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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.  

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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.

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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.  

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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. 

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As former Arizona Attorney General Grant Woods rightfully serves as a co-chairman of a nascent campaign committee to overturn Republican excess at the State Capitol to restrict citizen’s rights, his hypocrisy in another part of the state is notable.

We have written before of Woods and his disdain for disclosure as it relates to why he is opposing a new automobile country club in Maricopa, Arizona known as Apex.   Here are some links:

http://arizonaprogressgazette.com/smell-wilmer-moles/

http://arizonaprogressgazette.com/worst-public-affairs-campaign-ever/

http://arizonaprogressgazette.com/lost-maricopa-woods/

He leads the Clandestine Cartel, joined by ethical invertebrate Joe Villasenor and Smell & Wilmer’s Nick Wood.

Widely suspected to be doing the bidding of the Attesa project near Casa Grande which believes its racetrack plans so poor it cannot stand purported competition in Maricopa, the Clandestine Cartel have reverted to every anonymous, dark money trick in the book to oppose and slow their perceived rival.  Following Maricopa’s unanimous and enthusiastic approval of Apex, they even imported both a Phoenix and Scottsdale resident in Villasenor’s orbit to form a committee to oppose Apex, even though the City of Maricopa has deemed their efforts unlawful.  It’s totally normal of course for a Phoenix and Scottsdale resident to get involved in a local, Pinal County issue. Not!  Save for the financial motivation and interest of another business with an inferiority complex.

Which leads us to even more hypocrisy.  Attesa’s purported direct or indirect opposition of Apex has focused on how bad the project will be for “noise,” “traffic” and other falsehoods promulgated about the private facility in Maricopa. They have runs ads on local cable television and online broadcasting as such.  None of this is true as Apex is a private facility and must get a special event permit from the city to hold large events.

Ironically, what does a quick look of Attesa’s entitlement applications in Pinal County reveal?  A desire to attract a lot of racing events with “20,000-25,0000” people to its track.  Sounds like a lot of noise. And traffic. And as for the probability of attracting such events to justify its extraordinary entitlement requests we’re sure Phoenix International Raceway and Track President Bryan Sperber will be surprised, as they are in the midst of a $150 million upgrade.  Sperber’s concerns may be tempered by the serious questions surrounding Attesa’s ability to get an assured water supply in the near term, if ever.

Integrity the boys at Attesa appear to not have but chutzpah they certainly do.

And that leads us to a discussion about Pinal County and its elected leaders:  Supervisor Steve Miller, Supervisor Tony Smith, Supervisor Pete Rios, Supervisor Todd House and Supervisor Mike Goodman.

To reward this type of conduct by Attesa, if true, would be political malfeasance.  Actors, and henchman, such as these are not what have positioned Pinal County on the threshold of an economic boom.  They should send a strong message, just as Maricopa Mayor Christian Price and the entire Maricopa City Council did when Woods came calling.  Go home.   We know what’s best for our part of the world.  And you aren’t it.

In previous editorials we have welcomed, even encouraged Attesa, to write us and tell us where we are wrong.  So far, crickets.  It appears they find their own charade so clever they have lost sight of professional moorings with others.   So unless and until Attesa’s owner Dan Erickson and all of his employees and consultants can assure Pinal County officials, perhaps with affidavits, they are not behind or funding the skullduggery in Maricopa, directly or indirectly, they should delay if not reject all of Attesa’s requests.

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The second leg of horse racing’s Triple Crown is coming up but the jockeying to be the next Mayor of Phoenix has long been underway.  Mayor Stanton is term-limited and will depart in 2019, if not before.

So let’s take a look at those in or eyeing the starting gate, and the odds associated with each for the not too far away contest.

Phil Gordon (3/2):  How can this be say you?  Because, technically, acute observers may recall he didn’t fill out his entire two-year term.  He resigned a week before.  A court will surely decide whether Gordon can run.  He certainly wants to.  If so, he would start out as a strong favorite.

Tom Simplot (2:1):  The former Councilman and current head of the apartment lobby has all the ingredients a Phoenix Mayor needs.  Pro-business, social conscience and he’s not afraid to make a decision, a ding on the current occupant of the office.  He’s well spoken and serves with a smile.  Simplot has a story to tell and will be able to raise money though he does have some blemishes on his record (i.e. Valley Metro) that could come back to bite him.  

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If Scottsdale is Beverly Hills its next door neighbor in Paradise Valley is Bel Air.  Two great communities in California, just as they are in Arizona.  Bel Air has a superiority complex towards its better known proximate, not unlike Paradise Valley exhibits to Scottsdale.

Yet, in one area there’s no doubt where Scottsdale shines far more:  preserving its mountains.  IMG_4155

A view of the McDowell Mountains in north Scottsdale is to see a beautiful face without blemishes.  Mummy Mountain and Camelback Mountain in Paradise Valley?  Full of acne.  Well-heeled, mind you.

The Town of Paradise Valley has long had a noble commitment to private property rights.  As did Scottsdale until a band of visionaries like by people such as Drinkwater, Carla, Rau, Decabooter and Korte decided the McDowell Mountains were a treasure worth preserving.  And voters agreed.  What private property was needed for the McDowell Sonoran Preserve was acquired by fair market value.  Today, two decades later, Scottsdale’s tourism, recreation and quality of life are the better for it.  

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