The above failings have come at an excess cost of between $2.8 million and $4.6 million per year within the police department alone.

A’s hire A’s and B’s hire C’s
We always share with our clients that, “A’s hire A’s and B’s hire C’s.” This explains all the C’s at the OVPD. It has remained overstaffed in a failed attempt to make up for all the C’s who were hired by all the B’s.

Take-home vehicles and IRS violations
The OVPD at last report had 126 vehicles. It should also be noted that the Town of Oro Valley has provided automobiles and motorcycles for personal and business use (take-home vehicles) to nearly 65 town employees, about 34 of which are taken home by OVPD officers. You should also know that the Town has a massive IRS regulation problem due to the fact that personal and commuting usage is not being logged and taxed (including daily commuting miles to as far away as Sahuarita and Casa Grande.) Nearly all commuting and personal vehicle mileage is taxable in Arizona and in the U.S.

Based upon common and contemporary acceptable practice, a town with Oro Valley’s population size (43,000) requires only 4 take-home vehicles within the police department. These should be assigned to the Chief of Police, the Deputy Chief, the Detective Commander, and the Senior Evidence Technician, all of whom are subject to fairly frequent call-out.

An additional 4-7 Town Hall Staff cars should be assigned to senior executives and those subject to off-duty calls on at least 8 occasions per year. This would include the Mayor, the Public Works Director, and perhaps one or two others, with the remainder of that small fleet being utilized on a pool basis (and never being garaged at homes).

All individuals with take-home cars must be subject to call-out and must be called out with significant regularity. ALL employees with take-home cars must be salaried employees with very few job necessity exceptions such as the Senior Evidence Technician.

In summary, there is no actual data or evidence to suggest that Oro Valley is being led intelligently, ethically, or in compliance with  regulations. It is not my intention to damage or disparage any persons…only to stop the financial idiocy of a town being habitually misled and, thus far, being unwilling to correct itself.

Part 3 will be published tomorrow.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Guest View: Brian Gagan ~ Oro Valley’s epic fiscal mismanagement from the Town Hall to the OVPD. Part 1.

My background
In addition to corporate engagements around the world, I do a great deal of work with municipal, county and state governments on many subjects related to contemporary and ethical governmental practice and human capital efficiency/capability improvement. Our goal is that no taxpayer funds are wasted by incompetent and/or malfeasant governmental leaders.

Additionally, I am a former police officer with two separate agencies and a 100% conviction rate for misdemeanor and felony arrests over almost 7 years. I make it a practice to back up police officers throughout the USA.

I bought a home in Oro Valley exactly 3 years ago after having owned multiple homes in multiple states from Massachusetts to California and from Minnesota to Florida. Each of the 10 municipalities in which I have lived have been run highly competently and ethically except for Oro Valley.

My Oro Valley Experience ~ Group Grope
Since moving to Oro Valley in 2014, it has become directly evidenced that few persons at the elected or high appointed levels in Oro Valley have any capability whatsoever in terms of financial, spending and budget skills…or in terms of learning and citizen connection skills.

Mayor Hiremath rejected my request for a meeting, there have been no responses from Chief Sharp to my repeated emails regarding police department failures and malfeasance, and also no response to a Certified Letter that I sent to our new Town Manager, Mary Jacobs back in June.

That does not mean that they are all bad; only that some of them are poorly intended and that most them are poorly led by the current Mayor, Town Council and many current department heads. In my professional life, this is called “group grope.”

They all hire in their own image
The above trait is a common characterization that we use in our firm to describe organizations in dire trouble. Neither poor leaders nor their poorly led teams are self-correcting. In cases such as these, employees are rewarded by their leaders for learning nothing, correcting nobody, and ensuring that incompetence and/or malfeasance remain undiscovered and/or accepted. This is precisely the circumstance here in Oro Valley.

Seismic Overspending without useful outcomes
Through my interactions with Mayor Hiremath, two council members, two department heads, several dubious highly paid leaders, and through endless fact and evidence tracking (direct and publicly available documented evidence) I have observed that between $4,000,000 and $11,000,000 of taxpayer money is being wasted. We refer to that as “stranded spending;” money spent either ignorantly or criminally without positive effect to those providing the revenue. It is time to cease this financial death spiral at the expense of Oro Valley residents.

As one factual example of seismic overspending without useful outcomes, the Oro Valley Police Department is evidenced as being very significantly overstaffed, monumentally under-led, and as a result, significantly incompetent and expensive.

Oro Valley has a population of 43,000 and a low Uniform Crime Report (UCR) incidence (felony crimes of murder, rape, robbery, aggravated assault, burglary, motor vehicle theft, arson) and contains almost no industry and no entertainment or tourist districts.

According to population, UCR data, and best practices for similar size municipalities in Arizona (and also within 50 miles of Oro Valley), the OVPD should consist of approximately the following staff:

Total Sworn and AZPOST Certified Officers: 84
Command Staff (Lieutenant through Chief): 6
Sergeant: 9
Investigative: 6
School Resource Officer (SRO): 7 (one officer per school)
Evidence Technician: 2
Patrol/Uniformed, Non-Rank Officers: 54

All Other Staff, Non-Post Certified: 26
Includes dispatch, office services, records, systems, crime analysis, fleet, secretarial, animal control, etc.

Total Necessary OVPD Staff Count: 110


For comparison, OVPD current headcount is 133 full-time equivalents (FTE’s) including 9 Command Staff, 12 Sergeants, 10 SRO’s, and 60 Patrol Officers, with a proposed budget for 2018 of 136 employees. This indicates planned 2018 over-staffing by 26 FTE’s.

The average annualized cost of a Sworn Police Officer (including benefits and liability insurance) is $81,000 to $87,000 per year in most cases. The average annualized cost for Non-Sworn Staff is $54,000 to $59,000.

…………………………….

UCR is all of the crime data in the USA that is collected by the FBI and is required to be submitted monthly by all U.S. law enforcement agencies.

AZPOST: Arizona Peace Officers Standards and Training Board

SRO’s: The number 7 assumes that Oro Valley desires a police officer in each school. (The problem is that the OVPD mistakenly classifies SRO’s as a separate division with a separate Sergeant with all of the additional related expenses).

Part 2 will be published tomorrow.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Guest View: Robert Peters ~ Oro Valley is Nothing More Than a Profit Center for Developers

My wife and I recently attended an Oro Valley Neighborhood Meeting regarding the proposed annexation of a 321-acre parcel of State Trust Land on the NE corner of Tangerine and Thornydale.

Contrary to what your real estate agent may have told you when you agreed to pay a premium to live next to State Trust Land, this is not public land that will never be developed. It is land governed by the Arizona Constitution that can be sold at auction to the highest bidder for the economic benefit of “Trust Beneficiaries.” In this case, that beneficiary is the schools (K-12).

Oro Valley is proposing annexation of this land to prevent Marana or Pima County from doing the same. Their reasoning is that they would prefer to have control over how this land is eventually developed. For those of you who have been living here for many years, the notion of Oro Valley getting their hands on a large parcel of pristine desert is not a comforting thought.

Councilmember Solomon was more interested in his phone
The Neighborhood Meeting was packed. The following five councilmembers were in attendance: Mary Snider, Lou Waters, Bill Rodman, Rhonda Pina and Steve Solomon. It should be noted that Solomon spent most of the evening looking down while scrolling on his cell phone. This is not the first time we’ve observed him doing this during a Town meeting. This should give you some insight as to how much he cares about listening to his constituents.

Residents speak up
After the Town’s presentation, the Q&A session became quite heated. People were justifiably concerned about their property values, their privacy, and the impact to both flora and fauna. They were well-aware that recent land rezonings in our town have featured mass grading, tiny 7,000 square foot lots, and a mix of one and two story homes separated by the smallest setbacks allowable under building codes, leaving little room for indigenous desert plant species and wildlife.

Comments from the audience included the following [paraphrased]:

• They need to come up with a better plan to fund education other than destroying the desert.

• Why bother building wildlife tunnels when there will be no wildlife left to use them?

• First you sell the land to raise money for schools. Then developers build more homes on that land, thereby increasing the school population, which will then necessitate the selling off of more State Land to raise money for more schools. It’s a never-ending cycle of desert destruction.

• Since money is all this town cares about, we can all protest by not shopping in Oro Valley. Spend your money elsewhere.

• One woman began her speech by connecting the Town Council’s poor financial decision in purchasing the Community Center and Golf Courses as the reason why they don’t have any money for ball fields at Naranja Park which has led to a property tax proposal in order to fund them.  Regarding the annexation, she stated that you can expect them to mass grade this beautiful land in their never-ending quest for money. She ended her speech with, “We need to vote these [expletives] out of office!”

And that will give you some idea of the anger in that room that night.

Oro Valley Standards?
The Town’s Senior Planner, Roosevelt Arellano, explained why Oro Valley wants to annex this land:

“We want to assure a good design that’s compatible with Oro Valley standards; something that we’re used to in our community.”

And therein lies the problem, because for many years, what we have become “used to” with “Oro Valley standards” is wanton destruction of the desert with barren, bladed landscapes free of any living plant or animal with homes packed so closely together that you can look out your kitchen window and watch your neighbor’s television.

A Studied Observation
Having the retrospection of 14 years of experience attending these Neighborhood Meetings and working with town staff, land owners and developers, we have come to realize an all too familiar pattern. Going forward, this is what you can expect:

Step 1: The highest bidder
Unless someone who cares about preserving the land can come up with enough money to outbid them, the land will be sold to a wealthy land developer.

Step 2: Enter the usual suspects
Most or all of the following people/entities will be involved in the development of this parcel: The WLB Group, Greg Wexler, Mike Carlier, Meritage Homes.

Step 3: Neighborhood Meetings
Neighborhood Meetings will be held where the developer will attempt to convince the surrounding neighbors that their proposal is the best use for this land. (NOTE: Similar to how a car dealer does not give you his best price upfront, it has long been rumored that the initial development plan includes much more than what they actually want. This gives them room to negotiate when neighbors form a Citizens’ Group to protest the development).

Step 4: Divide and Conquer
The Town and the developer will then use a divide-and-conquer strategy to covey favor with certain members of the citizens’ group in order to lure them away from the larger and stronger group, thereby weakening the group. They may approach individuals to discuss plans and negotiate terms privately and/or elect Neighborhood Captains of their choosing to help win over support for the proposed development. They will usually single out the owners of the most expensive homes as well as those in the group that they believe will be the easiest to convince and manipulate.

Step 5: Full Speed Ahead
The developer will make a few concessions to the neighbors, most of which were never high on their priority list anyway. Then, despite any remaining protests, the developer (most likely the WLB Group) will convince the Town Council to rezone the land to the highest density possible, after which you can count on Meritage Homes to be “the chosen builder.” The land will be mass-graded to cram in their usual 5-6 homes per acre for a total of over 1,000 homes.

Conclusion
This, as always, will be an uphill battle as the Town’s number one job is to collect revenue and the higher the density, the more revenue they will collect from development impact fees. It will always be a war to protect our lush desert surroundings (or what’s left of it) when there is money to be made.

Robert Peters is an Army veteran who served in Germany and South Korea. He has a Bachelor’s degree in Russian and Eastern European Studies and a Master’s degree in Business Management. He relocated from New England to Arizona in 2003 and was employed by Raytheon Missile Systems for 12 years, retiring in 2016 after 50 years of working. He’s been active in dog rescue organizations for the past 20 years. He’s also an avid reader and history buff who has traveled extensively throughout the U.S., Europe and Russia. A former hippie, he attended the 1969 Woodstock Festival in Upstate New York.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Editorial ~ Town Council Votes to Approve Consent Agenda without reviewing or questioning anything in the Financial Update

At the September 6th Town Council meeting, without any discussion at all, Vice-Mayor Waters motioned to approve the Consent Agenda and Councilmember Snider seconded the motion. The motion passed 7-0 without even one item being pulled for discussion.

Why is this important?
Item E on the Consent Agenda was “Fiscal Year 2016/17 financial update through June 2017 (year-end).” Isn’t a financial report worthy of analysis and discussion?

Remember that in June, the Town Staff was anticipating the Community Center Fund (CCF) to end the year with a deficit of $285,000. They suggested that the Council transfer $350,000 from the General Fund into the CCF in order for the CCF to start the 2017/18 Fiscal Year with a $65,000 positive balance.

Despite the $350,000 transfer, the CCF Fund began the year almost $100,000 in the hole. Shouldn’t this have been deemed important enough to pull the item for discussion? Why did no one question the negative balance?

• They never read the report and weren’t aware of the numbers?
• They read the report but they don’t care what the numbers reveal?
• They did not discuss it in an attempt to keep the information from the public?

Some quick numbers that can be backed up with Town documents

Fiscal Year 2015/16
The Town collected $2,030,750 from the increased sales tax.
Troon lost $2,567,385.

Net Loss: $536,635

Fiscal Year 2016/17
The Town collected $2,199,366 from the increased sales tax.
Troon lost $2,512,938

Net Loss: $313,572

Total Net Loss for two years: $850,207

This does not include the $1.5 million that was transferred from the General Fund into the Community Center Fund.

Recap

$1,000,000 to purchase the property
$1,550,000 transferred from the General Fund
$850,207 in net losses (Fiscal years 2015/16 and 2016/17)

Total losses: $3,400,207

Four more years?
Apparently the mayor and council are not concerned about these losses nor do they desire to be accountable. Remember that this is your money. The mayor now says that this is a “six-year plan.” We are currently two years into this plan. Are you willing to allow them to waste your money for another four years?

Monday, September 11, 2017

The Watchdog Report: What will it take to get a responsible council?

The end of fiscal year 2016/17 financials have been released and they are disastrous. We all know the Mayor and Council rely on staff to make the decisions, so why doesn't staff do their job and give these elected officials the facts?

What I am about to communicate is not "fake news” as Councilmember Solomon would have you believe, but facts that can be substantiated by Town documents.

Food and Beverage
Food and beverage, primarily the Town-owned restaurant, The Overlook, was forecasted to make $39,589 during the fiscal year, but lost $114,792. Including last year’s losses, this government-owned restaurant has lost over $370,000.

I am aware of a conversation that took place between an entrepreneur and the Interim Town Manager, Finance Director, and Parks and Rec Director for a potential lease. That offer has gone nowhere.

Even the Town's contracted golf study recommended that the Town lease this venture. How many more thousands of dollars (that could be spent on Naranja Park instead) are we going to lose before this Council takes action? I was told by the ex-Town Manager, Greg Caton, that it cost $250,000 to establish a lighted ball field. The $255,000 that The Overlook Restaurant lost last year could have funded one lighted ball field.

The Community Center
The Community Center and Recreation Fund (CRF) finished the year $97,156 in the red. In other words, even with $2.1 million in sales tax revenues, and an additional $350,000 transferred from the General Fund, the CRF ended the year with almost a $100,000 deficit.

Since its inception the CRF has received $1,550,000 from the General Fund and $4,736,926 from the increased sales tax revenues for a total of $6,286,926, and still the fund is almost $100,000 in the hole. How many Naranja Park improvements could be built with this money?

Councilmember Solomon spreads false information
Back in April, Councilmember Steve Solomon asserted that, “The Community Center is thriving. It is not failing.” He also said, “The Golf and Community Center revenues and the dedicated half cent sales tax for the year will cover all of its costs. It’s not using any other Town funds.”

FACT: The Community Center revenues and half-cent sales tax increase did not cover all of its costs. And it is using other Town funds in the form of $1.5 million that has been transferred out of the General Fund to meet Community Center expenses.

Troon Golf and Tennis
The total Troon losses (golf, tennis, non-aquatic center swimming, food and beverage) for FY 2016/17 were $2,512,938. Troon forecasted that the losses would be $1,534,505. This is a $978,433 miscalculation. How many more miscalculations are staff and the Town Council going to allow before they rid the town of Troon?

Trending Upward?
The Town Staff and the Town Council assert that the Community Center is trending upwards. Councilmember Solomon asserted in April: “The expenditures for the Community Center, particularly this year, are down and our revenues are up.” He continued, “Now that’s the kind of trend you want and it’s been trending that way for awhile now.”

FACT: During the prime months for golf (November - March) Troon lost $489,378 during FY 2015/16, and they lost $787,934 during FY 2016/17. That's almost $300,000 more in losses this year than last year. Trending upward?

Fiscal year 2016/17 began the year with $65,770 in monthly Member Dues and ended the year with $58,226 in Member Dues. Trending upward?

Council can no longer blame it on “headwinds”
The Town Staff and the Town Council cannot support their statements that this investment is trending upward. The Council does not do their homework to verify the staff statements.

In April of 2016, Councilmember Mary Snider claimed that my “constant attack on the viability of this property” was “creating a headwind in town” and “impacting the memberships in golf.” Vice-Mayor Waters chastised me to “get on board” with the project.

Since I have not been on council for almost 10 months (during which time the staff and council have repeatedly told the community that the Community Center is doing great) they can no longer blame the problem on “headwinds.”

It’s time for the Town Council to “get on board” and admit the horrendous mistake they made in December 2014 and do something about it…look at the facts, spend responsibly, and stop taxing the citizens.

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 in 1969. He worked as an Air Traffic Controller for 30 years. He and his wife moved to Oro Valley after retiring in 1998. Mike served on the Oro Valley Development Review Board from 2005-2009, the Board of Adjustment from 2011-2012, and the Town Council from 2012-2016. During his time on council, he was named as one of 23 Leadership Fellows 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.

Friday, September 1, 2017

Happy Labor Day... Back September 11

We wish all of our readers a very enjoyable Labor Day Weekend.  We will return September 11.

See you then.

The LOVE Team