At previous State of the Town addresses, Oro Valley Mayor Paul Loomis has shared “the success of our town,” and presented “goals for the coming year.”
On Thursday, Loomis had “a different kind of conversation” with a crowd of more than 530 people.
He focused on “community sustainability,” offered a definition, and then encouraged the audience and the citizenry to create its own definitions, and to develop a vision of Oro Valley’s sustainable future.
Each guest was given comment cards upon which to write “your individual vision for a sustainable community. What does it mean to you? Where do you see Oro Valley in the next 20 to 30 years?”
On Thursday, town officials picked up 31 of those cards with responses. “We’ll be reviewing the comments in our strategic planning sessions,” said town spokeswoman Mary Davis, who hopes more comments are returned by mail.
“Over the coming year, there will be opportunities for our community to engage in the dialogue we are starting today,” Loomis said. “Participate. Comment. Join the conversation. … Democracy is not a spectator sport, and the world is run by those who show up.”
Loomis made mention of a year-long “Shop Local” campaign in Oro Valley, a master plan for the Steam Pump Ranch property, the Naranja Town Site park bond vote on Nov. 4, and a desire to move ahead with development of access to Oro Valley’s share of Central Arizona Project water.
“It’s time to transition this effort from a concept plan into a more refined agenda and begin designing the delivery system to make it happen,” Loomis said of the CAP effort. “We call on the region to work with us in this effort. Our staff and the council have been working to do what it takes. We, along with our partners including the Town of Marana, Metro Water District and Flowing Wells Irrigation, are working diligently to move forward with this project.”
Loomis always returned to “sustainability,” calling it “a new buzzword that has entered into our community dialogue with greater and greater frequency.” He used a definition of sustainability that describes “forms of progress that meet the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”
Loomis, who is Oro Valley’s first elected mayor and has held the post for 10 years, said sustainability is more than “being green; it’s about quality of life.”
Loomis said the town has formed a “green team” to study government’s own practices. The town council has adopted policies calling for all new town facilities to meet Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design standards, and hopes all new construction does the same.
“We have seen some encouraging responses,” he said, specifically from Sanofi-Aventis, now constructing a $60 million LEED-certified campus in Oro Valley, and from Oro Valley Marketplace, which when completed will be “the first LEED certified retail center in the country, and will include solar heating, water harvesting and other conservation elements that serve a sustainable development and a sustainable community.”
Sustainability includes maintaining the revenue needed to keep government running. The mayor said Oro Valley has seen residential construction tax income slowing since 2003. The town has used “sound fiscal business practices that have balanced our budget year after year. At the moment, our reserves remain intact and we remain conservative in our expenditures.
“Commercial construction taxes have made up for the loss in residential revenues, but these one-time fees are finite as our inventory of commercial land dwindles,” Loomis said. “Sales tax revenue, then, remains the underlying source of funds for the budget.”
In 2009, the community and its government “will continue to face economic challenges. We have met our citizens’ desire to develop near-term sustainable revenue sources, but as we now know, these sources will not maintain the community in the long term. Without growth, Oro Valley will become more and more dependent on sales tax revenue.”
The mayor acknowledged Town Manager David Andrews and town employees. “Your efforts are what has made the state of the town `excellent,’” Loomis said.
The speech was delivered on Sept. 11, the seventh anniversary of the terrorist attacks by commercial aircraft on America.
The Oro Valley Police Department Color Guard and the Golder Ranch Fire Department Color Guard, each accompanied by bagpipes, presented colors. Golder Ranch Fire shared a video about Sept. 11.
“Today is a business day, like any other day, and yet, it is not any other day,” Loomis said. “It is also a time to remember those who perished at the hands of terrorists, and those brave Americans who stood against them. We honor, too, our brave soldiers who continue to fight for our country in Iraq, Afghanistan and throughout the world.”
Michael Enis of the Tohono O’odham Nation performed the National Anthem in his native language.