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The Conservative’s Corner

Scrum

Conservative's Corner


PHOENIX – Attorney General Brnovich announced today that the Attorney General’s Office awarded nearly $400,000 in grants to community organizations that provide mental health treatment and services to first responders. The organizations will assist firefighters, emergency medical services, and law enforcement across the state.

Four different grants were awarded to organizations, including the United Phoenix Firefighters (two separate grants), EMPACT Suicide Prevention, and Marana Health Center. Over 2,000 first responders and first responder families are expected to be served statewide over the next year through direct treatment, mental health services, and training.Read More

PHOENIX — Governor Doug Ducey announced today $300,000 in funding from the AZ Coronavirus Relief Fund has been allocated to organizations across the state that support senior citizens, the homebound and those who are medically fragile. The funding will support organizations that have provided much needed aid to vulnerable populations impacted by COVID-19, by assisting with grocery shopping, meal deliveries, transportation to medical appointments, emergency errands and social interaction during a time of physical distancing.

“Arizona continues to focus on protecting public health, especially for those most at-risk like seniors and those medically vulnerable,” said Governor Ducey. “Volunteer and community organizations across the state are working day and night to provide support for those in their care through additional food deliveries, transportation and other services — and we’re proud to support their efforts. Thank you to everyone who has donated to the AZ Coronavirus Relief Fund so we can protect at-risk Arizonans, and to everyone who has stepped up to help others.”

Recipients of the funding include:

  • Foundation for Senior Living (statewide)

  • Benevilla

  • Aster Aging

“We are so appreciative of this generous donation,” said Tom Egan, President and CEO of Foundation for Senior Living. “Our team has been working diligently to shift many of our programs to meal and food bag deliveries to seniors and adults with chronic health issues or disabilities. So far, we have seen our expenses increase by 25 percent and we’re anticipating the community will continue to need help throughout the summer. This donation will help offset our expenses and allow us to serve those in need.  We are so grateful to Governor Ducey and the AZ Coronavirus Relief Fund!”

“We believe we are strongest when we work together,” says Joanne Thomson, President and CEO of Benevilla. “The support from the AZ Coronavirus Relief Fund Now will help provide much needed services to the most vulnerable population in our community. Working together we are able to help seniors with grocery shopping, emergency errands and more, we are able to provide support and friendship to caregivers who might feel overwhelmed and alone and continue to support families in our community during this time.”

“The support that Aster Aging has received from the AZ Coronavirus Relief Fund is truly making the difference for vulnerable older adults in the East Valley,” said Deborah Schaus, CEO of Aster Aging. “Requests for Meals on Wheels and our other basic need services have continued to grow as we strive to keep seniors safe during the pandemic.”

The AZ Coronavirus Relief Fund was established by Governor Ducey as part of the Arizona Together Initiative to provide financial support to non-profit organizations serving Arizonans most in need statewide. The AZ Coronavirus Relief Fund has collected more than $8.2 million to date. Arizonans can visit ArizonaTogether.org to learn more, donate and find volunteer opportunities.

PHOENIX — Governor Doug Ducey has announced that following a national search, Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC) has selected Arizona for its new U.S. advanced semiconductor factory. The project will create over 1,600 new high-tech jobs and generate thousands of additional jobs in the state for suppliers and other companies within the semiconductor industry. TSMC’s total spending on this project, including capital expenditure, will be approximately $12 billion from 2021 to 2029.

“We’re incredibly proud that one of the world’s leading technology companies has chosen Arizona for this high-tech project, one with national and global significance,” said Governor Ducey. “TSMC could have picked any place in the world to build this advanced manufacturing factory. They chose Arizona for our unbeatable business climate, already thriving tech sector and ready access to an international supply chain. I’d like to thank TSMC Chairman Dr. Mark Liu for his commitment to Arizona. We are honored to be selected for this project and look forward to building a collaborative long-term relationship with TSMC. I’m very grateful to President Donald Trump for his leadership and tireless efforts to bring more manufacturing back to our shores. I’d also like to thank Secretary Ross, his team at the U.S. Department of Commerce including SelectUSA, and the Trump administration for their partnership.”

Arizona has long been a hub for the advanced manufacturing and semiconductor industries. The state’s skilled workforce, strong supply chain, strategic geographic location, commitment to pro-innovation policies and unmatched quality of life have continued to drive rapid industry growth and economic momentum. This new U.S. facility will enable TSMC to provide enhanced service to customers and partners and increase its ability to attract global talent.

The facility will utilize TSMC’s 5-nanometer technology for semiconductor wafer fabrication and have the capacity to produce 20,000 wafers per month. Construction is planned to begin in 2021 with production targeted to start in 2024. The Arizona facility will be the company’s second manufacturing operation in the United States.

Several sites in the City of Phoenix are still being evaluated for the location of the factory. The Arizona Commerce Authority will continue working with TSMC, the U.S. administration, the City of Phoenix and the Greater Phoenix Economic Council to finalize all aspects of the project.

PHOENIX — With Arizona food banks experiencing a spike in demand, Governor Doug Ducey today announced a $500,000 grant from the AZ Coronavirus Relief Fund for Arizona food banks to help fight hunger. Member organizations that are part of the Association of Arizona Food Banks/Arizona Food Bank, which is receiving the grant, supply a network of nearly 1,000 food pantries and organizations in all 15 counties in Arizona, some of which have experienced a demand up to five times greater than usual due to COVID-19.

“We want to make sure nobody goes hungry as we respond to COVID-19 and get people back to work,” said Governor Ducey. “With these dollars, Arizona food pantries across the state will be able to make more food deliveries and help more families, while implementing new protocols that prioritize public health such as drive-thru pick-ups. This grant is made possible because of the generous donations to the AZ Coronavirus Relief Fund, and my thanks goes out to everyone coming together and pitching in to help Arizonans in need.”

The Association of Arizona Food Banks/Arizona Food Bank Network is comprised of five regional food banks, including:

  • St. Mary’s Food Bank Alliance

  • Desert Mission Food Bank

  • United Food Bank

  • Community Food Bank of Southern Arizona

  • Yuma Community Food Bank

The food banks will use the funding to address the spike in demand, including: meeting the needs of individuals with disabilities; acquiring more packaging materials to deliver food; securing additional storage space; implementing further adaptations to promote physical distancing among clients; coordinating convenient drive-through food pick-ups; and more.

“These unprecedented circumstances have created an increased demand for our services to support Arizonans who are struggling to provide the most basic needs for their families,” said Angie Rodgers, President & CEO of the Arizona Food Bank Network. “This gift from the AZ Coronavirus Relief Fund will help to ensure small pantries in local communities stay open and ready for families in need during this time. We’re grateful for the support which will make a difference in our capacity to serve across the state.”

“Our deepest thanks to Governor Ducey and everyone who donated or raised money for the Arizona Coronavirus Relief Fund, making this gift to AzFBN possible. These dollars will help small food pantries statewide as they work to help Arizonans struggling with hunger,” said Michael McDonald, Chair of the Board of Directors, Arizona Food Bank Network, and CEO, Community Food Bank of Southern Arizona. “These charities are doing all they can to meet the increasing need, and this financial help for them truly couldn’t have come at a better time.”

The AZ Coronavirus Relief Fund was established by Governor Ducey as part of the Arizona Together Initiative to provide financial support to nonprofit organizations serving Arizonans in need.

The AZ Coronavirus Relief Fund has collected more than $8.2 million to date. In April, the Ben and Catherine Ivy Foundation donated $5 million to support the purchase of PPE including 1.1 million N-95 masks. Additional grant announcements will be made as disbursements are finalized.

Individuals and organizations interested in supporting the AZ Coronavirus Relief Fund can learn more about how to contribute at ArizonaTogether.org.

PHOENIX — Governor Doug Ducey today announced that the Stay At Home order in Arizona will be ending on May 15 and replaced by new guidance for the next stage of economic recovery. The new guidance aligns with gating criteria issued by the White House and Centers For Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and aims to mitigate the risk of COVID-19 resurgence, protect vulnerable populations, and guide the reopening of businesses with enhanced physical distancing and safety measures in place.

Arizona’s new Executive Order, which takes effect on Saturday, May 16, builds on Arizona’s comprehensive efforts to slow the spread of COVID-19 and protect public health, including: ramping up testing availability and frequency; implementing tracking of key health metrics such as reported symptomatic cases and emergency room usage; standing up surge hospital capacity to be used as needed; expanding statewide contact tracing; bolstering supply chains for personal protective equipment for frontline medical workers and emergency responders; implementing enhanced safety protocols to protect those living and working in high-risk facilities such as nursing homes; and providing public health guidance for businesses and individuals to ensure continued physical distancing.

“Since the start of this pandemic, Arizona has taken a calm and steady approach to protecting health and slowing the spread of COVID-19,” said Governor Ducey. “Today, our hospitals have capacity to provide care to those who need it; our businesses are implementing and adapting to new physical distancing measures; and data shows Arizona is headed in the right direction. It is time to move forward with the next steps of Arizona’s economic recovery — while continuing to make health and safety our number one priority. I’m grateful to all Arizonans for their partnership and cooperation during these trying times. By continuing to follow the data and recommendations of public health officials, we can continue to move forward safely and responsibly together.”

Governor Ducey also announced today an accelerated plan to test all staff and residents of long-term care facilities as well as individuals within Arizona’s prisons. As part of this plan, the Arizona Department of Health Services will partner with private-sector labs to expand testing to 147 long-term care facilities and provide antibody tests for correctional officers. Additionally, major league sports can resume limited reopening, without fans, this Saturday, May 16.

The Arizona Department of Health Services also released additional guidance for businesses and customers as more industries resume partial operations. This guidance includes:

  • Pools, with physical distancing and enhanced sanitation – can reopen Wednesday, May 13 (GUIDANCE)

  • Gyms & Fitness Providers, with physical distancing and enhanced sanitation – can reopen Wednesday, May 13 (GUIDANCE)

  • Spas, with physical distancing and enhanced sanitation – can reopen Wednesday, May 13 (GUIDANCE)

While never formally closed, many places of worship opted to temporarily change or suspend services in order to follow physical distancing guidelines. As they resume operations, the Arizona Department of Health Services released GUIDANCE for enhanced physical distancing and safety precautions.

View today’s Executive Order HERE.

View daily Arizona updates HERE.

Featured Editorials


While on the Scottsdale City Council Bob Littlefield and David Ortega voted for the Scottsdale Waterfront and two buildings there with 150’ heights.

Scottsdale City Councilman Guy Phillips voted for the same heights at Scottsdale Fashion Square and the proposed Museum Square.

Scottsdale City Councilwomen Kathy Littlefield and Solange Whitehead also supported 150’ heights for Museum Square.

We think all of those votes were sagacious.  Yet, all of the people just mentioned also opposed the recent Southbridge II proposal.

Why?

Call it an ability, even a strength to diagnosticate.

The reason Southbridge II ultimately fell was not just the well-funded opposition from nearby property owners.  It was the recognition by many that this part of Old Town was different, low-scale and should stay that way.  Location, Location, Location.  In other words, there were good arguments on both sides, and this was reflected by a narrow council approval (4-3) and split debate during the referendum drive.

Conversely, Museum Square was passed by acclamation not only because it would replace an abandoned transit station, but because it was NOT embedded on Scottsdale’s charming Main Street.  If it would have proposed replacing chunks of the area rather than beyond it the outcome would likely have been similar to Southbridge II.

The Scottsdale Waterfront debate and result nearly two decades ago had similarities.  That corner of Scottsdale and Camelback was hardly a neighborhood of charm.  It was populated by a struggling grocery store, old movie theater, nightclubs and a smattering of other stuff that defined hodgepodge.  What has replaced it is undoubtedly taller, but also undoubtedly better.

Fast forward to last week’s reports on plans to redevelop large chunks in and around Scottsdale’s Entertainment District, south of Camelback and east of Scottsdale Road.

The area reminds us of the former Scottsdale Waterfront site and offers none of the charm of other parts of Old Town.  None.  Walking tours of the area with some of the city’s toughest activists and graders last year appeared to open many eyes in this regard.

As proposed, new buildings would replace old bars.  This is already making some neighbors in close proximity to existing uses happy.  The architecture by Nelson Partners, especially for the southeast corner of Scottsdale and Camelback Roads is remarkable.  So is the effort to introduce shade and art in a way Scottsdale has never seen.

And let us underscore this point:  while heights would be increased beyond current zoning in limited areas, the OVERALL SQUARE FOOTAGE ALLOWED UNDER CURRENT ZONING WOULD NOT INCREASE.  That’s remarkable.  What other recent development proposals can boast such a thing?

Contrary to the assertions of some, this is not an effort to rush an approval through for the sake of doing so or because of a make-up of the current council.  These plans have been underway for nearly a year.

Wise developers, especially those not only survived the Great Recession, but learned how to thrive from it, understand that improving properties now positions you – and the city – for success when we reach better economic times.  And those times will come.

Indeed, the first element seeking approval is to replace the Dakota Nightclub with a new hotel.  We don’t understand critics of the Entertainment District – we are not among them – decrying the area for what it is today and standing in the way of more sophistication for it tomorrow.

It is fair to acknowledge that the backers of the new “Scottsdale Collective” were also behind the controversial Marquee proposal that narrowly passed City Council last year.  But to their credit they learned a valuable lesson.  That process wasn’t enjoyable.  They didn’t want to do it again. So, they undertook massive community outreach to cull the proposal that was submitted to the city.  It’s impressive.  Is it perfect?  Of course not.  Additional public input and the public process will identify and improve components.

But as Scottsdale’s economy endures the trauma of collapse, we should be grateful that there are those who believe in the city’s future so much to risk precious capital now.

Once upon a time the Scottsdale Galleria was Scottsdale’s embarrassing white elephant.  It’s now a beehive of business activity, and hard to believe it’s now one of downtown’s points of pride.  Backers of the Scottsdale Collective are responsible for that.  They are not just propagators of Marquees and Mai Tais.

It’s now up to each candidate, councilmember and community member to decide this important proposal on their own.

Any city in Arizona would be thrilled to entertain a big investment like this in its darkest days.  And we hope Scottsdale sapience will again make an appearance, resulting in a unanimous approval to transform what has often been a controversial neighborhood, into one that is compelling and collaborative.

Height already IS a part of downtown Scottsdale.  In a lot of places.  That has been good and will be helpful from Museum Square to Scottsdale Fashion Square. And this discussion doesn’t include the important rights of HonorHealth to expand its critical operations.

But we are ones that share the opinion that height doesn’t belong everywhere in downtown Scottsdale.  It should be granted judiciously, just as occurred for the projects mentioned before, and where the merits and location make the element obvious.

We believe the Scottsdale Collective has and will meet that test.

By Tom Durham and Betty Janik —

The Scottsdale Ethics Code has been in the news lately, largely due to the ethics complaint filed against Council member Guy Phillips. On May 5, 2020 a panel of three independent judges (the “Ethics Panel”) held that Mr. Phillips had not committed any ethical violations. At the May 19 meeting of the City Council, the City Council adopted the panel’s conclusion by a 5-1 vote, with Council member Korte dissenting.

Following the decision by the Ethics Panel, several critics (including Mike Norton, who filed the original complaint against Mr. Phillips) have argued that the Ethics Code needs to be modified. In fact, the Ethics Panel agreed, stating that the Ethics Code contains ambiguities and problems which “need to be addressed.” In order to understand these criticisms, we are going to review Count 2 of the complaint, which was the focus of the Panel’s decision.

Count 2 centered around a GoFundMe account set up to help Council member Phillips with medical bills following an accident. On September 17, 2019, Mr. Phillips broke his leg, which prevented him from operating his air conditioning business. Susan Woods, an acquaintance of Mr. Phillips, set up a GoFundMe account to help pay Mr. Phillips’ medical bills. The account eventually received about $2,400 in contributions. The GoFundMe account was set so that payments would go directly to Mr. Phillips’ medical providers and the contributors to the account would be anonymous (although as beneficiary of the account, Mr. Phillips could have learned the contributors’ identity, he chose not to). On December 4, 2019, at a City Council meeting on the Southbridge II project, Council member Phillips voted against the zoning approvals necessary to construct the project. Ms. Woods, along with thousands of other Scottsdale residents, also opposed the Southbridge II project.Read More

Twenty-five years ago, a newly naturalized American citizen wrote:

“You who have been born in America, I wish I could make you understand what it is like not to be an American — not to have been an American all your life — and then suddenly, with the words of a man in flowing robes, to be one, for that moment and forever after…one moment, you belong with your fathers to a million dead yesterdays. The next, you belong with America to a million unborn tomorrows.”

We are here today to remember those who gave their lives for a million unborn tomorrows. They were our parents, grandparents, our children, sisters, and brothers. They looked like us, and had hopes like ours, and dreamed as we dream. And they died too soon, mostly too young, and it is still hard to understand sometimes.

Oh yes, they died for America.  But what does that mean? Was their sacrifice worth it? If they could see us, speak to us, what would they say?

The young farmer-turned-soldier who fell in his own field near Lexington, Massachusetts in 1776 might look down the tunnel of years with some satisfaction.  After all, he played a part in the first real step toward freedom from tyranny — a step that began the long American walk toward independence.  At the time our young farmer fell, William Pitt across the ocean was telling his colleagues in the House of Commons, “You cannot conquer America.”

He was right. We turned our plowshares into swords, and then back again. We were to do it again, and again, most tragically when we turned inward against ourselves.

In the stone foundation remains of a house in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania guide explains that here, brother met brother, one in gray, one in blue. History does not record the outcome.  And yet, it was from this most painful of wars — a foreign critic called our Civil War “a dirty chimney on fire” that our strongest national bonds were forged. Far from permanently splintering the Union of states, it drew them ultimately together. But it took row upon row of brothers to do it. From their vantage point, looking down through the years, the end of the debacle of human slavery, and the determination of the Union not to be split again might seem worth the price.

Fifty-three years later the symbol of American fighting spirit was written on a tent near the General Expeditionary Force in France –it simply said, “Heaven, Hell, or Hoboken by Christmas.” It was probably written by one of the men under Gunnery Sgt. Dan Daly, who some months earlier in the Belleau Wood shouted to his troops: “Comer on you S-O-B’s! Do you want to live forever!” Those doughboys saw their duty and wrote their names in honor on our national pride. But you and I know there is more.Read More

By Recker McDowell —

Restaurants are fighting for survival amidst COVID-19. They need all the help they can get to avoid closing permanently and adding to the more than 39 million jobs already lost to the pandemic.

The city of Chandler is doing its part by transforming a downtown park into a beer garden and picnic area where diners picking up food to go at nearby restaurants can enjoy food, wine or beer.

Chandler Mayor Kevin Hartke said the ‘Dine in the Park’ provides more capacity and options for diners as local restaurants reopen but abide by social distancing.

This is just one example of what other cities across Arizona and other states should be doing to help restaurants survive.

Social distancing and some of the reopening rules imposed by governments make it tough for restaurants and bars to generate enough customers and business to survive, especially after being closed during COVID-19 shutdowns.

More space and seating options can help with capacity challenges. It can also offer more options and comfort to diners who might feel more confident in going out to eat if they can enjoy some fresh air and social distance. We need all the confidence boosts we can muster these days.

Other cities across the country including Kansas City, Tampa, Cincinnati and Norfolk, Virginia are fast tracking permits and are allowing restaurants to use parking and other exterior areas to help expand social distancing capacity.

Cities and towns who have not embarked on this path should be doing this immediately. Communities who are slow, resistant to change or have a ‘deer in the headlights’ reaction to COVID-19’s impact are going to see even more permanent closures of restaurants and other businesses.

Jobs losses from COVID are approaching 40 million workers nationwide. Restaurants, bars, hotels and retail and their employees have been hit especially hard.

There will more restaurants, bars and small business who will not survive the economic impacts of the pandemic.

We need to see efforts like what is being tried in Chandler replicated quickly in other cities to help save restaurants and jobs.

 

One of the strengths of the tony Town of Paradise Valley is that it micromanages everything about hotels and non-residential uses.  The approach helps ensure a commitment to quality with volunteers at commission and council levels that rarely let something improper or poor fall through the cracks.

And, one of the bad things about the Town of Paradise Valley is its same micromanaging.  Most any business owner will tell you that the more freedom and flexibility it has the more chance for success.  Town staff and leaders have rarely migrated to this way of thinking, however.  For example, a couple of years back a town staffer infamously tried to compel a new location for a prominent resident’s mailbox.

Fortunately, that type of thinking seems to have been put on hiatus.  Look at this recent article from the Paradise Valley Independent.

The Paradise Valley Town Council has wisely adopted a plan allowing key properties in town more latitude to help them get through brutal times.  It’s not only a refreshing display of municipal morality but financially wise too.  After all, no sector in America has been economically hit harder by the Coronavirus than hotels.  And there are a lot of them in Paradise Valley. The best of the best in the state.  Revenues from them are a key reason no one in town pays a property tax.  What oil is to Texas and gambling is to Nevada hotels are to PV.

Some cities, including the one next door in Scottsdale, have been slow to respond to a devastated business community.

That’s why the moves by Mayor Jerry Bien-Willner and the Town Council are so welcome. But they ought not to think this is all they can or should do.  Businesses are fighting for their lives.  Smart steps by cities and towns, like this one in Paradise Valley, can help give them an even better chance to survive and eventually thrive, again.

 

By Recker McDowell —

Scottsdale ranks as one of the top cities in the country for ‘staycations’.

WalletHub ranked U.S. cities for their recreational amenities (parking, hiking) as well as factors such as homes with pools. Scottsdale ranked 7th best nationally on the list. Plano, Texas near Dallas was first.

Local vacations and attracting tourists from California, other Western states and even Texas who might drive to travel destinations are going to be essential as the economy slowly emerges from COVID-19.

COVID-19 will continue to depress air travel and some tourists will be reticent to venture out too far. Some might avoid hotel rooms for a while just as there is a segment that will not be going to restaurants, sporting events or even coffee shops.

Those dynamics magnify the need to maximize business with consumers who are willing to get out and spend, who are willing to travel or eat out. That makes day trips, stay near home tourism and quick drives for long weekends even more important.

Locked down Californians are looking and going to be looking for getaways with restrictions on Palm Springs, San Diego, and Disneyland. Crowded Las Vegas casinos and buffets will take some time to start attracting visitors.

All that creates opportunities for drivable destinations with outdoor amenities and economic re-openings that encourage those who are wanting to get out.  Arizona’s Colorado River communities have been attracting stir crazy Californians. The Grand Canyon, Sedona and Scottsdale can also be attractive and drivable trips for those from Los Angeles or San Diego or Las Vegas.

Experience Scottsdale and other Arizona tourism promoters know this and are targeting nearby markets with ads and marketing.

This needs to continue and aggressively.

COVID-19 has the tourism industry (resorts, hotels, bars, and restaurants) in survival mode. They have shed scores jobs and many could close permanently.

There needs to be immediate and aggressive investments in saving these businesses and jobs above and beyond the federal efforts. Tourism is crucial for tax revenue generation in Arizona and localities such as Scottsdale.

Attracting locals for ‘staycations’ at resorts or just a day trip as well as Californians and others for weekends will be critical for short-term survival. There will not be many international travelers this summer to the Grand Canyon or Scottsdale. We will have to rely on visitors from Tucson, Chandler, Riverside and L.A. to help carry for what could be an extended short-term.

There is also the potential to forge long-term loyalty with visitors. If they are impressed with their visit during the most stressful time, they might opt to return when life and the economy are not so strained. Those in locked down states such as California, Illinois, or Michigan might consider moving to states that have opened responsibly. The result could mean more workers, jobs and businesses moving once there is some visibility from the COVID-19 storm.

Of course, this all depends on the re-openings happening responsibly and there are not new upswings in COVID cases erode confidence and spark new shutdown orders.

That is one of the great unknowns we are facing along with all the economic stresses.

While state and regional tourism promoters can focus on ‘drive’ markets and staycations, local governments can find way to help restaurants, bars and other businesses reopen responsibly. Ideas such allowing restaurants to use parking lots for socially distant seating are a start.

Drive-in events, socially distant concerts and other ideas are being tried around the country. Our local businesses and governments should embrace them and see what might work and what does not.

Faster permits and embracing innovating and creative ideas that help the economy while balancing public health should be at forefront.

COVID-19 has hit Scottsdale and its tourism and event industries hard. But the city has assets and appeal for local visitors and drive markets such as California.

Let’s seize that opportunity in a responsible way.

There are many tragedies from the pandemic.  Cancelation of high school graduations and all of the smiles and memories that come with them is certainly one of them.

That pomp and circumstance is something none of us forget, our entire lives.

While some school districts have not yet thrown in the towel it seems that so many have.  That’s a shame.  In the greater Scottsdale area, there exists an opportunity to do right by all of these high school seniors.

Over the years Scottsdale city and school leaders talk a good game about more collaboration for the collective good. Yet, it never seems to really happen.  Here’s a chance.

WestWorld is best known as a 240-acre venue that is home to the world-famous Barrett-Jackson Collector Car Auction and Scottsdale Arabian Horse Show.  But it also has a massive polo field and adjacent parking field that doesn’t get much use this time of the year.

So why not turn it into a makeshift graduation venue, immediately, for as many local high schools that want to use it for drive-in graduation ceremonies?

Actual and pop-up drive-in movies are becoming all the rage as we social distance.  There is no better venue perhaps in Maricopa County to now salvage memories for our seniors.

Scottsdale voters showed WestWorld great love in the November 2019 bond election by authorizing substantial new investment in the facility.  Now it’s time for WestWorld, and city leadership, to return the favor to those who need it most.  Now.

The polo field and parking lot can literally host thousands of cars, just as happens during Barrett-Jackson.

So, let’s make it so now.  With temporary staging allowing students to be introduced and look out at a scene that may be even better than a normal graduation.  Instead of clapping there will be the honks of cars.  Instead of what might have beens there will be memories and smiles.

This can be Scottsdale at its very best, and safest. It has a great venue to save the day.  A very important day.   Do it.

By Virginia Korte —

The past few weeks I have spent a lot of time talking about the need to diversify our economic structure in Scottsdale, bringing in different industries and high paying jobs so we don’t have an over reliance on tourism. I truly believe that we have been hit harder and remain overly vulnerable because of our lack of economic diversity.  As your mayor, I will work hard to remedy that.

However, I want to be clear that the tourism industry in Scottsdale is one of the best things about our city and I believe we need to do everything we can to not just rebuild it to what it was, but to build on it and make it better moving forward.

COVID-19 hit during our peak tourism season, causing steep revenue declines and temporarily shuttering some hotels, along with spas, retail and attractions. Other businesses – like restaurants – had to shift their business models overnight. For hotels that remained open, occupancy and revenue declined approximately 90% year-over-year in April

No matter how you spin it, this is a devastating blow to the tourism industry and it makes me sad every time I think about all the incredible employees and business owners who are suffering because of it.

But even during the crisis,  Experience Scottsdale has been working to keep the destination top of mind. They’ve been working with media to generate editorial coverage to inspire travelers to consider Scottsdale when they’re ready to travel again.

Meetings are being booked for the summer and fall, travel agents are being trained virtually in how to sell Scottsdale, and American Express Travel named Arizona as one of the top 5 travel destinations.

There has been a heightened focus on outreach to the southwest region, since tourism will be driven more by road travel than air travel. Experience Scottsdale is rolling out a summer program immediately after Memorial Day and will be leading with messages about our wide, open spaces, experiences that allow visitors room to roam, and ways for visitors to create connections with family and friends – something we are all missing these days.

They continue to work with travel writers to produce Scottsdale travel features in key markets as well as luxury travel advisors to help drive customers into our resorts, art galleries, restaurants and retail stores.

All of us can play a role in supporting our tourism base by scheduling a “staycation” and spend some leisure time at some of the finest resorts in the world, right here in Scottsdale!

On top of all the outreach that organizations like Experience Scottsdale are doing, I have been working with other local mayors, chambers, business leaders, and local municipalities across the state to seek federal grants to help support the hit our city revenue will take from the economic impact. For tourism to recover in Scottsdale, we need to be able to guarantee our businesses and tourists are safe and that our city can maintain the high-quality city services and maintenance that makes Scottsdale such an appealing tourist destination in the first place.

Scottsdale wouldn’t be Scottsdale without the tourism industry, and I will fight to bring our number one industry back to a place where it’s stronger than before.  Leadership Matters.

Sincerely,

Virginia L. Korte

Virginia Korte serves on the Scottsdale City Council and is a candidate for Scottsdale Mayor.

By Recker McDowell —

The economy is reopening but it is going to take time to recoup the more than 36 million jobs lost to COVID-19 and the contagion’s shutdowns.

Veteran economist Elliott Pollack said Friday the economic recovery from the Coronavirus and its impacts could be a 2 to 5-year process.

Economists from the University of Chicago estimate as many as 42 percent of the lost jobs might not be coming back. That translates into 15 million jobs. There are already restaurants, retailers and other small businesses who have indicated they will not be reopening at all after the COVID-19 shutdown. Plenty of other companies are putting off new hires. Other employers will not bring back as many workers as they reopen and gauge the economy and how consumers and businesses are behaving and the impacts of social distancing.

This demands creativity, innovation and immediate actions throughout our economy, our communities, and our political system.

We know lives are at stake and the economy and businesses need to open safely and responsible. This holds true for restaurants, offices and sports and events venue.

We need the private sector to step forward with innovations, with new approaches and ways of doing business. We need economic developers, elected officials, and candidates in every community and at every level to have vision for how to create jobs, for how they will help important and hard-hit industries.

Employees should press their managers, bosses, and CEOs on how they are going to navigate these troubled waters and what are their short and long-term plans for coming out of this.

Voters should expect real answers from Donald Trump, Joe Biden, governors, mayors, city councilors and members of Congress, as well as anyone running for office on how we are going to create jobs and save businesses, especially small businesses.

We know this might be above the current pay grades for some. But it is chance for businesses to innovate and create and for elected officials to show empathy and leadership.

Creative and adaptive reuse of land and properties, regulatory, licensing and permitting reforms that help businesses retain and create job as well as tax, infrastructure investments and job training programs are starting points.

Conversely, elected officials should be listening to voters (including entrepreneurs and small businesses owners and especially impacted workers) on what might help them stay in business or find jobs.

At workplaces, employees need to engage and come up with ideas and changes on how to grow their careers and businesses. We all need to be thinking, praying, and innovating.

It might not be easy, but this is also a chance for workers and businesses to find better purpose to reset their goals and cultures.

The year 2020 is no time for conventional, top-down thinking.

We know there is fear, worry and lack of visibility on COVID-19 and the economy.

Many of history’s life changing innovations, inventions and transformations were born out of crises like pandemics. We are seeing and facing a lot of pain, but it is also a chance and an opportunity to save jobs and the economy while protecting and improving public health.

Let’s expect more of our ‘leaders’ and ourselves.

By Recker McDowell —

The psychology of COVID-19 is as impactful as its direct impacts on public health and lost jobs.

The pandemic has stirred fear, worry and anxiety. Those have been magnified by daily case and death counts as well as dire predictions of more cases and future outbreaks.

Beyond all the health worries, fear is driving everything from consumers, job seekers and investors to media coverage and business decisions.

We need to overcome the fear and worry on so many levels.

Beyond the losses of life and jobs, the Coronavirus has also canceled or postponed important events such as the Kentucky Derby, March Madness or high school proms and graduations across the country. In Arizona, Cactus League spring training games, Phoenix Suns games and Scottsdale’s Mighty Mud Mania and other community events have been canceled.

Those cancelations have psychological effects. They feed into the fear, anxiety, and uncertainty over when the pandemic might ease and when the economy might return to some sort of normalcy.

As the economy reopens in Arizona, Texas, Florida and other states, it is essential the re-openings are responsible and generate confidence.

That entails making diners comfortable at their favorite restaurant. Employees feeling safe at their workplaces. And, venues and sporting events need to responsible open and find ways to social distance but also give some sense normalcy.

Those can be big sporting events or smaller community ones that mean even more to our friends and neighbors right now.

Summer vacations, Labor Day Weekend, the start of the next school year and football games (from high school up to the NFL) in the fall could all look very different. But imagine the psychological impacts if those happen and if those do not happen.

The confidence will encourage further openings of phased in plans. Small businesses and employers will be able to reopen. This will help save jobs and bring back some of the 21 million jobs lost because of the pandemic and its closures.

The confidence will also ease consumers’ minds and encourage them to make purchases.

Increased confidence and optimism can also quiet the fearful and negative chorus especially in the media that at times looks as if they want rising death counts, more Trump Twitter tantrums, and endless closures.

COVID-19 is an event of the century. Its impacts are global and destructive. But as the economy reopens and the public looks for some sort of visibility about their health and jobs, it will be small victories that propel confidence.

Community events and outings and reasoned re-openings will be drive those small victories.

By Recker McDowell —

Elon Musk is promising to move Tesla’s headquarters out of California to Texas or Nevada over his frustrations with the Golden State’s COVID-19 shutdowns.

Musk will not be alone in evaluating and re-evaluating where to locate and land jobs after the pandemic ends.

COVID-19 has already cost the economy more than 21 million jobs. Some of those job losses are permanent with pandemic hastening the demise of some retailers, restaurants, department stores, media companies and small businesses.

Other jobs will come back as the economy reopens. Innovators and decisionmakers such Elon Musk will be looking at how to navigate social distancing, how to avoid outbreaks and where to locate jobs and operations.

States and communities will be judged on both their public health and economic responses to the Coronavirus. Entrepreneurs, CEOs, professional and creative workers will be deciding where they want to work and live. Some displaced workers will relocate to new places.

Musk is looking at Texas and Nevada in part because of California’s more stringent COVID-19 restrictions. Texas and Nevada also do not have state income taxes and offer cheaper costs than New York, California, and Seattle.

Arizona also has cost and regulatory advantages for businesses compared to California and other more expensive markets.

Musk is also looking at which states are best for him to grow his businesses (Tesla and SpaceX). He’s looking at which states are ‘open for business’ and open for innovation beyond COVID-19.

States and regions with Coronavirus lockdowns that did not try to find a balance between public health and jobs and the economy could suffer post-pandemic. Some governors and mayors have worked with businesses to get the economy reopen responsibly. That is the path Arizona Governor Doug Ducey has sought.  Other elected officials have been more focused on shutdown orders and press appearances. They come across as tone-deaf to the economic hardships caused by the virus.

Communities will also have to prove their innovation and creativity during and after COVID-19.  Cities and regions who are acting fast and finding creative ways to help small businesses and restaurants will save jobs now.

They are also likely to invite more job growth and new investments going forward.

Cities and states that are innovative and less burdensome with regulations and land-use can help save jobs now. They will also be able to parlay best practices going forward to benefit their economies.

The pandemic will also expand the use of technology and working from home. Cities have an opportunity to become leaders on those fronts or get left behind.

COVID-19 is causing unprecedented economic pain.

It is a challenge to find the balance between public health and jobs.

How state and regions respond to that challenge will impact their economies now and their economic development going forward.

By Recker McDowell —

The U.S. economy lost 20.5 million jobs in April. The unemployment rate is 14.7 percent and could hit 20 percent or higher due to the impacts of COVID-19.

Economies and businesses are gradually opening (including in Arizona). But it is going to take time for businesses to rehire workers and ramp back up operations. Consumers will also have to figure out their spending and behaviors (including travel and what kind of events and venue they may frequent or avoid).

We are still very much in unchartered waters heading into the summer when the 2020 campaign season will start to get even more intense.

As we all know COVID-19 is an unprecedented threat to public health, jobs, and the economy. It is the Spanish Flu and Great Depression combined potentially.

We need unprecedented, unorthodox, and innovative leadership to deal the pandemic as well as the job losses and fears that COVID-19 has brought. The 20.5 million who lost jobs just in April pretty much amounts to the entire populations of Arizona and Illinois.

There is a definitely the need for FDR (‘Nothing to fear but fear itself) assurances. Fear has gripped much of the media coverage and politics around the Coronavirus. We need leadership at all levels that rises above the fear and worry as well as the partisan rancor on social media.

We need that leadership all the way day down to the local level. We need business and community leaders to stress hope over fear.

Our communities and economy also need vision and creativity to how jobs, small businesses, and key industries such as tourism will come out the other side of the pandemic. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported 7.7 million job losses nationally in leisure and hospitality, 2.1 million in retail and 1.4 million in health care. Those losses are equivalent to the respective metropolitan populations of Dallas-Fort Worth, Kansas City and Memphis.

We need leadership at the political, private sector and community levels that goes beyond dire public health warnings of COVID-19 cases and broad calls to reopen the economy. We need solutions and ideas short and long-term to create and save jobs, rejuvenate shopping centers, restaurant areas and other properties impacted by COVID-19.

Numerous companies are already or are looking at making some of their temporary layoffs permanent.

Nordstrom is permanently closing its store at Chandler Fashion Center. There are already numerous restaurants that are also not reopening. All that means lost jobs, lost tax revenue, and adversely impacted real estate.

Cities and states should be looking at common sense adjustments to regulations and licensing. They should be thinking outside the box in terms of land use and zoning.

They should be fast tracking permits and plans that create and save jobs. This is a challenge and requires city staff, state regulators, economic developers, and elected officials to up their game.

We also need to see the private sector to step forward. We know many businesses; many entrepreneurs and creatives are in survival mode. We know financing could be very tough after the U.S. Small Business Administration’s Paycheck Protection Program funds are utilized.

But our communities and economy need job creators and innovators to do just that. This where innovators and entrepreneurs can rise to the occasion and find opportunities amidst this most challenging time.

This is the ultimate crunch time for the economy and our communities.

We need vision and action.

City managers are a lot like baseball pitchers.  You’re not going to win every political and policy game. But if you go 21-5 during the course of a year on important decisions you are municipal Cy Young Award winner.

And Scottsdale City Manager Jim Thompson, over the past many years, has helped Scottsdale win.  A lot.

He’s earned the respect of the business community, unions and activists.  That’s pretty hard to do.  Large special events appreciate his approach, in marked contrast to City Managers past.

With increasing confidence in city government Scottsdale voters authorized a one-tenth of one cent increase in the city sales tax in 2018 to secure road and transportation funds to aid the community over the next decade.

And last year, for the first time in two decades, Scottsdale voters didn’t just pass a bond and infrastructure for the community.  They passed it overwhelmingly.

Maybe our minds are growing more feeble with age but we don’t recall embarrassing city scandals or controversy either.

And prior to the pandemic the city’s economy was booming.

All of this doesn’t happen without a smart, experienced City Manager, which Jim Thompson is.  He doesn’t seek the limelight.  He gives credit to his bosses, the seven elected officials who vote.

His hire was a smart one by the City Council in late 2016.  It stopped the almost comical revolving door in the Scottsdale City Manager’s office and has returned the city to the can-do spirit that has typified its history.

Despite all of this another blog that comments on Scottsdale matters, purportedly run by an odd dude with a dubious win-loss record like the infamous Shelby Miller, recently opined about dissatisfaction with Thompson, even raising the specter of a potential dismissal.

Now if that’s not a foul ball, or a new version of a Scottsdale strike out, we don’t know what is.

While true that the city’s response to pandemic challenges has been sluggish, we liken it to the middle innings of baseball game.  Just because you might be trailing on the scoreboard then doesn’t mean you can’t or won’t win the game.  Over the next month Thompson would be wise to listen, very closely, to those on City Council and otherwise who don’t think the city has been doing enough to aid the business community or make internal cuts.

There is an increasing anger as the Scottsdale private sector gets decimated the public sector is doing precious little to share in the pain.  Thompson needs to understand this better and put a plan in place for more city cuts, and its benefitting organizations now.

In fairness to Thompson, 257 jobs already have been cut, in addition to freezes.  And Scottsdale has a bi-polar structure in which the City Treasurer reports to the City Council rather than the City Manager which can create challenges with decision-making.

But in the end Thompson and city leadership need to be on the side of the taxpayer, not bloated government.  He needs to be listening more closely not only to his bosses but to those on the very front lines who begged city staff for more help and creative thinking at the outset of this crisis only to gain response from a city, as we have said before, that has seemed concussed.

But every game, including the most important ones, are often won in the later innings. We have every confidence in Thompson and the City Council to do just that on a budget and financial approach that makes the most sense for Scottsdale’s challenging times ahead.  If there is friction so be it. It can often lead to the candor and conversations necessary for the best approach and compromise.

But for anyone to raise a question about Thompson’s future, well, they should be checked into the hospital for reasons other than those causing this crisis.

That business community many are counting on to help Scottsdale emerge from an economic catastrophe?  They will be outraged about any talk of starting over with a new City Manager rather than continuing the respectful relationship with Thompson.  The message to the marketplace would be devastating too.  We also have a feeling many prominent activists would feel likewise because Thompson has treated them with the dignity, they deserve rather than the derision his predecessors deployed behind their backs.

Since being announced as City Manager on December 8, 2016 Thompson has stood tall on the Scottsdale mound. And there he should remain, serving the people and City Council as he has with fitness, finesse, and fortitude.

We’ll leave you and baseball analogies with this:  Randy Johnson didn’t have his best stuff when he came in late to Game 7 of the 2001 World Series against the Yankees.  After all, he’d pitched the day before and won.  But is there anyone else the crowd wanted to see in that critical moment?  Not a chance.  He wasn’t the only reason the Diamondbacks won that night. But they did win.  And Johnson ended up being the Co-MVP.

 

 

 

By Recker McDowell —

Nordstrom is closing its store at Chandler Fashion Center permanently. The Chandler store is among 16 locations Nordstrom is shuttering.

Other retailers will also be permanently closing stores with COVID-19 hastening the demise of some already struggling brands and locations.

Nordstrom’s closure at Fashion Center is a blow to Chandler. The East Valley suburb has worked for years to become more of a destination whether it be for technology workers or shoppers. The growth of companies such as Intel and Waymo (Google’s self-driving car venture) have helped put Chandler on the national map for technology jobs.

Nordstrom’s closure at Chandler Fashion Center is among a wave of lost jobs because of or quickened by the pandemic.  The U.S. economy lost 2.1 million retail jobs in April and 20.5 million overall with COVID-19 grinding commerce and travel to a halt.

The Nordstrom store was also a feather in Chandler and the mall’s cap. The high-end department store brought significant tax revenue. The only other Nordstrom store in the Phoenix market is at Scottsdale Fashion Square.

Chandler has sought to be on the same level as Scottsdale when it comes to shopping options. The Nordstrom closure puts that effort back. Scottsdale is still the hub for luxury shopping and high-end brands. We will see how that segment also emerges from COVID-19 and all its fallouts.

Chandler has made a lot of progress, especially as a technology center. It is also looking to build up its roster of local restaurants in its downtown area as it sees the success of Gilbert’s Heritage District and Old Town Scottsdale.

Chandler and other cities will need to be creative and innovative on how they fill or redevelop retail and other business spaces left empty after COVID-19.

Nordstrom is also closing stores in California, Maryland, Texas, Oregon, Florida, and other states.

The Nordstrom closure hurts Chandler Fashion Center and hurts Chandler, but it should not diminish the East Valley’s other economic development and community accomplishments.

By Suzanne Klapp —

The Scottsdale City Council is running out of time to address the severe economic impact we are witnessing now in our city revenues.  Each day we do not recognize and act on the dramatic drop in sales tax revenues, the budget hole for the city’s next fiscal year just gets deeper.

I am increasingly uncomfortable and alarmed with the lack of movement from city leadership on appropriately projecting significantly reduced revenues and developing a realistic budget that recognizes the unique and devastating effect the Coronavirus pandemic has had on the residents and businesses in Scottsdale and on our city’s financial health. Our city has been hit hard by the pandemic

This week the City Council held its second discussion on a 2020-2021 fiscal year budget that begins on July 1st; revenues are now projected by city management to decline about $25 million or around 7% from the previously projected $338 million revenue figure in the General Fund.  Or, compared to this fiscal year’s adopted budget, revenues are projected to be down only $13 million or 4% less.  The Council must adopt a tentative fiscal year budget in about two weeks.   Final budget adoption will be on June 16th.

This most recent budget plan from city management projects what is referred to as a V-shaped recovery, where as soon as the city reopens, business will bounce back.  As presented to the Council, the budget optimistically reflects that the present economic woes and rapidly declining revenues will immediately begin to improve in the first half of the next fiscal year – starting July 1st. After that, it’s back to “normal” or business as usual.

The notion that Scottsdale will regain its financial footing in a short period of time is absurd, and I hope my Council colleagues will see as I do, that we must prepare for a long recovery over at least a year or more. The chances of even a U-shaped recovery, where revenues remain flat for a while and then slowly begin to recover, are quickly disappearing.  According to local economist Elliott Pollack, the recovery will be more like  “a (Nike) Swoosh with a lot of bumps and dips along the way.”

Some public health experts project that the Coronavirus will return, possibly in the fall of 2020, which would then extend the bottom of the curve and possibly another shutdown of the city. All these scenarios appear to project that a quick recovery is likely not happening in Scottsdale.

Our budget should reflect that the city will use up its $55 million unreserved fund balance by early 2021, unless we begin more serious budget cutting now.

Too much latitude, too much discretion, is clearly unadvisable.

The City’s March sales tax receipts are now down 26% compared to March of last year.  April’s decline will likely be double that of March, according to City Treasurer Jeff Nichols.  And May sales tax receipts will very likely be similar to April, even with businesses slowly reopening.  About 50% of city budget revenues in the General Fund are generated by sales taxes.

Slipping consumer confidence, health concerns and Scottsdale’s dependence on tourism and related activities will significantly slow the city’s ability to bounce back after this recession.   According to the Conference Board’s Consumer Confidence Index nationwide, consumer assessment of business conditions dropped a record 90 points in April.  These consumers do not believe they will see their incomes rise.   The overall consumer confidence index dropped from 118.8 in March to 86.9 – a rapid 27% decline.

Some steps have been taken in the last two weeks to cut our city budget expenses and stem the flow of red ink. Planned salary increases, representing $7.5 million, have been deferred, but have not been eliminated as I have strongly recommended.  By delaying some spending and vehicle replacements, holding full- and part-time positions vacant, and some other cost-cutting mechanisms, total reduction in the general fund operating uses is now stated at $18.9 million – a far cry from where this number should be.

Yet, the Council’s report on budget balancing in our operations does not give a clear picture.  A $10 million contingency fund has been set up by city management to contain anticipated spending: one-half year of salary merit increases, ($3.8 million), one-half year of salary market adjustments ($2 million), the vacation trade program (.7 million), and various other costs.   This fund is still part of the budget expenditures, but is inappropriately separated into a contingency category in order to be utilized later at management’s discretion.  About $7 million of the $10 million consists of items moved from the budget’s operating uses.  A normal operating contingency fund would be about $3 million.

It is imperative that the City Council has clarity now on revenue figures and the actual spending plan, as I requested in the last meeting and which my fellow Council members affirmed by a 7-0 vote. My analysis of the budget is that expenditures have not actually been cut as much as was presented in this weeks’ meeting.  Shifting planned expenditures from one category to another creates too much discretion and a true lack of transparency.

It is far too optimistic to project a $25 million drop in revenues.  The revenue decline will be at least double that amount or $50 million, and realistically, the revenue drop could be as much as $80 million.  I hope my council colleagues agree.    If the drop is larger than our revenue forecast, for each million dollars we do not cut now, we will likely sacrifice 10 people later.  Personnel costs make up 74% of the general fund expenditures.

These are hard decisions, but they must be made.  Salary increases must be eliminated entirely, not held in a contingency account. We cannot contemplate increases at the same time that we are eliminating people. Some programs and services must be cut.  Hours at some city facilities must be reduced.  Selected capital projects must be deferred or closed to potentially free up millions of dollars in operating costs from the General Fund.  Some jobs should be shifted to work-at-home or in remote locations to reduce facility costs.  Some city properties (not in the Preserve) should be sold.   There’s many more ways to find needed dollars.

I made a recommendation two weeks ago that the City Manager and executive staff should immediately discuss prioritizing services now to determine which are most and least important for serving our residents and businesses.  That has not happened.  Instead, there is a plan to hire an outside consultant to do this work.

Such a process will take months and will not help us to make decisions by June.  I have faith in our own city people to discuss and set the proper programs and services priorities.  Department heads know their operations intimately and the serious nature of the budget dilemma. We have talented people in our own organization who have the skills to lead productive discussions throughout the organization.

We have little time to face the reality, with each passing day, that our city’s economy is in a deep dive.  With each passing day we will be digging the city out of a deeper hole and watching our city change dramatically.  We have to answer tough questions about how we can do business differently, more efficiently, in a more cost effective way, while serving the residents and businesses in Scottsdale.

It is my job right now to navigate a perilous economy, to make realistic budget decisions, to help build consumer confidence to reignite the economy and to help get people back to work.

Suzanne Klapp serves on the Scottsdale City Council and is a candidate for Mayor.

We have not been shy about the city of Scottsdale’s sluggish response to its critical tourism industry, waylaid by a pandemic. It’s supposed to be a first among municipal equals when it comes to ingenuity.  Instead, it’s led from behind, performing as if concussed rather than with commitment and conviction.

Fortunately, one of its wannabe leaders, Scottsdale City Council candidate Betty Janik has stepped into the vacuum.  Recognizing the profound despair being felt across Scottsdale by its restaurants, bars, and other small businesses Janik has proposed an innovative idea that should be adopted immediately by Scottsdale, all Arizona cities and ordered so by Governor Ducey, if legally permissible.

Janik described her bold, smart idea recently in a Scottsdale Independent opinion piece.  You can read it here.

In a nutshell it is this: Since government is so restricting the ability of these small businesses to operate – including impractical distancing requirements – allow these businesses to function outside its walls on sidewalks, city streets and perhaps parking lots where appropriate and safe.  In other words, if government won’t let bars and restaurants operate profitably inside – give them the tools outside – where they may have a chance to survive.  And don’t take forever to study the idea.  Do it.  Now.

It’s simple.  Allow these businesses to extend their own premises where food and beverage operations can take place.  Restaurants by gubernatorial decree have already been allowed to sell liquor to go . . . and the world didn’t end.  Neither will it with this reform.  Indeed, it will be even better as more businesses will have a chance to make it, and by so doing, continue to contribute tax revenue so critical to local and state coffers.

It is not a bridge too far.  This is a step that is desperately needed, and we thank Janik for suggesting an unorthodoxed idea for an unprecedented circumstance. More ideas like them are desperately needed.

 

 

 

Scottsdale City Councilman Guy Phillips has been cleared by the city’s independent ethics panel of any wrongdoing stemming from allegations he should have reported income received by a GoFundMe account, according to the Scottsdale Independent.  The inquiry looked at Phillips’ links to the group opposed to the Southbridge Two development in Old Town Scottsdale.

You can read the Scottsdale Independent article here.

By Recker McDowell —

The city of Peoria is hosting a virtual Second Saturday event on May 9th to help promote small businesses as well as local restaurants, musicians, and artists. Residents and business owners can attend the event at www.facebook.com/Peorias2ndSaturdays.

Local business and entrepreneurs are being hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic.

This is the type of event all communities need to be doing and not just now.

Even after states and communities lift their business closures and shelter in place orders, it is going to take a while for the economy to get going again. More than 30 million jobs have been lost (at least temporarily). It is going to take time for some consumers to get spending again depending on their job situations.

Businesses will also need time to ramp back up their operations. That includes rehiring workers, updating inventories, and spending again.

Small businesses are on the frontlines of the COVID-19’s economic destruction. They are the lifeblood of our communities (including in Peoria and the West Valley). They are job creators and tax revenue generators.

Small businesses also do not have the advertising budgets for TV, digital and other ads big multinationals and national brands use to market to quarantined and at-home consumers.

Communities (that means the local public and private sectors) need to rally around our small businesses to help them survive the pandemic.

That is what Peoria is doing with the virtual event.

But the effort cannot stop now or over the summer. We need sustained and long-term support for the backbones of our local economies and communities.

Once upon a time it was the site of a beloved mall.  Then voters directed the City Council to create a next generation mixed-use development anchored by a sports arena.  When that was fumbled a less imaginative Walmart Supercenter-centric retail plan was put forth.

But progress was not made at the southeast corner of Scottsdale and McDowell Roads until a three-party agreement with the property owner (Ellman Companies), the city and the ASU Foundation was struck.  And “SkySong” was born.

The doubts were many at the outset. But ASU partnered with the well-known Sharon Harper and her company, The Plaza Companies, to bring it to life.  And a powerful, living, impressive center of commerce SkySong now is.

It’s hard to keep track of all the construction that’s taken place there but in the latest news SkySong may be paying the City of Scottsdale over $3 million for a small property to make its final building, bigger.  It would come at a time when Scottsdale’s finances have never been so stressed.

Has SkySong been transformative in a way an arena might have been?  No. But it’s a helluva lot better than a big Walmart and similar retail.

Over the past decade plus all of those involved deserve a great deal of credit for delivering an interesting, innovative project that has unquestionably been good for southern Scottsdale.  It’s a symbol that a proud part of the community has fought back, ably, effectively for one of the next great neighborhoods and areas in the Valley.

SkySong may not be as beloved as the old Los Arcos Mall but it should be loved as a revitalization project done right that’s done good.  Very, very good.

 

Friends don’t let friends drive drunk. And friends shouldn’t let friends govern by groupthink.

Over the years Arizona Governor Doug Ducey and Scottsdale Mayor Jim Lane have been very close. Speeches at States of City.  Appearances at each other’s campaign fundraisers.  Ideological allies.

So, it must have been difficult for Lane to criticize the Governor’s recent extension of his stay at home order until May 15th, as reported by Scottsdale Progress Editor Wayne Schutsky. As a side note Schutsky has become as invaluable as he is intrepid to the Scottsdale community.

You can read Mayor Lane’s remarks and the Progress story here.

Lane’s remarks about the Governor “moving the goal posts” are on the mark as Scottsdale’s tourism dependent economy is reeling more than most from the pandemic’s economic trauma.

We have not been shy about Scottsdale’s sluggish response to the situation.  Deteriorating businesses don’t need lame “Good To Go” signs. They might as well read “About To Go Out Of Business.” They need financial help, just like other cities led by Tempe and Mesa are doing.

But as another saying goes, it’s better late than never.

Mayor Lane is in a position to impact this Governor like few others. We applaud him for speaking his peace. It may very well impact what and when Ducey acts again and save a few Scottsdale businesses along the way.

2020 Scrum


Coronavirus Tracking Update

Three months after the start of the crisis and two months after the start of this tracking poll, the shock of coronavirus begins to wear off as Americans move towards returning to their normal lives. According to our latest data, the final in this series of tracking, the number of Americans that are at least somewhat worried about contracting coronavirus has dropped by 9 points since its high point of 76% on April 4. Our numbers also show the president’s approval rating for his handling of the coronavirus has decreased 6-points from the start of the survey on March 28. Details on these key findings and trendlines for today’s data points are presented below.

On April 4, 76% of Americans were at least somewhat worried about contracting the coronavirus, the highest in our tracking so far. Since then, that figure has dropped by 9 points, with only 67% of Americans being at least somewhat worried about contracting the coronavirus.

President Donald Trump’s approval rating on his handling of the coronavirus is currently sitting at 45%, which has slightly decreased in the past few weeks. It is also 6 points below the 51% approval he held when we first started our tracking on March 28.

A plurality of Americans believe the country’s current economic conditions are poor (42%), with only 23% believing it is either good or excellent. This general perception has remained consistent in the past month. Looking ahead, 26% say they expect the economy to improve over the next month, while 45% say they expect it to continue to worsen.

“With more and more states lifting their stay at home restrictions, we’ll most likely see the perception of the economy continue to improve as we go into the summer season.”
– Scott Tranter, 0ptimus Analytics

“While fear of contracting the virus is declining, fear about the future of the economy is on the rise.”
– Terry Sullivan, Firehouse Strategies

We are extremely disappointed in the Arizona Supreme Court ruling denying Arizona voters their fundamental right to participate in the initiative process. It would not have been difficult for the Court to grant voters both safety and their Constitutional rights, but today, they refused to do that despite the immediate availability of the E-qual online signature collection system and the ongoing rise of Coronavirus cases and deaths across Arizona.

The Supreme Court’s ruling forces Arizona citizens who want to exercise their Constitutional right to vote, their right to initiative, and their right to free speech to disregard facts and endanger their lives. We believe that is a failure of justice based exclusively on political bias.

Despite our robust start in late-February, Save Our Schools Arizona now has no choice but to suspend signature collection efforts for the Save Our Schools Act, a citizen initiative aimed at reforming and limiting the state’s unaccountable private school voucher program. As a grassroots, volunteer organization, we do not have multiple millions of dollars to fund paid signature collection, nor are we willing to endanger our friends, neighbors, grandmothers, brothers and colleagues wo make up the Save Our Schools volunteer network.

Instead, we are committed to the following:

  • Voter protect reforms and limits to private school vouchers in Arizona, either through legislative referral or a future citizen initiative
  • Promote and support anti-privatization candidates up and down the November 2020 ballot
  • Continue educating millions of Arizona voters about the harm of privatization in education and the value in supporting public schools.

The Supreme Court’s ruling is an obstacle in our mission to protect public education in Arizona and to stop reckless privatization in our state, but we are an organization that has proven we can and will succeed against the odds. This ruling does not change our plan to support the public schools serving 95 percent of Arizona students and permanently reform private school vouchers in order to better serve Arizona families, communities and our future.

—  Save Our Schools Arizona

Coronavirus Tracking Update: 

Despite the building economic pressure to reopen states, the majority of Americans continue to support stay at home restrictions. According to the latest numbers from the Firehouse Strategies and 0ptimus Analytics coronavirus tracking survey, 78% of Americans support current stay at home restrictions in their area.  Our numbers also show concern for the consequences of moving too quickly to reopen, with 72% of likely voters saying they are more concerned about loosening restrictions too quickly than too slowly. Details on these key findings and trendlines for today’s data points are presented below. Look out for updated numbers on Thursday on our website.

  • Even as states begin to open up, 78% of Americans support current stay at home restrictions in their area. Only 16% believe the restrictions are too strict compared to 30% who believe they aren’t strict enough, with 55% of Americans indicating that the restrictions are just about right.
  • When asked about loosening these current restrictions, 86% of Democrats and 52% of Republicans are more worried that loosening them too quickly will result in the virus spreading quicker.
  • Joe Biden continues to lead against Donald Trump in the general election ballot test by 5 point among likely voters (50% Biden – 45% Trump). He has maintained a 4-6 point lead in our tracking over the past two weeks.

“The majority of folks are in favor of restrictions in their area, but we are seeing some groups become more focused on the economy.”
– Scott Tranter, 0ptimus Analytics

Democrats and Republicans increasingly disagree on the pace of reopening.”
– Alex Conant, Firehouse Strategies

Dear Fellow Paradise Valley Resident:

As your former Vice Mayor and current Paradise Valley Town Council member, I’m excited to announce my run for re-election.

Born in Phoenix, my current home in Paradise Valley is just a couple miles away from where I grew up. I have raised my family in Paradise Valley and cherish our Town’s unique values.

In difficult times, it’s important to have strong and steady leadership. My extensive experience in Town government and my four years on the Town Council have provided me with a significant amount of perspective on the challenges our Town faces and our next steps after the COVID-19 crisis.

I began as a Town volunteer serving on the Board of Adjustments, followed by serving on the Planning Commission. I’m a prior Board member of our Paradise Valley Destination Marketing Organization Experience Scottsdale, and well as former Council liaison for the Paradise Valley Arts Advisory Committee. I’m currently Council liaison for the Paradise Valley HOA committee and the Veterans Appreciation Vintage Car Show Committee.

My priorities hold true to our Town’s values:

  • Support our police officers and first responders — now more than ever
  • Fight to gain back local control over short-term rental properties
  • Uphold fiscal responsibility and a balanced budget
  • Ensure responsible development and preserve the unique residential character of our community and mountain views
  • Oppose any local property tax — we don’t need to raise Town taxes to weather this crisis.

I would like to thank our current Mayor Jerry Bien-Willner, as well as former Mayors Scott LeMarr and Ed Winkler, for endorsing my candidacy, as well as other Council Members and residents who have encouraged me to run.

I look forward to working with my colleagues to provide steady, solid leadership during this difficult time. It’s important that we continue to work together to help ensure we get past this public health crisis and help our local resorts and businesses recover, while ensuring that Town services remain at a high level.

My experience over the past decade in public service has helped prepare me to serve the Town during this unprecedented time. I ask for your vote, and if re-elected I will continue to make comprehensive decisions that are consistent with our Town’s unique quality of life and values.

I have an open-door policy with residents and thank all those who have reached out to me. I welcome the opportunity to continue hearing from all of you about any issue that may be affecting your quality of life in Paradise Valley. Please feel free to contact me at smoore@paradisevalleyaz.gov.  Or, as the re-election campaign progresses please visit me at www.ScottMooreaz.com.

Yours very truly,

Councilmember Scott Moore

Coronavirus Tracking Update 

As Americans begin a new month fighting the coronavirus pandemic, the Firehouse Strategies and 0ptimus Analytics coronavirus tracking survey shows public outlook on the economy growing more optimistic. The number of Americans who believe the US economy will get worse over the next month has decreased from 54% last month to 43%. Our numbers also show the President’s approvals on both his handling of the coronavirus and of his job as president continuing to fluctuate between 46% and 51%, landing this week at 48%. Details on these key findings and trendlines for today’s data points are presented below. Look out for updated numbers on Thursday on our website.

The number of Americans who believe the US economy will get worse over the next month has decreased from 54% last month to 43% today, a sign that Americans are growing more optimistic about the country’s economic outlook. However, only 22% still think the country’s current economic conditions are either good or excellent.

Trump’s approval rating on both his handling of the coronavirus and of his job as president are slightly underwater at 48%. Both approval ratings have been fluctuating between 46% and 51% throughout the past month.

The Democratic Party maintains its 9 point lead against the Republican Party in a generic Congressional ballot among 2020 general election likely voters (46% Democrat vs 37% Republican).

“The data shows that people are slowly starting to see the economic outlook getting better at the same time as the President’s pandemic approval at its lowest levels is a trend to watch just 6 months out from election day.”
– Scott Tranter, 0ptimus Analytics

“Initially, Trump’s handling of the coronavirus received higher marks than his personal favorability. However, the decline over the last few weeks now has his favorability and how voters view his handling of the virus tied together.”
– Terry Sullivan, Firehouse Strategies