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By Scottsdale Pinetop

It’s hard to believe that a city as beautiful and unique as Scottsdale still needs improvements. But with the growing popularity of the community from visitors and locals alike, the city has not kept pace with the crucial infrastructure improvements it needs.

This fall, Scottsdale voters may be faced with a bond request on the ballot as a way to generate $350 million which would go towards a series of projects – from improving our roads to restoring our flood control.

However, for the City Council, deciding on the exact dollar amount and process has not been so easy. Some council members believe that the best way forward is to put it to the voters and ask for a bond request. Others disagree.

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By Pam Kirby
Scottsdale Unified School District Board Member

Here in Arizona and across the country, every day brings a new and louder call to do right by our teachers.

Many in this state, myself included, are calling for an extension of the funding currently provided by Proposition 301.  It is critical money for our public schools and teacher salaries.  We do not need to play games or delay.  The public overwhelmingly supports the measure.  We should pass it now.  Kirby Headshot 2 2017

Better funding for our schools and higher teacher salaries aren’t excuses to tax more and grow government.  Instead, they should be seen as the foundation of an economically healthy Arizona. Business leaders recognize strong compensation is needed to recruit the best and the brightest to their companies.  So, I believe the same is true for our teachers.  Indeed, great teachers and great schools go hand in hand with efforts to recruit new business to the state and grow those already here.  The backbone of our education system, the public schools, needs to be healthy and whole, starting with teachers.

But, while critical, the extension of Proposition 301 only maintains the status quo.  That’s not reform or improvement.  It merely avoids a funding disaster.   I want to aim higher.  I want to appeal to parents and voters to join me in support something more dramatic.  And though I hail from the Scottsdale Unified School District, the reform I outline below can apply to everyone, statewide.

The average teacher salary in Arizona is $47,403.  As most readers know, this places our state at or near the bottom of national rankings.  It’s why many teachers are leaving the profession, and the best talent may not be attracted in the first place – despite its nobility.  There are a variety of reasons teacher salaries vary from district to district.  But, in general, teacher salaries need to increase – across the state.  In Scottsdale, our average salaries are close to $50,000, but they should be better.  

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By: Scottsdale Pinetop

A simple vote by the Scottsdale City Council may seem like a small step for progress. But when trying foster improvements between government and businesses, it can make all the difference in the world. This week, the City Council voted correctly to approve a $30,000 matching fund agreement with the Scottsdale Gallery Association in an attempt to re-brand and showcase Old Town Scottsdale.

In a place that embraces innovation and creativity, it’s no surprise that art is found on nearly every street corner in Scottsdale. The Scottsdale Gallery Association has spent years improving the arts district to become the unique place that it is today. It hosts numerous events including the weekly Thursday Night Art walk – which stands as the longest running event of its kind in the U.S.
However, the Gallery Association often does not receive the attention and assistance it deserves.
For the past few years, local enthusiasts have expressed their anger that the City of Scottsdale tends to promote big private galleries and often neglects the needs of smaller ones. So they decided to take action. Last year, fellow artists came together to create the 2018 Visitor’s Guide that illustrates all elements of downtown Scottsdale.

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By: Scottsdale Pinetop

Every strong campaign needs a good slogan. For President Trump it was “Make American Great Again.” For World War II Army recruiting it was “I Want You.” A catchy slogan can help win elections or bring people together under a single cause. But if done wrong, it can send the wrong message.

That’s what happened last week to Scottsdale’s Economic Development Department when their “Saguarbro” campaign took a huge hit at the South by Southwest Technology Convention in Austin, Texas.

Throughout the convention, members from the Scottsdale Economic group distributed merchandise that included an image of a saguaro with a man’s head. Underneath it was the sentence “A dude or dudette who is part of the sharp, creative workforce in trendy Scottsdale, Ariz.”

As humorous as it was, the slogan didn’t sit well with many of the attendees. Many called out the campaign for being demeaning to the thousands of successful women in business. Critics of the “bro culture” have often referenced the sexist nature of the technology industry in general. This campaign appeared to be adding fuel to the fire.

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By: Scottsdale Pinetop

More bright yellow and lime green bikes appear to be popping up everywhere in the Valley. The City of Scottsdale piloted the bike share program in early November and it has now extended to Mesa, Tempe and potentially Paradise Valley – taking on a life of its own.

Bike share programs provide residents and visitors with a new and practical way of getting around downtown Scottsdale without relying on the convenience of Lyft or dealing with the pains of parking. These bikes are available through the use of the company’s smartphone app where customers pay $1 per 30 minutes of riding. Once the ride is done the customer locks the bike, making it available for the next rider.

With the influx of winter visitors and Spring Training attendees, these bikes are becoming increasingly popular. But not everyone is on board with the program.

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By: Scottsdale Pinetop

In the political world, there are only two reasons to visit New Hampshire in the middle of March – snow and New Hampshire is the first state to vote in a presidential primary.

When politicians head to New Hampshire, it tends to raise eyebrows. That’s exactly what happened for Senator Jeff Flake last week when it was announced he would be attending the New Hampshire Institute for Politics’ “Politics and Eggs” breakfast.

Evidence suggests that Flake is beginning to tease the idea of a presidential run.

In September, Senator Flake released his personal memoir “Conscience of a Conservative” that defended his political philosophies, criticized the Trump Administration and expressed his concerns for the future of the Republican Party. Shortly after the book’s publication, Flake announced that he would not be running for re-election in 2018. To many this was political suicide.

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By Scottsdale Pinetop

Low salaries have many teachers seeing red. Arizona educators have decided to send a message that the current status quo for school funding is unacceptable.

Arizona administrators, educators, parents and students have now joined the West Virginia teacher’s movement by wearing red to school and urging others to do the same.

What first started as a small online grassroots effort, #RedforEd has now become a full blown social media movement of angry Arizona teachers demanding change from state leaders.

Over the years, parents and teachers have become outraged by the state’s sluggish response to the teacher crisis that has forced many educators to leave the classroom – even out of the state. But is anyone really listening?

For the Arizona State Legislature, it seems like pay-raise decisions are nearly impossible to pass. While individual school districts have the final say in deciding teacher salaries, schools remain funded by the state government. This leaves many schools left in the dark when creating annual school year budgets. 

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It was like watching Godfather III.  That’s how disappointing this weekend’s Canal Convergence was at the Scottsdale Waterfront.

For years the unique display of art had been trending as one of the city’s great emerging events.

But this past weekend did Scottsdale Public Art forget to let anyone know what could previously be called a spectacle was actually going on?  Apparently so because the crowds were but a fraction of previous years.  What’s so perplexing about the scant spectactors and utter lack of energy was the City of Scottsdale’s major investment of tourism tax dollars into the event last year.  With more resources and good February weather the opposite result should have occurred.  

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Many of us remember Bob Schuster as an editor for the East Valley Tribune. Bob is retired, but he is offering some sage advice to the current generation of writers and editors at the Arizona Republic. In a letter to the editor, Bob takes the Republic to task for the way it is covering the school choice issue and an apparent bias in favor of school choice opponents.

Here is that letter as it appears in the Republic:

The media are showing their biases again in schools debate

By Bob Schuster, Mesa

Could we please get more even-handed coverage of Proposition 305, the school voucher referendum on the November ballot?

If the editorial board opposes the expansion of school choice to parents who prefer a private education for their children – including at religious-based schools – then please keep those opinions where they belong: on your Editorial pages.

Instead, we’re greeted by regular diatribes on page 3 – a “news” page – by Laurie Roberts decrying “dark money bazillionaires” wanting to rob public schools of badly needed dollars to help fat cats send their kids to fat cat private schools.

Then on another “news” page, reporter Yvonne Wingett Sanchez tells us that Save Our Schools, which is trying hard to kill Prop. 305, is a “grassroots” group.

Sounds like David versus Goliath.

Actually, there are several Goliaths on each side, just as there are lots of “grassroots” regular folks on each side.

Gov. Ducey long has advocated expanding school choice in Arizona, and it’s not surprising he has close ties with the Koch brothers, who also back school choice and have the deep pockets that help sell the school-choice message.

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There is a fascinating debate occurring in Paradise Valley.  It’s the ultimate trash talk.  In other words, should the tony town move to a single provider of trash or continue with the existing system of some 5 providers?

As Mayor Michael Collins has observed things must be pretty good when this is the subject de jour.

Interestingly, it’s an argument that’s largely been settled across  America and Arizona.  About 90% of cities and town use a single provider because the economies of scale result in lower rates, fewer trucks,  less pollution, less noise and overall a more coherent approach to sanitation.

Yet, Paradise Valley has never adopted such a reform largely in the name of “limited government.”

So, as commentators of “Smart Opinion. Mostly Right,” let’s look at that philosophical approach a bit more.

First, HOAs in Paradise Valley, including those lived in by Councilman Paul Dembow and others, most often use one trash company because by pooling their homeowners they have greater buying power.  And besides a lower rate they can negotiate they also get less truck impact on their community.

So why is it OK for HOAs to have this ability but the other 80% of individual homeowners cannot?  Why can’t and shouldn’t they be able to pool together, like HOAs, to create maximum buying power for lower rates and a better overally environmental impact?  Right now there’s no way to do that in Paradise Valley.  Under the proposed change they would.

Pooling is at the heart of the Republican approach to health care. The more companies and individuals can join together the more ability they have to negotiate better packages, including across state lines.

So when it comes to limited government Republicans in our nation’s capitol adopt the approach Paradise Valley is considering when it comes to health care.  So why not trash PV GOP?

Opponents of a single-hauler system also talk a lot about choice.  That is, homeowners should be able to choose any provider they want when it comes to trash service.  We get and appreciate that point of view.  But people don’t get such a selection when it comes to ambulance service, photo radar, towing or police and fire service.  That train has already left the station.  But when it comes to the current proposal what choice is really lacking?  Residents can still get once or twice a week trash, multiple cans and recycling.  In fact, town staff has even negotiated MORE choices with the future service to also provide things like Christmas tree disposal, household hazardous waste and shredding that aren’t currently available for most.  So the issue really isn’t “choice?” It’s whose name is on the truck.  Let us repeat that.  It’s whose name is on the truck.  This is a key point that has been made by former Councilwoman Jini Simpson.  And in the end, is the name on the truck a philosophical mooring more important than lower costs, fewer trucks and all the other quality of life benefits a reformed system would provide? Do any of us really care who made the school bus or who operates it so long as children get safely to school?

This leads us to former Paradise Valley Town Councilman Dan Schweiker.  At a town event earlier this week he stunned the audience by announcing his support for the change.  In stints previous on council Schweiker was single hauler’s biggest opponent. But he now believes town staff has injected sufficient and substantial choice into service.  Schweiker’s opinion culiminated an event where some 90% of those in attendance also stated support for single-hauler.  But it was Schweiker, along with former Mayor Ed Winkler’s support, that became the exclamation mark on the topic.  Going into the meeting one could have waged a better bet that Donald Trump would give up Twitter than Schweiker his opposition to single-hauler.

And that leads us to another Great Scott! moment.  In his 2016 campaign for Paradise Valley Town Council Scott Moore had this to say in the Paradise Valley Independent about a possible change away from the town’s trashy approach to a single hauler.

“This solution keeps us out of the trash business and helps reduce daily noise, reduces safety concerns and helps minimize our annual asphalt and street maintenance costs by having less trucks on a daily basis. Residents are expected to see a reduction in fees based on the size of the contract with the town.All  of this could be accomplished without creating more overhead or government.”

 

But after receiving a few emails generated by a special interest garbage hauler that didn’t even bother to bid on the contract Moore seems to be singing a different tune. JFK wrote a book called “Profiles in Courage.” Moore should read it lest he wants moore cost, moore pollution, moore noise, moore accidents, moore wear and tear on the roads and moore failure on this topic to be his legacy with it.

Arizona, and Paradise Valley, are great places because one can pretty much wear flip flops all year long. But that doesn't mean they can't be a fashion faux paus in the winter, especially now for Moore, as they are so politically unbecoming.

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