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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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On January 7, 2014, we raised the question of why, in this age of Phoenix political correctness, Mayor Stanton wasn't staying true to his roots, and fighting to rename Squaw Peak Drive.  Here’s a link.

Well, it looks like he's finally found time.  And stirred up a lot of controversy based on this recent front page article in the Arizona Republic.  
Don’t look for this controversy to go away soon as residents clash with City Hall over the name change. Whatever your opinion, at least you can say you heard it here first.

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To orchestrate an amazing comeback in the Super Bowl, as Tom Brady did, one doesn’t acquiesce to the rote.  Quarterbacks have to call new plays on the spot, based on the information and defense they are seeing.

In Scottsdale, our quarterbacks are the City Council.  And some time ago they made a decision to deconstruct the “Big Tent” at WestWorld used by Barrett-Jackson, Good Guys and numerous other shows because of one complaint by a significant contributor to Bob Littlefield’s mayoral campaign, and numbers provided by city staff that turn out to now be erroneous, to put it kindly.  City_of_Scottsdale_Script_Logo.svg

Indeed, a City Council majority based its decision on representations that the Big Tent was actually costing Scottsdale money (lacking event revenue to cover its costs) and that decommissioning the structure would only cost $700,000.

Neither assertion turns out to be true, thanks to the persistence and due diligence of new Scottsdale City Manager Jim Thompson.

Indeed, the tent is actually making a chunk of change for the city and the charge to taxpayers wouldn’t be $700,000 as originally relayed but $2.6 million!

As one city insider put it, what firefighters, police officers or other cuts will be needed to accommodate this quixotic request?

And if math were not sufficient how about logic?

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By Team Ducey

Friend ,

Governor Ducey has repeatedly called for an Obamacare replacement that works for Arizonans.Last week, he discussed with The Washington Examiner how Congress should move forward replacing the Affordable Care Act.

Here are a few highlights:

  • "We want flexibility to adapt healthcare regulations that reflect what our states' citizens need."
  • "We want to ensure that the rug isn't pulled out from under people who need help and access to healthcare." That includes people with pre-existing conditions, who need insurance coverage just like everyone else.
  • "And we want to get it right the first time without inflicting all the trauma that came along with Obamacare. Congressional leadership and [Health and Human Services] Secretary [Tom] Price are listening, and that alone is a vast improvement. We have a good framework to continue the conversation and move forward."
  • Ducey says that a fix "won't happen overnight," but he is unwavering on a few points, namely that, "the taxes, mandates and federal control that comprise Obamacare should be repealed as quickly as possible, and the necessary elements of a healthcare plan that puts patients first and ensures the broadest possible access to quality healthcare should replace them."

Read the full interview online 

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A community spawned by the likes of William Rehnquist, Sandra Day O’Connor and Barry Goldwater is bound to be something special.  But a quick review of the tony township’s current in-box isn’t just special, it’s extraordinary.

*A new version of the beloved Mountain Shadows hotel is set to open March 7th, along with an equally loved “Short Course,” the renamed links next door. IMG_4155

*The Ritz-Carlton is moving ground further east on Lincoln, promising yet more luxury and more resort and residential choice, not to mention a huge new influx of tax revenue for town coffers.

*And then there is the recently announced expansion of the best small hotel in Arizona one of the best in America, The Sanctuary Resort.  The property is the embodiment of all that is right with Paradise Valley.  Beautiful views.  Sensitive footprint.  Remarkable setting.  Successful.  Distinct.

Times are so good in Paradise Valley that Cullum Homes, the metropolitan area’s #1 Custom Home Builder as ranked by the Phoenix Business Journal, is having the biggest party in town tomorrow to showcase its impressive The Village at Mountain Shadows.  The aptly named “7Cs Party” will host hundreds on site and feature caviar, cigars, cars, champagne, couture, car bars and the people responsible, Rod & Kim Cullum.  

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Yesterday was Scottsdale Mayor Jim Lane’s birthday.  It was also his annual State of the City address, attended by a record 460 people.

That’s a testament to his leadership, and the landslide election victory he had in November.  lane portrait

But the most surprising part of his speech wasn’t his dedicatory remarks about the “best city in America,” it was in the way he concluded his speech.  He did so with two forceful pronouncements that he intends to pursue a public vote on the controversial Desert Discovery Center as well as one to create a hybrid district system.  Under this proposal Scottsdale would see its six at-large council seats shrink to three with others being elected from a specific southern, central and northern district.  The three other councilmembers would continue to be elected at large, as would the Mayor.

On the heels of presiding over the best candidate campaign in Scottsdale since Robert Pettycrew’s in 1994, and after smashing nemesis Bob Littlefield, it would be easy for Lane to forget some of these key planks of his re-election campaign.  After all, it’s his last term, leaving him unencumbered.  But that’s not the kind of person he is.  

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Partnership between ASU, Scottsdale's Desert Discovery Center to produce research, exhibits about local environment

There's nothing new about Arizona residents looking for sustainable ways to live in the desert, but a recent United Nations report has made the matter a worldwide concern.

Because of climate change, the UN says that by 2030 almost half of the global population will be living in "areas of high water stress," and that without intervention as many as 700 million people could find themselves displaced.

Enter ASU and its partnership with Scottsdale's future Desert Discovery Center, aimed at creating an expansive research center to teach "a global audience to value, thrive in and conserve desert environments."

"When people think of research they think of a classroom," said Sam Campana, executive director of the center and former Scottsdale mayor. "It's our goal not to have a classroom, but a living laboratory where people are out doing work that is important to those who live here and to anyone in an arid environment."

Aside from research, the center will have a public face, and ASU has been working with design firm Thinc to create a series of exhibits to address "what I can see, what I can't see and what does all of it mean?" Campana said. In total, it will create an experience that shows how we can be more in tune with our environment.

Thinc, according to its website, has become known for a "holistic approach" that "combines great design and execution with broad insight into the organizational, cultural and physical contexts surrounding a project." The firm has worked with museums, science centers, zoosand aquariums.

The center's research will come as the global population grows "mainly in regions that are already experiencing water stress and in areas with limited access to safe drinking water," according to the UN in a 2014 study.

Research collaborations could include water quality, use and supply, as well as climate-change adaptation and urbanization.

Other areas of focus will include soil-crust research, desert species, the intersection of open-space preserves and people.

"There are things going on in the desert that are in the deep in the crust, and they're teeming with life," said Duke Reiter, executive director of University City Exchange. "But without this research and a sophisticated guide, at both at a macro and micro scale, it would be impossible to see. Only the university could bring this component."

Researchers, brought in by ASU, will study desert-life sustainability, "an important step in preserving and understanding this land," said Duke Reiter, whose exchange tracks university's academic and research assets to apply them "for the greater good."

Desert Discovery Center leaders are clearing hurdles as they await approval from the city of Scottsdale.

"If you look at ASU's design's aspirations, this university takes its commitment to their community, applied research and sustainability very seriously," Reiter said, "which is what makes this is a great venue and leaves no reason for us to not be involved in this."

 

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