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Scottsdale voters wisely increased its tourism tax on hotel rooms in 2010.  The increased revenues have been used to further showcase the city across the world, and also provided money to aid events big and small.  Sometimes those investments have paid off, and sometimes they haven’t.  Funding decisions are an inexact science.

But one big one made recently by the Scottsdale Tourism Development Commission seems to be a sure bet.

That’s because Canal Convergence, which dramatically animates the Arizona Canal as it winds through the Scottsdale Waterfront, holds substantial promise as the community’s next Barrett-Jackson or Scottsdale Arabian Horse Show.

And that it happens in Scottsdale’s downtown emphasizing one of the community’s raison d’etre makes it even more worthy.

We applaud the group’s recent recommendation and encourage the City Council to soon vote likewise.

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By Sal DiCiccio
Phoenix City Council Member

Councilman Danny Valenzuela calls this a "good deal." I call it INSANE.

This is the same logic some of the same politicians used when they used your money to build the Sheraton losing $145 million of your hard-working taxpayers dollars.

Money that could've gone for more police on our streets.

Please read this article from Laurie Roberts:

ANOTHER TAX GIVEAWAY IN PHOENIX

Laurie Roberts

Arizona Republic 4-20-17

Last month, Phoenix was sued for allowing a developer to skip paying $8 million in property taxes in return for building a 19-story apartment complex near Roosevelt Row in downtown Phoenix.

The city’s continuing tax giveaways – which leave you and I holding the bag for select developers’ share of funding public schools – have prompted a crackdown at the Arizona Legislature. Our leaders, in one of their rare good moves,recently voted to limit these giveaways beginning later this summer to eight years, down from the current 25.

And the city’s response to the legislation and the lawsuit by the Goldwater Institute?

On Wednesday, the Phoenix City Council voted 7-2 to allow yet another developer to skip paying $9 million in property taxes in return for building three apartment towers near Roosevelt Row. (Councilmen Sal DiCiccio and Jim Waring were the no votes.)

Phoenix wants what the market can't support

A city spokesman says the properties eventually will pay three times the property taxes they’d pay if only a four- or five-story apartment complex was built where these 29-, 25- and 19-story buildings will go in. ($6.9 million over 20 years as opposed to $2.4 million.)

That’s if the schools can wait 20 years, that is.

Five percent of the units will be "affordable" housing.

City leaders say the giveaway – technically called a government property lease excise tax -- allows developers to build the types of projects city leaders envision – the sort the free market doesn't support. (Sort of a like a certain downtown Phoenix hotel.)

“This is going to change the Phoenix skyline now instead of 20 years from now,” Councilman Daniel Valenzuela saidWednesday, in approving the deal.

This is, of course, the same old story we’ve been hearing for decades from Phoenix City Hall as city leaders hand out GPLETs like gumdrops.

Lots of developers got this pass

A fair chunk of downtown Phoenix has been given a pass on paying property taxes -- or anything even close to their fair share of the tab.

The Phelps Dodge building got a GPLET. So did CityScape. Renaissance Square has one (both Tower One and Tower Two). So does the Collier Center. And the Westin and Freeport McMoran and at least five apartment complexes along Roosevelt Row.

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Since it’s never too early to pontificate and prognosticate about politics, we thought we’d get a jump on a way too early look at possible successors to popular Scottsdale Mayor Jim Lane.  Due to the city’s three term limit for mayors Lane, who won in a landslide over Bob Littlefield in November, 2016, is ineligible to run again.

The odds proffered for each person are a combination of the likelihood of a run, and ultimate victory.

Virginia Korte (2:1):  She’s been running for Mayor in her own way since about the time Goldwater was nominated for President.  Korte wants the job badly and almost ran in 2012 and 2016 but wisely deferred to Lane.  There’s no question she can raise the funds necessary having raised over $200,000 for her 2016 council re-election.  And much of the Scottsdale “establishment” will be behind her.  But her re-elect numbers were sluggish.  Yes, she won but many had thought after a sterling 2012 performance the final tallies would have been better.  Perhaps that has something to do with bouts of alienation.  Korte is not one to shy away from taking a stand, whether it’s an ardent supporter of the Desert Discovery Center in the face of withering opposition or supporting a property tax increase for Scottsdale schools.  In many ways she’s like this year’s Cleveland Cavaliers:  a proven winner and Hall of Famer but whose second half (or term) underperformed, but not so much so to underestimate them come playoff time.

Suzanne Klapp (3:1):  By topping Korte in the 2016 council races in money raised and total votes Klapp showed significant political chops.  She is not saying no to a potential run but does she really want it beyond the flattery?  Klapp would be 70 plus by the time of the next race but she makes that age look like the new 50.  On the political spectrum she also occupies space right of Korte which would be helpful in a primary election coinciding with the GOP primary, though less so in a November run-off election.  Unlike the Lane-Littlefield mash-up where there were clear fault lines, Klapp and Korte occupy much of the same space on business and other matters, which means any potential race between the two would challenge loyalties and households.

Guy Phillips (6:1):  Never underestimate a guy who can get so many votes with so little in his campaign coffers.  And that would be Phillips’ challenge in a mayoral race.  Can he raise real money in a race where competitors will be able to?  Lane eclipsed $400,000 in 2016.  In Scottsdale the top two finishers, if they don’t get over 50%, advance to the General Election.  With Phillips originally emanating from the Tea Party and still loved by many in the GOP Phillips could and likely would be a strong candidate in the primary’s top two, for many of the same reasons Klapp would.  His greater challenge would be communicating with so many people in the General election, with so few dollars.

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Muhammad Ali was a great boxer.  But like many, he didn’t know when it was time to do something else.  A case in point was his 1980 bout against heavyweight champion Larry Holmes.  It was just sad, so much so that Holmes actually took it easy on Ali, not wanting to further impugn a legend.

Former Arizona Attorney General Grant Woods and Phoenix resident is no Ali.  But he has been a competent, even commendable fighter at times, on behalf of various causes and interests.  But like most high profilers the time comes when influence wanes and the fastball doesn’t have the velocity it once did.

Woods’ foray into Pinal County’s City of Maricopa is a case in point.  It’s more Ali v. Holmes than a Thrilla’ in Manila.

A couple of weeks back Woods unexpectedly rolled into Maricopa warning the Planning Commission about an upscale project called Apex, which would be a new, private automobile country club on the community’s outskirts, in an industrial area, and adjoining a highway and rail line.

Woods, who has probably never been to Maricopa previously, warned the Commission about all the rich people who would somehow harm the city, notwithstanding he’s quite rich himself.

The Planning Commission ignored Woods and promptly passed the project unanimously.  But what’s most curious about Woods’ sudden interest in things Maricopa is that he would not disclose who he really represents.  Or who was paying him.

But is there really much doubt?

Just weeks prior the kind of rich person Woods warned Maricopa about, the backer of a similar project just outside Casa Grande called Attesa, purportedly told Apex backers that if they moved forward that he would have to “kill” their project.  Shortly after the likely deployment of Woods social media and even cable commercials started to appear in Maricopa, warning that Apex would be the end of days.

It will create too much noise notwithstanding noise from the nearby rail line is and will be a lot louder.  There will be more traffic notwithstanding it is a private facility not open to public races like the Casa Grande facility would be, for example.

The approach is comical, especially if judging by the failure of the scare tactics.  After so much money spent the Facebook page (as of this writing) has but 35 likes.  A pro-Apex Facebook page spending but a fraction of what the anti-competitive forces have done, and after they did so, has some five times that amount.

That’s because when a backwoods message is deployed about and towards an impressive, aspiring community like Maricopa it will fail.  Maricopa residents understand economic development, tourism and certainly when outsiders are being the ultimate hypocrites, and are just trying to keep their community down.  

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One of those is honored at Tatum & Lincoln.  There proudly and rightfully stands a statue of former U.S. Senator and 1964 Republican Presidential nominee Barry Goldwater.  The Town of Paradise Valley’s wise decision to transform a challenging one-acre parcel at its busiest intersection into Goldwater Park will stand for all time as among its wisest decisions.

But why stop at Goldwater, especially when the town boasts alumni worthy of similar recognition?

We suggest two more, Sandra Day O’Connor and William Rehnquist. IMG_4158

O’Connor as most know was the first female U.S. Supreme Court Justice.  Her and her husband were proud Paradise Valley residents, active around town and there when Goldwater Park was dedicated.

The former Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court, Rehnquist’s ties to Paradise Valley run deep too.  He served as Paradise Valley’s town attorney when the community first incorporated.

With town finances in such good shape we can think of few greater ways to enhance Paradise Valley’s public art.  Locations could include the Mountain Shadows “park” on the southeast corner of 56th Street and Lincoln.  Or Town Hall.  Or the Town’s relatively new court complex.  Perhaps there are other appropriate locations too.

But the primary notion in a community that honors its views and recognizes the significance of its resorts is to honor two more people who enhanced all that is Paradise Valley.

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When first elected to the Scottsdale City Council in 2012, Guy Phillips did so as a Tea Party, pissing vinegar, rage against City Hall voice.

And throughout much of his first term he did little to dissuade the notion, twice leading opposition to the city’s bond requests for community infrastructure improvements and routinely voting against business and developers.

There were notable exceptions.  Phillips is a surprisingly strong voice for the tourism industry, often standing tall when others come up short. GuyPhillips_bio

Yet, he still supported Bob Littlefield in the 2016 mayoral race, grossly misjudging the electorate in a way that also jeopardized his own path to city council re-election, which was narrow.

Perhaps those election results have had an effect on Phillips.  Or, is he eyeing a future run for Mayor or another office?

That’s because Phillips seems to be evolving.  And that’s a good thing.  He’s no longer a sure fire rejectionist for any development proposal and has even crafted innovative proposals to advance WestWorld.

In many ways, Phillips might be following the path of Jim Lane.  When first elected to City Council Lane was an ally of Littlefield before maturing and understanding that to govern Scottsdale is to be pro-preservation, pro-arts, pro-tourism and pro-business.  

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The old saying that politics makes strange bedfellows is becoming less relevant these days as conflict replaces consensus. There is a notable exception in Scottsdale.

Scottsdale Mayor Jim Lane’s call for a hybrid district system has found an unlikely ally in John Greco, a frequent Lane critic.

For months Lane has been advocating for reform in the way Scottsdale elects council members. His proposed hybrid district system would see three council members elected from newly created districts in the northern, central and southern city while the mayor and three council members would continue to be elected at large. The reasoning is simple, there has not been a resident of South Scottsdale elected to the council in more than a decade.

Greco outlined his rationale for the reform in a recent letter to the editor in the April 1st section of the Scottsdale Republic. The letter states in part:

“I applaud the mayor's suggestion as a step in the right direction. It offers an opportunity for more representation and is at least worth a try.”

Anyone who reads letters to the editor in the Republic or Scottsdale Independent would be familiar with Greco. He is a frequent contributor who has delivered forceful yet thoughtful letters on LGBT ordinances, the Desert Discovery Center, the Scottsdale Entertainment District, and a long list of other issues. Often, he has been critical of Mayor Jim Lane’s handling of these issues.

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In 2011 Auburn played Oregon for the college football national championship.  The game might have been occurred in Glendale but Scottsdale was the city overrun with events, tourists and shoppers.  At Scottsdale Fashion Square.  Along the Arizona Canal where ESPN staged.  And on an empty lot next to Olive & Ivy that was the site of concerts, special events, college bands, rallies and people that fed into our shops, galleries and restaurants.

Fast forward to 2017.  It was hard to notice much of a Final Four impact in Scottsdale, unless you were in one of the nightclubs at 1am.  Not that such partying is a bad thing.  And there’s no doubt the city’s hotels got a lift too.

But for anyone that took in some or all of college basketball’s biggest showcase the energy for the mega event was indisputably in downtown Phoenix and Glendale.

That’s because the property that allowed Scottsdale to so successfully host activities in 2011 was developed into one of the city’s biggest eyesores – a mustard apartment complex -- years subsequent.  History could have been different.  There were voices that encouraged the city to acquire the property.  It would have been expensive.  It would have been tough.  But that’s what vision often requires. Scottsdale-Sign-547x198

We can all lament but that disserves Scottsdale.  For when tourists have a great time in your downtown they become ambassadors for life, sycophants for the Southwest’s best city.  So, are there solutions?  Perhaps.

One is the Scottsdale Civic Center, which beautifully hosts an arts festival and the Scottsdale Culinary Festival but appears to be ill-suited for more.  Some have argued for reworking the beautiful outdoor mall.  It’s time.  And that could or perhaps should involve relocating the Scottsdale Center for the Arts and/or the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art to elsewhere in downtown to make more room for events that fill up rooms.

Second, Scottsdale Fashion Square is set to ask for aggressive development heights.  We are sensitive to their requests because of the economic significance the mall plays for the Scottsdale treasury.  But it can be fairly asked of anyone asking for height, how does it benefit the community?  Well, protection of the economic asset just mentioned is one, but useful open space would be another.  

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It was a great movie, La La Land that is.  But it’s not a place we desire to see members of Scottsdale’s governing body go.

In the past we’ve been great fans of David Smith.  Business experience.  Financial acumen . Good person.  A balanced understanding of those things that made for Scottsdale’s uniqueness.

Who wouldn’t want someone like that in the policy mix for “the best city in America” as Mayor Jim Lane likes to say?Smith200

But lately Smith seems more like Ryan Gosling in the almost Academy Award winning movie than the person that resonated with the Scottsdale electorate in 2014, gaining votes from many perspectives.

Indeed, he’s become the chief critic of Scottsdale’s thriving bar and restaurant scene.  Asiding the meritlessness of his arguments Smith would be wise to review the results of candidates who virulently campaigned against the area the past few election cycles.

But it was another recent diatribe that makes us wonder if City Hall misfit Mark Stuart has body snatched Smith’s brain.

Last week the Scottsdale City Council wisely delayed taking down the large tent at WestWorld in the face of new information that the tent was actually making money, taking it down would be very costly for taxpayers and that serious questions remained about whether it could be done in a way so as not to hurt major WestWorld events like Barrett-Jackson, Good Guys car show and others.

Yet, Smith’s attitude was taxpayers be damned.  The events, some of which pump $167 million per year into the city be damned.  New information be damned.

Take it down no matter the cost and consequence because one person in DC Ranch has made it his quest.

Even Guy Phillips and Kathy Littlefield rejected Smith’s logic.  Phillips in particular is becoming an underappreciated champion for the city’s tourism industry.  

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On May 6th the race for the Kentucky Derby resumes.  For two of the most exciting minutes in sports jockeying will abound during the run for the roses.

But in Paradise Valley a different kind of race has already begun, almost two full years ahead of when Mayor Michael Collins will pass the baton to his successor.  IMG_4155

That’s because Collins took the highly unusual step of announcing so early that he would not again be seeking re-election.  Typically, elected officials like to wait on such announcements to maintain as much of their standing and leverage for as long as possible.  But Collins is no typical politician and he showed great integrity alerting the community he intended to abide by his two mayoral term pledge.

And that leads us to who might replace his big shoes.  Unlike when former Mayor Scott Lemarr stepped away and Collins was such a prohibitive favorite no one ran against him, 2018 is likely to be entirely different.  So let’s look at the potential field:

*Current Councilman Mark Stanton.  Twice elected to council, a proven vote getter and someone who serves with a smile.

*Current Councilman Paul Dembow.  No one wants the job more but no one has more political baggage.  Can he overcome it?  Time could be his friend if matters concerning the Paradise Valley Police Department get cleared up, or not.

*Current Councilman Jerry Bien-Willner.  The favorite of at least one former Mayor the question is whether he has the moxy to be in that political caste system?  At a time when most everyone in Paradise Valley is happy with the community’s direction it could be that a steady, cautious hand may appeal to the electorate rather than a salesman.

*Former Councilwoman Pam Kirby: She’s never lost an election.  Twice elected to the Town Council and twice to the Scottsdale School Board.  Kirby’s decision may be more a matter of who else gets in the race as to her jumping in early.

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