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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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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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