Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Guest View: Diane Peters ~ The abject favoritism of the OV Town Council. Part 2.

Following up on Part 1 of this article, below are some of the false accusations that current Councilmember Steve Solomon made against then-Councilmember Mike Zinkin during a Town Council “Call to Audience” in October 2016.

Solomon’s claim:
Solomon asserted that Zinkin’s annual Travel and Training budget was $3000 and that he had gone over that budget by spending $9000 the previous year. He also claimed that Zinkin spent over $27,000 on travel during his four years on council, with this being more than twice his four-year combined budget of $12,000.

Although each Council Member had a $3000 annual Travel and Training allotment, Mike Zinkin was a Leadership Fellow with the National League of Cities and Towns (NLC). There was a line-item for NLC travel in the amount of $11,500. Zinkin never came anywhere near exceeding that annual budget.

Solomon’s claim:
Solomon stated that Zinkin never requested nor obtained approval from the Town Council to exceed his travel budget and claimed that he was therefore in violation of Town policy. He called this “an unauthorized use of taxpayer funds” and asserted that Zinkin should have to repay this money back to the Town and the taxpayers.

Since Zinkin hadn’t exceeded his travel budget, he was not required to obtain Town Council approval for additional travel. All travel expenses that he submitted were within the scope of his Travel and Training budget and were approved by the Town Manager.

This was just another one of Steve Solomon’s feeble attempts at maligning the character of anyone who doesn’t fall in lock step with his point of view.

Hypocrisy much?
Steve Solomon expected Zinkin to reimburse the town for travel and training expenses that he falsely deemed to be unauthorized and then said nothing when Mayor Hiremath’s one-day ceremonial junket to Washington, DC cost the taxpayers $3,159.00 (detailed in Part 1 of this article).

Councilmember Joe Hornat also chimed in to complain about Zinkin’s travel expenses, stating in an e-mail to Zinkin last year…

“I always thought that your out-of-state trips were little more than a boondoggle for your benefit” and that attending a conference with the NLC was “personally beneficial” to Zinkin, offered “no benefit to the Town,” was a “blatant misuse of public funds” and that Zinkin should “pay for any expenses associated with this.”

…and who then said nothing about Mayor Hiremath’s out-of-state boondoggle which was for his own benefit and involved the misuse of public funds (detailed in Part 1 of this article).

Which of the below trips constitutes a “benefit to the Town?”

Mayor Hiremath and Interim Town Manager travel to Washington, DC for less than 24-hours at a cost of over $3000 so the mayor can receive a “2017 Public Leadership in the Arts Award.”

How did this trip (or the Interim Town Manager accompanying the mayor on this trip) benefit the town or the taxpayer?

Building better communities
In 2016, Councilmember Mike Zinkin participated in two trips with the National League of Cities. The details and expenses are outlined below:

National League of Cities 2016 Congressional City Conference
Washington, DC -- March 5-9, 2016

Registration                              $465.00
Airfare                                      $421.20
Lodging                                    $1848.06
Meals and Incidentals              $431.50
Personal vehicle expenses        $86.44
TOTAL EXPENSES                $3252.20

National League of Cities 2016 University Leadership Summit
Madison, WI -- Sept. 28 – Oct. 1, 2016

Registration                              $495.00
Airfare                                      $419.20
Lodging                                    $614.18
Meals and Incidentals              $196.50
TOTAL EXPENSES                $1725.58

How did these two trips benefit the Town or the taxpayer? The answer is below.

From the NLC Leadership Summit Conference Brochure

Solving today’s complex societal and community problems, from infrastructure to public safety, requires a collaborative, multi-sector effort. [Multiple government entities] must all work together to generate and implement creative and effective solutions. Doing so requires a special type of leader, one who understands the motivations and unique contributions of the various actors and can align common agendas, incentives, and outcomes.

Participants in the 2016 Leadership Summit will learn how to become that type of leader…Attendees will gain valuable perspective on the different sectors and will work in collaboration to address some of today’s complex problems.

Our Leadership Summit is designed for city officials…who want to solve real problems and build better communities.

Understand the differing roles and agendas of the private sector…the non-profit community, city and state government.

Examine successful municipal multi-sector initiatives.

Apply lessons learned to a current or future initiative.

Engage with and learn from peers and leaders from different sectors.

Better working relationships with multi-sector partners.

More efficiency and economic savings on multi-sector projects and initiatives.

Better ability to establish criteria and identify approaches for successful collaborations up front (proactive rather than reactive).

Promote innovation and provide proven strategies and valuable resources that address the challenges that cities face.

Expand the capacity of city officials to serve as ethical, effective, and engaged leaders.

Don’t mess with the kingdom (a.k.a. The Empire Strikes Back)
Whereas Mike Zinkin’s trips involved community problem-solving (broadening the mind), the mayor’s cross-country trip (of which no one complained) involved receiving an award and hanging out with his buddy. Yet, the former receives complaints and the latter does not.

Why the favoritism? Because during the four years that Mike Zinkin was on council (2012-2016) he was a workhorse who spent considerable time attempting to trim the town budget by cutting waste. For his efforts, he was repeatedly maligned by the Majority-4 council members and certain town staff employees, all of whom didn’t like anyone delving too closely into town operations and expenses and trying to change the status quo.

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.