Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Bits and Pieces

Community Center and Golf Financials as of May 31st
With one month left to go in the fiscal year, Troon Golf has LOST $1,746,137. They have now updated their year end golf losses forecast from $1,822,941 to $1,988,548.

Troon food and beverage (Overlook Restaurant) LOST $6,532 in May for a total of $87,478 for the FY, so far.

The Community Center Fund is $66,506 in the RED. The Town Council still needs to pay back this year’s $120,000 reimbursement to the General Fund. Remember that the Town Council borrowed $1.2 million from the General Fund to start the CCF in May 2015 with a promise to refund it at $120,000 per year. They have yet to make good on that promise.

Mayor Hiremath appears to be worried about Joe Winfield’s Campaign
At the June 6th council meeting, when discussing the FY 2018/19 budget, Mayor Hiremath made the following comment:
“When I look at the Capital Improvement Program, I think there’s some confusion about the playground equipment. Playground equipment for Naranja Park site was included in FY 22/23 but we moved it up to next fiscal year, correct? And that’s to the tune of $350,000. So in plain English, there’s going to be a playground in the next fiscal year. It’s going to be in the budget.”
Finance Director, Stacey Lemos confirmed that he was correct.

Isn’t it fascinating that playground equipment was not scheduled until FY 2022/23 but when mayoral candidate, Joe Winfield, made it an issue in his campaign, suddenly playground equipment was moved up to the FY 2019/20 budget? However, keep in mind that this is tentative as that budget will not be voted on by the Town Council until June 2019.

The mayor appears to be worried in general
The challengers for Oro Valley Town Council held a voter registration drive and campaign event on July 4th. Although they were originally promised space in a prime location next to all the other vendors, when they showed up for the event, they were told by a Town staff member that all political candidates were being moved to another location in a far corner of the field. Of note is that they were the only political candidates who were setting up a table in the park that day. Why would they be moved to a less visible spot? It was very obvious that someone was trying to move them out of sight.

The Public Safety Stunt
Hiremath-Hornat-Snider-Waters pull the public safety stunt during every election. They try to instill FEAR into the voters by implying that public safety will suffer if they are not re-elected. FACT: We had a strong police department long before the current council was in office and we’ll continue to have one long after they are out of office. It’s utter nonsense to believe that Joe Winfield, Melanie Barrett, Josh Nicolson, or Joyce Jones-Ivey would want to weaken the police force in the very town where they and their children live.

From our Readers
LOVE receives lots of messages from our readers, the majority of which are positive. Below are some examples.
“Thank you for telling the truth about the politics of Oro Valley. Great reports written by a variety of Oro Valley citizens who seek to educate about what is really happening in this town.”

“I have followed Mr. Leonard’s research on the El Con golf course issue. I find his insights exceedingly thorough and sensible.”

“You are providing a great service to this town. Thank you. The people deserve to know the truth.”
Of course we also receive some negative feedback…all from the same person. Long-time LOVE readers will know who it is. This person is known in Oro Valley political circles as “the hit man…the evil trickster…the curmudgeon.” Last week, the curmudgeon expressed his annoyance with our recent article, “Tucson Association of Realtors spreading Town Council election falsehoods.”

Below is an excerpt of his comments followed by our editor’s response.
“The LOVE blog is totally out of control. What started the entire moratorium discussion is the platform statement of Joyce Jones-Ivey. ‘She will advocate for a moratorium on development.’

Ms. Barrett put out a statement… ‘We will take a temporary pause on large scale re-zonings while we assess the needs and desires of our community.’

What the hell is the difference between moratorium and temporary pause?…What happens to the Planning and Zoning Department during this ‘temporary’ moratorium? Will they be placed on leave of absence? There certainly will be little to do.”

LOVE Editor’s Response
Your comments are quite humorous. After all, for years, you did nothing but complain about the LOVE blog when Richard was the editor. Now you claim that the new editor is tarnishing Richard's reputation!

Also, the only way you could know that "What started the entire moratorium discussion is the platform statement of Joyce Jones-Ivey" is if YOU are the person who provided the false information to TAR.

Regarding your concern about Planning Staff being placed on a leave of absence due to a building moratorium, you are implying that we must continue building just for the sake of keeping the Planning Department staff employed. It is not the mayor’s job to create work for the sole purpose of keeping Town staff employed. The mayor and council are elected to work for the citizens, not for the Planning Staff, and not for developers. Unfortunately, this concept has always been lost on you.

The quotation you supplied from Melanie Barrett is proof that the challengers have no plans for a complete moratorium on all building, only a temporary pause on large scale rezonings.

Our editorial was factual. We're sorry if you have trouble accepting facts. We will not be responding to any more of your emails. We have much more important work to do.

LOVE Editor

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Meet the Candidates this evening

Here is another opportunity for you to meet the challengers for Oro Valley Town Council. If you cannot make this event, you may also send your comments or questions to them via their websites.

Monday, July 16, 2018

Election Schedule

Below is the election schedule for the primary election being held on August 28th. If you want to vote in the Town Council election and you are not yet registered to vote, you will need to register by Monday, July 30th.

If you are already on the permanent early voting list and you are registered as a Democrat, Republican, Libertarian, or Green Party, you will automatically receive a mail-in ballot. If you are not registered to one of the above parties, you will need to contact the Pima County Recorder's office to request a ballot. The last day to request a mail-in ballot is August 17th.

Additional information can be found in the attached flyer. [Click to enlarge]

Friday, July 13, 2018

Town Of Oro Valley 2018 Golf Course Losses = 7.3 Little League Fields

With one month left to report on fiscal 2018:
The Town Of Oro Valley has lost $1,746,137 on the Town Of Oro Valley Country Club (aka community center) from last July to this May.  This according to the Troon cash flow which is included in the next weeks' financial update to town council.

Troon, the paid for professional club manager, has updated their year end forecast of losses from $1,822,941 to $1,988,548.

Troon food and beverage (Overlook Restaurant) has lost  $87,478 for the fiscal year through May.

Total losses for the 11 months ended in May: $1,833,615.

One Little League field cost about $250,000.

We did the math. Golf course and food losses =7.3 Little League Baseball Fields.

It's simple.

In government as in life, its all about the choices we make. In our case, Oro Valley's Majority-4 has chosen golf over ballfields for the kids.

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Tucson Association of Realtors spreading Town Council election falsehoods

A LOVE reader sent us this screenshot of an email that is being distributed by The Tucson Association of Realtors (TAR) and the Realtor Political Action Committee (RPAC).

The contents of this email are a blatant lie and there are only two possible explanations for this:

• They received inaccurate information and didn’t bother to verify its authenticity before spreading this false information

• Or they are deliberately putting their own spin on the story in order to instill FEAR in their members in an attempt to drum up donations and votes for Hiremath-Hornat-Snider-Waters

Did TAR interview the challengers? No! So how do they know the challengers stances on this issue? On what basis did they draw the conclusion that the challengers “have promised to impose a building moritorium [sic] in Oro Valley if elected?” Did a mole attend one of the challengers Meet and Greets and then inaccurately report back what transpired at that meeting?

Fortunately, we have an accurate report of the challengers’ positions on development. Below are direct quotes from the 3-part article, “LOVE interviews mayoral candidate, Joe Winfield” published on June 5-6-7.

In Part 1 of the interview, Winfield stated:
“In addition, I want to moderate growth. I would approach that by simply putting a moratorium on any amendments or rezonings and letting our community take a breath on the amount of development that has been occurring. I’m not suggesting that we don’t need development or that development would need to stop, but that we would comply and follow the current land use and zoning.”
Winfield suggested only a moratorium on General Plan amendments and rezonings. He never promised a complete moratorium on all building. He said “moderate…take a breath…follow the current land use and zoning.”

First of all, a moratorium is just a temporary halting of an activity, in this case, a temporary halting of General Plan amendments and rezonings. That is a far cry from imposing a complete moratorium on all building.

Does Winfield’s measured approach sound like something that would “have a dramatic impact” on the entire community?

In Part 2 of the interview, Winfield stated:
“I would hope to have made a difference in terms of the development of our community. Admittedly, much of the community is already developed so I don’t know that you’ll see a significant difference but I would hope that there would have been some moderation in development and the type of development.”
Does that sound like a complete building moratorium to you? Does that sound like it would lead to a dramatic impact?

Melanie Barrett’s thoughts on development
“Seek development that is responsive to residents wishes and responsible in design…[slowing] the current pace of developments.” [Introducing Melanie Barrett, LOVE, May 22nd]
Joyce Jones-Ivey’s thoughts development
“Responsible growth that preserves our town’s scenic beauty…Adhere to the guiding principles of the General Plan.” [Introducing Joyce Jones-Ivey, LOVE, May 24th]
Josh Nicolson’s thoughts on development
“Frequent General Plan amendments and rezonings…Right now it seems like developers are getting their way and there’s a group of citizens who aren’t being listened to at all. I believe elected officials have a moral obligation to do what’s best for the community as a whole and for the long-term prosperity of Oro Valley.” [Introducing Josh Nicolson, LOVE, June 11th]
As you can see, TAR and RAPAC are using fear tactics and spin to drum up support for their cause. No one should take them seriously. After all, they can’t even spell moratorium, the very subject of their email! They misspelled it four times!

TAR and RAPAC have a right to support the incumbents but they need to cease and desist with their lies and fear-mongering.

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

A Message from Town Council Candidate, Melanie Barrett

It has been a pleasure over the course of this campaign to meet so many of you. Oro Valley has so many wonderful people. I look forward to continuing to build relationships with the citizens and to serve the people of our Town.

I am running with a team of wonderful people; Joe Winfield for Mayor, and Joyce Jones-Ivey and Josh Nicolson for Town Council. We are a diverse group of men and women of various ages, races, backgrounds, and even political ideologies, but we are like-minded when it comes to the moral obligation of government to serve the people.

We have a positive vision of Oro Valley as a place where citizens are respected and placed at the forefront of the government.

Special interests and Development
In the past few years the mayor and current council have accepted over $150,000 in campaign financing, all from 5 donors, all of whom are developers. They later vote on these developers’ projects (and buy and maintain money losing golf courses from them). This results in many 7-0 decisions in favor of developers, even when a large number of citizens object to these rezonings. Many people leave Town meetings feeling it was a "done-deal." Since the 2016 election, the council has approved all 14 rezonings that have come before them.

We would prefer moderate growth that is respectful of the community and the environment. Our beautiful natural desert and scarce water resources need to be carefully considered.

We are committed to putting the citizens back at the top of the Oro Valley Organizational Chart, and bringing back respect and transparency, as well as operating without ties to special interests. Our financing comes from ourselves, our families and friends, and the community.

My time on the Planning and Zoning Commission
I began my first year gaining my footing and trusting what I was told by town planners and other commission members who made strong arguments for the proposed developments. Over time, my perspective broadened and I began to realize that things were not as they appeared, and that residents’ voices were not being given enough consideration.

While on P&Z, I fought for parks, for view sheds, for the preservation of plants, and for lanes to be added for schools. I lobbied the planners and the council, fought to protect the “small town feeling” language in the General Plan, and added language about parks and recreation that met the needs of citizens of all ages.

I did vote in favor of many re-zonings that I knew would ultimately be approved by Council no matter what P&Z recommended. I did so in order to add conditions to improve the plan. One of the planners told me I had taken upon myself the role of “chief skeptic.”

In my last year as a P&Z Commissioner, I witnessed the following:

• Town Council ignoring the recommendations of the P&Z Commission if they recommended denial of a rezoning application

• Town Council eliminating the 4-year maximum term limit for P&Z commissioners in order to maintain pro-development votes

• Some of my concerns not being included in staff reports to Council

• Town Council removing conditions that I fought to have included in development proposals

This is when I realized that the only way to change the system was to change the Town Council itself.

Taxes and Fiscal responsibility
In the 8 years of Mayor Hiremath and council's tenure, the budget has grown 59%, though population growth has been around 8% and inflation around 12%. This growth rate is 5 times the rate of inflation.

Taxes have been raised significantly, with the sales tax being increased by 25% and the utility tax doubled. The current Town Council even supported a property tax which was voted down by the citizens. Too much taxpayer money is being funneled into the community center and golf, larger government, and the associated personnel.

The most recent FY 18/19 budget that the council passed in June included a $14M bond, paid over 20 years. The mayor and council claim to have a $1.3M budget surplus. I don’t know about you, but I don’t put $1,400 on my credit card, then look at my account with $130 left and say that I have a $130 surplus. This is akin to what is happening with the Town finances.

We would like to employ disciplined fiscal responsibility with our taxpayer dollars with an eye towards the long-term benefit of our community's future, keeping in mind what we are leaving for our children.

Parks and Recreation
Many of you know that the Town commissioned a statistically valid Parks and Recreation Survey in 2014 regarding amenities residents desired. Far at the top were Playgrounds, Ramadas, and Walking Paths. Out of 34 items, golf came in at 33 and with negative favorability (with 63% of respondents rating golf as “Not important.”)

Six months later, the Town Council voted to purchase a golf course in a deal with their biggest campaign donor, and since then have doubled down on that purchase, throwing good money after bad. We believe that parks and recreation should meet the needs of the greatest number of people and be truly designed for the citizens.

To me, the golf losses are about the opportunity lost. What could we have done with that money instead? To put the scale of losses into perspective, we have lost enough money on Golf to have constructed 57 new playgrounds, or 6 large splash pads (like the one in Marana), or any number of ball fields, but in 8 years the Town Council has not built any of these things.

The FY 2018/19 budget includes a 6 million dollar bond for golf and the community center improvements paid over 20 years, but no money or plans for Naranja Park or any playgrounds or ball fields. My children will be nearly my age before the Town is finished paying for this bond.

The Town Council now says it is “breaking even.” What they mean by this is that the Town has projected that the sales tax revenues will now be enough to cover the losses. This does not account for any capital improvement or the upcoming bond. This is not the definition that was given of breaking even when the purchase was proposed, and the courses are still costing $2.5M per year of your tax dollars, no matter how you manipulate the math.

We want to employ sensible, community driven strategies to stem the golf losses and direct the parks and recreation dollars where they can benefit all our residents.

I am running for Council because I love my Town and I want to make it a better place. It is a challenge – however, I feel deeply about doing what I can to make Oro Valley (and the world) a better place and about being the change I want to see in the world.

The Town Council election is held in the Primary on August 28th.

Read more about Melanie’s campaign issues HERE

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

A History on our “Turn-Key” Community Center and Golf Courses

December 2014
Town Council Majority-4 (Hiremath-Hornat-Snider-Waters) voted to purchase the El Conquistador Golf Club from their largest campaign contributor, Humberto Lopez (HSL Properties) for $1 million dollars.

They justified the purchase by saying that the residents wanted a multi-use recreation center and that the country club facilities would be a turn-key Community Center. However, they knew that extensive repairs were required for the golf irrigation systems and the 1980’s country club building.

Spring 2015: Half-cent sales tax increase
The Town Council approved a ½ cent sales tax increase to cover all costs associated with the Community Center. The Community Center opened in May 2015 and immediately became a financial drag on Oro Valley.

2017: Golf and restaurant losses are 3.5 times the original forecast
By June 2017, the Town had already lost $5.7 million in golf and restaurant operations (or $200,000 per month). When this budget year ends on June 30, 2018, the total losses are projected to be over $7M dollars.

These excessive losses are 3.5 times the original Town forecast. Therefore, the sales tax revenue doesn’t even cover the operational expenses, much less the required repairs.

In 2017, the Town Council commissioned a $50,000 golf study by the National Golf Foundation and the WLB Group. The purpose of the study was to evaluate the Town’s golf facilities, course management, competitive landscape, and recommend actions that the Town should take to reduce these unsustainable losses. The NGF presented their results to the Council in a July 2017 Special Meeting. It was not acted upon at that time because the Town was focused on the $17M bond and secondary property tax for Naranja Park.

2018: Council reviews Golf Study options
The Council took up the golf study options in early 2018. The options aren’t good. Every one costs several million dollars, including closing the courses.

The study recommended 4 options:

Option A. Keep the two 18-hole courses on LaCanada
Cost $5.2M plus $1.4M in annual losses

Option B. Reduce the 36 holes down to 27 holes and frees up 32 acres
Cost $4.6M plus $1M in annual losses

Option C. Reduce the 36 holes down to 18 holes and frees up 83 acres
Cost $4.2M plus $1.3M in annual losses

Option D. Close both 18-hole courses and convert to a greenbelt park and pathway
Cost $3M plus ongoing Town park maintenance

What did our leaders do?
After spending $50,000 on the National Golf Foundation Study, they ignored the recommendations and instead followed Town Manager Jacobs recommendation to stay with Troon’s plan of 36 holes even though that plan has already lost us $6.9M.

The Troon plan will cost $3.6M for the irrigation system replacement and turf reduction, but future costs will likely require substantial funding to rebuild greens, sand traps, and cart paths.

In addition, $2.4M was proposed to rearrange, repair, and upgrade the 1980’s community center structure. But millions more will be required if or when they rebuild the tennis courts and lighting, remove and replace racquetball courts, and complete the additional ADA-compliance concerns.

Mayor Hiremath and Council adopted a budget for FY 2018/19 approving a $14M bond to mask the $6M Community Center and golf investment by packaging it with the $6M water and utility improvements and the $2M police evidence facility overrun.

Costs to-date and Costs to come

Purchase price                                                   $1.0M
Losses May 2015-March 2018                          $6.9M
Capital invested to date                                     $2.7M
FY 18/19 and 19/20 Bond for                            $6.0M
      Golf Course/Community Center Repairs

TOTAL costs $16.6 Million

This information was derived from a video produced by Take Back OV. Visit their website HERE