As many head to the beach this holiday weekend, put the novel or Kindle down. We’re more interesting. For example:
*Scottsdale’s aggressive and effective anti-Desert Discovery Center grassroots group may spawn a 2018 Scottsdale City Council candidate: Jason Alexander. Downtown businessman Bill Crawford is also likely to challenge the incumbent line-up of Kathy Littlefield, David Smith and Linda Milhaven.
*The group has collected many thousands of signatures on its way towards forcing a public vote on the Desert Discovery Center via the initiative process.
*Keep an eye on Scottsdale Unified School District Board Member Pam Kirby.
*Politically, Arizona State Treasurer and top Trump surrogate Jeff DeWit still isn’t sure where 2017 and 2018 might take him.
*Pulte Homes has received the green light from the Glendale City Council to pump a $450 million, master-planned community investment into southern Glendale close to the Arizona Cardinals’ stadium
*Frank Schmuck is looking to gear up and get a new consultant on board for a renewed run for the Arizona State Legislature.
*Governor Ducey is making an underappreciated effort to focus on and secure Arizona’s water future.Read more
Check out this article in the Scottsdale Republic showcasing the status quo sycophants of the Scottsdale Unified School District. Here is a link.
What planet do these chastisers of reform live on?
Superintendent Denise Birdwell is rightfully seeking key changes. What else is she to do? Accept mediocrity or in some cases tragic outcomes?
Like all school districts Scottsdale is no exception to the funding challenges imposed by conditions in the State of Arizona, both political and economic, over the past decade. Scottsdale public schools also face potent competition from some of the best charter schools in the country such as BASIS Scottsdale and Great Hearts, as well as a bevy of private schools.
So the choice for Birdwell and the district’s Governing Board is simple: innovate and improve. Or wither and die a slow death.
Those who have been slow to adapt to the changing landscape, the educrats of inertia, don’t like the change agent that is Birdwell. Nowhere is their recalcitrance more repugnant than when it comes to Coronado. Once a point of pride in southern Scottsdale it’s now an impediment to a continuing renaissance of those neighborhoods. Graduation rates and academic performance has been poor, to put it mildly. So Birdwell decided to clean most of the deteriorating house. Good for her. And good for the parents and students who will benefit from this brand of leadership.Read more
Scottsdale knows what Arcadia is going through. For years things Phoenix have absconded the tonier brand on the other side of its signature street to obfuscate geography.
As the Arcadia area has exploded in popularity so too have developers attempted to elongate what it means to be in Arcadia, in order to boost sales.
Before going further it’s common knowledge that “Arcadia” is the area between 68th Street and 44th Street and Indian School to Camelback Mountain.
But that doesn’t stop some like Scottsdale-based The Empire Group from misappropriating the moniker for marketing purposes. Take a recent advertisement in the Independent Newspapers touting its new “The Villas at Baker Park.” Pay big money for their product on an old nursery site and you too can live “at the epicenter of Arcadia’s vibrant restaurant, retail shops and cultural venues.”
Huh? It would be more accurate to say you could live south of an old Taco Bell at Osborn and 40th Street. Not exactly Arcadia Main and Main. Or an “epicenter.”
Jeopardy is one of the greatest television shows of all time. Geography is a frequent topic. But if it’s ever the one for Final Jeopardy, and you find yourself next to the Empire Group’s Richard Felker, Geoffrey Jacobs or another one of its employees, don’t worry.Read more
The Town of Paradise Valley rightfully considers itself best in class in so many categories: views, low-density, resorts, proximity to hiking trails, location, public works and no property tax, to name more than a few.
It even has sons and daughters named Goldwater, O’Connor and Rehnquist.
Not often mentioned, though equally important to its impressiveness, are its schools. They range from notable publics like Kiva and Cherokee, to a Montessori school, numerous ones associated with the town’s many churches and even the highly-lauded, private Phoenix Country Day School.
Failure doesn’t come often to Paradise Valley, scholastically or otherwise. Yet, that’s what became of Tesseract at Tatum and Doubletree. There it operated for over a decade with the right to educate up to 340 students, before flunking the test of time.
And there it now sits, a carcass of a campus.
Fortunately, through a rare combination of generosity and ingenuity a solution is at hand.
The property has been purchased by the owners of Mercedes-Benz of Scottsdale. Local residents, the owners Chuck and Anita Theisen, know a thing or two about reviving a tired property. Does anyone recall what the bland office building across from Scottsdale Fashion Square looked like before the Theisens revitalized it into an award-winning showplace for some of the finest automobiles on the road?
This time their sights are not set on horsepower, but the power of the possible, with the Jones-Gordon School as its tenant. It has become the best school in the state for educating students with attention deficit disorder, dyslexia and other learning challenges. As the Town of Paradise Valley’s staff report puts it: “The school focuses on high-potential students with learning differences and those who are considered twice-exceptional.” The results have been remarkable. Parents have become apostles. They must be to pay the approximately $25,000 per year in tuition.
About a dozen Paradise Valley families, including the Theisens, currently use the school now located in Scottsdale.
The new school is seeking no material changes to the existing building. Indeed, it is asking for an enrollment of 200, not the 340 enjoyed by Tesseract. The school’s only real request is to change the grades from Pre-K to 8th Grade to Kindergarten to high school. Only 60 of the 200 total students could be high schoolers.
But all of this isn’t good enough for a few neighbors. They are upset that high school students might be permitted, notwithstanding the significant drop in overall students.
But doesn’t Paradise Valley already know how this ends? And how the world doesn’t end? We can take a quick trip across town to Phoenix Country Day School. They have a similar number of high school students. We are unaware of any marauding gangs, hooligans or knuckleheads the neighbors are using as their boogeymen. The opposite is true. Perhaps it’s because tuition at Phoenix Country Day is a similar five-figure number.
In situations like these we are always reminded of one of the most infamous Valley neighborhood sirens in the past two decades. Then, the newbie residents of Scottsdale’s McDowell Mountain Ranch worried about the Ice Den. They thought the place was going to become ground zero for goofy teenagers and associated problems. How wrong they were. Instead, the Ice Den has become one of Scottsdale’s points of pride, just as Jones-Gordon would if it is added to the educational infrastructure of Paradise Valley.
No brainer is a common phrase deployed to suggest an easy decision. And approval of the Jones-Gordon School this week by the Daran Wastchak-led Paradise Valley Planning Commission, and subsequently by Mayor Michael Collins and the Paradise Valley Town Council would be just that. But it’s also a lot more. It would represent a smart decision to unleash the potential of everyone’s brain and to send a message that Paradise Valley isn’t just best in class because of its riches, but because it never stops enriching what can happen in its classrooms.Read more
Earlier this year HBO brought to television screens Big Little Lies. It chronicled the fictitious underbelly of money, mothers and mayhem in Monterrey, California. In some ways, Paradise Valley would be a worthy patchwork for a prequel, or sequel. Unfortunately, someone familiar in the tony town’s midst is already bringing an episode to life. And it ain’t fiction.
Right out of central casting it’s taking place on a street called Sunnyvale. Right out of Big Little Lies it involves characters of a country club. Though there isn’t a beach in Paradise Valley as there was in the show, colorful sands play a major role. And there’s a name from Paradise Valley proposals past, Banovac, the realtor trying to enable it all.
All stories must start somewhere and this one does with Tom Hopkins, the globe-trotting, seminar-loving, self-described sales guru. People must be buying some of what he’s pushing because he’s apparently a member of Paradise Valley Country Club. But that’s where his consideration of things Paradise Valley seems to end.
The owner of the aforementioned abode on Sunnyvale, Hopkins is seeking to rent it out to a California drug rehab outfit named Blue Sands. They in turn want to charge as many as ten people at a time up to $45,000 a pop for 30-day stays.
Whoa. And we thought the recent state legislation to allow Airbnb to disrupt Paradise Valley neighborhoods was unwelcome news.
Good stories always need good characters and this one is no different. A broker named Banovac helped to breathe life into the deal in the first place. If that name sounds familiar, it is. The family was once a breathless sycophant to the High Priest of Horseshit, Danny Hendon.
Neighbors are rallying against, lawyering up and protesting much against this ensemble.
After all, wouldn’t you?
It’s not as if those opposed are hard-hearted. There are purportedly 22 other options for rehab treatment within 15 minutes. It really comes down to the hard-heart of Hopkins who appears to have fled to Scottsdale, rather than live on Sunnyvale next to which he seeks to wrought.
Once upon a time a certain Paradise Valley Town Councilwoman observed about the possibility of a medical-marijuana facility coming to town that she was opposed, and state law be damned. Because some things were worth the fight.
Yes, they are. And this is one of them.
We have a better idea for Hopkins and his harem of hard-up fortune hunters feeding off those with hard times. Paradise Valley Country Club. It has plenty of space, and plenty of stories, for Hopkins’ big but not so little neighborhood belie.Read more
Yesterday one of Arizona’s great self-congratulators, Zach Rawlings, announced a purported solution to the rancor he has caused in the Arcadia area. There he remarkably transformed a noble effort to save and preserve the David Wright House, designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, into an exercise in noblesse oblige.
So worthy was he that he should be entitled to run over the concerns of neighbors and utilize the property for concerts and commercial activity. Arcadia neighbors and Phoenix Councilman Sal Diciccio had none of it.
So yesterday Rawlings announced his grand solution: some type of partnership with what was formerly known as the Frank Lloyd Wright School of Architecture and a tax-write off for himself to the Arizona Community Foundation.
Curiously, he didn’t invite any neighbors to celebrate his victory vision, probably because his acolytes contend the place will still be a place of intense activity, attracting upwards of “30,000 people annually.”
At the heart of the announcement while balloons adorned the building was and is the notion that supporters of the Taliesin architecture school will be able to raise upwards of $7 million to let Rawlings out of his controversial Arcadia corner.
This will be a tall order since the organization has never proven to be a prolific fundraiser. Nevertheless, it sparked an idea. If things Frank Lloyd Wright are looking to lance community boils there’s another place it could turn its attention: Scottsdale. And the proposed Desert Discovery Center (DDC).
Opposition to that intrusion in the McDowell Sonoran Preserve has caused an uproar that makes Rawlings’ misreading of Arcadia look docile. Indeed, the Valley has rarely seen a more foreceful and intense grassroots opposition to anything. Even in this hot summer month the “NODDC” group has announced several events, some to crash those organized by Desert Discovery Center supporters. That’s chutzpah. And smart.Read more
The Scottsdale City Council can be a feisty group. Sometimes they disagree just to be disagreeable. Other times genuine philosophical divides arise. That’s why it’s so refreshing when the council unanimously confers and consents to wise policy. The recent decision to alleviate local art galleries from taxing out of state sales is a case in point. After all, it is oxymoronic to encourage people to visit Scottsdale’s arts scene only to tax them more onerously than peer markets.
Later this year Scottsdale leaders will again have another opportunity to send a strong message in support of local arts. The Scottsdale Gallery Association is expected to make a pitch for local tourism tax funds to revitalize Thursday Night Art Walks. Once upon these were grand city traditions. An excuse for first dates, or an anniversary stroll. For serious art eyes, or the more casual. A boost for local restaurants. A cause for downtown. More recently, however, said environs on Thursdays have become a more hollow shell of former selves.
Better promoting art walks is a request with merit, and deserving of support. Combined with the City Council’s previous patronage of the Museum of the West and more recently an expanded Canal Convergence, Scottsdale decision-makers are smartly doing what they can to get the local arts scene back to a more picture perfect place.Read more
By their nature master-planned communities tend to be large. In Arizona it doesn’t matter if they are in Scottsdale, Mesa, Buckeye or Glendale they tend to stir up scrutiny and debate.
That’s a good thing. Dialogue, debate and discussion tend to yield the best possible result.
A look around the Valley shows just that when it comes to master-planned communities that have been built. What’s one, anywhere, that is cause for consternation? Which brings us back to Glendale. There the top-ranked homebuilder in Arizona, Pulte, is proposing to build a $450 million, 395-acre master-planned community called StoneHaven. It would be located in and around 91st Avenue and Camelback.
Some neighbors like it and some don’t. Others like the Glendale Chamber of Commerce and Glendale Firefighter’s Association like it a lot. So does the hometown newspaper, The Glendale Star, which has enthusiastically endorsed the plan. Businesses in Westgate purportedly like it a lot too, fearing the departure of certain Coyotes they understandably want and need more nearby customers.
The backdrop to all of this is the story of Glendale’s comeback. Once derided alongside Detroit it’s now more like a certain President two decades ago: The Comeback Kid. Businesses are flocking to the community, city finances are recovering and where ridicule existed revenues now do.Read more
The Tempe streetcar project that has been in the works for years is finally underway after receiving a $50 million federal grant, which is supposed to be a good thing. It was slated to get $75 million. The Trump Administration gave it a haircut.
The project will result in a three-mile streetcar loop that weaves through downtown Tempe, ASU, and Mill Avenue to connect riders to nearby neighborhoods, shops, and businesses in the area. There will be 14 stops, and two of these will connect to light-rail stops so that people can switch from one circuit to the other with ease. The project is expected to be completed in Fall 2020.
Considering that the project is now estimated to cost a whopping $186 million, the extra $25 million that Trump cut will be missed. Valley Metro officials are still holding out hope of getting the extra $25 million.
On top of potential budget issues, lingering doubts persist as to whether or not the project will really be all that beneficial in the long run, and yet construction is about to begin anyway. Assuming that the project finishes on schedule, businesses will still be severely affected by three years of construction in downtown that will lead to decreased accessibility and blockage. If the project drags on past its expected completion, there could be serious long-term implications for these stores and companies situated in the areas under construction.Read more