Wednesday, July 14, 2021

Guest View: Mike Zinkin ~ Biggest budget in Oro Valley history

The latest from our “fiscally responsible” Town Council
Our “fiscally responsible”(?) Town Council just passed the highest budget in the history of Oro Valley. To quote directly from the budget: “This budget totals $134.4 million, representing a significant increase of $29.0 million, or 27.5% higher than the adopted Fiscal Year 2020/2021 budget of $105.4 million.”

A Private Citizen paid for the Town’s Fourth of July fireworks
We all took pleasure in the recent fireworks display on July 4th. However, the fireworks were not paid for by the Town. Even with the passage of the highest budget in history, the Town needed a private citizen to pay for the fireworks.

Why couldn’t the Chamber of Commerce sponsor the fireworks? After all, they get $40,000 a year from the Town. Why couldn’t HSL, or Meritage homes, or Pulte homes sponsor the fireworks display as a thank you for all the times the Town bent over backwards for them? Why does the Town need a private citizen to offer to sponsor the fireworks?

Using Citizen Funds is not new to this Council and Town Manager
• The Town depends on $125,000 per year from two HOA’s to supplement the golf debacle.

• The Town counts on private citizens to maintain Canada Hills Dr. and Mountain Breeze Dr. (south of Naranja) despite those streets not being gated and through-traffic being allowed.

With the passage of a $134.4 million budget, the Town still requires additional funding to support the services that should be expected from the Town. The Town is supposed to serve the people, not squeeze every dollar they can from them. The people should not be expected or required to serve the Town.

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Mike Zinkin and his wife have lived in Oro Valley since 1998. He served on the Oro Valley Development Review Board from 2005-2009, the Board of Adjustment from 2011-2012, and the Town Council from 2012-2016. He was named a Fellow for the National League of Cities. He was a member of the NLC Steering Committee for Community and Economic Development and a member of the Arizona League of Cities Budget and Economic Development Committee. He was an Air Traffic Controller for 30 years. Mike has a Bachelor’s degree in history and government from the University of Arizona and a Master’s degree in Social and Philosophical Foundations of Education from California State University, Northridge.

Tuesday, July 13, 2021

Town of Oro Valley Wins LOVE 2021 “Water Waster Award”

Town Council voted in January to open a golf course that uses drinking water for irrigation
In January, The Oro Valley Town Council voted 6-1, Bohen voting “no”, to open the 9-hole Pusch Ridge Golf Course. This course uses drinking water for irrigation. They did so because residents who live adjacent to the course were unhappy that the course was brown. 

At a time when the west is suffering in a 21-year drought
At no time during the discussion of the course reopening did any council member discuss the negative impression that the use of drinking water during a 21 year prolonged Western US states drought presented. Indeed, they relied on statements by the town’s water director that the town has “plenty of water.”  Nor did the council consider spending approximately $4million to bring reclaimed water to the course, a move that may well have involved getting the Oro Valley Country Club to get off its use drinking water. That would have been a double win! 

At a time when the council is considering penalizing water wasting
In June, the council discussed tightening penalties for “water wasting”. This is needed because the town has reached the end of what water conservation can provide in terms of water use savings. The town has seen an increase in total water use in the past three years, after a decade of total water use decline. 

Golf course used 571 household worth of drinking water June! 
Since January, the Pusch Ridge course has used 8.8 million gallons of drinking water. That’s a total of 27.1 acre feet. The town used 4 million gallons of drinking water in June. That’s equivalent to the average amount used by 571 households. 
 
Congratulations on a job badly done
There is no doubt that the biggest water waster in Oro Valley is the Town of Oro Valley. The current council has earned LOVE’s 2021 Water Water Award.

Congratulation on a job badly done.

Monday, July 12, 2021

Naranja Park …. Vistoso Preserve… and more…

Council prioritizes projects in the $25 million Parks and Recreation Bond…but not without controversy
The Town Council set priorities for specific parks and recreation projects to be funded by an approximate $25 million bond that will be issued this fall. The projects are listed in the panel that follows. The bond will be repaid by approximately half of the half percent sales tax the town levies to fund the town’s three golf courses and the community center. Town Manager Jacobs and Town Finance Director Gebhart assured the council that the town will have the funds from the sales tax levy to repay these bonds under any foreseeable circumstance. 

The projects that are included in the bond are in addition to projects included in the 2021-22 Parks and Recreation Budget. $1.3 million in this budget is designated spending for Steam Pump Ranch. According to Council Member Bohen this amount is far too little. “Steam Pump Ranch has never been a priority” and there are many unmet needs. 

Council Members Solomon and Greene voted against the priority list. Pointing to the town’s statistically valid survey of resident parks and recreation needs done just last year, Solomon noted that Naranja Park was not even on the list. Solomon stated that the inclusion of massive funding for Naranja Park in this bond simply does not meet the wishes of the residents. 

Solomon is correct that the survey reflects no significant resident interest in building Naranja Park. This has been true since the day the county gave this stone and mortar quarry to Oro Valley. Naranja Park has never been important to the majority of residents. It has only been important to members of council.

Former Vistoso Golf land purchase negotiations continue… Some resolution perhaps in September
Speaking at last week’s council meetings, Rancho Vistoso residents were complementary of Mayor Winfield, Vice Mayor Barrett and Town Attorney Jonathan Rothschild “for their diligent, hard work in bringing this matter to closure.” They were speaking in regards to ongoing negotiations regarding the former Vistoso Golf Course. The matter remains in negotiation. 
 
Speaking after executive session, Town Outside Counsel Rothschild stated that Romspen has “agreed” to a specified price for the property. The Conservation Fund has agreed to purchase the property for the appraised value, which will be known in August.” It is possible that the appraised value will be less than meet amount Romspen wants for the property. Thus, the council likely will have to consider legal options, which may include condemnation, to force a resolution. 

Council Member Solomon said: “We are very close.” Residents hope so. “Its’ been three years”, one resident noted. “Time to bring this to a conclusion.”

Council adjourns until September 7 meeting… Will unveil upgraded council chambers
It will be an “in person” meeting in renovated council chambers. Public participation will be available in person. The town will use Zoom participation for public hearings only. Thus, one who wants to participate in the “call to audience” segment will have to do so in person. Town Manager Jacobs stated that the town will provide more information on how these meetings and those of the town’s boards and commission will take place.

Monday, June 28, 2021

Rothschild “F-bombed” Oro Valley in 2019. Works For Town In 2021

Rothschild’s contract with Oro Valley is up for renewal
Jonathan Rothschild is the current outside council to the Town of Oro Valley. He has been such for about four months. Shortly, his contract for renewal will be before council. 

Rothschild is the lead negotiator for the Romspen Vistoso Preserve Deal
Rothschild has brought his legal skills to bear in moving the negotiations for the eventual creation of what will be a Vistoso Preserve. Discussions between the potential purchaser of the former Vistoso Golf Course, The Conservation Fund, and the owner, Romspen LLC, were stalled when former outside council, Gary Cohen was involved.

The “Oro ‘f…ing’ Valley” open mike incident
We were surprised to learn that Rothschild referred negatively to Oro Valley in 2019. At least, that is our interpretation of remarks he made in a public meeting while he served as Mayor of the City of Tucson. The remarks were made after a measure to annex a portion of the foothills was rejected by the Tucson City Council, 6-1. Rothschild voted to annex the portion so that a 4 story hotel could be built on land located west of Campbell Rd and north or River Rd. The request also would have increased housing density on the other side of Campbell. Annexation was necessary for the project because Pima County would not allow it. (Source [subscription required])

Obviously disappointed, Rothschild is heard on “live mike” after the hearing was completed saying, indirectly to the audience: “You guys are going to turn into Oro ‘f…ing’ Valley.”  After making that remark, the person next to him pushed Rothschilds microphone away, knowing that Rothschilds remark was public. Rothschild’s reaction to that was:  “I don’t give a f…” that his disparaging comment was public. We’ve embedded the video in this posting so that you can watch it yourself.

Rothschild’s comments were made a year after the Hiremath pro growth council was defeated. They were made a year after a new council that vowed to more carefully consider the role of growth in Oro Valley was installed. Now Rothschild works for these new council members. The use of the “f-word”, along with the smirk on his face, indicates to us that he has disdain for those who are careful about approving development-related land use changes.

Will Rothschild consider Vistoso residents' concerns when negotiating the Romspen deal? 
We wonder if he has a pro development predisposition given his disparaging remark about our community. One that he seemed completely unapologetic about when he followed his first “f-bomb” with a second one. We wonder if he will be able to be neutral in growth related initiatives if, indeed, he is predisposed to a growth solution.

Friday, June 25, 2021

$18 Million in Pension Bonds Priced at 2.39% to be issued July 1

“S&P affirms Oro Valley's AA+ rating; PSPRS bond issuance at 2.39% 
S&P Global Ratings has affirmed its AA+ rating for the Town of Oro Valley's upcoming $18 million in pension obligation bonds (Public Safety Personnel Retirement System, or PSPRS). Among other things, S&P noted that the Town of Oro Valley has strong economic fundamentals, extraordinarily strong maximum annual debt service coverage, and low volatility of its sales tax collections. This rating helped the Town obtain a highly competitive interest rate of 2.39% for the bonds, which ultimately lowers the amount the Town pays for its chosen method of reducing its PSPRS unfunded liability. Bonds are projected to be issued July 1, 2021, and will be combined with $10 million in reserves, resulting in 100% funding for its public safety pension systems.”

(Source: Town of Oro Valley Press Release)
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