Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Guest View-Diane Peters: Mayor Hiremath vs. Freedom of Speech

On Tuesday, September 22nd, Oro Valley resident Rick Hines (with the help of another Oro Valley resident) staked two anti-Hiremath signs in the right-of-way (ROW) on Pusch View Lane near the intersection with Oracle Road. Mayor Hiremath and a PAC that supports the incumbents have had their signs posted there (on the private property portion) for many weeks.

While posting the signs, Hiremath’s son and his receptionist came out of the office and stated that they were on private property. The residents explained that they were in the public ROW. The son and receptionist returned a few minutes later, telling them that Mayor Hiremath wanted to talk to them inside. The residents told them that they would be happy to speak with the mayor outside and in the meantime they would continue staking their signs.

They waited but Mayor Hiremath never emerged. Why was Hiremath only willing to talk inside? The residents took pictures of the signs as proof that they were in the ROW. Then they left.

Signs Removed, Conflicting Statements Given
The following day, Mr. Hines noticed that the black and white sign had been removed. A day later, the red and white sign was now missing as well. He filed a police report on September 25th. The police contacted Hiremath’s office and was told that the management company, Chapman Management, had removed the signs. The police then contacted Chapman and was told they only removed the black and white sign believing that it was on their property. Chapman said they believed ADOT removed the other sign.

Mr. Hines offered to show the officer the pictures he had taken immediately after installing the signs and the officer replied that he didn’t need to see them because he was not qualified to determine legal placement of political signs.

Hines then called ADOT and was informed that they did not take the sign. Chapman then admitted to having the second sign in their office. Hines asked why the second sign was also removed and was told that they were “probably pressured to remove it.” We can only assume that they were pressured by Hiremath.

The Town, the County, and the State…Oh My! 
Mr. Hines decided to return with more signs and more people to help install them. He contacted ADOT and Chapman and arranged for both to meet us at that location on Friday, October 2nd at 11:00 am. Chapman would be there to return the second sign and ADOT would be present to ensure that the signs were placed legally. We also had a map from Pima County outlining the ROW. The Town of OV also informed us that the ROW area was 7 feet from the curb.

Armed with information from the town and the county and with a State official being present, we would no longer be subjected to the possibility of any lies that our signs were on private property.

I Spy: Scene 1, Take 2
On October 2nd, seven residents arrived at the scheduled time. Our group included two retired law enforcement officers and a former town council member. We noticed a man sitting in his car in the parking lot and suspected that he was “a spy.” Mr. Hines approached him and the man said he was a police officer. Shortly afterwards, we saw him taking a picture of my license plate. At this point, myself and one of our law enforcement team members approached the man in the vehicle. When she introduced herself as retired law enforcement, the man changed his story and now claimed that he was just “an interested citizen.” We returned to the task at hand.

The ADOT rep ensured that our signs were placed legally. He was both courteous and helpful. He answered all questions and described the ROW from ADOT’s perspective. He confirmed that ADOT never had an issue with our original sign placement. As for Chapman Management, they sent an elderly man to return our sign. The absence of an official Chapman representative was very conspicuous.

Unfortunately, the story doesn't end there. Stay tuned for Part 2.
Note: Mayor Hiremath wrote us to clarify the facts as he understands them. We have entered it as a comment to this posting.
Diane Peters has lived in Oro Valley since 2003, moving here to escape the humidity of the East Coast. Combining her love of animals and writing, she wrote her first protest letter at the age of 12 to the Canadian Prime Minister in support of ending the annual baby harp seal hunt. Years later, she flew by helicopter to the ice floes off the coast of Newfoundland where she was able to pet baby harp seals recently born on the frozen tundra. Her other interests include reading, nature photography, traveling to National Parks, Native American history, art galleries, museums, and following politics. In her past life, she worked in medical research at various University Hospitals in New England, including coordinating Oncology Clinical Trials and preparing manuscripts for publication in medical journals.  Her husband is an Army veteran who served in Germany and South Korea. A former hippie, he attended the 1969 Woodstock Festival in Upstate New York.

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