The candidates for mayor of Paradise Valley, incumbent mayor Jerry Bien-Willner and councilwoman Julie Pace, participated in a forum at the town hall June 28 to answer pressing questions about development, residential homes, rentals and the future of the community.
Hosted by the Paradise Valley Independent, the forum was moderated by news editor Melissa Rosequist.
Bien-Willner emphasized the need for continued public participation and engagement, as well as overall resident satisfaction and public safety during his term so far.
He said he hopes residents see the work and “if you’re happy with the town then you’re happy with the job I’ve done as mayor.”
Pace talked about her background as a construction lawyer and connections in the state legislature and Valley, noting her value in preserving the mountains and maintaining Paradise Valley’s character as “residential living first with high class resorts.”
Resorts and rentals were a dominant talking point between the two candidates. Bien-Willner said Paradise Valley development is a point of pride but needs balance. Pace also said that development needs to be balanced with home tranquility, mentioning the challenges with a previous application by SmokeTree Resort, which included balconies over homes. Bien-Willner said this is an example of teamwork and successful process.
Pace said she sees six resort redevelopments as the tipping point for next term, how its structure, design and implementation can change the community, and that’s why now is the time for her to step into a new position as mayor. She said she believes it’s time to rotate positions and refresh.
“We don’t want to be Scottsdale,” Pace stated. “It’s easy to get caught up in PV money, and our character will change if we’re not careful.”
On the other hand, Bien-Willner was optimistic and said Paradise Valley is “not at risk of evolving into something else” because the resorts are looking to revitalize more than tear up places. He said the biggest short-term risk to the community is instead short-term rentals that he has been relentless on the issue.
“When you pick on PV, you stir up a hornet’s nest,” Bien-Willner said.
He explained how he organized 33 mayors in Arizona to write a letter to Airbnb and Vrbo CEOs, and now this year has bill SB 1168 for the governor that will “allow for local licensing and for the town to revoke a license if it’s a serious incident like bodily harm or a shooting.”
Pace also highlighted some of the grassroots work she has accomplished with stopping bills related to rentals and time shares.
Budget wise, Pace said she does not want development for development’s sake.
Bien-Willner stated the need to maintain a healthy reserve, stress-tested revenue and diversification of the revenue stream in order to not have a local property tax.
“Our resident’s don’t want a local property tax. But what a local property tax does is ensure revenue stability — we don’t have it. That’s why we have a high reserve. We have to watch our sources of revenue very closely,” Bien-Willner said.
Both candidates stated their willingness to listen to residents and encourage communication, with Pace adding that new people’s engagement is the future for protection of the community.
If chosen as mayor, Pace said she wants to continue to mentor and train and “pass it on” to the next generation as she has been standing up in councils for 40 years and looks forward to work every day.
Bien-Willner said he wants to do what’s right by the community and wrap up his work on short-term rentals, noting that a vote for him is not a vote against Pace because she will continue serving the council if unelected to mayor.
The primary election is set for Aug. 2; ballots will begin being mailed out on July 6.
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