Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Heather's Corner: Russell Ranch School for Boys: An Oro Valley Legend for Those Who Attended

Nestled behind a few trees, just north of the entrance to the Catalina State Park, on Oracle Rd. lies Cielo Tierra Ranch. Now a sleepy ranch with attached boarding stables, it was once a prestigious boarding school for boys, grades 7 through 10, and therefore holds a special place in Oro Valley history.

The ranch school movement began in the western United States in the early 1900's as a way to provide education for those families living in remote rural areas. However, it wasn't long before they gathered attention from Easterners, who could afford to, that would send their children to boarding school to receive an education based on experiencing nature, the west, and gaining independence, was all the rage. Arizona led the way for national ranch schools, most of which were in the Tucson area, until the movement declined in the 1960's and most were closed.

Rev. Robert Russell, a Presbyterian clergyman from Larchmont, New York, opened Russell Ranch School in 1938. A graduate of Princeton Theological Seminary, he remained the school's headmaster until it closed in 1950. The school has been described as having a main ranch house, a library, craft room, boy's dormitory, several classrooms, and a large corral with horseback riding every day.

Many dignified men have recounted their time spent at the school through interviews and books, including colonels, authors, and at one time, a Rockefeller was said to have attended. Award winning author of 16 books, John Duncklee, describes his time in a memoir, I bit the Silverspoon:
"One of my greatest joys at Russell Ranch School, besides riding my horse, were the Saturdays when the early morning light began flooding the western side of the mountains. With my roommate still snoring, I would open the window and sneak out into the pasture through the barbed wire fence. With the heavy growth of mesquite trees to hide me, I walked toward the mountains, crossed the Cañada del Oro and headed for Ram's Canyon, which is a major drainage from the foothills."
I share with you, that I too, have spent some time on that ranch though it is a bit different now. The dorm rooms have been converted to casitas, the once library holds storage, and there is a pool to use on the hottest of summer days. I assure you, the sense of history remains strong, and those who have spent time on the ranch, have shared in the folklore of stories from the mischievous boys at the school to the" hippie compound" it became in the 1970's.

If any of you have stories to share about Russell Ranch School, we'd love to hear from you!

Monday, January 26, 2015

Guest View-Art Segal: Its Deja Vu All Over Again

A number of years ago, before many of our citizens made Oro Valley their home, a handful of residents initiated a group, Stop Oro Valley Outrageous Giveaways---(SOVOG). The group came about to fight the then majority council who determined it was in our best interests to offer three developers approximately $42 million dollars in our future sales tax revenue to develop three parcels in Oro Valley.

The most egregious of these “giveaways” went to Vestar, a Phoenix based developer who assured the residents they would bring us an “upscale, unique” shopping mall on the land that subsequently became The Oro Valley Marketplace. For those of you that were not living here at the time, you might wonder, “What am I missing? There’s no “unique, upscale” shopping mall there. All I see is a Walmart and other big box stores!”

Well---what happened was this. The people who bought into the Vestar sales pitch, got totally snookered. The end result is, we gave (still giving) Vestar something like $23 million dollars of our sales tax revenue.

SOVOG fought this giveaway as best we could, and if memory serves, after six court appearances, we finally achieved our goal of overriding 4 council members (two of whom were defeated in the next election, one retired, and one got defeated in a future election), and were able to get the issue to the voters.

Sadly, we couldn’t compete with Vestar’s advertising blitz, and the result was the aforementioned Marketplace.

So much for history. That brings us to where we are today. Once again, a majority of 4 council members have bought into a developers sales pitch and determined it is in our best interests to buy 45 holes of old golf courses, in the need of much repair and upkeep, not to mention a Country Club facility that is decades old, and hardly worth the millions of dollars necessary to bring it “up to snuff.”

Quoting Yogi Berra, the ex New York Yankee Hall of Famer: “It’s deja vu all over again.”

Once again, the people of Oro Valley find themselves in the unenviable position of being forced to do something that 4 people believe is in our best interests. Once again, it’s a developer with deep pockets that has supported the election of those council members with the credo; “You scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours".

There’s only one difference between then and now. Then, it took an election or two to dump those that thought they could get away with their egregious actions. This time, hopefully, we the people will “take the bull by the horns,” and initiate a recall petition to rid ourselves of these four.

For the record, we’re talking about Mayor Hiremath and Council Members Hornat, Snider and Waters. Oro Valley will be a better place the quicker these four can do no more damage.

To use another cliche: “Strike While The Iron Is Hot.” Initiate a recall petition. Get the required signatures. Get four new candidates that will work for us, not the Special Interests, and watch as we Let Oro Valley Excel!
Art Segal is a long time resident of Oro Valley. He is also the cofounder of Let Oro Valley Excel. Art has worked tirelessly for our community for many years. We always welcome his comments and his wisdom. Click here to read about LOVE, Art, Freedom of Speech, Oro Valley, and the Goldwater Institute.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

SPECIAL: TOOTHINOV.ORG Files In Court Against The Town Of Oro Valley

Residents Shirl Lamonna and Debra Arret have filed suit to get the TOOTHINOV.ORG filed petitions approved. The goal of TOOTHINOV.ORG is to allow the residents of Oro Valley to vote on the town's purchase of the El Conquistador Country Club. Oro Valley Town Clerk Julie Bower rejected petitions  on the basis that they had a clerical error.  The suit asserts that this reason for rejection is merely "window dressing" and an excuse to deny a vote to the citizens.

More than 3,100 registered Oro Valley voters signed the petition. A number of residents attended this past Wednesday' council meeting to express their disgust with this rejection. They spoke at the "call to audience" portion the meeting.

The following are 3 videos of the resident's remarks:

The following is the status of this suit as posted on TOOTHINOV.ORG.

"On Fri, January 23rd, William R. Risner, Esq, filed a Statutory Special Action (Mandamus) against Defendant Julie K. Bower, Oro Valley Town Clerk, on behalf of Plaintiffs Debra Arrett and Shirl Lamonna in Pima County Superior Court.

The stated reasons for rejection (of the referendum petitions) by Julie K. Bower, are based on non-substantive window dressing that she used to deny the fundamental constitutional right of referendum.

To the extent that the "number (R)14-66" printed on the right hand corners of the petitions and not the "number REF14-01" is used to deny Oro Valley residents their right to referendum such denial is a denial of their constitutional right to referendum. Thus, that requirement is itself unconstitutional either on its face or as applied.

This action shall be advanced on the court's calendar and heard by the court as soon as possible by the Honorable Gus Aragon."

Friday, January 23, 2015

Bits and Pieces: Hornat's Hook, an Oro Valley "Skyscraper" and More (Updated 6-24-15)

It Was Hornat and Friends Who Put Themselves "On The Hook"

Wednesday, Council Member Joe Hornat said that he was sorry that there was not going to be a vote on the Oro Valley purchase of the El Conquistador Country Club. He said this at the end of the call to audience portion of this past Wednesday's council meeting. Joe said he was sorry because a public vote would have "taken us off the hook."

We wish to remind Council Member Hornat that is he and his Majority-4 colleagues who put themselves on the hook. What Hornat should have done was to use the common sense he prides himself in having and he wouldn't be on the hook at all.  Nor would the people of Oro Valley.

Council Approves Oro Valley's Second 5 Story Building

The Majority-4 of the Oro Valley Town Council voted to approve Oro Valley's first  5 story building. The minority 3 voted against it. The building will be behind the Home Depot on the southern piece of what is called the Rooney Ranch North property. The facility will be part of what is called Nakomy Sky Senior Living Campus. According to the town staff report on the property:

"A significant portion of this building will be naturally shielded from view from 1st Avenue by a hillside area, but the building will be significantly visible from Oracle Road and the CDO Bridge."

This is the second 5 story building that has been approved for Oro Valley. The first 5 story building to be approved has not been built. It is a hotel on the Rooney Ranch property at 1st and Oracle. The location of the hotel is further east than the new aproval, up the hillside in an adjacent parcel within the same Rooney Ranch property. This was approved in the Planned Area Development that included a Main Street design for the lower portion where the CVS is located now.

Winner announced for Shop OV Holiday Campaign $500 grand prize

Oro Valley, Arizona (January 20, 2015) - Oro Valley resident, Rebecca Taber is the winner of a random drawing for a $500 OV Dollars gift card sponsored by the Greater Oro Valley Chamber of Commerce as part of the Shop Oro Valley Holiday Campaign. Taber's receipt was one of 909 that were submitted during the nine-week campaign, for a total of more than $58,000 dollars spent at 108 Oro Valley businesses. (Source: Town Of Oro Valley Press Release)

Four teenagers arrested for burglary in Oro Valley

Oro Valley, Arizona (January 19, 2015) - On January 18, 2015 at approximately 2:40 a.m. Oro Valley Police Department (OVPD) responded to the Walgreens at Lambert and La Canada in reference to a burglary alarm. Officers arrived on scene within a few minutes and observed a male leaving the business and running towards the rear of the business. After a short foot pursuit he was taken into custody. Officers found the front door glass smashed in and several packs of cigarettes and alcohol on the ground of the Walgreens. (Source: Town Of Oro Valley Press Release)

Children's Museum To Possibly Open In Spring

TucsonNewsNow reports that the Tucson Children's Museum will open its Oro Valley doors this spring. The 3,000 square foot facility will be located in the Steam Pump Village Shopping Center.

Oro Valley Schedules Special February To Educate Public About El Conquistador Country Club and Community Center

Oro Valley Schedules February Open Houses To Discuss Community Center

Oro Valley, Arizona (January 23, 2015) - The Town of Oro Valley is planning a series of open house meetings in February to discuss the acquisition of the El Conquistador Country Cub and plans to convert it into a community and recreation center. Town officials want to provide information to the public and hear directly from residents.

The first of those meetings will be held Monday, February 2, 2015 at 6 p.m. in the El Conquistador Country Club Sunset Meeting Room, 10555 N. La Cañada Drive.

Town Officials and a representative from Troon Golf will be on hand to present information and field questions from those in attendance.

Residents who are unable to attend this meeting can attend a future meeting or submit their questions and comments to Oro Valley Constituent Services online or by calling 229-4711.
(Source: Town Of Oro Valley Press Release)

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

UPDATE: Oro Valley Clerk Rejects Petitions

The Arizona Daily Independent has a news report of this matter.  Here is a link for you to read it. In addition, we have included the full text of Oro Valley's press release on the matter at the end of this posting.
The Oro Valley Town Clerk, Julie Bower, rejected the petitions submitted by TOOTHINOV.ORG. So, the decision by the town council will stand. Oro Valley will purchase the El Conquistador Country Club.

According to the TOOTHINOV.ORG web site, TOOTHINOV.ORG is weighing legal options.

The rejection was based on the fact that the petitions did not include a reference number that the town assigns to filings.

Lamonna sought town review of the petition as it was designed before starting the petition process. The town advised her that it was not their role to provide legal advice.

As Lamonna related to us: "They told me all along that they could not give legal advice. While I have heard that some towns will confer with you if you take the petition in and ask them, Oro Valley is not one of them. They continue to refer you to the Secretary of State handbook for directions."

The reasons for the rejection were stated in a memo dated January 20 from Oro Valley clerk Bower to TOOTHINOV.ORG. These are:
"...none of the petition sheets contained the petition serial number. In addition, the following errors were also found:
  • Sheets not attached to a copy of the title and text of the measure 
  • Sheets containing a circulator's affidavit that is not completed or signed
  • Sheets on which the affidavit of the circulator is not notarized, the notary's signature is missing, the notary's commission has expired or the notary's seal is not affixed 
  • Sheets on which the signatures of the circulator or the notary are dated earlier than the dates on which the electors signed the face of the petition sheet
  • Sheets on which the circulator of the petition has not stated whether he is a paid or volunteer circulator (as required by ARS 19-101)"
Regardless of the how this turns out, there are more than 3.100 registered Oro Valley voters who were sufficiently concerned about the purchase to sign the petition. This number is far more than the number that would be required to force a recall of any council member.
Text Oro Valley Press Release:

Petition for referendum do not comply with state law; number of signatures on second petition effort falls short of requirement

Oro Valley, Arizona (January 20, 2015) - After processing the petition sheets submitted to the Oro Valley Town Clerk on Thursday, January 15, 2015, by the T.O.O.T.H. in OV referendum committee, it has been determined that the petitions do not comply with state law, therefore, any signatures on them are invalidated.

The petition sought to refer to a ballot the December 17, 2014 Town Council decision to acquire the El Conquistador Country Club and its related amenities.

According to Arizona Revised Statute (ARS) 19-111 (B), it is mandatory that the petition serial number appear in the lower right hand corner of both the front and back of the petition. The submitted petitions did not bear the assigned serial number. This provision was included as a requirement in the materials provided to the referendum committee.

Since serial number requirement is a matter of state law, the Town of Oro Valley does not have the authority to override that requirement. Numerous case laws make it clear that strict compliance with all statutes is required for a referendum. See Western Devcor, Inc. v. City of Scottsdale, 161 Ariz. 426, 814 P.2d 767 (1991); and numerous other cases.

Upon receipt of the January 15 petitions, the Town Clerk recognized and indicated that the documents did not contain the serial number. The following day, January 16, the same group of citizens filed an application for another referendum petition with similar language under the name of T.O.O.T.H. in OV 2, and gathered signatures to submit by the 5 p.m. deadline.

The T.O.O.T.H. in OV 2 petitions were submitted by deadline and processed by the Town Clerk's Office; however, the second set of petitions fell short of the minimum 1,148 signatures required.

As of 5 p.m. on Friday, January 16, 2015, the deadline to submit petitions has passed.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Heather's Corner: Reverse 911: Are You In The Database, Oro Valley?

REVERSE 911 is a geographically based calling system developed in 1993 by Sigma Communications, Inc. to give public safety agencies the ability to quickly communicate with the public.

The REVERSE 911 system allows the operator to scroll over specific areas on a map, or to select names or locations from a list, or to activate pre-designed lists of persons or locations, record a message, and transmit the message by telephone to the selected recipients.

The Town of Oro Valley participates in this emergency warning system for residents and businesses about potential emergency situations occurring in Oro Valley to include:
  • Missing person alerts 
  • Emergency evacuations 
  • Crime alerts to specific areas 
  • Natural disaster alerts 
  • Weather related safety warnings 
  • Hazardous material leaks 
  • Neighborhood emergency situations 
  • Homeland Security alerts
An example of how the system has helped other communities was during a 2010 Boston water emergency. Government agencies used REVERSE 911 to notify a large number of Boston-area residents in particular neighborhoods to boil water before drinking.

REVERSE 911 was used to notify parents in the Sandy Hook community of Newtown, Connecticut of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting incident. These are wonderful examples of how what once would have been an impossible task of providing important emergency information to the masses, is now a viable and successful form of communication.

The Town of Oro Valley does need your help! They want to be sure that they have your preferred contact information for REVERSE 911. The telephone number you provide will be the number they call in an emergency situation. It can be a land line, a cell phone number or broadband/VOIP phone number.

To sign up for REVERSE 911, visit the Town's "Reverse 911" web page. Scroll to the bottom of the page. There, you will find a link where you can visit a page to register online or download a form to register. Either way, its another way for you to help Oro Valley keep us all safe!

Monday, January 19, 2015

HSL Will Wait At Least Until May For Oro Valley To Purchase El Conquistador Country Club

HSL Properties will wait until a May, if necessary, to allow the Town Of Oro Valley to purchase the El Conquistador Country Club.  This was reported at a meeting of the The Greater Oro Valley Chamber of Commerce last Thursday.

Lopez' statement puts into question Mayor Hiremath's assertion that the town had to purchase the property quickly or that the opportunity to do so would go away.  This was he reason Mayor Hiremath gave as why he pushed the split council approval.

Lopez also disclosed at this meeting the nature of the transaction.  According to him, Mayor Hiremath approached Lopez regarding the town's purchase of the facility. Mayor Hiremath stated that it was his role as mayor to find opportunities for the Town Of Oro Valley. So it made sense that he would have sought this opportunity to purchase the El Conquistador Country Club.

According to Lopez, Mayor Hiremath negotiated a deal on behalf of the Town Of Oro Valley. Lopez said HSL wanted $2million for the property. Lopez noted that Mayor Hiremath told him that he was authorized to purchase it for up to $1million, in 3 interest free annual installments. Lopez agreed to that deal.

According to a statement made by Council Member Burns at the December 3 Council meeting, Mayor Hiremath was never authorized to negotiate a deal for the purchase of the El Conquistador Country Club. Burns clarified this further for us writing that “We never authorized the mayor to do anything. It was not a resolution but rather direction given in the exec session."

HSL may not have to wait until May.

LOVE has been told by TOOTH that more than sufficient valid signatures have been filed with the Oro Valley Town Clerk to require a public vote in May. Town Clerk Julie Bower has 20 business days to issue her ruling on whether she approves the petitions. If so, the process moves to the County Election office for review. This adds another 15 business days to the process. So, we are looking a decision sometime in late February.

However, the process could push beyond that. If either the town or the county rejects the petitions, they will have to prove the rejection to more than 3,100 signees, Sun City, the community at large, the Arizona Attorney General, advocacy groups, and perhaps a court. The process could become long and arduous, pushing the purchase date beyond May.

It is often the case that the courts become involved in referendum decisions.

This was the case when Oro Valley residents went to court to become a town in 1978. That was a 2-year delay. It was the case when a group of concerned citizens won the right for residents to vote on the Oro Valley Marketplace almost a decade ago. That delayed the agreement between the town and Vestar, the developer of the Marketplace, almost a year. Though we hope that this is not the case here, it is possible that it will be so. This thing could just drag on if the petition is rejected.

How long with HSL wait? Will HSL wait beyond May?