Wednesday, May 24, 2023

Guest View: Mike Zinkin – What Happened to the Founders’ Vision?

The Founders' Vision has been lost over the past 12 years
The reason the people incorporated Oro Valley was because they did not want to be governed by Tucson or Pima County. They wanted to protect the views, avoid traffic and pollution problems, prevent congested development, and preserve the small town feel. However, this has all but become history.

Look at how much has changed regarding allowances for developers and business establishments
We now have a 7-story retirement community under construction, a plot of land (the Marketplace) that will soon have numerous hotels and apartments, we have pre-graded lots that will be “shovel ready,” and a Council majority that doesn’t appear to adequately study the issues and simply follows staff desires, thereby disregarding the people’s wishes.

I was on the Developmental Review Board when we refused to allow In and Out Burger to have their crossed palm trees (the Council supported our decision). We did not allow the Target store to have a red “Target” sign (their trademark target could be red, but the store name had to fit the color palette of the shopping center). The blue wedge in the Best Buy store was reduced in size. There were no flashing signs allowed in store windows. A lighted sign could say ”Open” but it could not flash. A-frame signs were not allowed.

Look at how much has changed within the town council
The Vice-Mayor position used to be a ceremonial role that rotated among the existing council members. Now the Vice-Mayor serves a 4 year term that does nothing in my opinion but fulfill the ego of the individual.

We used to have Council on Your Corner meetings which allowed for two-way communication between the public and the council, instead of the council hiding behind the dais and limiting public speaking time to 3 minutes with no interaction. I remember having these meetings during the budget process to gauge the desires of the people. It now seems that the Council does not put forth any effort on the budget. They simply give staff what they want.

The Council used to care and consider the results of valid surveys. They used to ask questions of staff during budget study sessions, rather than being lectured by staff about their wishes. The Aquatic Center was a result of this belief, not splash pads and BMX tracks, which have very little constituent support.

The current Council liaison to the Amphi School Dist. does not fulfill the responsibilities put forth in Town Policy 9. When I brought this to the attention of the Councilmember, the response was, “I have not nor plan to ignore my responsibilities as Amphi Liaison. Covid has redefined this responsibility and relationship. I am requesting that the policy reflect those changes. I continue to receive and review the monthly agenda for both the Executive and General Meeting and attend as needed.” However, there has been no change to the current policy.

The Vice-Mayor voted no on an allocation of funds to support the State mandated General Fund. She said she was a “protector of the People’s money” yet insisted on a Splash Pad at Naranja Park.

Town leaders don’t seem to care about the Town’s waste of water
The Mayor refuses to realize there is a water problem in Oro Valley, as well as the Nation. Not one penny in the FY 2023/24 recommended budget is allocated to reducing the Town’s wasteful use of potable water on it properties (such as James Kriegh and Riverfront parks and the Pusch Ridge golf course.)

Major agreements with developers are not disclosed to the public
Some of you may criticize me regarding the El Con golf courses purchase in 2014, however, remember that it was a 4-3 vote. Now we have mostly 7-0 votes. The re-elected majority usually votes as a block. They allowed the former Town Manager to spend money without Council authority, as well as enter into agreements without Council oversight. There is an Economic Development Agreement with Town West that has never been made public and there is a lack of transparency. Agreements made with the developer of the high-density development in the Vistoso Preserve were also never disclosed to the public.

We’re heading in the wrong direction
Oro Valley government used to care about views, traffic, the environment, and appropriate use of monies. Now we are no different than Tucson and Marana.

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.