Monday, September 28, 2015

Guest View-Steve Didio: It’s Your Choice - What Type of Town Government Do You Want in Oro Valley?

Fellow citizens,

I would not be overstating the importance of the upcoming Recall Election by saying it really is a defining moment for the town. The approach to governing and to representing the average citizen between the incumbents and the challengers couldn’t be much more different.

The four recalled officials are very connected to big money and not to the average citizen
In my opinion, recalled Mayor Hiremath and his supporting cast of Joe Hornat, Mary Snider and Lou Waters have really changed in the five years since they first took office in 2010. When they first ran for office, they were predominantly funded by concerned and supportive citizens, and their governing styles were more open, inclusive and collaborative.

Fast forward to the 2014 election cycle. Upon examining their Candidate Financial Statements, and observing them in action on the Council, I believe you see the result of politicians who have become very “connected” to big money interests, and further disconnected from the voice of the average citizen. Despite what they might say, you can’t have it both ways.

Steve Didio
Big money from big business
For 2014, the four above-mentioned incumbents raked in over $87,000 in contributions, and 84% of those came from large business interests including Developers, Builders, Brokers and others (over $73,000). These numbers are extremely large for a local election in a town the size of Oro Valley, and dwarf the approximately $6,200 the 2014 challengers raised, all from individual citizens.

So what transpired between 2010 and 2014? Relationships, in a word. I understand that the Town Council needs to develop relationships with both citizens and business interests, but the sheer volume of the contributions from Special Interests has created a playing field that is neither level nor fair.

Big money pressure
And this type of money inherently brings with it pressures on the recipients and expectations from the donors. My position on professional relationships is that our leaders need them; but they need to be the kind of professional, arms-length business relationships that all governmental agencies generally insist upon between their employees and outside interests. This is Government Ethics 101.

A widening disconnect with citizens
I find it very unfortunate, but I’ve heard more than one of the incumbents call citizens “a whiny minority”, and describe citizens with differing opinions as “loons” and “crazies”.  In my opinion, those statements are completely inappropriate for elected officials or leaders in any profession.

I have addressed the Council on several occasions myself, and while I was allotted my three minutes of time as required, my statements neither swayed nor convinced the Council Majority to reconsider their positions. I left the Council chambers feeling, like many people do, that my voice may have been heard but wasn’t truly listened to.

Within three short months of reelection in 2014 came the pivotal moment in the second Hiremath administration. This was the controversial and widely-panned 4-3 vote to purchase the El Conquistador properties, including 45 holes of Golf, a very old 1980s vintage building, and to unilaterally raise your town Sales Tax by one-half percent.

There is a reason for their recall: They changed. We didn't.
The current Council majority would not be facing a recall election right now if they had done two things that they purposely chose not to do. First would have been to be much more open and transparent about the deal they had been negotiating since the summer of 2014. The second major mistake was to decide, among themselves, that the citizens wouldn’t be getting a chance to vote on this large purchase. I believe they made this choice to spare themselves the embarrassing political defeat of a failed referendum, and to delay any disclosure of their plans until after the August election. But this type of manipulation has consequences, and theirs was being recalled with strong numbers of petition signers.

The foursome of 2010 may or may not have made the same mistakes the foursome of 2014 made. And I believe that is because in 2010 they weren’t beholden to large Special Interest contributions, which I believe influenced their approach, and ultimately, their votes. It seems to me that politics in Oro Valley are of a cyclical nature, wherein elected officials change over time, and can allow themselves to move away from the ideal of serving the citizens first and foremost.

My Pledge: To always make decisions in the best interest of the citizens of Oro Valley
So you may be thinking to yourselves right now, how will electing Steve Didio be any different?

Here’s how I would ensure that I keep the interests and priorities of average citizens first.

  • I am not someone who desires to be a “career politician”, and will not seek out or accept contributions from Special Interests. 
  • I will meet, work, collaborate and negotiate with any legitimate business interests because that is part of what elected representatives do. These interactions will be professional, courteous, ethical and open at all times. They will know me as someone they can reach out to, who is principled and fair, but not susceptible to undue influence or pressure. They will also know that my first priority will always be the interest of the citizens.

I will apply one simple criteria to every vote I take, because I will not be under any pressure to do differently: What is the best decision for all of the citizens of Oro Valley?

If that appeals to you as a voter, I ask for your support and your vote in October when you mail in your ballots, or on November 3rd at your polling place.
Thank you very much! --- Steve Didio is a candidate for the seat currently occupied by Lou Waters in the Oro Valley recall election. You can contact Steve's web site here.

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