Paradise Valley leadership establishes 2019 goals to be pursued

Paradise Valley Town Hall is at 6401 E. Lincoln Drive. (File photo)

Paradise Valley Town Council is preparing for a busy 2019 as myriad important, timely and community-focused decisions are expected to be debated and ultimately decided in the new year.

Vice Mayor Jerry Bien-Willner ran unopposed for the mayor’s seat; while councilman Paul Dembow ran a successful re-election campaign for his seat at the dais. Newcomers Ellen Andeen and Anna Thomasson will join the sitting council, with their first meeting on Thursday, Jan. 10.

In the second installment of a two-part series, the Independent reached out to members of Paradise Valley Town Council to gain insights into the top priorities this calendar year. This week’s installment features the two re-elected men, as well as the three remaining councilmembers: Scott Moore, Julie Pace and Mark Stanton.

Topics from town growth, to expected water-rate issues are top of mind for Paradise Valley Town Council. In addition, the town manager search, the process for the Capital Improvement Projects and other personal goals and issues are listed as being the governing body’s priorities for the year.

Jerry Bien-Willner

Jerry Bien-Willner

•As an elected leader, what are some of your top priorities to tackle in 2019?

My top priority as mayor is to ensure that Paradise Valley remains the premier ZIP code and community in the state, if not the region. Our town has achieved this position because of its well-earned reputation for safety, its high-quality and spacious residential atmosphere, and sound financial management.

We must work hard for our residents to keep our position and continue to improve while embracing the Town’s unique character and traditions.

•What would you like to see accomplished for the Town of Paradise Valley for 2019?

I would like to see a continued emphasis on proactively and successfully managing the town’s finances, which includes significant, ahead-of-schedule pay-downs of the pension funding for our public safety personnel.

I would also like us to implement measures to increase the town’s already high customer service levels, and to encourage innovation and efficiency whenever possible. We will continue to focus on public safety, cell phone coverage, hillside preservation, and fostering a sense of community while respecting the privacy and independence of our residents.

I intend to bring these and a number of other topics forward to the council as agenda items –– all with the goal of working as an effective team together and with our staff to preserve and enhance our amazing community!

• What is the No. 1 issue you think town residents should be aware of in the new year?

The town’s future is very bright. There is a new council and as new mayor — yours truly — starting the town’s newest chapter in 2019 with lots of energy and enthusiasm. We are here to serve our residents, so please share with us your ideas, questions and concerns.

I invite you to please reach out to me anytime at: jbienwillner@paradisevalleyaz.gov.

Paul Dembow

Paul Dembow

•As an elected leader, what are some of your top priorities to tackle in 2019?

My top priority is the same every year. I want to make sure I listen clearly to what our residents are saying. I want to make sure that the reason I got involved with politics I never forget. As president of my HOA I thought that our voice was not heard, so I ran for office.

I want to make sure that I listen and take action on what I’m told by our residents! I prioritize fiscal responsibility and what is financially sustainable. I’m not going to waste your money any faster than I’m going to waste mine. A top priority is to always be reasonable and do what is the best business decision.

I’ve been blessed to have success in multiple businesses and doing what made sense to bring success to those enterprises is what I plan on doing with the issues that face the town.

Keeping our residents safe with the best concierge police force in the world is the first order of business every year. Keeping our police force outfitted with the best technology available to secure our community is critical. However, having the right men and women in blue is even more important. Chief Peter Wingert has done a spectacular job of hiring and keeping our police force the best in the Valley!

•What would you like to see accomplished for the Town of Paradise Valley for 2019?

Having a clear capital improvement projects process in place that maximizes our limited resources. We don’t want to waste dollars on pet projects because we don’t have a clear, planned out process in place.

Take a close look at how influence by special interest groups affects the town and how to implement safeguards for the town from these special interest groups. Continue to pay down, and hopefully, pay off our underfunded pension liabilities.

Every dollar that we don’t pay costs us 7 percent each year. When I think about the compounded costs of our underfunded dollars it is easy to make the pension funding a priority to address.

•What is the No. 1 issue you think town residents should be aware of in the new year?

The biggest issue we will be facing in the upcoming years is traffic congestion and cut through traffic. We need to plan for the future.

The traffic engineers tell us that our traffic flows on our major arteries will be increasing by 50 percent in the near future. Our rush hour traffic will be significantly worse during our resort season.
We have limited dedicated roadway and easements to deal with the increased traffic. Keeping our roadways efficient will become more difficult as development generates more traffic to our east and north.

Lincoln and Tatum are the two roads where we have most of our traffic and traffic related issues. Looking at ways to lower the amount of “cut through” traffic will be a priority for me. With technology like Waze and self driving cars coming, we need to look how these new technologies will impact our town, traffic and certainly future road designs.

Scott Moore

Scott Moore

•As an elected leader, what are some of your top priorities to tackle in 2019?

As an elected leader my priorities are to work with our current council members, the new incoming mayor and council elects to preserve our community’s unique residential character.
Included in those priorities are:

  • Public safety and protecting the well-being of our citizens and ensure the sustainability of our pension plans for our police officers so we continue to attract the best officer candidates available;
  • Ensuring responsible medical and resort developments with focus on traffic safety that is consistent with the character of the community;
  • Ensuring fiscal responsibility and oppose any property tax from ever being enacted;
  • Protecting our residents safety and enforcing responsible hillside development;
  • Uphold fiscal responsibility for capital improvement projects, improve community outreach for these projects and work to ensure a sustainable, balanced budget for the town;
  • Working within the confines of state law regarding SB 1350 on how to best protect resident concerns that short-term rental properties don’t infringe on our quality of life; and
  • Continue our productive work on achieving better cell phone coverage.

•What would you like to see accomplished for the Town of Paradise Valley for 2019?

Heading into 2019 one of the first orders of business will be to seek out and hire a new town manager.
We have been very fortunate to have Brian Dalke serve as our interim town manager. With Brian’s long and distinguished career as a former city manager, he brings to the town a vast amount of experience and knowledge that has improved our systems and stability.

Being fortunate, our town has an excellent legal department and staff that support Brian allowing for the incoming mayor and council time and the flexibility to find the very best candidate possible to fill this position.

Currently our town is processing many ongoing SUP applications in 2019, they include the Ritz-Carlton project, Lincoln Medical, Smoke Tree Resort property, Mountain View Medical Center and the Paradise Valley Medical Plaza to name a few, I’m confident that our incoming mayor and council in partnership with our interim town manager and staff will make this hiring process a smooth and successful transition.

•What is the No. 1 issue you think town residents should be aware of in the new year?

With so many new medical, resort and residential developments occurring this year it is imperative that we don’t have another communication breakdown with our residents such as we did with the Doubletree Road capital improvement project.

Through the leadership of the incoming mayor and council along with our Town Manager and staff support, putting more focus on community outreach, safety challenges and traffic concerns is certainly an area that needs urgency.

Specifically, as we look at the Lincoln Road corridor we’re seeing the existing Ritz-Carlton project, Lincoln Medical and Smoke Tree resort possibly developing all at the same time.

There are no easy solutions to the traffic and safety concerns but through coordinated efforts on the part of the developers working with traffic engineers and our planning and engineering staff, it is the hope that these new neighbors to our Town will find success and support from our residents as they go through this process.

It is important for residents to stay involved and attend the public hearing process and reach out to the incoming mayor and council with any concerns. I get many important emails addressing concerns from our residents and I will respond. I take my elected responsibility seriously and vow to serve the good our residents as best I can.

Julie Pace

Julie Pace

•What are some of my top priorities to tackle in 2019?

As a Town Council member, I will continue to work on quality of life issues and focus my efforts on Hillside preservation, facilitating donations to the Paradise Valley Mountain Preserve Trust, drainage and stormwater issues, supporting our fabulous concierge police department and the new Paradise Valley Public Safety Foundation, fostering a positive resident and guest experience to enhance the resort-driven revenue stream to the town and ensuring that we are fiscally sound to continue to avoid a property tax.

I plan to work hard on the new update to the General Plan that we will be starting on shortly. The current town General Plan is dated and we need to evaluate and update it based on today’s environment and development.

We will be reviewing CIP projects and the CIP process to ensure a more equitable, transparent process. We need to place priority on infrastructure work as we have an aging town and many items were not addressed during the Great Recession.

We also must continue to address resident concerns and complaints that intrude into the tranquility of their homes related to party houses, homelessness, sober-living facilities, business traffic, unlawful businesses, narcotics dispensaries and clinics, lighting and construction activities.

We also need to keep a watchful eye on the Arizona Legislature as they have, at times, proposed bills that could do great harm to the town.  The town is unique as it has no property tax and consists of only residences and resorts with no commercial businesses. This means that a one-size-fits-all bill adopted at the Legislature can greatly harm a town like ours.

Our legislative team 28 and other friendly legislators around the state of Arizona who value the open space and mountains help us maintain the paradise in Paradise Valley for all to enjoy.
We have great leadership in Arizona Senate President Karen Fann who comes from Prescott. She has long roots in Arizona, understands business, works diligently with stakeholders to try and achieve compromise and consensus and she really is a leader we can be proud of.

A recent legislative experience is instructive. About a year ago, the lobbyists worked the Arizona legislators to get them to adopt a law allowing the providers to place cell towers anywhere they wanted in the public right of way without coordinating and getting approval from local residents and the town government officials.

Obviously this arrogant and brazen approach can be harmful in a town like ours where our residents and town have spent millions undergrounding utilities to enhance vistas and create open space. And, the legislators voted to remove any rents that cell provider and been paying even though they were using public’s right of way.

Provides reaped millions over not paying any further lease payments.

We as a council worked hard to create a new code to address the new law and sought to adopt a fair and respectful cell phone tower policy. We have greatly appreciated those companies who recognized that Paradise Valley is unique with virtually everything undergrounded and who are working with the town for low density, aesthetically pleasing technological solutions, as opposed to just trying to cram into the ground in front of residents’ homes an ugly tall tower by claiming they have a right to.
Hopefully this partnership will turn out successfully. Time will tell but I am optimistic.

•What would I like to see accomplished in the Town of Paradise Valley in 2019?

With my peers I would like to accomplish recruitment, selection, and on-boarding of a strong, engaging, bright, high-performing new town manager who loves this town and respects its residents and the town’s values and who will continue to ensure open space, vistas, low-density, and desert elegance.

I would also like to see a realistic and safe resolution of development around the Lincoln and Scottsdale corridor and determine options to manage present and future traffic congestion issues.
Scottsdale and our town will need to work through some of these solutions. We have 13,500 cars at that location today and it will increase to approximately 21,000 vehicles in 2025.

In terms of planning, this is a very close time period to have this much growth. We cannot approve projects based only on today’s traffic count knowing we have a significant increase in traffic occurring in about five years. We must plan for the future now when evaluating projects.

I would like to work on facilitating new donations into the Paradise Valley mountain trust!
There are so many benefits to people who donate land and conservation easements to the trust. Tax benefits is one, along with the significant impact a person experiences by donating hillside property to make sure the mountains you love are forever untouched.

We have a great new Mayor, Jerry Bien-Willner who leads well, is transparent, humble, effective and exerts his intellectual prowess to evaluate and identify options and solutions. With the council team and mayor’s leadership we will be able to address issues that arise, while staying true to the values of the town and accomplishing goals.

•What is the No. 1 issue you think town residents should be aware of in the New Year?

Epcor sneaking in a huge water rate increase to Paradise Valley residents and misrepresenting at meetings to both the Arizona Corporation Commission and at public meetings that they were doing so.

Epcor was not straightforward and the town has been working on the fairness aspect.
Write letters and make calls to ACC voicing opposition to Epcor’s current proposal as this is very wrong in how this came about. It makes our own payer higher than other communities. We would be subsidizing others.

Phoenix sewer and their overcharging of Paradise Valley residents at substantially higher rates than their regular customers is unfair and needs real resolution.

Traffic congestion and safety at Lincoln and Scottsdale roads is a major concern to me. The adverse impact of the surrounding area in Scottsdale at the entrance to Paradise Valley residences is significant.

Mark Stanton

Mark Stanton

•As an elected leader, what are some of your top priorities for 2019?

My priorities as a member of the Town Council are public safety, strong fiscal policies and maintaining our high quality of life for town residents.
Paradise Valley is a very special community, the safety and security of our residents and guests is my highest concern.

Fiscal responsibility, including a transparent budget process and evaluating capital improvement priorities and process are also very important for the year. Enhancing the quality of life for our residents, from maintaining critical infrastructure, attracting and retaining professional and high-performing staff for the town and supporting outstanding programs like the Arts Board and Historical Advisory Committee events are all priorities for 2019.

•What would you like to see accomplished for the Town of Paradise Valley in 2019?

In 2019, I would like to see accelerated progress in addressing the cell phone service issues in the Town, furthering the important resort development that is in process and working through infrastructure and critical traffic planning challenges that the Town faces now and looking towards the future.

In addition, I believe there needs to be more clarity and education regarding the Phoenix Sewer rate calculations for Paradise Valley residents as well as the EPCOR USA consolidation plans that could impact water rates for the town.

•What is the No. 1 issue you think the town should be aware of in the New Year?

I think the town needs to be aware of potential Arizona legislative action that could negatively impact our town and our commitment to limited government.

Every year, the legislature considers potential laws that could create issues for our town quality of life, from banning photo radar enforcement to issues related to the shared economy and the construction sales tax.

I encourage our town residents to pay attention to these potential legislative actions and make their voices heard during the upcoming legislative session in 2019.

News Editor Melissa Rosequist can be reached by e-mail at mrosequist@newszap.com or follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/Mrosequist_

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