Friday, September 30, 2022

Bits and Pieces

Town seeks applicants for volunteer commissions
"ORO VALLEY, Ariz. (Sept. 27, 2022) – The Town of Oro Valley is accepting applications from residents who are interested in serving on a board, commission or committee. Oro Valley boards and commissions provide an opportunity for residents to be active in Town government. 

To serve on any board, commission or committee, members must be residents of Oro Valley, be able to attend the designated meetings and complete the Town’s Community Academy within their term. Those interested in applying can visit the application process on our website."

The following are fourteen openings: 
  • Budget and Finance Commission (3) 
  • Historic Preservation Commission (1) 
  • Parks and Recreation Commission (3) 
  • Planning and Zoning Commission (2) 
  • Stormwater Utility Commission (1) 
  • Water Utility Commission (3) 
  • Tucson-Pima County Bicycle Advisory Committee Representative (1)
(Source: Town of Oro Valley Press Release)

Oro Valley Police Sergeant Sanchez cited for leaving the scene
"ORO VALLEY, Ariz. (Sept. 28, 2022) - Oro Valley Police Department (OVPD) Sergeant Jose Sanchez was cited by the Pima County Sheriff’s Department (PCSD) for leaving the scene of a collision stemming from an off-duty incident on September 6, 2022. In order to avoid interfering with the investigation, OVPD was not able to advise the community until the criminal investigation by the PCSD was complete.

Inquiries regarding the details of the criminal investigation should be forwarded to the PCSD. In addition, there is an ongoing administrative investigation to determine whether any policy violations occurred. OVPD would like to thank PCSD for their professionalism throughout the investigation.

Chief Kara Riley stated “OVPD is committed to complete transparency and is now able to advise the community of this incident. The trust of our community is vitally important to us, and we will always strive to maintain that trust.” (Source: Oro Valley Police Department Press Release)

Oro Valley Town Council to retain a search firm to identify the next Town Manager
The Oro Valley Town Council met in special session Wednesday to agree upon a process for finding a new Town Manager. This became necessary when former Town Manager Mary Jacobs resigned last Friday.  The town will select among three firms using the "cooperative contract process". The cost of the search is yet to be determined. The search will be nationwide. Chris Cornelison is is now the interim town manager.  The Town Council will be integrally involved in the process.

In a press release this morning, the Mayor provided the following comment: "“We are grateful for the many years of leadership that Ms. Jacobs provided, and we wish her well in her future endeavors,” said Mayor Joe Winfield. “My fellow councilmembers and I have directed Town staff to work with a recruiting firm to conduct a nationwide search for our next Town Manager. We are committed to casting a wide net to ensure we find a quality candidate to carry on the great work of the Town in the years ahead.”
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Thursday, September 29, 2022

Guest View-Nombe Watanabe: The False Promise of the Rooftop Theory

The False Promise of the Rooftop Theory

   “Don’t it always seem to go 
     That you don’t know what you got ‘Til it’s gone
     They paved paradise 
     and put up a parking lot 
     Ohoo, bop bop bop"

    Big Yellow Taxi
    Joni Mitchell, 1970 
    [track 10 from the Ladies of the Canyon Album]

Every time developers come before the town council and ask for a zoning change or an amendment to the General Plan they trot out the golden promise of a commercial renaissance in Oro Valley. The rooftop theory, beloved by certain members of past town administrations, falsely claims that just one more subdivision will produce a cornucopia of non-chain store shopping, exciting restaurants, and a Scottsdale like paradise of entertainment and recreation.

The sad fact is that over the years none of these promises have come to pass. The only thing over development has brought us is an over abundance of mattress outlets and a few fast food shops.

Now, the usual suspects are back with a plan to add 215 Tiny homes to the intersection of Tangerine and Rancho Vistoso Blvd. 

The only changes this plan will bring to Oro Valley are horrific traffic jams, epic lines at Safeway and more water sucking development. Sorry Joni, not even a “Swinging Hot Spot”.

"Ohoo bop bop."
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Wednesday, September 28, 2022

Editorial: Jacobs Exit Is An Opportunity For A Sea Change

Opportunity knocks
The exit of Town Manager Mary Jacobs presents an opportunity for a sea change in the way things get done in Oro Valley. We've identified seven areas where change would make a huge positive difference.

1. Pitting council members against each one another 
According to our sources, Jacobs was the master of pitting one council member against another.  She would do this in private meetings with council members. This practice should never been allowed. Winfield should have banned it.

2. Make sure all spending is authorized
In a September 13 Guest View, Mike Zinkin discussed town spending that was not approved by vote of Council. Jacobs would put things into memos to council discussing what she was going to do but to not  bring it to vote. Her tactic was in violation of what we think it’s still an existing policy number six of the town council. (Panel Left-Below)

Seven Areas Of Change
3. Eliminate using "business processes" to delay (sometimes forever) things that the council voted to get done
Jacobs is a process person. Everything has to fit within her business process and its timetable. The annually developed strategic plan was the cornerstone of her process.  Everything that the Council requested during the year had to fit within that framework. 

For example, this past June, when the council finally got around to discussing the use of reclaimed water, Jacobs was successful in having this important topic tabled for a year. According to Jacobs, the topic was not in the strategic plan for 2022. It would be added as a topic at the next strategy session, the following February. Thus, we are not going to hear anything on this until next June. Perhaps we will still have water by then! 

Yes. Processes are good because they provide order. Processes are bad when they are used to delay implementing decisions that need to be done. 

An elevator, even a temporary one, at the Community Center has been approved and in the budget for the past two years. But it has not been implemented. That’s because Jacobs didn’t want to implement it. Her end goal was to completely rebuild the Community Center and to add an elevator at that time. Perhaps now, with a new town manager, the town will do something to help those who are mobility challenged get reasonable access to the Community Center.

4. Reorganize to protect the essence of Oro Valley ... not to foster unwanted growth
Jacobs has focussed town staff on growth. One way she did this is in the way she organized the to town. For example, the town's Planning and Zoning Department is an arm of the Economic Development Department. We’re not sure when it became part of an effort to influence growth in our community. 

Town Council Policy 6
The goal of the Planning and Zoning Department should be to interpret and to enforce town codes as approved in the General Plan. This is no longer the case. We have seen countless times the enthusiasm of the planning staff to recommend exceptions to Oro Valley code they just didn’t make sense. Seventy foot  tall buildings with minimal setback from Oracle Road and Tangerine Road at the Oro Valley Marketplace don’t cut it in Oro Valley. Yet the town planning staff specifically, thought this was supported by the general plan. It is not.

More recently, town Public Works Director Keesler stated that he is not advocating for the two tiny rental homes Avilla projects in Rancho Vistoso; but that it would be nice to do because it might fix a road design problem. 

5. Get "straight answers"
It's hard to get forthright information from the town.  For example, several weeks ago, we published two articles regarding the mess in the desert that has been perpetuated for several years by Meritage Homes Silverhawke Project contractors.  Since we knew for certain that the town had formally noticed Meritage of this problem, we asked the town if there was a process in which repeated violations result in escalating penalties. We were told by the town that Meritage had never had been noticed for this. Gee! We had the citation letter in our hands. We even got it from the town.

6. Cut back on Executive Sessions
The Winfield years have been marked by a significant number of Executive Sessions. These are allowed when council discusses personnel, legal or contractual issues. Oro Valley seems to have lot of these issues because the Council is always going into Executive Session. 

It seems to us as though the Council goest into Executive Session if there is even a hint of the matter touching on one of these three areas areas. For example, they were scheduled to discuss the fact that the light poles at Naranja Park are too close to the playing field in  public.  They made that an Executive Session discussion, never discussing it in public. We have no idea why they moved it from public to private discussion. They never explained it.

7. Winfield leads
Mayor Joe Winfield relied on the Town Manager. As recently as a year ago, he sent an email to a resident stating his complete trust in her. His trust was not earned by her. It was given by him.

Winfield should retain a town manager whose vision is consistent with his and with the council majority. The Mayor needs to define this vision clearly, communicate it publicly and then find someone who will implement it.

Tonight, the Council will meet to discuss the process for hiring a town manager. We hope that the process is a robust one that searches "far and wide" for the best person. 
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Tuesday, September 27, 2022

Guest View-Tim Tarris: Guess Who's Coming To Dinner?

“Guess Who’s coming to dinner?”
Upward Sports is an international multi-million-dollar operation to blend sports with religion and partners with churches such as OVCN (Oro Valley Church of the Nazarine) to do so. They are a 501(c)3 nonprofit that hugely benefits financially from their programs. The question is why are they here?

The legal team for OVCN mentions Upward Sports in their latest submission to the town. It is unlikely that OVCN could finance a project of this magnitude without Upward Sports.

Several years of tax returns of Upward Sports are available online [See 2019 tax return in panel below] or I can provide them on request. Those returns paint a picture of their business model. The churches are used as a conduit for the plan and in a tax timely fashion properties are sold. Their main facility in Spartanburg, South Carolina is now for sale (all or individual pieces) to any comers. This is the same sports complex they presented as being needed to continue their mission. If it is closing, what happened to the youth and ministry?

The church deliberately delayed town meetings and Town Council consideration until after the recent election in hopes of a church member candidates being elected and thus providing a favorable Council for their initiative. This did not happen.

Anyone interested or affected should take a hard look at Upward Sports. Many people are making a great deal of money from this real estate venture in disguise. The effort by OVCN to minister to youth through sports is overshadowed by their association with Upward Sports and what they bring to the community.

It's the elephant in the room….

As Ronald Reagan used to say “Trust but verify”. 
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Tim Tarris is a long time Oro Valley resident and member of the Concordia/Buena Vista Group. They are the neighbors who reside in the area of town where the Oro Valley Church of the Nazarine (OVCN) wants to build a sports facility. That location is the intersection of Concordia and Buena Vista.  All neighbors oppose the rezoning required to make this happen. Tarris delivered his remarks to the Oro Valley Town Council last Wednesday. Read more about this situation.

Monday, September 26, 2022

Town Manager Jacobs Resigns After Proposing "Laundering" ARPA Funds

Jacobs resigns
Town Manager Mary Jacobs resigned Friday. We do not know the reasons behind this. We do know that she proposed a money laundering scheme regarding $5.38million in ARPA funds. This happened at the Town Council meeting last Wednesday. You can read about this scheme in this article.

We do know that council conducted her annual review as scheduled after she had proposed this scheme. 
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Jacobs proposed laundering ARPA funds 

Jacobs and her staff tried to “pull a fast one”. She put an item, Consent Agenda, item 2, on last week’s council meeting, which was an item that clearly needed discussion. Consent Agenda items are not discussed at the meeting unless a council member requests that the item be pulled for discussion. Otherwise, Consent Agenda items are voted on as a block.

The item called for the council to approve a loan of  $5.38 million from the General Fund to the Water Utility Fund.  These funds were received from the federal government as part of the ARPA award. ARPA required that the funds be used for water infrastructure projects. Under Jacobs’ scheme, the utility would pay back this money with interest over time. 

Rather than simply gifting the money from the town to the Water Utility to build infrastructure, Jacobs wanted to lend the money to the Water Utility so that the town can get it back and use it for another purpose, one not related to the federal allowable use of these funds.

As council member Steve Solomon pointed out at the council meeting, the scheme sounds like the town is trying to get around federal regulations for the use of the money because the town will get the money back and then use it for some other, non ARPA allowable purpose.

Solomon was exactly right.  

The Water Utility was the conduit for the sham transaction
Speaking in defense of the loan arrangement, Town Manager Mary Jacobs said that the money that the utility will be getting would be the ARPA funds which carry the restriction that be used for water infrastructure.  According to Jacobs, the money the town will get back in loan repayment and interest would be unrestricted. It will not get back ARPA funds. The funds would be from the general revenues of the Water Utility.

Attention all.

This is called “money laundering”.

Gephart: It's OK to do this because the Water Utility is an enterprise fund
Town Finance Director David Gephart justified the scheme because he felt that the town should not simply transfer the money to the utility.  Gephart said that the reason that a loan has been proposed is because the Water Utility is supposed to be a self sustaining (“An Enterprise Fund”) entity. Thus, anything that has to do with the Water Utility, including administrative services that are provided by the town must be paid by the utility.

The loan approach, according to Gephart, provides the appearance that the Water Utility is self-supporting. Gephart also explained that the town had no alternative but to use this money for the Water Utility system. That’s because any other allowable uses were just not feasible for the town.

So, why not just gift the money to the Water Utility Fund and be done with it? After all, these ARPA monies were gifted to the town by the federal government  The funds are intended to be used for water infrastructure projects.  In this case, the town’s general fund is merely a conduit to get the money to the town-owned Water Utility Fund because the Water Utility did not get the funds get directly from the federal government.

Jacobs tried to do this "in the dark of night" by putting the item on the “Consent Agenda” segment of the town council meeting
Jacobs claimed at the meeting that she wrote about this loan transaction in April. Council Member Bohen agreed that he found it buried in a document council received back then. The members never discussed it then because they were never really aware of it.

It would not have been discussed last week had it not been for the sharp eyes of Bohen, Jones-Ivey and Solomon. The former two asked for the item to be pulled from the Consent Agenda for discussion. Solomon identified the transaction for the “sham” that it is.

Former Town Manager Jacobs tried to put "one past them." 

Fortunately, she failed.
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Saturday, September 24, 2022

Town Manager Mary Jacobs Resigns

Town Manager Mary Jacobs resigned yesterday
Jacobs was with the town for five years. We do not know detailed reasons for her resignation. What we do know is that it comes after she attempted on Wednesday to get the council to approve, without discussion, a scheme to launder certain federal ARPA funds for use in a non approved manner. You can read more about that Monday.

That same night, council held an Executive Session annual review of Jacobs’ performance. That review happened after her advocacy of the sham transaction.

Her resignation Friday followed that council performance review.
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Friday, September 23, 2022

Bits and Pieces

OV SafeSteps program wins national award in communications and marketing
ORO VALLEY, Ariz. (Sept. 19, 2022) – The Town of Oro Valley is pleased to announce that the OV SafeSteps program won first place in the 2022 City-County Communications & Marketing Association’s (3CMA) Savvy Award category of Communications and Marketing Tools: Printed Publications – COVID PR. The award was presented on September 7 at the 3CMA Annual Conference in Portland, Oregon. (Source: Town of Oro Valley Press Release)

Register now for the Fall 2022 Community Academy 
ORO VALLEY, Ariz. (Sept. 21, 2022) – Would you like to know more about local government and the Oro Valley community? Then we invite you to register for the Town of Oro Valley’s Fall 2022 Community Academy. For 25 years, the Town has been hosting this free, informative series to help residents understand more about town governance, finances, development, zoning, parks, roadways and more. Please register by October 1 to reserve your spot. (Source: Town of Oro Valley Press Release)

Oro Valley shows outstanding financial results for fiscal 2022
Financial results for fiscal 2022, which ended on June 30, are being finalized. According to Assistant Finance Director Wendy Gomez, results are outstanding. General Fund Revenues [panel right],the town’s primary operating fund, exceeded budget by 18%, led by local sales tax revenues which were 31% over budget.  State shared revenues were 11% over budget.

General Funding spending was 5% under budget. This was caused by a shift in planned spending for Westward Look improvements, to this fiscal year; and a savings from not having to make a principal payment on the pension obligation bonds

Oro Valley Awarded $3.5 million for multi-use path
The Pima County Association of Governments (“PAG”) awarded the Town of Oro Valley $3.5 million for the construction of the multi-use path along Naranja, from First Avenue to La Canada. The award was based on a town submission that received quick turnaround, according to Town Manager Mary Jacobs. These are federal funds. (Source: Manager Report To Council, Town of Oro Valley Council meeting, 9-21-22)

Fall Parks and Recreation Program Guide is available on line
"This seasonal guide includes details on Oro Valley’s 2022 fall break camp options (registration now open), as well as upcoming community events, activities, facility information and more." View the program online here or download a pdf version here.
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