Pursuit of happiness shapes Paradise Valley candidate quality of life perspectives

Paradise Valley voters Tuesday, Aug. 28 will elect a new mayor and three people to Paradise Valley Town Council.

Paradise Valley Vice Mayor Jerry Bien-Willner, who is running unopposed, is seeking the top spot of town council while four candidates are seeking one of three seats on Paradise Valley Town Council.

The town council candidates are:

  • Ellen Andeen
  • James Anton
  • Paul Dembow
  • Anna Thomasson

The Town of Paradise Valley does not hold district elections as the mayor is directly elected and the council hopefuls run at-large.

The Town of Paradise Valley Independent reached out to each candidate to offer its fourth installment of an eight-part series focused on the issues that matter to local residents.

This week’s installment is focused on what these candidates believe to be major issues facing the municipality and what major threats to quality of life within the community may exist they are keeping an eye on.

This what the candidates have to say:

Jerry Bien-Willner

Jerry Bien-Willner

•What do you think is the most important part of being an elected leader of the Town of Paradise Valley?

Protecting and preserving the unique and wonderful quality of life and safe environment that we are privileged to enjoy — and doing so in an open, honest, responsive, and highly competent manner that maintains our residents’ trust and confidence.

What do you believe to be the No. 1 threat to the quality of life in the Town of Paradise Valley?

We are fortunate that there is no one, single great threat to our quality of life at this time. There are many areas, however, that we must continue to watch over carefully. These include continually striving for the highest levels of public safety, doing everything in our power to ensure that the town’s finances remain strong, and acting to make sure that we maintain our position as the state’s most desirable location to live — and the high property values that follow from that status.

• From your perspective, what is the most important capital improvement project residents ought to know about?

I am extremely proud of the recently-completed public safety communications facility. It provides vital communications links for our police, fire, and medical first responders within the town and the region — which helps to ensure the safety of residents and guests within the town and the region. On top of the facility’s key function, most folks would never notice it is there, because it utilizes a faux saguaro and blends in so well with the background.

The project also came in under budget. It reflects Paradise Valley values and ingenuity at their best!

James Anton

James Anton

•What do you think is the most important part of being an elected leader of the Town of Paradise Valley?

Listening! We have two ears and one mouth for good reason as we learn a great deal more by listening than when we speak. Having lived in Paradise Valley for 33 years, serving on Planning Commission and Hillside Committee, can lead one to thinking they know what is best for our town.

That belief disappears quickly when I listen to citizens expressing concerns regarding the impact of various projects in our community, including current proposals from the Lincoln Medical Plaza and Hermosa Inn. I feel that it is imperative that we listen to all input prior to taking a stance on issues that affect all our citizens.

•What do you believe to be the No. 1 threat to the quality of life in the Town of Paradise Valley?

Traffic! Surrounding growth has brought us a constant increase in traffic that wishes to travel through our town. Increased resort facilities and surrounding housing add to our own density increasing traffic as well. Fortunately, we have an excellent police department and town officials who are working to stay one step ahead of this issue. If elected, I will work diligently to address this traffic flow and ensure the quality of life we all enjoy.

• From your perspective, what is the most important capital improvement project residents ought to know about?

Doubletree Ranch Road! The proposed plans for Doubletree Ranch Road from Invergordon to Scottsdale roads caught most of our citizens by surprise. Concerns include the proposed roundabout, meandering islands, loss of residents front yards as well as spending a very large sum of money on a road that has many years left in its lifespan. Based on community outreach, I would propose that we put this plan on hold while we reach out to our citizens, particularly those property owners in the immediate vicinity.

Ellen Andeen

Ellen Andeen

•What do you think is the most important part of being an elected leader of the Town of Paradise Valley?

I believe that the most important part of being an elected leader of the Town of Paradise Valley is to work for our residents and foster quality of life decisions for our community. I want to hear from our community and get their input and will do my homework to determine the best practices and adopt solutions that are efficient and effective.

Of course, having lived here for as long as I have and hearing my family members & lifelong friends talk about our town and what it means to them to live here, I have my own ideas and informed conclusions to ensure quality of life for our residents. We are truly blessed to live in such an amazing town. I believe in preservation of the qualities we share, the values we hold dear and celebrating our shared history. I will use my mathematical and analytical skills, along with my history of service as a town police volunteer, to ensure our town is protected and preserved.

•What do you believe to be the No. 1 threat to the quality of life in the Town of Paradise Valley?

Development and density are concerns that could adversely impact our town’s quality of life. It is a delicate balance to preserve our town’s character and one house per acre zoning, while fostering successful resorts and maintaining no property tax for the town.

The good news is that from a police and security standpoint, we are doing great as a town. In my role as a police volunteer, I have seen firsthand how effective our leadership is at the top with Chief Peter Wingert. Our police department strives to educate and make residents aware of how to make their homes and neighborhoods safer, as well as working with resorts to address security concerns at their sites.

Our police department offers many community outreach opportunities from home security checks to Coffee with the Chief on the first Wednesday morning each month. Also, we have encouraged people to sign up for CodeRed to receive alerts. CodeRed is considered a reverse 911 call, which allows emergency officials to call/text town residents and provide information and updates on general safety and security issues in the area.

More can be found for this service on our police website, but I’ve enclosed the link here: ci.paradise-valley.az.us/476/CodeRED-FAQ. Additionally, our town’s ACOPs committee of volunteers provides support to the chief and the police department with educational outreach. The committee just completed a construction security checklist that is available to construction companies and residents in our town who are in the construction process. It offers instruction on how to make the construction site more secure to minimize thefts and issues for the neighborhood where the construction is occurring

• From your perspective, what is the most important capital improvement project residents ought to know about?

In reviewing the budget for 2018-19, I noted two large expenditures of concern: one is the $3 million CIP budget item for the Doubletree beautification project and the CIP budget item for a proposed renovation of our municipal complex — police department, public works and Town Hall — for $1.5 million. Putting that in perspective, the $3 million Doubletree project represents 33 percent of the overall police budget not including the PSPRS payments. It is a very large spend item if it goes through. The municipal complex renovation, which I hope entails upgrades to our infrastructure, is 50 percent of the Doubletree project.

Because we are a town with no property tax, and limited monies, we must closely evaluate projects and make sure we are getting the best return for dollars spent. I know storm water and drainage projects that need to be completed to minimize and assist in reducing flooding and/or flooded streets. We also need to improve the network and computer infrastructure at our municipal complex to keep our Town functioning well into the future.

Anna Thomasson

Anna Thomasson

•What do you think is the most important part of being an elected leader of the Town of Paradise Valley?

An elected leader’s first duty is to make sure our essential town services are operational, including:

  • Police, fire and emergency medical service
  • Electrical, water and sewer service
  • Telephone and internet
  • Roadways that are safe and passable and homes free from flooding

Several of these critical services have been threatened in our Town’s history and we can’t take our eye off the ball.

Next, an elected leader must have the will and passion to listen to our residents and gather opinions on all issues. Leaders should also have the skills to communicate well and build consensus. Finally, an elected leader should have the highest personal integrity and courage, as well as the humility to realize that leadership is earned, not given.

•What do you believe to be the No. 1 threat to the quality of life in the Town of Paradise Valley?

I worry that the strong pressure for financial gain and property development will continue to chip away at our town character. Very simply, as our land becomes more valuable, the pressure to maximize lot coverage on both residential, resort and medical properties will increase. Now that I have walked well over 100 miles of our streets, I’ve been stunned to discover the number of 1, 5, and 10-acre vacant lots waiting to be developed. Add those to the number of small, older homes likely to be scraped and we have a lot of development ahead of us.

• From your perspective, what is the most important capital improvement project residents ought to know about?

The $3 million proposed improvements along Doubletree between Invergorden and Scottsdale Road are scheduled to receive the largest portion of our Capital Improvement Budget and will directly impact many residents.

After reviewing the plans and talking with Doubletree neighbors, I’ve learned this project will result in some residents giving up part of their front yards to the public right of way, as well as the addition of new sidewalks and medians, curving of the road and significant landscaping. A new roundabout at Doubletree and Invergorden is also planned.

Paul Dembow

Paul Dembow

•What do you think is the most important part of being an elected leader of the Town of Paradise Valley?

Listening to residents and having common sense. As Voltaire said, “Common sense is not so common.” Look at most politicians today and you’ll know that’s true!

•What do you believe to be the No. 1 threat to the quality of life in the Town of Paradise Valley?

Terrible cell phone service is not only the largest threat to quality of life but also a safety issue because our residents may not be able to use their cellular phones. Thank goodness our future Mayor, Jerry Bien-Willner, is working on a solution.

• From your perspective, what is the most important capital improvement project residents ought to know about?

Without a doubt the recently completed radio tower to ensure our first responders have communication and connectivity with each other and other municipalities at all times. A project that was completed in time and under the original estimated budget by a lot of money!

Northeast Valley Managing Editor Terrance Thornton can be contacted at tthornton@newszap.com

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