If there’s one thing that Satish Hiremath and Patrick Straney agree on, it’s that the position as Oro Valley’s top government official is one worth having.
That’s not to say they don’t agree on other issues – they’ve publicly identified that leadership skills are of utmost importance in being elected as mayor, that parks and recreation are important for Oro Valley’s changing demographic, that the town’s culture and history needs continued attention and development, and that the town’s roads, public safety, and natural beauty are some of the elements that make Oro Valley a great place to live.
That said, political figures are elected not because of their similarities, but because of their differences.
After two public forums and multiple interviews, here are a few highlights where incumbent Satish Hiremath and candidate Patrick Straney say they differ from one another.
Hiremath says, “I have business experience at a more comprehensive level as the long-time owner of a business in this town.”
“More importantly, I have the experience in the office of mayor in successfully leading the town through one of the most difficult economic times in our history, working in full cooperation with the town council and town staff. We went from an inherited large deficit to a reasonable surplus while providing the services that the residents of our town deserve and expect. My opponent would have to try to learn on the job. The position of mayor is a part-time job, held by an elected resident of the town. I played a key role in selecting Greg Caton to be our town manager and we have forged a strong and successful professional relationship. My opponent has indicated that he would ‘be there every day.’ I am engaged on a daily basis at times and always available, but interfacing with town employees every day is not good governance. It is meddling.”
Straney says, “I provide extensive and proven ‘large-organization’ business skills, experiences and effective leadership capabilities. In addition, the community management and community governance skills acquired as a result of serving as president of Rancho Vistoso Community Association for the last six-plus years provides a very strong skill set to draw upon as mayor of Oro Valley. In my business career I have had direct responsibility for functional areas such as human resources, finance, planning, engineering, security, purchasing, acquisitions, etc., which are also included in the daily operations of the town of Oro Valley. I expect that the lessons learned in my business career will in many cases have direct application in improvement efforts at the town of Oro Valley.”
Oro Valley Police Department case study
Hiremath has continually stood against paying for an outside consultant to conduct a case study that would examine whether or not the Oro Valley Police Department’s $12 million budget provides a fair return to taxpayers. Hiremath says the return on investment is obvious – the town has become nationally recognized as one of the safest towns in America. Furthermore, Hiremath argues, the police budget goes through an exhaustive examination each year during study sessions and public hearings, in which public input can be heard and considered. Hiremath further notes that the town’s budget, and therefore police budget, is audited each year.
Straney, who has also been complimentary of the police department, has not said with certainty that he would support an audit, but has said he isn’t necessarily opposed to one either. Straney says the timing of any audit would come only after he “gained a working knowledge of the department operation and conducted (his) own objective research of the non-headline facts and data associated with reasons offered for an audit.”
The Oro Valley council is too divided
Hiremath denies the common claim that the council is too divided, saying there are rarely split votes.
“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.”
Straney says a divide exists and that the town “needs to have more civility and less division, and an atmosphere that is friendly to all points of view.”
“I bring quite an extensive business management resume with me, and I think I have the ability to connect values and vision,” said Straney. In a question and answer publication, Straney said, “Energetic debate is good. Debate for the sake of making political points is a waste of everyone’s time and does not serve the community well.”
Hiremath says the council has made the appropriate decisions to grow revenues while decreasing expenses as needed to successfully navigate the economic challenges that came with the 2008 recession. Hiremath said a number of tough decisions have resulted in a healthy budget.
“Without revenues from a property tax, the town has limited ability to control its revenues,” said Hiremath. “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.”
Straney says he does not completely agree with the council’s budgeting process, but acknowledges it is an area he desires to learn more about before expressing specifics. He said he has concerns that the budgeting process is reactive rather than proactive.
“By proactive, I mean that budgeting is not a once a year event but a process that is ongoing throughout the fiscal year,” said Straney. “Providing the same or higher level of municipal services at equal or hopefully lower cost will add to sustainability and should be an expectation of all town staff as a routine part of their daily activity. The business side of town activities should operate a lot like a well-run competitive commercial enterprise.”