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We have already weighed in on the repackaged Desert Discovery Center now known as Desert Edge.  It calls to mind a name more reminiscent of a bad country band than a worthwhile expenditure of taxpayer dollars.

Our purpose now is not to regurgitate our most recent opinion (here is a link.)  It’s to raise a worthwhile question:  opportunity cost.

Proponents suggest taking tens of millions of tourism AND preserve tax dollars is worthwhile.  They say so because they believe the project can be self-sustaining (it won’t) and a major new tourism draw for the city.

But ask yourself this, who is going to come to Scottsdale just because of a glorified interpretive center, as opposed to that which it seeks to accentuate, and already exists?

Think of it this way, no matter what those on the edge of advocacy for their pet project can cull together it won’t be cooler or more dramatic than El Tovar at the South Rim of the Grand Canyon.  But people don’t travel to northern Arizona to see something man-made.  They do so because of the natural wonder.  And so will it be in Scottsdale.

The McDowell Sonoran Preserve with its extensive trails, views and majesty already IS a huge tourism draw.

So why not better highlight it, or expand it, rather than divert funds from both of these purposes?

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Few municipal projects have conjured as much controversy and consternation in recent years than the Desert Discovery Center (DDC), proposed as a Valyrian Steel-like Visitor Center at the Gateway of the McDowell Sonoran Preserve.

Opponents have ransacked the purported rationale, even though form often gets in the way of their substance.

Supporters, largely the inheritors of the idea’s inertia, often tout the grand tourism benefits they think the DDC will mean.  There are also those longing, and hoping, for Scottsdale’s next great thing.

This week proponents unveiled the latest design, touting the changes that had been made and how they listened to the community, as if that is something that shouldn’t have been done all along.

But alterations can’t alter something that is fundamentally flawed, and lesser than that which it seeks to accentuate.  Allow us to invoke football to make our point.  Patrick Peterson is the All-Pro Cornerback for the Arizona Cardinals.  The other person playing that position on defense is always “the guy playing opposite Patrick Peterson.” He’s secondary, just like a man-made attraction pales next to the real thing.

Quite simply, no one is going to come to Scottsdale because of the Desert Discovery Center.  Tourists will and do because of the Preserve itself.  If people want a related man-made attraction Taliesin West is far more compelling and sits on the preserve’s edge just a short throw away.  And it’s a far better location for the DDC too.  

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The former President was many things, including a splicing wordsmith.  During Ken Starr’s inquisition who can forget Clinton’s unforgettable, “It depends what the meaning of is, is.”

And that brings us to today, in Scottsdale.  And former long-time Scottsdale Planning Department staffer, now developer lobbyist, Don Hadder.

Hadder presided over city staff’s review and ultimate recommendation for the Troon North community approvals in the mid-1990s.  That work ultimately led some 1,800 homeowners into one of Scottsdale’s signature communities.  They relied on his work and word to invest in the community.  And rightfully so.

But now Hadder is singing a different tune, as the paid sycophant for an unproven, unknown group seeking to scar Troon North with an unsightly timeshare plan at its entrance.  For months Hadder has been working his former colleagues to find that which he wrote before about what’s allowed at Troon North to not be the case.   

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spears photoWhen a beautiful young woman does this to her hair it’s a shame.  And disturbing.

The same goes for misfitting projects like this at Troon North in Scottsdale. We have previously opined how wrong it just troonwould be for a speculative timeshare developer to be allowed to triple density adjoining the clubhouse of one of the finest public golf courses in the United States, Troon North.  Here is a link.

But we never thought it would or could look this bad.  Impolitically correct, The Tripling of Timeshares at the entrance of Troon North looks more like the barracks in another part of Arizona.  In Parker.  Thate’s where the United States infamously interned Japanese-Americans in World War II.  While we certainly don’t mean to imply moral equivalency we certainly don’t mind making the architectural comparison, though the ones still standing in Parker might actually be more attractive, as hard as that is to believe.One of Britney Spears’ biggest hits was called “Toxic.”  And that’s what the notion of this absurd plan would be for Troon North’s 1800 homeowners, Scottsdale and one of its grandest tourism trophies.

Developer lobbyist and former Scottsdale Planning Department official Don Hadder should be ashamed to be shilling for such specious speculators. Hopefully, Scottsdale Mayor Jim Lane and the Scottsdale City Council will see through the nonsense in favor of one of the city's signature neighborhoods.

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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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