Join us on Facebook!Follow us on Twitter!

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.  

Read more

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.

Read more

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.

Read more

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?

Read more

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.  

Read more

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.  

Read more

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."

 

Read more

There are gadflies at City Halls.  Every town or city has one, two or more. And then there are gadflies.  Like big gad, horse flies.  They don’t come any uglier or smellier than Mark Stuart in Scottsdale.

It’s not that he’s anti-establishment.  Nothing much wrong with that.   It’s that he’s in La La Land.  But his music isn’t pretty.  And typically lands in the dark, conspiratorial realm of the Art Bell coin.

And it’s not that he’s anti-Desert Discovery Center.  So are we.

But as he approached the podium during a Scottsdale City Council meeting on Tuesday night his intentions were clear, and in violation of the law.

One cannot use government resources to proselytize about a political campaign.  And that’s exactly what Stuart was attempting to do at a government run meeting, broadcast on public television.

He was warned not once, not twice but multiple times not to proceed by Mayor Jim Lane on the advice of the City Attorney.  Stuart ignored all polite requests by Lane.  Indeed, the mayor went to extraordinary lengths to explain that this law applies not just to those that wish to electioneer to oppose the Desert Discovery Center but to those that support it too.  To coin a Fox News phrase, Lane’s approach was fair and balanced.

But Stuart didn’t want to adhere to the law.  When given every chance to adhere he chose to disrupt.  The Scottsdale Police Department could not have been more courteous and conscientious in escorting him out of the Kiva.

For anyone to suggest that Stuart is a martyr or this was Lane again being disrespectful to the anti-DDC position is preposterous.  We either have laws, or we don’t.

The rhetorical thugs behind their DDC opposition, so thoroughly discredited by the city’s recent election results as well as insight such as this , don’t understand this.  But the responsible, reasonable majority of Scottsdalians do.  But don’t take our word for it, take Councilmembers Guy Phillips and Kathy Littlefield. Usual Stuart sympathizers on matters, they didn’t raise a finger or word to aid Stuart.  Because even they knew no martyr was in their presence, just a goofy gadfly.

Read more

One of the great Scottsdale stories of 2016 was the undeniable vibe that southern Scottsdale and her neighborhoods were an area on the move.

Its strengths have long been known – proximity to Scottsdale’s thriving downtown and nearby freeways, a surging SkySong, new breweries – and the marketplace in the form of new families and residents started to respond.

Mayor Jim Lane put a profound emphasis during his 2016 re-election on this turnaround.  Here again the marketplace responded, voting to re-elect him in the southern city by wider margins than 2012.

But to continue the resurgence a critical part of the area must be addressed:  public schools.  It’s a fair question to ask if improvements aren’t made can southern Scottsdale continue its revitalization?  Yes, charter schools can step in to address some voids.  But ultimately it’s up to the backbone of the public education system to deliver, or not.  A case in point is central Phoenix and the Madison school district.  There, good schools equated to more families which in turn has created a mecca of cool and culinary where that didn’t exist previously.

That’s why it’s so gratifying to see south Scottsdale’s high school, Coronado, asking for help.  CORONADO SUCCESS A COMMUNITY PRODUCT.  And that ASU and the Scottsdale Charros have stepped up to the challenge should be applauded.

The Scottsdale Unified School District, of which Coronado is a part, has a relatively new leader, Denise Birdwell.  The essence of leadership isn’t just to find a way through or around walls when necessary.  It’s also being able to recognize that outside voices and resources may be necessary to scaling them and solving problems.  This isn’t a matter of not being too proud to beg.  It’s one of Birdwell being prideful and mindful of her position, seeking new ways of wisdom to students are successful not squandered.

We wish them all good luck.

If and when these capable leaders turn Coronado’s challenges into opportunities it won’t only be good news for the young minds there, it will be a catalyst to continue SoSco’s upward trajectory.

Read more

Plans are underway to tap the further potential of the Scottsdale Civic Center Mall.  Click here for more info. This is smart planning by city staff and Mayor Jim Lane and the City Council.

But these plans should not languish.  They should be funded as soon as they’re completed.

Home to the Scottsdale Culinary Festival, arts festivals, Sunday concerts and souls that are enhanced every time they walk one of the city’s great municipal creations, the area can and should be more to help downtown.

With downtown Phoenix, Salt River Fields, a resurgent WestWorld, Tempe Town Lake and even Glendale seizing more festivals and special events Old Town needs an enhanced events venue.  

Read more
Subscribe via Email

Enter your email address to subscribe to Arizona Progress Gazette and receive notifications of new articles by email.

Search this Site!
Featured Authors