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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


By Recker McDowell —

Scottsdale is the top place to move in the U.S., according to a new report.

Scottsdale had 108 percent more inbound moves than outbound moves in 2019, according to U.S. Census Bureau research compiled by HireAHelper.com.

That is the most of any city in the country. Durham, North Carolina was second with 71.7 percent more inbound moves. Mesa is the fifth most popular destination and Chattanooga, Tennessee the least popular, according to the migration data.

Scottsdale’s top ranking shows the city is doing more than a few things right.

People want to move to Scottsdale. They want to visit, shop and bring jobs and investments here.

That does not happen by accident.

Scottsdale has built its brand and desirability via important community investments, special events that put the city on the international map, a vibrant and evolving downtown and a balanced and smart approach to growth.

Events such as Barrett-Jackson, Cactus League Spring Training, the Scottsdale Arabian Horse Show and the Waste Management Phoenix Open put Scottsdale and Arizona on the map for visitors.

Some of those visitors end up moving to Scottsdale. Others who attend those events are CEOs and site selectors who end up putting Scottsdale on their map for jobs.

That is why investments in WestWorld of Scottsdale, Scottsdale Stadium and Old Town are so important to the city’s economy and future. Scottsdale’s investments in the arts have helped the city solidify its international brand.

The vision for Scottsdale present and future will (and should) be the most important issue in this year’s election for Mayor and City Council.

Some candidates will base their entire agenda on stopping growth and density, especially in Old Town Scottsdale. Some of those same candidates argue Scottsdale is headed on the wrong direction, on the wrong track.

The marketplace obviously disagrees with Scottsdale being the top place to move in the U.S.

Scottsdale residents also disagree. They think the city is on the right track and headed in the right direction. A recent poll of city voters shows 66 percent (two out of three) think Scottsdale in on the right path while only 21 percent think it is headed in the wrong direction.

Scottsdale has favorable demographics, a vibrant downtown and is an international destination. But the community has also realized that it can’t stand still. Scottsdale has enhanced its tourism and events venues, invested in its parks and hiking trails, upgraded its downtown and invested in the arts.

Old Town, the Scottsdale Waterfront, Scottsdale Fashion Square’s luxury wing and new hotel and the Scottsdale Galleria are all examples of a city that knows its strengths but is willing to move forward to stay competitive. Investments in Old Town and the arts are also helping Scottsdale attract more young professionals and young creatives.

The marketplace and residents know Scottsdale is on the right path and we expect voters will also.

By Recker McDowell

Tonight, we will see President Donald Trump at a campaign rally in Phoenix and Democratic presidential hopefuls from Bernie Sanders to Michael Bloomberg face off in a debate in Las Vegas.

Republican Martha McSally and Democrat Mark Kelly are jockeying in their expensive U.S. Senate race and local candidates in Scottsdale are lining up for Mayor and City Council.

Beyond tonight’s trash talk, bluster and potential gaffes (we are looking at you Joe Biden), voters should also pay attention to leadership.

That sounds contrary to the current state of politics and discourse, but leadership still matters.

Despite the temptation to follow Trump’s bluster or Bernie’s ‘revolution’, leadership matters especially at the community level.

The local level is where voters and their elected officials intersect more directly — not just on Twitter, Fox News or MSNBC.

Closer to home, our elected officials are the ones who budget for first responders, for transportation, schools and social services.

They also chart the vision for growth, land-use and economic development.

This is where leadership and coalition building are important.

Voters will decide whether they want candidates who just to try rally their base and castigate their rivals or whether we want leaders who build consensus and coalitions and reach across the aisle.

That is especially salient locally with issues such as growth and development.

We aren’t naïve. We know we live in the age of Trump and Twitter. But even Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders will have to appeal to some swing voters to make their election math work at the end of the day. Trump pulled that off in 2016.

In local races such as Scottsdale, residents will decide races for Mayor and City Council. They will likely face choices of consensus and coalition builders or more stubborn, ideological and blustery approaches.

We think the former is a better approach for the future of Scottsdale despite what will see tonight at the Trump rally, Democratic debate and on Twitter.

 

 

 

By Recker McDowell —

President Donald Trump will be in Phoenix for a campaign rally and on March 15 Democratic presidential hopefuls will have a debate in Phoenix ahead of the March 17 primary.

The events show the importance Arizona and Maricopa County will play in the 2020 election landscape. That includes the Democratic presidential race and Trump’s bid to get to 270 electoral votes and a second term.

The Arizona U.S. Senate race between Republican Martha McSally and Democrat Mark Kelly is also poised to be one of the most competitive and most expensive in the country.

Maricopa County will be one of the key battlegrounds for Trump and his Democratic rival. Trump carried Maricopa County 48 percent to 45 percent over Hillary Clinton in 2016.

But Democrat Kyrsten Sinema carried Maricopa County 51 percent to 47 percent over McSally in 2018. That gives fuels to Democrats’ hopes that ‘red-state’ Arizona isn’t so red with population growth in metro Phoenix coupled with Democratic strongholds such as Tucson and Flagstaff.

Metro Phoenix – like other battleground areas in Florida, Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania — will show whether Trump can turnout his base again or Democratic constituencies that didn’t turnout enough for Hillary Clinton will be energized by the 2020 nominee.

In Arizona, Trump faces the dynamic of whether his rivalries with the late U.S. Sen. John McCain and former U.S. Sen. Jeff Flake might help his Democratic foe.

But Trump still has a strong economy in his corner and has seen McSally join him in going after the media. He has also been buoyed , at least short-term, by his acquittal on the impeachment charges.

The Arizona Democratic primary will also show not only how much energy there is with the crop of presidential candidates but also the kind of direction the party is headed towards whether it be a progressive such U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders or a more moderate alternative such as Pete Buttigieg, Michael Bloomberg or Joe Biden.

The question for Democrats in November is whether progressives will turnout for a nominee who is not Bernie Sanders, and whether moderates and independents will turnout for a nominee who is Bernie Sanders.

But the question for Arizona voters (real voters, real people) should be less about the horse race, political trash talk and Electoral College math. The race should be about solutions for issues that impact real people’s lives (health care, jobs, education and in the West issues such as water, infrastructure and immigration).

But we won’t hold our breath with the political discourse focused on Twitter storms, opposition research and media punditry.

Yesterday we described some highlights from a poll of likely voters completed earlier this week in Scottsdale we have been able to see.  Here are some more:

The increasingly crowded City Council race is very fluid.  The overwhelming winner at this point is “Undecided” with 78% of the vote.  Of those garnering support as a first, second or third vote (there are 3 seats available) here’s where the race stands in advance of the probably August primary.  Remember the top six vote getters will move onto the November General Election unless someone gets 50%+1 in August, which is highly improbable.

Guy Phillips: 8%
John Little:  8%
Bill Crawford:  5%
Becca Linning:  4%
Tammy Caputi:  4%
Kevin Maxwell:  3%
Betty Janik:  3%
Michael Auerbach (Mr. Bark & Frisk):  3%
Tom Durham:  2%

Obviously, this is a very early snapshot but an interesting one, nonetheless.

As we mentioned previously, several issues were tested and the results to a couple were already relayed.  Here is another since, presumably, the issue of building heights has been a matter of discussion.

“Now I would like to read you two statements, and please tell me which comes closest to your own opinion.”

There are already buildings in place or planned up to 150 feet in downtown Scottsdale such as along the canal at the Scottsdale Waterfront, Honor Health and Scottsdale Fashion Square.  Good downtowns like Scottsdale have a variety of different heights, uses, and public enjoyment.  So long as projects with more height are located in appropriate locations and provide substantial public benefits such as more open space or revitalizing deteriorating buildings, than can be an important part of the downtown mix.

OR

We should never allow building heights up to 150 feet in downtown Scottsdale, no matter where they are located or what the reason is. 

60% of voters agreed with the first statement while 35% sided with the second one. Read More

It’s fair to say that the upcoming Scottsdale elections, as well as the political environment in the city are interesting, to say the least. That’s why we were glad to get our hands on a recent public opinion poll undertaken by the most accurate pollster for the community over the past 20 years.  It surveyed 300 likely voters for the November election and was conducted February 8th-10th.

Hunches and vibes mean little. Data does. And we will be sharing insights with you over the coming days, starting today.

With all of the recent rancor in the city you might think there would be some turbulence in how voters feel about the direction of Scottsdale.  It turns out the opposite is true.  66% of city voters feel things are heading in the “Right Direction” while only 21% find it to be on the “Wrong Track.”  This number is remarkably similar to polls going back to 2016 and since.  In the late 1990s this test was far more evenly divided. But not lately. It shows that while people may nitpick over issues here and there, they are happy with Scottsdale overall.  This metric, among others, was a contributing factor to the landslide win of the Scottsdale bond and infrastructure package in November.  It was also a key factor in Mayor Lane’s victory by a wide margin in 2016. Read More

Bob Littlefield is Scottsdale’s Bernie Sanders. He says the same thing so many times you start to respect the persistence. And he certainly can be a fun conversationalist when he is not feeling so ornery.

Despite losing badly for Mayor in 2016, following a loss for the Arizona House of Representatives in 2014, Bob Littlefield has decided to seek the Mayor’s Office again since Jim Lane is term limited. While not likely to succeed, one must admire Bob for not fearing an embarrassing political hat trick.

His curious comeback is occurring, as it did last time, while his wife Kathy sits on the City Council. This was an item of great concern to Scottsdale voters in 2016 and likely will be again. We do not offer marriage counseling, but we don’t understand why Bob can’t let his wife stand in the spotlight. After all Kathy Littlefield impressively was the top vote getter in the 2018 City Council elections and has exhibited an admirable, diplomatic approach while an office, gaining the respect even from those who may disagree with her. Bob was on the City Council for 12 years. Why shouldn’t it be her time now?

Speaking of time, earlier today Bob sent out a campaign missive entitled the “A Tale of Two Cities.” In it he describes an “Upside Down Scottsdale of tall buildings that block our views.” Odd. Bob voted for the Scottsdale Waterfront towers while on the City Council. They are the city’s tallest buildings. We don’t mean to be critical of that vote. We think history has treated it kindly. It helped spark positive investment in downtown and important, tourism-oriented open space along the Arizona Canal. Last year, Kathy Littlefield undertook a similar vote, but for a project called Museum Square. It was passed unanimously by her and the City Council. As always, Kathy was judicious and cautious with her vote but ultimately made a smart decision for the city she serves. The Scottsdale electorate is not one to say no to heights anywhere, all the time. Neither do the Littlefields, smartly.

There is a time and place for heights when a greater good can be achieved and seen. We don’t mean to sound like advocates for a free for all on height. On that we agree with Bob and others. To develop in Scottsdale is an honor and all projects should remember that. But Bob does a disservice to himself by not realizing his playbook didn’t work in 2016 and won’t in 2020 without modification. And he disserves the city as a whole with unnecessarily strident language when his history doesn’t support the narrative, thank goodness.

 

By Recker McDowell —

Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey wants to invest $60 million to install new broadband and fiber optic cable in rural Arizona. The technology infrastructure would go along the rural corridors of Interstates 40, 17 and 19 as well as in Page, Payson and Bullhead City.

The overwhelming majority of jobs being created in Arizona are in Phoenix and Tucson. It’s also no secret that rural communities including Native American reservations need more jobs and economic development.

But the world is changing — including how and where we work. Increasing number of jobs can be done mostly or completely remotely (including at home or at a Starbucks or a local coffee shop).

More forward-thinking employers are flexible with where, when and how their employees do their jobs. Technology is front and center with those jobs. It gives both employee and employer flexibility in where and how they work.

There are also workers (young and old) who would like to live in small towns and rural communities but there are not enough jobs.

Consequently, Ducey’s plans for rural broadband are smart investments in communities that need and are poised for economic development.

Rural economic development is also a focus on other states such as New Mexico, Utah and Texas. Those are states that all compete with Arizona for site selections and jobs. The future economic competition will go beyond Phoenix competing with Denver, Albuquerque and Salt Lake City but will include rural Arizona looking to attract jobs along with its counterparts in other states.

The marketplace and jobs are global. That is not exclusive to big cities and it is smart to invest in rural areas and small towns for their economic future. Broadband and technology are paramount to helping attract jobs.

By Recker McDowell —

Architecture and design are increasingly important as Scottsdale charts its course on the future of Old Town and other parts of the city.

Developers and builders need to offer cool and impactful designs, new projects and redevelopment plans. That is especially true in Old Town and southern Scottsdale where there are redevelopment opportunities and chances to enhance or replace existing buildings.

Metro Phoenix has not always been known for great architecture. That happens in markets where low costs are a competitive advantage.

But Scottsdale isn’t the rest of metro Phoenix or Arizona. It is a world-class destination. It is the first choice for many employers looking to bring jobs to the state and region.

Scottsdale should look at itself as competing with the likes of Austin, Seattle, Denver and Santa Monica for technology and creative jobs and other art and cultural hubs such as Santa Fe and Palm Springs.

No offense to other Valley cities, but Scottsdale should see itself competing on a national and international stage for economic development, restaurants, tourism and culture.

Such efforts require communities to stand out among the crowd. Scottsdale already does that on several fronts. Scottsdale Fashion Square is one of the top performing malls in the Western U.S. Old Town Scottsdale and the city’s events such as Barrett-Jackson and the Waste Management Phoenix Open.

The community should expect high architecture and design standards from those proposing new projects and redevelopments in Scottsdale. The city is home to Frank Lloyd Wright’s Taliesin West.

But the dynamic must be a two-way street. City planners, elected officials and 2020 mayoral and City Council candidates.

There are plenty of properties and parcels in Old Town and other parts of Scottsdale that need to mature, evolve and potentially be upgraded.

The city should be welcoming to cool architecture and designs that enhance Scottsdale’s brand and vibe. Otherwise, it will miss out on a chances to upgrade and evolve.

By Recker McDowell —

WestWorld of Scottsdale has been named facility of the year by the League of Agricultural and Equine Centers.

WestWorld hosts top equestrian events including the Scottsdale Arabian Horse Show and Arizona Quarter Horse Association events. It also hosts the Barrett-Jackson and its World Greatest Collector Auction.

The League honor is the latest accolade for the Scottsdale venue. Barrett-Jackson and the equestrian events help make WestWorld into a major tourism and economic driver in the state.

WestWorld has a $183.6 million economic benefit for the state and hosts close to 917,000 visitors each year, according to a study last year by Arizona State University.

Arizona has scores of premier events and venues including State Farm Stadium which will again host the Super Bowl and is in the rotation for College Football Playoff games.

But don’t count out WestWorld from the list of most economically important venues.

WestWorld is one of the most economically important venues in the state. Its events attract tourists and their spending. The Scottsdale managed facility also hosts concerts, youth sports and community events.

The community and city should keep that in mind as we look at current and future investments at WestWorld. Bonds approved by Scottsdale voters in November make important repairs and improvements at WestWorld.

Those will help the venue keeping hosting events and attract even activity. WestWorld is the only North American location in the running to host the Federation Equestre Internationale World Championships in 2022.

One of Arizona’s big tourism and economic calling cards are its events, including Barrett-Jackson and the recently completed Waste Management Phoenix Open.

WestWorld is an important part of that winning hand.

By Recker McDowell —

The town of Gilbert has issued a new request for qualifications (RFQ) for a potential new development to anchor the south end of its Heritage District.

The East Valley town is looking for development proposals for a mixed-use project on 2.18 acres at Gilbert and Elliot roads. Gilbert is looking for retail and office uses on the parcel to complement the Heritage areas restaurants and bars.

A new hotel, offices and apartments are slated at north end of Gilbert’s popular restaurant row.

The idea is to bring office workers, shoppers and creative small businesses to the area which has grown into one of the most popular culinary destinations in the state.

Gilbert is looking for a mix of commercial and residential uses at the ‘south anchor’ development that fits with the architectural and historical character of the area.

Gilbert’s approach to its Heritage area can serve as a blueprint for other cities looking to grow and energize their own ‘downtowns’.

The town has had the advantage of owning the land in the Heritage area. That has allowed for town officials to be selective in how the area between Juniper Avenue and Elliot Road has grown.

Gilbert has also found a niche in attracting residents and visitors to its core. The attraction and success of popular local and regional restaurants bars (including OHSO Brewery, Culinary Dropout, Barrio Queen and Oregano’s) helped organically brand Gilbert.

Now, the town is looking to evolve the restaurant area into more with new residential, higher education and office uses. That will bring more activity to the area beyond Happy Hours, weekend and nights out.

Other cities in Arizona and the Southwest (including the likes of Chandler, Mesa and Glendale) are watching Gilbert’s path to see how they can bring more economic development and residents to their cores.

The key is to find an attraction the brings people to an area. That can be restaurants or the arts or mixed-uses such as offices and residential.

For other more established downtowns such as Scottsdale and Tempe, Gilbert shows those cities they can’t rest on their laurels. Just like a brand or business, cities need to make sure they are evolving, maturing and keeping up with consumers and the marketplace.

Gilbert has carved a niche and wants to grow that niche beyond cool restaurants and bars. Other cities should keep tabs on that and see how they can follow suit for their own downtowns.

By Recker McDowell —

Development, density, height and growth are center stage in Scottsdale as 2020 campaigns for Mayor and City Council ramp up.

There are legitimate questions about the growth trajectory and vision for the city including in Old Town Scottsdale. Those discussions and debates can be a positive for the future of the city.

What voters need to be careful of are growth and development concerns rooted in simply saying no to everything. And there are advocates on the slower growth side who are just ‘no growthers’.

There is nothing wrong with discerning or smart growth approaches. But a knee-jerk ‘no’ to everything does Scottsdale a disservice

‘Good’ projects that bring economic development, tourism and jobs and help the fabric of Scottsdale, (including the arts) should be welcomed.

Developments should fit Scottsdale’s architectural and community character and help areas such as Old Town evolve and mature.

That does not mean saying yes to everything. Scottsdale is a special community and an international destination because it has high standards.

Scottsdale has also made investments in its infrastructure, events venues and recreation assets that has helped taken its economy and tourism to the next level.

Voters should press candidates and advocates on both sides of the debate over density and development and on why they support or oppose specific projects.

They should press all candidates, all sides of the debate on their vision for the city and what specific investments they support and which ones they oppose.

This will foster more clarity and show candidates’ and activists’ real motives and true colors.

By Recker McDowell —

Arizona added 84,400 jobs over the past 12 months, according to year-end employment numbers.

More than 80,000 of those new jobs were in the private sector. Arizona’s private sector job growth for the year was 2.8 percent, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Only Utah (3.1 percent and Idaho (2.9 percent) posted better job growth.

Arizona continues to attract new residents and businesses, including refugees from California.

A dig into the job figures shows some changes in the overall economy in Arizona and metro Phoenix.

Those trend lines show where jobs are being created and should serve as navigation course for economic developers, land-use planners and most importantly job seekers.

Health care added 18,100 jobs over the last months across Arizona. That is the most of any sector. The likes of HonorHealth, Banner Health and the Mayo Clinic already have big and expanding footprints in metro Phoenix. Biotechnology also continues to grow in Scottsdale and Phoenix.

Transportation and logistics added another 10,500 jobs and indicator of the age of Amazon.com and e-commerce. Amazon has expanded it Valley footprint growing in west Phoenix and Goodyear.

There will also be more last-mile logistics centers being established as e-commerce firms and retailers ramp up delivery services.

On the jobs front, that means more logistics jobs but potentially exacerbating the existing shortage of truck drivers.

Arizona added 12,000 construction jobs the past 12 months. A healthy number for a sector that continues to struggle to find and keep workers.

Job opportunities are plentiful in metro Phoenix, but shortages of construction trades workers and truck drivers will challenge employers.

On the economic development front, cities need to continue to fine tune their business recruitment efforts to match the marketplace.

That includes being innovative and creative with land-use and development strategies, realizing which sectors are growing and that more workers are prone to work in less traditional setting such as co-working spaces.

By Recker McDowell —

There is never a shortage of the nasty, negative and disparaging these days in politics, the 24/7 news cycle and on social media.

So, it was refreshing to see the warm wishes for U.S. Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick (D-Arizona) when she recently announced her health battles with alcohol dependency.

Those included some positive vibes from the other side of the political aisle.

“Representative Ann Kirkpatrick is in our thoughts today. We are all Arizonans, and we care for one another. All of us at the @AZGOP wish her a total recovery from her medical challenges,” said Arizona Republican Party Chairwoman Kelli Ward via Twitter.

That is good to hear considering the tenor and tone of politics these days. Social media allows critics and trolls to say the absolute worst about those they disagree with politically.

The venom is turning off many to politics and social media all together. That is not good for our democracy, culture and our communities. We need more residents, more small business owners, more students and more seniors positively and actively engaged in public discourse and public policy.

Division and discord will make even harder to address ‘heavy-lift’ issues such as health care, immigration, education and cybersecurity as well as how are communities grow and evolve.

The disharmony is pretty much everywhere online from President Donald Trump and his Democratic foes down to local politics where debates over density and development easily turn nasty.

So, the next time we are tempted to snip, snipe and disparage someone on the other side of the aisle perhaps take the high road and offer a little human kindness and compassion.

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.

2020 Scrum


By Vote Suzanne Klapp

Scottsdale, AZ – Three-term Scottsdale City Councilwoman Suzanne Klapp announced her bid for Scottsdale Mayor on Monday at the Scottsdale Airport in front of family, friends and supporters.  Suzanne, who began exploring a bid for Mayor back in March of 2019, becomes the fourth candidate to officially announce as a candidate for the city’s top elected position.

“My number one priority, if elected, is to put the unity back in community.  Right now, it is important residents of Scottsdale see Councilmembers and the Mayor as partners in building the future of the city, not as adversaries or advancing personal agendas.  Whether in business or as a Councilwoman, I’ve always tried to have a collaborative leadership style so everybody feels that their voices are heard,” said Suzanne.

Suzanne brought 35 years of private sector business management experience to the Council when she was sworn in over 11 years ago and applies those principles to city governance.  As Mayor, she plans to focus on economic development, quality of life issues, and bringing back a sense of community.

“We need a Mayor who will continue to move Scottsdale forward.  That doesn’t mean upending everything that makes Scottsdale special.  It means being strategic in our decision making and finding common ground.  It means ensuring economic prosperity, keeping our city safe and doing so at a low cost to residents.  It also means actually getting results,” Suzanne continued.

 

Suzanne has been instrumental in guiding several big issues across the finish line in the last few years.  She led the effort to pass the nominal transportation tax in 2018 to improve streets and intersections and reduce traffic congestion throughout the city.  She served on the Council’s three-member 2019 Capital Improvement Projects Subcommittee who were the architects of a community-based list of projects that led to the first successful comprehensive bond package in nearly 20 years.  She also supported the Yes for 420 Proposition ballot effort that led to an overwhelmingly approved charter amendment which limited development in the McDowell Sonoran Preserve. Read More

By Virginia Korte

It’s not hard to imagine why investing in schools is in the public interest. We care about our children and want them to grow up to be well-balanced, well-educated members of our society.

But the need for investing in schools goes further than that. One of the biggest draws for companies to put down roots in an area is the quality of the education. It’s hard to attract the best people for high paying jobs if they can’t send their kids to good schools. Additionally, it is our responsibility to provide the best education for our children so that we can grow our own talent to fulfill the needs of our community.

This is why it’s important that we continue to do everything necessary for our schools to succeed. If we want high paying jobs to continue to come to Scottsdale, we need top-notch education at the public and private level.

Our neighboring city, Mesa, is doing everything they can to invest in education. If we want to remain competitive we have to continue our investment as well.Read More

By Recker McDowell —

The New Hampshire primary this week is whittling down the crowded Democratic field after the debacle in Iowa.

The Democratic field offers primary voters a distinct choice between ‘progressives’ such as Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren and ‘moderates’ such as Pete Buttigieg, Michael Bloomberg, Amy Klobuchar and Joe Biden. Whoever the Democrats pick will offer a stark contrast to President Donald Trump.

This year’s races for Scottsdale Mayor and City Council also offer some distinct choices to voters when it comes to growth and vision for the city. The field for Mayor and City Council could also get more crowded with Mayor Jim Lane term-limited and two sitting City Council member (Virginia Korte and Suzanne Klapp) running for Mayor.

How Scottsdale grows and matures will be center stage.

There are slow and frankly ‘no growth’ candidates who oppose and look skeptically on new and redevelopment projects throughout the city including Scottsdale’s downtown core.

Those candidates should be pressed on their views on how Scottsdale will remain a premier destination and competitive on the economic development and tourism fronts if the city is not evolving older properties and parcels in key locations.

This parallels with important questions of presidential candidates on their plans for immigration, the economy, climate change and health care (including ‘Medicare for All’ plans).

Candidates with more moderate or ‘pro-growth’ agendas should be asked how they will maintain Scottsdale’s brand and character.

There is a lot going right with Scottsdale, right now, and the city has its own unique and successful path.

Scottsdale does not (and should not) follow the growth trajectories of Phoenix or Tempe. But that path shouldn’t mean Scottsdale does not evolve, mature and stay competitive.

By Recker McDowell —

Gilbert Mayor Jenn Daniels has announced she won’t be seeking reelection this year.

Daniels is considered a rising star in Arizona politics and has been mentioned as a potential future candidate for statewide or another higher office.

Daniels made her announcement not to seek another term as Gilbert Mayor on Facebook.

“I have loved the nearly 11 years I have spent serving Gilbert as both a Councilmember and a Mayor. It’s been an incredible experience and we have so much to be grateful for as a community. It has been a difficult decision, but I have decided not to run again for Mayor. I am thankful for the support I have felt over the years from so many of you and I am excited to continue to celebrate Gilbert’s Centennial with you as I fulfill the remainder of my term. Gilbert will always be my home and the future is bright,” Daniels said.

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.