Today, Dr. Ryan Hartung, Committee Chair of Oro Valley Citizens for Open Government (OVCOG) recall efforts and candidate for Town Council will be turning petitions in the recall of Oro Valley Mayor Satish Hiremath. The event is to happen at 9:45am at the Oro Valley Town Clerk's office.
The following is a guest view that Ryan wrote for LOVE to tell you more about who he is and why he believes change is needed in Oro Valley's elected leadership.
Firstly, I would like to thank everyone for their support in the recall efforts of the Mayor and the three Council members in regards to the El Conquistador purchase and subsequent half-cent sales tax hike. This has been a long and arduous process, which is finally coming close to an end, whereas the campaign season – a direct result of our enormously successful efforts – is just beginning.
I want to take this opportunity to tell you a little about myself; like who I am, what I believe, why I have decided to take such an active role in this process and then finish with why I am running for Town Council.
After graduating, I moved to Columbus, Ohio where I completed a five year Ph.D. program in organic chemistry, met my wife and moved to New Jersey for a few years before finally coming to Oro Valley in 2009 and we’ve been here ever since.
Although my foray into local politics has only been recent, I have always been interested and concerned about what happens in our community, constantly reading the various news outlets that cover our area. I was very much against the purchase of the El Conquistador as I believe our town should not be in the business of golf, especially in light of the sport’s recent decline. I did not like the way the process was carried out in a semi-secret manner and then rushed through during the month of December when many people had left for the holidays.
Like many of you, I signed the referendum and hoped that the town could vote on the El Con’s purchase and that would be the end of it. I would have accepted the vote either way if we’d just been given a voice. However, when the clerical error on the referendum petitions rendered them null and void I was initially angered at what I saw as an unjust system trying to stifle the words of its very constituency. Although the error was simply that, an error, I felt the urge to get involved. I offered to head OVCOG and lead the recall efforts with a wonderful group of diverse individuals.
Those who signed the petitions ranged from 18 to 98 years old. This clearly demonstrates that both young and old do not agree with the Council majority’s decision to purchase the El Con. By our calculations, less than a third of the signatures collected were actually from Sun City. By far, the majority was from the greater Oro Valley area, where citizens had simply had enough. Just this year alone, the golf course is expected to lose $1.5 million and that’s a lot of money that could be better used elsewhere.
Now the recall is all but finished. We will turn in the Mayor’s petitions today, with hopefully a larger cushion than we currently have and this first part of the process will be complete.
However, now that we know the recall is successful if there are no candidates to run, then why did we push ourselves so hard? That and other issues besides the El Con is why I have decided to throw my hat into the ring. Unlike normal Town Council elections, where the highest vote getter are given a Council seat, in this election everyone running must pick one of the three recalled Council members to run against. I have not yet made my choice.
That’s a lot of background, but it is necessary to understand why I am doing this and what has brought me to this point. Of course the El Con’s purchase and the way it was handled is not the only issue I have with the current makeup of our Town’s Council.
For starters, the council majority ran as a block of four and on major issues, that is the way they vote. They took thousands of dollars in campaign funds from HSL Properties and other developers and at least in my opinion, generally give them what they want. It is very hard to not be influenced by any party, not just developers, when you have taken their money. The developers are not the problem, they are running a business and want to make the most profit they can, it’s called capitalism. It’s how much the Majority-4 are letting the developers have that bothers me.
Oro Valley has a General Plan which was voted on by us the citizens of Oro Valley. We do not want every new build to have its land density increased so more houses can be squeezed in. This process actually brings down home values in the surrounding areas.
Let me be clear, I am pro development. Anybody who thinks Oro Valley is done growing is kidding themselves. What I want to be is an instrument that allows growth in a fashion that best suits our great town. That means leaving ample desert area in between buildings and the street. It means not cluttering our view of the mountains with five story buildings and rows upon rows of apartment buildings. It means not changing the housing density to put more and more rows of houses with barely a few feet in between them. This is what the General Plan is supposed to protect us from. But you guessed it, a simple majority can usually find a way around it.
Unfortunately, the makeup of the current council renders the voices of Council Members Burns, Zinkin and Garner moot on many of these issues that only require a simple majority. I do not see eye to eye on every issue as the minor three – as they are called – but in terms of how we want Oro Valley to look, I believe our opinions are closely matched.
There are other issues that concern me, but those will come out in due time and during the course of debates and interviews in the future.
I want to thank you for reading this and I hope I have your support in moving forward. I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org for any questions or support moving forward.
You can listen to an interview of Ryan by James T. Harris to learn more.