Candidate Q&A - Oro Valley Town Council - Mary Snider - Tucson Local Media: Election

Candidate Q&A - Oro Valley Town Council - Mary Snider

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Mary Snider

Posted: Monday, August 4, 2014 1:41 pm | Updated: 10:14 am, Tue Aug 5, 2014.

Why are you running?

I’m running for a seat on the Oro Valley Town Council because I think we live in a fantastic community and giving back through civic service is something I truly enjoy and believe is important. My family chose to live here for many of the same reasons as other residents - we enjoy a high quality of life with the security of living in the 8th safest suburb in the Nation. We have great schools, roads the rest of our region envies, a safe water supply, and we invest in parks and recreational facilities. These aspects of Oro Valley are important to a multi-generational community and I want to help manage the Oro Valley’s growth strategically.

What can you provide that other candidates can’t?

I have a record of successful community engagement in Oro Valley that spans more than a decade, if you include my community work prior to being elected to the Town Council. I’m also proud to tell voters that supported me in the last election that I was able to deliver on almost all of my campaign’s commitments. I’m most proud to say that the Town Council took a fiscally conservative approach and brought the Town’s finances from a multi-million dollar deficit, when I took office, to a multi-million dollar surplus today. But most importantly, my approach to public service focuses on relationships. Over the years, I have focused on developing strong relationships with our families, seniors, youth, and businesses. Established trusting relationships foster honest and clear communication and keep me routinely in touch with what is important to the citizens in Oro Valley.

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

I give it a high 9, as I believe there is always room for improvement.

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

Yes. Avoiding a property tax, I worked with my colleagues on the Town Council to successfully guide our town through the worst economic crisis since our incorporation in 1974. The evidence is clear, we reversed a $3 million deficit to a $1.7 million surplus within three years. The Town Manager calculates the cost per household to fully fund police, parks and recreation, and all services to residents except water and roads as $378/year, or slightly more than $1/day. Our insistence that all budget items be tied to Council’s unanimously approved Strategic Plan and the voter approved General Plan insures and protects our four quality of life priorities…water, police, roads, and parks and recreation.

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?

The Oro Valley Town Council revisits the Town’s Strategic Plan every two years and uses it in concert with the Zoning Code and General Plan when considering the direction of the Town. Oro Valley’s growth is inevitable as the economy recovers. Many commercial and residential zoned parcels of land that are now undeveloped will eventually develop as owners are able to obtain financing. The 2013 Oro Valley Citizen Survey clearly revealed that our residents want more amenities. As our population increases, more retail and commercial businesses will become interested in locating in Oro Valley. Going forward, the Town Council will need to listen carefully to residents and carefully balance needs/wants with environmentally sustainable execution.

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

I define “Business friendly” as establishing and maintaining mutually beneficial relationships between local businesses and our town. Revenue from sales taxes is how we avoid a property tax in Oro Valley. “Businesses” are also our local employers. My goal is to retain and recruit high wage jobs in order to provide our citizens with a community where they can live, work, and play.

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?

A vocal minority in the community continue to take issue with Police budget. I do not think that raises the issue to the level of “controversial”. In fact, there was a Town Council budget study session in April to discuss the Oro Valley Police Department budget and no controversy was brought before the Town Council. There was a public session to address any questions, concerns, or suggestions from the public and no issues were raised. The Town’s 2014-2015 budget is $107 million and the police department’s portion is $14 Million (or 13%). That amount in the budget reflects the appropriate funding level required to meet the service expectations of our citizens. I have yet to have a citizen ask me to reduce their public safety services. Lastly, the 2013 Oro Valley Town Survey clearly showed that residents value public safety above all other Town services. I’m out in the community a lot. I’m constantly getting feedback from people. It is clear to me that the vast majority of Oro Valley residents value our investments in public safety and trust Police Chief Danny Sharp to run the police department.

Do you support an audit of the police department’s operations and budget?

The police department is already audited every year and I do not support spending taxpayer dollars on something that is already monitored. There is continual oversight of public safety funding, as there is with all departments within the Town. The police department is audited annually on certification, grants, RICO fund, etc. and is part of the Town’s overall budget, which receives a positive independent audit every year and the Town receives awards to that effect year after year. The operations of the department are continually reviewed by experts in policing led by Chief Sharp and adjusted to meet the community needs as they change. There is no need to spend $100,000 of taxpayer funds for another audit, something that is already done. If there was a need, I would support it. We should spend those funds on providing service to our citizens.

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?

Although the Town stopped funding TREO in 2013, the Town continues joint efforts to help attract high paying bioscience, biotech jobs to Oro Valley as well as build a base of supporting businesses here and throughout the greater Tucson region. Funding and partnership with Visit Tucson provides the Town with a ten-fold return on investment, and is a strategic partnership that will bring significant future revenues to Oro Valley. The GOVCC promotes sustainability of local business. Healthy businesses provide strong sales tax revenues to the Town which pays for the delivery of services to our citizens. Given the level of return on investment, I feel the Town’s $30,000 annual support to the Chamber is money well spent to avoid a property tax.

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?

I respectfully disagree that the Council is divided on major issues. Since June 2010 when the current Council was seated, there have been 158 votes on policy issues. Of those, 99 votes have been 7-0 and on the occasion of absences on the Council, 21 times, 6-0; 3 times, 5-0, or 123 unanimous votes. 15 votes have been 4-3, or 10%, and each of the incumbents has been on the “nay” side of the vote at one time or another. This negative conversation has the potential to drive a wedge between our citizens and the Town, thereby promoting distrust in our local government. As a community, our strength will come from working together as a team. To that end, I know that my primary responsibility as a Councilmember is to be fully informed on the issues and be prepared to act in the best interests of our citizens at all times.

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

Simply stated, very well. The majority of my week is spent involved in activities where our citizens are active including non-profits, families, seniors, youth, local businesses and town events. My philosophy is a chorus of voices are needed to help guide the Town to its full potential. My decisions are data based coupled with the guiding documents of our Town and direct citizen input.

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