My name is Ryan Hartung and I am leading a group of individuals, Oro Valley Citizens for Open Government - OVCOG, who filed, two weeks ago, to recall the council majority: Mayor Hiremath and Council Members Hornat, Snider, and Waters.
Before I tell you about why we filed, I'd like to tell about who we are. First of all, I myself am 36 years old, hold a Ph.D. in Organic Chemistry and am married with two little girls. I am nothing more than a concerned citizen, feeling as though certain members of the Town Council have taken it upon themselves to run the town as they see fit; not according to the will of the people whom they are supposed to represent. Our core team is comprised of people of all age ranges and we are receiving new volunteers daily.
Some people may ask, why should we recall Mayor Satish Hiremath and Council Members Joe Hornat, Lou Waters and Mary Snider? Well, the answer is fairly simple: Many of us feel they are not aligned with Oro Valley citizens' best interests in mind.
If we take a step back to the middle of December, barely a month after the they were installed in office, we see the beginnings of a directional change in Oro Valley leadership. In a contentious 4-3 vote, the Mayor secured a back room deal to acquire the El Conquistador country club building, golf courses, tennis courts and other facilities. This deal is not a great deal for the residents, but is for the hotel’s current owners, HSL, who also donated a total of $14,000 in differing amounts to the four Council Members. HSL gets to shed the losing golf operation, shifting the risk of ownership to Oro Valley.
Furthermore, after injecting millions of taxpayer dollars into aging buildings and golf courses, the Mayor's hope is to reach "profitability" in five years. But here’s what they don’t tell you. Profitability means that golf will supposedly be making money, but this does not mean that the millions of dollars the Town will put into the project will be paid back. That money is considered a needed investment to restore the building and grounds, and is a wash at best. What will be the true return on your "investment" tax dollars? That’s anybody’s guess, and this is assuming their rosy projections become a reality. If they don't, who will be left holding that bag? It's easy - we will.
If the hurried purchase of the El Conquistador, with little time to view the deal’s actual language, while seeking no input from the voters wasn’t bad enough, the Town Council, at the behest of the Mayor, then passed an additional half-cent sales tax to help pay for this albatross. Again, we see a split 4-3 vote. However, what's even worse is this sales tax increase does not expire - once a tax, always a tax. We've seen this playbook before, and now we are seeing it again.
This is where the recent referendum effort comes into play. Two concerned Oro Valley citizens took it upon themselves to form T.O.O.T.H. - Tee’d Off Over Tax Hikes, to get petitions to the public, where if enough signatures were garnered they could force the El Conquistador’s purchase to a Town-wide vote. The results of the petition gathering were simply astonishing. Based on the previous election’s turnout, only 1,148 signatures were needed to force a referendum. More than 3,000 were collected in roughly 3 weeks! As fantastic as this feat was, a technicality rendered every one of the petitions null and void.
So, seeing that a notable number of Town citizens whom the Mayor has labeled “the whiney minority” was so upset about the purchase and the tax hike, one would assume the message had gotten across. It did not. Only a week ago, at the February 18th Council meeting, a resolution was offered to postpone the sales tax increase until the El Conquistador purchase was complete, pending litigation. Makes sense, right? Well, like before, the measure failed by a 4-3 vote. Council member Hornat specifically stated that they should proceed until "told to stop." Is he listening to his constituents? No.
This consistent voting pattern of the Mayor along with Snider, Hornat and Waters is exactly why we advocate a recall. Simply steamrolling the opposition at every turn and not caring about Council consensus is akin to Washington D.C. politics, and should stay back east.
We can do better in Oro Valley. By giving our citizens a chance to vote again on these four individuals in a special November election, only then can we fix our Town Council and allow it to function as it was intended - a group of seven individuals looking out for the best interests of all citizens of the great town of Oro Valley. We need and demand true leadership - leadership this is completely upfront, transparent and accountable to our citizens.
There are many more reasons for this recall effort, but space and time is limited. I challenge both those in favor and against the El Conquistador to sign the Recall petitions. Remember, signing the petitions will not kick anybody out of office, only have a special election to see if the citizens of Oro Valley still want them to represent us. Let’s take it to a vote, that’s all we’re asking.
Please email us at OVCOG2015@gmail.com to volunteer.