VOL. 17 ISSUE NO. 5   | FEBRUARY 2 – 8, 2011


Cave Creek candidates a homogenous group

‘One of the reasons most of the people sitting here don’t feel this is onerous, is because the town has a great staff’

cave creek candidates forum Cave Creek Council candidates, from left, are Thomas McGuire, councilmen Steve LaMar, Dick Esser, Jim Bruce and Ernie Bunch, and Planning Commissioner Shelley Anderson. Mayor Vincent Francia (r) is unopposed in seeking reelection.  
Photos by Linda Bentley

SHELBY WILSONCAVE CREEK – With Carefree Architect Shelby Wilson emceeing, there was no escaping humor amidst discussing the serious issues at hand during last week’s candidate forum.

With Councilman Adam Trenk withdrawing from the race and council candidate Alice Kunka declining to participate, Councilman Steve Lamar told citizens they were looking at the group he believed should be elected.

LaMar said he’s had a “heck of a good time” on council over the past two years where the “meetings have been short and on point.”

Planning Commissioner Shelley Anderson said she was driven to Cave Creek by her horses, which she’s owned since she was 15, from Scottsdale where, for the past 30 years, she’s operated a State Farm agency.

As a business person, she said she is happy to help the town and would make decisions based on rational, logical thinking.

Vice Mayor Ernie Bunch, who has served on council for the past six years, told the attendees, “I don’t have an agenda. I don’t want an agenda.”

Bunch said he’s been involved with a family-owned business for the past 36 years and stated he does his homework and reads the council packets.

Councilman Jim Bruce is seeking a second term on council. He served on the planning commission for four years previously, as well as on various committees.

Bruce stated there were still some important issues coming up, and said he believes Walmart was a good thing to do.

Councilman Dick Esser is seeking his fourth term on council and served on the planning commission for four years before then.

Esser said he has used the contacts and relationships he’s built during his 40 years experience as a public servant for the benefit of the town and has served as Cave Creek’s representative on the MAG Mutual Council, the statutory planning agency for Maricopa County.

LaMar, currently a private practice lawyer after spending the past 10 years with the attorney general’s office, served the past two years on council and a total of about 15 years on the planning commission.

He was involved with the town’s annexation in 1986 and said he would like to see the town’s recent annexation through by purchasing the open space.

He said he’s dedicated to maintaining the character of Cave Creek as “the rest of the valley becomes homogenized.”

Thomas McGuire, who famously lost his last bid for reelection to Trenk in a tie-breaking card draw, joked he was asking for citizens’ votes because “I’m no damn good at drawing cards.”

McGuire said Cave Creek, with its 40 percent open space, will be unique, while horses and other recreation are important ways to define Cave Creek.

He said he is looking forward to a point when the town can eliminate the recent ½ cent sales tax increase.

Wilson, getting ready to ask his first question, admonished the candidates against pontification.

He asked, “Do you subscribe to Rural/Metro? If not, why?”

All responded yes except the mayor, who said the cost jumped from $300 to $600 and he could no longer afford it.

Wilson then asked why any of them would you want this “thankless” job.

Francia said there was nothing thankless about it, especially when people come up to him in the street and thank him for what he’s doing.

Anderson said, “I like doing this.”

Bunch said he lived in Glendale and Phoenix before moving to Cave Creek and, while realizing the town needs revenue, he does not want to replicate what those cities have done.

Bruce responded, “I’m a nosey guy. I really feel a need to know what’s going on,” and found the best way was to become involved.

Esser said he’d wanted to live in Cave Creek since he was 12.

LaMar stated he loves the town and they’ve kept their eye on the ball with quality development. He said, “I feel like it’s my town.”

When asked about their position on property tax, Francia called it the “most onerous” of all taxes because it places a lien on our property. He said Spur Cross was an exception and that tax will expire in 2012.

Bunch called it “the most insidious tax on the planet,” adding, “Pay your house off and see who owns it.”

Anderson said property taxes were warranted in some cases but it must be put to a vote.
Bruce said he hated property tax but believes it’s the only way to pay for things sometime.

Esser stated, “Westerners don’t do property tax. They always seem to have a life of their own,” concurring with the mayor that Spur Cross was an exception.

“If the majority of the people feel it’s important,” said LaMar, “I believe in democracy. Things cost money.”

McGuire said he agreed with what most people said about property taxes. He said taxes were so high in the part of New York he was from it was dissuading people from locating there.

When asked what the town should do for revenue while waiting for Walmart, LaMar replied, “One of the reasons most of the people sitting here don’t feel this is onerous, is because the town has a great staff. The town is in better shape than most communities. We don’t have to wait for Walmart since we’re OK.”

When asked what one thing they each would like to see accomplished in the next term, McGuire replied, “Business development, so we can start purchasing the state land.”

LaMar said he would like the town to “finish the annexation,” meaning purchase the open space in the newly annexed area.

This was a goal echoed by Bruce and Francia.

Esser responded, “Development at the intersection” of Cave Creek Road and Carefree Highway.

Bunch and Anderson would like to achieve economic stability through fiscal responsibility.

Bruce told attendees, “We know everybody here. The easiest job is council because staff does all the hard work. There’s a feeling amongst this group we can turn this town around.”

And, while waiting for Walmart, Francia noted Harold’s and the Buffalo Chip, where Pittsburgh Steelers and Green Bay Packers fans  will be congregating, respectively, in a couple of weeks, should provide a boost in revenue.

Francia said, “Councilman LaMar said everything so well,” as he thanked Wilson, Don Sorchych and Sonoran News for holding the forum and stated, “I’m taking Pittsburgh.”

As far as the state of the town goes, Francia said the town was ahead of the problem, although they had to let a dozen staff members go and cut employee hours to do it.

“We made it,” said Francia. “We’re addressing our debt service. We just need a little bit of luck.”

Francia said once the Walmart building starts going up he believes the town will be approached by other businesses.

The bottom line? According to Francia, “We are OK.”

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