By Emil Franzi
ORO VALLEY'S LATEST recall election, scheduled for Tuesday, March 28, is the eighth in the last three years in a town of about 15,000 that exhibits all the political stability of Lebanon.
So what's this year's brawl about? As usual in these matters, there are multiple issues.
Issue No. 1: Mayor Richard Parker likes being in charge--not unusual for a retired naval officer. But that attitude has caused many residents to accuse him of being a dictator. Critics charge the mayor and council ignore taxpayers in pursuit of their own agenda.
Issue No. 2: The attitude Parker, Hoyt and two other council members, Bill Kautenberger and the recently appointed Marty Wells, have shown toward development on two items of debate--Honeybee Canyon and golf course water.
Honeybee Canyon is one of only three free-running, year-round creeks in Pima County. Unlike the others, it didn't show up on an environmental priority list until lately--and then only after Rancho Vistoso Partners, a group centered around the legendary--and, to some, infamous--Wolfswinkel family of Scottsdale, decided to develop it.
There have been the usual attempts at "compromise," with the deal now being a 300-foot setback on each side of the stream. The environmentalists say that isn't enough.
We have a teensy bit of sympathy for the developer, and here's why: Until the 1970s Honeybee Canyon and the area surrounding it was state land. A group of environmentalists wanted to create Catalina State Park from land that was privately owned, so a complicated land swap was arranged which included a 1974 county bond proposal to trade what is currently the park for the area that includes Honeybee. It's hard for the developer to understand that today a different group of tree huggers values Honeybee much more than their now-forgotten counterparts of 20 years ago.
Parker's council nemesis, Vice Mayor Cheryl Skalsky, proposed to Governor J. Fife Symington III that Honeybee Canyon be rescued by Heritage Fund dollars. Symington was willing to pursue the matter--until Parker wrote him to kill the idea. No mayor's support, no Heritage Fund. The folks trying to save Honeybee, ably led by Nancy Wright, haven't given up on the Heritage Fund solution yet. But a couple of new council members would sure improve their position.
And before we sound like apologists for desert-raping scum, we should note Honeybee Canyon is about the only area where the developers have problems in the Town of Oro Valley. Sure, Parker and Hoyt claim they act "responsibly" and believe in "controlled growth," and point out they've even instituted "impact fees" on new homes. But when you tally up the real costs of growth to existing residents, or compare OV's piddly fee of about $1,500 per home (which goes to widen La Cañada to handle all the new cars dumped on it) to what's charged in parts of California, where they have real impact fees computed on--what a concept--the actual impact, it's painfully clear Parker and Hoyt are mostly blowing smoke. In California, a fee of $10 per square foot per house is not an unreasonable charge, nor would it be here.
Also involved in Parker & Co.'s attitude issue is the 4-to-1 vote, Skalsky dissenting, by which the OV Town Council decided to allow the use of groundwater on three new golf courses. Parker claims the council couldn't do anything to stop it, which raises the question of why they had to vote at all. Also, if the City of Tucson can propose telling restaurants not to serve drinking water, how come OV doesn't have the same powers over golf courses?
Issue No. 3: About 2,000 of OV's 7,800 or so voters live in Rancho Vistoso and Sun City, a portion of town that's also part of the Golder Ranch Fire District. And they like being in the fire district. But Parker & Co., again minus Skalsky, decided to screw the district, issuing a no-bid monopoly to Rural Metro, which currently serves the other 75 percent of the town. It's this issue that really sparked the recall.
Recall supporters have recruited two candidates to run against Parker and Hoyt. Rudy Roszak faces Parker, while Paul Parisi squares off against Hoyt.
Roszak has owned a commercial real estate and consulting firm, Cal-Roz Associates, for the past 11 years. He's lived in Oro Valley for almost three years, and was once a city manager in Henderson, Tennessee.
Parasi is the CEO of Partel Business Telephone Systems. He's spent nine years on the Tucson Housing Advisory and Appeals Board and 10 years on the Board of the Tucson Volunteer Center. He's lived in Oro Valley since 1973.
Roszak and Parisi issued a joint pledge to the people of Oro Valley covering a dozen specific issues, including direct election of the mayor, the elimination of appointments for council vacancies, live televising of council meetings, prohibiting the use of groundwater on new golf courses, and insisting that rezonings cover the costs to the community.
Meanwhile, the town council majority has been busy using the power of city hall in ways that would make a Chicago alderman blush.
For example, while there are eight OV precincts, in this election residents will be voting in three spots. And none of those three spots is in the Vistoso/Sun City area, where a quarter of the voters, who happen to be the most vociferously anti-Parker, live. Hey, just coincidence.
Another coincidence: unequal enforcement of the sign code. When Parker ran in last year's recall, he hung his signs on anything that didn't move. This year, he's got the advantage of developer's private land, so he wants the law rigidly enforced. So rigidly that Roszak and Parisi complained to the OV Police Department that somebody was ripping off their signs. Of course, no one informed them it was city staff just enforcing the law. Recall proponents even videotaped a city employee, no doubt overzealous, removing a sign from somebody's front yard.
The final coincidence is the "Issue Paper" written for the mayor and council majority by their public relations consultant, Nina Trasoff. This puff piece purports to discuss the "facts" concerning the very issues the recall is all about, and is nothing more than a defense of the behavior of the council majority--which includes Parker and Hoyt. And it just happened to get mailed--at taxpayers' expense--less than a month before the election. While members of Congress and other elected officials are prohibited by law from using tax money to finance mass mailers within six months of an election, these clowns brazenly drop one three weeks out.
Tuesday's recall could be one of the watershed elections for this entire valley. If Roszak and Parisi are successful, Oro Valley may finally get a handle on the growth monster. But if Parker and Hoyt are retained, listen for that giant sucking sound Ross Perot likes to talk about--only it won't be NAFTA; it'll be our northside water table.
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