Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Guest View-Pat Straney: Tomorrow, A "Watershed Moment" For The Town Of Oro Valley

Wednesday, the Mayor and City Council of the Town of Oro Valley have an opportunity to demonstrate sound, business-based, fiscally responsible leadership that will benefit the community at large; or, concurrently, will cause potential harm, driving away possible new residents and businesses not desirous of further taxes.

Mr. Mayor and Council Members.  I ask you NOT to go forward with the acquisition of the Hilton El Conquistador Golf and Country Club facilities.

The business case for this decision appears deeply flawed based on the limited information provided and the Town of Oro Valley assumptions and projections that have little or no “data driven” support in the reality of today’s “real world” golf and country club demographics. In fact, this proposal flies in the face of what has and is happening with the golf business sector here in Oro Valley, Tucson and the country as a whole.

Justification for financial success of this project is based on an “as-of-yet” undocumented resurgence in the golf industry. In fact, it is just the opposite. It is no more than a hopeful “opinion.

The current stated plan is to finance this acquisition with Oro Valley contingency funds and a permanent 2.5% sales tax (which represents a 25 % increase from the current sales tax of 2.0%). The town estimates that it will be a number of years waiting for the golf operations to possibly break even or show a profit. These assumptions seem based on a “Build It or Improve It and They Will Come” philosophy. This includes the assumption that the greater community of Oro Valley does, indeed, desire a community center.

It is public knowledge that the golf courses at Rancho Vistoso, Stone Canyon, Oro Valley Country Club, Sun City, and several in Tucson – in addition to the Golf Club at The Ritz Carlton have been struggling to stay afloat let alone being profitable over the past number of years. Why would costly, over-the-top spending on 3 old golf courses in need of major repairs and improvements lead to revival of the industry and be considered a good thing for the town of Oro Valley?

Further, with regard to providing recreational facilities focused on physical fitness opportunities, several very nice fitness clubs already exist in Oro Valley, including Anytime Fitness, Planet Fitness, LA Fitness, Gold’s Gym and a specialized Pilates Studio. This is some of what is available to Oro Valley residents at very affordable prices. Council majority has stated a “business friendly” attitude which the displayed in their campaigning literature and comments. Would they now choose to adversely impact local business by adding to their competition challenges?

Effective municipal governance should not be based on this type of high risk speculation. It likely sets the stage for additional unending taxes and resultant negative impacts on all residents and businesses community-wide.

This action should not be taken without public input and broad support.

At the very least, if a community center is, indeed, an established citizen desire and Oro Valley priority, its use, location, capital and on-going costs must be fully defined - and the plan to fund it must be presented to the public - who pay the taxes – for their vote.

Potential funding considerations should include an analysis of all current Town of Oro Valley revenue streams for possible “re-direction” of existing funds to a community center project if it is determined to be of a higher priority than any current or proposed project or operational expense.

A mix of the above revenue analysis and traditional new sources of revenue such as bonds or additional “short-term” taxes specifically directed at this project could improve the business case for this project. Public support is imperative for the success of a project of this magnitude.

So, Mr. Mayor and Council Members, you have publicly stated that the choice is yours to make. We do wonder, however, is it a sound, data-based, fiscally responsible leadership decision, - or is it a self-serving, “bully pulpit-based decision” that will define your leadership style going forward?

The community taxpayers await your decision.

Patrick Straney
Oro Valley Resident

Patrick Straney is President of the Rancho Vistoso HOA. He is also former 2014 Oro Valley Mayoral Candidate.

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