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.Read more
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 Francisco 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.
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.
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.
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.Read more
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.Read more
So Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton wants to be Arizona Secretary of State. Or Governor.
It sure sounded that way earlier this week during his State of the City address when and where he lambasted all leaders Republican for, in his opinion, abandoning public education.
We didn’t hear such tones during less ambitious times last year as he was supporting Governor Ducey’s landmark proposal to boost public schools without a tax hike via Proposition 123. Indeed, at Stanton’s insistence his political consultants were even hired by the campaign.
Now he’s singing a different tune, hoping no one bothers to check his record. Granted, it’s a record we’re glad he has, no matter his hypocrisy.
Just two years ago Stanton led the charge for a massive charter school expansion in central Phoenix. He even championed the use of some $150 million in Industrial Development Commission bonds to aid the invasion. Here is a link to the story that ran on AZCentral in 2015.
Charter schools are public schools, except to those on the left. To them, they are foreign ideas undermining the traditional public school systems like vouchers or education savings account. To them, it doesn't matter that an enterprising charter school like BASIS Scottsdale just put the state on the education map after being ranked #1 in the country by U.S. News & World Report.
So, to the constituency Stanton now panders to, the question can be fairly asked: who has played a major role to upend Arizona’s public education system? Stanton’s alter-ego, thank goodness.
BASIS Scottsdale’s recognition by U.S. News & World Reports as the #1 high school in America should be reason for all in Arizona to applaud the achievement. Instead, we actually hear criticism, especially from the Arizona Republic and liberal special interest groups.
An acute observer on Facebook labeled this cartel the “Yeah, But” crowd. And he’s right. They have diarrhea of the mouth, seeking to undermine the accomplishment, Governor Ducey and how it’s a disruptive to Arizona public schools. They constitute the Lament Lobby and its too bad Pepto Bismol can’t be used to constipate their mouths rather than troubled butts.
They have too many Asians! They have too many whites!
Notwithstanding the reverse racism proffered by these critiques any school, anywhere, that becomes number one at anything is likely doing something right we can all learn from.
And that’s exactly what the Lament Lobby needs to do. After all think how spectacular their failure has been versus charter schools, organizations that actually get less money per student than traditional public schools.
Rather than whine and simply ask for more money the Lamenters should reform and recognize the incredible advantages they have to compete for students and results.Read more
A hashtag noting the city’s excellence was a hallmark of Scottsdale Mayor Jim Lane’s landslide re-election win in November.
Lane was right to recognize the community’s best in class from Barrett-Jackson, Scottsdale Arabian Horse Show, Waste Management Phoenix Open and downtown restaurant and bar scene to teachers, social services and high school athletics.
Now, Lane and all of Scottsdale have another best in class to boast about: U.S. News & World Report just ranked BASIS Scottsdale the #1 high school in the nation. The import to economic development and overall community prestige cannot be overstated.
And it reminds us that some things are worth fighting for.
Once upon a time, circa 1997, there was an uproar from no-growth activists and McDowell Mountain Ranch residents opposing the Ice Den. It was a fight that went all the way to the Arizona Supreme Court. Thank goodness it did, and won, because as the premier ice facility in Arizona it also is #ScottsdaleAtItsBest.
Fast forward to 2016 and the Ice Den-like fight that took place over BASIS’ expansion and relocation plans on Shea Boulevard. Mayor Lane, Councilwoman Suzanne Klapp and Councilwoman Linda Milhaven were always staunch supporters. But the opposition fueled by well-heeled neighbors caused Councilmembers Littlefield, Smith and Korte to wobble weak in the knees. Councilman Phillips was downright opposed. Like the Ice Den it was a fight that went all the way to the top. But instead of the Arizona Supreme Court it was Governor Doug Ducey and Attorney General Mark Brnovich weighing in. Korte, Smith and Littlefield eventually came around in the face of input from them and massive community support.
Thank goodness they did. A year later the decision was unquestionably sagacious as Scottsdale ensured its place as the home to the best high school in America.Read more
Rotten Tomatoes is a popular television and movie ratings site. Millions of people participate and rely upon it when considering their entertainment choices. It’s a good thing it doesn’t rate former Arizona Attorneys General, consultants and public affairs efforts in Maricopa, Arizona. The review wouldn’t arise a rotten green tomato or tipped over popcorn bucket. It would most likely transform the ratings service into a scratch and sniff variety in order to properly capture the stench.
But first, let’s remind readers of the issue. It’s in Maricopa, a pleasant community south of the Phoenix metropolitan area in Pinal County, where a group of successful entrepreneurs has proposed a private motorsports park. Think of it like a golf country club, but for cars. Proposed for a plot of land well outside the city’s core not a single person had expressed opposition for the better part of its year-long application. In fact, the opposite was true. Community and business leaders expressed support and excitement about the use because it meant economic diversification and more tourism.
Then, one day, former Attorney General Grant Woods showed up spinning tales of how bad the project known as the Apex Motor Club would be for Maricopa. He did so at the Planning Commission which summarily rejected him by a unanimous vote. As did Mayor Christian Price and the entire City Council thereafter. Woods would never say, despite repeated questions, who was paying him to be there. It is widely believed to be a rival project.
Contemporaneous to the Woods’ tripe anonymous advertisements started to appear online on local cable channels. A Facebook page appeared too, all attempting to recruit what they clearly thought would be mindless Maricopans. One of the ads even invoked the possibility of “heart attacks” if the Club were allowed to proceed. That’s not a typo. Some consultant actually got paid to suggest that people would die if the proposal were approved. Other posts include citations of new companies and jobs being announced elsewhere in Arizona, asking why can’t Maricopa do such things rather automotive country clubs. As if they are mutually exclusive? As if that is not happening? It seems everyone can walk and chew gum except the gadflies and goofs of the opposition. A new level of hyperbole these items would represent if not for Woods’ hot air.Read more
Scottsdale voters wisely increased its tourism tax on hotel rooms in 2010. The increased revenues have been used to further showcase the city across the world, and also provided money to aid events big and small. Sometimes those investments have paid off, and sometimes they haven’t. Funding decisions are an inexact science.
But one big one made recently by the Scottsdale Tourism Development Commission seems to be a sure bet.
That’s because Canal Convergence, which dramatically animates the Arizona Canal as it winds through the Scottsdale Waterfront, holds substantial promise as the community’s next Barrett-Jackson or Scottsdale Arabian Horse Show.
And that it happens in Scottsdale’s downtown emphasizing one of the community’s raison d’etre makes it even more worthy.
We applaud the group’s recent recommendation and encourage the City Council to soon vote likewise.Read more
Since it’s never too early to pontificate and prognosticate about politics, we thought we’d get a jump on a way too early look at possible successors to popular Scottsdale Mayor Jim Lane. Due to the city’s three term limit for mayors Lane, who won in a landslide over Bob Littlefield in November, 2016, is ineligible to run again.
The odds proffered for each person are a combination of the likelihood of a run, and ultimate victory.
Virginia Korte (2:1): She’s been running for Mayor in her own way since about the time Goldwater was nominated for President. Korte wants the job badly and almost ran in 2012 and 2016 but wisely deferred to Lane. There’s no question she can raise the funds necessary having raised over $200,000 for her 2016 council re-election. And much of the Scottsdale “establishment” will be behind her. But her re-elect numbers were sluggish. Yes, she won but many had thought after a sterling 2012 performance the final tallies would have been better. Perhaps that has something to do with bouts of alienation. Korte is not one to shy away from taking a stand, whether it’s an ardent supporter of the Desert Discovery Center in the face of withering opposition or supporting a property tax increase for Scottsdale schools. In many ways she’s like this year’s Cleveland Cavaliers: a proven winner and Hall of Famer but whose second half (or term) underperformed, but not so much so to underestimate them come playoff time.
Suzanne Klapp (3:1): By topping Korte in the 2016 council races in money raised and total votes Klapp showed significant political chops. She is not saying no to a potential run but does she really want it beyond the flattery? Klapp would be 70 plus by the time of the next race but she makes that age look like the new 50. On the political spectrum she also occupies space right of Korte which would be helpful in a primary election coinciding with the GOP primary, though less so in a November run-off election. Unlike the Lane-Littlefield mash-up where there were clear fault lines, Klapp and Korte occupy much of the same space on business and other matters, which means any potential race between the two would challenge loyalties and households.
Guy Phillips (6:1): Never underestimate a guy who can get so many votes with so little in his campaign coffers. And that would be Phillips’ challenge in a mayoral race. Can he raise real money in a race where competitors will be able to? Lane eclipsed $400,000 in 2016. In Scottsdale the top two finishers, if they don’t get over 50%, advance to the General Election. With Phillips originally emanating from the Tea Party and still loved by many in the GOP Phillips could and likely would be a strong candidate in the primary’s top two, for many of the same reasons Klapp would. His greater challenge would be communicating with so many people in the General election, with so few dollars.Read more