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by Desert EDGE Advocates

The Honorable Paul Messinger
The Seven Wonders of this Great Community
The accomplishments that separate Scottsdale from other Valley cities:
1. Modifying the Indian Bend Wash into a very successful flood control project and great open space and parks project
2. Scottsdale putting its electric utilities underground and requiring fire sprinkler systems in all buildings built shortly after its beginning
3. Our master planning of our community parks, open space and elimination of all billboards
4. WestWorld, with its major world-class and diverse events
5. Scottsdale’s performing arts center, contemporary art museum and Civic Center Mall
6. Western Spirit: Scottsdale’s Museum of the West – a world destination from the start
7. And our biggest City project, the McDowell Sonoran Preserve and “desert discovery center” (now known as The Desert EDGE). . .coming soon!
Every project took years to do, as well as great amounts of our community treasure and effort. The McDowell Sonoran Preserve was already voted on by Scottsdale’s citizenry in the early 1990s – just lacking the construction of its desert discovery center – The Desert EDGE.

Ninety percent of the citizens who voted for the Preserve nearly 25 years ago – and who have been paying for it ever since – cannot access it. Only our City’s youth and those who are physically strong – those who hike, ride mountain bikes or who are able to ride the trails on horseback, are able to actually use the Preserve.

The Desert EDGE will serve the majority of Scottsdale’s population socially and educationally, as well as to tell our visitors about our type of desert. Many local families, as well, know very little about this country, which we call “home.”

Paul & Cora Messinger

Lois Drinkwater Thompson

Move Forward with The Desert EDGE
I would ask the mayor and city council proceed with the Desert EDGE project and not refer it for a public vote. My brother, Herb Drinkwater, would never have spent $500,000 on a vote when the project had already been approved. A small group of loud naysayers have tried to derail this project.

They have attacked any supporters including me when I tried to correct their facts. And, they don’t give the facts. They still have posted old information from a project from eight years ago. If these angry people want a vote, they can get public signatures for a referendum. That is how our system works.

Not trying to loudly force the Council into putting it on the ballot for them. The council needs to realize that we are a “silent majority” and want this benefit for the city of Scottsdale.

I know the Desert EDGE can be approved by the council and I would urge them to do so. It would be an incredible world class amenity for the city and would bring global attention to Scottsdale’s long-standing reputation for leadership in environmental sensitivity, sustainability and preservation. Desert EDGE is critical to the success of education in the McDowell Sonoran Preserve. And, I say that as a former teacher and coach for over 34 years in the public school district.

Our immediate family has over 100 years of public education in Scottsdale and this would be a value to our school kids and teachers. A public vote is not required and a huge waste of my tax dollars.

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We don’t typically commend things Littlefield.  After all it’s been some 330 days sense Classless Bob Littlefield has failed to call and congratulate Scottsdale Mayor Jim Lane on the latter’s landslide win last November.  Humility following political humiliation might have even been cathartic.

But the sins of the husband should not flow to Bob’s wife Kathy, a Scottsdale City Councilmember.

This past week she launched an effective broadside against the Desert Discovery Center, properly pushing it even further to the edge.  According to Littlefield’s guest column that ran in the Scottsdale Independent (here is a link) she even spent her own money to commission a public opinion survey on the project.  The results were in line with other private polling that’s been done.  Bottom line:  The Desert Discovery Center is a dead project walking.  Interestingly, Littlefield didn’t query whether citizens feel there should be a public vote on the project, a notion that is shared by some 90% of the electorate.

Proponents of the Desert Discovery Center when not ignoring public sentiment resort to their best James Madison suggesting that the rulers of the Scottsdale’s republic know best, and a public vote such a nuisance as to be unnecessary.

But isn’t a public vote how the spectacular McDowell Sonoran Preserve came to be in the first place?  Wasn’t its substantial margin of victory critical to solidifying the many difficult steps that were needed to make the vision a reality?  Indeed.  And a public vote should and must be utilized now as project proponents want to divert tens of millions of dollars from preserve maintenance and land acquisition to the Duplicative Desert (Botanical) Center.  

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*According to The Phoenix Business Journal U.S. Senator John McCain is working on a plan with Valley leaders to extend the Salt River’s “Rio Salado” experience and environment from Tempe to the West Valley.  If true and if successful it sure would be a lasting legacy to Arizona, and the man.

*Uncertainty reigns in the lead-up to Scottsdale City Council elections.  While incumbent Linda Milhaven looks like a sure thing to run again, undecided and close to the vest mark the current decision making status of incumbents Kathy Littlefield and David Smith as well as potential challengers Jason Alexander and Bill Crawford.

*Lancing a boil.  One of Paradise Valley’s most vexing development parcels, the “Town Triangle” located just off Scottsdale Road got the green light this week from the Planning Commission, a testament to creative planning by renowned local developers Geoffrey Edmunds and Rod Cullum.

*That Daniel Valenzuela, a humble firefighter, has evolved into the frontrunner in the Phoenix Mayor’s race is remarkable.

*It’s one thing to support Scottsdale’s Desert Discovery Center but it’s quite another to oppose a public vote on it, something about 90% of the electorate relays to pollsters they want.

*Marco Rubio is back in town on Monday, supporting a number of candidates including Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich.  A long shot who became a big shot after his upset win(s) in 2014 Brnovich has governed with notable sobriety, competence and judgment.  And it’s nice to see Rubio stepping up to help someone who helped him in 2016 as his presidential campaign chairman in Arizona.

 

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By Scottsdale City Councilman David Smith

Dear Friends...

During the recent Council work study session on the Desert EDGE project, I summarized the history of events that has led to locating a Discovery Center in the preserve, at the Gateway on Thompson Peak Parkway. A few listeners asked me to share that chronology. It's a long history, so hold your seats!

In 1994 - before there was a preserve tax or a preserve! - the McDowell Sonoran Preserve Commission (MSPC) retained a local research firm, Nelson, Robb, Duval and DeMenna to conduct a statistically reliable telephone survey of Scottsdale registered voters to determine whether they supported land preservation.

The poll questions made it clear the City's goals were broader than just acquiring land. Each poll participant was also told, "The following are a list of features that are under study for inclusion in the preserve" and asked to rank the importance of each feature. For "Desert museums and education centers", 69.5% answered "very important" or "somewhat important;" 30.5% answered "not very important" or "don't know."

The poll results guided City Council in structuring the May 23, 1995 Ballot Proposition 400 seeking voter approval of a 0.20% temporary and dedicated preserve sales tax. That proposition was approved almost 2 to 1.

Following the 1995, the MSPC began studying where preserve assets should be built to enhance public entry to and enjoyment of the preserve. By March 1999, they had published their McDowell Sonoran Preserve Access Areas Report identifying several access points.

There should be a single Gateway, they said, as the focal point for educational facilities as well as a a broad array of public amenities - a visitor center, interpretative or educational centers, museum facilities, displays, an amphitheater, concessions and areas to accommodate large user groups. Many of those visions of 20 years ago survive today as features of the proposed Desert EDGE at the Gateway.

About this same time, 1998, homes were being constructed on Bell Road in the McDowell Mountain Ranch community, across from the southern boundary of the proposed Gateway.

In 2004, voters were asked to increase the preserve tax again (this time by 0.15%) and allow the revenues to be used for land "...and improvements thereto."

That vote prompted Council to begin defining potential improvements. City Council's first action was to authorize a "Municipal Use Master Site Plan" (MUMSP, for short) for the Gateway - the city equivalent of a developer's site plan.

In February 2006, staff held an open house to explain Council's future plans for the Gateway. Staff shared a site plan map identifying Phase I as the Gateway Access and Phase II as a Desert Discovery Center, including an interpretive center, support offices, café with outdoor dining terrace and a 400-seat outdoor amphitheater.

On September 18, 2007, based on the 2006 public outreach, Council approved the MUMSP for the Gateway with the site plan unchanged. The accompanying Council Report described a Desert Discovery Center "...that will serve as the primary educational facility [including] a small café in conjunction with the Center...[as well as]...an outdoor amphitheater as part of the Desert Discovery Center...used in conjunction with educational and support activities for the Center." The description even anticipated "...there will be limited evening activity at the Desert Discovery Center." Mayor Mary Manross and Councilmembers Betty Drake, Wayne Ecton, Jim Lane, Bob Littlefield and Ron McCullagh all voted for the Gateway site plan.

Starting in 2007, homes began to be constructed on the west side of Thompson Peak Parkway, across from the proposed Gateway and Desert Discovery Center.

On October 11, 2011, Council approved the McDowell Sonoran Preserve Areas Report. The 1999 Report had been updated in 2010, but still provided there would only be one Gateway and that its location would be the focal point for educational facilities and programs and include a broad array of public amenities such as a visitor center, interpretative or educational centers, museum facilities, displays, an amphitheater, concessions and areas to accommodate corporate picnics and other large user groups. The Report was adopted unanimously by Mayor Jim Lane and councilmembers Milhaven, Borowsky, Klapp, Bob Littlefield, McCullagh and Robbins.

Before and after 2011, several versions of a Discovery Center were developed, leading to a Council decision in early 2016 to contract for a definitive study of what a Discovery Center should be. For more than twenty years, Scottsdale's elected and appointed representatives had been guided by the wishes of Scottsdale citizens; respecting this history, Council stipulated the design be sited at the already approved site north of the Gateway trailhead.

Still, the contractor, Desert Discovery Center Scottsdale (DDCS), was given latitude to consider alternative sites. They could have recommended another site - at the Gateway, elsewhere in the preserve or out of the preserve altogether - provided an alternative showed promise as a superior location, insuring greater success for the Discovery Center. In fact, an alternative, superior site was identified, just south of the Gateway trailhead. That is the site council is now considering for the Desert EDGE.

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