Letters to the editor published in the June 24, 2009, edition of The Explorer.
In OV, watch for more raids on reserve funds
In December 2006, the Oro Valley Town Council passed a 2 percent utility tax.
At the December 2006 meeting, a utility tax was considered to fund 18.5 new staff positions ($1.2 million). The request had been repeatedly turned down in the normal budget process. A sunset clause was added to end the short-term utility tax in April 2009. Voting against the utility tax were Abbott, Gillaspie, and Carter.
In March 2009, the town council discussed extending the 2 percent utility tax expiring in April 2009. There was no sunset clause.
The March 2009 meeting considered continuing the utility tax to fund the original 18.5 staff positions because of an expected budget shortfall of $4.2 million. Voting against extending the utility tax were Abbott, Carter and Garner.
On June 3, 2009, Mayor Paul Loomis and council members Paula Abbott, Carter and Al Kunisch voted for the use of contingency fund (rainy day reserves) to avoid personnel reductions.
After voting twice not to add extra jobs with the utility tax votes, councilperson Abbott did an about-face and supported raiding the contingency fund to avoid a reduction in jobs advocated by the town administrator to reduce unneeded personnel "bloat" because of the economy, and to balance the budget.
"I consider that a one-time thing," Abbott said of the reserve use for payroll costs. "I would never do that again. I talked about trying to protect jobs. We had 33, went to 16, and it's now manageable, it's now doable. It's raining hard. My passion was to protect jobs."
The town manager has stated the Town of Oro Valley will likely face four more years of budget shortfalls. How can Abbott think this is a one-time (short-term) solution? Does she think it will be someone else's problem in future years?
Citizen Bill Adler put it best when he said: "A 'balanced budget' matches income and expenses, and not income, expenses and reserves. To me … this is not a balanced budget."
Look for more contingency fund raiding.
John Musolf, Oro Valley
Let's clean up the trash along Tangerine Road
What can we do about the litter along Tangerine Road?
My husband and I are relatively new to this area. We moved here from our home in town because of the astounding landscape, the big sky, the majesty of the mountains surrounding Oro Valley. As I drive along Tangerine Road, I see hawks on the telephone poles. I watch the patterns that clouds create on the mountainsides. I notice the seasonal changes in saguaros, prickly pears, and brittle bush.
And then my eye drifts to plastic bags waving like flags from so many trees and shrubs. I try not to see beer cartons, soda cans, plastic bottles, streams of toilet paper, and blown tires lining the roads, but there they are, there they are, there they are. I try to see the beauty inherent in Oro Valley, but litter gets in the way.
My husband and I take walks just about every other day to pick up trash left behind by those who must not care. But the trash collects and multiplies overnight.
Our beautiful environment is turning into a wasteland. What can we do? There must be something. What can we do?
Lauren Smith, Marana
Letter from survey firm off the mark
In response to the letter from Chris Baker of Marketing Intelligence (Survey tries to reach all of OV, June 17, 2009):
It's understandable that a company that makes its living charging taxpayers $17,500 for a survey would take issue with a survey conducted at no expense to taxpayers. However, Baker charges that a previous article "has several inaccuracies and misrepresentations that should be addressed," but then fails to point out any inaccuracies or misrepresentations.
Baker points out that council member K.C. Carter, along with former council members Dankwerth and Parish, "felt very strongly that they represent all residents of Oro Valley, and not just those who are registered to vote." It's interesting to note that Carter, Dankwerth and Parish didn't bother to ask voters whether they were willing to pay $48 million for ball fields before they put that issue on the ballot and proceeded with a $50,000 education campaign. In the ultimate surveys conducted a few months after the $17,500 survey was delivered, the registered voters of Oro Valley proceeded to vote Dankwerth and Parish out of office.
Baker concludes that "Mayor Paul Loomis and council members Paula Abbott, William Garner and Al Kunisch … asked insightful questions pertaining to the methodology and survey results at the presentation of findings." That's an interesting statement, as I was not on council in January 2008 when the survey findings were presented. So much for accuracy.
Bill Garner, Council member, Oro Valley
Please, don't wear the U.S. stars and stripes
The pictures of the lady and man wearing clothing depicting the Stars and Stripes is in contradiction to the U.S. Flag Code, section 4-(d) which states "the flag should never be used as wearing apparel, bedding or drapery."
While it's not misguided to feel its wearing as a mark of patriotism, these pictures show disrespect to the flag.
Norman Taer, Oro Valley
She's more than qualified to speak out on dog issue
OV should be wary of Diane Peters regarding the pet licensing issue (Letter, June 10).
Unable to debate why OV needs to grow its government to include a pet shelter service, Peters resorts to marginalization and mockery. She attempts to discredit me as she boldly proclaims: "Apparently, this is someone who has never loved an animal (nor known the pain of losing one) and therefore, she is hardly qualified to speak on this issue."
It is atrocious that I must submit a résumé to dissent with Latas and Peters. As a US citizen, voter, taxpayer and OV homeowner, I am more than qualified to speak against this bad idea and irresponsible spending.
Counter to Peters' assumption, I have had the blessed company of a dog most of my 44 years. I've rescued a pound dog, Max, who lived a pampered life with us. I've raised Pooh, a Lab, who was Delta Society certified. As a Pet Partners team, Pooh and I read to at-risk children, taught dog bite prevention, and visited VA Blind Rehab Center so veterans could feel the love and comfort of an animal while receiving treatment.
On one of my volunteer duties at an elementary school, I rescued a stray puppy. I took him home with me and put my family and pets at risk because Ziggy was diagnosed with Parvo. Ziggy was adopted by my sister-in-law.
Peters' emotional tirade disrespects me and her fellow citizen, Yvonne Ignacio, who she belittles "…laughed her way through her presentation." Peters should show gratitude because Ignacio saved the life of a pound dog by adopting it.
I oppose this proposal because there is no free lunch. All government has an insatiable appetite for tax dollars and control. It's preposterous to assume that OV can save the life of every unwanted animal. Perhaps Peters, Latas and company should open their purses to privately and generously fund Hope. It is naïve to believe that Hope will perpetually offer free services. We have a budget crisis. Where does the abuse of our tax dollars stop?
Misti Chivaluksna-Smith, Oro Valley
Sen. Melvin wants to hear from constituents
I recently concluded my second series of town hall meetings with the residents of Legislative District 26.
Several points are becoming increasingly clear:
First, our economy is continuing to decline. We know that at the legislature because we can see the declining tax revenues. Believe it or not, tax revenue is down an additional 30 percent.
But you can get a much more real sense of it listening to the questions asked and stories told by those who attended these forums. They are facing serious challenges and many are going to need our help.
Second, a lot of folks are afraid, not only of a suffering economy, but they have a very real fear that things are nowhere near as bad as they might get. They see the private sector shrinking at a fast rate while government is growing at an even more ominous rate. Our government has, in just the last six months, taken over the banking industry, the car industry and parts of the insurance industry. And the takeover of the private sector by the public sector is nowhere near finished. This adds a great deal of uncertainty to people's lives as they try to make long-term plans.
Third, outside of a small, but determined and persistent group of people who are still clamoring for state government to borrow more, tax more and spend more, the people in our district want a state government that is responsible, that prioritizes, and that refrains from adding to their burden.
So I was pleased to share good news on that front. A 2010 budget has been passed by the Legislature and it does what needs to be done without raising taxes. More than that, it protects priorities like education. I mentioned that revenues are down 30 percent, yet education cuts to K-12 are around 3.5 percent. This news was well received, since many of the people attending the town halls were hearing doomsday predictions from schools and many in the media.
When I first ran for office I promised to conduct these town hall meetings every three months. I am happy to keep my promise and want to thank each and every attendee. I also want to invite the rest of the district to attend the next round of meetings. You can get on an email list for them at www.SenatorMelvin.com. I look forward to seeing you there and to hearing from you.
Al Melvin, SaddleBrooke
OV water utility went above and beyond the call
I would like to say thank you and let the community know what a wonderful job our water company does.
I had Bill Williams from the company check my water pressure (a service they do for free if you request it). He had trouble finding the PRV valve and I had to leave for an appointment.
When I returned several hours later, I found a note on my door and a message on my machine saying he had returned to continue searching for it. He located it on my meter box, not by the house shutoff.
I was very impressed that he continued to help me in that way. Also I was told the pressure was double what it should be and contacted a plumber. I shared the knowledge with my neighbors that the valves should be checked every 10 or so years.
Thank you, Oro Valley Water Utility.
Sus Nuhn, Oro Valley
Regulation of greenhouse gas is plain nonsense
I support SB1147, which would forbid the nonsensical regulation of so-called greenhouse gases in Arizona.
The entire so-called climate change issue is a politically driven darling of the radical left to further regulate and strangle Americans. It has become a theological point with the Democrats. The data is all over the map and is entirely inconclusive.
Given the radical and extremely onerous cost to the economy and to our way of life, in the absence of overwhelming and incontrovertible scientific data on the anthropogenic basis for climate change, including the exact impact not wild speculation, SB 1147 is an excellent bill.
Yes on SB1147.
Rick Cunnington, Oro Valley
Public schools are making big cuts as well
You are correct to state "Senator Melvin has heard plenty from parents." Correct also to state that this is "emotional."
At Flowing Wells, we are rich in tradition and academic success. As parents, we decided that it was time to raise our voice for the children.
In February, Sen. Melvin hosted us at the Capitol. We engaged him on the budget cuts to public education. In May, we hosted Sen. Melvin at Richardson Elementary. The visit began in kindergarten. Next, we called on a second grade classroom. Our goal was to firmly establish that the all-day kindergarten experience produces a well-rounded student who goes on to succeed. Sen. Melvin remarked during this school visit that K-12 education was important to national security.
Recently, we spoke with the senator regarding soft capital and Career Ladder. These items represent money for books and student academic activities. At this meeting, Sen. Melvin stated that Republicans support Career Ladder. Currently, soft capital is slated for an 85 percent cut. Career Ladder is slated for a multi-year phase out. Clearly, all of this adds up to something more than the "low single digit" cuts that you referred to.
We also engaged with the House. We hosted Rep. Williams at Richardson. He too, was taken on an academic tour. From there, Rep. Williams was instrumental in bringing the chair of the education committee to Richardson Elementary, Rich Crandall. Our parent team led yet another discussion on the value of Career Ladder for the children.
Worthy of note is the sacrifice that our teachers will make with their contracts for the new school year. Not unlike the sacrifices that you cited at local townships, our teachers will be subject to furlough days and no increase for upcoming contract year. Certainly, our public servants are in a time of sacrifice.
At Flowing Wells and at public schools across the state, our children are in educational environments critical to their future. We understand that public education will not be free from budget cuts. What we seek is informed decision-making on the proposed and eventual cuts.
Tim Derrig, Flowing Wells
We know how conservatives pick justices
Writer Vanourny attempts to give us lessons on how conservatives choose their Supreme Court justices. Didn't we get enough insight into that process during the 2000 elections?
The conservative justices conspired to take over the states' election procedures without constitutional precedence to help elect one of their conservative friends President of the United States. How did that work out for everyone?
Again, in the 2004 elections, we witnessed how some federal judges believed whey were fired for failing to prosecute alleged voter fraud among non-conservative political parties. Never mind that they could not find the fraud.
President Bush considered it his right to appoint judges who shared his conservative views regardless of past precedent. He denounced judges who "legislated from the bench": translation: Judges who ruled against his conservative values.
Vanourny uses false scenarios to make his point that President Obama, when nominating Judge Sotomayor, considered her empathy first and slighted her other qualifications. He claims the only information he has on Sotomayor is that she is empathic. Evidently Vanourny never even read (or saw) the president's nominating speech (re: MSNBC). The president did not mention the word "empathy" at all during the speech. Had Vanourny read the speech, he would have learned that Sotomayor would be the only justice with trial judge experience, indeed, the only one with bench experience when nominated.
Fortunately, Vanourny will not determine Sotomayor's fate. His false analogies and lack of facts are appalling. His analogy of the hiring an un-qualified airline pilot and a neurosurgeon hardly apply to the appointment of jurists. His examples involve the hiring of staff and appointing a jurist is akin to hiring your boss. There is a difference.
Conservatives have accused Sotomayor in being a racist and sexist, but there is little evidence in any of her past rulings. Her resignation from a Hispanic women's organization will hardly qualify her for the conservatives' all-white male club.
Ben Love, Oro Valley
Assessors want a public debate on tax proposal
As elected officials on the front line of the property tax issue, we need to bring to the public's attention one of most important tax policy changes in recent history.
In Senate Bill 1036, a companion bill to the state's budget, the Arizona Legislature is proposing to redistribute a substantial portion of the current tax burden from commercial and vacant land property owners and place it on residential property owners for voter-approved bonds and overrides.
Simply put, every homeowner will have a tax increase and nearly every business will have a tax decrease for all future bonds and overrides against the status quo.
Every year, thousands of Arizonans interact with their locally elected county assessors and their staffs and struggle to understand our quarter-century old valuation structure. How do we look these taxpayers in the eye and explain this tax shift?
We believe a public debate needs to occur. It appears no public discussion was held on the topic at the legislature and the ramifications are only now coming to light. It really does not matter whether you support the proposed change or you support the status quo, how are the citizens of Arizona suppose to participate in a debate that never happened?
We, the elected assessors of all counties in Arizona, both Republicans and Democrats, asked the new leadership in the Legislature to form a group to examine the property tax structure and were told to wait for an appropriate time. We are still waiting and hoping such a group will be formed soon. The entire property tax system needs to be examined in its entirety.
Transparency in government has been a buzzword used by politicians for decades. This has resonated from the President of the United States to leaders of the Arizona Legislature.
Therefore, if the Arizona Legislature believes this major tax policy change is the right thing to do, then they ought to have the courage to have an open public discussion on the subject. The citizens of this great state deserve no less.
Bill Staples, Pima County assessor, And 14 other Arizona county assessors