Maria Syms: My plans to make 2016 even better in Paradise Valley

The excitement of the New Year brings the promise of a better future.

As your councilwoman, it offers me the opportunity to reflect on the accomplishments of 2015 and discuss our community’s priorities for building on those successes in 2016.

Making Town Hall a better neighbor

Maria Syms

Maria Syms

When I asked for your vote over a year ago, I made a commitment to work to make Town Hall a better neighbor by being more open, transparent and supportive of your priorities and needs. Through better communication, inclusivity and responsiveness, we are moving in the right direction.

This past year, I attended numerous community forums on topics ranging from public safety and resort development to fiscal responsibility and flood control, to name a few. In my more than 11 years of service to the town, I cannot recall so many opportunities for residents to join the conversation on matters that impact your quality of life, and I am encouraged that more residents participated this year than ever before.

As your councilwoman, I understand that it is my responsibility to reach out to you for your feedback — not the other way around. In 2016, I will continue to keep you informed and make your needs and concerns the top priority when making decisions. That is the best way for Town Hall to be a good neighbor.

Public safety

For the past several years, I have been vocal about public safety being the town’s No. 1 priority. When I started the public conversation, our police force had been cut, our patrols were stretched too thin and our officers did not have basic communication and investigative technology to keep us safe.  Indeed, Paradise Valley did not even have a working public safety strategic plan.

With the advent of the Public Safety Task Force and Mayor Michael Collins prioritizing this effort, we now have more boots on the ground and technological support. As I started my term, the challenge was maximizing the efficiency of the new technology. We have done that through training and implementation review. I witnessed the strengths of the license plate readers, patrol car computers, and improved communication firsthand when I went on a ride along last fall and our officers report that the increased support has improved our community policing.

In 2016, we will build upon this technology through the much anticipated communications linkage with the police departments of our neighboring cities and towns. In addition, we will be upgrading our decades-old home alarm monitoring system to provide even better service. We will also continue the effort to get our sworn officer staffing up to pre-recession levels.

Last summer, we transitioned to our new police Chief Peter Wingert, who has done a good job in increasing efficiency by restructuring patrols, improving response times and increasing public awareness through Coffee with a Cop, the Code Red system, and other outreach efforts.

I am most proud of being chair of the newly enacted Advisory Committee on Public Safety (ACOPS), made up of community volunteers who provide valuable feedback to town leaders on what is working and what can be improved. ACOPS is hard at work in 2016 with a full agenda that includes:

  • Advising Chief Wingert on his new public safety strategic plan.
  • Providing feedback on the best methods for improving communication with our residents.
  • Gathering soft target (schools, churches and hotels) emergency response plans.
  • Reviewing our Code to ensure it maximizes public safety interests.
  • Reviewing traffic patterns and calming strategies.
  • Planning the Town-wide Public Safety Fair to be held Feb. 20, 2016 at Town Hall at 8 a.m. — bring the kids for fun family activities!

I will continue to work diligently to improve public safety and awareness in 2016.

Resort development

As the General Plan recognizes, resorts are a vital part of our community. Not only do they provide amenities to our residents, but they also generate much-needed revenue for public safety services so that Paradise Valley can have peace of mind and remain property tax free.

When I ran for office, I emphasized that it is possible to merge paradise with progress by remaining true to our principles of open space and low density. With the recent approval of the Ritz-Carlton, we will see a long-awaited high quality resort that will blend with the town’s character, increase our property values and enhance our quality of life.

As development progresses at the Ritz, Mountain Shadows and the new Andaz resort, I will be vigilant in making sure the developers are held to the letter of their agreements and deliver on their promises to the town.

Fiscal responsibility

It is no secret that I believe in smaller government and living within our means. In 2015, I pushed for spending cuts. We face tens of millions of dollars in pension, sewer, fire station and other debt service costs. Until we see revenue generated from the resort projects currently underway, I would eliminate all non-essential spending and make cuts where possible while continuing to provide critical services such as public safety.

As one resident said to me, “you don’t spend money until it is in the bank.” This is a basic idea that should be our guiding principle as we plan the Town’s financial future.

In 2016, I will continue to make good on my promise to be a responsible fiscal steward of taxpayer money and to look for ways to work with fellow Town leaders to cut spending and satisfy our outstanding debts where possible without compromising our public safety services.

Thank you for joining me in this important effort to keep Paradise Valley on the right track in the coming year.

Together, we can improve the quality of life for all our residents.  I wish you and your families well in 2016 and invite you to keep up to date on Town events by connecting with me on Facebook at www.facebook.com/symsforpv or by emailing me at msyms@paradisevalleyaz.gov.

Editor’s note: Ms. Syms is a member of Paradise Valley Town Council

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