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People like John McCain are supposed to ride off into the sunset.  They deserve it.

That’s why news of the Senator’s diagnosis came as such a gut punch.  Love him or not any clear thinking person respects McCain.

The announcement called to mind a similar circumstance of another legend, former Scottsdale Mayor Herb Drinkwater.  McCain, John-012309-18421- 0004

With no equal for constituent service and the broadest smile in the American West Drinkwater was beloved.  But in the 1990s he decided over a decade was time enough as Mayor of the “West’s Most Western Town.” Ride off into the sunset he planned.  But then cancer called.  Drinkwater died far too soon.

And who was there to eulogize him?  John McCain.  He waxed appropriate and eloquent not just about a man who had endorsed him early on during his Arizona quests, but for the first among equals Drinkwater was as a personality and leader.

That Arizona was denied the full life of one of these men is punishment enough.  Drinkwater surely wishes his friend to join him in the heavens, though we know he won’t mind if that’s not what John McCain has in mind just yet.

 

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Legal beagles say lots of things to tout projects in front of city councils.  But there may be no greater Houdini of Hot Air than Snell/Smell & Wilmer’s Nick Wood.  Currently, he’s espousing the merits of Attesa outside Casa Grande in Pinal County.  It’s a proposed combination of racetrack, automobile country club and other things motorsports. To listen to Wood talk of the project is to think it’s a cure for cancer.  And it must be with the sly attorney’s sleight of hand trying to pass new Pinal County ordinances that will allow his client to get into the pockets of taxpayers for his client’s private business. But hasn’t Wood taken us here before?  And weren’t taxpayers devastated?

Readers may recall that Wood similarly touted what may be the most infamous city subsidy during the past two decades in Arizona.  Here is a link to a recent Glendale Star article. Not too long ago he stood before the Glendale City Council and talked of a “Main Street Commons” to surround the Camelback Ranch spring training facility for the Los Angeles Dodgers and Chicago White Sox.  Its shops and sales tax revenues were supposed to pay for the initial city contribution to the complex.  It didn’t work out that way and Glendale taxpayers are still suffocating from the approximate $200 million taxpayer contribution towards one month of baseball each year. 

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The city is a land of great things.  Hikes. Preserves.  Arts.  Imaginative waterways. People.  Nightclubs.  Restaurants.  Spring training.  Special events.  And golf.

Golf is a driver of tourism, the city’s most important industry.  The sport’s economic impact is staggering.  But most tourists can’t play the plethora of private links at Desert Mountain, Desert Highlands, Whisper Rock and Estancia, among others. 4616339842_37a281d7c6_z

It’s the other courses, the public ones, which play the unquestioned, unrivaled and accessible role for tourists.

And first among Scottsdale’s public course equals is Troon North.  Its two 18-hole courses are holes in ones for Scottsdale coffers.  Indeed, Troon North has been recognized by the Golf Channel, Golf Digest, Travel+Leisure and Conde Nast media not just as the best public course in Arizona, but among the best in the United States.

Simply put, Troon North is a Scottsdale point of pride, a tourism trophy that doubles as a gathering spot for the 1800 homeowners that make up the community.

So while residents are used to twosomes and foursomes imagine the shock when a group of  developers showed up to triple the density of a timeshare plan on a beautiful plot of land at the entrance to Troon North, adjacent to the landmark clubhouse.  That would be like seeing Cindy Crawford with acne.

Yet, City of Scottsdale planning staff doesn’t seem to want to play the role of Clearasil.  They are supporting the Floridians call to triple the timeshares at Troon North, forsaking the common sense count from the property’s original count in the low 20s for a Boca Raton like bounty in the 60s. 

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There are two epic boxing matches upcoming.  The undefeated Floyd Mayweather versus MMA fighter Conor McGregor followed by Canelo Alvarez versus GGG in September.  Both are likely tame in comparison to the best fight in Arizona today between; that between civil rights activist Jarrett Maupin and the Arizona Republic.  This is a blog outpost of opinion.  But sometimes no opinion is necessary.  Just read the exchange yourself.  First, the Republic's harpooning of Maupin and the Reverend's most spirited response.

Arizona Republic: As Jarrett Maupin sought justice for a Phoenix family, he also asked them for cash
By Richard Ruelas and Megan Cassidy

The Rev. Jarrett Maupin placed his arms around a weeping Lorenza Valdez and started speaking to the bank of television cameras set up tightly along a wall of her trailer. It had been 11 days since Phoenix police shot and killed Valdez's son Francisco, his body falling inches from where she now stood.

Maupin thanked reporters for coming to the news conference he had called. He said he was there because the Valdez family had reached out to him. “They want justice in this situation,” the civil-rights activist told reporters.

Days earlier, Maupin had wanted money.

The next day, Maupin pressed her, saying he had already fronted the money by dipping into his own pocket. "Let me know when you might be able to get the funds," he wrote.

To get the money, Valdez borrowed from friends and neighbors. For Valdez, who cleans houses during 10- to 12-hour workdays, the money represented approximately one month’s earnings.

Maupin said the money he received from Valdez was not for himself. He said that Valdez had demanded he hire a private investigator and a photographer and that the money was going to them.

“The things the Valdez woman paid for were things she wanted that were outside of the normal scope of advocacy,” Maupin said in an interview with The Arizona Republic.

Valdez said Maupin had been a regular visitor to her trailer until he got the money. Then, she said, he stopped coming around.

Maupin told her he was planning a protest outside Phoenix City Hall. But, in a series of texts, he canceled that protest three separate times, rescheduling it for varying reasons.

The third and final cancellation came about half an hour before the scheduled rally. Valdez said she received that notice while she stood with neighbors at her trailer park in west Phoenix. They were waiting for the buses Maupin had promised would take them downtown.

Click here to read the entire article.

Maupin Response:
The Reverend Jarrett Maupin's response to being the subject of an incredibly error-filled and indisputably biased article that appeared in or on media platforms controlled by The Arizona Republic today...

For Immediate Release...

July, 11th, 2017

Media Alert

The Reverend Jarrett Maupin's response to being the subject of an incredibly error-filled and indisputably biased article that appeared in or on media platforms controlled by The Arizona Republic today:

"I have never been more disappointed or sickened by a media report in The Arizona Republic, than I was today. To be the subject of vicious lies, fabricated scandal, and then to be publicly defamed by a series of professional, personal, and social insult quotes is a form of abuse that the leaders of our paper of record should be concerned about,

"I would like to address several outright lies in the article:

First of all, I am the leader of a years old quasi-religious non-profit social welfare organization that, in-part, functions as a church. This was publicly available information that the so-called journalists that authored this story failed to research or simply ignored. I have also served with distinction as an interim minister and associate minister at several churches.

Second, I do not and never have charged hundreds or thousands of dollars in fees to anyone that came to me with a civil rights concern. I engage in civil rights activism that is totally free and self-sustaining. Completely separate and apart from this community work, I do operate a consulting firm that is exclusively focused on political, business, and community development issues and clientele. These two areas of work function independently of each other and are absolutely unrelated.

Third, I do not and have not ever attempted to solicit money from, manage money for, or demand any sort of donation or contribution from ANY person I have ever advocated for. In fact, The Arizona Republic article states that of ALL of the people they interviewed only two people made this baseless and low accusation. Both of these people have either a personal or political motivation to make these disparaging claims.

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Watching Hillary Clinton before or Republicans in Congress now it’s no wonder much of America felt the need to send Donald Trump to the swamp.  2016 was a requiem for the revolting.  Fortunately, jolts to the political system are not always necessary.  In some places thoughtful is better than turbulent and mild-mannered to maniacal.

One example is in Paradise Valley, Arizona where a man with three names serves as an antidote for a more famous one with two.  He’s Jerry Bien-Willner.  Councilman Bien-Willner.

He exudes competence and goodness.  He’s courteous.  He’s smart, never a smart ass.  He personifies the notion of not being disagreeable even when there are disagreements.

Bien-Willner is a model for anyone in the arena.  And the public arena is very lucky to have him.

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As many head to the beach this holiday weekend, put the novel or Kindle down.  We’re more interesting.  For example:

*Scottsdale’s aggressive and effective anti-Desert Discovery Center grassroots group may spawn a 2018 Scottsdale City Council candidate:  Jason Alexander.  Downtown businessman Bill Crawford is also likely to challenge the incumbent line-up of Kathy Littlefield, David Smith and Linda Milhaven.

*The group has collected many thousands of signatures on its way towards forcing a public vote on the Desert Discovery Center via the initiative process.

*Keep an eye on Scottsdale Unified School District Board Member Pam Kirby.

*Politically, Arizona State Treasurer and top Trump surrogate Jeff DeWit still isn’t sure where 2017 and 2018 might take him.

*Pulte Homes has received the green light from the Glendale City Council to pump a $450 million, master-planned community investment into southern Glendale close to the Arizona Cardinals’ stadium

*Frank Schmuck is looking to gear up and get a new consultant on board for a renewed run for the Arizona State Legislature.

*Governor Ducey is making an underappreciated effort to focus on and secure Arizona’s water future. 

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Check out this article in the Scottsdale Republic showcasing the status quo sycophants of the Scottsdale Unified School District. Here is a link.

What planet do these chastisers of reform live on?

Superintendent Denise Birdwell is rightfully seeking key changes.  What else is she to do?  Accept mediocrity or in some cases tragic outcomes?

Like all school districts Scottsdale is no exception to the funding challenges imposed by conditions in the State of Arizona, both political and economic, over the past decade.  Scottsdale public schools also face potent competition from some of the best charter schools in the country such as BASIS Scottsdale and Great Hearts, as well as a bevy of private schools.

So the choice for Birdwell and the district’s Governing Board is simple:  innovate and improve.  Or wither and die a slow death.

Those who have been slow to adapt to the changing landscape, the educrats of inertia, don’t like the change agent that is Birdwell.  Nowhere is their recalcitrance more repugnant than when it comes to Coronado.  Once a point of pride in southern Scottsdale it’s now an impediment to a continuing renaissance of those neighborhoods.  Graduation rates and academic performance has been poor, to put it mildly.  So Birdwell decided to clean most of the deteriorating house.  Good for her.  And good for the parents and students who will benefit from this brand of leadership.  

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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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