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*Bone-headed Branding:  With the “Desert Discovery Center” becoming such a pungent name in Scottsdale over the past year plus, proponents sought to rebrand it during their reintroduction in late July with a new name of “Desert Edge.”  Apparently the project’s pied piper didn’t get the memo.  She still lists the Desert Discovery Center in her signature line.  #Communicate

*Showing they can say no to developers, the City of Scottsdale largely sided with the residents of Troon North in their dispute with a real estate speculator to triple density for a timeshare-esque project near the community’s entrance.  It was the right decision and the council appeared near unanimous, if not entirely so, standing up for Troon North. Kudos to Planning Director Randy Grant for wading through an issue that while complex was quite simple at its core.

*The Scottsdale Firefighter’s Association Annual Dinner at Dominick’s Steakhouse has become one of the “it” community and political dinners in Scottsdale.  And this year might be the best one yet with honorees like Mountainside Fitness CEO Tom Hatten, the mother that sparked the Make-A-Wish Foundation and Arizona Coyotes’ legend and Scottsdale resident Shane Doan.  Doan is likely to be introduced by Jerry Colangelo which should make for quite a night indeed.

 

*The climate for Arizona Republicans in 2018 is going to be very difficult.  And that’s no exception as the GOP races to take on Democratic Congressman Tom O’Halleran.  If there’s anyone who can defy the odds it may be the frontrunner for the Republican nomination, Arizona State Senator Steve Smith.  As Bruce Springsteen might say he was born to run.  Engaging, intelligent, determined.  If not this time for Smith he’s a talent that certainly has more political life to live.

*Look for Governor Ducey to more robustly kick-off re-election activities next month.

*If anyone thinks Arizona Secretary of State Michele Reagan isn’t steely heading into her 2018 re-election campaign think again.  Despite some early challenges she is resolved and ready to roll.

*What a difference a few years makes.  Phoenix City Councilman Daniel Valenzuela is now the frontrunner to replace Greg Stanton as Mayor of Phoenix.  After kicking the tires of a term-limits loophole former Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon will not be running again.  But in Paradise Valley former Mayor Scott Lemarr has no such problems and is still more likely than not to make another run, making him the prohibitive favorite.  

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But for the affability, tenacity, and standing of Sam Campana, a former Mayor of Scottsdale and early supporter of the city’s spectacular McDowell Sonoran Preserve, the Desert Discovery Center, Desert Edge, or whatever one wants to call it would still be known as the DDC but instead stand for Dead, Dead Center.

Despite the Preserve itself being established by public vote, and DDC advocates seeking to use a huge amount of preserve tax dollars, project proselytizers seem allergic to the notion that they too should be subject to a public vote.

We have commented before that winning a public vote is the best way to lance this community boil and ensure the project can actually gain momentum at some point in the future rather than continue to be a drag on the body politic and city coffers.  

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We have already weighed in on the repackaged Desert Discovery Center now known as Desert Edge.  It calls to mind a name more reminiscent of a bad country band than a worthwhile expenditure of taxpayer dollars.

Our purpose now is not to regurgitate our most recent opinion (here is a link.)  It’s to raise a worthwhile question:  opportunity cost.

Proponents suggest taking tens of millions of tourism AND preserve tax dollars is worthwhile.  They say so because they believe the project can be self-sustaining (it won’t) and a major new tourism draw for the city.

But ask yourself this, who is going to come to Scottsdale just because of a glorified interpretive center, as opposed to that which it seeks to accentuate, and already exists?

Think of it this way, no matter what those on the edge of advocacy for their pet project can cull together it won’t be cooler or more dramatic than El Tovar at the South Rim of the Grand Canyon.  But people don’t travel to northern Arizona to see something man-made.  They do so because of the natural wonder.  And so will it be in Scottsdale.

The McDowell Sonoran Preserve with its extensive trails, views and majesty already IS a huge tourism draw.

So why not better highlight it, or expand it, rather than divert funds from both of these purposes?

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Few municipal projects have conjured as much controversy and consternation in recent years than the Desert Discovery Center (DDC), proposed as a Valyrian Steel-like Visitor Center at the Gateway of the McDowell Sonoran Preserve.

Opponents have ransacked the purported rationale, even though form often gets in the way of their substance.

Supporters, largely the inheritors of the idea’s inertia, often tout the grand tourism benefits they think the DDC will mean.  There are also those longing, and hoping, for Scottsdale’s next great thing.

This week proponents unveiled the latest design, touting the changes that had been made and how they listened to the community, as if that is something that shouldn’t have been done all along.

But alterations can’t alter something that is fundamentally flawed, and lesser than that which it seeks to accentuate.  Allow us to invoke football to make our point.  Patrick Peterson is the All-Pro Cornerback for the Arizona Cardinals.  The other person playing that position on defense is always “the guy playing opposite Patrick Peterson.” He’s secondary, just like a man-made attraction pales next to the real thing.

Quite simply, no one is going to come to Scottsdale because of the Desert Discovery Center.  Tourists will and do because of the Preserve itself.  If people want a related man-made attraction Taliesin West is far more compelling and sits on the preserve’s edge just a short throw away.  And it’s a far better location for the DDC too.  

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As many head to the beach this holiday weekend, put the novel or Kindle down.  We’re more interesting.  For example:

*Scottsdale’s aggressive and effective anti-Desert Discovery Center grassroots group may spawn a 2018 Scottsdale City Council candidate:  Jason Alexander.  Downtown businessman Bill Crawford is also likely to challenge the incumbent line-up of Kathy Littlefield, David Smith and Linda Milhaven.

*The group has collected many thousands of signatures on its way towards forcing a public vote on the Desert Discovery Center via the initiative process.

*Keep an eye on Scottsdale Unified School District Board Member Pam Kirby.

*Politically, Arizona State Treasurer and top Trump surrogate Jeff DeWit still isn’t sure where 2017 and 2018 might take him.

*Pulte Homes has received the green light from the Glendale City Council to pump a $450 million, master-planned community investment into southern Glendale close to the Arizona Cardinals’ stadium

*Frank Schmuck is looking to gear up and get a new consultant on board for a renewed run for the Arizona State Legislature.

*Governor Ducey is making an underappreciated effort to focus on and secure Arizona’s water future. 

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Yesterday one of Arizona’s great self-congratulators, Zach Rawlings, announced a purported solution to the rancor he has caused in the Arcadia area.  There he remarkably transformed a noble effort to save and preserve the David Wright House, designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, into an exercise in noblesse oblige.

So worthy was he that he should be entitled to run over the concerns of neighbors and utilize the property for concerts and commercial activity.  Arcadia neighbors and Phoenix Councilman Sal Diciccio had none of it.

So yesterday Rawlings announced his grand solution:  some type of partnership with what was formerly known as the Frank Lloyd Wright School of Architecture and a tax-write off for himself to the Arizona Community Foundation.

Curiously, he didn’t invite any neighbors to celebrate his victory vision, probably because his acolytes contend the place will still be a place of intense activity, attracting upwards of “30,000 people annually.”

At the heart of the announcement while balloons adorned the building was and is the notion that supporters of the Taliesin architecture school will be able to raise upwards of $7 million to let Rawlings out of his controversial Arcadia corner.

This will be a tall order since the organization has never proven to be a prolific fundraiser.  Nevertheless, it sparked an idea.  If things Frank Lloyd Wright are looking to lance community boils there’s another place it could turn its attention:  Scottsdale.  And the proposed Desert Discovery Center (DDC).

Opposition to that intrusion in the McDowell Sonoran Preserve has caused an uproar that makes Rawlings’ misreading of Arcadia look docile.  Indeed, the Valley has rarely seen a more foreceful and intense grassroots opposition to anything.  Even in this hot summer month the “NODDC” group has announced several events, some to crash those organized by Desert Discovery Center supporters.  That’s chutzpah.  And smart.  

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Since it’s never too early to pontificate and prognosticate about politics, we thought we’d get a jump on a way too early look at possible successors to popular Scottsdale Mayor Jim Lane.  Due to the city’s three term limit for mayors Lane, who won in a landslide over Bob Littlefield in November, 2016, is ineligible to run again.

The odds proffered for each person are a combination of the likelihood of a run, and ultimate victory.

Virginia Korte (2:1):  She’s been running for Mayor in her own way since about the time Goldwater was nominated for President.  Korte wants the job badly and almost ran in 2012 and 2016 but wisely deferred to Lane.  There’s no question she can raise the funds necessary having raised over $200,000 for her 2016 council re-election.  And much of the Scottsdale “establishment” will be behind her.  But her re-elect numbers were sluggish.  Yes, she won but many had thought after a sterling 2012 performance the final tallies would have been better.  Perhaps that has something to do with bouts of alienation.  Korte is not one to shy away from taking a stand, whether it’s an ardent supporter of the Desert Discovery Center in the face of withering opposition or supporting a property tax increase for Scottsdale schools.  In many ways she’s like this year’s Cleveland Cavaliers:  a proven winner and Hall of Famer but whose second half (or term) underperformed, but not so much so to underestimate them come playoff time.

Suzanne Klapp (3:1):  By topping Korte in the 2016 council races in money raised and total votes Klapp showed significant political chops.  She is not saying no to a potential run but does she really want it beyond the flattery?  Klapp would be 70 plus by the time of the next race but she makes that age look like the new 50.  On the political spectrum she also occupies space right of Korte which would be helpful in a primary election coinciding with the GOP primary, though less so in a November run-off election.  Unlike the Lane-Littlefield mash-up where there were clear fault lines, Klapp and Korte occupy much of the same space on business and other matters, which means any potential race between the two would challenge loyalties and households.

Guy Phillips (6:1):  Never underestimate a guy who can get so many votes with so little in his campaign coffers.  And that would be Phillips’ challenge in a mayoral race.  Can he raise real money in a race where competitors will be able to?  Lane eclipsed $400,000 in 2016.  In Scottsdale the top two finishers, if they don’t get over 50%, advance to the General Election.  With Phillips originally emanating from the Tea Party and still loved by many in the GOP Phillips could and likely would be a strong candidate in the primary’s top two, for many of the same reasons Klapp would.  His greater challenge would be communicating with so many people in the General election, with so few dollars.

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When first elected to the Scottsdale City Council in 2012, Guy Phillips did so as a Tea Party, pissing vinegar, rage against City Hall voice.

And throughout much of his first term he did little to dissuade the notion, twice leading opposition to the city’s bond requests for community infrastructure improvements and routinely voting against business and developers.

There were notable exceptions.  Phillips is a surprisingly strong voice for the tourism industry, often standing tall when others come up short. GuyPhillips_bio

Yet, he still supported Bob Littlefield in the 2016 mayoral race, grossly misjudging the electorate in a way that also jeopardized his own path to city council re-election, which was narrow.

Perhaps those election results have had an effect on Phillips.  Or, is he eyeing a future run for Mayor or another office?

That’s because Phillips seems to be evolving.  And that’s a good thing.  He’s no longer a sure fire rejectionist for any development proposal and has even crafted innovative proposals to advance WestWorld.

In many ways, Phillips might be following the path of Jim Lane.  When first elected to City Council Lane was an ally of Littlefield before maturing and understanding that to govern Scottsdale is to be pro-preservation, pro-arts, pro-tourism and pro-business.  

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