Guest Editorial: Paradise Valley Mayor’s Update – April 2019

By Mayor Jerry Bien-Willner

Dear Friends and Neighbors:

We’re now three months into my term as Mayor, and the experience of serving Paradise Valley residents as Mayor has been both an honor and a pleasure.

I wanted to provide you with an update on some of the issues we’ve been working on, and will do so on a periodic basis going forward with the goal of increasing transparency, communication, and engagement for everyone interested in the great Town of Paradise Valley.

PV Is Safe

I am pleased to share with you that the Town of Paradise Valley was recently recognized as the safest community in the Phoenix area, and the third-safest community in Arizona. Paradise Valley also had the lowest incidence of violent crime among the safest locations. Our Police Department deserves great credit for this, and I’m proud that our Council continues to value and appropriately fund public safety efforts. As our Chief and Police Department regularly remind us, we must also do our part as citizens to keep our community safe: please lock your exterior entrances at all times, and make sure you arm your alarm systems! For more great tips on safety and what you can do to help our community reach #1 in overall safety, please stay engaged with our Police Department – they are here to help!

Budget and Finance

There is an old saying: “if you want to know what people value, look at where they spend their money.” This is true for our Town, too. As your Mayor, I am fully committed to ensuring the Town’s continued financial health and the wise and appropriate use of public funds.  In the coming weeks, the Town Council will be rolling up its sleeves to put together next year’s budget.  I have called a special meeting for April 18, 2019 focused solely on budget and finance so that the Council can develop next year’s budget with our professional staff’s expertise and guidance, and adopt a budget that is responsive to our community’s needs while honoring our established values of limited and effective government.

Strategic Plan for Revenue

As part of our Town’s budgeting process this year, I have asked for and received unanimous Council support for the Town to put together its first ever strategic plan regarding revenue. What does this mean? It means that we will “stress test” the Town’s various sources of revenue, examine the impact of potential revenue shortfalls, and agree on plans to deal with any significant drops in the Town’s revenues. This process will also allow the Council to evaluate any appropriate, proactive actions by the Town to prevent or reduce drops in the Town’s established revenue sources. I believe this planning tool will also help to inform our budgeting process and to curb the spending that can become a temptation during the economic “good times” we are enjoying. 

Pension Funding

This is a significant issue for almost all Arizona communities. The Public Safety Pension Retirement System is an important financial resource for our police officers and other first responders when they retire, but the state’s laws have made funding the pension a challenge. The Town Council continues to explore options to pay for its obligations for the pensions, and will be considering the matter in more depth in the coming months in connection with its budgeting for next year and beyond.

Development and Re-Development In Town

Real estate development in our Town is a frequent topic of conversation – and often a concern – when speaking with citizens. Our Town was founded with a fundamental goal of preserving a safe and pleasant one-home-per acre lifestyle, and the beautiful open space and mountain terrain and vistas that make our Town so special. The handful of resorts in our Town are also near and dear to the hearts of many of our citizens, with their renowned hospitality and inviting gathering spaces. With a booming economy, various proposals are coming before the Council to develop and re-develop within the Town. The Town Council will be tasked with striking the right balance between reasonable and appropriate redevelopment and building, and maintaining the Town’s strong and worthy low-density zoning and related values. Rest assured that as Mayor, I will always work to ensure a fair, open, and transparent process for evaluating any such proposals that also values, encourages, and considers public input. Above all, when the rubber hits the road, I will stay true to my established and strong record of supporting only those proposals that meet Town’s very high standards, and opposing those that do not.      

Review of Ambulance Service

Paradise Valley currently contracts with PMT Ambulance for the majority of the community’s ambulance services. This contract expires on September 30, so we are going through the process of evaluating our options to make sure we make the right decision for the town on ambulance service. Generally speaking, there seems to be a level of satisfaction with our ambulance service, but this is an opportunity to review what we have in place and make sure that the Town is positioned to have the best service possible for the community. If you have any experiences with ambulance service in the Town you would like to share with us, please don’t hesitate to reach out. You can read more about this issue here.

Town Manager

We have been privileged to have the assistance of interim Town Manager Brian Dalke for the past several months.  His leadership, wisdom, positive attitude, and experience have been a benefit for our Town. After strong interest in the permanent position from several highly qualified candidates, on March 28, the Council unanimously selected Jill Keimach to serve as our next Town Manager. Jill brings with her a wealth of relevant experience, and a very strong professional and educational background. She is scheduled to start in late May of this year, and as she settles in you will be learning more about her and the expertise she brings to the position. Please help me in welcoming Jill Keimach when she arrives in a couple of months.

With Gratitude,