On June 7, Carefree Unity submitted nine questions to the Town’s two candidates for mayor of Carefree. Vice Mayor John Crane responded, Mr. Peter Sample did not. This and all responses are currently available at https://carefreeunity.com/carefree-candidates/
- Briefly describe your qualifications and reasons for seeking office. How have your past actions improved Carefree?
I want to make an impact and serve by bringing my 7 years of service as Vice Mayor to bear. I want to bring current initiatives to completion and address new challenges where my experience, knowledge base, and proven judgement will bring value and solutions. The next Council must successfully finish the integration of all Carefree residents onto the Carefree Water Company system, must build community consensus to ensure financially sound, quality fire protection for our residents and businesses, and must encourage economic development without compromising the character of our community. My intimate knowledge of these issues will be crucial to resolving these and other issues.
As Vice Mayor, I immerse myself in the community. I listen and speak with citizens and business owners and bring an analytical thought process to the table.
My past actions have stayed the course for Town fiscal conservative management, helped to bring all of our citizens water service from the Carefree Water Company and have done much to sustain our small town feel. I supported many programs including the Veterans Memorial, Veterans Day, Memorial Day, the Little Free Library, Carefree Garden Seminars…. bringing value to Carefree residents and fostering communications between citizens and their government.
2. What are your positions on the three Carefree initiatives that will be on the ballot?
Initiative 472: No. Passage with its retroactive provision, will require removal of the underground water tank, land remediation and relocating the tank near another Carefree neighborhood at a crippling multimillion-dollar cost. System robustness would be compromised.
Initiative 473: No. Passage will weaken our local government and effective representation and will result in Council Members being forced out just as they begin to understand the workings of Carefree government. Only knowledgeable and experienced Council Members can effectively challenge and work with Town Staff. That takes time to develop. A weak Council will result in a Town Staff with oversized influence. It will result in discontinuity and severely limit effective long-term planning and execution.
Initiative 474: Yes. While I am not a supporter of term limits for small communities, I am willing to compromise sensible term limits in return for the continuity garnered from staggered terms. Staggered 4-year terms will preserve institutional knowledge and experience within the Town Council making for more effective and stronger Council Members better positioned to engage with Town Staff and work with neighboring governments to better mind the interests of Carefree. Term limits will legislate turnover, bringing in new candidates while not compromising the effectiveness of government.
3. How do you believe the Town’s reserve funds should be utilized? Is the Town’s fiscal balance sheet sound?
Town reserves should only be used for capital improvement projects. During lean years, reserves should be used to supplement fire service and police protection expenses and support unpostponable projects.
The Town’s fiscal balance sheet is sound. With about 50% of Town revenue based upon potentially unstable sales tax revenue and without a reliable property tax revenue stream, the Town must maintain a strong reserve.
4. Do you support the Carefree Water Consolidation Project? Do you support the implementation actions taken by the Town to this point?
Yes, I support the Carefree Water Consolidation Project. A reliable source of quality water with properly maintained fire hydrants should be available to all Carefree residents. The added Carefree Water customers from the Cave Creek Water Company will pay a monthly premium.
Yes, I support implementation actions taken by the Town to date. Unfortunately, placement of the underground water tank at this optimum location, encountered legal challenge after legal challenge. The unacceptable alternative was to move the tank to a less optimal location in another neighborhood compromising system robustness and possibly resulting in a more intrusive tank and potentially encountering a series of new legal challenges.
5. Do you support the Economic Development Plan as amended and approved on 1/4/22? Are you satisfied with the activity taken in support of that plan by the Economic Development Director and other Carefree officials?
Yes, I support the Economic Development Plan. To avoid a property tax to fund Town operations and expanding needs, the Town needs a robust commercial base. The challenge is to balance development initiatives with the sensitivity to preserving the Sonoran Desert, maintaining the character of our Town, bringing development that brings value to our residents and generating sales tax revenue. It will be incumbent upon the next Council and Mayor to strike that balance by respectfully engaging with all parties and honoring agreements struck to date with neighbors. Specifically looking at the Town Core, the Redevelopment Plan for the downtown must allow for stricter, more enforceable design guidelines to maintain the Town’s character and giving the Town better control of aesthetics.
6. Costs of Fire Department & Emergency Services are expected to rise substantially over the next several years. Would you support a transition from Mutual Aid to Automatic Aid? The Town has hired a financial consultant to examine options for funding increasing structural deficits in the Fire Fund. Was this a constructive move?
A transition to Automatic Aid would bring a more responsive fire service but would also increase the annual cost of fire service by about a million dollars. For a municipality operating with about a $6 million annual operating budget, this is a huge increase, which would need to be serviced year after year. To move forward, our Town residents and elected officials need to understand the implications in terms of fire service, cost, ability to fund the expense and the financial viability of potential partners and solutions. The financial obligation will continue for many years to come. Sustainable revenue streams must be identified to make options viable. Gathering and organizing the data needed to draw good conclusions and to educate the Town is a job beyond that of Town Staff. That is why it is constructive to hire a fire and financial consultant to gather and organize data, make recommendations, conduct workshops and meetings to inform the public, and then arrive at sustainable solutions.
7. The Town of Carefree General Plan is expected to be updated within the next Council term. Do you see the update as a natural evolution of the Plan, or do you have specific expectations of change?
The pending General Plan update, since the voter approved update of about 10 years ago, should be an evolutionary update addressing evolved sensitivities of our residents as well as the realities of change in adjacent bordering community properties that may influence acceptable land use in Carefree. The update should maintain our small town feel and our Sonoran Desert that define who we are while allowing for properly placed and scaled sales tax generating commercial development.
8. If elected, how would you work with the rest of the Town Council to build consensus for your priorities?
Engaging with each Council Member on priority issues is the key to having a chance to build consensus. In the end, everyone may not agree, but we should disagree respectfully. How? Bring each Council Member to the table and leverage their strengths, expertise, and areas of interest. Allow assigned Council Members to function as a key liaison with entities that the Town interacts with such as MCSO, Rural Metro, the school district, the court, the Chamber of Commerce, the Restaurant Association, and veterans groups. I would encourage councilmember dialog during Town Council meetings.
9. What issues do you see as most urgent? If elected, what would you try to accomplish in your first 100 days?
1. Complete the transfer of Carefree residents from the Cave Creek Water Company onto the Carefree Water System.
2. Manage a Town discussion to arrive at a consensus for a fire protection system that will be financially sound.
In addition, in the first 100 days:
1. Establish a group to investigate how best for the Town to manage short term rentals (STR) within the limits established by State law and lobby our state representatives to provide cities and towns more STR management latitude.
2. Improve the Town Drought Preparedness Plan, take steps to encourage water conservation awareness and behavior, begin to explore water charging opportunities, and support the Town’s participation in raising the height of Bartlett Dam and gaining access to additional water rights.
3. Begin a review and update of the Town lighting ordinance.
4. Begin to establish strong working relationships with the leaders of our neighboring cities and towns, schools and the County and State such that common issues can be discussed and resolved and positive synergies generated to benefit Carefree.