In a campaign where civility has become an issue, candidates for Oro Valley mayor made pointed —sometimes caustic —remarks about which is most, or least, qualified for the job.
And when they weren’t taking jabs at each other, the two mayoral candidates and four Town Council candidates who debated at Sun City Oro Valley Tuesday took a few swings at their neighbor to the south, noting at least Oro Valley isn’t Tucson.
Mayor Satish Hiremath took credit for the town’s “remarkable progress” and said some people are “making the mistake and thinking that anybody can occupy the mayor’s seat and continue this.”
Challenger Patrick Straney shot back at Hiremath, “I do agree with you on one thing. Not just anybody can be mayor. I have the qualifications to be mayor.”
Straney later listed those qualifications, including his experience with business management and data-driven decision-making.
Hiremath responded he was equally qualified “except I did it.”
“I was your mayor for the last four years in the worst recession in the history of the United States, and I led us, as mayor, from a $3 million deficit to a $1.7 million surplus in addition to the roads you drive on, the educational opportunities that your grandkids may have, the public safety.”
After the debate, Hiremath said Straney doesn’t have a plan for the town behind his campaign slogans.
Straney said, “Civility, integrity and teamwork are not buzzwords, they are an effective management style.”
The political jousting crossed jurisdictional lines, too.
Asked what Oro Valley’s greatest challenge is, council candidate Mary Snider said it is to preserve the town’s good nature and “not to become Tucson,” citing Tucson’s high crime rate compared with Oro Valley’s low rate.
And council candidate Joe Hornat said he was glad Sun City changed its name to Sun City Oro Valley. He joked, “You could have named it Sun City Near Tucson and watch your property values go wherever they go.”
Hiremath said: “We rely on sales tax. … There are three individuals at the last three council meetings who have been advocates of talking about taxes, including property tax. And I will tell you, in the absence of supporting small business and supporting those things it’s going to take to increase our sales tax revenue, you are headed down toward a property tax if I don’t get elected, or Mary (Snider), Lou (Waters) or Joe (Hornat) don’t get elected.”
True or false: Straney said he doesn’t support a property tax and would consider any tax only as a last resort. Hiremath apologized to Straney, saying it was not his intent to say he would vote for a property tax.
After the debate, council candidate Don Bristow said he knows residents don’t want a property tax but the town should evaluate it as a revenue option.
Voters would have to approve any property tax proposal.
Council member Mike Zinkin, whose term runs through 2016, said he has tried to have a discussion about a renter’s tax, but didn’t have enough votes to get it on an agenda. He is opposed to a property tax.
Hiremath said: “Keep in mind that there are individuals on the council who are not up for re-election at this time who voted ‘no’ on home rule.”
True or false: Home rule, which will be on Oro Valley ballots next month, allows the town to set its own spending limits instead of a formula-based limit set by the state.
Zinkin said he has never voted against the home rule. William Garner and Brendan Burns could not be reached for comment Wednesday. Their terms end in 2016.