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When did suburbia become a dirty word? It must have been some time ago because people have been bashing the suburbs and the people who live there for decades. It’s fashionable to sneer, snicker, and sanctimoniously prattle on about how the suburbs lack diversity and culture; how they cause sprawl; and how they are bad for the environment.

I’ve had enough. A few weeks ago some snarky professor from Columbia University was on NPR saying that suburbs are not sustainable and he proposed ending the mortgage tax credit claiming it was subsidizing the suburban lifestyle. He also claimed millennials are rejecting the suburbs in favor of city life because they know better than their parents and prefer not to own cars or a home in the suburbs.

This clichéd diatribe sent me over the edge. Here’s a simple concept: people move to the suburbs because it’s pleasant. Because for many people owning a quarter acre of land, a 25 hundred square foot home, and a two car garage beats the hell out a cramped apartment in the middle of the city where parking is a privilege, silence is scarce, and the nearest cactus is at a botanical garden or a public park. Historic neighborhoods have their charm, but so do sparkly new neighborhoods with their own little parks, manicured landscaping, and brand new shopping centers.

We don’t all live downtown because we all don’t want to live downtown.

Downtown Phoenix is a great place to visit, but on a hot summer day I prefer not to be greeted by the smell of diesel fumes and dumpsters.

Is it really wrong to crave a backyard, a pool, and a few cacti? Am I a war criminal because I prefer to drive to work? Am I a Neanderthal because the only way I can afford vaulted ceilings and a tile entry is to live in tract housing?

As for subsidizing the suburbs, how many projects get a helping hand from the government because of ‘urban renewal.’ How about that light rail system that makes it easier to travel around downtown? How about the endless government buildings that are constructed, expanded or renovated downtown? How about ASU’s Downtown Campus?

And when our professor friend points out that millennials don’t live in the suburbs, maybe it’s because they’re broke because of this lousy economy; or perhaps they’re paying off student loans so that universities can afford to employ sanctimonious professors, or build lavish downtown campuses.

I love downtown Phoenix. I just don’t want to live there. And I’m tired of taking heat for it. I have nothing against people who live downtown. But doing so doesn’t make you more moral, or superior, or Mother Theresa. It just means you like to live in the city. Good for you.

So forgive me as I shop at JC Penny’s, eat at TGI Fridays, cut my lawn, clean my pool, and keep my car running. It’s a pretty good lifestyle, and if any of you ‘proud urban dwellers’ have a problem with that then you can kiss my suburban ass.

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In the 2012 legislative session, the Arizona Legislature raised the contribution limits for statewide candidates from $912 per person once during an entire election cycle to $2,000 per person for the primary election and another $2,000 per person for the general election. The usual liberal suspects sued to stop the change, the Legislature and the Secretary of State's office argued that the changes were great, and the first judge agreed the changes were fine. So the liberals appealed and to the surprise of many, the appellate courts overturned the decision and ordered that the old limits needed to be reinstated. Now the whole battle is headed for the Arizona Supreme Court, except not everyone is on the same sides anymore.

Lo and behold the Secretary of State's office has reversed itself and is now arguing that the old status quo should remain to eliminate uncertainty. We’re not sure how uncertain a decision from the Arizona Supreme Court should be. Supreme Courts tend to have the final say on things, but the Secretary of State’s argument seems to have changed from what is right and Constitutional about the higher limits (and conversely what is wrong and un-Constitutional about the lower limits) to now arguing that it would be more convenient to keep the un-Constitutional limits in place. Ah yes, what to do about that pesky First Amendment, eh Mr. Secretary?

Fire up the conspiracy engines though. Because Secretary of State Ken Bennett is running for Governor using Clean Elections, and the establishment favorite is State Treasurer Doug Ducey, who is running by collecting money the old fashioned way. As it is, Ducey is going to raise a boatload of money, far in excess of Bennett¹s $800,000 take from Clean Elections. If Bennett wins at the Supreme Court, Ducey only gets to collect $912 per person. But if Bennett loses, Ducey can raise it $2,000 per person and that boatload becomes ocean liner huge.

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There may be no better road house – cowboy centric or otherwise – than the watering hole in north Scottsdale known as Greasewood Flat. 

And after “losing” Rawhide, as well as a public relations battle with the spunky Town of Cave Creek about which community is more chaps than chatter, the thought of a sunset for the most western bar in the “West’s Most Western Town” is downright depressing. 

But just as sunsets always yield to sunrises so too may be the case for the beloved Greasewood. 

No matter who came up with the idea of expanding the McDowell Sonoran Preserve in such a way that enriches Scottsdale’s greatest achievement along with providing breathing room for a family that was forced to sell Greasewood Flat in order to pay estate taxes, it’s worth a “cheers” or three. 

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The entire story would take too long to write, but anyone can go online and find the entire history.

For now, all you need to know is that two groups in Arizona gave approximately $15 million to two campaign committees in California during the 2012 elections.  One group, Americans for Responsible Leadership, is led by former Arizona House Speaker Kirk Adams.   The second group, The Center to Protect Patient Rights, is led by Arizona-based political consultant Sean Noble.

The contributions were what is being called ”dark money” because the original source is concealed.  These sorts of contributions are illegal in California, and the California Fair Political Practices Commission investigated these donations and the groups involved.  The result of the nearly year long investigation is a series of financial settlements whereby the groups involved will pay massive fines and the Commission will allow these groups to continue to conceal the original source of their funds.  Americans for Responsible Leadership and The Center to Protect Patient Rights will each pay $500,000 while the two California committees are being asked to pay nearly $15 million in penalties.

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What is this?

You’re not alone if confused.  It’s a proposed design for a new Chinese restaurant in north Scottsdale.  The photo has not been manipulated.  It is not a joke. 

south elevation

Actual design submitted to City of Scottsdale

On November 21st the Scottsdale Design Review Board will decide whether this type of exotic, foreign design is appropriate for the area, or as it has at previous meetings tell the authors of the absurd to keep trying. 

Some perspective.  Thanks to the dogged efforts of many over the past two decades in the northern part of Scottsdale the area is uniquely somewhere.  A celebration of the desert with notable design standards. 

By what logic does this design advance such an achievement?  It disrespects it.  If the Design Review Board does not do what it should the Scottsdale City Council should intervene. 

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Upton Sinclair once wrote a captivating American novel called The Jungle.  Far more recently others have written about the municipal jungle known in Paradise Valley as Mountain Shadows.

It seemed to be to this community’s Los Arcos, a property always top of mind but without solution.  But just as Scottsdale eventually lanced its boil, Paradise Valley may have more elegantly done so.

We have already written of the extraordinary challenge, followed by the extraordinary redevelopment approval engineered by the Town, property owner and neighbors, albeit the latter mostly kicking and screaming.

But now we learn this local jungle may have a neighborly new Lyon. As in the co-owner of the award-winning Sanctuary Resort, just across the street from Mountain Shadows, as well as the Valley Ho in the southern part of Scottsdale.

We could dwell on the interesting design and reputed operations of both properties.  But in this case the most important ethic they offer is creating superb resorts within or adjacent to active neighborhoods. This is particularly encouraging for neighbors who have waited a very long time for good news. 

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Political malpractice.  That’s a kind term to describe the decision to place both a City of Scottsdale bond package on the ballot as the same time as more money for the school district.  At a time when the stock market is high but the economy is not.

Dueling taxing propositions was an effort needing to defy the gods.  Rare are those able to do so.  The City of Tempe did it in 2010 when they enacted a city sales tax increase on the same ballot as Governor Brewer’s successful push to increase the state sales tax.

But Scottsdale wasn’t so successful last night.

So which way Scottsdale now?

Do something Washington never seems to do.  Talk to opponents.  They won.  Big.  So go smaller.  Don’t let ego get in the way.  They are local patriots too.

Discuss what their priorities are.  Find common ground.  Then proceed as a team for the city, or its schools.  In November, 2014.  As was pointed out by proponents many parts of Scottsdale do need a tune up. And maybe next time get more Republicans involved with an effort whose inner circle was all Democratic.  Scottsdale is overwhelmingly Republican after all.

A more successful effort can be achieved.  John Boehner, Harry Reid and Barack Obama might even learn a thing or two from you along the way.

 

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As the joint Phoenix-Paradise Valley improvements impressively conclude soon at Camelback Mountain’s Echo Canyon it sparks a new idea:  hiking access to Paradise Valley’s Mummy Mountain.

Scottsdale is opening trailheads in its spectacular McDowell Sonoran Preserve daily, it seems.  Demand for hikes in and around Paradise Valley at Piestewa Peak, Cholla Trail and Echo Canyon aren't subsiding any time soon.

So why not think of ways to create public access to another town landmark?  Clearly, such an endeavor would need to avoid the negative impacts other trailheads have and can cause for neighborhoods.  But the small trailhead along Tatum heading north into Phoenix accessing that mountain preserve has never been a problem.  And with Paradise Valley officials having already thought through creative solutions in dealing with Echo Canyon demand, such as shuttling from Town Hall, perhaps such an initiative could be non-intrusive.  Perhaps.  Or not.  But it’s a notion worth looking at.

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Phoenix City Councilman Sal DiCiccio certainly contradicts the notion in this headline.  And he has been an exceptionally important voice railing against many excesses in Phoenix city government.  But ultimately is a city best off with five, seven or nine Sal's?

Pardon the detour.

It would seem a consistent conservative message would go something like this.  The federal government is furthest away from the individual, the neighborhood, the need and therefore should spend the least.  And defer to the state.  The state then likewise should defer to counties, cities and towns as those governments are the ones closest to the people.  And it is there people want money spent.  On roads.  On the arts.  On kids programs.  On parks.  On police and fire. 

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A beautiful evening on the patio at Camelback Back Inn’s restaurant called Rita’s. The views at Sanctuary. The charm of The Hermosa Inn. The social conscience of the Scottsdale Plaza Resort. The increasing charm of Montelucia.

When one thinks of and experiences Paradise Valley’s grand resorts The Cottonwoods’ hotel property along Scottsdale Road doesn’t come to mind. Most don’t even know it’s in Paradise Valley. And based on its blandness, it shouldn’t be.

Yet, its owners are now seeking significant new densities. But for what, besides themselves?

The recent approvals for Mountain Shadows were necessary to ensure the open space of a golf course, a quality new neighbor for adjacent neighbors who have experienced Beirut for far too long, and to remove legal vulnerabilities

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