The Northwest EXPLORER's coverage of Oro Valley's March 12 primary election continues with in-depth profiles of the mayoral candidates. The coverage will continue in the next two issues with the council and mayoral candidates' responses to general leadership questions on Jan. 30 and an issue-related questionnaire on Feb. 6.
WAYNE BRYANT BELIEVES THE BUDGET IS IN DANGER
Mayoral candidate Wayne Bryant, 48, described himself as "the odd man out" in his unsuccesful bid to remain on the Oro Valley Town Council two years ago.
That description may be even closer to the truth this time around.
Back then Bryant also alleged the election had been "stolen" through the funding provided to his opponents by development interests in the community and their focus on uninformed new arrivals.
He thinks they'll try to do so again.
So why is Bryant, a marketing representative for the United Association of Plumbers and Journeymen, running?
"The main reason I'm running is that I care about the town greatly," he said.
He believes the town is "heading in the direction of a big fall," primarily because it's spending "way way too much money" compared with the revenues it's taking in.
He blames the current town administration in general, and his former ally Mayor Paul Loomis in particular, for allowing the town's debt to grow beyond its ability to repay and for doing so without voter approval.
Bryant noted that the town's $92 million budget for the current fiscal year is more than three times the state's allowable limit although the town can, with voter approval in the coming election, exercise its Home Rule option and establish its own spending limits.
He warns that unless the town does something soon it will reach its retail sales buildout "within 10 years easy" and find itself without the tax base to finance its infrastructure needs and preserve the quality of life residents have become accustomed to.
He says the town must do something about that. The first thing he recommends is that the town live within its means.
"People have to understand that for us to retain the quality of life we have, that's going to demand a tremendous amount of infrastructure that we currently don't have. And at this time I don't believe we have enough money the way the budget is going right now and the amount of debt we're attempting to pay to even begin to address where we're going to get the funds to bring in alternative water to water the golf courses.
"We have to look at the finances that are coming in and we have to start trimming and cutting back if we're going to do that. And we have to start turning to the developers to pay their fair share in terms of impact fees so we can have parks, trails, streets, flood controls."
One of the areas Bryant would explore for possible budget cuts is the $10 million a year he said the town is paying in salaries. For the time being, he would favor a freeze on all hiring to reassess debt repayment and infrastructure needs.
Areas he would cut in the current budget would include money for police vehicles and the planning and zoning staff, especially with the decline in the number of building permits being issued by the town.
Bryant is an advocate of stricter impact fees on developers.
"Currently we have no set asides for parks. Zero. Nothing. Every time a developer comes in for a rezoning, especially Vistoso Partners, they're allowed to upzone. That upzoning should require a substantial amount of set asides for trails and parks and by doing that we'll preserve the quality of life we all envision.
"We're at least six years behind in infrastructure needs and we haven't even begun to address the cost of flood control for instance, not to mention the traffic we've burdened ourselves with because every time we upzone a piece of property we're adding more burden to that."
Bryant bases his statement about the town being six years behind in infrastructure needs on data developed in shaping the town's last General Plan.
He is "dead set against " a property tax and would do all he can to avert it, but said the town is heading down that path very quickly. "The mayor himself has admitted that eventually there's going to be a property tax, but I don't believe that just because some think that we're going to have a property tax that we should head for it," he said.
"I think we can avert it by tightening our belts, by trimming ourselves down and having everybody start paying their fair share to get the amenities and quality of life we've been talking about."
Bryant would put off any annexation plans by the town until it's out of debt, paid off the cost of bringing in Central Arizona Project water and effluent and in a position to provide the services and amenities to annexed areas that Oro Valley residents receive.
Paying down the town's current debt and financing the estimated $30 million to $80 million cost for the CAP are among the biggest problems facing the town right now, he said.
While Bryant and other candidates are stressing the town's debt burden, town Finance Director David Andrews said that debt situation currently poses "no problem."
Since 1996 the town has issued bonds totaling $56.7 million, $44 million of which have been related to water needs, Andrews said. Those water bonds are being paid for out of water rates and impact fees, he said.
The $12.7 million in non-water related bonds issued during that time for library land, the CDO Riverfront Park and the Naranja Town Site are being financed out of the general fund at a rate of $1.1 million a year, or a mere 6.6 percent of the town's annual general fund revenues, Andrews said.
Bryant believes that it would be unfair to residents of areas proposed for annexation to tax them and not provide the services they deserve, including the upgrading of antiquated water and sewer systems and road improvements. He wants the town to have the financial resources in the bank first to accommodate those citizen needs.
"It very well will stop annexation for years," he said. "I'm in favor of that until we get our own house in order. I hate putting our debt off and putting it off for the next generation. This isn't fair. We have an opportunity to address it, to do it now before there is a property tax."
He's opposed to incentives to lure new businesses such as those approved by the council to land the Ritz Carlton Resort and to support expansion at the Sheraton El Conquistador Resort, measures he voted against as a councilman. Those incentives represented about $15 million in revenues over 10 years that the town could have used to finance its infrastructure needs, he said. "Now we're paying for it. It was a grievous mistake on our part. Businesses are going to come here anyway. Why give incentives to one and not to all."
In terms of the General Plan now being updated by the town, Bryant would establish the plan as a policy that developers would have to comply with rather than as a guideline for growth.
"I want to be able to make any rezoning require a super majority vote, to make any General Plan amendment require a super majority vote so that three people on the council couldn't control the way the town goes."
Growing Smarter legislation enacted by the Legislature already requires a supermajority vote on amendments to any General Plan and any major rezoning opposed by a majority of residents would require a similar vote. Bryant doesn't see that as a means of allowing a minority to control issues, but rather as a means of giving more people a say.
Bryant said he and Loomis shared sharply different views over their interpretation of how the General Plan should apply to development and that's when they went their separate ways.
"Loomis wouldn't say no to a development proposal even when the General Plan didn't support it," Bryant said.
"Paul was very concerned that I was more of a maverick than he wanted me to be," Bryant said. "I'm the type that likes to get the job done. I don't like to sit there and analyze something and play with it so long that nothing happens. I want to get in there and do what needs to be done.
"That's where Paul and I disagree. Paul wanted to slow down and take things easy. I didn't because time was working against us. And the clock is even shorter now.
"Loomis, unfortunately, doesn't have the personality to stand up to the pressures and say no. He tried to play politics and find a happy medium and at this juncture you can't do that."
Loomis, on the other hand, described Bryant as someone who "wanted everything done yesterday," a councilmember who lacked patience required to research issues to be in a more educated position when the time came to vote.
Bryant characterized his 14 months on the council as both "enlightening" in terms of the political process and "discouraging" as to the lack of control the council has in dealing with the influence of outside forces.
He considers his major accomplishment getting information out to voters and said he might have accomplished more, particularly in terms of settling the town's long dispute over getting Central Arizona Project water and effluent for the town, had he been given more time.
Those differences were just resolved last year when the town agreed to pay Tucson $5.4 million to gain access to an additional 4,454 acre feet of CAP water, supplementing its current 2,294 acre foot allocation, and the right to transfer from the city to the town control of the effluent the town produces.
As long as an issue requires only three votes to approve or reject, there won't be much of an opportunity for diversity on the council, especially when the agenda is controlled by the mayor, the town manager and the town clerk, Bryant said. "It was a rude awakening."
At times, when he was on the council, the atmosphere turned hostile, with Councilmembers Dick Johnson and Paul Parisi the major adversaries, he said. Since then, he said, many of his differences with Parisi have been resolved and the two share a much more common ground.
"Anytime you come on the council under a recall you've pretty much upset the apple cart are treated as the new kid on the block," he said.
Bryant said he also felt both Councilmember Fran LaSala and Mayor Loomis backtracked on the philosophies he shared with them.
He would be opposed to increasing the council to seven members because of the increased costs it would involve.
Bryant said his approach was to oppose rezonings when they did not comply with the General Plan. 'Why continue changing it, why continue adding more housing units, more families, more of a burden on the water, more burden on the infrastructure and take away our open space.
"Loomis couldn't stand up and say no, so we started taking away the things we moved here for. He wouldn't see it that way. I said to Paul 'enough is enough. ' It was madness."
Bryant pointed out that he was on a sector board that helped to shape the town's current General Plan. "There was a tremendous amount of citizen participation," he said. "Their main thing was sustaining our quality of life and preserving the environment and then came the economics. That's the direction citizens wanted to go. And I believe it deserves consideration because the people spent so much time on this.
"That General Plan was shaped by citizens. The current General Plan update is being done by appointees of the council for the most part, people who really don't really have any knowledge of the previous General Plan.
"So my fear is that it's going to be watered down to a point of why even have a General Plan. We need to strengthen the existing General Plan by putting teeth into it, make it authoritative. That way the town has to adhere to it. I think when you do that you're going to be more comfortable with the council being forced to comply with its rules and mandates. It's very simple. Citizen control. I've always believed in open government and the citizens' right to know.
"With this General Plan, unfortunately, the majority of people who are running it represent special interests, people that don't even live in Oro Valley. And that's a crying shame."
Bryant would also change policies and town ordinances to give the mayor greater control over what appears on the town council agendas.
"I take offense at having two bureaucrats and one elected official controlling what appears on the agenda," Bryant said. "That's not right. You need elected people running the government, not the people who aren't elected who are merely protecting their jobs."
Bryant was asked whether he thought development interests would try to "steal" the election again. "You bet, they'll make every attempt to, " he said. "But I think people are much more informed than they were in the past. So their ability to do so is going to be much more difficult. The elements are out there for a change. More and more people are more and more aware of the issues at stake. The turnover in houses now is phenomenal. People are moving in, getting discouraged and moving out fast. There's a tremendous amount of homes on the market right now in Oro Valley. People have just had it."
Bryant finished second in the 2000 primary behind current councilmember Werner Wolff and ahead of two other current councilmembers, Bart Rochman and Dick Johnson, only to lose out in the General Election by a mere 28 votes.
Rightly or wrongly, current councilmembers cringe at the prospect of having to deal with Bryant as Mayor and even Bryant acknowledged that. Relationships may be "strained" at first," until the council realizes where he wants to go with the town, Bryant said. "But once we start cutting through some of the fluff and getting down to the realities, once we sit down and get past the roughness of it and once we start working together as a team, I think we're probably going to start changing direction. If we start caring about the town in the citizens' way, then we'll be able to do that.
"At first they're going to be very nervous about me because, like I said, I'm a maverick when it comes to wanting to get things done," Bryant said.
Bryant said he hasn't spent much time with Rochman but based on the conversations he has had he believes that Rochman will be able to "tie things together and make reasonable decisions."
As far as Wolff, Bryant said he will probably have to "try and bring him more up to speed in terms of what is actually happening in the town." Bryant described Wolff as "a very intelligent man" but said he didn't know if Wolff "actually has a complete grasp of what's going on as far as the bottom line."
In Bryant's view, it is Johnson who will be the key. "Johnson is running the show, so that's the man that has to be persuaded as to what the truth is in terms of where the town ought to go," he said.
Rochman said he would have no problem with Bryant or efforts on his part to assume a leadership position as mayor, but said that leadership status would have to be earned. Mutual respect of fellow councilmembers despite differences on issues would be key, he said.
One of the major unknown factors going into the election is the impact the all-mail ballot will have, Bryant said. He views the all-mail ballot as a tool of development interests to limit the time opponents will have to get their messages out, especially to the people that have come to town since the last election and to limit opponents' fund-raising efforts.
"This will be a stealth campaign for the simple reason that the less information there is out there, the fewer issues raised, the better it is for the incumbent,' he said.
Bryant said the last time out he raised about $5,000 and had time to walk the town campaigning. This time he estimates his campaign could cost from $10,000 to $15,000 because of all the mailings that will have to be done due to the time constraints imposed by the all-mail ballot.
"It's going to be difficult to raise money, especially with the economy down and people hesitant to go out and spend," he said.
Bryant is counting on support from homeowner associations, those he meets going door to door and members of the Oro Valley Neighborhood Coalition.
While generally an opponent of recalls, initiatives and referendums, Bryant said he supports such measures in regard to Vistoso Partners' development plans in Neighborhood 11 and Neighborhood 12 in Rancho Vistoso. He's opposed to amendments to the General Plan that would allow higher densities in those areas. They agreed to the General Plan that provided for more open spaces years ago, so they ought to adhere to it, he said.
He's skeptical about promises made by Vistoso Partners to get the higher densities, especially promises made for the protection of Honey Bee Canyon. "They promised to do these things in the past and they've yet to do them," he said.
"I'm not really a supporter of doing referendums, initiatives and recalls, but when you're left with no alternative you have to use the legal tools you have," he said.
KEN KINARED WANTS TO BALANCE MONEY AND GROWTH
Economic sustainability is a term that's been tripping across the tongues of every council and mayoral candidate in the current Oro Valley election campaign, but no one has been pushing the issue harder than mayoral candidate Ken Kinared.
"That's been the motivating issue for me," in terms of running for mayor, said Kinared, 57, a member of the Oro Valley Planning and Zoning Commission, the town's Environmentally Sensitive Lands Ordinance Committee and former member of town, county and state transportation, environmental and governmental affairs advisory committees in Washington State.
"When we're done building Oro Valley I want us to be able to sustain ourselves without having to adopt additional fees or taxes," Kinared said.
"How do we do that? In this day and age, with the ability we have with technology and the intelligence we have, we can reasonably predict what those end expenses will be when we're through developing.
"At the moment, for example, some 30 percent of the general revenues in Oro Valley are growth-related fees. When we're done building, we won't have those fees any longer, we won't be generating those revenues. So as we build out we have to make sure we have a plan in place that replaces those revenues. And the plan that we need to have in place will come out of the General Plan process that we're undertaking as we speak that will be voted on by Oro Valley citizens in the fall.
"We can work out the General Plan that we'd like to have and do a financial analysis and come to the conclusion of whether or not we can reasonably expect it to balance our checkbook."
Kinared challenges current growth projections for Oro Valley and says that the town may be overbuilding its infrastructure based on those exaggerated projections.
"If you look at Vistoso Partners' Rancho Vistoso, for example, they're developing at about two-thirds of what is projected or has been approved in the General Plan for the area," Kinared said.
"If we're doing all our budgets and projections based on the General Plan and what the capacity is, vs. what we're actually realizing, we're not going to get to the point where we have that projected population.
"That means we may be oversizing infrastructure, our roads, water lines, sewer lines, etc. We may not be planning a balance between the commercial and the residential as far as expenses and revenue producers," he said.
"If the Home Depots of the world are attracted to Oro Valley because they looked at the General Plan and their market beyond Oro Valley and concluded we're going to have 75,000 people because that was what was planned and we end up with 50,000 people, will they be able to sustain their business?" he asked "And if not, what does that mean? And if they are able to sustain their business, then at what level? And does that mean we're only going to get 66 percent of the revenues we expected from retail sales taxes?
"There is a formula that we can write based on how well we plan and on how well we execute that plan," Kinared said. "And as elements change in the equation, we have to update the equation and see if we're still in balance. This is essentially what led me to decide to run for mayor."
Kinared said his experience, reflected in his resume, "should lead anyone to the conclusion that I am certainly a viable candidate and uniquely qualified for mayor."
That experience includes acquisition feasibility, planning and engineering and governmental affairs related to community development and the home building industry.
It also includes strategic planning, organization and implementation, research and product development, systems development and management, budget and cash flow preparation, team building, employee hiring and retention, and sales.
Kinared said he'd "love to have the community fill its shopping cart and get everything it wants, and to the extent that the town can do that, would certainly promote it.
"But we have to focus first on public safety, transportation and safe water," he said. "When we have taken care of those three things to our community's satisfaction, then we can expand into things that add quality to our community, which are the arts, the parks, trails and the open spaces and environment that we would all like to enjoy, not just the environment we need."
Kinared pointed to the town's new library, scheduled to open late this spring, as an exception to the rule. "The library will be a tremendous improvement in the community," he said, for "education has to be instilled as the source of our cultural sustainability."
Was the library taken on too soon in light of the town's commitment to issue $3.2 million in bonds to finance the project, Kinared was asked.
"Not necessarily," he said. "I think we have a lot of intelligent, active citizens and anytime you can muster those forces and direct them as in the case of the library, I think you can accomplish some pretty neat things.
"The question is, are you going to be able to pay the bill. At the moment there doesn't seem to be any reason why we would not be able to," Kinared said. "Now in terms of building a secondary phase or turning over inventory in the library as often as we'd want to absent our economic health, that's another question. But if our economic health continues, certainly we'd be able to.
"I don't want to make growth or no growth a debate," Kinared said. "Either we're going to plan for what we want or we're not. We're mandated by Growing Smarter legislation to do a General Plan and whatever that plan, to be voted on by the citizens of Oro Valley, turns out to be, that would be the plan I would implement.
"I just believe I have more of the experience required to be the implementer than the other candidates," Kinared said.
Some say there may be a stigma attached to Kinared's former position as a spokesman for the Southern Arizona Home Builders Association.
Kinared begs to differ. "I don't think there should be a stigma associated with my background," he said. "After all, the mayor and council unanimously approved me as a member of the Planning and Zoning Commission, which most people think is a sensitive position related to any growth-no growth debate."
As a SAHBA spokesman, Kinared has been opposed to federal proposals for additional surveys related to the endangered cactus ferruginous pygmy owl and a supporter of higher gas taxes rather than impact fees to finance road construction. He considered the impact fees to be a "discriminatory form of taxation."
In terms of his approach, Kinared distinguishes himself from Loomis in the sense that he is probably more supportive of economic development and therefore the business community. Kinared said he also believes he's more concerned about efficiency and expediency in terms of the town's performance of its responsibilities to the business community.
"Any process can be expedited if there is a will to do so," he said. "I believe the longer we delay decisions the more vulnerable we are to market forces. That's not just true of the private sector, the developers and builders in our community. It's also affecting the town of Oro Valley which, by delaying actions and decisions also delays revenues."
The decision-making process can be accelerated, he said, by having some of the decisions made by a hearing examiner, a professional with planning and engineering experience. That would take a lot of the politics and time out of the decision making process, he said.
Kinared said also that as mayor he would be in a better position to support, along with town staff, the promoting of expedience. "That's not to say we would do that at the expense of quality," he stressed. "But I do believe that better systems or better forms of management are needed."
He believes he should be elected because he will "do a better job of framing issues, bringing together interested parties, proposing solutions and promoting those solutions by leading rather than pushing, pulling rather than pushing."
Kinared said that because of his background, having stood at the opposite side of the podium for the last 30 years dealing with local governments, "I have the understanding to get on the other side of the podium from the council and communicate with those folks I've been associated with and come to terms representing the town's interests. I speak the same language so I don't have to spend a year or two learning how to communicate."
One of the more controversial issues Kinared has had to address since his appointment to the Planning and Zoning Commission dealt with a request by Canyon Del Oro Partners to develop a 130-acre commercial-residential center nearby that would include a five-story 150,000 square-foot hotel, an 85,000 square-foot specialty department store and homes on 75 acres in the southern portion of the property just south of the entrance to La Reserve on the north, Oracle Road on the west, the El Conquistador townhomes on the south and the La Reserve Planned Area boundary on the east.
"I was opposed to it not necessarily because the citizens of La Reserve were in opposition because I'm not sure they knew what they were opposing," Kinared said. "There was already commercial zoning on the property. It was just commercial office vs. commercial retail. I think there was more fear of the unknown than there was opposition to what was being proposed because we still don't know what's being proposed.
"That was one of the reasons I voted in opposition. I didn't know what was being proposed or what the impact of whatever it was going to generate in terms of sales taxes would have. That was the primary purpose of it coming before the commission, that it was going to make money for the town. Intuitively, I believed it would, but I was never presented with the evidence.
"Which gets back to what I talked about before," Kinared said. "I think we can do a better job of asking the penetrating questions that need to be answered if we're going to make better decisions."
Kinared said he wasn't sure whether the town should be more aggressive in terms of annexation, but that it should be more aggressive in terms of defining itself, what its limits are going to be. "Whether or not we annex is not necessarily the same issue as what we plan to annex. I think we should be very aggressive in pursuing what we want to be,” he said.
Kinared said the key to winning any annexation battle is simple. "Be there first." He said there will be commercial development ahead in the area between Oro Valley and Marana and he would like to see that development occur on Oro Valley's side of the border rather than on Marana's.
Asked what he thought it will take to win this election, Kinared replied "good reporting." He added: "Most of us, unless you're hoping to try and buy voters, have to rely on the media to report your view. I'm not planning to spend a lot of money, but rather to go to forums and debates to explain why I deserve to be mayor."
He said he has a self-imposed spending limit of $13,500 but that he "doesn't plan to spend anywhere close to that unless something dramatic changes and so many people want to contribute because they think so much of my views."
"I'm not asking anyone for a nickle, but I may have to do it if I can't get my message out. Having to do it in 60 days (because of time constraints under the all-mail ballot) is going to be a challenge."
As far as campaign mudslinging, Kinared said it won't come from him. If there's mud to be thrown, Kinared said, "I'm just going to duck."
PAUL LOOMIS BELIEVES PATIENCE IS HIS BEST ASSET
Incumbent Mayor Paul Loomis, Oro Valley's first elected mayor, believes himself to be a patient man.
His opponents in the upcoming March 12 mayoral election, former Councilmember Wayne Bryant and Ken Kinared, a member of the town's Planning and Zoning Commission, think he's been a little too patient and Oro Valley has suffered as a result by not completing projects as quickly as they might have been.
But Loomis believes patience has its advantages and that by taking one's time, hastily made decisions are avoided and opportunities are provided for adequate discussion and review of issues.
"Wayne wanted to get everything done yesterday," Loomis said of Bryant in a recent interview. "Unfortunately, that can't always be done when you're limited in resources and limited by the time to do the research, the time to prepare the documentation, things like that to assure that all views are presented and represented for the council to make a smart decision.
"Part of the job as mayor is to manage that process through the council and to ensure that all information is available to all councilmembers prior to asking them for a vote and to allow that fairness to all councilmembers whether they're in a hurry or not."
Loomis said he doesn't believe Bryant has the patience to deal with the demands made on a mayor.
"You have to work with the people, you have to work with the restraints that are placed on you and I think everyone in public service becomes frustrated with the process because it takes too long. But when you work with other communities, you have to give them opportunities to participate, you have to give other individuals opportunities to participate."
Loomis said that one of the things the council has done during his time as mayor is to give the public an opportunity to review and comment on actions proposed by the council before adopting ordinances. The council has made the process more "public friendly," he said. "But that takes time, sacrifice and patience and Wayne has not demonstrated a great deal of patience."
Loomis said he sees his greatest challenge in the coming campaign as the ability to show voters that he has provided leadership as mayor, to convince voters that the town is working, that things "are not as bad as Wayne Bryant says they are, nor will they be as bad as Ken Kinared may want them to be," and that he and the council are maintaining the town's small town character and will continue to do that as the town continues to grow.
He views Kinared's biggest challenge will be to sever perceived ties to the development community as a former spokesman for the Southern Arizona Home Builders Association.
"There's a balance that has to be established and that to me is going to be his challenge, that he will be able to show that he is balancing development vs. the preservation of the character and environment of the town.
"That's the balancing you have to do. Remember, right now one of the guiding policies of this council is to maintain Oro Valley's small town character as we continue to grow. And that is one of the major challenges we have."
In comparing his philosophical approach to that of Bryant and Kinared, Loomis described himself as "more middle of the road."
"As mayor, I've had to deal with all of the extremes and present the unbiased point of view until it's your opportunity to try and influence council decisions," he said. "But you don't want to unduly influence the other elected officials. Both the other candidates are less patient than I am."
Loomis was asked what issues or policies he believed were carried out because of his individual efforts.
"I think where we are with water is part of it," Loomis said. "Where we are with council respectability has been one of my major efforts. Where we are with customer service from the town's staff, and where we are in moving forward with our infrastructure improvements.
"We've done the planning, now we need to get the roads done in a manner that will have as little impact on the driving public as possible," he said. "That's a timing issue, an engineering problem."
I think these things would not have been accomplished as quickly, would not have necessarily been priorities," Loomis said. "I think that when I took office as mayor I established the rules of how the council would operate, that they be civil to one another. And I've enforced that.
"The issue of alternative water has taken a long time to resolve. Finally, it took the mayors of Marana, Tucson and Oro Valley getting together and saying we are going to make this work and that's how it got done. I think that kind of direction is what it took to get that water deal through. I think if we didn't have that kind of direction, I suspect we'd still be looking for alternative water.
"I would have accelerated the water discussions if I could have," Loomis said. "I think we had to establish a working relationship with the mayors earlier. The first two years when George Miller was mayor, Tucson was very standoffish. We worked very closely with Marana during the entire four years of negotiations, but it was very hard to work with Tucson.
"Since Mayor Bob Walkup has been in office we've worked much better with Tucson and I think both Tucson and Oro Valley have benefited from that working together, " Loomis said. In the early years of negotiations, the Tucson City Council's stance was very emphatic, it didn't want to give up any water, but finally everyone was able to agree on the process that would be used in negotiations and a settlement was reached.
Under that settlement reached late last year, Oro Valley agreed to pay Tucson $3.75 million to gain access to an additional 4,454 acre feet of Central Arizona Project water, supplementing its current 2,294 acre foot allocation, and the right to transfer from the city to the town control of the effluent Oro Valley produces. The town also agreed to pay Tucson $1.66 million to reimburse the city for all capital charges it paid to the Central Arizona Water Conservation District for the CAP water Oro Valley will get as a result of the settlement.
Although the settlement of the 22-year-old dispute was a historic achievement for Oro Valley, just how good a deal the town was able to negotiate remains a question.
Neither Mayor Loomis nor other town leaders are willing to discuss details of the arrangement, so it remains difficult to determine if the town got all the water it wanted and whether the town had to cave in to Tucson's demands as far as the price it paid.
Loomis, when asked recently what the town got in the deal compared to what it wanted, refused to comment.
Loomis said that while the traffic improvements scheduled to be completed by the town over the next two or three years have been the result of a joint council effort, "I've pushed it." Along with the water settlement, Loomis also points with pride to what he believes has been the improved efficiency of the town.
Loomis was then asked why he believed he should be able to take credit for these things.
"I think if you have a challenging thing personally, you have to realize that everyone on the council provides leadership," Loomis said. "The big question you have to remember is how to count to three (the three votes constituting a majority vote on an issue before the council).
"What I've been able to do is to bring forward proposals and issues that may not necessarily have been exactly what I wanted, may not have been exactly what Vice Mayor Dick Johnson may have wanted, but are proposals that both of us can live with," Loomis said. "We've continued to work for win-win situations, both for the town and the public as well as the councilmembers."
In terms of a singular achievement, Loomis said that would have to be "bringing respect back to Oro Valley," adding that the town now is able to work with its counterparts, is "no longer one of the laughing stocks of the newspaper," and is being asked for
its opinions by the Legislature.
"People here are no longer saying they live in Tucson, they're saying they're proud to live in Oro Valley." he said.
This was accomplished, he said, by "establishing respectability with the council, establishing respectability with the public."
Loomis said he is against a property tax. "I think if it comes forward it will have to be through a vote," he said. "Where I'm afraid that may happen will be if we move forward with the fire department or if we move forward with a plan to accomplish everything at the Naranja Town Site at one time."
The Naranja Town Site project involves proposed development of a 213-acre site. A number of meetings have been held eliciting citizens' opinions on what they would like to have located on the site. Wish lists so far have included all sorts of athletic fields, an outdoor amphitheater that would seat 5,000, a performing arts center, a five-acre lake, trails, an indoor recreation center, tennis courts, raquetball courts and a host of other improvements that some estimate could cost as much as $40 million.
"Based on the costs associated with these elements, I don't see how they can be accomplished without a property tax," Loomis said. "The property tax wouldn't be until the town's bond debt for the land purchase is paid off. But to go to a fire department, that would be a continuing tax and I would not support it without a vote."
The Central Arizona Project water arrangements would not be financed by a property tax, Loomis emphasized. Those costs, estimated at as much as $80 million, would be financed through increased water rates and impact fees, he said.
Loomis was asked whether he felt the town had become too dependent on growth.
"Today, I would say yes," Loomis said. "Tomorrow, hopefully not. The reason I say yes today is that we still haven't gotten the commercial tax base we ultimately will have. But there's no need to approve a commercial development if it doesn't meet our standards today, whereas five years ago the town basically needed to approve a Target Center just to start bringing the commercial development in. At this point, we can wait for the commercial to develop."
How long can the town wait, he was asked.
"As long as it takes," Loomis said. "Commercial development is going to come here, there's a market here. If it doesn't come here next year, then the rest of Oro Valley is not going to grow as fast.
Loomis said the town's residential growth is outpacing commercial growth but there are still designated commercial areas that the town needs to preserve for proper development.
"I'm not in favor of changing a commercial area to a residential area because there needs to be a balance there. We have to be sure that commercial nodes develop in a way that we in Oro Valley can all be proud of.
" What you're looking at is where are the limits of our services, where are the limits of what we provide," Loomis said. "The majority of our budget is going to provide services, to the Police Department, to town staff. If the growth doesn't happen, if we don't continue to grow, then the number of employees will decline."
Residential growth doesn't have to be slowed right now because the economy is taking care of that, Loomis said. Unfortunately, it's slowing commercial growth as well, "but that's all part of the process. The market drives all development here whether it's commercial, the resorts or residential. If Raytheon isn't hiring, then people aren't going to be moving to Oro Valley buying the majority of the types of houses that are being developed here.
"And so those natural progressions certainly impact us as we try and forecast what the town budget is going to be and what the town services need to be."
Loomis rejected the notion that the town is overbuilding in its infrastructure improvements, saying the town is at a crossroads in terms of the impact surrounding development will have on the town.
"We're planning for growth in the region and we're a part of the Northwest community so we have to plan for that," he said. "We haven't done that in the past."
On the question as to whether the town should have to provide economic incentives to attract industry, Loomis said that has to be reviewed on a case by case basis.
"We have a responsibility to the town," he said. "If the land is sitting bare, it's not doing anything. But if the land is developed as commercial and all the sales taxes go back to the developer (because of incentives that would guarantee a business a return of a percentage of the taxes it would normally pay) we're still not gaining. So there's a balance required there."
Loomis said Oro Valley has to consider offering incentives because otherwise a business might simply purchase the land it needs outside Oro Valley. Incentives, such as tax breaks, rezoning exceptions and other arrangements have become part of the incentive packages that towns, counties and regions offer on a regular basis, he said.
"Oro Valley has a unique character, unique views, a unique environment," Loomis said. "The question is are these things that desirable to the industry coming in or are there enough benefits being offered for that industry to go next door.
"Oro Valley's the best, we all think that way," Loomis said. "But is it a place that would make me spend $100 million or $10 million more than I would need to next door and still maintain the benefits of my investment? I'm not sure."
A few months ago, then Vice Mayor Fran LaSala said he expected this mayor and council would be able to accomplish what no other council had in getting Honey Bee Canyon for the town.
"We've worked on it for several years to see that it comes forward correctly where it's a win-win situation for the town and the developer," Loomis said.
Although Vistoso Partners has withdrawn its request to have Neighborhood 12 in Rancho Vistoso annexed by Oro Valley, Loomis said he expects the town will obtain Honey Bee Canyon through conditions now being negotiated with Vistoso Partners related to the developer's plans for Neighborhood 11 because Honey Bee Canyon is included in one of the land trade areas for the changes that may take place in Neighborhood 11.
Vistoso Partners is seeking an amendment to the town's General Plan that could lead to the construction of 89 homes on 60 acres in Neighborhood 11 now designated as open space and low density rural development.
Vistoso Partners' proposed construction of nearly 200 homes, including 88 casitas in Neighborhood 12, has been on hold since Citizens for Open Government succeeded last year in having Oro Valley's annexation of the area placed on the March 12 ballot. Loomis said he still expects that annexation to occur.
Loomis was asked whether he thought the town might have done anything to speed up the long and controversial negotiating process with Vistoso Partners regarding Neighborhoods 11 and 12.
"No," he said. "The process with Vistoso is not over yet. I'm not convinced it will be completed prior to the election. I think there are still many issues that have to be resolved. We're on the path. I think there is light at the end of the tunnel, but we're not through the tunnel yet."
Loomis was asked whether, looking back, he would have done anything differently.
He completely skirted the question with this reply:
"I came into office not knowing what to expect and it is a very awesome job. And I think I've done it to the best of my ability and will continue to do it to the best of my ability. What I forsee in the next four years is to continue to make progress in working with other communities.
"Bringing actual, real water to Oro Valley and improving our transportation system. We're actually going to see these things that have been in the planning for the last three years now come to fruition."
Town water officials estimate that Oro Valley actually may not be seeing CAP water for as long as 10 years or effluent to get golf courses off ground water for five years.
Loomis said he is pushing to get the water within three years. "Will it happen? Probably not. Can it be done? A lot can.
"We have the funds identified, we have the funds basically in the bank, now it's a timing issue to make the transportation improvements," Loomis said. "With the water, we've got to do the planning and we've got to stop recharging somewhere else and start recharging and start using the water in Oro Valley."
Loomis said he plans to finance his campaign pretty much out of his own pocket, but was hoping for support from citizens since he won't be accepting money from developers.
He said he's hoping for a "fun" campaign. "I've learned to have great confidence in the voters," he said. "And regardless of how it turns out, I plan on campaigning in a manner I can look back on and say this was a fun time."
One of the concerns candidates have in this first all-mail ballot election is how voters will react. Will they be returning their ballots as soon as they get them rather than waiting until closer to the March 12 election date or the last minute?
Asked if he thought the all-mail ballot would be an advantage for an incumbent, the mayor replied: "I sure hope so."