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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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It’s hokey.  A little run down.  The elements don’t always work.  And it certainly looks a little odd amidst the nice shopping and large offices on Scottsdale Road.

It is the Cracker Jax Family Fun Park.  Birthday parties.  Batting cages.  A driving range.  Race cars.  Volleyball courts.  Video games.  Miniature golf.  Bumper boats.  The place is a throwback to a different time.

Yet, there it sits as a nice respite for young and old, rich and poor, to escape for a time with some affordable fun.

Unfortunately, the day will soon come when the land is too valuable to support a business funded with quarters and tokens.  This is a story Scottsdale knows all too well.

Rawhide. Greasewood Flat.  Pinnacle Peak Patio.  The Kachina Theater.  All have succumbed while the city is fortunate that others like the Rusty Spur and Coach House have not, and continue to fight the good fight.

We hope Cracker Jax stays in the ring for as long as possible because Scottsdale is a much better place (and certainly more fun) with it continuing on rather than yielding to redevelopment with yet more apartments.  A toy surprise at the end of Cracker Jax that will not be.

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In 2012 Arizona Speaker of the House Kirk Adams was the unquestioned frontrunner to replace Jeff Flake in the United States Congress.  Flake decided to run for the U.S. Senate that year.  Adams had done a very good job as Speaker and had the backing of John McCain, retiring U.S. Senator Jon Kyl, his fundraising apparatus and even Sarah Palin.

But it was not to be.  In most any other election the outcome would have been different.  We doubt Adams much regrets the loss as he has gone on to become the highly-respected Chief of Staff to Arizona Governor Doug Ducey.

So why wasn’t it meant to be?  Because Matt Salmon decided he wanted to return to Congress.  Popular, honorable, recalled fondly, Salmon’s previous tenure in the district proved too much for Adams to overcome. IMG_4155

Fast forward to Paradise Valley, Arizona in 2018.  The well-regarded Mayor, Michael Collins, has decided two terms and his rapid-fire record of achievement is enough.  He announced so earlier this year.

Potential candidates started lining up, something we wrote about previously.  Here is a link. 

And something has happened since.  Former Paradise Valley Mayor Scott Lemarr appears to want to return to public service, as Mayor.  If that’s the case others may want to concoct a campaign against the notion but it might be a little like a salmon swimming upstream.

Paradise Valley enjoyed very good times under Lemarr before.  Why wouldn’t it again?  That will be the challenge for anyone to overcome against someone who grew up in the community and grew to be very well-liked as Mayor.  Lemarr is not a fat man.  But he may very well be accompanied by a Fat Lady as the campaign trail nears.

 

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If Phoenix Rising is capturing the Valley’s attention as its dynamic new minor league soccer team, it’s the notion of Glendale Rising that should be getting major league notoriety.

That’s because it wasn’t too long ago Glendale, Arizona was considered too financially ruinous to succeed.  It was even a municipality that considered bankruptcy.

That was then.  This is now.  Look what an insightful article in the Arizona Republic this week had to say about Glendale’s improved financial condition.  Here is a link.  Quite an accomplishment indeed.  It’s a real testament to the tenacity of Mayor Jerry Weiers, the Glendale City Council and top city staff from City Manager Kevin Phelps on down.

So it makes sense with more public stability comes greater private investment.  Like BMW deciding to set up shop in the city, a business that will contribute mightily to Glendale’s sales tax revenues.  Or Conair’s one million square foot expansion.  Or Pulte, Arizona’s top homebuilder, wanting to invest nearly $400 million for a new master-planned community near Westgate.  According to a city economic impact report that project, known as StoneHaven, will pump $49 million into Glendale’s coffers.  The city certainly appears to be on a roll, except for a voice from the past, that’s gone back to the future.

We have great respect for Glendale Councilwoman Joyce Clark.  She’s different and serves with a sass not often found.  That can be refreshing.  So it’s not disrespectful for us to scratch our heads about Clark’s opposition to StoneHaven.

The community, on farmland long owned by the John F. Long Company, one of Arizona’s great community benefactors, would be a bastion of young families.  The plan includes no apartments.  But it does include a grocery store, something the area has coveted but needs more rooftops to support.  Right now the shopping dollars of area residents often travel across the street or down the road into Phoenix benefitting that city but not Glendale. 

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An interesting story just got more so.

We’ve previously written about the public affairs debacle in Maricopa and the professional pugilists that have come to town to upend a popular plan for a private motorsports club called Apex.  Here is the link. The project gained unanimous Planning Commission and City Council support despite their black arts, underscoring the Keystone Cops approach led by former Arizona Attorney General Grant Woods.  The smackdown of the “opposition” at the City Council hearing was epic, led by Maricopa Mayor Christian Price’s dismantling of Woods.

Woods, who is likely to have never been to Maricopa in his life, showed up opposing the case but wouldn’t say who was paying him, though it is widely believed to be Attesa, a project in nearby Casa Grande that oddly believes it must “kill” Apex in Maricopa for success.  They must not think very highly of their own business plan.  The owner is an eccentric individual, but that is a topic for another time.

The plot thickens and the stench? More pungent.

Let us say here if any of this isn’t true we welcome Attesa and its lawyers and lobbyists to send us clarification and submit an alternate point of view.

Woods was purportedly hired by Snell & Wilmer, the law firm for Attesa.  Arizona’s largest law firm and previously one with a sterling reputation apparently didn’t like the optics of the too obvious connection so they dished out their dirty work to Woods.  The Snell & Wilmer effort is led by Nick Wood, no relation to Grant Woods.  Wood has also apparently brought in Joe Villasenor, a former City of Phoenix staffer well known in Arizona real estate circles, to assist with the anonymous attacks. 

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It’s where moms and dads teach their kids to play golf and seniors can find an affordable, accommodating place to enjoy the links.  It is the beloved Coronado Golf Course, a jewel in southern Scottsdale.

With its nine holes and driving range traversing the Indian Bend Wash, city property and some 7 acres of private land Coronado is a testament to city governments past who knew how to get the public and private sector working together for the common good.  Scottsdale has managed to lay off major recreational, flood control, landscaping and other costs on the private sector.  Compare this to other municipal courses around the Valley including Tempe’s Rolling Hills just a few miles away.  There, the city has had to pump millions into the property just to keep it going.

But Scottsdale doesn’t have to do that at Coronado.  This doesn’t mean the operation doesn’t have challenges.  There is only so much money in the driving range and affordable golf course business.  It even faced elimination over a decade ago when one of the most controversial city managers in Scottsdale history, Jan Dolan, sought to replace the course with practice fields for the San FranciscIMG_4332o Giants.  Scottsdale elected officials can still hear their ears ringing from the outcry of golfers who successfully rallied against the plan.

Fast forward to the present.  Two neighbors living on the ninth hole with too much time on their hands have asked the city, via a citizen’s petition, to not allow new driving range poles to be erected.  And, they have asked the city to eliminate the golf course and expand El Dorado Park into it.

This is asinine.

Anyone at the City of Scottsdale from Mayor Jim Lane to Virginia Korte to Kathy Littlefield to anyone on staff should have their head examined if they entertain such a notion. IMG_4333

First, the poles.

Here are some pictures of the current fencing between the driving range and 9th hole.  The fencing is old and needs to be replaced in order to protect golfers playing the final hole.  So what does the owner responsibly do?  Buy wooden polls from SRP and begin the process of replacing the fence with new netting and such posts about 40 or 50 feet high.  But TWO neighbors don’t like that idea.  So city staff makes the golf course operator’s life miserable. What gems.

Mind you, wooden utility poles  run up and down Miller behind the neighbor’s homes.  Wooden poles are used for driving range protection at the Continental Golf Course just north of Coronado.  And they are used at the Cracker Jax driving range in north Scottsdale.

So why not here?  Double bogey is a bad score in golf and it describes these two stooges and their illogical argument.  IMG_4335

Next, what about the idea of eliminating the golf course and expanding El Dorado Park into it?  Does anyone know where those millions will come from?  This would be Villa Monterrey on steroids at a time when Scottsdale has less money for capital projects, especially needless ones.  Don’t forget 7 acres of the course is private land.  So that would require condemnation of the land, payment and then ongoing maintenance.  All of this would need to take place over the outcry from the course’s constituency which numbers in the tens of thousands.  It can be reignited at any time, just like the San Francisco Giants’ caper.  We hope the owner strongly considers doing this to remind all at the City of Scottsdale that city leaders past created a real gem on those acres.  And it should remain that way rather than so frustrate the owner that he finally throws up his hands, throws away the course and puts apartments on his 7 acres.  Now that would be a travesty, but also some sweet justice for those who luxuriously complain about a golf course as a neighbor only to get some big, ugly apartments as new ones.

 

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Capitalism can break down caste systems.  It can also build them up.  When one is successful in technology, financial services or real estate, the latter which happens quite often in Arizona, a certain strata is achieved.

But not everyone gives back.  Not everyone chooses to deploy their expertise, riches or both.

But in the case of SunBelt Holdings CEO John Graham the opposite is true.

Graham has owned and developed properties Arizona over.  And if you happen to find yourself admiring the south side of Tempe’s Town Lake these days, Graham has a lot to do with it.  You see, he’s the developer of Marina Heights, the mammoth project anchored by State Farm, sitting along the water in front of Sun Devil Stadium.  The architecture is impressive and of its setting.  It’s a job well done.

And speaking of impressive look at this article in last week’s Arizona Republic talking of Graham’s civic ethic, working to turnaround Valley YMCA operations.  It’s a noble effort that is touching thousands of families.  Here is a link.

So while the concept of noblesse oblige is distinctly French our state is lucky to have a business leader who doesn’t treat helping his community, in a big way, as a foreign concept.

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The Phoenix New Times champions itself as an advocate for the oppressed.  It turns out the paper also has a history of oppression, or at least making money from it. At least according to prosecutors in California and a congressional investigation. The story is finally being told.  It just took a while.

Until recently, it was an underreported fact that New Times founders Mike Lacey and Jim Larkin launched the now infamous Backpage as a section of the New Times. Indeed, when the New Times was in its heyday gunning after mostly conservative targets, it was making some serious coin from the Backpage.

It has never been a secret that the Backpage made a substantial amount of money advertising “Adult Services.”  It has been consistently alleged that some of the ads tragically involved pimps and underage girls. That, one could say, would be the ultimate oppression.

In 2011, the parent company for the New Times and the Backpage started taking heat for this practice, which led to this article in the Village Voice called “Real Men Get Their Facts Straight.”  The article criticized a campaign to deal with sex trafficking by disputing figures and making sport of its spokesman Ashton Kutcher.

Lacy and Larkin would later sell their journalistic enterprises and retain Backpage. Its current ownership is the subject of debate but Lacey and Larkin’s ties to it must be strong enough that criminal charges and congressional investigations have been brought against the duo. The criminal charges were later dropped but  Backpage suspended its adult section in January. And when Lacey and Larkin recently found themselves in the legal crosshairs, their former employee, New Times Columnist Steve Lemons dutifully wrote in their defense.

But something unexpected has happened. Traditional media outlets and Arizona reporters started covering this story. Richard Ruelas’ recent article didn’t pull any punches. Here is a link.

And then some student journalists from Cronkite News covered political contributions Lacey and Larkin have been making. Here is a link.

Lemons has left the New Times to work for the Southern Poverty Law Center. His victory lap following Joe Arpaio’s loss in the polls was anything but humble. But Mr. Lemons should be humbled by his consistent support for his former bosses who made millions operating Backpage. Sure it’s a free speech issue; but how could Lemons not have been troubled by the allegation that Backpage was used to pimp women and underage girls.

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