Candidate Q&A - Oro Valley Mayoral Candidate - Satish Hiremath - The Explorer: Election

Candidate Q&A - Oro Valley Mayoral Candidate - Satish Hiremath

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Posted: Monday, August 4, 2014 1:28 pm | Updated: 10:26 am, Tue Aug 5, 2014.

Why are you running for Town Council?

Over the past four years the Town Council and staff have worked well together on behalf of the town. On your behalf, I am seeking re-election as your Mayor to make the most of the relationships that I have worked to establish at the local, regional and state levels.

What can you provide that other candidates can’t?

I can provide leadership based on my years of experience in the office of Mayor with a proven track record of successfully leading our Town’s government through a very difficult economic time. I have already learned what my opponent would need to try to learn. I have developed a close working relationship with the leaders of our regional government and economic development entities in order to provide stability and continuity while maintaining services at an affordable and sustainable cost.

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

With the understanding that there is always room for improvement and that perfection is never attained, if I had to put a number on it, I would give us a 10 because we have accomplished what we set out to do. My assessment is based on where we were four years ago and where we are today. I need to point out that the Mayor and Council set policy while the Town Manager is responsible for the actual management of the town business. The Mayor and Council do provide oversight to the Town Manager in order ensure that the policies and decisions of the Council are implemented as intended.

In the last four years, the Mayor and Council have provided the guidance that has enabled our Town to weather a severe recession. We were faced with a sizeable budget deficit that threatened the future viability of the Town. We made many difficult decisions that have now resulted in a surplus. We have worked to find ways to grow the Town revenues while reducing expenses.

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

Yes. The Town Council develops and approves the annual budget. The Town Manager is responsible for the day to day management of that budget. I believe that together we have made the appropriate decisions to grow the revenues while reducing the expenses as needed in order to successfully navigate the very difficult economic challenges of the last four years.

Without revenues from a property tax, the Town has limited ability to control its revenues. We made a difficult decision to increase the utility tax rate as it was one of the only sources over which the Town has control. With that increase and very close oversight of expenses, we were able to turn a potential deficit into a surplus. Our Town staff did an outstanding job of implementing the budgets while going three years without annual raises. We have recently been able to begin to reward our staff for their loyalty and talents.

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 believe we are headed in the right direction as we work to achieve the appropriate balance between residential and commercial growth in our Town. This is often a challenging process. Our residents need to know that their neighboring residential zoning will not be changed to increased density or commercial without a very public process that allows their input and meets very specific requirements that support the change.

At the same time, our residents have consistently said that we want convenient access to stores, restaurants and service businesses. Also, since our Town is dependent on sales tax revenue in order to provide the necessary public services, we need to be aware of the appropriate opportunities to grow those resources. Our direction is making it possible for Oro Valley to operate without levying a property tax. In my opinion, we are following the strategic plan.

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

In some respects, the perception and the reality were the same, that Oro Valley was not doing all it could as a willing partner for the success of businesses. I have made it one of my highest priorities to work to change the reputation of our Town from the perception of being anti-business to one that is business friendly. We have few revenue sources to fund the necessary Town services. The sales tax is a major revenue source and Town residents want reasonable access to stores and restaurants. Attracting and retaining businesses also provide employment opportunities to Town residents.

This Council has enacted a new economic development tool for use in the Town We now have the ability to approve an expedited process in approvals of new buildings that current or new businesses want to build. This only applies if the proposed plans comply with the current zoning and other restrictions.

We, also, have approved a new expedited process for developers if they meet very specific requirements including meeting strict Environmentally Sensitive Lands requirements and open space.

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 amount budgeted for public safety is the result of very detailed study during the budget process. The proposed budget is presented in detail to the Council during at least one Council Study Session where every Council member is able to question each expenditure about which that member has a concern. After the study sessions are completed and all the questions up to that point are addressed, the proposed budget is scheduled for consideration at two Council meetings each of which include a public hearing where the public is able to voice any and all concerns and questions.

I welcome the public safety funding discussion because the more residents know, the better they understand and appreciate the services that are being provided on their behalf. The cost of 12 million dollars to fund the department is a portion of our 107 million dollar budget. We are the safest community in Arizona because that is our intention and we are doing what it takes and providing what it costs.

I believe that the amount budgeted through this exhaustive process is appropriate and has been subjected to the proper level of discussion.

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

I do not support a separate audit for the police department’s budget. The town council is well aware of what goes into the budget for police department operations. I have every confidence that the police department has operated according to its approved budget. The town’s finances, which include the police department, are audited every year. A separate external audit for the police department alone would be a waste of time and money as well as a political distraction.

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?

Yes. We are doing all that makes sense for us to do on our own. The town benefits by cooperating and being proactive on a municipal, regional and state level. I have made it a priority to reach out to the other regional resources to find ways to work together to benefit all of us. Oro Valley has all the amenities and attractions to bring an even greater number of tourists which will bring increased revenues to the Town. We have a continuing opportunity to attract new businesses to our Town, especially to our Innovation Park. The regional economic development entities help us to that. It is, also, important to support our local Chamber of Commerce in its efforts to support our local businesses as they are a major resource of funds from the sales 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 don’t agree with your premise that the Council is often divided on major issues. Split votes on the council occur on rare occasion. The great majority of our decisions are approved unanimously. Of course we will have disagreements on some issues, and that discussion is to be encouraged as it often leads to a better decision in the end. It ensures that we have explored all the aspects of our decisions.

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

Individually and collectively, the council listens to the public. Our decision process involves many opportunities for public input. In the area of planning and zoning, there are neighborhood meetings and public hearings before the Planning and Zoning Commission recommends a decision to our Council. In most major decisions, there are more public hearings at Council meetings before we make our final decisions. More often than not, the final decision is influenced by the public input received during this process.

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