Hiremath wants OV to ease burden, help business
Candidate says local government should protect residents from greater conditions
Satish Hiremath, candidate for Oro Valley mayor, says it's all about jump-starting the business community.
"If a large percentage of town revenue comes from sales taxes and we don't shore that up and enhance that, where's the revenue going to come from?" Hiremath said.
There don't appear to be any new sources of revenue for the town, he believes,which means protecting those existing sources is all the more important.
If elected, Hiremath said he plans to do all he can to make sure business hums along so the burden of government service cuts or tax increases doesn't fall onto the residents.
Local government also has an obligation to protect its residents from the economic storms of unemployment.
"Local government should keep citizens somewhat more insular from what's happening at the state and federal levels," Hiremath said. Again, the answer comes back to making the town a positive environment for business growth and development.
Part of how he wants the town to promote business and help the community would be to reinstate local support for Tucson Regional Economic Opportunities and the Metropolitan Tucson Convention and Visitors Bureau.
The town council voted to not fund outside groups last year. The also ended its financial support for the Northern Pima County Chamber of Commerce.
Hiremath contends that such moves, and others, have put up barriers to expansion, and have general led to a less than pro-business environment in Oro Valley.
"Right now, the permitting process is very difficult," Hiremath said. "The mayor and council have helped create that perception that business is the bad guy."
As longtime business owner in Oro Valley himself, Hiremath said the view that town officials want to make things hard for the business community is out there, and is real.
Hiremath has owned a local dental practice since 1992. He was the first dentist to open up shop in the town.
He said government should function more efficiently and businesslike.
"Too many people say, including the current mayor, government can't function like a business because government doesn't make a profit — that's crazy," Hiremath said.
He's also had a long involvement with the chamber, a group that recently endorsed his candidacy.
The obstacles the town places before prospective businesses don't necessarily need a complete revamping of how the town does business, he said. Instead, Hiremath said the town should simply ease the path for businesses interested in coming to town.
"There's nothing wrong with the codes, it's how the codes are implemented and enforced," Hiremath said.
That's not to say Hiremath wants the town to pander to the business community at the expense of everyone else. Quite the contrary, he said the town needs to involve more of the community from the private sector in decision-making.
"The current mayor and council have not taken the opportunity to involve people who have a vested interest in helping the community succeed," Hiremath said. "The success of our community is the responsibility of everyone in the community."
Hiremath has spent years involved in local arts groups. For years, he was the president of the Greater Oro Valley Arts Council, now known as the Southern Arizona Arts and Cultural Alliance.The group was a longtime recipient of town support under the now-suspended community funding program.
"I just love Oro Valley," Hiremath said. "I truly want to see it succeed."
Who is Satish Hiremath?
Born in Easton, Pa., Satish Hiremath moved to Michigan with his family in 1969. He grew up in Kalamazoo.
The second oldest of four boys, Hiremath's parents came from Bangalore, India.
His father moved to the U.S. for medical school. He worked most of his career as a surgeon.
After high school, Hiremath moved to Washington, D.C., to attend dental school at Howard University.
"My father had to put four kids through college at the same time without financial aid," Hiremath said. That fact played into his decision to attend Howard, a school that was more affordable than other dental colleges.
"My dad said it doesn't matter how expensive your school is, it's what you learn," Hiremath said.
He moved to Oro Valley in 1990. In 1992, he opened his own practice here in 1992.
Hiremath has one child with his former wife. He's been with his girlfriend for 17 years. The couple has three children together.
Recently, his parents have built a home in Oro Valley. This year has been their first winter in Arizona.
Loomis says experience helps in tough times
12-year mayor wants to serve another term
After 12 years at the helm, Oro Valley Mayor Paul Loomis says he's still ready to lead the town through the rough seas ahead.
"I'm the best man for the job, I have the most experience of anyone on the council or running for council," Loomis said from his corner office in Oro Valley Town Hall.
As the town's representative on regional boards such as the Regional Transportation Authority, the mayor said he's earned the support of other leaders in Southern Arizona
The mayor faces off in a three-way race for the top elected job next month. Despite clambering in some quarters for new faces and direction, Loomis says it's his experience that will guide the town safely through the coming budget difficulties and other tough times the town faces.
"We do need some sense of balance and history and the experience of where and how we got to where we are," Loomis said.
Under Loomis's stewardship, the town has grown from a community of less than 25,000 residents in 1998, to a town of more than 40,000. The budgets, too, have increased.
The town's general fund budget in fiscal 1998 was $11.6 million. Oro Valley's general fund budget for fiscal 2010 is $29.5 million.
Despite the growth, the town stands today, like many municipalities across the state, on the verge of budgetary crisis. While not in the same dire situation as Tucson, Oro Valley faces looming deficits in fiscal 2011.
Loomis says the town needs the experience and knowledge that he's accrued during his years at wheel to close that gap and remain on the right course.
"Our budget, we're attacking very proactively and I don't think it will be as dire as some may think," the mayor said.
on the business community and the clearly strained relationship therein. Oro Valley has long had the reputation as a difficult place to do business or get something built. In the past year, especially since the national economy has suffered, local business groups have ramped up efforts to seek reform from town leaders.
Issues surrounding the sign code have come to the forefront recently, with local business owners, led by the Northern Pima County Chamber of Commerce, asking for a relaxing of rules that govern how late illuminated signs can remain lit. Preceding the move, the town stepping up enforcement efforts by notifying business that many were violating town code in regard to illumination.
More recently, real estate agents have asked the town to cease enforcement efforts aimed at placing signs in the public right-of-way. Real estate firms felt singled out by the ramped up enforcement efforts because many violation notifications involved open house signs.
"If we don't continue to pursue and improve our relationship with business, then we're not going to get these businesses to come into Oro Valley," Loomis said.
The town intends to begin a total revamping of the sign code later this year. Loomis said the effort could help to improve relationships, especially if the town works with businesses and does more to educate incoming companies about the code. He said the town probably had not done enough in the past to educate the business community.
"If you know what the rules are, and the rules are acceptable, then you'll probably follow and not break the rules," Loomis said.
Asked where the tension between town government and the business community come from, Loomis is unambiguous.
"It is coming from the leadership," Loomis said. "This last council has not been business friendly."
Loomis noted that during his 12 years as mayor, seven different councils have been seated.
Today, the mayor says he's ready to look forward.
"I think that I've provided a fair and balanced point of view that is what we continue to need in these tough times," Loomis said. "I'm very excited about the next four years."
Who is Paul Loomis?
A self-described Navy brat, Oro Valley Mayor Paul Loomis grew up roaming American outposts of the far-flung corners of the globe.
With a Navy captain father, Loomis, his mother, brother and sister, lived in places like San Diego, Taiwan, the Philippines and Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
"We lived in Guantanamo Bay right after Castro took over (in 1959)," Loomis said.
Loomis graduated from high school from Taipei American School in Taiwan. He later went to Florida Atlantic University, earning a degree in oceanic engineering.
He then went to work for the U.S. Navy on numerous submersible vehicle programs.
After 20 years on and under the water, Loomis took a job with Raytheon in Tucson, where he finished his career.
Never married, Loomis and girlfriend Trish have been together for more than 28 years. She lives in the Phoenix area.
Zinkin says new blood needed in Oro Valley
Candidate says he's more 'hands off' than current mayor
Although a political novice, Mike Zinkin said he's ready to represent the town of Oro Valley.
A resident of Oro Valley since 1998, Zinkin recently stepped into the mayor's race after originally hoping to claim one of the open seats on the council.
"My wife is my mental-health professional — and she's confirmed that I'm crazy," Zinkin joked.
More seriously, the candidate said he thinks town government needs an infusion of new blood and new ideas. Accordingly, he said, when the leadership becomes entrenched, a sense of "arrogance and cynicism" begins to grow.
"I think that's happened to (Mayor) Paul (Loomis)," Zinkin said.
He did have some conciliatory words for the man he hopes to unseat in March.
"In deference to Paul, he's given 12 years of his life to this town and he's to be commended," he said.
In all other regards, Zinkin appears ready for an all-out race against the incumbent, criticizing his opponent's decision-making and management style.
On the latter, Zinkin said Loomis has taken too much of a hands-on approach to his mayoral duties. Zinkin criticized the mayor for micromanaging town employees and the town's volunteer boards and commissions.
"There were times when he came to me and told me how to run DRB meetings," Zinkin said of the mayor. Zinkin sat on the town's Development Review Board from 2007 to 2009.
He also criticized Loomis for the 2009 ouster of former Town Manager David Andrews, implying the mayor was the driving force behind Andrews' resignation.
"It seemed to be directed by one individual," Zinkin said.
If elected, he said town employees don't have to fear elected officials looking over their shoulders or second-guessing their decisions. He plans to designate duties more than the current mayor has done, such as fellow council members' attendance at the regional governmental boards.
Zinkin wants other members to attend the meetings, not just the mayor, even represent the town at some of the forums. Members would be required to provide comprehensive reports on those meetings as well.
"There'll be no secrets," Zinkin said.
He would likely continue to represent the town on the Regional Transportation Authority governing board, a body comprised of regional mayors and elected leaders.
On some of the town's more pressing issues, like the budget, Zinkin said he's ready to take on the challenges ahead.
"The idea of the budget is liabilities and assets," he said. "We have to do everything we can to build up sales taxes and bed taxes."
He said the town should start by bolstering the local tourism industry. But the town should try as much as possible to do it internally, without the reliance on outside groups like TREO and the Metropolitan Tucson Convention and Visitors Bureau, at least while the town still faces budget deficits and cuts to local services.
"If you're going to give money to TREO and then cut Coyote Run (the local transit service for the elderly and disabled), what are your priorities?" Zinkin said.
He favors the council's move last year to not fund outside groups.
Zinkin also said the town has build better relations in the business community to shed the perception that the town isn't welcoming to new businesses.
"We are business unfriendly, we hassle businessmen," Zinkin said.
The town could go a long way to change that perception by streamlining the development and review processes and communicating with business better. He suggests a simplified checklist for companies so they can better know local rules and regulations.
Zinkin also wants the town to look at new ways to cut spending that won't cost any jobs. Some answers could be found in the simplest of places. According to Zinkin, savings could be as simple as turning off the lights.
"The city of New Haven (Conn.) saved $20,000 per year by turning off computers," Zinkin said.
Other savings would be realized through energy efficient technologies such as waterless urinals, motion-detecting lights in rooms and lavatories, and taking advantage of long-term savings from using solar panels to minimize power usage.
Above all, he plans to be accountable and to honor decisions made by the council. Those decisions would stand, and Zinkin said he won't get in the way of town staffers charged with implementing the rules.
"It doesn't matter if I voted for it," he said. "It's policy."
Who is Mike Zinkin?
Candidate for Oro Valley Mayor Mike Zinkin is nearly a Tucson native.
The 64-year-old retiree was born in Indianapolis but moved to Tucson before starting high school. He's a graduate of Rincon High School in mid-town Tucson.
He graduated from the University of Arizona in 1967 and promptly joined the U.S. Navy, intent on becoming a pilot. Instead, however, Zinkin decided on training as an air-traffic controller.
He stayed in that field for the rest of his career, retiring in 1998. That's when he and second wife Ramona decided to move back to Southern Arizona after stints in Washington, D.C., Southern California and St. Louis.
Along the way, Zinkin also started refereeing and umpiring youth sports, something he continues today.
He also earned a master's degree in education and taught a post-graduate behind-the-scenes look at air traffic control for pilots.
Zinkin has two sisters. With his first wife, he had two children. He and Ramona have been married for 16 years.