Friday, August 28, 2015

Bits and Pieces

Adler sponsors September event on Pima County bonds and on environment challenges
Oro Valley resident Bill Adler is sponsoring a public awareness event regarding this November's Pima County Bond election. "I have asked Carolyn Campbell of the Coalition for Sonoran Desert Protection to speak to citizens on the ballot issue, pros cons; and her commitment to wildlife over and underpasses at Oracle road."

The discussion will be at 2pm, September 9. It will be in the general meeting room of the 2pm at the Oro Valley Public Library.

Carolyn's talk will be followed by a question and answer session and then followed by a general discussion on a few world topics, including the pending Iran agreement and the debate over the quality of the US criminal Justice System.

Sign up with Amy.Williams@pima.gov

KOLD and Mayor Hiremath enthuse about Oro Valley
TV Station KOLD teamed with the Town Of Oro Valley and Mayor Hiremath to create a 2 minute video extolling the virtues of life in Oro Valley. Front and center is a discussion of the Oro Valley Community center and all its amenities. The video is posted on the town's web site.

The piece is part of of KOLD's "Business File" series. It is hosted by Joan Lee of KOLD.

The interview is not an independent news report. It appears to be an advertising piece. According to the town, Oro Valley has a contract with Raycom Broadcasting (Tucson News Now-TV Channel 7), for regional online/digital advertising. (Source: Email communications with between LOVE and the Town Of Oro Valley).

Wilcat Tennis at El Conquistar Country Club in October
The University of Arizona will host its third women's tennis wildcat invitational in October. "The team will host the Wildcat Invitational Tournament for a third consecutive year. The event takes place Oct. 2-4th at the El Conquistador Country Club in Oro Valley. This will be the first opportunity for fans to see the 2015-16 Wildcats in action. Visiting teams include Tulane, New Mexico, Marquette, Utah State and Northern Arizona"

Candidates File Nomination Papers
This week  two more candidates, Steve Didio and Shirl Lamonna, filed their nomination papers. This will make them "official" candidates for council on the November ballot. As previously reported, Pat Straney has already filed his nomination petitions.

Wednesday, Resident Steve Didio submitted 827 signatures. This is well over the 526 signatures required for a council candidate. "So now it's on to the Recall Election in November," writes Steve.

Mail-in ballots will be sent out on October 8. The walk-in election is November 3.

Oro Valley To Host Flag Raising Ceremony on September 11
"Join the Town of Oro Valley in a day of remembrance on Friday, September 11, 2015, at 8:30 a.m. as we raise the inaugural flag on a new flag pole at the Oro Valley Community & Recreation Center, 10555 N. La Cañada Drive. A moment of silence will be held for the lives lost on 9/11." Learn more at panel on left.
(Source: Town Of Oro Valley Press Release)

Oro Valley Police Department has room in upcoming police "Citizen Academy"
"The Oro Valley Police Department (OVPD) is hosting a Citizen Academy starting September 1, 2015. The goal of the Citizen Academy is to provide information about police operations and increase rapport and trust through an educational process. For more information, contact Officer Rick Rendon at 520-229-2900 or rrendon@orovalleyaz.gov" (Source: Oro Valley Police Department Press Release)

Oro Valley and Tohono Chul Park to hold public hearings on "Event Pavilion"
"The Town of Oro Valley, in partnership with Tohono Chul Park, will hold two public meetings to gather stakeholder input and present an overview of a proposed event pavilion at the park.

The public meetings are a result of a July 1, 2015 Town Council Meeting, in which Council directed staff to enter into a public-private partnership with Tohono Chul Park to perform a feasibility study for the construction of an event pavilion, to include stakeholder meetings.

The dates for the public hearings are:

Thursday, September 3, 2015
4 - 6 p.m.
(4 p.m. site tour; 4:30-6 p.m. presentation and discussion)
Tohono Chul Park - Wilson Room of the Garden Bistro, 7366 N. Paseo del Norte
Presentation and Discussion from 4:30 - 6:00 p.m.

Thursday, September 24, 2015
5:30 - 6:30 p.m.
Town of Oro Valley Council Chambers, 11000 N. La Cañada Drive"
(Source: Town Of Oro Valley Press Release)

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

The Dots Connect Between Mayor Hiremath and HSL Properties

On May 2, 2014...
Mayor Hiremath receives a $5,000 political campaign donation from Humberto S. Lopez. Lopez is not an Oro Valley resident. Lopez owns and operates Tucson-based, HSL Properties. The amount of the contribution is so large that Mayor Hiremath amends his campaign filing report to split the donation between Mr. Lopez and his wife.

From June through December 2014
Mayor Hiremath leads a negotiation between Town Of Oro Valley and Lopez' HSL Properties to purchase and operate the El Conquistador Country Club. Oro Valley will make this purchase once HSL buys the Hilton El Conquistador Hotel and Resort out of bankruptcy.

Though other council members could have been appointed to lead this effort, Mayor Hiremath takes the lead in these negotiations. He does not recuse himself. That would have alleviated concerns by the public of a conflict of interest.

The deal is rushed to council because, according the Hiremath, HSL must have an answer on whether Oro Valley will buy the property because "...there are 2 other buyers in line." He does not identify the other buyers. None materialize after a 6 month delay in the actual purchase. As a result, people believe that there were no other buyers.

The deal negotiated by Hiremath is of great benefit to HSL Properties (See panel on right).

December 17...
The deal goes before council for final approval. There is a "faux" public hearing.

Many respected Oro Valley residents speak on the matter. They include residents you may not know like Marv Snyder, George Kates, Bill Ayers and Wally Vetty. They include some you should know like Helen and Alan Denkwerth.

The vast majority of the 39 speakers are either against the purchase or urge greater caution before making the purchase decision. They raise issues such as inadequate plans, financial forecasts that are far too optimistic, the negative impact on property taxes because the town, and not a private enterprise, will own the golf course, the downturn in the game of golf, and Oro Valley going into competition with private enterprise.

One Oro Valley resident, Lori Pettijohn, reminds the council that not all people who live in Oro Valley can afford the sales tax increase to pay for this transaction. Her family is a military family. She reminds the Mayor: "Not everyone has a dentist's income."

The deal is so confusing, so rushed and so poorly studied that the minority says that they will vote "no."

The Mayor brooks no motion to delay the decision. "I promised HSL that they would have an 'up or down' decision tonight."

A vote ensues. It is 4-3.

Mayor Hiremath and council members Hornat, Snider and Waters approve the purchase of  45 holes of golf, tennis courts, 2 small swimming pools, a snack bar, a full service restaurant, and a clubhouse. They state that the town will convert the clubhouse into a community and recreation center.

Next, the four approve a sales tax increase from 2.0% to 2.5%, a 25% increase in the rate, to cover some of the losses from the golf course and community center.

The result...
This deal splits Oro Valley residents apart such that residents become active. Some form a PAC to put the purchase to a vote. This effort fails because of the use of the wrong reference number on the petition form. Others turn to their next avenue: A recall vote on the four incumbents. They spend enormous effort (See Monday's post) to make this happen.

Their assertion is that Mayor Hiremath and council members Hornat, Snider and Waters disregarded substantial resident input against the deal or the caution that further study and public vetting be done. They assert that the four ignored the fact that a 25% increase in the sales tax rate has a significant impact on families who are struggling to make ends meet. They assert that the Town Of Oro Valley should not be in competition with private enterprise. They assert that the purchase commits Oro Valley to multi-million dollar deficit spending on the golf course. They assert that the purchase commits Oro Valley to decades of a contract with Troon Golf to manage and operate the course and the restaurant even if these facilities lose money (Town forecasts show millions is losses).

As LOVE reported Monday, Mayor Hiremath and council members Hornat, Snider and Waters, the four being recalled, have yet to directly address these assertions. Instead, they focus on anything but what they did since last August.

November 3...
 The trail of "quid pro quo" between Mayor Hiremath and Lopez is documented by fact. Lopez donated $5,000 to Hiremath's reelection in May. In December, Oro Valley facilitated Lopez' purchase of the El Conquistador Resort. Oro Valley did so by purchasing and then agreeing to operate, virtually in perpetuity, 45 holes of money losing golf. It is Hiremath who led the negotiations and who pushed the purchase through with the help of council members Hornat, Snider and Waters.

It is possible that these events are non connected. It could be a coincidence.

What do you think?

This is what actually happened. It's documented. However, the story is not complete.

You will write the rest of the story on November 3.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Heather's Corner: The Best Of Heather

Heather's Corner will return September 8.

In the meantime, take a  moment to read some of her many prior columns. Which did you like best?

Monday, August 24, 2015

Incumbents Must Address The Issues Raised By Their Recall Election

Oro Valley voters face a recall election decision on November 3. Do they want to retain Mayor Hiremath and council members Hornat, Snider and Waters? Or do they want to replace them?

Making this decision will be challenging. They will need to choose between two very different views regarding what this election is about.

The incumbents assert that voters should look at this election as if it were a general election. They assert, through their web sites, that the voter should judge them on their 5-year record of service (Source: web sites of the incumbents).

The challengers assert that this is not a general election. It is a recall election. The four incumbents should be replaced because of what the incumbents did during the past year.

There is a recall election because of a rushed purchase of golf courses from a major campaign contributor; and a decision to fund millions in losses through a sales tax increase. The purchase places Oro Valley in competition with private golf courses and restaurants.

Oro Valley's recall election is a reality because a large number of voters were so angst by this transaction that they expended enormous effort (see insert right) to make a recall election happen. They want Mayor Hiremath and Council Members Hornat, Snider and Waters replaced.

Specifically, they assert that these four elected officials acted improperly by:
  • Negotiating for and purchasing the El Conquistador Country Club
  • Hurrying the transaction
  • Basing their decision on last minute, possibly misleading information
  • Ignoring significant unfavorable citizen input
  • Negotiating for and purchasing the property from one of their major campaign contributors, thus lacking sufficient independence to make a decision on behalf of the people of the community
  • Signing an agreement that benefited this contributor by requiring the town to maintain the golf courses for decades
  • Purchasing a stream of millions of dollars of losses to fund the golf courses
  • Increasing the sales tax to pay for these losses
In response, the four incumbents and Oro Valley Town Administrator Greg Caton have asserted that the Town Of Oro Valley got a "bargain" sales price ($1million paid over three years) for the land and buildings, refurbished tennis courts, two swimming pools, and a clubhouse that the town is converting to a community center. They further assert that this is a better alternative than building a community center in Naranja Park. This is where the center was to be.

Voters must decide: Was getting a community center so important as to overshadow the manner in which it was done, the acquisition of golf courses and an increase in the sales tax?
As one recall supporter wrote us:
"Mayor Hiremath and Council Members Hornat, Snider and Waters have had total disregard for the wishes of the citizens. The fact is: Over 65% of all the citizen input on the El Con deal was 'don't do it'.
Council Member Hornat said; 'They [the people] don't make the decisions'.
My response is: 'Yes. You are correct; but your job is to reflect what the people want'.  The El Con deal brought to a head that the Majority-4 have no concern for anybody except their special interest community and those who agree with them."
Those who support the transaction include members of the El Conquistador Country Club, those who live on property abutting the golf course, and the Greater Oro Valley Chamber of Commerce.

The voters need to hear directly from Mayor Hiremath and Council Members Hornat, Snider and Waters about the key issues:
  • Why did they feel that they were "independent" in making this purchase from a major campaign contributor? 
  • Why did they not order that detailed feasibility studies be done to compare the option of building a community center at Naranja Park to the purchase of the El Conquistador Country Club?
  • Why were they justified in committing future generations to debt by entering the Town Of Oro Valley into a several decade agreement to own and operate golf courses for the benefit of a private enterprise?
  • Why did they rush the decision without doing detailed due diligence or holding true public hearings?
  • In what way did they consider the obvious anger of at least half the community?
  • Whey did they feel justified in raising the sales tax to accomplish this? 
  • Why should the town, as a result, be in competition with private golf courses and restaurants in our community?
To date, the incumbents have chosen to not address these key issues. 
In fact, their websites indicate that they do not want to do so. Only one of the sites even mentions the purchase of the El Conquistador Country Club.

The purchase of the El Conquistador Country Club is what they need to talk about.

At some point they will need to answer these questions.

It will be up to the challengers to make them do so.

Friday, August 21, 2015

Bits and Pieces


Oro Valley's Golf Course losing even more than projected
Mayor Hiremath, Council Members Hornat, Snider and Waters and the Town Of Oro Valley do not tout the financial results of Oro Valley's new golf course. Though they would like you to think otherewise, the golf course is the centerpiece of why they face recall in November.

The financial results of the golf course are awful!

The July results for golf at the El Conquistador Country Club golf course are in. Total revenue from Golf was $98,781 That is $65,826 less than the budget. That is a 40% shortfall from the Troon based budget of $164,608.

Remember, every dollar of lost revenue increases the loss by $1. This is a loss of  in addition to what the town projected the golf course would lose in July. That number was a loss of $259,252. Add this loss in, and we project that course lost well over $325,000 in just one month.

Why didn't the revenue even come close to plan? Actual rounds were only 71.82% of the projected rounds. Actual revenue per round were only 83.56% of projected revenue.

Troon, the contract manager of the golf course, projected in the budget for July 4,556 rounds of golf at $36.13 per round. The actual number of round played in July was 3,272 at $30.19 per round.

As of July, there are a total of 198 golf members.

Fortunately, Oro Valley's minority council members are keeping a close eye on the situation. This from council member Brendan Burns: "If we continue on the trajectory of achieving only 71.82% of the projected rounds and only 83.56% of projected revenue, the effect on our budget will be catastrophic"

Our feeling is that Oro Valley is in big trouble even if it reaches what now appear to be optimistic financial projections.

Others question Oro Valley's sustainability
This from council member Mike Zinkin: "At the League of Cities and Towns I reconnected with friends from throughout the State. The common question was: What is going on in Oro Valley? When I told them about the purchase of 45 holes of golf, a restaurant and a bunch of tennis course, they had one common question: 'How confident are you that Oro Valley can sustain themselves into the future?'"

Mike's conclusion: "With losses on the golf course alone, not including the the community enter and restaurant, along with the needed improvements, I am not very confident that Oro Valley can continue without robbing the Contingency Fund or asking for a bond."  

Are you kidding? Hornat claims to be a"Proven Fiscal Conservative"
Council Member Joe Hornat lists "proven fiscal conservative" as a reason that you should vote for him in November. He provides no facts to support his assertion. We see no basis for it.

The fact is that, while he has been on council, Oro Valley spending has nearly doubled. He voted to double the utility tax. He voted to increase the sales tax one half percent. His actual actions make him a big spender.

Cox creates website supporting Majority-4
Oro Valley resident Don Cox has created a web site to support the Majority-4. This one is funded by his Triple-E Pac. You can see it at http://www.keepovstrong.com. The site uses the same picture as the ""Stand For Civility" site that is funded by Council Members Hornat, Snider and Waters.

According to Cox: "Triple E PAC was formed in January 2015, for the purpose of informing folks about what turned out to be a botched referendum effort. Since then the purpose has changed and it is now being used to show support for the Mayor, and the three council persons. We are receiving support from a broad base of constituents and keepovstrong.com is one of the products of that support. You'll see more."

Bristow creates "Accountable Government Now"-A PAC seeking change
Oro Valley resident Don Bristow created a PAC called "Accountable Government Now" ("AGN"). According to their press release: "Accountable Government Now has a two-fold purpose. First, to assure Steve Didio, Ryan Hartung, Shirl Lamonna and Patrick (Pat) Straney get elected to serve us, the residents, on the Oro Valley Town Council. Second, to help these new candidates overcome the misinformation and half-truths being put out there by the group of 4; Mayor Hiremath and Councilmembers Hornat, Snider, and Waters. Our messages will be truthful and informative"

Learn more here.

Has The Community Center rebuild gone awry?
The town is refurbishing the El Conquistador Country Club house and restaurant to try to make it into a community center. It held design meetings for the public in the past several weeks seeking resident input. We received several reports on the meeting.

According to these reports:
  • "The people attending the first meeting were former Country Club members who wanted the restaurant redone. It's as though they want to have a country club at our expense."
  • At the second one, there a large numbers of the Oro Valley Youth Advisory Board requesting all sorts of fun stuff. Most of them will ever use it given that they are graduating and leaving town. 
"Attendees at the second meeting was almost exclusively from three groups: The old youth advisory council, current members of the community center, Majority-4 sycophants.This is not  a cross section of Oro Valley residents," writes one resident.

The resident warns: "If the residents don't like the final outcome/impact of the comm center they have no one to blame but themselves." 

"Full steam ahead" on community center restaurant
Paul Kessler of Oro Valley's Development and Infrastructure Department, stated at the community center remolding meeting of August 17, that support for a restaurant was overwhelming.  Therefore, planning for a full scale restaurant and bar is proceeding.

One resident wrote us: "I would like to know when and how it was determined support was overwhelming. I do know at the first remolding meeting there was overwhelming support. Overwhelming meaning approximately 30 current members, including Hornat and Waters and their wives."

The resident continued: "There has been no effective public outreach since the first meeting. It is full speed ahead with what the Council and staff want with little input for all Oro Valley citizens. The citizens are paying 1/2% sales tax to remodel and operate this facility. It isn't owned by the small percentage of residents/non-residents who are members."

We wonder: Why does Oro Valley want to compete with private enterprise?

Better option: Close the restaurant down; Use the space for community center.

Rape Aggression Defense class begins this weekend
Oro Valley, Arizona (August 19, 2015) - The Oro Valley Police Department (OVPD) is hosting a free self-defense class called Rape Aggression Defense (R.A.D). The training is for females ages 15 and older.

R.A.D. System is a program of realistic, self-defense tactics and techniques. It begins with awareness, prevention, risk reduction and avoidance, while progressing on to the basics of hands-on defense training.

The dates for the next course are August 22 and 29, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Oro Valley Church of the Nazarene East Campus, 440 W. Calle Concordia.

Attendees should wear comfortable workout attire, as this is a physical class. Please bring a lunch. To register, contact Sgt. Amy Graham at (520) 229-5081. (Oro Valley Police Department Press Release)

Thursday, August 20, 2015

LOVE Needs Your Help

As many of you know, LOVE has been a successful local blog for many years and have amassed a significant group of followers. Though we do have Heathers Corner on Tuesdays and occasional pieces from intermittent contributors, we are looking to expand to offer a more well-rounded approach to providing our readers with as much information as possible. In order to do so we need your help!

Currently we would like to open up Thursdays to all of you who have something to say. This could be a letter you would like us to publish, a special picture or story you'd like to share about Oro Valley, or anything else on your mind. Please keep in mind if we do publish your contribution, our rules established for leaving comments apply to your contributions as well.

We are also looking for more permanent contributors as well. Currently we are seeking anyone interested in:
  • tech support
And those interested in writing pieces, this could mean anywhere from once a month or more frequent based on your preference, on these subjects to name a few:
  • Goings On in Oro Valley
  • Nature/Environment
  • History
  • RealEstate
  • Businesses
If you are interested in contributing and helping LOVE expand please contact us for more details. We look forward to hearing from you!!

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Both Sides Mounting Efforts On Pima County Bonds

There are 2 groups of which we know that are actively involved in the Pima County Bond Election. One "Yes on Pima County Bonds" is for the bond issue. The other, "Taxpayers Against Pima County Bonds" is against. They also have a second web site of Pima Bond Facts.

Business and government special interests support the bonds
The group for the bond election is comprised of those businesses and government entities that will get direct benefit from these bond funds. For example, they have the endorsement of the Arizona Transportation Builders Association. It's members will benefit greatly from the contracts that will result from these bonds. Other supporters include Banner Health, Campus Research Corporation, Tucson Medical Center and Diamond Ventures, Inc. None of these groups represent the taxpayer. Other supporters include Western Parks Association and workmen's comp company Copperpoint Insurance. (Source) They all get something if you approve these bonds.

You can read more about their support for the bonds here. You can read more about the concerns of some of those enterprises who benefit form the bonds here.

Little guys against these bonds
In contrast, the taxpayers who will have to pay for the Bonds are the ones against these bonds. As of July 19, that group raised about $4,000, a small sum.

This group asks:  "If big business likes these 99 Bond projects so much why are they not funding them themselves? Are these businesses making money from any of the Bond projects they are supporting? Business taxes will skyrocket from these 7 Bonds, will these businesses be paying those taxes?"
 

Are Pima's bonds a bad deal for Oro Valley property owners?
Last February, we presented an analysis of how bonding disproportionately impacts the pocketbooks of Oro Valley property owners. In that posting, we factually supported the position that residents of "wealthier" communities such as Oro Valley (and the Foothills) subsidize projects for other county communities, paying almost twice what they could if they financed the projects ourselves. In return, this time around, Oro Valley would get $10million for Naranja Park and $15million for a business accelerator.

In April, Oro Valley's representative to the Pima County Board of Supervisors, Ally Miller, expressed her view of the bond package. Essentially, she sees it as a bad deal all around and a bad deal for Oro Valley property owners.

You will make the choice on November 3.