Free food draws attendees to forum

‘I have the ability to be very intelligent’
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CAVE CREEK – A free barbecue dinner with the tab picked up by Sewickley, Penn. resident Mike Chutz’s political action committee drew a fair crowd to the candidate forum on April 23 at the Buffalo Chip Saloon.

Mayor Vincent Francia served as timekeeper, while Kim Brennan moderated the event.

Although Brennan said ballots have been delivered and she had already received hers in the mail, she was mistaken. Only the publicity pamphlets have been mailed.

During opening statements, Councilman Thomas McGuire, the only incumbent left seeking reelection, said the town took too long to get its financials online but that has now been rectified.

He also said, “Anyone should feel welcome at town hall.”

McGuire said he had over 10 years of experience in volunteer work for the town and felt somewhat guilty spending $2,000 on this campaign when he’s never spent more than $500 before.

Mike Durkin said, “Almost everyone I’ve spoken to is engaged in this election.”

He said his intention is to deliver a “comprehensive capital improvement plan,” and stated he has completed the first draft.

“I have enormous experience developing a number of things,” said Durkin.

Eileen Wright said she was running “because I love this little town,” and stated, “I have the ability to be very intelligent.”

She said, “Let’s finish this job. Let’s put me, Charlie, Reg and Mike on this council. They worked hard …”

Charles Spitzer said he was concerned about fiscal responsibility and claimed the town was not in compliance with its WIFA loans.

He said he wants to protect our rural lifestyle and see tourists come here, spend their money and go home.

Reg Monachino was running on a platform of three things: fiscal responsibility, economic development and keeping the town rural.

He said the town should have a chief financial officer to report directly to council.

Monachino believes council can promote the economic development of the thousands of square feet of unused commercial space in the town core.

He also complained about the town having one of the highest tax rates in the country and high development fees.

During questions from the audience, the candidates were asked how they stood on the rezoning (Proposition 459) as a yes or no question.

McGuire answered, “Yes.” He was later given an opportunity to add a comment and stated, “If you don’t want property taxes … No one is going to build residential there.”

Durkin said, “No. I’m going to vote no on 409 (sic).”

Wright said, “I would have voted no.”

Monachino said he voted against it when it came before the planning commission.

Scott Dahne asked McGuire where he stood on property tax and quoted from his guest editorial and previous articles where he held a different position.

McGuire said the only property tax he was for was Spur Cross and stated he was against property tax.

When Dahne came back at McGuire to say, “I see some waffling here,” someone yelled at him to sit down.

Sarah Vannucci asked what each would do to increase vitality in the town core businesses.

Durkin said, “I’m not a business man or commercial developer but I do get things done,” and brought up his capital improvement plan again as a solution.

Spitzer said he would reduce the amount of time it takes to get permits approved at town hall.

Wright claimed she knew a person who was trying to open a business in Cave Creek but it took so long to get approved she went to Carefree.

Monachino said the current council doesn’t have any plans for economic development and believes economic development starts with town council.

McGuire said, “I very much resent the way that question was asked. The Mayor has suggested reducing sales tax by one-half percent. I support that 100 percent.”

He said development on Carefree Highway will help development in the town core.

Chutz stated the “town tabloid was most destructive” and asked McGuire directly if he accepted the publisher’s endorsement in light of the “poison he publishes.”

Chutz also questioned what could be done to keep businesses from advertising in the paper.

McGuire said he does accept the endorsement but didn’t necessarily endorse the methods of Sonoran News adding, “The publisher has First Amendment rights.”

McGuire said Sonoran News is the official newspaper of Cave Creek but if the issue were to come up before council he would give it consideration.

Bob Kite, who owns the largest commercial parcel in the town core behind the post office, brought up impact fees as a deterrent to development.

And while property tax was brought up, Brennan said it was clear a majority of residents don’t favor property tax.

Durkin said, “I have begun to put pen to paper on that and the underperforming properties in the town core.”

He said he was looking into what incentives have been used to attract businesses to other communities.

Wright said she was working on an economic development plan and mentioned adding numerous categories of commercial zoning categories.

Spitzer said the town council doesn’t have to come up with these ideas because there are a lot of smart people in town.

McGuire stated, “We do have businesses coming to Cave Creek. Carefree does not. They do not have development fees.”

He said businesses that come to Carefree Highway will prevent a property tax.

Monachino insisted economic development has to take place on council and said it was hard to ignore 20 acres in the center of town.

He refuted the notion that rezoning on Carefree Highway to pave the way for a McDonald’s would be necessary or otherwise there will be a property tax.

A woman wanted to know why APS was locating its power line project on the south side of the road and asked if McDonald’s was going to have a cowboy hat in the town core.

McGuire said McDonald’s doesn’t belong in the town core and noted Walmart has brought business to the town core.

He explained how the mayor, vice mayor and a member of council offered suggestions to APS but council had no power over APS other than provide them with input.

A man from Rancho Mañana said he loved Cave Creek but not on weekends with all the motorcycle noise. He asked, “What are you going to do for us residents?”

Wright said the zoning ordinance was not being enforced. She then stated she was not saying there shouldn’t be development on Carefree Highway.

Durkin told the man he needed to start showing up at council meetings and said there wasn’t enough participation of the citizenry at council meetings.

Spitzer said, “You say no one is going to build a home on Carefree Highway. There are some people who want to live on Carefree Highway. To say there’s not is incorrect.”

A woman got up to comment that she and her husband built a home on two acres on Carefree Highway and now they have Home Depot across the street with its lights shining in their yard. She said, “Now all we can do is move or plant a bunch of trees,” indicating it is an undesirable place to build a residence now.

McGuire said the historic town core and open space are in the general plan. “If that’s not what we want, we need to take it to the voters,” said McGuire, adding, “I agree with you Mike. People should start showing up at council meetings."

Monachino said, “We’ve heard an awful lot about plans. This council, with the help of citizens will redo the plan. It will be a guideline for the town for the next 10 years.”

He said it needed to take the health, safety and welfare of the citizens into consideration.

Adam Trenk said the reason there was so much talk about property tax or development was because the town has debt and asked the candidates to address the issue.

Spitzer said fiscal responsibility is spending what needs to be spent and the town needs to pay its debts but not spend money on what the town doesn’t need.

McGuire pointed out voters approved the water company purchase in 2005 and said when the wastewater treatment plant was at 80 percent capacity the town needed to put a new one in.

He said the town has done “excellent financial planning,” and the town has “no gloom and doom” over paying its debts and paid off Spur Cross early.

Durkin said, “Fiscal responsibility is not being $70 million in debt when voters approved $50 million.”

When a woman asked Durkin what his plan was, he responded, “About what?”

Wright stated the town needs a forensic financial audit while Monachino stated the town needed an independent audit and “stop the wasteful spending.”

When asked for an example he responded, “$80,000 for a fire hydrant study.”

A resident from a small town in Montana suggested the town implement a “resort tax” and said he’d like to see a bowling alley and movie theater in Stagecoach Village.

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