Candidate Q&A - Oro Valley Town Council - Lou Waters - The Explorer: Election

Candidate Q&A - Oro Valley Town Council - Lou Waters

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Posted: Monday, August 4, 2014 1:35 pm | Updated: 10:14 am, Tue Aug 5, 2014.

Why are you running for Town Council?

To continue the work I started with Arts and Culture: Public Art, Music, Historic Preservation, Fitness and Health, pursuit of a Community Center, Smart Growth, Gathering Places -- all elements creating a sense of belonging and nourishment.

What can you provide that other candidates can’t?

I've spent the last 4-years learning the job and bringing an authenticity of trust gained from my many years as a National/International news anchor and correspondent. I covered politics for 20-years and know how to get the job done despite political distractions and destructive maneuverings. My college background is in Architectural Engineering and English. I've been a musician, a professional photographer, a writer and author: well suited for the challenge ahead.

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

10! In just one year of the current Strategic Plan, many goals already have been met: We've produced a five-year healthy financial forecast, launched a new Town website "ensuring residents are educated about and engaged in moving community initiatives forward," attracting high technology and bioscience employers to Innovation Park.

In addition, a world-class Aquatic Center is built for residents, their families, and revenue enhancing professional sporting events.

We've opened additional connective bicycle trails for our bicycle-friendly community.

Steam Pump Ranch has been opened and consideration of its future for historical preservation and cultural adaptation is now being hotly discussed. Work on the new General Plan is fully underway and our citizens are involved like never before.

I believe the number 10 is too low to reflect the astonishing amount of progress in Oro Valley.

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

Yes. While honoring the Town Founders principle of NO Property Tax, overcoming a dysfunctional Town Management who presented us with a 3-million-dollar deficit before we took office, we hired a new Town Manager, enforced structural changes in the budget allowing us to deal with departments and programs individually. We now have reached an economic and government stability unmatched by anything before us. This was all accomplished in the Greatest economic downturn in our lifetime and, as of this writing, we are $1.7-million in the black.

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?

I've already addressed the action items on the strategic plan and after this next election, work will begin on a NEW Strategic Plan. For now the goal is to "attract and retain globally-competitive and cultural opportunities to promote tourism and support employee attraction and retention." That falls right in line with citizen voices calling for growth in the number of high quality employment opportunities and creating a "complete" community with a broad range of shopping, dining and opportunities to gather. We are following that citizen guidance.

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

When we took office, we declared Oro Valley will now become "business friendly."

Sales taxes account for half of our revenue. We needed to turn the "business unfriendly" perception around. And although there are strains of "business-unfriendly" in our community, they come for instance, from individuals who are against certain relief from the sign code to help small business recover from this Great Recession that lingers. The current Council believes sign code violations are often inadvertent and crackdowns are unnecessary. Business is having tough problems in this economy. We must help them. We need them to succeed.

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 Police budget is a political football. That's one reason why we keep the Chief under Council preview. Before taking office the Chief reported to the Town manager, a perfect spot for Council members to slip to the quiet rooms to pressure the Town Manager on Police matters and it was a political mess. We've been lectured on how other Towns and Cities do it, but for us it works best with the Chief is accountable to the Council. Town manager also reports to the Council and he and the Chief collaborate and submit the Police budget. We can always have discussion on public safety funding and should, but many of the tired old political squabbles generated by anti-police sentiment are not productive. Our "Your Voices, Our Future" surveys, prove Public Safety remains the number-one priority of the large majority of our residents.

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

NO! Some remote auditing firm has no idea of Oro Valley's wants and needs. And we have one of the most respected Chiefs of Police in the nation - one who lectures at the University on matters of "community policing" and has designed one of the most effective Public Safety programs in the nation where we are regarded in the top 10 of "Safest Suburbs in America." Other Chiefs of Police call our Chief to ask how it's done.

And those calling for a management study, already being conducted on a continuing basis by the Town Manager, need to acknowledge the very high cost of such a study.

And the community loves and supports its police. Public Safety is expensive, no doubt. We have the best Police Force in Arizona. And the overwhelming majority of us want to keep it that way.

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?

We DO NOT fund TREO. But if you're asking about Regional Partnerships, I absolutely agree we need to form partnerships and maintain relationships that benefit Oro Valley and the region. That's how we solved the financial need to partner with Pima County in order to address the operations of Coyote Run senior and disabled transit services and that of the Oro Valley Library. Those programs were saved and enhanced and ultimately saved the Town, because of the partnerships, nearly $1.5 million dollars.

Visit Tucson is very important to Oro Valley. Their worldwide promotions include links to Oro Valley and now the recently annexed Tohono Chul Park.

Greater Oro Valley Chamber of Commerce is now at a high level and helping us restore and expand a "business friendly" reputation.

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 disagree with the premise of your question. As we have previously responded to this question: of the 158 votes by Council between June of 2012-June of 2014, 99 passed 7-0. 9 votes were 6-1, 21 votes were 6-0.

But here's the point: only 15 votes were 4-3. Despite politically provocative quarrels in public, which I believe your question alludes to, the votes are there getting Oro Valley's business accomplished.

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

The Council elected in 2010 created the "Neighborhood Meeting" concept - involving concerned residents on residential and commercials development issues even before applications are submitted. Two major projects were considered and withdrawn by the developer as a result of the neighborhood meetins.. As a liaison to the Conceptual Design Review Board, I attend every meeting and duly note citizen concerns. Our current, "Your Voice, Our future" campaign is involving unprecedented numbers of residents in the planning process. The newly designed "Coffee with a Cop" informally considers the public pulse on Police matters..

In the past week, Joe Hornat, Mary Snider and I spent nearly 90-minures at Town Hall meeting with neighbors concerned with zoning and design standards for a planned development adjacent to their property. We do that all the time.

We're here to represent citizens and that's exactly what we're doing.

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