Thursday, April 13, 2017

Guest View: Diane Peters ~ The Great “Bond” Caper (Part 2.)

During the second Call to Audience at the April 5th Town Council meeting, Radio talk-show host, Chris DeSimone (Wake up Tucson!) called out Councilmember Steve Solomon for interrupting a speaker who didn’t support the council’s views. Below is the transcript of his speech and the response by Town Attorney, Gary Verburg:

Chris DeSimone: “I was watching the lady [Karen Stratman] who got up before, the first lady who got up at the Call to Audience, and Mr. Solomon was trying to shut her down by saying she was talking about Item #2, the bond thing. Mr. Verburg chimed in and you ate her time a little and you shut her down. Then the next guy comes in [Ben Baker] an older guy, and you guys just let him blab.

So what did the first person do to get shut down and get her time truncated and the other guy just kept on going, starting with the 1997 bonds? For the record, I thought it was pretty unfair that Solomon tried to shut her down. Verburg didn’t know what to do with her and then you let the next guy come on and he went, ‘This is how you sell the bond to Sun City.’ I think you guys were wrong on that one.”

Hiremath: Mr. Verburg, do you want to answer that?

Town Attorney Verburg: Yes. He was discussing a Sun City bond. He wasn’t discussing a particular bond for ball fields so I thought he was talking about bonds in the general sense. He wasn’t talking about Item #2 until right at the very end he snuck in a couple of sentences. Sometimes the better part of discretion is to let someone finish…I make the calls as I see them and that was my judgment.

Clear Intentions 
 Of note is that Baker’s very first sentence was, “I was the OV representative to the 1997 bond issue along with Ms. Pina’s husband, Raul.” What relevance could a bond issue from 20 years ago have on last week’s council meeting other than to connect it to that night’s agenda item on the Naranja Park bond discussion? I could see what his intent was in opening with that sentence. How could the mayor, council, and town attorney not see it?

Verburg claims that Baker didn’t discuss the Naranja Park bond issue until right at the very end. This is demonstrably false. All one has to do is read the transcript of Baker’s speech or watch the video (provided yesterday in Part 1. of this article) to see that Baker’s second sentence was, “If you’re looking at a bond issue, how are you going to go about getting it passed?” Since the council was going to be “looking at a bond issue” during Item #2 on the Regular Agenda that evening, it wasn’t all that difficult to connect the dots.

Mr. Baker’s intent couldn’t have been clearer at this point. He was about to give the council direction on how to sell the bond and secondary property tax to an unwitting public…and that’s exactly what he proceeded to do. Despite this, he was allowed to continue to the end of his speech (approximately another 200 words) without interruption.

Attorney Verburg’s Argument: Over-ruled. 
An Oro Valley resident who witnessed the above exchange, e-mailed Attorney Verburg to question the inconsistency in applying the rules. In Verburg’s e-mail response, he stated that Baker “talked about bonds in a very general sense and did not connect his discussion to the matter on the agenda [until] at the end of his presentation.” Verburg asserted that it was too late at that point “to advise him about appropriate protocol.”

This is not true. Mr. Baker should have been interrupted when he uttered his second sentence, “If you’re looking at a bond issue, how are you going to go about getting it passed?”

Verburg continued that Ms. Stratman, “was allowed to speak for some time…before she was stopped.” While this is true, the fact remains that Mr. Baker was allowed to present his entire speech unimpeded despite speaking on the same agenda item that Ms. Stratman was prevented from speaking on.

Verburg also stated, “There was no inconsistency, it was just that the speakers made their inappropriate comments at different times in their respective presentation” and “you can’t interrupt someone’s presentation once they have concluded it.”

Again, the record shows that Mr. Baker’s intent was clear with his opening sentence and his objective became crystal clear with his second sentence; he was there to give the council specific instructions on how to pass the Naranja Park bond (Item #2 on the Regular Agenda) that evening. His goal was apparent long before his speech was concluded. No one talks about something that happened 20 years ago unless they are going to connect it to something that’s happening NOW.
Diane Peters has lived in Oro Valley since 2003, moving here to escape the humidity of the East Coast. She’s been involved in OV politics and development issues since 2006. In 2014, she organized a citizens group, Citizen Advocates of the Oro Valley General Plan, who over a 9-month period, successfully negotiated a controversial 200-acre development project slated for the LaCholla-Naranja-Lambert-Shannon area. In her past life, she worked in medical research at various University Hospitals in New England. Her interests include reading, writing, nature photography, travel, art galleries, museums, and politics.