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Explaining The Noteworthy Scottsdale City Council Election Results

Once upon a time a five or six story office building was built at Scottsdale & Camelback Roads. Those who voted for it were swept out of office.

As sure as the sun rises the ebb and flow of “slow growth” and “pro business” candidates occurs in Scottsdale elections.
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But that it happened so soon in Scottsdale on November 4th, a cycle or two early, is noteworthy.

After rapid growth in the early and mid 1990s Scottsdale citizens remarkably voted to tax themselves to preserve the McDowell Mountains, sparing them from development. And later that decade those critical of growth started to be elected with more frequency.

And then they went too far. Scottsdale became “Stopsdale.” An arena was lost. Studies were done. Those opposed to all growth were soon opposed by voters desirous of reasonable growth.

But then the “pro business” majorities on council go farther than the electorate is comfortable with. So many apartments. So much height. So much which can seem so foreign to residents. And the pendulum begins to swing the other way, all over again. So much of this seemed vital and laudable during the Great Recession, but now that the economy has returned so has the luxury of complaint about that now built.

There were certainly signs of what was to come this election. The General Plan was soundly defeated at the polls previously. So was a city bond package. The natives were growing restless. Even a much improved bond campaign for the Scottsdale School District, which had been previously defeated but that faced no organized opposition in 2014, won a couple of Tuesdays ago by a modest 55%-45% margin.

Always schizophrenic to some extent the Scottsdale City Council now stands at four that can be called “pro-business” (Jim Lane, Virginia Korte, Linda Milhaven, Suzanne Klapp) two that want to slow things down (Guy Phillips and the newly-elected Kathy Littlefield) and another newbie that will probably dip his toes in both camps (David Smith).

There is so much right about Scottsdale, but recent results strongly suggest that while certain development projects might gain applause at an Urban Land Institute forum, those witnessing them daily may not feel likewise.

Or take a page out of Tempe and Phoenix’s playbooks about their downtowns. Those are the places it is argued, where height and density pump the heartbeat of the city. And citizens have been supportive. In Scottsdale there is more skepticism of this vision but a strong majority will likely buy in if it means less density in other parts of the community.

So it’s back to the future in Scottsdale for a time, before today’s attractive agents of change again become the intolerable blockades of progress. And so the cycle begins all over again.

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