February 8, 2006 - Nancy Young Wright says she intends to steer Oro Valley in a new direction. A candidate for Oro Valley mayor, Young Wright said she will provide the openness of government and responsible fiscal direction that she believes opponent Mayor Paul Loomis lacks.
"There is a culture of secrecy growing there. If things are decided between the (town) manager and mayor, that cuts out a lot of people," Young Wright said. "I believe in sharing information. I would provide a more active leadership, go out and visit people, and listen to their concerns."
Young Wright, a current member and former president of the Amphitheater School Board, said she has learned a great deal about trimming down government spending. If elected mayor of Oro Valley, she said the first thing she'll do is look for items that can be cut out of the budget.
"Travel, meals, take-home cars - we cut out these things at the school board. That's the model I'd use to work at. We would bring speakers to us, that's one way we would save money, rather than flying someone out to a conference on a $2,000 trip," Young Wright said. "The council is traveling pretty much wherever they feel like going."
Young Wright, 46, said Loomis and other members of the council have the wrong idea in trying to increase revenue through taxes rather than cutting spending.
"They haven't talked about how we're going to save money. Instead they want to do things like utility taxes. It's regressive, especially for people on a fixed income," Young Wright said.
Young Wright said she used to work with Loomis when they were both members of the Oro Valley Neighborhood Coalition. They fought together for the creation of more parks in Oro Valley, and she even supported him when he first ran for mayor, she said. Yet during his eight years as mayor, he has changed from a citizen's candidate into a developer's candidate, she said.
"He seemed to change pretty quick once he was elected. I thought he was interested in protecting open space, but it turns out he was concerned with just his neighborhood," said Young Wright, referring to Loomis' effort prior to his election to office when he worked to stop an apartment complex from being built in his neighborhood and have a park built instead. It was a successful movement that eventually led to the construction of the Riverfront Park.
"I think he has gotten very remote from the people who elected him," Young Wright said. "The town has been run by developers for a long time. With the exception of Paula Abbot, no one remembers why people put them in."
Young Wright said Loomis also shows favoritism to developers at council meetings, as well.
"He has two sets of standards. Developers get more time at meetings. If you're a developer, you get to talk longer at meetings, and you can put your signs wherever you want to. If you're a citizen trying to impact an issue, they try to bully you," Young Wright said.
Young Wright was born and raised in Tucumcari, N.M., a small town east of Santa Fe where her grandparents had settled as homesteaders around the turn of the century. She majored in journalism at New Mexico State University in Las Cruces, and after graduation she moved to Tucson when her husband was hired by IBM. She later earned a master's degree in creative writing from the University of Arizona. Young Wright moved from Tucson to Oro Valley in 1983 after finding an affordable piece of land where she could ride her horses. As her two daughters moved through the Amphitheater school system, she volunteered in their classrooms and for local civic organizations.
Young Wright fought her first political battle to get the town to fund construction of playground equipment at James D. Kriegh Park, which she said had little more than a swing set at the time for her children to play on. By collecting petition signatures and appealing to the town council, Young Wright eventually got the town to build quality playground equipment in the park. It came a bit late, though - her youngest daughter had already turned 10 by then and wasn't as interested in playgrounds, she said.
"We thought my kids would be married by the time we got it built," Young Wright said.
Young Wright said she also was involved in town elections by that time and worked on the campaigns of a series of town officials, although she said some of these candidates, such as former mayor Cheryl Skalsky, turned out to be disappointments once elected.
"I worked for her campaign because she said she supported open space and parks, but she only said it to get elected," Young Wright said of Skalsky.
When one of her daughters came home from school and said the school had just added a 43rd student to her science class, she decided to direct her efforts at the local school system, she said.
Young Wright was elected to the Amphitheater School Board in 1996, where she immediately found herself in a minority and had to fight for influence and change.
"Right out they set out to shut me down. It took a recall of a majority of the school board before we could affect changes," Young Wright said. "You have to be patient and brave, because power isn't given up freely."
Young Wright served as president of the school board between 2002 and 2004, an experience she said is the perfect preparation for being mayor of Oro Valley.
"I know how to run meetings. I know parliamentary procedure. I wouldn't cut off discussion, especially not from the public. I know about the open meetings law. I would adhere to that and expect others to do the same," Young Wright said.
Despite being very different organizations, Young Wright said the Amphitheater School Board and the Oro Valley Town Council deal with many of the same issues.
"I've worked with teacher's associations, and so I have experience with labor issues. Those things are complex," Young Wright said. "I know how to hold a fair interview process, and I know how to hire the best people and then let them do their job."
Young Wright, a self-described populist, said she supports retail growth so long as the town can retain its unique character and incentives are given to the private sector sparingly.
"We should bring in an appropriate amount of retail, because we need to bring in jobs. But we need to be cautious about what we become, because we don't want to be another stucco town without a soul," said Young Wright, adding that she thinks raising the town's impact fees on new construction would lessen Oro Valley's dependence on sales tax for revenue.
Young Wright also opposes the $23.2 million in sales tax incentives for Oro Valley Marketplace.
"I object to the size of the giveaway, and the fact that it was so poorly written we don't know what we'll get. With the way they've expanded the Foothills (Mall movie) theater, I doubt any sober theater owner would want to put one up here," Young Wright said.
Young Wright said she would feel an obligation as mayor to let the public have its say before any new economic development agreements.
"They ought to use incentives to encourage more resorts (to be built in Oro Valley). We should also use incentives to bring in high-paying jobs," Young Wright said.
Young Wright said she knows that being mayor is a demanding job, but is willing to put in as much time and effort is necessary to get the job done.
"I'm willing to put in the time, I used to put in more than 40 hours a week (as Amphitheater School Board president) back in those crazy days," Young Wright said. "It's going to be hard work if I'm elected, but I'll give it a try."
Greg Holt is a staff writer covering Oro Valley. He can be reached at email@example.com or at 797-4384, ext. 116.
Nancy Young Wright bio:
Family: Married, two college-aged daughters
Education: BA, Journalism, New Mexico State University; MFA, Creative Writing, University of Arizona
Profession/employer: Director, ArtsReach.
How long have you lived in Arizona/Oro Valley? Arizona 25 years, Oro Valley 22 years
Previous elected office: Amphitheater School Board, 1997 to present
Other biographical data: Chair of OV's first parks board; Passed an ordinance requiring developers to donate land or funds for "pocket" parks; Worked on town's first parks master plan and the Honey Bee Canyon Management Plan; Member, Friends of the Oro Valley Public Library; Member Focus 2020, Oro Valley's first General Plan; past president, Oro Valley Neighborhood Coalition; Member, Metropolitan Education Commission; Member, Sonoran Desert Conservation Plan Steering Committee; past member, Buffers, a conservation group.
Why did you decide to run? I've had a long involvement and interest in town affairs, and would like to see Oro Valley move in a more positive direction. I believe that town government should be responsive and open to the citizens, and act to protect both their pocket books and their quality of life. I will utilize my experience in building an atmosphere of openness and trust at the Amphitheater School District to create the same qualities of openness and trust at Town Hall.
Major campaign themes: Fiscal responsibility; open government; conservation, planning, and quality of life. For more information, see www.nancyyoungwright.com.