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The Conservative’s Corner


Conservative's Corner

The city of Phoenix is holding off on higher rideshare fees for Uber and Lyft rides at Phoenix Sky Harbor International until after the Arizona Supreme Court rules on the legality of the hikes.

Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich argues the higher fees go against a voter approved state law restricting cities from imposing new and higher taxes and charges on business services. He has petitioned the state Supreme Court to look at the Phoenix fees.

“The City of Phoenix has backed down from enforcing their unconstitutional rideshare fees for now,” Brnovich said. “This is a win for consumers, but this fight continues at the Arizona Supreme Court. I will always defend the constitutional rights of Arizona voters.”

Phoenix City Councilman Sal DiCiccio, who voted against the higher rideshare fees, also welcomed the delay in their implementation. DiCiccio thanked Brnovich and Republican State Rep. Nancy Barto for their opposition to the city fees and moves to get the Arizona Supreme Court to rule on them.

The fees were slated to go into place February 1 with Uber and Lyft promising to end rides to the airport over the higher costs.

“The City of Phoenix has agreed not to tax rideshare at the airport until the Supreme Court makes a final determination. Thank you to Representative Nancy Barto and Attorney General Mark Brnovich for bringing this issue to the Supreme Court and protecting taxpayers in Arizona,” DiCiccio said.

Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich announced January 16 he believes the City of Phoenix violated the Arizona Constitution when it imposed new rideshare fees for companies operating at Sky Harbor.

“The Phoenix City Council is placing its policy preferences above the rights of the people to whom the government must always answer,” Brnovich said. “Arizona voters clearly spoke when they overwhelmingly approved Proposition 126. We will now take this matter to the Arizona Supreme Court and seek an expedited ruling. This is the most definitive way to provide clarity on the law, protect Arizona taxpayers, and hold the City of Phoenix accountable.”

By Sal DiCiccio —

This is great news for everyone who uses Uber or Lyft. We have worked for years to develop our reputation as a business-friendly city. Taxes like this will destroy that reputation.

Losing business at the airport will have lasting repercussions for our city. This new tax will severely hurt our reputation on the national and international stage, hurt our economy and hurt the thousands of Phoenix residents who drive for and rely on rideshare at Sky Harbor.

I applaud Attorney General Brnovich for looking into this and standing up for taxpayers in Arizona.

By Sal DiCiccio —

In what can only be described as a Waterloo moment for Phoenix politicians, Phoenix is about to be known as an anti-business city.

Phoenix politicians are set to pass a massive tax increase on ridesharing companies like Uber and Lyft. These companies have sent a letter saying that if Phoenix imposes this tax increase, they will leave the airport. This would make Phoenix the first airport in the nation to literally drive out ridesharing companies.

Phoenix politicians are set to pass massive tax increases on our public. From water rate increases to garbage rate increases, and now this hefty tax on the ridesharing companies. It’s no wonder that these companies no longer want to do business in the city of Phoenix.  Make no mistake about it, this will be on the backs of the politicians who vote for this tax increase. They will be directly responsible for driving out these business owners Making it difficult for middle-class America to get to the airport.


By Sal DiCiccio —

Phoenix politicians are about to stick it to the public once again. They need to realize this is going to hurt the City of Phoenix at a national level, it will hurt the public, and it will hurt small business owners that rely on rideshare.

Last month the council voted to tax every rideshare trip to/from Sky Harbor an extra $5 each way. This bad policy will directly hurt working and middle-class families who rely on rideshare in Phoenix. Now, Lyft has announced they will not cooperate with this targeted attack on their drivers and customers and will cease operations at Sky Harbor instead.

There is still time to stop all this from happening. The city failed to follow state law the first time this horrible tax was voted on, so it is scheduled for a new vote on December 18. I strongly urge the other members of the council to think about what they are doing and pull back on this enormous tax on the public.


Featured Editorials

Real estate developers are often cast with the black hats. But aren’t they the people who build the homes we live in?

Their bulldozers, political maneuvering and redevelopment plans are often contrasted with concerned neighbors, small business owners and the preverbal local townsfolk.

It’s the stuff of old ‘Murder She Wrote’ and ‘Scooby-Doo’ episodes.

But developers are not actually the antagonists they are made out to be.

Developers are proof of concept. They are the marketplace. Their interest in cities such as Scottsdale and submarkets such as Old Town shows the competitiveness and attractiveness of those locations.

Developers are in the business of landing projects where there is demand from tenants for space whether it be for offices, hotels or restaurants.

So that says a lot for Scottsdale’s brand and economy when developers come here to build new hotels, offices and housing. They see the city’s strengths, it’s desirability. That is a good thing.

In the immortal words expressed in the movie ‘Shawshank Redemption’ you ‘get busy living or get busy dying’.

Developers aren’t scrambling to land in Youngstown, Ohio or Gary, Indiana. They want to be where there is demand for space, where tourists, employers and consumers want to visit, work and live.

Now, this does not mean the community — residents, elected officials, planners and existing businesses — does not have the right to say no (or even hell no) to some developers’ plans or should say so in several if not numerous cases.

This is the crossroads Scottsdale is at when it comes to new developments, redevelopments, density and height in Old Town and the southern part of the city. The community should decide how and where it wants to grow and evolve. Development proposals offer those choices and those options are good for a community to have. Just ask withering Rust Belt cities or small towns in rural Arizona or New Mexico what it is like not to have those choices.

There are plenty of examples in Scottsdale and other cities where developments large and small have not happened. That is and should be the prerogative of a city and its residents including those who favor or disfavor growth. Not every presentation and plan should gain favor, especially in a discerning market such as Scottsdale. Scottsdale has avoided some of the pitfalls other Arizona and Sunbelt cities have faced by having standards and at times being picky to what gets approved.

But let’s see the trees for the forest here. Developers are interested in Scottsdale because tourists, employers, shoppers, diners and luxury real estate buyers are interested in Scottsdale.

And that is a good sign for Scottsdale’s place in a very competitive marketplace and world. Options and a place attracting investments are very good things.

By Recker McDowell —

Arizona State University and the city of Mesa recently broke ground on a new $73.5 million technology center aimed at sparking more development in the Main Street area.

ASU will house artificial intelligence, virtual and augmented reality and 3-D printing and technology program at the new ASU @ Mesa City Center development.

Mesa leaders hope the ASU center will spur more development in their downtown area. There are already some other residential and commercial projects being built or in the works in downtown Mesa which has not seen the economic development payoffs of light rail enjoyed by downtown Tempe and downtown Phoenix.

ASU has been a key ingredient in the recent economic gains in Phoenix and Tempe. The school has also helped energize the former Los Arcos Mall site in southern Scottsdale into the mixed-used and innovation heavy ASU SkySong Center.

Scottsdale’s SkySong may prove the best roadmap for Mesa’s hopes to parlay the new ASU center into more economic development.

SkySong was born out of the closed down Los Arcos Mall at Scottsdale and McDowell roads after a proposed arena for the Arizona Coyotes never came to fruition.

SkySong’s developers (Plaza Companies and Holuloa Companies) along with the city of Scottsdale have had a longer-term, live-work and mixed use vision for the property. The result has been several office buildings, a hotel geared toward business travel, restaurants and apartments. Another new office building is planned.

That is exactly what Mesa wants to see along Main Street. Downtown Mesa might not have the cache of a Scottsdale address. But Main Street has the Mesa Arts Center, some cool special events and some new developments including the ASU center to start building some synergies and momentum.

By Recker McDowell —

Phoenix and the state of Arizona have worked hard to craft images of being pro-business, pro-innovation and pro-entrepreneur especially compared to higher cost and higher tax competitors such as California, Seattle and Chicago.

So, it is disconcerting to see the city of Phoenix’s fight with Uber and Lyft over higher rideshare fees at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport. Both Uber and Lyft have promised to end curbside service at Sky Harbor over the higher fees.

Regardless of the merits of city’s arguments in favor of higher fees, not having Lyft or Uber at Sky Harbor is not the kind of message metro Phoenix and the state of Arizona should send to tourists, innovators, entrepreneurs and site selectors who might be here on business travel or vacation.

Phoenix has not always been front of mind when it comes to innovation and technology despite the region’s past and recent history with semiconductors, cyber security and medical technology.

The region’s economic developers and elected officials (including Gov. Doug Ducey and Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego) have worked hard to roll out the welcome mat to innovators and the new sharing economy.

This spat works against that big time. The city of Phoenix argues the higher fees are needed to keep financing Sky Harbor’s operations and transportation infrastructure and Lyft and Uber need to pay their fair share.

Unfortunately, the higher rates and the threats by Lyft and Uber to end rides at Sky Harbor create some negative optics for the city and state that work against narratives of economic development and innovation.

Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich has asked the Arizona Supreme Court to rule on Phoenix’s rideshare fees. He argues the fees go against a voter approved proposition restricting Arizona cities from imposing new and higher fees on business services.

The courts may be the saving grace in this dust up. Otherwise, the Phoenix region and the state might be left explaining to economic development prospects, creative professionals and entrepreneurs why they couldn’t get a Lyft or Uber at Sky Harbor.

And when you are explaining you tend to be losing.

By Recker McDowell —

The Arizona Legislature is back in session. That means the annual ritual of media coverage of conservative bills cast as detrimental to Arizona’s image.

You probably have already seen stories on bills from Republican lawmakers related to limiting sex education curriculums, guns and the posting police officers at polling places on election days.

These types of stories frustrate conservatives who see an adversarial media as well as tourism promoters and economic developers who worry about their impact on Arizona’s image.

Don’t get us wrong, Arizona has seen bills, proposals and actions on immigration and religious freedom (including Senate Bills 1070 and 1062) that have impacted our image. The battle over the Martin Luther King Jr. Holiday in the 1980s and 1990s and then Gov. Evan Mecham’s opposition cost the region a Super Bowl and still lingers over Arizona’s image.

There sits a warning that lawmakers must consider.

But the landscape under current Gov. Doug Ducey is different than his predecessors. Ducey has been very disciplined in protecting Arizona’s image and avoiding controversies and threats of boycotts. Former Gov. Jan Brewer backed SB 1070 as part of her political fortunes. Ducey has avoided such controversies as part of his.

There is also a challenge for the media. They should serve as a watchdog and communicate what it is going on at the Arizona Legislature. But the media also needs to have perspective on these stories especially whether the bills have a chance to progress at the Legislature let alone pass. Otherwise, the coverage can look like a more liberal media chastising conservatives. The end result then can be either side of the political equation retreating to their respective corners.

Scottsdale City Councilwoman Suzanne Klapp has the early financial advantage in the 2020 race for Scottsdale Mayor.

Scottsdale City Councilwoman Virginia Korte who is also running for mayor as well as candidates for three council seats up for election this year are still ramping up their fundraising efforts, it appears.

That is according to fourth quarter campaign reports filed with the city of Scottsdale.

Klapp raised an impressive $104,900 during the fourth quarter of 2019 for her run for Scottsdale mayor and has $106,354 cash on hand, according to the new filings. Klapp had $2,804.08 cash on hand before the fourth quarter.

Klapp’s contributors include some prominent business and real estate development names. Developer Wayne Howard hosted a fundraiser for Klapp in December, according to the Scottsdale Progress.

Bob and Renee Parsons (YAM Development), John Carlson (Mark-Taylor), Les and Diane Corieri (Evening Entertainment Group), David Hovey (Optima Inc.), Jim Pederson (Pederson Group), Josh Simon (Simon CRE), Lee Mashburn (Pivot Group / Papago Plaza), Tom and Jane Frenkel (Clayton Companies), Michael Lieb (Lieb Ltd) and Karrin Taylor (Arizona Strategies) are among Klapp’s financial backers

Executives from apartment developer Wood Partners as well as zoning attorneys Nick Wood, Stephen Earl, Jason Morris and Tim LaSota also show up as donors on Klapp’s campaign finance report.

Korte who officially launched her campaign Jan. 15 reported her mayor exploratory committee raised $28,600 during the fourth quarter.

Korte’s contributors also include some business and real estate executives including Tim Wolff and Joseph Petkunas (Wolff Company), David Hovey (Optima Inc.), Jim Mahoney (Trammell Crow), Charles Theisen (Mercedes-Benz of Scottsdale) and Shane Albers (1784 Capital Holdings).

Korte spent $36,248.75 in the fourth quarter on her mayoral exploratory campaign but also had $43,926.02 on hand before the quarter. That leaves Korte with $30,163.27 cash on hand.

Korte and Klapp are running to succeed Scottsdale Mayor Jim Lane who is term limited.

Real estate development, building heights, density and parking are all prime issues in Scottsdale, especially in the Old Town area.

Scottsdale City Council candidates are just starting to get moving with fundraising and a number of them have seeded their campaigns with personal loans and self-funding.

Becca Linnig raised $11,302.48 during the fourth quarter mostly via $10,000 she loaned her campaign. Linnig, a REALTOR, has $4,235.50 cash on hand.

John Little raised $19,335 and has $8,820 on hand, according to his fourth quarter campaign finance filing.

Little’s donors include Marty De Rito (De Rito Partners), Rebecca Grossman (Scottsdale Area Association of Realtors), Jon Ryder (Run to Win Campaigns) and Jim Derouin (Derouin Environmental Law).

Little has also loaned his City Council campaign $700.

Incumbent City Councilman Guy Phillips raised $1,840 (mostly through a $1,090 personal loan to his campaign). He has $1,793.33 on hand for his reelection bid.

Betty Janik, one of the leaders of the Coalition of Greater Scottsdale (COGS), raised $2,213.31 in the last quarter of 2019 (all self-funded) and has $2,000 cash on hand.

Thomas Durham raised $1,329,99 (almost all self-financed) and has $1,200 on hand for this council bid so far. Michael Auerbach, who unsuccessfully ran for council in 2014 and has had some odd legal complications with dogs, raised $3,800 during the fourth quarter (including $700 of his own money) and has $966.33 on hand, according to campaign finance reports.

Tammy Caputi, Kevin Maxwell and Taylor Van Parys have filed campaign paperwork for Scottsdale City Council but did not report any fourth quarter campaign contributions or spending.

By Recker McDowell —

Barrett-Jackson 2020 is in full swing in Scottsdale with more 1,950 luxury and vintage cars on the auction block.

Barrett-Jackson is one of the signature events for Scottsdale. The auction puts Scottsdale in an international spotlight and feeds into the city’s tourism and economic brand.

Barrett-Jackson is the king of Scottsdale’s car auction, helping attract tourists and furthers Scottsdale’s brand as high-end luxury market.

The latter has also seen the likes of Versace, Louis Vuitton, Gucci, Neiman Marcus and Prada to land stores at Scottsdale Fashion Square and its new luxury wing.

Barrett-Jackson is also one of the drivers at WestWorld of Scottsdale. The city managed events center has a $183.6 million economic benefit for Arizona, hosts close to 917,000 visitors a year, according to a study last year by Arizona State University.

Events such as Barrett-Jackson help create 2,670 jobs at WestWorld.

Scottsdale voters approved important investments at WestWorld in November through the approval of three city bond questions. Those improvements and repairs will help WestWorld keeping hosting tourism driving events such as Barrett-Jackson and equestrian shows. WestWorld is also the only U.S. venue in the running to host to the Federation Equestre Internationale World Championships in 2022.

With all that in mind, the Scottsdale City Council, city planners and the community at large should make sure we continue to invest in WestWorld and support its events.

Scottsdale also needs to make sure it is protecting its brand by not allowing new developments that might hurt WestWorld and key events such as Barrett-Jackson with traffic congestion or encroachments.

Michael Auerbach is returning to the political stage.  Despite being pummeled when he ran for a council seat in 2014, Auerbach, who is a member of the Scottsdale Parks Commission, has formed an exploratory committee to seek one of two open seats on the Scottsdale City Council in the August primary.

His past, besides an abysmal political showing, raises a few eyebrows. He bills himself as the only candidate from the hospitality industry, but hospitality seems to be a real issue for him.

In 2018 an Injunction Against Harassment was filed against Auerbach by a woman who claimed Auerbach verbally confronted her and later trespassed on the grounds of her apartment complex as Auerbach was walking his dog. No criminal charges were ever filed in connection with this incident. Auerbach has also been cited for a leash law violation in 2018. He paid a fine. And he was cited in late 2019 for having a dog at large in a park.  He pled guilty according to court records. You would figure a guy serving on the parks commission would know better.

This is not a crime spree but it should be cause for concern. According to an article in the Scottsdale Independent, Auerbach has the endorsement of Representative John Kavanaugh who told the Independent, “As a former member of law enforcement, I know how important it is to support those who wear the badge. I can tell you with confidence that Michael Auerbach backs our law enforcement.”

Auerbach may know a thing about law enforcement because of his weird encounters with it.

Simply put, Auerbach is not a Scottsdale City Council candidate with a lot of bark, or bite, despite being a cook.

Running for Scottsdale City Council is more than he can bite off, and its something Scottsdale voters should not have to chew.

By Recker McDowell —

White Claw is landing a new $250 million brewing and production facility in Glendale.

The project is off the Loop 303 near Olive and Peoria Avenues. Glendale is trying to brand the area as its ‘New Frontier’.

The Loop 303 and new South Mountain Freeway connecting the East Valley to Laveen and the West Valley offer more economic connections for the region.
Microsoft and Nike are landing new data center and manufacturing operations, respectively, in Goodyear. Amazon.com also continues to expand its footprint in Goodyear.

El Mirage is looking to bring in my commercial uses and homebuilders continue the growth in Buckeye and Surprise.

The economic development and growth in the West Valley should show cities there that they are even more of a connected area.

The days of old municipal rivalries, turf wars and encouraging the development of sales tax generating retailer centers should be replaced with more cooperation and regional approaches to bringing in jobs and investment.

The East Valley as well as Scottsdale and Phoenix have mostly gotten over past rivalries and battles. The growth and economic maturation of the West Valley is seeing its cities become more connected including through new transportation corridors.

That creates a future focused on cooperation and cohesion more and the need to put neighborhood bickering, hurt feelings and municipal rivalries in the rear-view mirror.

Several Ideas for Reform

About two decades ago Scottsdale started suffering from a reputation that it was anti-business. There were several reasons for the perception, real and perceived. The City Manager at the time was pre-disposed against business. And while the Mayor then learned that the top job at the city is different than being one of six on a city council her nature was cautious. There was also a powerful citizen’s group, largely concentrated in the north, that had both bark and bite.

The marketplace took notice and avoided Scottsdale when it could. Some cheered the dynamic but the learned understood the long-term consequences. ASU was even brought in to analyze the situation, authoring a notable work called “Which Way Scottsdale?”

It took the approval of the Scottsdale Waterfront to remind the market that the city could still do bold and interesting things. That pro-business slant has largely served Scottsdale well ever since. Indeed, voters who think Scottsdale is headed in the “right direction” as opposed to the “wrong track” is at a nearly 30 year high. That’s a key reason why the recent bond election fared so well.

Yet, civic activism is alive and well. The populace rightly rose up against the ridiculous Desert Discovery Center and more recently but with less merit submitted an impressive number of signatures against the Southbridge II project in downtown Scottsdale.

We don’t mean to suggest this is a bad thing. Just the opposite. An engaged citizenry enriches community, in Scottsdale and elsewhere. And it reminds us that while Scottsdale should always maintain a pro-business posture for all the obvious reasons and benefits, it doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be more pro-resident too.

We have several ideas in this regard.

First, why does city planning staff make “recommendations” for denial or approval? Is that really their place? Or is it their job to say applications are “compliant” and identify positives and negatives for the policy makers – Planning Commissioners and City Councilmembers – to decide? Too often Planning Departments are revolving doors with the real estate industry leaving any developer with an advantage over an impacted neighborhood or area.

Second, the Arizona State Legislature is prohibited from accepting certain donations from special interests while it is in session. So why should a developer or special interest be allowed to give to the campaign of a Mayor or City Councilmember while its issue or application is being reviewed? The City of Los Angeles is even moving to ban developer donations. This may or may not go too far but Citizen’s United and other maneuvers by a Republican legislature in this state necessitate ongoing consideration of campaign contribution reform. That’s why we are enthusiastic supporters of former Arizona Attorney General Terry Goddard’s “Outlaw Dirty Money” initiative. It came close to making the statewide ballot in 2018. We hope it does in 2020.

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Every old zombie movie, and many of the new ones, employ a tried and true dramatic device. Just when you think the creature or monster or zombie is finally vanquished, it seems to rise up without explanation to terrorize the townsfolk again. Hopefully, the Scottsdale City Council will end this horror movie when it meets January 21st.

The creature is an ill-advised nursing home that would cram as many as 200 housing units onto a five acre parcel of land at McDowell Mountain Ranch Road at the doorstep of WestWorld. The parcel is currently zoned for five single family homes. Aside from an enormous density surge, the project jeopardizes WestWorld’s ability to hold signature events as it would be next door to scores of seniors who may not appreciate living next to a busy events center. And when those complaints arrive, events could vanish faster than Dracula in the noon Arizona sun.  Indeed this was such a bad idea that the Scottsdale Planning Commission seemingly put this monster out of its misery in a unanimous vote back in October.  Click here for some background.

And the same body rejected it again last month apparently making it the only development that has twice been rejected by a Scottsdale Planning Commission. Read More

Well that didn’t last long. The collective community spirit exhibited in the overwhelming passage of the bond package on November 5th has since devolved over divisiveness with a project called Southbridge II.

Late last week, opponents of the development submitted 17,000 referendum signatures to put the matter to a city-wide vote later in 2020. That’s no small achievement even if some of the signatures turn out to be fraudulent, false or the entire effort is legally susceptible.

Time will tell.

But what time also provides is a look back at a lesson learned 20 years ago. Then, a project called the Canals of Scottsdale, was defeated by Scottsdale voters by a 54%-46% margin. It was also backed by an Unger and wasn’t entirely dissimilar from Southbridge II, except it had San Antonio Riverwalk waterways flowing throughout the project. The Canals public vote wasn’t the result of a referendum but a quirk in state law requiring one for the financing mechanism contemplated. Like Southbridge II it was a divisive debate involving some of the same people from the fight 20 years ago. The Canals’ demise ultimately had to do with a very broad contemplation of eminent domain of certain small business property properties in the Old Town area including some of those in the Southbridge 2 plan.

Read More

By Recker McDowell —

South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg and entrepreneur Andrew Yang posted strong fourth quarter fundraising numbers in the Democratic presidential race.

Buttigieg, in particular, has shown in his fundraising and polls that many voters are looking for fresh faces and fresh voices as Democrats decide who will take on President Donald Trump in November.

Trump benefited from the same dynamic in 2016 when he was the fresh, bull in the china shop political face against a parade of establishment candidates. In 2018, Democrats were buoyed by newer progressive faces led by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

The election cycles are showing voters want something new, something fresh in politics.

That is also true at the state and local level. In Scottsdale, for example, fresh faces and perspectives were front and center in successful passages of the three city bond questions in November.

Some new voices and political players are also showing up as Scottsdale gears up for the 2020 elections for Mayor and City Council and the city grapples with rekindled debates related to growth and density.

New voices in the political arena offer the opportunity to engage more voters and those in the community who might not be as engaged in politics.

New candidates and community advocates can help broaden the base of those interested in their cities and neighborhoods. Sometimes the same faces and same candidates discourage new residents, younger voters and those who have not been engaged before from getting involved more in the public square.

We know that not all new political voices are productive and positive. Half of the country would say that about Trump and the other half about U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-New York).

But the marketplace ideas — whether it is the race for the White House or Scottsdale City Council — can benefit from new perspectives and fresh faces who can increase civic engagement and offer ideas focused on the future and not rooted in the past.

That is good for democracy and good for communities.

By Recker McDowell —

The Phoenix City Council approved plans to impose higher rideshare fees on Uber and Lyft rides to and from Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport.

Lyft and Uber have promised to stop service at the Phoenix airport this month over the higher fees. Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich is looking at the higher fees and whether Phoenix’s move runs against a voter approved law restricting cities from raising fees and taxes on business services.

The fight over Phoenix’s higher fees on Lyft and Uber rides to and from the airport won’t be the last battle over taxing and regulating new business models.

Cities and towns including Scottsdale, Paradise Valley and Tempe are also bringing new rules in Airbnb and other short-term rentals.

Phoenix and Chandler have new programs including operating and other fees for electronic scooters.

New business models and ideas shake up the marketplace, challenge legacy businesses and offer new choices for consumers. They can also sometimes necessitate new regulations and rules.

In the case of rideshare fees, the city of Phoenix is looking at the prevalence of Uber and Lyft reducing parking revenue at Sky Harbor. That revenue helps fund operations at the city owned airport.

Where consumers see new business models, governments see impacts on tax revenue including the chance for new taxes.

This is where it gets complicated. In 2018, Arizona voters approved Proposition 126 restricting new state and local taxes on business services. Brnovich’s examination of Phoenix’s higher fees on Lyft and Uber is the first test of Prop. 126.

The challenge for cities and other governments will be how much do they tax and regulate new business models (including in the sharing economy). The potential problem is whether new rules, regulations and taxes end up sending the wrong message about Phoenix and Arizona when it comes to economic development and innovation.

Phoenix, Tempe, Scottsdale and other cities have worked hard to convey a very pro-business, pro-innovation economic development message.

New rules and taxes on the likes of Uber and Lyft run the risk of sending a pessimistic message about the region. That argument is being forward by Phoenix City Councilman Sal DiCiccio, the Goldwater Institute and other critics of the higher airport fees.

New business models need to realize they will face new regulations, fees and taxes as governments adjust policies and revenue streams.

But governments also should realize they can’t go overboard with taxes and regulations or they run risk of making pro-business Arizona look anti-innovation.

By Recker McDowell —

With 2019 in the rear-view mirror, 2020 and the upcoming elections are front of mind nationally, statewide and in local races where cities such as Scottsdale will pick a new mayor and City Council members.

Local races will determine the path on growth, development and jobs.

Those running for office in Scottsdale, in other cities or up the political ladder shouldn’t forget some of the lessons of 2019.

In Scottsdale, voters’ overwhelming approvals of Bond Questions 1, 2 and 3 and the Scottsdale City Council’s unanimous support for the $300 million Museum Square redevelopment in Old Town are positive lessons.

Political adversaries and those with differing philosophical views came together both for the bonds and Museum Square project. New community voices and advocates were also part of the both efforts.

They all put community and the need for Scottsdale to invest its future first. The bonds will invest $319 million in public safety, senior centers, the arts and parks and recreation. It was the first time in 19 years Scottsdale voters approved a major bond program. Museum Square will bring new life and vibrancy to a former transit station off Goldwater Boulevard.

The temptation for 2020 from Donald Trump all the way down ticket will be to divide and conquer, to scorch the opponent’s earth and energize the base. That is the path of Trump and Democrats who want to deny him a second term.

But it is not the path local voters want for their communities. They want to see vision and aspirations for how their community is going to grow and prosper. They want smart investments in quality of life, economic development, health care and public safety. They prefer that over Twitter storms, Facebook fights and the demonization that dominates the media and politics. They just aren’t the ones yelling on Facebook and Twitter.

That temptation will be there for state and local candidates. Their choice will be to emulate what they see on Twitter, Facebook and the 24/7 news cycle.

They can also look at what happened in Scottsdale with the bonds as well as Museum Square where the community and elected officials worked together and chose unity and community over division.

The year 2020 is poised to be rough and tumble from the presidential election and Trump’s impeachment to Arizona’s U.S. Senate race and battles in cities such as Scottsdale when it comes to growth and development.

Fortunately, 2019 also offers some lessons of what voters really want to see in their communities and neighborhoods.





By Recker McDowell —

Scottsdale Fashion Square is landing a new Versace store to go along with other luxury locations for the likes of Tiffany & Co., Gucci, Louis Vuitton and Prada.

Fashion Square’s new Nieman Marcus anchored luxury wing and attraction of high-end brands along with a new Apple store helped spur sales at the mall.

Fashion Square sales now stand at $1,472 per square foot. That is up from $1,032 before the Macerich owned mall new and enhanced luxury efforts.

Fashion Square’s attraction of high-end stores and popular new restaurants as well as the development of a new hotel show the power of Scottsdale’s brand and provides productive lessons for other developers, property owners and policy makers.

Scottsdale continues to prove it has the brand and cache to attract luxury brands and top restaurants.

Macerich and other mall owners have faced the need to evolve their business models as traditional retailers faced e-commerce and the age of Amazon.com.

Other property owners, developers and the city of Scottsdale should remember some of these lessons.

Scottsdale can attract high-end brands, cool culinary concepts and employers who are looking for prime amenities for their workers.

There are existing buildings and properties in downtown and southern Scottsdale where owners and the city should at least look at their potential beyond their existing uses.

There are uses and properties, especially Old Town’s art galleries, and restaurants that are essential to Scottsdale’s fabric and charm.

But there are also plenty of properties in downtown, southern Scottsdale and even to the north where their current uses might not be unlocking their full economic and community potential.

The lessons of Fashion Square and landing the likes of Versace should be food for thought as the city, property owners and developers look at the future paths for specific parcels, projects and Scottsdale’s overall vision.

By Recker McDowell

Arizona Technology Council President and CEO Steve Zylstra has penned a new column in the Business Journal on the issue of DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) and the estimated 661,000 Dreamers who grew up as Americans but were brought into the U.S. by their families when they were very young.

The fate of those Dreamers is sitting with the U.S. Supreme Court as it considers the DACA program started by former President Barack Obama and its potential end via President Donald Trump.

Zylstra points out that Dreamers are productive contributors to the economy and society.

“For example, nearly 30 percent of [the] roughly 30,000 DACA recipients in Arizona are working in the electronic component and product manufacturing sector,” Zylstra writes in his Business Journal column.

Zylstra said Arizona’s tech community needs to support the DACA program and Dreamers not only because of their economic contributions but also because of what getting rid of DACA protections will do to families and communities.

That is the type of community minded and forward-thinking other business groups and major employers need to be doing on this issue.

Immigration has been divisive nationally and in Arizona. But the state and country have a chance to come together and find a solution on DACA and for Dreamers and for what it really means to be an American.

The Arizona Technology Council is showing common sense, courage and decency on the DACA issue. Let’s hope others follow that lead.

By Recker McDowell —

Restaurants have been a big real estate, economic development and consumer spending driver throughout the current economic cycle.

New cool restaurants filled empty and foreclosed properties right after the Great Recession. That helped Culinary Dropout and others sprout on Seventh Street in Phoenix.

Restaurants have been the linchpin of the growth and popularity of Gilbert’s Heritage District and the town hopes to parlay the popularity of Barrio Queen, Postino, OHSO Brewery and Dierks Bentley’s Whiskey Row into attracting offices and a hotel to the area.

Old Town Scottsdale continues to add popular and cool food concepts including Toca Madera to its stable of popular restaurants and bars.

Popular restaurants and bars are increasingly economic development drivers. They attract not only tourists to Old Town but also have proven to be economic development drivers. The likes of Indeed.com, Yelp and Zillow landed jobs at the revamped Scottsdale Galleria in part because of the nearby amenities (shopping, restaurants and happy hour spots) for their workers.

So, it is not logical that other cities are also looking to attract and grow cool restaurants and bars as part of their own economic development and downtown plans.

Chandler is starting to make progress on this front fostering a stable of restaurants and bars in its downtown area at Boston Street near Arizona Avenue and Chandler Boulevard. Popular concepts such as the The Original Chop Shop, Over Easy and San Tan Brewing Co. have landed there. The city of Chandler is looking at bringing new and revamped developments as well as events to the area.

Chandler already has a strong business and technology base with technology firms led by Intel and Google’s self-driving car division Waymo. It also already has a strong sales tax base via Chandler Fashion Center. Chandler’s business and economic bases and demographics all have the ingredients for the next cool downtown.

But like other suburbs in sprawling Sun Belt metro areas like Phoenix, Chandler could use a walkable downtown where residents and visitors can hang out and walk around.

Downtown Chandler has a ways to go to catch up with Old Town Scottsdale’s offerings and Gilbert’s lineup of popular restaurant and bar brands.

But Chandler looks to be on the right path with growing its downtown. It will just take commitment and finding ways to encourage more food and beverage concepts to land there and getting developers to think more urban and walkable and less suburban.

By Recker McDowell —

Scottsdale and Gilbert rank among the top cities in the U.S. for remote workers.

Scottsdale ranks 2nd and Gilbert ranks 3rd among mid-size U.S. cities for the percentage of workers doing their jobs remotely, according to software firm Volusion. Only Frisco, Texas (a suburb of Dallas) ranks higher for remote jobs.

The high rankings show the economic strength and continued potential for both Scottsdale and Gilbert. The two cities have desirable demographics, appealing lifestyle amenities such as restaurants, shopping and arts events and strong performing schools.

The growth in remote workers in each shows both Gilbert and Scottsdale are ahead of the curve as the economy and workplaces see more jobs being done remotely or in less traditional and flexible offices such as co-working spaces. Employers and workers are increasingly looking for flexibility, work-life balance and forward-thinking communities with forward-thinking economies.

Therein also sits the challenge.

Workplaces, jobs and office spaces are all changing. Cookie-cutter and traditional office buildings and business parks are being replaced by more mixed-use and less conventional spaces.

Employers and employees want to work not only in cool and creative offices. They also like to be close to cool and creative restaurants and bars and other amenities whether those are shops, arts and cultural venues or just places to hang out during lunch or after work.

Downtown Scottsdale has that more than any other city in the state with its Old Town area, Scottsdale Fashion Square and the Scottsdale Waterfront. The area has cool events not only for tourists and residents but also for employees who work in the downtown area.

Gilbert certainly has made progress evolving from its farming and bedroom community past with its Heritage Square restaurant row. Gilbert is looking to bring in more offices and other uses to complement its bar and restaurant zone.

Cities and developers need to realize they need to be creative, innovative and open minded when it comes to how they grow, and in some cases redevelop their downtowns and employment zones.

Traditional approaches to real estate development, land-use and zoning might not mesh with changes in workplace, jobs and the economy. That will require more live-work type projects and cohesion between restaurants, coffee shops and happy hour spots and where jobs are whether they be remote jobs or in office space.

Communities that keep up with the times and changes in how and where we work including home offices, co-working spaces or the local Starbucks or Panera will stay competitive. The cities that don’t run the risk of getting left behind.


By Recker McDowell —

U.S. Rep. Debbie Lesko (R-Arizona) has seen her regional and national profile rise via her full-throated defenses of President Donald Trump and jabs at Democrats during the impeachment hearings.

Like it or not. Good or bad. Lesko, a former state lawmaker representing the West Valley, is very much a face of the Republican Party in Arizona (and even nationally).

That is a marked change from when the late John McCain and the now retired Jeff Flake served in the U.S. Senate. They were front and center in criticizing Trump during and after his successful 2016 presidential run.

Those days are mostly over in the Republican Party with ‘never-Trumpers’ increasingly pushed out of party politics. The result is a rise of pro-Trump advocates such as Lesko, U.S. Rep. Andy Biggs and Arizona Republican Party Chairman Kelli Ward.

Lesko and Biggs, who both brandished their conservative credentials in the Arizona Legislature and are increasingly Fox News favorites for their support for Trump, are part of the new normal in the GOP as opposed to past more establishment Republicans. The media loved McCain and Flake’s willingness to battle Trump. The same media derides Trump supporters such as Lesko.

That is the dynamic headed into next year’s elections with Trump at the top ticket and the U.S. Senate race between Republican Martha McSally and Democrat Mark Kelly. The Trump dynamic could also impact local elections for mayors, city council as well as state races.

The pro-Trump GOP could very well energize Democrats and key constituencies such as Latinos, younger voters and women. That could tip the scales against Trump and Republicans and help progressives up and down the ticket, including at the local and state level.

Conventional wisdom is that a coalition of progressives and moderates (including ‘never Trump’ Republicans) helped Kyrsten Sinema with her narrow win over Martha McSally in their 2018 U.S. Senate race.

Of course, we heard all this from the media and political pundits in 2016 when women, Hispanics and millennials were supposed to help Hillary Clinton beat Trump.

That didn’t happen with Trump’s coalition of older voters and the white working class and lower middle class helping him carry key battlegrounds over the flawed Clinton.

Like it or not the GOP is the party of Trump and surrogates such as the West Valley’s Lesko and the East Valley’s Biggs. That will be the hill both sides fight on in 2020 and the turnout dynamic will drive the results in races up and down the ballot.

If Airbnb is treating Paradise Valley roughly these days, others like Ritz-Carlton and Five Star Development are not. The emerging resort at Lincoln and Scottsdale Roads will be Santa’s greatest gift to the tony town in 2020.

In previous years skepticism seemed to be the project’s yuletide sonnet. But not this one after the project’s developer, Five Star, opened up the massive, impressive construction site to community leaders and interested residents. The effort proved to be a whole new definition of shock and awe.

Sensing this, but also exemplifying public service integrity, new Town Manager Jill Keimach has quietly worked smartly and effectively to diffuse pithiness from some of the politicos. In fairness, she has also had to navigate the nuances of a complex development too. The town is being well served as a result of her patience and experience.

The new tax revenue the Ritz-Carlton will mean for Paradise Valley is staggering, forever laying to rest the need and nattering about a new property tax imposition. And while the town already has a plethora of signature resort properties the Ritz promises to be a first among equals, at least for a while and perhaps forever, as residents discover the impressive design and layout.

Only one current Town Councilmember, Mark Stanton, sat there when the Ritz was approved. Indeed, he was the swing vote. He will look sagacious next year. But the real question for the former opponents is who will do the best Jan Brewer impression? For those who don’t get that reference Google her. Bank One Ballpark. Then rinse.

2020 Scrum

By Virginia Korte —

Today I am announcing I am officially running for mayor.

For the past year I have met with many residents, community leaders and business owners for their input about running for mayor. Their encouragement factored heavily into my decision. So, I want to thank them for their time and opinions.

I believe with strong leadership I will provide and working with residents across the political spectrum from all areas of the city we can do more to make our great city even better.

I feel strongly that to keep Scottsdale sustainable and protect our quality of life, we must work harder and smarter to compete with other communities for new businesses and high-paying jobs for our residents. That’s why it’s critical to carefully control our spending and continue investing in the city’s infrastructure to enhance our exceptional quality of life that attracts businesses and visitors.

As I begin my campaign for mayor, it is important for us to recognize that our city is headed in the right direction. I want to commend Mayor Lane for his leadership and commitment to our city.

We need a leader with experience and a vision for Scottsdale’s future, because leadership matters. That is why I would appreciate your vote for mayor.

I invite you to learn more about my campaign by visiting KorteScottsdale.com.


By Recker McDowell —

If you watched the NFL playoffs or posted on social media this weekend you probably have probably seen ads for Michael Bloomberg and Tom Steyer.

The two billionaires are putting a focus on Arizona in their Democratic presidential bids. They hope Arizona — where moderate Democrat Kyrsten Sinema won a U.S. Senate in 2018 — is hospitable to their wealth and business backgrounds.

Bloomberg has already landed staff and operations in Phoenix and Tucson and Steyer bankrolled an unsuccessful renewable energy initiative in Arizona in 2018.

Steyer and Bloomberg will test the marketplace of political ideas both among Democrats and in battleground states such as Arizona.

At the national level, the two rich businessmen contrast with the backgrounds and some of the policies of more progressive (and sometimes socialist) candidates in the race such as Sens. Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren. They also could divide voters in the primaries (including Arizona’s in March) potentially siphoning support from centrists such as Joe Biden and South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg.

In Arizona, how Bloomberg and Steyer do vis-a-vis the likes of Sanders and Warren will show where Democratic voters are on the progressive versus moderate spectrum. Steyer has been a vociferous critic of President Donald Trump and advocates progressive policies. But Democratic voters will have to decide on his business background and wealth.

All of that could help show the direction of the U.S. Senate race between the GOP’s Martha McSally and Democrat Mark Kelly as well as how voters are feeling about Sinema’s middle-of-the-road path and reticence to criticize Trump.

Bloomberg and Steyer will also show directions of other Arizona races, including at the local level. Their television and social media spots are taking up space and voters’ attention. That will be a challenge this election cycle for candidates as Trump dominates news cycles.

State and local candidates will have to find ways to get their names and messages out to voters in a crowded political and social media landscape.

If Bloomberg and/or Steyer make waves in the presidential race and in Arizona it could show voters prefer a more moderate path and candidates with business backgrounds.

But if the two billionaires fail to make wave (including in Arizona) it would show Democrats are in for more a progressive wave both nationally and down the ballot.

That would then set up a stark contrast with Trump and Republicans in November.

By Recker McDowell —

Arizona is going to be a top election battleground not only for President Donald Trump’s bid for a second term in November but also in the Democratic presidential race.

Former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg and U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Massachusetts) are already setting up beachheads in Arizona for the March Democratic primary.

There will be significant national attention and advertising for the presidential race as well as the U.S. Senate race between Republican Martha McSally and Democrat Mark Kelly. Metro Phoenix will be a national battleground akin to Orlando, Tampa and the suburbs of Philadelphia, Detroit and Milwaukee.

The wave of ads may tire out Phoenix television viewers and Facebook users. But the national political wave will also impact state and local races throughout the Valley and the rest of Arizona.

Democrats are of course hoping for an anti-Trump wave spurred by turnout of younger voters, Latinos, progressives and other constituencies.

If that happens, it could help progressives and moderate Democrats in local and state races. That would piggyback on Democrats success in the 2018 midterm elections.

Democratic success in down-ticket races could impact state and local policies related to growth, economic development, health care, water and education.

Progressive promises related to health care and education are already centerpieces of Democratic presidential efforts (especially Warren and U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders).

Of course, Democratic turnout hopes did not materialize in 2016 with Trump carrying Arizona, Florida and Rust Belt battlegrounds.

Trump supporters are hoping the strong economy and stock market and the President’s ability to rally his populist base will again carry the day.

A challenge for state and local Republican candidates is how much they follow Trump’s rhetoric and attacks on the media and Democrats.

Following the Trump path will endear other Republicans to the base but could turn off moderates especially in Arizona where the late John McCain and the retired Jeff Flake (both Trump critics) still have constituencies.

Read More

December 2019

To my friends and associates,

I want to notify you know that I will be running for City Council in 2020.  I made my decision after much thought about the future of Scottsdale.  My deep concerns were triggered in October when I received my weekly notice from P & Z Link (Planning and Zoning requests) from the City.  This notice was just another in a long continual stream of requests for zoning changes resulting in greater density and/or height in housing and commercial developments throughout Scottsdale.  To date, our current City Council has approved the vast majority of these requests with no eye to the neighbors’ opinions or to the cost of the infrastructure changes needed to accommodate the new density and/or height. Read More

By Recker McDowell —

U.S. Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Arizona) is very much indicative of Democrats prospects in 2020 and the fork in the road they face in their bid to beat President Donald Trump and win control of the U.S. Senate.

Sinema’s moderate path helped her win the Senate seat in 2018 in red-state Arizona and has given her solid approval ratings with more moderate Democrats and even with some anti-Trump and pro-John McCain Republicans.

But Sinema has not been vocally anti-Trump and has not embraced the ‘Medicare for all’ progressive agenda. That has made her less popular with progressives driving much of the energy and activism for Democrats.

The most recent survey of Senators favorability ratings from Morning Consult gives Sinema a 47 percent approval rating and 29 percent disapproval.

A dig into those numbers shows Sinema with same approval 47 percent approval ratings of Florida Republicans Rick Scott and Marco Rubio and Connecticut Democrat Richard Blumenthal. That trio takes the more partisan path.

McSally, who was appointed to John McCain’s seat by Gov. Doug Ducey, has a 39 percent approval rating versus 37 percent disapproving of her work, according to Morning Consult.

Democrats face the same quandary in 2020 against Trump that Republicans faced against Barack Obama and Bill Clinton.

Do they embrace the energy of progressives and go with the likes of U.S. Sens. Elizabeth Sanders or Bernie Sanders?

Or should Dems focus on the same middle path Sinema is taking and go with a moderate such as former Vice President Joe Biden or South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg or even now former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and perceived electability?

This has been a past challenge for Republicans on whether to go with the energy of the base or focus on electability. Of course, the 2008 and 2012 campaigns of the late John McCain and Mitt Romney produced losses to Barack Obama while Donald Trump’s energy and celebrity produced an anti-establishment upset win over the flawed candidacy of Hillary Clinton.

Sinema’s win over Martha McSally for Jeff Flake’s Arizona U.S. Senate seat last year should certainly make Democrats look at the more moderate path in 2020 as they try to win in red state Arizona and other battlegrounds such as Florida and in the Rust Belt.

Will Warren and Sanders’ ‘socialism’ turn off battleground voters in Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Arizona? Or will a progressive nominee energize the base and younger voters like Trump did to them in 2016?

Still, the moderate choices in the 2020 presidential field will need to prove themselves as candidates. Biden has run unsuccessfully twice before for president, is gaffe prone and could also have some lasting Ukraine baggage. Buttigieg, likes Sanders in 2016, will have to prove he can appeal to African Americans and Latinos in primary states beyond Iowa.

The Great Recession, fatigue with the George W. Bush years and the Obama wave were too much for McCain and Romney did not energize Evangelicals and working-class ‘Walmart’ Republicans enough in his loss.

Of course, Trump has his own advantages (led by the economy and the energy of his core supporters) and baggage (including the possibility voters just become fatigued by impeachment and Twitter storms).

Democrats are focused on getting Trump out of office and stopping a second term. Sinema’s path in Arizona certainly shows them one potential and proven way to win here and other battlegrounds.