There were no startling revelations, no major gaffes, no sharp distinctions drawn among candidates at Saturday's Oro Valley Town Council and mayoral candidate forum.
Perhaps most revealing was the large crowd, some of them supporters of specific hopefuls, who filled the meeting room at the Oro Valley Public Library and spilled onto the adjacent patio on a cool Saturday morning. Those on the porch could listen through open doors, so that "all that hot air can come out," one man said.
"Having an overflow problem is a nice problem to have," said Onita Davis of the Friends of the Oro Valley Library, the organization that sponsored the event.
Mayoral candidates Satish Hiremath, incumbent Paul Loomis and Mike Zinkin, and town council candidates incumbent K.C. Carter, Mark Finchem, Joe Hornat, Matthew Rabb and Mary Snider answered questions for two hours Saturday morning. Council candidates Don Emmons and Lou Waters were unable to attend due to family emergencies.
Each candidate had a two-minute opening statement, and a one-minute close.
"How do we keep Oro Valley the kind of community we have today," in the face of economic difficulty, Hornat asked. "We do it with a very dynamic, creative, intelligent plan of fiscal conservatism." He would encourage business, and not discourage it, and not disrupt Oro Valley's "well-respected institutions," such as its police department and library.
"How would we balance the needs of our community?" Snider asked. "That's not up to one person to answer. It's up to a working council, to work together as a team." Snider said the citizens have spoken loudly to say public safety is their No. 1 concern. "We have to decide what we're going to fight for. We face challenging times."
"I want to continue to be your mayor," Loomis said. "Oro Valley's a great town. I want to continue to contribute to make Oro Valley even better." He has been "consistently in support of public safety, public works and quality of life … for the last 12 years." Roads have been built, fire coverage issues resolved, "and we still have the best police services in the state. The upcoming term will be very challenging, but I think it's going to be exciting."
Carter, recovering from a hip injury, struggled to stand up. "I'm crippled, temporarily," he said.
"I'm honest, and try to do you a good job," Carter said. To sustain what Oro Valley has, "we've got to keep industry coming in here, we've got to live within our means. Next year's budget is going to be a nightmare."
Finchem said he brings "a unique mix of experience" from the public and private sectors to the council. The real estate agent, former Intuit sales manager and trained law enforcement officer said the citizenry, business and government "each plays a distinct role" in the community. "Government is a team sport," he said. "If we don't have a council that works together, we won't be able to overcome the challenges we face."
Zinkin, 30 years as an air traffic controller and a longtime baseball umpire, said the stress of calling a knee-high fastball a strike with the bases loaded, the count full and a friend of your mother's at the plate is "not much different than what the mayor's going to have to do over the next four years."
He wants to expedite development, maintain public safety as his No. 1 concern, and push for transparency. "We can do this, and we can do this together," Zinkin said. "I can certainly unify six other council members."
Rabb grew up in Oro Valley, and returned to the community to practice law after time in the nation's capital. "A vote for me is a vote for a new perspective," said Rabb, who advocates responsible spending, smart growth and maintaining the community's character. "Right now, we can't have everything we want," said Rabb, who would cut unnecessary spending, not use tax money on pet projects, and be sure tax dollars are used to benefit the public.
Hiremath, a resident since 1990, said Oro Valley is "still small enough to make a tangible difference" through governance. To work through this "economic time like no other," Oro Valley needs "a collaborative effort.
"We have a fundamental problem. It's us in government. We have a system that's broken," Hiremath said. The current structure is "not conducive to leading anyone anywhere. We have a council that has a clear divide to it, a town staff that's almost like deer in the headlights."
During the day, candidates were asked questions about the town's library services agreement with Pima County, what they would do to make Oro Valley friendly to business, about their past involvement and service with the town, what they would do to encourage tourism, how they voted on the Naranja Town Site park bonds and what should happen with that property, and what budget cuts they would propose.
In closing remarks, several candidates urged people to pass the "home rule" ballot question in March.
"It's very important you understand the question," Loomis said. "I urge you to vote 'yes' on that."
"You'd better vote 'yes' for it, or we're going to be in damned serious trouble," Carter said. "It's very, very important, people. That has to pass."
"If home rule doesn't pass, I don't think any of us here want the job," Hiremath said.
Zinkin said he agreed on the home rule question. He was dressed casually, doing so after a conversation with Loomis, who told him "no one is going to show up. Dress casual." The crowd laughed.
"I asked Paul, and he told me to dress casual," said Hornat, dressed formally. "I didn't believe him."
Snider pointed out she's the only woman running for office. She would be "honored" to serve.
Would candidates 'consider' a property tax in Oro Valley?
Oro Valley Town Council and mayor candidates were asked Saturday if they would "consider" a first-ever property tax to bolster a lagging general fund.
"Yes, I will consider it," said Mayor Paul Loomis, who is seeking re-election. "It's up to you to approve it." A property tax would have to be placed on a ballot for voter consideration.
Loomis said Oro Valley is the largest town in Arizona that does not have a property tax. "If we want the services, we're going to have to pay for them."
"Absolutely not," mayoral candidate Mike Zinkin said. "I will never come to you with an increase in an existing tax, or a property tax, until I am absolutely certain town government is down to the nubbins. We need to cut back in government."
"I'm not in favor of it," said mayoral candidate Satish Hiremath. "When you hire elected officials, it's our obligation to present" revenue options. "Yes, I would consider it, but only after everything else is examined thoroughly. A property tax is up to the citizens."
"I will never vote for that property tax," said Councilman K.C. Carter, who is seeking re-election. "You'll get a property tax to pass in this town if it's for specific items. This budget's going to get very interesting. A property tax, it's a tough sell to the public. I know we need money. We need to get a lot of work done to save some money."
Council candidate Mark Finchem offered a "no, an emphatic no" on a property tax.
"That would place very homeowner in Oro Valley at a competitive disadvantage," the real estate agent said. "We can't cut our way out of this situation, either."
"Yes, I'd consider a property tax," Matthew Rabb said. "It would be irresponsible not to consider every option we have. But I'm not in favor of one."
"It would be irresponsible not to consider a property tax" after "everything else" has been examined, council candidate Joe Hornat said. "I don't want to do that until we absolutely have to."
"The public needs to speak about this," candidate Mary Snider said. "I want to make sure we're not irresponsibly spending money. Let's find out how to balance the budget" before turning to taxes as a "last resort."
Primary Election: March 9
• Ballots will be mailed to registered voters around February 11.
• Voter registration deadline is February 8.
General Election: May 18
• Ballots mailed to registered voters around April 14.
• Early voting begins April 15.
• Voter registration deadline is April 19.
Candidates not elected with a majority of the votes cast in the primary election will run in the May run-off election.
Only candidates equal to twice the number of seats open can run in May run-off. For example, if three seats are open, the six top vote getters will be on the run-off ballot.
New council members take office on June 2.
For more information, call the town clerk's Office at 229-4700.
For information about voter registration or to request an early ballot contact the Pima County Recorder's Office at 740-4330 or by logging on to the recorder's Web site at www.recorder.pima.gov.