Candidate Q&A - Oro Valley Town Council - Don Bristow - The Explorer: Election

Candidate Q&A - Oro Valley Town Council - Don Bristow

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Posted: Monday, August 4, 2014 1:43 pm | Updated: 10:14 am, Tue Aug 5, 2014.

Why are you running for Town Council?

• My primary reason for running for Council is to return the Council to an effective decision-making team through the practice of civility and cooperation. I love living in Oro Valley. This Town was designed by its citizens with a citizen-written and ratified General Plan, which provides a guideline for elected officials. I will use this guideline when making decisions regarding our Town. All stakeholders should have input, but I believe the citizens should have the final say.

What can you provide that other candidates can’t?

• I have a background as a self-employed consultant specializing in team development and team facilitation. I would use that experience to bring the council together on important citizen’s issues. I will listen to and respect everyone’s input. I will promote diversity in ideas, because only then can intelligent decisions be made.

 On a scale of 1 to 10, how well is the current council managing the Town of Oro Valley? Explain your answer

• I would give the current Council a 6 or 7. They have the potential to agree, but on many matters they have the tendency to not listen and to arrive at decisions prior to the start of a Council Meeting. Coherent, factual arguments are ignored based on personalities and who is making the argument. When this happens, the Council loses sight of their job, which is to represent the citizens of Oro Valley. They have not been consistent in managing the fiscal affairs of the Town. As their current terms of office were ending, they rushed development of the Naranja Park without the results of the consultant’s study, an active citizens’ survey, and a financial plan in place. Some even stated it is not their responsibility to scrutinize the 2014/2015 Town budget or request justification of a department’s capital request. They use the General Plan in an inconsistent manner. They cite the General Plan and Town Codes when it supports their decisions, and ignore the same when it doesn’t. Often, the members do not require logical-verifiable evidence for supporting claims made by applicants or staff requesting various approvals.

Do you agree with how the current town council has managed the budget? Please explain.

• No. By Arizona statute, the Town’s annual budget must be balanced and may not exceed the total approved dollar amount. Just because a budget is balanced it does not mean it is a well-managed budget. It is the content of the budget and any transferring of funds within the budget that must be considered. All budgets should be cost justified. For the last four years, the budgets have not been fully justified. There must be more time set aside for study sessions. Study session presentations should include justifications for all, but minor, expenditures. Members of Council are not experts regarding all departments within the Town. Time needs to be given for questioning before the Council determines the difference between departmental wants and needs. The past study sessions have been merely presentations of expenditures without any in-depth justification for them.

What is your stance on future commercial and residential growth in Oro Valley? Is the Town headed in the right direction? Does more time need to be spent on the strategic plan?

• Growth is a positive thing. The expedited approval process to attract more businesses within Innovation Park is a positive move. How the Town manages growth is critical to its future. Both commercial and residential growth should occur within the context of Oro Valley’s current and future General Plan, its Strategic Plan, and its statutes and regulations. There is limited buildable commercial and residential land remaining in Oro Valley; therefore the Town must manage growth with an overlay of what is best for the Town residents. To remain a community of excellence, there needs to be a balance between growth, development and Oro Valley’s natural beauty.

If I could see into the future, it would be easy to determine if growth is headed in the right direction. To date, the only forecasts of future commercial and residential development have come from developers and builders when justifying requests for zoning changes. I have not seen a professional forecast from the Town. The ultimate impact of growth, taking in the number of empty store fronts, the amount of buildable land still in shopping centers, the large number of new apartments, and the number of housing developments will remain a concern.

The strategic plan goes well beyond commercial and residential growth questions asked in this section. As the name implies this plan is the strategy which guides the Town’s decision making and resource management over a 2 to 5 year time frame. This plan creates action steps based on the General Plan. A clearly written General Plan would require less time spent on the Strategic Plan. It would also reduce the political influence in the plan. Not being a current Councilmember, I cannot comment on the need for more time to be spent on the Strategic Plan. I do know that staff does spend considerable time and effort in developing this plan.

When it comes to business support, do you believe Oro Valley is business unfriendly or business friendly? Explain your answer.

• I believe Oro Valley is business friendly. The recent economic downturn, which impacted both the citizens and businesses, was not unique to Oro Valley. The Town reacted to the economic downturn with overwhelming support of our business community. They established the Shop OV Campaign and OV Dollars. They created and extended temporary hardship code waivers, and eliminated some code enforcement. Even, the CEO of the Greater Oro Valley Chamber of Commerce has stated that Oro Valley is pro-business.

The police department budget continues to be a controversial topic for the current council. What do you think about the amount budgeted each year on public safety? Do you feel there should be more discussion on public safety funding?

• The Town Manger is responsible for the total Town budget. The police department will always take the biggest slice of the General Fund. The Police Department, like ALL departments must be prudent and reasonable, separating its needs from its wants. There should be equal amounts of discussion on spending of ALL departments.

Do you support an audit of the police department’s operational budget? Why or Why not?

• As I stated at the first candidates’ forum, there are “audits” and there are “audits”. I would like to see a group of uniformed police officers form a team. This team would conduct their own internal audit. They could identify potential cost savings which do not impact public safety or compensation.

On a regional level, do you believe the town should continue to fund and be involved in programs such as TREO, Visit Tucson and the Greater Oro Valley Chamber of Commerce?

• TREO has not requested funds and the Town has not funded TREO for about two years. Continued funding of Visit Tucson and the Greater Oro Valley Chamber of Commerce should be evaluated yearly based on the return of investment. If Visit Tucson and the GOVCC can show a return on the Town’s investment, then I would support continued funding.

The current council is often divided on major issues – How do you feel about the current dynamics of the town council? What would you change?

• The current dynamics of the Town Council are a disservice to the citizens of Oro Valley. I would bring mutual respect to all members of the Council. I may disagree, but I would never be disrespectful to or attack a fellow council member during a public meeting, in an email, or in the media. I am not aligned with any group on the current council and my only special interest is the citizens of Oro Valley; therefore, I can be a stabilizing force and encourage civility, cooperation and team work.

How well do you think the current council listens to the public, and bases decisions on citizen input?

• Some of the current council members say they talk to the public, but I do not think they listen or make decisions based on citizen input. During Council Meetings, there are two agendas, Consent (supposedly non-controversial) and Regular (requires in-depth discussion). The current council, under the Mayor’s leadership, will not take public comments for consent items which may, in fact, be controversial. Therefore, the public is eliminated from the decision-making process. I feel the Council is a public body, elected to office by the public to represent the public. The Council needs to ensure the public’s voice will be heard and be used when making decisions.

As an example, residents of Oro Valley purchased a home next to a riparian area with a beautiful sloped view. Before purchasing the home, they did their due diligence and asked Town staff if anything could be built on that slope. They were told NO. Along comes a builder who wanted to destroy the slope and build a particular style of house on the slope even though another style of house could be built there without destroying the slope and wildlife habitat. The residents went before the current council, and pleaded their case. They had factual evidence from architects and engineers which demonstrated it was not necessary to destroy the slope in order to build a house there. Even the Town Staff agreed with these residents. The majority-4 on this council ignored the expert evidence and Town Staff recommendations and sided with the builder. The builder then went on to destroy the beautiful hillside view these residents had once enjoyed. The builder did not have the right to build on the slope. It was a privilege this council granted. If the current council really represented and listened to the citizens, they would not have approved this code variance.

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