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Elections

Patti Coutre and Ben Owens will have seats on next year's MUSD Governing Board.

 

A longtime board member and one newcomer will fill two vacancies on the local school board, according to county documents.

Incumbent Patti Coutré and Ben Owens were elected to the Maricopa Unified School District by appointment Wednesday.

The Pinal County Board of Supervisors canceled the regular general elections for certain political subdivisions, including MUSD’s, where candidates were vying for unopposed seats.

The Board approved a resolution effectively electing the candidates during a meeting Sept. 5.

It will be Coutré’s third term behind the dais. Coutré previously served three of her eight years on the board as president.

Coutré thanked the community for choosing her to represent them during her last two terms.

“My goal is, and always has been, that every student receives the best education and is fully prepared for their future whether it is college, career, military service or life,” Coutré said in a statement.

Owens, an active MUSD parent and volunteer, said he’s excited to bring a parental perspective to the board in January.

“I believe that we’ve got a great school district and I just want to help us be the best district in Arizona,” Owens said.

A North Dakota native, Owens and his family have lived in Maricopa for the past four years.

Owens will take the seat of Vice President Gary Miller, who announced he would not seek re-election earlier this year.

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Amanda Stanford and Scott McKee are vying for the Republican nomination for clerk of Superior Court. No other party has a candidate.

In charge of Pinal County Superior Court records, including juror lists, the clerk of the court is responsible for the organization and knowledge of the state’s public records law.

Both candidates running for the office claim integrity and efficiency. They are also both Republican.

Incumbent Amanda Stanford was first elected in 2014. She opened offices in Maricopa and San Tan Valley in an attempt at more convenience for residents. An accountant by trade, she is a certified trainer for Arizona counties in Minimum Accounting Standards and has proposed more modern procedures for the clerk’s office.

But opposition to Stanford has been heated from the beginning from some Republicans. Within a year, her office was embroiled in controversy enhanced by uncorroborated personal gossip within the party. Publicly, she accused then-County Attorney Lando Voyle’s office of causing “several hundred” security breaches in court files, an accusation that caused a rift between the two offices. An audit by the Administrative Office of the Courts later determined there had been instances of unauthorized access to files, though fewer than implied.

She has worked in the clerk’s office for 10 years and is working toward completion of the Certified Court Executive Program. She has three children.

Challenging Stanford in the Republican primary is political newcomer Scott McKee, a financial manager who lives in San Tan Valley.

He wants to exceed the minimum standards of efficiency and take full advantage of the Civil Case E-Filing program. McKee has no background with either the clerk’s office or Stanford personally, but was asked to run by other Republicans. McKee is married with six children.

Whoever wins the primary will face no opposition in the general election unless a write-in candidate joins the fray.


This item appears in part in the August issue of InMaricopa.

By Robert Taylor

I am a Maricopa resident since 2009 and a law enforcement professional since 2006 with multiple commendations, including a medal of valor and three lifesaving medals. I am writing this as my personal endorsement for Glenn Morrison for the office of Constable.

As a member of the Sheriff’s Office Posse, Glenn has been my personal backup on many serious and stressful situations where without his interpersonal and de-escalation abilities, the incident would surely have escalated and become much more dangerous. I would not hesitate to enter into any dangerous situation with Glenn as my partner.

Posse members are often the only back up to patrol Deputies and are utilized and viewed as sworn personnel. When Posse members arrive on a scene to assist Deputies, the general public usually cannot tell the difference between Posse and a sworn Deputy. The public is not concerned with a shoulder patch, they simply want and need the help the Posse Member is there to provide in that moment of crisis. Posse members are expected to uphold the same level of integrity, training and abilities as a sworn deputy.

For individuals that want to contradict this, I strongly encourage them to conduct their own research and participate in a ride along with the program. Posse members put themselves at the same risk of injury and death as any other member of law enforcement and do so without compensation.

Over several years working with Glenn in the field, he has earned my respect, trust and confidence. He is a man whose word you can trust and is a dedicated public servant who serves not because it is his job, but because it is his calling and passion. After having researched both of the other candidates, I can without doubt say that Glenn Morrison is the very best candidate for Constable in Maricopa.


Robert Taylor is a resident of Maricopa.

North Bound 347 | In Maricopa | Photographer Jonathan Williams

The success of two transportation propositions on Tuesday’s ballot opens “possibilities” for Maricopa, according to Mayor Christian Price, but leadership will be mandatory.

Prop 416 passed by a 6,400-vote margin. Prop 417 passed by a 901-vote margin.

Even if the half-cent sales tax in Prop 417 brings the kind of revenue expected for the Pinal County road improvements connected to Prop 416, the widening of State Route 347 has complications. One of those is the sizable portion of SR 347 in Maricopa County.

“It would be silly to [improve] just part of the road,” Price said. “But we can say we are bringing $30 million to the table.”

The project of adding a lane in each direction is preceded by engineering studies, environmental studies, the National Environmental Policy Act process and design work. Before any of that, a successful project can only start through cooperation with Gila River Indian Community, Arizona Department of Transportation and Maricopa Association of Governments.

Price said they are all “very well aware” of the efforts of the City of Maricopa and Pinal County to take action on SR 347. Procuring funding, he said, was the ignition for starting a project.

There is no guarantee all parties who are impacted by SR 347 will be on board with any project moving forward.

“That’s the trick of voter referendum,” Price said. “You can’t make them do something.”

The mayor, however, sees it as an opportunity for officials in both counties to show cooperation, investment and leadership. That, Price said, could set them up for another federal Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) grant. A TIGER grant was crucial for the overpass project in Maricopa.

A TIGER grant is the opportunity for millions more in funding for road widening, drainage or even an overpass, Price said. The federal grant also puts a tight timeline on projects it funds.

An outspoken opponent of prop 416 and 417 sees darker opportunities wrought by the passage of the measures, however.

“The narrow passing of Prop 417 represents a big win for special interest, bloated bureaucracy and prime opportunities to misuse taxpayer money,” said Alan Marchione, a former city councilmember in Maricopa. “A lawsuit is sure to follow, as the structure of the tax is not legal under existing state statute, whereas the county cannot set an arbitrary cap on the uniform implementation of sales tax. The county knew this, and proceeded anyhow. This exudes poor ethics and professionalism on the part of Pinal County supervisors.”

Marchione said while the county needs improved infrastructure, but these propositions were not the answer.

“The plan for Maricopa’s SR 347 is limited in its vision towards a long-term solution for improving traffic flow,” he said.

The 18 proposed projects included in the Regional Transportation Authority (RTA) plan include three in the Maricopa area. The SR 347 project is widening nine miles of highway for $28.8 million. That is slated for Phase 1 of the RTA.

The second Maricopa-related project is the East-West Corridor. That is the widening of Maricopa-Casa Grande Highway from Maricopa to Val Vista Road, and then widening that road and making it a straight shot to Interstate 10 north of Casa Grande.

A third project south of Maricopa is the creation of a West Pinal Freeway. That new roadway would carry westbound traffic off of Interstate 8 at Casa Grande, north on Montgomery Road and then west on a new road north of and parallel with Highway 84 before turning north into Maricopa County.

Other projects around the county include improvements on SR 287 and Selma Highway and new north-south roadways. Price said if officials cannot make progress in improving SR 347, the money will be turned over to other Maricopa road projects.

The anticipated revenue from Prop 417 is $640 million.

“We appreciate voters taking this step with us to improve it,” Steve Miller, chairman of the Yes on Propositions 416 and 417 campaign, said in a statement Thursday. “More jobs, better public safety, safer roads and an enhanced quality of life will be the result.

“It was a robust debate over the past couple of months. The many voices should be commended for weighing in. We hope all will now be respectful of the will of our more than 40,000 people that cast ballots.”

Bret Roberts

By Bret Roberts

Having lived in Maricopa since January of 2009 I have seen the override placed on the ballot many times only to fail miserably each and every time. Why is this time any different?

This time it is very clear where the funds will be spent – up to 49 new teachers to reduce class sizes and $500,000 for classroom technology to be specific. Although that in itself is extremely valuable information, for me it wasn’t enough. I needed to overcome some negative perceptions I had come to believe before I could in good conscience get behind it.

In the past I was against the override for a couple reasons. The one that troubled me the most was I kept hearing rumors there was gross mismanagement of funds, which naturally I could not support. Who would want to keep throwing good money after bad to try and fix a problem?

With that being said, I do have to admit that I had not taken the time to investigate these issues in the past. That has since changed, as well as my perception.

These negative perceptions all started for me back when our neighbors the Ak-Chin originally donated funds to MUSD and I heard rumors that they weren’t satisfied with the results of their donation. After addressing this with MUSD’s Superintendant Dr. Steve Chestnut (which, by the way, it bears mentioning the original donation took place in 2010 well before Dr. Chestnut’s tenure started in 2012), I learned this was a first for both MUSD and the Ak-Chin.

Therefore it was an opportunity to learn for both parties. At that time neither one knew what to expect and has since gained a better understanding from the initial experience. Since then our neighbors have graciously donated again, and, from the information I’ve been given, both sides were more prepared and happy with the results.

Another reason that kept my support at bay was I kept hearing MUSD had a top-heavy administration. This was one more perception that has proven to be false. MUSD’s administrative costs are actually 9.7 percent, which is below the state average of 10.2 percent.

Some believe these negative perceptions should be left in the past, never to be mentioned. However my perspective is, it’s imperative to discuss and deal with them head on. I just have a hard time believing we as a community will ever get past these negative rumors unless we talk about and overcome them once and for all. When I started looking into these issues I will admit I was not 100 percent on board and very skeptical as to the information that would be uncovered. At this point, I am glad I took the time to get involved. By attending not all but many meetings (that are open to public by the way) as well as doing a little research on my own I have learned quite a bit on this matter.

It is no secret that Maricopa has more than its share of Facebook groups and one of the most common topics I see in those groups is the subject of “why can’t we get this business or that restaurant”?  Economic development is the answer and for me it is the most important reason I now support the override. It plays a major factor in answering that question.

When businesses look at Maricopa as a potential home they come with a list of things they are looking for, and top-rated schools are usually in the top three. Passing the override and helping our schools become “A”-rated will help in the economic development of Maricopa, and it is an opportunity to remove one of the major reasons a business might use as a factor to not choose our community.

The more places of employment we attract, the more opportunities we will have for that particular restaurant or retail outlet you might be hoping for. Restaurants need lunch crowds to stay in business and until we get more employers in Maricopa we will remain limited at best. I hope I’m doing OK at connecting the dots as to how it is all tied together.

Better schools equal more opportunity for economic development and higher property values. Businesses pay more in taxes than individuals, so the more businesses we attract the more opportunity for individual taxes to be reduced.

Oh, and let’s not forget the benefit to the students.

Speaking of the students, here’s a few factoids to ponder. Were you aware that 68 percent of our prison population did not graduate from high school? Or that each Arizona high school dropout results in approximately $421,280 loss in economic activity and wages during his or her lifetime. As well as the long term economic cost of high school dropouts in the state is as much as $7.6 billion.

One last thing, MHS’s dropout rate is 4 percent. That is 1 percent higher than the states average. Hopefully passing the override will bring us closer to the state average.

As it is my family’s children have graduated from high school so I am not writing this as a parent. I am writing this as a citizen, a taxpayer and an advocate for the city of Maricopa. More importantly to share that when I decided to take the time to look into this I was able to overcome my objections and get behind the override. If you have objections I encourage you to look into them and ask questions, hopefully you will overcome them as I have.

I stated earlier throwing good money after bad to fix a problem is not something I believe in. After researching and educating myself a little more on the issue I believe risking a little up front on an investment, which is exactly how this should be viewed,  as an investment with tremendous potential on the rate of return for Maricopa.  Well that my friends is something I can get behind.

Bret Roberts is a Maricopa resident. He is Pinal County constable in the Maricopa/Stanfield Justice Precinct.


This column appeared, in part, in the October issue of InMaricopa.

Anthony Smith

By Anthony Smith

The role of county supervisor requires a person to pay attention to details and be a good researcher of the facts. The policies and decisions you make depend on you having a full understanding of the issues. Unfortunately, unlike my previous campaigns, I’ve spent an unprecedented amount of time correcting my opponent’s statements. This editorial is in response to Mr. Vitiello’s latest inaccurate claims.

I stated in the recent candidate forum that in lieu of the sheriff spending RICO money for nonprofits, those dollars could be spent for overtime for deputies and investigators. I stand by that claim. In my opponent’s editorial he quotes the Arizona Revised Statues but ignores the “latter” portion of the statute. Quoting in part from ARS 13-2314.03, paragraph E, “OR for any purpose permitted by federal law relating to the disposition of any property that is transferred to a law enforcement agency.” The “OR” statement refers to the document from The U.S. Department of Justice titled “Guide to Equitable Sharing for State and Local Law Enforcement Agencies,” where on page 19 it clearly states, RICO money used for overtime of officers and investigators is a permissible exception.

Nonprofit giving is very important, but when people in certain rural areas are afraid to go out at night or don’t feel safe in their neighborhoods, I believe protecting these citizens by paying overtime for additional patrols is the higher priority.

Another claim made by my opponent is that solving the historical flooding problem in Maricopa is just talk and no action. As I stated during the forum, a plan to protect the City of Maricopa and the rest of Pinal County is very much in progress. The City of Maricopa and a host of other municipalities, Native American communities and other interested parties are all members in the Lower Santa Cruz River Alliance. The Alliance is an advocacy group that is working directly with the Corps of Engineers on the project. Later this year and as part of the Feasibility Study, the Corp of Engineers plans to introduce some conceptual designs to mitigate the 100-year flood for Maricopa and other parts of Pinal County.

By this time in the campaign, I believe a candidate should be able to correctly name the communities in the district in which he is campaigning. In Mr. Vitiello’s last editorial, he says he has been speaking to people throughout the district including Stanfield. Stanfield is not part of District 4.

Lastly, Mr. Vitiello’s reference to my supporters as “minions” is both unbecoming and unprofessional. After this election, we most likely will continue living in the same community and this type of behavior is divisive and separates people.


Anthony Smith is a resident of Maricopa and the incumbent county supervisor for District 4. He is running for re-election in the Republican primary against Rich Vitiello.

Proposition 123 (education funding)

The Basics
Prop. 123 amends the Arizona Constitution to increase the annual distributions from the state land trust permanent funds to schools, universities and other public institutions from 2.5 percent of the average market values of the funds to 6.9 percent for the next 10 fiscal years.

Background
The state land trust was established when Arizona became a U.S. territory in 1863, setting aside parcels to benefit schools. The state Constitution requires distributions from the state trust lands to public schools to be 2.5 percent of the market values of the funds through Fiscal Year 2020-21.

In 2000, Arizona voters approved Prop. 301, which includes a requirement the Legislature adjusts education spending for inflation. In 2010, the Arizona Education Association and other parties sued the state and state treasurer (Doug Ducey at the time), claiming lawmakers did not adjust education funding for inflation during the recession years.

In 2013, the Arizona Supreme Court ruled the Legislature had violated the Voter Protection Act and owed schools about $1.3 billion. In 2014, a Superior Court judge ordered the state to reset the base level of its K-12 funding and pay $331 million more per year to schools as compensation.

The Legislature appealed and agreed to settle with the plaintiffs. That settlement is Prop. 123. If passed by voters, the proposition would provide $298 million to schools in June and $300 million next fiscal year. If the proposition fails, the lawsuit continues.

Proposition 123 could bring $2 million to MUSD over the next two years. It is also controversial among Arizona voters. It has divided Republican from Republican, Democrat from Democrat and education supporter from education supporter.

Is the settlement the best deal the schools can get in a timely manner, or should they continue to sue for everything the courts have ordered, or is the funding formula in Prop. 123 too unstable for its purpose?


Proposition 124 (public retirement)

The Basics
Prop. 124 amends the Arizona Constitution to create an exception in the public retirement system to allow adjustments to the Public Safety Personnel Retirement System in approved Senate Bill 1428.

Background
Gov. Doug Ducey signed SB 1428 on Feb. 16, creating a new retirement benefit structure for public safety personnel hired on or before July 1, 2017, without a significant raise in taxes. It included a new mechanism to create a cost-of-living adjustment. The Arizona Supreme Court determined Article 29, Section 1 of the state Constitution prohibits adjusting down a future permanent benefit. If approved, Prop. 124 would replace the permanent benefit increases for retired members and their survivors with a compounding cost-of-living adjustment. The COLA would be based on the average annual percentage change in the Phoenix-Mesa consumer price index.

No arguments against Prop. 124 were filed with the state’s election office.


This item appeared in the May issue of InMaricopa.

Anthony Smith

By Anthony Smith

In my previous campaigns, I’ve focused on positive messages and sharing my detailed plans for the future.  Unfortunately, some candidates focus on half-truths and inaccuracies, or are just guilty of poor research.  Regardless of the motives, I am writing this opinion piece to correct recent statements my opponent made about my record.

Mr. Vitiello says: On Smith’s 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?
FACT:  A medical marijuana distribution center does not exist in Supervisor’s District 4 or anywhere in Pinal County. I’m at a loss for a better explanation.
On a serious note, if Mr. Vitiello knows that a convicted criminal is associated with a medical marijuana facility, I urge him to report this immediately to the Attorney General’s office.

Mr. Vitiello says: Smith accepted a $1,250 campaign contribution from another medical marijuana dispensary applicant in April 2015.  A short time later, he voted to approve that facility just outside the Florence city limits.
FACT:  The vote for this medical marijuana dispensary outside Florence was on June 24, 2015. For this vote I was out of town on vacation and not present at the meeting.  Since I didn’t even participate in the vote, Mr. Vitiello’s accusation that a campaign contribution influenced my vote is unfounded.

Mr. Vitiello says: He OK’ed an open grow marijuana farm in the unincorporated area outside of Casa Grande.
FACT:  Simply put, I voted against creating this medical marijuana grow facility and dispensary.  Also the application for the medical marijuana facility was for an enclosed facility and not an open grow facility.

Mr. Vitiello says: He gave his staff a 28 percent pay raise against county personnel policies.
FACT:  The county staffing system has been broken for years.  In 2013 the Board of Supervisors ordered a study to identify deficiencies in our staffing system.  The study has been completed, and identified numerous deficiencies including the fact that many jobs are under-paid and some are over-paid.

After completing my first year, I determined that my assistant was doing work far beyond what was described in the job description.  The completed Human Resources staffing study set the pay rate for the Assistant to the Board of Supervisors.  My assistant’s salary is in the bottom 25 percent of this range.  Additionally, her first year’s pay was significantly below the study’s assessed starting pay for this position.  According to the results of the Human Resources study, my action back in 2014 was justified.

As long as I am county supervisor, I will continue in my quest to fix the county’s broken systems at every opportunity.  Let’s keep our campaigns focused on what we can do to improve our communities and county and not be purveyors of misinformation and half-truths.

Anthony Smith is the Pinal County supervisor for District 4 and a resident of Maricopa. He is challenged by Rich Vitiello, also of Maricopa, in this year’s election.