Monday, June 8, 2015

Police Lecture Oro Valley Town Council In 45 Minute Speech While Citizens Have Little Budget Input

Last week, we reported that the Oro Valley town Council passed the 2016 budget by a 4-3 vote.  We were so confident that the budget would pass by that margin that we published the result in advance of it actually happening! (The actual vote was 4-2. Council Member Zinkin did not get to vote as he was attending the meeting via phone but his phone battery died.)

LOVE knew that Mayor Hiremath and Council Member's Hornat, Snider and Waters, whom we refer to as the Majority-4, would vote for the budget. We knew that council members Burns, Garner and Zinkin would not.  We knew this not because we had polled anyone. We knew this because the fiscal positions of these people are very clear. The minority council members are fiscal conservatives who invest significant effort in understanding and challenging the budget. The Majority-4 are fiscal progressives who completely rely on town staff's recommendations. They are also willing to set Oro Valley spending records while dipping into reserves.

Oro Valley Town Manager Greg Caton and his staff prepared the budget. They spent considerable time during the past 4 months in doing so. They even created a web page about the budget. It was up to the council to scrutinize the budget on behalf of the people. There were 2 council sessions to study on the budget. The budget with record spending as we reported last week passed in the form that Caton presented it.  No changes suggested by the minority were considered. There were public hearings on May 20 and June 3.

Resident Bill Adler,  a most respected member of our community, spoke on his last week's meeting. He spoke after he had listened to a 45 minute speech by the Oro Valley Police Department that was, in Bill's opinion and others an abuse of public's time. Police spending should have been vetted at one of the council's budget study session and not at a public hearing.

It is our opinion that the police department 45-minute speech was allowed as an attempt to rebuke the minority council members for even questioning any part of the budget,  especially the police budget. For Mayor Hiremath to allow this abuse of time is an embarrassment. Read our post Wednesday to read of an even more embarrassing moment thanks to council member Hornat.

Adler spoke for all of us when he addressed the council.

"The public has been shut out of this budget except for 3 minutes at 2 public hearings." Adler continues that his concerns are about where the town is going to get the funds for this budget. Adler observed that economic experts project a flat, no growth economy. He questions the wisdom of using Oro Valley contingency funds to pay for golf course improvements (see our post next Monday ["Oro Valley' Financial Ticking Time Bomb"] to learn exactly how the golf course is funded).

Adler concluded: "I would have appreciated the opportunity more than I have had to understand this budget and to contribute something more specific."

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