Monday, February 8, 2010

Does Anyboby See The Comparison Of Oro Valley To Colorado Springs As Presented By Michelle Malkin?

Colorado Springs Derangement Syndrome
By Michelle Malkin • February 8, 2010 10:09 AM


I’m proud to call Colorado Springs home for myriad reasons — quality of life, cost of living, terrific schools, physical beauty, Fort Carson, the Air Force Academy, and great cultural amenities. For starters. The city leans conservative to libertarian, but is no monolith. There are “progressives” and Big Business statists and everything in between. Most importantly, politics does not poison and saturate every breath of the people who live here. They do not live to work. They work to live — bike, run, ski, climb, hike, play, explore, and enjoy their families.

Taxpayers in the Springs also happen to want to keep more of their hard-earned money away from government’s paws. They want the government to make do with less. Just like everyone else.


Colorado Springs is suffering through a severe budget crunch. In that, it’s no different than most American cities. The source of the problem isn’t the fact that we’re a bastion of Republicanism, or that we’re the birthplace of the Taxpayer’s Bill Of Rights (TABOR) or that we’re the home town of TABOR author Douglas Bruce. Things are tight because we’re a sales tax dependent city in the midst of an economic downturn. It’s really that simple. The problem is falling revenue, not TABOR spending limits or the dreaded “ratchet effect.” We might hit up against our TABOR limits in four or five years, if the economy begins booming tomorrow. But the city can ask voters to keep the excess revenues, if that happy day arrives. And it’s not unprecedented that they would say “yes,” contrary to caricature.

Voters could have helped the city out several months back, by approving a property tax increase. But they declined to write the city a blank check. Voters here are reluctant to approve tax hikes without detailed plans for what the new funds will be used for (which I see as a virtue, not a vice). And there were other factors at play, including widespread economic anxiety, the city’s controversial use of taxpayer money to buy the U.S. Olympic Committee a headquarters building and a sense that City Council (to which I was appointed late last year) is out of touch with average people.

…Colorado Springs is selling its police helicopters, as the Post reports. But they were only a year or two away from being grounded due to old age. Our relatively low crime rate makes them a luxury we can do without. Transit system hours have been reduced — but that’s because we grew the system beyond what was sustainable when we were flush with cash. A number of police and fire jobs will go “unfilled,” as the Post reports, but many were sparred the budget ax (despite the fact that the police and fire payroll constitute roughly 55 percent of the city budget).

Many of our parks may brown-up this summer (depending on the weather), for lack of water. But we’re working on ways to deal with that and a new city-county parks district is in the planning stages. Mowing parks every other week doesn’t constitute a citywide calamity.

Community centers, swimming pools and a number of other city-owned facilities have been granted three months funding, in the hope that we can find a more self-sustaining operating model. Many are forming promising new partnerships with outside individuals and organizations. The Denver Post focused on the possible closures, but declined to mention that several of the facilities already have found adequate private support a stay open, while others are making headway in that direction.

This is a city with above-average rates of volunteerism and charitable giving. We don’t look reflexively to government to do things citizens can do themselves. And we’re counting on that can-do spirit and civic-mindedness, along with a willingness to consider out-of-the-box solutions, to see us through this budget crunch.

…Downsizing city government is painful — but it’s made a little easier by the fact that we keep government in check to start with. Functions performed by government in many cities are performed by the private sector here. We have privatized garbage collection. Our excellent zoo and philharmonic, our Fine Arts Center and the World Arena, operate independently, with no taxpayer funding. Keeping government reined-in allows us to keep our taxes and cost of living relatively low, making this a city where people of modest means can live relatively well and reach for the American dream.

22 comments:

AZCactus1 said...

Regarding the future economic prospects of Oro Valley, I would just like to note that in response to Tucson Mayor Walkup’s insistence on seeking annexation of the Catalina Foothills, there is now a growing movement in the Foothills to fend off Tucson for good and seek annexation of the entire Foothills (from Oracle Road east to Sabino Creek, and from River Road north to the National Forest) into Oro Valley.

Tucson has sought to annex the Foothills for over 50 years, and appears relentless. My friends and contacts in the Foothills tell me that annexation appears inevitable, and the Foothills would rather be in OV than Tucson.

This past weekend, the Daily Star ran two articles on the annexation issue, and many comments on the story weigh the idea of OV annexing the Foothills.

I do know that the old OV Planning Area used to extend south through the Foothills, and east to Craycroft Road. The Foothills is a highly desirable area for any town/city because of its wealthy tax base: among the most expensive homes in the area, an upscale shopping mall, high end restaurants, and 6 major resorts and country clubs.

I know some candidates running for OV Town Council have mentioned “annexation” as a possible revenue building source for OV, and the time may be right for OV to approach the Foothills for possible annexation. The Foothills feel a growing pressure from Tucson, and my understanding is that many Foothills residents are becoming very receptive to the notion of OV annexation.

I thought I’d share some news.

OV Objective Thinker said...

AZCactus....

That's a healthy chunk of annexation but if the numbers work out I think it could be a great win-win. One of the great cost factors of a project like this (especially when you are looking at the irresponsible folks running our County government)is bringing the infrastructure up to OV standards. There are a lot of 'bad' roads in that geography.

I would also imagine that the folks who manage the resorts would look upon our treatment of MTCVB and our high bed tax with a critical eye. The last thing they need is a local government that dumps on the tourist industry.

It is a fun project to consider however.:-)

freedom fighters said...

And where would the contiguous area to O.V. be? It's my understanding that to be annexed, an area has to be touching the entity in question.

AZCactus1 said...

Great points, OVOT. I have to admit, I am intrigued by this annexation idea. It could very well be a win-win for both OV and the Foothills.

If annexation occurs, OV residents would number 100,000, and OV would have quite a bump in tax revenue. But, as you mention, infrastructure could be an issue.

The next few months will tell us how viable this annexation idea will be as Foothills residents consider different options in avoiding Tucson annexation.

An annexation of this magnitude would send more state shared revenue back to our Town, and not to Maricopa County.

Food for thought.

AZCactus1 said...

Freedom Fighters,

OV already (technically) has territory in the Foothills (i.e. the Suffolk Hills neighborhood). Annexing further east and south of Suffolk Hills allows for OV to stretch as far as it desires (and the Foothills residents desire) into the remainder of the Catalina Foothills. This makes it all contiguous.

freedom fighters said...

hmmmm, . . . . I thought perhaps that the Westward Look Resort might pose a problem. Not long ago, there was talk of the resort signing on to O.V., but then the discussion went away. Anyone?

The Zee Man said...

Imagine, Oro Valley would finally get that upscale shopping experience it always wanted.

La Encantada would be ours.

Then I would spend all day in the Apple Store! And I would be oh so happy knowing that some of the sales tax revenue on my purchases would be coming back to Oro Valley.

Isn't it fun, though, to dream of the possibilities.

AZCactus1 said...

Oh but some dreams do become quite the reality, Zee Man. You just have to believe, enough.

As I said, the next few months will prove definitive in this annexation issue. It is a fact that Tucson is aggressively seeking annexation of the Foothills, an area that has vehemently avoided such annexation for over 50 years.

It is a fact that Foothills residents are growing tired of having to continually fend off the broken bureaucracy that is the City of Tucson. This combination may just lead to OV annexation of the Foothills. Time will certainly tell.

Freedom Fighters: You are right, Westward Look has put on hold any plans to join OV. I'm not sure of all the reasoning behind that decision, but it would obviously need to be addressed.

artmarth said...

AZCactus1--- Do the words "bed tax" resonate?

New WW Look ownership, and no OV bed tax "kickback" & sales tax revenue went a long way in ending the annexation discussion.

Thanks for bringing the potential annexation issue to the forefront.

John Martin said...

Art correctly points out the key reason those annexation talks ended: Westward Look wanted the same kind of tax-incentive deal Oro Valley had extended to the Hilton and others. And it's likely that the Westin and Loews Ventana would have sought similar inducements to become part of the town.

Besides the aforementioned resorts, La Encantada is one of a paltry few shopping establishments in what most of us considers the Foothills. The lion's share of real estate between Oracle Road and Sabino Creek is comprised of non-revenue-generating single-family homes.

That's the problem when you look to annex large chunks of already-developed land. Most deals (like the one for Sun City) require existing zoning to be honored after annexation (otherwise litigation would surely torpedo the process). For that reason, Arroyo Grande always seemed like an attractive option. It's contiguous, undeveloped, and, for the most part, not yet zoned for specific uses.

I believe the town has little choice but to seriously weigh each and every annexation option and its various pros (additional sales taxes, bed taxes) and cons (expenditures, potential for unpalatable political deal-making). It's an approach that makes a lot of sense considering the town's long-term fiscal problems.

Zev said...

Ah, so now an eagerness for annexation potential becomes the 'soup de jour'. Gee, just a short time ago, after being asked by the 'Explorer', "what new sources of revenue should Oro Valley examine", candidates Joe Hornat and Lou Waters both included 'annexation' in their answers; for this they were both maligned, discredited, and even ridiculed by several of their detractors (golly,if my candidate didn't propose this as a consideration, then it has no merit). Now that the issue has suddenly arisen and been recognized for it's potential because it has come from sources OTHER than from the above two candidates, has a bandwagon now seemingly begun to roll?

Relative to Michelle Malkin's article, she articulates well the outline of a positive perspective on the difficulties and solutions of one city, Colorado Springs, in these difficult times. Though Ms. Malkin is 'political', she does take most of the politics out of the equation here but does point out some of the overall dids and didn'ts that Colorado Springs coursed and she concludes with the proclamation of a basic tenet that [tight reins on government is the major key to maintaining a viable community].

Nombe Watanabe said...

If you can say "Rio Wasteo" then you can hope for annexation.

Tucson had so much potential, a San Antonio like entertainment district replete with shops and destination attractions. Look what they have to show for all the money they received from the special tax district.....sad sad sad....

I hope the foothills can fight off Tucson, no matter what the impact for OV.

Dan H. said...

I think the crux of the annexation issue boils down to whether the areas annexed into OV can pay for themselves. Potential annexations must become assets to the town, and not mere liabilities that drain town resources and require dramatic increases of OVPD visibility.

A main concern in annexing the Foothills Mall area is that while the sales tax would benefit OV, the sweetheart deals OV would need to make with the Foothills Mall and Tucson National Resort may not make the annexation worthwhile. This is particularly true when you factor in the increased police activity that the Foothills Mall and surrounding areas would require, considering their higher crime rates as compared to OV neighborhoods.

Annexing the Catalina Foothills into OV is a long shot, but one worth exploring. If Catalina Foothills residents want to beat back Tucson for good, enjoy more tax dollars remaining in their community, enjoy greater police protection from OV than the County Sheriff can currently provide, and have seats available on their own town council to help shape their political destiny, then annexation into OV is definitely in their best interests.

Zev said...

Dan, a very insightful commentary - cost vs. benefit. I believe it is worth exploring although some of the logistics might, at this point, seem
elusive. And, if we were (are) to annex Arroyo Grande then Oro Valley would geographically be a long stretch. I believe this to be an opportunity at least worth visiting.

freedom fighters said...

Okay, how about we get back to Malkin's central theme - downsizing government. Annexation is a sexy subject, but with a few country clubs/resorts presenting obstacles to immediate gratification, I think O.V. needs to double down on the downsizing aspect in order to achieve financial sanity NOW! Library, OVPD, Coyote Run???? It's time.

artmarth said...

"freedom fighter"--- As one who respects John Musolf and his background in finance, I believe you are echoing his words.

Sure, some of the cuts you (and John) propose may be a hardship for some, but if we look at the overall picture of what is best for the vast majority of the residents of Oro Valley, I'm not sure who can ague the merits of your point.

Thanks for bringing the issue back to the gist of the original post.

Zev said...

Michelle Malkin's gist is that "things are tight because we're a sales tax dependent city in the midst of an economic downturn".
Hmmm...

Oro Valley Mom said...

The bed tax in unincorporated Pima County is exactly the same as the bed tax in Oro Valley and Marana--6%.

In Tucson, it's 6% plus $2.00.

Yes, I think the roads in the area would probably require a lot of work.

On the other hand, the area passed its school bonds when others failed, so they might be more in favor of a property tax to pay for the added infrastructure costs.

AZCactus1 said...

OV Mom: Thank you for the bed tax info. I was unaware they were the same. IMHO that is all the more reason to further pursue this annexation option, given the current political climate in the Foothills.

Aside from the factors that have already been mentioned (i.e. the Foothills getting greater police protection from OVPD, the Foothills keeping greater tax dollars in their own community, and the Foothills having greater political power on their own town council as opposed to no political power with the current Board of Supervisors), a majority of Foothills residents long sent their high school students to Oro Valley’s Canyon del Oro High School from the 1960s through the 1990s when the Foothills opened their own high school.

Oro Valley and the Foothills have shared community resources for quite some time. It is by no means a stretch to envision these two communities united under a common town government. The red tape involved in making an annexation of this magnitude come to fruition would prove to be the greatest challenge, but that should not preclude stakeholders in either community from moving forward in the annexation effort.

Zev said...

Well, well, well - how can you justify comparing Oro Valley to Colorado Springs? For STARTERS, Colorado Springs has a population of 380,000+; Oro Valley about 45,000. Just type in 'Colorado Springs demographics' on your search engine and try to compare the two municipalities; ya just can't compare an apple to an orange, NO WAY!

artmarth said...

Ms. Malkin writes:
"Voters could have helped the city out several months back, by approving a property tax increase. But they declined to write the city a blank check. Voters here are reluctant to approve tax hikes without detailed plans for what the new funds will be used for (which I see as a virtue, not a vice)."

"Things are tight because we’re a sales tax dependent city in the midst of an economic downturn. It’s really that simple."

The issue isn't the size comparison. The issue is both CS & OV are experiencing the same problems for the same reasons.

Zev said...

And yes, Art, in an above post I isolated and reiterated that very fact relative to being a sales tax dependent city (as is Oro Valley). As far as comparisons, that's where it all ends! So, the solutions for Colorado Springs and Oro Valley are, most probably, quite different and therefor the approaches needed to resolve these two cities/towns are most probably quite different too.