*Bone-headed Branding: With the “Desert Discovery Center” becoming such a pungent name in Scottsdale over the past year plus, proponents sought to rebrand it during their reintroduction in late July with a new name of “Desert Edge.” Apparently the project’s pied piper didn’t get the memo. She still lists the Desert Discovery Center in her signature line. #Communicate
*Showing they can say no to developers, the City of Scottsdale largely sided with the residents of Troon North in their dispute with a real estate speculator to triple density for a timeshare-esque project near the community’s entrance. It was the right decision and the council appeared near unanimous, if not entirely so, standing up for Troon North. Kudos to Planning Director Randy Grant for wading through an issue that while complex was quite simple at its core.
*The Scottsdale Firefighter’s Association Annual Dinner at Dominick’s Steakhouse has become one of the “it” community and political dinners in Scottsdale. And this year might be the best one yet with honorees like Mountainside Fitness CEO Tom Hatten, the mother that sparked the Make-A-Wish Foundation and Arizona Coyotes’ legend and Scottsdale resident Shane Doan. Doan is likely to be introduced by Jerry Colangelo which should make for quite a night indeed.
*The climate for Arizona Republicans in 2018 is going to be very difficult. And that’s no exception as the GOP races to take on Democratic Congressman Tom O’Halleran. If there’s anyone who can defy the odds it may be the frontrunner for the Republican nomination, Arizona State Senator Steve Smith. As Bruce Springsteen might say he was born to run. Engaging, intelligent, determined. If not this time for Smith he’s a talent that certainly has more political life to live.
*Look for Governor Ducey to more robustly kick-off re-election activities next month.
*If anyone thinks Arizona Secretary of State Michele Reagan isn’t steely heading into her 2018 re-election campaign think again. Despite some early challenges she is resolved and ready to roll.
*What a difference a few years makes. Phoenix City Councilman Daniel Valenzuela is now the frontrunner to replace Greg Stanton as Mayor of Phoenix. After kicking the tires of a term-limits loophole former Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon will not be running again. But in Paradise Valley former Mayor Scott Lemarr has no such problems and is still more likely than not to make another run, making him the prohibitive favorite.Read more
In salon terms Scottsdale City Councilman Guy Phillips has spent most of his tenure serving as a make-up artist. What do we mean? That Scottsdale’s looks are being degraded by too many apartments, too much height and too much stuff, he has argued. He is typically joined in such observations by Councilwoman Kathy Littlefield and more recently by Councilman David Smith.
Such opinons can often lead to electoral support for one, two or three councilmembers serving at a time but they have not resulted in a majority for decades. The city’s well regardedness for its pro-business majority was on full display in 2016 when Mayor Jim Lane throttled former Councilman Bob Littlefield, husband to Kathy.
Scottsdale voters are smart with a majority realizing that though they may not be thrilled with an apartment project here or there, a pro-business, pro-tourism, pro-arts approach in Scottsdale is what leads to the revenues that pay for parks, police and preservation. It’s hard to do that if too many so no to everything.
This leads us back to Councilman Phillips.
Scottsdale Fashion Square recently asked for new approvals, including height, to solidify its future. At a time when malls everywhere are struggling the request was understandable, even necessary. And with the staggering amount of sales tax revenue Scottsdale Fashion Square provides city coffers, the mall’s success is a quite necessary proposition indeed.Read more
668 North, LLC recently purchased the mostly vacant former Chinese Cultural Center on 44th Street south of the 202 Freeway in order to establish a new headquarters and campus for approximately 350 of its 12,500 employees and team members. The new corporate headquarters is the latest investment near Phoenix’s light rail line, expected to have a notable economic impact for the city according to Valley economist Jim Rounds, who is currently compiling a detailed report on the move.
Despite strong Arizona laws governing private property rights, some have objected to the company’s plans in spite of a commitment to revitalize the 170,000 square foot space, preserve major elements on site and relocate others. Many of the state’s private property rights are enshrined in Proposition 207, a statewide, voter-approved measure that was passed by a nearly 2-1 margin over a decade ago. On behalf of 668 North, LLC the law firm of Gammage & Burnham recently communicated to the City of Phoenix the numerous problems with infringing on these and other rights. 668 North, LLC is not seeking any city entitlements or tax incentives as part of its redevelopment.
The cultural center, built in 1997, has significantly struggled for many years with numerous failed businesses and very low occupancy. Today only six percent (6%) of tenants are Chinese-related and the center overall is only 26% occupied. Over the last 20 years, both historical anchor tenants, a grocery store and large restaurant, went into bankruptcy. They were reopened and run for many years by the landlord at a loss. Additionally, there hasn’t been a Chinese New Year festival held at the site since 2012. As community and financial support for the site continued to decline, the prior owner – a large Chinese company – decided to sell the property. That owner provided assurances that the site has been largely abandoned by the Chinese community and that no restrictions of any kind were being placed on the site which would impede redevelopment.
While the new owner plans to renovate the building, in the spirit of working with the Chinese Community, it has offered several different options during talks with community leaders over the past few weeks. Despite offering numerous creative solutions, the people interested in preserving the site have been unable to reach any agreement amongst themselves, which has complicated a path forward.Read more
Remember the nut jobs, even the streakers, who jump the fence at baseball games to run around the outfield to gain attention? Years ago most responsible television networks stopped showing the romps so as not to reward the recklessness.
Apparently, the Scottsdale Independent didn’t get the memo. While we applaud the publication for becoming the unquestionable leader in Northeast Valley news the recent decision to splash Scottsdale City Hall streaker Mark Stuart across its front page (here is a link) was like Fox showing a clothing optional resort during the World Series.
Stuart is a political cross somewhere between Gary Busey and Lindsay Lohan, always seeming like a nudist on the late shift (although that’s a visual about as appealing as one of Stuart’s incoherent screeds).Read more
Now that President Trump has relieved Sheriff Joe Arpaio from legal concerns we thought it timely to relay anew a related post we made back on March 9, 2016. If not prescient it may be insightful.
Maybe It’s Trump With The Integrity, Not Romney
As Mitt Romney laid early plans for a 2008 presidential run he was spending a lot of time in Arizona. To raise money. And to pin rival John McCain down in his home state more than he would have liked.
Romney sought a key endorsement: Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio. He got it. Arizona. Iowa. Whatever the Romney campaign needed “America’s Toughest Sheriff” was there. While Arpaio and McCain have hardly been close over the years going against your state’s U.S. Senator isn’t a political move without consequence.
Romney lost the primary to McCain in 2008, then became buddies with him. Nothing wrong with that. But there was a few years later when Romney treated Arpaio during his 2012 efforts like a leper, so as not to upset McCain.
The 2012 GOP standard bearer showed little spine and a real lack of integrity (as did his campaign staff) towards someone that stuck their neck out for him previously.
Contrast this with Arizona Governor Doug Ducey whose 2014 primary campaign got a critical spark from Arpaio at one of his lowest tides. The two maintain by all appearances a very friendly and respectful relationship. Arpaio is also assisting Ducey’s biggest initiative to date: Proposition 123.
Contrast Romney with Donald Trump too, who doesn’t just target the Sheriff’s endorsement, he shouts it from the rooftops. Like last night during his victory speech. Alongside Palin, Christie, etc. there booms proudly The Donald about The Sheriff. He’s even mentioned the octogenarian’s support during debates too.
Whether Trump wins or loses the ultimate prize one gets the sense he’ll always be grateful to Arpaio, no matter what new friends become him.
So next time Romney waxes and whines about Trump’s integrity ask him who went Bob Marley, and shot the sheriff first.
But for the affability, tenacity, and standing of Sam Campana, a former Mayor of Scottsdale and early supporter of the city’s spectacular McDowell Sonoran Preserve, the Desert Discovery Center, Desert Edge, or whatever one wants to call it would still be known as the DDC but instead stand for Dead, Dead Center.
Despite the Preserve itself being established by public vote, and DDC advocates seeking to use a huge amount of preserve tax dollars, project proselytizers seem allergic to the notion that they too should be subject to a public vote.
We have commented before that winning a public vote is the best way to lance this community boil and ensure the project can actually gain momentum at some point in the future rather than continue to be a drag on the body politic and city coffers.Read more
WestWorld is a funky show on HBO. It challenges our thinking about the future. And it’s time to challenge the thinking about another WestWorld, a weird property in Scottsdale. We opine odd because the site serves as a flood detention basin and is owned by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, but operated by the City of Scottsdale. Not a lot of constructs like that.
Since it first debuted decades ago as a private, commercial enterprise until today as a local governmental operation, managers have always struggled to make it pencil.
But what if it’s never meant to. That may have to be the conclusion after many college tries. And it should be.
Scottsdale City Councilman David Smith started to make private musings about the notion earlier this year, only to seemingly scuttle the thoughts. He shouldn’t have. As a former City Treasurer he has the standing to reintroduce and reinvent thinking about WestWorld.
Smith’s too abrupt argument kind of went like this: WestWorld is effectively a park, a large one that serves special events as does Central Park in New York City but also recreationists from joggers to dog walkers to even a parking lot for the most attended golf tournament in the United States, and one that is losing more parking soon.Read more
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?Read more
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.Read more
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.Read more