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The late and legendary former Mayor of Scottsdale Herb Drinkwater decades ago dreamt what has indeed become true:  the WestWorld of Scottsdale area has become an epicenter for Valley activity.

Drinkwater lured the Phoenix Open to former boondocker country from comfy country club confines, Brewersand then convinced Barrett-Jackson to go north too.

Now, the country’s largest golf tournament, car auction and Arabian horse show all call the area home.  So does the wildly popular Ice Den as well as one of the finest residential communities built in America over the past three decades, DC Ranch.

Indeed, both Barrett-Jackson and the Scottsdale Arabian Horse Show are set to move into the new $50 million Tony Nelssen Equestrian Center at WestWorld over the next two months, solidifying their place in the Northeast Valley for the foreseeable future.

Years prior to this pending fulfillment of Drinkwater’s vision Scottsdale was administered by a City Manager named Jan Dolan, best described as a municipal Cruella Deville.

Among her achievements was leading the charge at the height of the real estate market for Scottsdale to pay some $55 million to buy 80 acres from the Arizona State Land Department, at a time when she and council incoherence couldn’t quite figure out what to do with WestWorld.

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The business story of Chandler, Arizona over the past couple of decades is a compelling one.  Big jobs at big (and small) technology companies.

There are many explanations for the city’s success.  But there is one not often discussed.

It’s spelled A-P-S, as in Arizona Public Service. APS_logo_2011

The company’s avaricious attitude toward rooftop solar over the past year has been well understood and documented.  But its poor reputation among big energy users, especially those in high-tech, has not been.

To say these large energy consumers dislike the utility monopoly is an understatement, and a key reason they have concentrated in the utility territory of Salt River Project, where energy prices are lower and the corporate attitude isn’t to treat Arizona businesses merely as a carcass to prey upon.

Enter Chandler.  Benefit Chandler.

The disdain for APS and problems the monopoly presents for economic development efforts was a key reason some of Arizona’s largest employers endorsed efforts by the Arizona Corporation Commission to entertain more energy choice and competition in 2013, before those deliberations were curtailed.  While deregulation was short-circuited, ongoing concerns for what APS is doing to hinder economic development for cities within its territory have not been.

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The Chicago Cubs are unquestionably the crown jewel of the Cactus League, and all that spring training means economically to our state.

But will the Cubs be an asset or liability in the 2014 Republican primary contest for Governor?

A little history first.

Following the 1992 elections then Congressman Jon Kyl opted to run for the United States Senate, creating a highly desirable congressional opportunity for aspiring Arizona politicians.

The clear, early favorite in the race was Jim Bruner, a former Scottsdale City Councilman and Chairman of the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors.

But the unforeseen happened along the way. Former Phoenix Suns’ owner Jerry Colangelo, fresh off an NBA Finals appearance, made a play for a franchise and a stadium that became the Arizona Diamondbacks and Chase Field. To get the franchise, he needed a new stadium funding plan. And that involved a majority of the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors calling for a sales tax hike to fund the stadium.

Despite Colangelo’s popularity, the tax itself became wildly unpopular. Nevertheless, Jim Bruner voted for it, understanding what it could mean for Arizona. His political sacrifice was profound, eventually fading in his congressional race from frontrunner status to the bronze medal behind the eventual Congressman John Shadegg, and runner-up Trent Franks.

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So the City of Peoria wants neighboring Glendale to allow a new Indian gaming casino within its boundaries because it will create a lot of new jobs for the area.  But it doesn’t want to allow an aspiring business park, also in Glendale to put up outdoor billboards along the 101, to help do the same? 

This isn’t an opinion about the proposed casino, a subject we are agnostic about, until we are not. 

It is one about a potentially shameful act by Peoria Mayor Bob Barrett, aspiring mayoral replacements on the Peoria City Council and others there utilizing public resources to stymie private development in another city. 

For years competing cities engaged in competition for desirable businesses with tax breaks, offering huge subsidies to car dealers, shopping malls and big retailers.  Whoever gave away the most usually won. 

But thanks to the Goldwater Institute, former Tempe Mayor Hugh Hallman, Scottsdale Mayor Jim Lane and others like Phoenix Councilman Sal DiCiccio the giveaway game is largely gone. 

Enter Peoria, Arizona. 

They say the city’s opposition to the billboard project in Glendale has nothing to do with anything other than protecting Peoria residents.  Of course there is hardly any impact on said residents and Peoria conspicuously feigns concern for these residents but not the others devastated, just devastated,  by blasted billboards in other parts of the city?  Judging from a recent azcentral.com survey on the matter they seem to be in the decided minority on the subject with only 23% of respondents sharing their opinion. 

Conspicuous indeed is what Peoria seems to be doing.  But thanks to sources within the City of Peoria itself embarrassed by the city’s audacity and the city’s own plans for billboards ACROSS THE STREET from the Glendale ones all becomes clearer. 

 You see, the City of Peoria is planning to use revenues from new billboards it wants to put along the Loop 101 to pay for new parking garages in its entertainment district.  And they believe Glendale’s boards could stymie those efforts.  The plot thickened at a recent Glendale Planning Commission when the West Valley’s Doctor of Dirt, Phil Hubbard, the City of Peoria’s former lobbyist, showed up organizing Peoria residents. 

 So rather than city’s using tax subsidies – which only kick in after a project lands in the city – we have the City of Peoria, Arizona overtly using public resources to stop a private sector development in another city for the sole purpose of squashing competition. 

Peoria is wrongfully opposing the Glendale proposal.  And the things being done by the representatives of the usually up-standing community are the most troubling signs of all, not what’s happening with its neighbor. 

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*Wendy Rogers wins the GOP right to take on Congresswoman Sinema.  General election tighter than expected but the Ironwoman triumphs.  

*Martha McSally defeats Congressman Barber.

*Speaker Tobin narrowly wins a knife fight against upstart Gary Kiehne.  Wins close victory over Kirkpatrick in 2014 but can’t hold it with the presidential turnout in 2016. 

*Hallman’s money and tenacity capture GOP nod for State Treasurer and cruises to General Election win. 

*Corporation Commission:  Field too fluid to call right now. 

*Attorney General:  Stan Barnes, J.D. Hayworth and Barbara Barrett all couldn’t defeat vulnerable GOP incumbents.  Neither will Brnovich defeat Tom Horne despite significant assistance from outside parties.  Rotellini defeats Horne. 

*Secretary of State:  Up by 30 points in the polls right now Cardon’s margin will decrease as Michele Reagan becomes a media darling ala John McCain fighting for campaign finance reform in New Hampshire circa 2000.  Her rise related to rumor (and real?) “dark money” for long-shot candidate Justin Pierce.  But in the end can Cardon chop down Goddard?  Perhaps the most interesting race to watch in 2014. 

*Governor:  Mesa Mayor Smith has an “it” factor that could gain some traction, but without big, promised outside support from DMB not enough oxygen to track down Doug Ducey.  Ken Bennett steady throughout but lacks message and moxy to do much better than Claude Mattox performed as a well qualified candidate in City of Phoenix mayoral race.  Before the primary Vegas oddsmakers put it at 3:1 that Christine Jones’ head will explode with rage, like in the movie Scanners.  Andy Thomas gets the old Bert Tollefson vote.  Democrat Duval runs well but discovers like Cherny before him that Ducey too qualified, decent and likeable.  Governor Ducey. 

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When long-time Scottsdale businesswoman and community advocate Virginia Korte at long last decided to run for the City Council in 2012 her candidacy was rightfully lauded. 

A former Chamber of Commerce President, car dealer on McDowell Road and early champion for the McDowell Sonoran Preserve.  Impressive credentials indeed. 

Korte ran in great part on achieving big things for Scottsdale, perhaps suggesting it was a city no longer capable of so doing.  She won. 

While any person needs time to find their way once governing, we have been surprised by Korte’s policy paucity. 

Where are those “big ideas?”  Her campaign was right.  There is ample opportunity. 

The gallery district struggles but there has been few ideas and no leadership. 

McDowell Road, her old neighborhood?  Nada. 

But surely she would have been a champion for securing Barrett-Jackson and the Scottsdale Arabian Horse Show at WestWorld for the long-term, as the new Tony Nelssen Equestrian Center assists?  She opposed it. 

Korte has shown a proclivity to spend more money on other stuff, even bulking up the recent city bond package that was trounced by voters. 

We don’t mean to be discouraging of Korte.  Just the opposite.  It’s like seeing a star player wander a bit in the first quarter of a basketball game.  Like Andrew Wiggins’ first half at Kansas this season, as college basketball fans might observe. 

The good news is that there is still time, a lot of it before she again stands for election. 

In stock terms we’re still bullish on that potential, even as we await those long promised big ideas. 

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We’d like to think he was merely forgetful.

But that would be generous considering how intellectually dishonest Arizona Republic columnist Robert Robb was today (Arizona Republic Dec. 20, 2013: When Glendale Was Boring)  in lampooning Glendale and basically any city striving for something more. It was the kind of audacity that doesn’t invoke anger but more of that chuckle and shake of the head because rarely is anyone quite that audacious.

Look, we can all agree local governments have made some good and bad decisions when it’s come to tax breaks, developments, shopping centers and sports facilities.

But to indict them all, as Robb did, without acknowledging that he once was the pied piper of the public trough is breathtakingly dishonest.

For example, Robb criticized developer Steve Ellman for proposing a hockey arena and retail development on the old Los Arcos Mall site, a vision that eventually landed in Glendale.

Robb failed to mention that on the same day in 1999 Ellman’s project was approved by Scottsdale voters by the largest margin in American history for a sports facility election (63%-37%), Robb was the chief flack for the biggest tax increase in Mesa history. For what you may ask? A boondoggle plan for the Arizona Cardinals new football stadium, a convention center and a few partridges in a pear tree. It was shellacked at the polls.

Yet Robb now peppers all others with criticism?

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He's Back.

Ron Burgundy's cousin, Jim, gives us his take on all things political in Arizona. Check out his video.

 

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There may be no better road house – cowboy centric or otherwise – than the watering hole in north Scottsdale known as Greasewood Flat. 

And after “losing” Rawhide, as well as a public relations battle with the spunky Town of Cave Creek about which community is more chaps than chatter, the thought of a sunset for the most western bar in the “West’s Most Western Town” is downright depressing. 

But just as sunsets always yield to sunrises so too may be the case for the beloved Greasewood. 

No matter who came up with the idea of expanding the McDowell Sonoran Preserve in such a way that enriches Scottsdale’s greatest achievement along with providing breathing room for a family that was forced to sell Greasewood Flat in order to pay estate taxes, it’s worth a “cheers” or three. 

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What is this?

You’re not alone if confused.  It’s a proposed design for a new Chinese restaurant in north Scottsdale.  The photo has not been manipulated.  It is not a joke. 

south elevation

Actual design submitted to City of Scottsdale

On November 21st the Scottsdale Design Review Board will decide whether this type of exotic, foreign design is appropriate for the area, or as it has at previous meetings tell the authors of the absurd to keep trying. 

Some perspective.  Thanks to the dogged efforts of many over the past two decades in the northern part of Scottsdale the area is uniquely somewhere.  A celebration of the desert with notable design standards. 

By what logic does this design advance such an achievement?  It disrespects it.  If the Design Review Board does not do what it should the Scottsdale City Council should intervene. 

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