The Oro Valley Town Council meeting’s agenda for May 7 was set for a simple meeting where the council considered making a private street public, it listened to a couple of presentations, adopted the tentative budget for the next fiscal year, and to look at the manner in which people are appointed for boards and commissions within the town. But with a divided council and recent public remarks made by council members about the police department, the meeting was filled with dissention and the destabilization of a collaborative council.
During a meeting where the Development Infrastructure Services presented the Your Voice, Our Future project, which outlined a new vision and guiding principals for the general plan, the council was told how pleased people were with living in the town. Yet, during the five-month community outreach that found what people want from their community, one thing volunteers heard over and over again was how they wanted a unified and respectful council.
On the next agenda item, Councilman Mike Zinkin questioned if Mayor Satish Hiremath was going to accept blue cards, which would allow the community the opportunity to speak on a presentation of a five-year financial forecast.
“It’s just a forecast,” Hiremath said. “It’s a staff forecast. How do you argue with a forecast,” he questioned while laughing.
“Let me make the motion first and then I’ll explain it,” Zinkin said.
After the motion was made, which Councilman Bill Garner seconded, Hiremath didn’t give Zinkin an opportunity to explain and took a vote on the motion. The motion quickly failed 4-3, with Zinkin, Garner and Councilman Brendan Burns in favor.
After the 15-minute presentation given by the town’s finance director Stacey Lemos, Hiremath was quick to return his attention to Zinkin.
“Councilman Zinkin, you would like to challenge Mrs. Lemos’ forecast hypothetically five years out?”
Zinkin, who was not ready to speak, stammered for a response.
“I, umm… That’s a rhetorical question, isn’t it,” he asked.
“Well, you said you had a comment.”
“Yeah, I do have comments, but I’m not going to… I’ll let other people go first. How’s that?”
The council later turned its attention to adopting the tentative budget for fiscal year 2014/2015 with a spending cap of $107.1 million, again with a 4-3 approval that had Zinkin, Burns and Garner opposing it.
Councilman Joe Hornat spoke after the town’s manager, Greg Caton, presented the proposal.
“I am certainly in favor of this tentative budget, there’s no issue there,” Hornat said, but wanted to make a few comments. “It is a dynamic document. It does get changed during the course of the year based on outside forces and inside forces.”
Zinkin who agreed with Councilwoman Mary Snider’s point that the town is in good shape for the next four or five years, but expressed concern for the budget beyond that.
“I am worried about the future. I’m not worried about now,” Zinkin said while saying that he thought the council should be more careful with the town’s budget.
“I can’t support this cap, because I think it is too high.”
The final agenda item was made for the council to look at the manner in which people are appointed for boards and commissions within the town. This item again brought up discussion between Hiremath and Zinkin because members of the community were not allowed to speak on the matter.
“The only reason I don’t want to take blue cards on here is it would be no different than my dental practice, allowing the public telling me how to conduct an interview process and what the parameters are,” the mayor said. “This is council policy, this is a staff policy, and it should be left as such.”
Zinkin asked to make a comment before the motion was voted on.
“I can’t believe that we even have to make these motions. What board, with elected officials, doesn’t want to hear from their public,” Zinkin asked. “I don’t care what the subject is.”
The council then voted on the motion, which failed 4-3.