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Chris Sarappo, a personal trainer in Maricopa, has launched a write-in campaign for the state Legislature. He says legalizing marijuana will bring much-needed money to schools. Photo by Ethan McSweeney

By Ethan McSweeney

Chris Sarappo doesn’t expect to win his race for state representative in Legislative District 11 – he just wants to give voters another option on the ballot.

The Maricopa resident and personal trainer at Copper Sky Recreation Center is mounting an independent, write-in campaign primarily on one issue: marijuana legalization.

“You can legalize, take it out of the drug dealers’ hands, control it like alcohol and create a huge tax base for the Arizona schools,” Sarappo said.

Sarappo, a former behavioral technician in the Maricopa Unified School District, said he knows how little money schools have at their disposal in the state. Taxing marijuana would allow the state to better invest in its schools, he said.

“I look at it as you’re either for the drug dealers or you’re for the schools,” Sarappo said.

A marijuana legalization measure may be on the ballot in Arizona this fall, as organizers for the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana like Alcohol say they have gathered enough signatures to qualify.

Sarappo hails from outside Philadelphia, and he lived in North Carolina for several years. He said the high cost of living in North Carolina led him to search for another place to live.

He saw the prices in Maricopa and “couldn’t pass it up,” he said. He moved to the city six years ago.

In addition to personal training and his previous job at MUSD, Sarappo has worked as a day trader, a computer programmer and a baseball coach, has written a children’s book and received a real estate license.

Sarappo doesn’t have a background in politics, but he said he’s always followed politics closely.

He said he now sees a change coming in the political landscape of the country.

“I think that people are tired of the status quo, people are tired of the blatant corruption,” Sarappo said. “They’re seeing that there are two sets of laws in America, now: one for you and me, and there’s a separate one for those who have money or are connected.”

This change he sees has motivated him to make the jump into politics, electing to join the race for Legislative District 11, which spans from Maricopa down through Arizona City to the northern suburbs of Tucson.

Sarappo said he doesn’t know who he’s running against for the post and he doesn’t care.

“I’m not trying to beat these guys,” he said. “I want to speak, reach people and change minds with logic, common sense and facts. I think we’ve gotten away from that in America.”

For the record, incumbent state Reps. Mark Finchem, R-Oro Valley, and Vince Leach, R-Saddlebrooke, are running again for their seats in the district against Democrats Corin Hammond and Barry McCain. Voters elect two representatives for each legislative district.

On the issues, Sarappo is socially liberal and fiscally conservative. “I’m for doing what you please as long as it’s not affecting others and costing them money,” he said.

The main issue he wants to focus his campaign on is legalizing marijuana to raise extra funding for the state’s schools.

Sarappo said many of Arizona’s teachers are being driven away to other states or other professions because of how little money is available for them. From his experience at MUSD, he said he knows that the lack of money is burden on school employees.

“There comes to a point with the money that you have to survive,” he said. “You love what you’re doing, you love helping people, but you have to feed yourself.”

Besides marijuana legalization, Sarappo said his other major cause is the “fair tax,” which would replace current federal taxes with a national consumption tax.

When it comes to the presidential election, Sarappo said he would support the Libertarian Party candidate, former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson. If he had to choose between real estate mogul Donald Trump and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, though, he would choose Trump.

The presidential election, though, is part of the reason he’s running, Sarappo said, because it shows that the country has run out of options.

His distaste for that current two-party system made his choice to run as an independent obvious. Having a write-in campaign means Sarappo doesn’t need to reach a threshold of signatures to qualify on the ballot, and it also adds the physical act of writing a name, which he said is exactly what he wants.

“I would rather have someone write my name in, even if it’s just two people, because it means something, rather than going into a booth and just pushing a lever,” Sarappo said.

Rich Vitiello

By Rich Vitiello

Rather than couch things in political happy talk, I speak plainly – without glossing things over and dishing out words from both sides of my mouth. I speak from the heart. That’s not trying to be divisive – just honest.

If I don’t know about a subject, I have always found it best to sit, listen and learn from people who have an interest or expertise in the matter. I’ve been listening to residents, farmers and other business people, as well as government employees, officials and management. Once elected, that is what I will continue to do.

The county’s budget is large and complicated, but it is something that must be examined every step of the way. It’s taxpayer money – and elected officials must be held accountable for spending it. I plan to sit down with department heads to listen and learn – and to find what their needs and wants are. In government, just as in business, there’s always a need accompanied by a want. Part of my mandate will be to have county management separate their needs from their wants so budgets can be evaluated and projects put forth that yield results. That’s part of being a responsible government leader and advocate. That’s also part of being a guardian of the taxpayers’ money.

I’ve told people that I am in favor of streamlining the county’s government – in other words, reducing the burden to the taxpayer and improving government service, but not at the expense of the safety, health and welfare of the public that depends on fundamental county services. Streamlining and reducing the burden to the taxpayer may come from a combination of things, but one thing is sure, I won’t be so reckless as to support cutting department budgets straight across the board, nor will I seek cuts without attempting to understand their impact.

I believe protecting our citizens and establishing a bond of trust and accountability is key to making Pinal County a safer place to live and do business. That is what will bring security, peace of mind and success. I am an advocate of public safety, not just law enforcement, but all that concerns the public. I have publicly spoken against marijuana and in support of the needs of residents. People need results, not talk.

I have called the incumbent on the carpet for attempting to mislead the voters. In that regard, I hope to clear things up for the incumbent: The county sheriff doesn’t have a fleet of patrol cars that were transferred to that office by the federal government after seizure. If we did, those cars and the deputies riding in them might be paid for by using RICO funds. But we don’t. Our deputies, who are already understaffed and underpaid compared to other law enforcement agencies, are working 12-hour shifts due to eight years of shrinking budgets. The incumbent wants them to work additional hours per shift.

In consulting with sheriff’s office officials, RICO expenditures already carry PCSO in many different areas that the purposefully insufficient budget does not cover things such as training, weapons, vehicle maintenance, aviation fuel and equipment, technology, software licensing, etc. So, Mr. Smith, please stop trying to sway the voters on a hypothetical argument under false pretense. It’s unbecoming.

Recently, a resident in the Hidden Valley area south of Maricopa wrote about her experience with the incumbent. Until recently, the incumbent staunchly supported the proposed Palo Verde Park. He flip-flopped in the face of very vocal and virulent opposition, and now states he will “listen to” opposing residents and make a vote consistent with constituents. I believe the incumbent should have been doing that since he was elected three plus years ago. That would have been representation — not the experience people have had to endure.

As to flood control, I am concerned about all of Pinal County, not just the area that the incumbent is focused on. Public safety and solving our flood control issues are keys to bringing economic development to the county. I’ve had conversations with Dan Frank, a civil engineer and president of the Maricopa Flood Control District. He’s also a candidate for Maricopa City Council and has substantial experience in flood control matters.

Frank has expressed some frustration in working with Pinal County Flood Control for review and approvals of certain documents for the MFCD. The incumbent sits on the board of the Pinal County Flood Control District. In June, it appropriated $1.5 million for a flood control study with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers at local taxpayer expense. “This is not the first time this watershed was studied by the Corps,” Frank said. “I hope this is not a repeat of 1994, when the Lower Santa Cruz River was studied and the results were to do nothing.” The conclusion of that study was that “No implementable plan was developed with available funds… the study was terminated with joint concurrence of the (U.S. Army) Corps of Engineers and Pinal County flood control.”

The definition of insanity can be described as doing the same things over and over again, hoping for a different result. The definition of government insanity can be summed up as spending the taxpayer money over and over again to study the same thing that should have been solved long ago. Something needs to be done – allowing a problem to fester for over 20 years does nobody any good.
The incumbent criticizes me for speaking with people in and outside of the district. Getting information, including diverse opinions and listening to the concerns of residents is part of being an advocate and representative of Pinal County. Understanding and relating to the needs of residents and business people is one of the most important things one can do in local government. But it is apparent that the incumbent doesn’t feel the same way. It’s time for a change.

Rich Vitiello is a Maricopa resident and candidate for Pinal County supervisor in District 4 in the Republican primary against incumbent Anthony Smith.

Angela Villa

By Angela Villa

Regarding the upcoming election for Pinal County Supervisor for District 4, we need a change. We need representation.

I have been a resident of one of Pinal County’s rural areas, Maricopa/Hidden Valley, since 1997. In that time I and many neighbors have become highly involved in local issues, such as developments, zoning, comprehensive plans, general plans, annexations and much more. I have dealt with a couple of different county officials in the supervisory position, along with dealings with county officials in numerous other counties across Arizona. In all of my experiences, I have never come across a county representative who has neglected and failed to support the people he is supposed to represent more than our current Supervisor Anthony (Tony) Smith. Yes, a little harsh, but true. I have had dealings with Mr. Smith prior to his election as county supervisor and none were beneficial to our communities. There are plenty of documents to prove these issues are true.

Once Mr. Smith was elected to county supervisor, we hoped he would fulfill his duty as representative of Pinal County residents, all of them. We quickly found those wishes left unfulfilled. From Smith’s disregard for locals’ opinions affecting them directly under his representation, to Smith openly supporting those who are not residents and voters, but visitors, to his drive to push for directives and issues within the City of Maricopa (which have their own governing boards) more than for the people who he is the sole representative of.

Whether it be zoning issues, representation appointed by Mr. Smith, annexations, developments, public notices, zoning changes/requirements, safety issues, lack of notifications, emails from his constituents left for months unanswered by Mr. Smith or simply taking the public’s ( that he is elected to represent) input into consideration, a very large group of us has never experienced a more disappointing lack of cooperation and misrepresentation than we have under our current supervisor. I remember many years ago meeting with Mr. Snider, who was a much better suited representation for our district and highly involved with his local meetings and input with people and communities within his district, which was double the size it is now. We need that representation back.

I (and many others) openly support change for Pinal County District 4. We need representation that does exactly that – represents all people of Pinal County, especially those whom the county supervisor is their only source of representation. I have met with Mr. Vitiello, on numerous occasions, attended the debate and more. I like the fact that Mr. Vitiello puts himself out there as a representative of all Pinal County residents. He understands not everyone has the same lifestyles, wishes, desires, dreams and hopes. Mr. Vitiello is not pro-unincorporated, he is not pro-incorporated. What he is, is pro-Pinal County. He is someone who can open-mindedly and in a beneficial manner represent all of Pinal County’s very diverse residents. Mr. Vitiello has already proven himself responsive to people across District 4 (especially the TBird/Hidden Valley area, though we hold little voting value in comparison to other areas). When called upon, he acts. Mr. Vitiello is already highly involved in those same communities across the district, again, regardless of incorporated or not. Mr. Vitiello has not told us something, simply because it is what he believed we wanted to hear, but he agrees to listen and learn, to take all points into consideration. He is motivated and open minded, well versed and well rounded in his life and his community and I believe that he can carry Pinal County District 4 into a very beneficial future for all its residents.

Today and on Election Day, Mr. Vitiello will be my choice for Pinal County Supervisor of District 4. We need change. We need and deserve honest and beneficial representation.

Angela Villa is a resident of the unincorporated Hidden Valley area of Pinal County.

Candidates for Pinal County sheriff (from left) Mark Lamb, Steve Henry, Kaye Dickson and Kevin Taylor participated in a debate Saturday at UltraStar Multi-tainment Center. Photo by William Lange

By Ethan McSweeney

Candidates for Pinal County Sheriff and Pinal County Attorney took part in a debate at UltraStar Multi-tainment Center on Saturday morning to address county issues and the current officeholders for those positions ahead of the August primary election.

Republicans Mark Lamb and Steve Henry took the stage alongside Democrats Kaye Dickson and Kevin Taylor at the debate that was sponsored by the Maricopa Chamber of Commerce, the Maricopa Monitor, InMaricopa and the UltraStar Multi-tainment Center. The Saturday morning debates also featured candidates for Arizona’s 1st Congressional District and Pinal County Board of Supervisors District 4.

For the County Attorney’s race, defense attorney Kent Volkmer was the only candidate to take part in the debate, with incumbent Attorney Lando Voyles not attending Saturday.

Pinal County Sheriff

In the Sheriff’s race, candidates discussed staffing issues and body cameras within the Pinal County Sheriff’s Office. They also voiced some criticism for Paul Babeu, the county’s current Sheriff.

Babeu is not seeking re-election for the post, instead running for the Republican nomination in the 1st Congressional District.

Lamb, a deputy in the Pinal County Sheriff’s Office, said he believes the politics that exist in the Sheriff’s Office now have affected the morale of deputies.

“I want to restore that back to just focusing on law enforcement, protecting you as the people, doing what we can to foster a good environment for businesses and people to move in to the county,” Lamb said.

“I’m going to do everything I can do to remove that political side [of the Sheriff’s position],” he added.

When asked, Lamb later said in the debate he believed Pinal County is safer since Babeu took office, but that “we still have work to do.”

Henry, who serves as chief deputy in the Sheriff’s Office and is backed by Babeu, said he wasn’t concerned by the Pinal County Deputies Association not endorsing him. The association endorsed Lamb and Dickson for the primary race.

“We have mutual issues that we talk about and other issues that we disagree on,” Henry said. “It’s just a matter of the course of everyday business, and that doesn’t go away. It doesn’t matter if the endorsement is there or not.”

Henry said more staffing is the most significant need the Sheriff’s Office has right now. About half of the county’s population, located outside municipalities that have their own police departments, is policed by PCSO.

“We need people,” Henry said. “Right now in San Tan Valley, there are 95,000 people there and we police that with 40 cops.”

Dickson, who previously worked in PCSO for decades and as the director of Pinal County Animal Care and Control, said that as Sheriff she would cooperate with a staffing study from the Pinal County Board of Supervisors to see how to effectively use officers around the county. Babeu has not cooperated with supervisors over the staffing study.

“It’s not always just about putting officers where it’s the most populated areas,” she said.

Taylor, who runs a private detective agency, said there are too many deputies focused on Saddlebrooke and San Tan Valley, which he said don’t need as much attention as they currently have.

On the use of body cameras in PCSO, Henry said he supported the use of them in theory, but practically they cost too much to maintain.

“What people don’t understand … is that the cost is so prohibitive that with the current financial status we are in this county, we can’t do it,” he said.

Dickson suggested RICO funds, which law enforcement agencies generate as a result of asset forfeiture, could be used to fund body cameras.

“Those cameras create transparency and trust in government,” she said.

Taylor, who previously ran for sheriff in 2012, said the fact that, unlike the other candidates for the office, he doesn’t have a position in the Sheriff’s Office puts him at an advantage.

“I’m coming new with new ideas, with fresh ideas and right now I owe nobody in Pinal County any favors,” he said.

Dickson also said she would support working with the state’s Border Strike Force, which Gov. Doug Ducey created last year. Some border county sheriffs have come out in opposition to the new force.

“I believe that if the governor wants to step up to the plate and help protect our state, that that’s a good thing,” Dickson said. “We should take advantage of that.”

Pinal County Attorney

With incumbent Pinal County Attorney Lando Voyles not in attendance, his Republican primary challenger Volkmer took his time on stage to criticize him on issues ranging from accountability to conviction rates.

Volkmer called into question the office’s accountability with Voyles campaigning together with Henry for county attorney and sheriff, respectively.

“If an officer is accused of committing a crime and you’re the victim,” Volkmer said, “are you going to believe that the county attorney who campaigned with the sheriff is going to give you a fair shake?”

The conviction rate from the Pinal County Attorney’s Office under Voyles is “abysmal,” Volkmer said. He argued that the office is only convicting 30 percent of cases that go to trial “for the most serious offenses.”

Volkmer said he supports pursing the death penalty in certain cases, but argued the rate at which Voyles is pursuing capital punishment is “too high,” which again costs county taxpayers.

“As a county attorney, you have to uphold the law, but you also have to be a steward of the county’s resources,” Volkmer said.

Volkmer also took aim at the length of time it takes for the Attorney’s Office to prosecute cases and turnover under Voyles.

No Democrats are running for the attorney position. The primary elections will be Aug. 30.

Vincent Manfredi is chairman of the Vote Yes on the Override campaign. Photo by Raquel Hendrickson

Teachers and technology have been top selling points for the “Vote Yes on the Override” campaign in Maricopa.

City Councilman Vincent Manfredi is chairman of the campaign, and he, too, emphasizes the need for more teachers and tech. Raising taxes is not his modus operandi. Maricopa Unified School District’s proposed budget override would increase what taxpayers give the school in property taxes by $11 per month on $100,000 of assessed value.

The question goes to voters in the Nov. 8 General Election.

Supporting an override is not a knee-jerk reaction for Manfredi, despite having three daughters in MUSD schools. After the district failed six times to pass an override, he took a closer look.

“I dove deep into the budget,” he said.

Through his work with the MUSD Budget Committee, he became convinced the district had cut all the fat, was down to bare bones in administration – “Some of those people are doing two or three jobs,” he said – and classes were burgeoning.

“Twenty-five is OK in a class,” he said. “But some classrooms have 30 to 35 kids. That’s not good.”

Override proposal
4 teachers at Butterfield Elementary School
4 teachers at Maricopa Elementary School
3 teachers at Pima Butte Elementary School
4 teachers at Saddleback Elementary School
2 teachers a Santa Cruz Elementary School
2 teachers at Santa Rosa Elementary School
2 teachers at Desert Wind Middle School
2 teachers at Maricopa Wells Middle School
9 teachers at Maricopa High School
2 elementary teachers on special assignment
2 instructional technology integration specialists
3 elementary counselors
1 elementary librarian
7 teachers for new alternative high school program

$334,600 for 490 laptop computers
$45,000 for additional tech staff
$38,000 for computer licensing
$30,910 for tech equipment/supplies
$30,000 for instructional technology professional development
$21,420 for 14 computer carts

As proposed, the override would give the district funding for 47 more teachers and $500,000 in instructional technology. Seven of the teachers would be for a proposed “alternative” program at the high school.

Manfredi saw from previous override campaigns using the plea “It’s for the kids” doesn’t work in Maricopa.

To give the override campaign a better chance for success, Manfredi pushed the community impact of the vote. He also started the campaign earlier.

Because of the district’s history of failure on the issue, he knew changing minds was going to be imperative.

“I’ve been able to bring some staunch No’s over to Yes,” he said. “We’ve gotten these people that have voted no six times in a row to come out and help at events.

“We have to explain it differently than it used to be.”

This time, he is using some insight gained from his time on the city council as selling points. The link between a strong school district and a community’s economic development was part of that insight.

“A good school system is like a magnet,” Manfredi said. “Communities with good school have less crime and more economic development.”

He said it is a reflection of the community as a whole. If people looking for a home are drawn to Maricopa because of its three-time win as best suburb of Phoenix, one of the first things they look at is the school system.

With around 1,300 students being bused out of Maricopa every day to override-rich schools in Kyrene and Tempe, MUSD has difficult competition and fewer resources. Still when the state passed out letter grades, MUSD raised its rating from a C to a B.

“There are so many benefits to neighborhood schools,” Manfredi said. “It’s all about community pride.”


What MUSD budget override means to students

By Jamie Cluff

The Maricopa Unified School District Governing Board approved a 10-percent, seven-year override that will be on the Nov. 8 ballot, with the additional tax projected to be $132 per year on a home with an assessed value of $100,000. This override would allow the hiring of up to 47 K-12 teachers in 2017-18 to reduce the large class sizes and provide expanded academic programs for students. It would also provide more technology for instructional purposes.

The issue of money is not what matters in this override proposal. What’s at issue is students, the community and MUSD being able to provide the best education they can for their youth.

“Since it is a Saturday, and I am not at work, I can tell you that I think it should pass,” an MUSD staff member said at the March 19 Salsa Festival while a group of community members gave out information asking people to vote yes.

The students at Maricopa High School had a lot to say about the proposal once they learned how it affected the school. Shelby Hanks, a 2016 graduate, said, “Even though I won’t be here, I saw the effect this year of too many students coming in and not a lot of teachers to counteract it, so the class sizes were big… I definitely think it should pass.”

When asked, most students didn’t even know what the override was.

“I’m sad that we don’t have that now,” MHS incoming sophomore Alexius Karr said after she was informed of the details.

Carter Petty, an incoming senior at MHS, explained why he thinks the override should pass: “Large classes take away the interpersonal student-teacher relationship.”

“It will give new opportunities to Maricopa [Unified School District],” incoming senior Crystal Galavan said about the $500,000 that would go toward the instructional technologies.

The override would allow the district to hire 47 new teachers to spread around its nine schools. Butterfield, Maricopa, Pima Butte, Saddleback, Santa Rosa and Santa Cruz Elementary School would each get 2-4 teachers for class size reduction. Maricopa Wells and Desert Wind Middle School would get one teacher for class size reduction and one teacher for expanded academic programs. MHS, with 1,850 students, would receive five teachers for class size reduction and four teachers for expanded academic programs.

“I wish it had come sooner,” said Anna Cardinal, an incoming junior who, if the override passes, would experience the benefit her senior year.

Jamie Cluff is a student at Maricopa High School.

These stories appeared in the June issue of InMaricopa.

Incumbent Anthony Smith (left) faces off with Rich Vitiello in this year's Republican Primary in the race for Pinal County Board of Supervisors District 4.
Name: Anthony Smith
Age: 63
Hometown: Too many moves. Maricopa has my heart.
Residence: Maricopa
Years in District: 13
Family: Nancy (wife), five grown children in blended family with seven grandchildren
Education: Bachelor of Science, Purdue University
Professional background: Project Management Professional

Why are you running?
Pinal County is the first in the state to recover all jobs lost to the recession. We have cut our unemployment rate in half and increased our annual job growth rate to an amazing 5.6 percent. If re-elected, I will continue this path to prosperity and position us for even greater growth.

What are the biggest problems facing Pinal County?
1. The majority of our workers leave the county each day to work in another county, making for an unsustainable economy. The good news is that we have a pipeline of new capital investments greater than $16 billion. As an active partner with the City of Maricopa’s leadership team, we coordinate our economic development efforts for the purpose of landing more jobs in Maricopa or within a short commute.

2. Our network of roads is congested and incapable of sustaining anticipated population growth. To ensure future growth, I’ve partnered with Maricopa and others on critical projects such as the 347 overpass, widening SR 347 from 4 to 6 lanes and actively involved in planning for the new Interstate 11.

3. Our county’s financial health has suffered from the effects of the great recession, bad contracts approved by the previous board and millions of dollars swept annually by the state to balance their budget. In the past three years, we’ve taken huge steps to regain our fiscal health by reducing the size of county government to match a post-recession economy, renegotiated or cancelled bad contracts and lived within a balanced budget. If re-elected, I will demand we continue these sound fiscal policies and actions.

How will you use your position to bolster economic development in District 4?
The pipeline of projects I mentioned earlier could add approximately 6,000 new jobs all within a 40 minute drive from Maricopa and located in Pinal County. I’ll continue working to ensure we land as many of these new projects as possible and help make Maricopa a major job market.

How do you foresee the Board of Supervisors dealing with the state 1-percent cap?
The 1-percent cap is a limit provided to residential property owners to protect them from excessive taxation. I’m against a fix that shifts the tax burden to sales or secondary property taxes. My idea is to focus on reducing the tax rate by rewarding taxing authorities that lower their tax rate and penalizing those that raise their tax rate.

How will you gauge District 4’s opinions of issues while in office?
To hear from our citizens and solve problems, I hold meetings in five areas of District 4. By going directly to the people, I believe I deliver a higher level of service. I will continue to listen and represent the concerns of constituents making sound decisions that benefit all District 4.

What personal traits do you possess that make you the best person to be District 4 supervisor?
In the decades that I spent in the project management profession, I learned the importance of being accountable, action-oriented and doing what you say you will do. I used these same principles when I was mayor of the City of Maricopa and continue to use them today as your county supervisor.

Come to the Primary Debate June 18. Click here for details.

Name: Rich Vitiello
Age: 51
Hometown: Massapequa Park, New York
Residence: Maricopa
Years in District: 11
Family: Wife Joann Vitiello, mother Ann Vitiello, four daughters and sons-in-law, six grandchildren
Education: Farmingdale (N.Y.) High School
Professional background: Sales, marketing and product management. Retired after 27 years in worldwide sales and marketing for the sporting goods and cycling industry; now employed with AutoNation Honda in Chandler.

Why are you running?
I am concerned with the current supervisor’s approach to issues. I want to be sure that my children and grandchildren are not burdened with debts that cannot be repaid because of political mismanagement. Change is needed to improve on what we have to move forward into the future successfully.

What are the biggest problems facing Pinal County?
1. Public safety. Our sheriff’s office, county attorney and other public safety resources are underfunded and understaffed. We are losing people and not being able to fill positions due to budget cuts and other issues. An across-the-board budget cut is not the proper way to be fiscally responsible with the taxpayer’s money. I would work with each department to look at their budget to help eliminate wasteful spending.

2. Economic development. We have a flawed system for economic development – our neighbors to the north and south have been successful in attracting and retaining business enterprises. We need to take a page out their playbook and work with other business groups, foundations and agencies to improve our situation.

3. Flood control. Homeowners should not be burdened with increased insurance and other costs due to their desire to live in our county. There are several different agencies working separately on flood control concerns. The county should have a coordinated effort to effectively work with all agencies so that tasks may be streamlined and costs may be lowered.CandidateDebateFlier

How will you use your position to bolster economic development in District 4?
I will utilize my 27 years of international business experience to seek out and work with others to advance prospects for business expansion and relocation. I look forward to working as part of a team with business groups, foundations and agencies to bring more jobs to Pinal County.

How do you foresee the Board of Supervisors dealing with the state 1-percent cap?
The cities and counties need to work with the state Legislature for a working consensus to make efforts to balance the state budget without deficits being placed upon the backs of local governments. Without a resolution, the services provided under the current and future budgets will have to be examined harshly for adjustments or cuts.

How will you gauge District 4’s opinions of issues while in office?
I plan to meet with residents at the existing county-owned facilities or at community meeting rooms within the district on a regular basis. My personal stand on issues is tempered by the needs of my constituents. I will listen to my constituents for their input remembering that I am their representative.

What personal traits do you possess that make you the best person to be District 4 supervisor?
I believe in doing the right thing for my family and community. I believe that government needs to be transparent and we need honest representatives who will use their position for good and not be self-serving. I believe that I have the personal integrity to be the effective, honest representative of District 4.

This story appeared in the June issue of InMaricopa.

Rich Vitiello

By Rich Vitiello

Gaining trust is sometimes not an easy task, especially when going up against a politician who muddles the truth. I don’t split hairs to redefine an action or a term — it is what it is.  That’s one of the differences between a politician and public servant. I’m not a politician.

When a public servant is seen as transparent and honest in his dealings, people will have confidence to trust that person. With 27 years of international business experience, I’m an experienced businessman who wants to bring his talents forth to help people. To be a public servant. That’s it.

I’ve cited things the incumbent has done that I don’t agree with. Many of the people in his district don’t agree with them, either. I truly believe that the people of Maricopa, Saddlebrooke, Stanfield, Arizona City and parts in between should be served by having an honest representative who is genuinely concerned not only about fiscal responsibility, accountability and public safety, but also about the health and welfare of the entire community.

Doing the right thing for the good of the people a public servant represents is the most important thing one can do. I switched from the city council to the county supervisor race because it needed to be done. I’m concerned about my family and community. My vision for being a supervisor is to be a servant to the community – to help others.

People need real, honest and transparent representation, not lip service. I will work with other people to better the lives of residents in Pinal County. I’ll sit down with residents, business persons, elected officials and county employees to listen, learn and understand their needs. I’ll agree with some opinions, and I’ll disagree with others. I will work hard to get things done with and for other people. But I won’t sell out.

People need to trust their elected officials, and that means they need honesty and openness in government — transparency.

I believe protecting our citizens and establishing a bond of trust and accountability is key to making Pinal County a better place to live and do business. Residents want a county supervisor who they have confidence in. The incumbent says he supports public safety, but his actions speak volumes otherwise. I’m business friendly, but not the kind of business that the incumbent is friendly with. I don’t support business enterprises that degrade our neighborhoods and quality of life.

Residents and businesses want security, peace of mind and success. I see that as a priority. I’ll work hard toward those ends. That’s what a public servant does.

Rich Vitiello is a resident of Maricopa. He is running against Anthony Smith for a seat on the Pinal County Board of Supervisors.

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Anthony Smith

By Anthony Smith

As your county supervisor, I encourage anybody to examine my voting record. My actions are a matter of public record. However, when my opponent examines my record he has either chosen to purposely misrepresent the facts; or because he lacks any experience in an elected office he doesn’t understand the terminology and processes to get the facts straight.

To inform you the voter, I will again respond to Mr. Vitiello’s accusations versus my actual record.

Mr. Vitiello says: “Contrary to what he claims, the incumbent presented a motion to approve an open grow marijuana farm in the unincorporated area outside of Casa Grande and voted in favor of it on Feb. 18, 2015.”

Facts: On February 18, 2015, the Board of Supervisors did not approve a grow facility. We approved a text change to the zoning ordinance. Approving a zoning ordinance is a very different action than that of approving a Special Use Permit. At a later date, a Special Use Permit application for a grow facility did come before the Board. I voted against it.

Mr. Vitiello says: The incumbent also stated “A medical marijuana distribution center does not exist in Supervisor’s District 4 or anywhere in Pinal County.” Research shows there to be at least four such distributors of medical marijuana (dispensaries) according to Weedmaps.com.

Facts: In Mr. Vitiello’s March 16, 2016 editorial, he interchanges the term “medical marijuana distribution center” and “medical marijuana dispensaries.” I assumed he knew the difference. Again, Pinal County has medical marijuana dispensaries and medical marijuana grow facilities. We do not have medical marijuana distribution centers.

Mr. Vitiello says: “On his watch we saw a medical marijuana distribution center placed in his district over the objections of his constituents. He voted for it. Did he look to see if the person at the end of that business chain is a convicted criminal wanting to get a license to distribute pot and keep the cash?”

Facts: He was referring to the community of Oracle’s medical marijuana facility. He should be aware that Oracle is not in District 4, which is the area I represent.  As a candidate for County Supervisor, Mr. Vitiello should be able to correctly identify the communities within the District in which he is running.

Regarding the background of medical marijuana applicants. The Attorney General reviews the background of all medical marijuana applicants. If Mr. Vitiello truly believes a criminal is involved in a facility, he has a duty to pursue this with the AG office.

On the issue of creating medical marijuana dispensaries: In the past year the number of medical marijuana cardholders has doubled from approximately 2,500 to nearly 5,000 cardholders in Pinal County. If a cardholder lives within a 25 mile radius of a dispensary, they are required to purchase the product from a dispensary. If a cardholder lives outside the 25 mile radius, they are allowed to raise marijuana plants in their home. We have less than 100 cardholders outside the 25 mile zone. Based on these numbers, my strategy for keeping medical marijuana out of our neighborhoods and in dispensaries has been very effective.

In all my election campaigns, I have consistently put forward plans that I believe will improve the lives of our citizens. I will not fall for Mr. Vitiello’s negative campaigning style or accept his poor research. From my experience, the voting public wants to see a candidate’s plan, and not hear constant unsubstantiated negative rhetoric.

Anthony Smith is the District 4 supervisor for Pinal County and a resident of Maricopa. He is running for re-election against Rich Vitiello.

Rich Vitiello

By Rich Vitiello

“Troublesome alliance” is what the incumbent termed the relationship between Sheriff Paul Babeu and me. Tony Smith might want to look in the mirror before he casts stones.

There’s a reason that the sheriff endorses me, and I was endorsed in my 2014 bid for Maricopa City Council by our firefighters and police officers: I support the efforts and dedication of our public safety personnel – all of them, not just the first responders. The incumbent doesn’t.

In a time of increased need and population growth, the incumbent slashed public safety and other budgets across the board, regardless of the consequences. A 10-percent reduction in essential services means residents of Pinal County are doomed to suffer from potential increased emergency response time and a manpower shortage of untold proportion. He’s cut essential services to the people who depend on them the most while at the same time spending taxpayer dollars needlessly.

The people of Pinal County don’t need ineffective leadership and mismanagement resulting in cuts to public services, bloated government and wasted taxpayer dollars. But that is what the incumbent has brought. People looking for leadership in government don’t like to be taken for a ride. They need honest representation. Not the Smith experience.

Soon after taking office on a “fiscal responsibility” mandate, the incumbent gave his staff a 28-percent pay raise against county personnel policies. This, to the expense of county taxpayers and the rest of the county’s employees who didn’t get a dime in raises, and many who faced layoffs due to budget cuts. Not to mention the critical public safety positions that can’t be filled because of his actions.

What this supervisor has brought is a higher risk to the residents of Pinal County by a reduction of personnel and resources dedicated to policing our streets, keeping our residents safe, healthy, and prosecuting criminals apprehended.

That’s the Smith experience.

On his watch we saw a medical marijuana distribution center placed in his district over the objections of his constituents. He voted for it. Did he look to see if the person at the end of that business chain is a convicted criminal wanting to get a license to distribute pot and keep the cash? I seriously doubt it.

He accepted a $1,250 campaign contribution from another medical marijuana dispensary applicant in April 2015. It’s on his campaign finance reports. A short time later, he voted to approve that facility just outside the Florence city limits.

He OK’ed an open grow marijuana farm in the unincorporated area outside of Casa Grande. The property owner was represented by none other than his law firm benefactor.  Could it be another coincidence? I don’t think so.

That’s more Smith experience. We don’t need it.

Looking at his campaign finance reports is concerning, to say the least. When a campaign donor list looks like a who’s who of people who depend on a politician voting the “right” way, residents should be alarmed. That type of troubling alliance is especially concerning when campaign donors and a law firm are tied to the politician at the hip.

The people put out of their jobs because of his failures are our friends, neighbors and family members, having needs and obligations of their own. These are public servants, many of whom took an oath of office to serve and put the public good ahead of themselves. This supervisor’s lack of leadership and dismal performance can’t be justified. That’s troublesome. That’s not the type of leadership voters want. I say it’s time for a change.

Rich Vitiello is a candidate for Pinal County Board of Supervisors, District 4.

Rich Vitiello, with his wife, announced his intention to withdraw from the city council race and run for county supervisor during Tuesday's council meeting. Submitted photo

Rich Vitiello is running for office, but he’s changed his mind about which office he is seeking.

The businessman had pulled a packet to run for a seat on the Maricopa City Council. Sheriff Paul Babeu was instrumental in his decision to instead run for the District 4 county supervisor seat against incumbent Anthony Smith.

“Public safety has always been No. 1 for me,” Vitiello said. “I was endorsed by fire and police when I ran two years ago.”

Vitiello ran for an abbreviated term on the council in 2014, but lost to Nancy Smith, the wife of Anthony Smith

As supervisor, Tony Smith got crosswise with Babeu over the county budget. The sheriff felt the supervisors have not given public safety the priority it deserves. He singled out Smith for going beyond the county manager’s request of a 3-percent budget cut and suggesting a 4.5-percent cut. Though Babeu will not be the sheriff next year, instead running for Congress, he reached out to Vitiello to run against Smith primarily because of that issue.

“It’s important to have leaders that understand that, to have leaders who will make that a priority,” Babeu said Tuesday. “I thought Rich would make a good candidate, he’s offered himself as a candidate before, so I thought he should consider it.”

Vitiello said he consulted his family and friends before making the decision.

Rich Vitiello in council chambers Tuesday night. Photo by Raquel Hendrickson
Rich Vitiello in council chambers Tuesday night. Photo by Raquel Hendrickson

He said he disagreed with the supervisors on their handling of the budget. “No businessman cuts straight across the board,” he said. “It’s impossible.”

Vitiello has worked in what he describes as the international cycling business for 27 years. He is employed at Autonation Honda.

He said things should have been moved around in the county budget to make sure public safety remained a more of a priority.

“Here in Maricopa, 51 percent of the budget is public safety. I’m 100 percent behind that,” he said. “A safe city brings CEOs and businesses. It’s public safety that brings economic development. I’m all about economic development. I’m all about public safety.”

Though he said he is passionate about Maricopa, Vitiello said he still needed to learn about the rest of District 4, which includes Hidden Valley, Stanfield, Saddlebrooke and Oracle.

Dan Frank (left) and Brad Hinton were elected to the Maricopa Flood Control District Board. Submitted photos

There will be two new faces joining the Maricopa Flood Control District Board this month.

According to results released by District Manager David Alley, the winners in the Oct. 7 election were Dan Frank and Brad Hinton.

Unofficial Results
Voting 175
Dan Frank 130
Brad Hinton 102
Bruce Neely 74

“I’m excited,” Hinton said.

He and Frank are set to join Owen Kelly on the board at the Oct. 27 meeting.

“The first thing to do is to address the concern with the Santa Rosa levy that has been identified and being looked into right now,” Hinton said. “Then understand how it’s been operating and go from there.”

All registered voters who own property within the district boundaries, which lies across Maricopa, were eligible to vote. Alley said 175 people voted.

According to the unofficial results, Frank was the top draw with 130 votes. Hinton took the second available seat with 102. Incumbent and current board President Bruce Neely had 74 votes.

Alley said the total doesn’t tally with the number of voters “ because voters could choose two candidates. Some only voted for one.”

Frank is a former Maricopa City Council member and chaired the 2040 Vision Steering Committee. Hinton formerly worked for the City of Maricopa and now works for El Dorado Holdings. Both had support from within City Hall.


From left: Dan Frank, Brad Hinton and Bruce Neely are running for two seats on the Maricopa Flood Control District Board.

The election for two seats on the Maricopa Flood Control District Board is Oct. 7. The three candidates – incumbent Bruce Neely and newcomers Dan Frank and Brad Hinton – off their insight on the importance of the district and how they see its future.

See Previous: Election to determine path of flood control district

Dan Frank
Dan Frank

Dan Frank
Age: 48
Education: B.S. Engineering, Arizona State University
Occupation: Civil Engineering
Years in Maricopa: 10

Brad Hinton
Brad Hinton

Brad Hinton
Age: 36
Education: B.S. Construction Management, Arizona State University
Occupation: Planning & Entitlements Manager, El Dorado Holdings
Years in Maricopa: 8

Bruce Neely
Bruce Neely

Bruce Neely
Age: 52
Education: University of Arizona
Occupation: Farmer/Business Owner
Years in Maricopa: 29

Question: Why is this election important to Maricopa?

Frank: This three-person board is responsible for the maintenance and oversight of significant waterways within the city and controls a portion of your tax dollars, which go toward funding the Maricopa Flood Control District. We need to make sure we have representation on the Board that will look out for the best interest of the citizens of Maricopa and bring progressive, forward-thinking leadership.
Hinton: There needs to be representation on the board for all interest groups, which has been lacking in the past, in order for Maricopa to thrive and be a place families want to live in and employers want to locate to.
Neely: In its 2040 Vision Statement, which was recently passed unanimously by the city council, Maricopa blatantly stated a goal to “Take Control of Maricopa Flood Control District.” Since it cannot do so legally, is this an attempt to “take control” of the board by placing people who will take orders from the mayor and a few council members? MFCD has taxing authority, which it has exercised judiciously over the years. Is the council thinking it can raise funds for projects it considers important by way of the district? I am an independent voice, willing to disagree with city leaders when I think they are wrong. If MFCD trades its independence for dependence on the city council, the residents of Maricopa will be the losers.

Question: Why do you want to be on the Maricopa Flood Control District Board?

Frank: As the area continues to grow and we look into the future of Maricopa, more and more residents could be impacted by flooding. The Santa Cruz watershed is one of the largest watersheds in the state and it cuts right through Maricopa. You don’t have to look too far back in Maricopa’s history to see impacts of flooding. We need to make sure we are ready for the next one, and having qualified people in place on the board is a necessity.
Hinton: I like to be involved in the success of the city and see a need for improvement in the operations of the district.
Neely: I personally witnessed the damage caused by the floods of 1983 and 1993. I want to see Maricopa develop and prosper, but I want to make sure we are wise about our approach. I’ve seen what happens when governments get in too big a hurry and either waste taxpayer money or create problems for future generations, or both.

Question: What is the biggest challenge facing the district, and how would you help overcome it?

Frank: The district faces many challenges. However the paramount challenge facing the district today is the reaccreditation of the Santa Rosa Levee. Failure to obtain the reaccreditation could have the impact of placing hundreds of residents in the mapped flood hazard area. Aside from the obvious risk due to flooding, this could also cause an undue financial burden of requiring flood insurance for those residents.
While I understand the district has limited funds, I believe through collaboration with other governmental agencies and strategic partnerships we can reduce the impacts of flooding on the city. For Example, FEMA has a Hazard Mitigation Grant program that is administered by each state. A project like this would likely make a good candidate for this funding mechanism.
Hinton: Effectively managing the flood control challenges of the city while protecting the interest of all property types; homes, agriculture/farming, other businesses and future developments. Most importantly, protecting the existing residences through maintenance and upkeep of existing flood control improvements; and second, flood plain mitigation for economic development.
I feel I can be an asset because of the relationships I’ve built with government officials, landowners, business owners, developers and residences from my tenure working for the City and involvement in the community.  Coordination with the City and County is crucial, so using those relationships and my experience in local government and development will help overcome those challenges.
Neely: There are two, one of which MFCD is already addressing. Pinal County Flood Control District became concerned the Santa Rosa levee might not pass FEMA accreditation. This is important, because if it does not, the flood maps will change and more of our current residents might be forced to purchase flood insurance. MFCD hired an engineering firm to evaluate the levee to determine whether it is sound. The cost of evaluation, which is underway, is more than $100,000. If it needs repair, the cost could go into the millions of dollars, easily.
The second is the North Santa Cruz Wash, which seems to be the City’s main interest. It is proposed to take thousands of acres out of the floodplain. I voted with other board members in 2012 to support the project, as long as all the stakeholders receive fair treatment and the taxpayers do not carry an unfair amount of the construction expense.

Question: How does your background qualify you to be a board member?

Frank: I am a graduate of Arizona State University with a B.S. in Civil Engineering and most of my professional career has been in the specialty field of Drainage and Flood Control. I worked for one of the most reputable firms in the state where I managed projects throughout Arizona ranging in size from small single-lot drainage plans to Drainage Master Plans for Maricopa County, which covered areas of hundreds of square miles and floodplain mapping projects in multiple counties. In 2008 I was appointed chairman of the Legislative Issues Committee for the Arizona Floodplain Managers Association. Today, I continue to work in private practice on large development scale projects in several states.
Hinton: I have had extensive involvement in the flood control and development of the city through my eight years of working for the City Development Services Department along with my continuing employment in land development.
Neely: As a resident and survivor of two flood events, I understand where the waters flow. I also appreciate the concerns of our Ak-Chin and Gila River Indian Community neighbors. I know the problems MFCD has to face as a result of poor decisions made by other government agencies in the past.

Question Describe the ideal relationship between the Flood Control District and the City of Maricopa?

Frank: I look at the Flood Control District of Maricopa County as a good example of how they work with local municipalities. While they do have a significantly larger taxing base to draw from, they have developed a program where they partner with the cities to help fund, manage and construct projects. I would seek ways to foster a collaboration relationship with all the parties involved.
Hinton: Having consistent goals and objectives on flood control and using each other’s resources to manage and overcome the challenges the area faces today and in the future.
Neely: I would like to see the city finally accept the fact that MFCD is a legitimate entity, sanctioned by Pinal County and the State of Arizona. MFCD had a good working relationship with past administrations, so we know the district has a role to play and can be an asset to Maricopa. I think differences of opinion can drive good solutions, if both parties are willing to talk. In my experience, bad decisions result from one party dominating an issue or trying to force its will on everyone else. Lately, this seems to be the way the city wants to do business. Ideally, the two organizations would collaborate and solve flood control issues together, for the benefit of the taxpayers.

Question: Describe the ideal relationship between the Flood Control District and the Gila River Indian Community?

Frank: We must work in collaboration with our neighbors to the north to find mutually beneficial solutions. I understand there is some disagreement on the flow rate reaching Gila River. By working together, we can come up with a plan that will work to the benefit of both parties to control flooding and reclaim developable land.
Hinton: Open communication at both the staff level and board/tribal council level on ongoing maintenance of the washes and new improvement projects.
Neely: I respect their concerns and have always made a solid effort to work with them. The waters flowing through Maricopa end up on their land. As the city develops, it has to be careful not to cause them harm. Their planning department is staffed with professionals and, if they have concern with a plan as it is being offered, as is the case with the proposed North Santa Cruz Wash Improvements, the members of the Community deserve to be heard and their opinions given full consideration.

Question: How do you envision the operation of the Flood Control District in the year 2040?

Frank: As the area develops, the tax base for the district will increase. This will help fund projects and minimize the impacts of floodplains. If done properly, watercourses can be safely designed and managed to incorporate multi-use components like hiking, biking and equestrian trails. This approach takes the problem and turns it into an amenity for the City by providing alternate transportation links and recreation opportunities.
Hinton: Having a cohesive relationship and business plan with the City of Maricopa and Pinal County Flood Control District.
Neely: Within the next few years, after we know the outcome of the levee situation, I would like to see the District relieve the homeowners associations of some of their duties in maintaining the washes. It is the city that delegates those maintenance functions, even though the HOAs have proven they are not equipped to handle more than routine landscaping. I don’t think it is fair that they have to pay for that service through HOA fees, when they already pay taxes for the same purpose. I would like to see the city end that policy. By 2040, we should have the big flood prevention issues resolved on both the east and the west sides of the city. I hope we are primarily maintaining the structures by then.

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