Aug 8, 2006


Two examples of Oro Valley's idea of public art. My workday today found me in the town of Oro Valley, Arizona. Oro Valley is a community in the northwest corner of the Tucson metro area, more or less. Oro is a Spanish word, meaning gold, so the town name is literally Gold Valley in English. My thinking is that the town should be called Blanco Valley, or White Valley, because it is one of the whitest places you will find. Over 93% of the town's population of about 30,000 was white, according to the 2000 census data. The town is now approaching 40,000 citizens and there have been no developments that would lead a reasonable person to suspect that the 93% white ratio has fallen any. In a county where 1/3 of the citizens are Hispanic, Oro Valley boasts a permanent Hispanic population of only 7%. Of course during the day the Hispanic population swells as new homes are built and yards are tended. Oro Valley is statistically whiter than our most famous whitey city, Scottsdale. Not only is the town very white, its citizens are older, richer and better educated than the county averages. They are less likely to be employed, because so many are retirees. Only 1 in 50 residents lives below the poverty level in contrast with 1 in 7 in the county as a whole. Oro Valley has no public housing and almost no group housing. Oro Valley is an island of affluence, and they intend to keep it that way. The town has a swell vision statement that has a lot of words but can be summed up as, "If you have money, we want you." Their strategy is to annex anything with a revenue base that they can. They are in perennial competition with their arch-nemesis, Marana, Arizona, to see who can scarf up what. A few years ago some rural types, caught between these two annexation monsters, tried in vain to form a town called Tortolita. The residents of Tortolita hoped to create a DMZ and thus avoid being gobbled up. They were crushed by the crack legal teams representing Oro Valley and Marana. Oro Valley's current big development idea involves a huge upscale shopping center. I'm certain that it will maintain, "the highest standard of environmental integrity", to quote from the town's vision statement. That is, right after they blade off the land to build the sucker. One thing they do that is interesting is that any commercial project with public access (grocery store, hospital, etc.) built for $50,000 or more, must set aside 1% of the cost for public art. Oro valley loves its public art, they even have a public art committee. Unfortunately, art is in the eye of the beholder and much of their public art seems to be random stuff plunked about. The two examples above are behind a Walgreens Drug Store. They are basically in the desert and scare the pants off you, if you happen to wander behind the store and don't know they are there. Eventually, these pieces ( 2 of a set of 4) will be in the midst of a larger commercial complex. At the moment they are stuck in the wilderness. You put these beauties in most places in our county and they would be defaced in a nanosecond. Oro Valley doesn't have those sort of people. Since the town has nothing that would pass for real crime, its crack police force spends much of its time handing out speeding tickets. They especially love to nab motorist on the state highway that passes through their fine town. Before the town figured out that they could make big money annexing commercial projects, they made a big chunk of the town revenues via speed traps. They always seem to be fighting amongst themselves in Oro Valley. Everyone in town appears to have an opinion of what passes for paradise, so conflicts abound. Plus, there are a lot of retired bigshots in the town who are used to getting their own way. Since the only place you can get anything you want is at Alice's Restaurant, not Oro Valley, they have a history of resorting to recalls and petition drives to sort things out. For several years it seemed as though they would no sooner finish tossing out one bunch, than someone would mount a drive to banish the new ones. This at least keeps them from bothering the rest of us. One of the alternative weekly papers dubbed Oro Valley "Caddyshack". That about sums it up. Things in this blog represented to be fact, may or may not actually be true. The writer is frequently wrong and sometimes just full of it. Tag:


Kurt said...

This seems to be happening everywhere I look. I miss America.

Anonymous said...

You have an interesting view of the town. How do you know that a "a big chunk of town revenues" came from speeding violations? How much of that was kept by the Court and how much went to the state of Arizona? What % of the total town budget did those tickets represent?

Merle Sneed said...

After all the aspersions I cast on Caddy Shack you take me to task about how the ticket revenue was divided up? What are you the Chief of Police?

The fact is that I don't care for the stratification of our soceity. Geez.