Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Guest View-Diane Peters: Musings on the September 7th Oro Valley Town Council Meeting

One of the items on the September 7th agenda was a vote to permanently allow A-frame signs and outdoor merchandise displays for businesses. These signs were allowed on a temporary basis beginning in 2011 to help businesses attract more customers during the recession.

Three people spoke during the Public Hearing
  • Oro Valley Resident, Don Bristow presented statistics from a University of Arizona Economics Report noting only a 0.15% difference in increased sales tax revenues in Oro Valley vs. Tucson and Pima County from 2011-2014. (3.75% vs. 3.6% respectively). He added that if the signs were truly effective, they would have resulted in a much greater increase in sales tax revenues. 
  • Chamber of Commerce President, Dave Perry offered only anecdotal “evidence” of their value. In addressing the council, he stated, “I’ve sent you a dozen or so anecdotes from our members, many of whom couldn’t be here tonight.” Perry noted that Don Bristow is always looking for “statistical verification” of whether A-frame signs work or not. Isn’t that how government should operate? Decisions made based on actual statistics and genuine needs? 
  • Jennie Ritchie, owner of Trouvaille Salon, stated: “I use my signs on a daily basis, every time we’re in business. I would say last year my business was up 15%. I do think the signs contributed to that greatly. We get walk-ins off of them. I have a sign that says available appointments and we put down what’s available and clients come in, people come in off the street all the time and say, ‘Oh, I saw you have time for a pedicure. Can I get one done?’ So it does definitely benefit my business and it benefits my employees as well. I used it this year to market for additional employees as well since we are growing so much.”
With no supporting evidence that her business was up by 15%, she also admitted to using the sign improperly (listing available appointments and using it as a “Help Wanted” sign.)

Intent of A-frame Signs; Temporary Sign Code, Section 28.6

“A sign that identifies a business and/or service for the purpose of directing pedestrian traffic to the business location.”

Granted, using the sign to advertise appointment openings may have increased her business, but the bottom line is that she violated the code and the town didn’t even bat an eye. What’s the point of having a code if you’re not going to enforce it?

Council Discussion ~ Zinkin vs. Waters

Council member Zinkin noted that there was no empirical data showing improvement in sales tax revenues.

This led Vice Mayor Lou Waters to opine, “We talk about empirical evidence. To me, Jennie coming here, increasing her business by 15% and owing it to A-frame signs, that’s empirical evidence.” Apparently, Waters doesn’t know the difference between statistical vs. empirical vs. anecdotal any more than he knows the difference between a few sheets of paper and a ream. (Those who followed the 2015 recall election will appreciate this reference.)

Town Engineer, Paul Keesler indicated that for the business owners, “It’s a perception that this helps them.”

Then, despite any statistical evidence of improved business revenues during the 5-year trial period, the motion carried 4-3 with Burns-Garner-Zinkin opposed.

It’s frustrating to witness how the Majority-4 on this council continually bend over backwards for anything that the business community wants and how they will turn even the weakest of testimonies into a compelling reason to vote YES.

Between 2011-2016, out of a total of 1,076 Oro Valley businesses, only 70 obtained permits for A-frame signs. Why are we changing the town code to accommodate the wishes of so few, especially when the few have offered no statistical evidence that A-frame signs have improved their businesses?

These businesses should have been required to submit receipts for a 6-month period both before and during their use of the signs, preferably comparing the same months against each other in two consecutive years. The Town Code is the law and laws shouldn’t be based on anecdotes and perceptions.