Channel 5’s lack of balanced reporting
Mr. Ed Munson, General Manager
CBS 5, Phoenix
Dear Mr. Munson:
After the 20th citizen called/emailed me concerning Channel 5’s reporting – Elizabeth Erwin’s, “Cave Creek Dealing With $62 Million Debt,” I felt it best if not compelled to write you.
I did not see the story air live, but rather viewed it at your website. Being a fan of Channel 5, especially your local news, I found myself surprised at the lack of balanced reporting in the story and taken back that said reporting could pass your staff’s editorial review before airing.
Not only does the story present misinformation and falsehood but it portrays my town to be on the brink of financial collapse and further that the town council was guilty of malfeasance.
The low point of the story was in giving a candidate for town council a stage on which to pontificate and proliferate these falsehoods. Ms. Erwin’s story comes across as a paid political endorsement. Channel 5 unwittingly or knowingly engineered the story to accommodate a specific point of view.
There are several major points Ms. Erwin ignored in her story.
First, the $50 million WIFA loan was voted on by the Cave Creek citizens in 2005. It was approved by a two to one margin. The purpose of the loan was to purchase the water company and to build a new wastewater treatment facility, as mandated by Maricopa County. Ms. Erwin’s presentation omits an important truth: that this $50 million loan was approved by the citizens of Cave Creek. Even though Ms. Erwin was made aware of this essential fact by Town Manager Usama Abujbarah.
An additional $10 million, two WIFA loans of $5.5 million each, was approved by council via multiple public sessions in 2008. The first loan was specific to build two needed water storage tanks and three booster pumping stations. The second $5.5 million loan was for improvements to the Desert Hills Water System of which Cave Creek is the owner.
Secondly, Ms. Erwin’s story furthers the impression that the town is not able to service these debts. Had Ms. Erwin asked, she would have discovered that the town has been not only servicing these debts since 2005, but has laid down a financial plan to pay them off by 2030, if not earlier.
The point is this: Cave Creek is financially healthy, capable of servicing its debt and in addition, lists over $3.5 million dollars in reserve in the citizens’ treasury.
However, the most troubling aspect of Ms. Erwin’s report is the following. The Town Manager informed me that Ms. Erwin heavily edited the remarks of Cave Creek Utilities Manager Jessica Marlow. That editing is painfully obvious and crafted to coincide with Ms. Erwin’s singular bias and point of view.
You would think that a story, whose headline intimates the financial collapse of a town due to debt, would at least include an interview with the Town Manager. Or heaven forbid, a few remarks from the Mayor of the town. But no such attempt by Ms. Erwin was made.
It is disappointing –an understatement – that Channel 5 would give its blessing to such biased reporting and then to air it as investigative truth. Such lapse in journalistic integrity harms my town and the citizens who call Cave Creek home.
Mayor Vincent Francia
Reelect your town council
While many cities and towns across this country are bankrupt or facing bankruptcy, Cave Creek has weathered the economic storm, is virtually 'back to normal' and carrying a budget surplus of some $3 million. Thanks for this great success must go to Town Manager Usama Abujbarah, who was supported by a citizens committee that outlined a mid and long term economic plan and in large measure to the town council that was astute enough and courageous enough to back most of the difficult choices that had to be made.
Certainly, the most thoughtful and insightful of the council members were Jim Bruce and Steve LaMar who, over the past 4 years, have consistently demonstrated strong leadership on all issues. Astonishingly, we now see that several of those misguided residents who railed against every recommendation, continually whined about the incompetence of the town manager and staff and town council through those difficult years, are now running for town council as the neighborhood special interest slate of candidates.
This slate of candidates is just a bad joke. They are special interest candidates as opposed to our current council members that look at what is in the best interest of the town rather than their personal interests.
I strongly recommend you support the town council that brought us through the worst economic downturn in Arizona history, diversified the tax base, improved our utilities and infrastructure, championed open space initiatives and put us in a financial position to weather another recession - which may be likely.
They won't always agree with you or even with each other, but the diversification and willingness to work together for the good of the community is what makes it work for all of us.
I urge you to vote for Bruce, LaMar, Anderson, Francia, Bunch, McGuire, and Esser.
John C. Budge, MD
Cave Creek hit piece
I hope not to sound too self righteous, but the hit piece you aired for a candidate for Cave Creek town Council should embarrass you, if fact is even a small editorial consideration.
I think the mayor gave you some facts to consider. But you might want to check the background of your candidate source as well.
In my professional life I have done years of jury research for major litigation and was comforted when faced with a client getting bad media with the consistent findings that television media is the only institution distrusted more than Congress.
It's one thing to get things dead wrong sometimes, but quite another to not care at all. I guess Cave Creek coming out of the worst economic crisis in Arizona history with an award wining water and waste management system voted for by it’s citizens in two elections 2002 and 2005, balanced budgets, and a three million surplus doesn't give you a ratings bump.
Who cares if Walter Cronkite is rolling over in his grave and you and yours have the same credibility as small county fair carnie barkers.
Steven A. LaMar, Councilman
How do you spell disaster?
Election slates, by definition, are generally the antithesis of good government. Now comes the special interest slate of candidates led by Adam “Scottsdale” Trenk. All are special interest/neighborhood zealots bent on taking over the town by sweeping the current town council from office and eliminating key town staff who disagree with them so they can pursue their neighborhood special interest agenda without bothering themselves about what is best for Cave Creek. And, a town council consisting of those people can and will do exactly that.
Four of them are from northeast Cave Creek and joined at the hip ever since opposing the Enchanted Canyon Resort proposal. One seems to be there as sort of the lost perennial candidate and the opportunistic Adam “Scottsdale” Trenk, the Scottsdale lobbyist who somehow manages to become a Cave Creek resident at election time, shows up wherever he can for publicity. These are single issue neighborhood advocate candidates bent on having their way in terms of their own neighborhoods and those of their allies from Estada de Cholla who supported them against Enchanted Canyon and now want payback on their zoning issues along Carefree Highway.
This slate opposes development of any kind which is interesting because their leader, Adam “Scottsdale” Trenk, makes his living at Rose Law Group off developers. A look at the Rose client list suggest that Rose and ‘Scottsdale” Trenk never met a developer they didn’t like, but Trenk opposes development when he speaks out of the Cave Creek side of his mouth. Their first (unelected) action is the Carefree Highway zoning referendum for their Estada de Cholla neighborhood allies initiated by their Carefree crony but with signatures collected by the slate – another wasteful financial drain on Cave Creek taxpayers. This slate will disguise its real agenda during the campaign under the guise of high sounding rhetoric in terms of the General Plan but don’t be fooled and don’t vote for them. They will take Cave Creek development back 15 years with the premise that no development is best for Cave Creek – a model that proved disastrously wrong when the economy tanked. This slate of candidates spells disaster and does not have the town’s best interest at heart. Reelect Bruce, Lamar, Bunch, McGuire, Anderson, Francia and Esser.
Mr. Ed Munson, General Manager
CBS Channel 5, Phoenix
Dear Mr. Munson,
The recent Channel 5 feature about the debt and politics of the Town of Cave Creek was an unfortunate one-sided report that drew your organization into a partisan expose of local political and government issues.
Channel 5 has a fine reputation for its investigative reporting. But this report seems to be a lapse in that objective.
The report was unbalanced and I think the Channel 5 organization became an unwitting voice for one candidate and one point of view in our upcoming local election. Surely this report did not measure up to the high standards of journalism to which you aspire.
Our Mayor has given you specific information about the facts presented in your report. But it is not the selective use of factual information that most bothers me. It is the way that I believe Channel 5 allowed itself to be used as the voice of one candidate. Surely better investigation before this report was aired would have helped your reporter present a more informed news item.
I hope that future local reporting by Channel 5 will demonstrate higher standards of journalism.
I hope you will reply to this letter.
Thomas McGuire, Councilman
Referendum on zoning
Town council recently rezoned a tiny portion (4 of about 50 acres) of the most commercial property in Cave Creek, as Commercial. This property is generally behind the CVS Pharmacy on the north side of Carefree Highway and right across the highway from the gas station, Home Depot, Fry’s, etc., This rezoning was strongly supported by the immediate neighbors, but not those in the Estada de Cholla subdivision to the west who chose to live on the highway but want nothing else built there. Candidates running for Town council in a special interest slate (Durkin, Monachino, Snider, Spitzer, Wright, and “Scottsdale” Trenk) don’t agree with that zoning, could care less about greater Cave Creek and want it rezoned residential – like anyone will ever build their house there. So, this special interest slate enlisted a Carefree resident to file a referendum for this Cave Creek matter and look who was out collecting signatures – special interest slate candidate Eileen Wright, spouse of the Carefree town attorney, slate candidate Mike Durkin, Rae Iverson, a member of Cave Creek’s own Planning Commission and former councilmember Grace Meeth, among others. It is unconscionable that this special interest slate of candidates for Cave Creek Town Council would enlist a Carefree resident to tell us what is good for Cave Creek. This Carefree resident makes sweeping allegations on how bad it is for Cave Creek that have absolutely no bearing in fact. That whole thing stinks, especially after Carefree put in Lowe’s and CVS on that corner with zero concern for the Cave Creek neighbors Pierce now seems so alarmed about. This referendum action is reprehensible especially being initiated by people who are actually running for Cave Creek Town Council – they should be ashamed and they should be required to pay for the election. No one should vote for people like these.
Cave Creek leadership
Cave Creek has been fortunate to have had town council leadership in this term that has led to planned quality development, a three million plus dollar revenue surplus and balanced economic stability for the future. These dedicated individuals who have given of their time and knowledge have guided the town during an uncertain economic period and have spent countless hours serving our community and responding to its citizens.
I had the privilege of working alongside Steve La Mar on the Planning and Zoning Commission in the early days of Cave Creek’s incorporation and saw firsthand his strong commitment to responsible government. His service and involvement in the town has spanned over two and half decades. He has served as Planning Commissioner, Chairman of the Planning Commission, on numerous advisory committees and, for the past four years, as town council member. He was an active participant in the preparation of the General Plan from its inception in 1987 to the version most recently enacted.
I have listed to Jim Bruce as he explained his reasoning for support or opposition to issues before the council and have a tremendous respect for the clarity and reasoning he brings to the process. His back ground and experience both stand behind his positions.
These individuals are just two of a body of six council people who, along with the mayor, have provided effective leadership and led the town to services that have won national and local recognition for excellence. Cave Creek needs to support the efforts that this council has made this far and provide them the opportunity to continue leading our town though the next term in office.
Those with leadership ability lead. Those without leadership ability just talk.
Vote for LaMar and Bruce
Serving on a town council is never insignificant, even in a town the size of Cave Creek. The demands on your time are great and the occasional assaults on your character painful. But there are also real rewards in helping the community set its course, maintain its quality and prosper.
I had the privilege of serving on Cave Creek’s first town council, from 1986 to 1991, first as a councilmember and then as mayor for four of those years. Occasionally people will ask me if I like the way Cave Creek has turned out – if it has changed much. And I always say that of course it has changed, but it has definitely retained a certain character, one that sets it apart from other small towns in Arizona and makes it interesting. But more than that, Cave Creek now has a well-established reputation for careful planning, reasonable regulation and vigorous protection of open space and for these things I’m grateful to our extremely talented town manager Usama, his excellent staff, and those councilmembers who have consistently been able to see the forest as well as the trees.
Good councilmembers are knowledgeable, principled, and serious. They must be responsible to the entire community, not just to a certain element, and they need to understand the territory. Steve LaMar and Jim Bruce fit this description perfectly. We initially appointed Steve to the planning commission in the late 80s. He has since held various appointments and has been elected to the town council twice. He knows Cave Creek and has been a caring steward. Jim Bruce has been in the community over ten years. Shortly after he and his wife, Judy, retired to Cave Creek Jim got involved by serving for four years on the planning commission before being elected to the town council. These men do not have bones to pick or agendas to pursue. They, along with other thoughtful councilmembers over the years, have helped keep Cave Creek the very livable and desirable place it is today. They deserve our continued support.
The next term of office will apparently be 3.5 years rather than the 2 years it has been for sometime. This is a one-time event so Cave Creek can come into compliance with a new state law requiring all local lections to be held in the fall. It’s especially important that we retain on our council qualified and reasonable people, and I urge you to vote for Steve Lamar and Jim Bruce.
In 2008 the bottom fell out of the economy and all of the naysayers now running for town council said, “We are doomed.”
Well, we were not doomed. Due to the foresight of Town Hall and citizen volunteers a plan was conceived and implemented to head off economic disaster. Cave Creek went to a four-day week, staff positions were consolidated, voluntary pay cuts were implemented, vehicles and equipment were sold. We immediately focused on a progressive initiative to build a sounder financial basis (Walmart), improving at-risk infrastructure (Water Utility), and replacing the over-capacity sewer company (Water Ranch). Making tough proactive personnel decisions, diversifying our tax base, and tackling the infrastructure risks not only led us through the worst of financial times, but we currently have several million dollars in reserve! Why in the world would we replace the town council that accomplished all of this with the chronic naysayers now?
Incidentally, Walmart is delivering sales tax revenue to Cave Creek that far exceeds original projections. Cave Creek Water Co. won the Arizona Chapter of American Public Works Association Project of the Year. Cave Creek Water Ranch won both the Arizona and National Chapter of the American Public Works Association Project of the Year last year. All of these awards came in the Environmental Category as well.
The current town council has demonstrated the ability to lead and protect Cave Creek and its citizens through tough times. I am proud of our accomplishments, and look forward to representing the citizens of Cave Creek for another term … with your approval of course.
Jim Bruce, Councilman
Having been acquainted with Tom McGuire for a number of years, I’ve always been impressed by his intelligence, equanimity, and ability to consider all sides of a given situation. I also appreciate that he’s participating member of the community whose activities include leading geology hikes on Spur Cross and volunteering at the Cave Creek Museum. Unlike some aspirants on this year’s town council ballot, Tom’s not out for career advancement, nor does he have a personal agenda other than to promote the long-term welfare of Cave Creek. I’m thankful that our town has been competently guided through the recent precarious times and hope that Thomas McGuire will be re-elected, along with other worthy incumbents, so we can keep on keepin’ on.
Judith A. Darbyshire