Ding dong the Desert Discovery Center (DDC) is dead. According to this new article at azcentral.com, that is. What good news.
But is that where the resonance of this chapter of citizen rights and achievement ends?
Well, let’s look at some fascinating voter data.
Proposition 420, the citizen’s initiative brought by Desert Discovery Center opponents to effectively kill it, passed by staggering margins in big turnout, northern Scottsdale precincts. In the DC Ranch one it won with 84% of the vote. In the WestWorld precinct? 85%. In numerous other north Scottsdale precincts the vote was around 75%. Even in Supai, a southern Scottsdale precinct with what is often the Scottsdale Unified School District’s most challenged elementary school Proposition 420 passed with 69% of the vote. And what about McCormick Ranch, a barometer of the Scottsdale “establishment” that was the basis for what little support the Desert Discovery Center had? It passed there with 69% of the vote too.
Heading into Scottsdale’s 2020 election the very big question is: will voters remember Proposition 420 and what a huge wedge issue it was, and can be? Or not?
Will Proposition 420 backers maintain or morph into something like the Coalition of Pinnacle Peak used to be? Or will it fade away? Will a northern Scottsdale voting block hold making it very difficult for other candidates to make up ground elsewhere if they don’t defend the North? Scottsdale in at least the short-term may have become a different kind of Game of Thrones.
If Proposition 420 enthusiasts stay resilient like grassroots groups involved in shining sunlight on the Scottsdale School District, watch out.
For there is no doubt that Proposition 420 was the primary reason for the stunning showings of Councilwoman Kathy Littlefield’s re-election and the upset pulled off by Scottsdale City Councilwoman-Elect Solange Whitehead. Proposition 420 forces were almost enthusiastic about them as they were their measure.
Recall that the story of Scottsdale’s 2016 elections was the success of the pro-business candidates. It’s not that Littlefield and Whitehead are anti-business. Far from it. But without much money they were able to not just win, but rout their competitors. Will that happen again in 2020? Could the Scottsdale City Council assemble a slower-growth majority for the first time in decades? It’s definitely possible after the defeat and debacle of the Desert Discovery Center. For cycles to come candidates, vociferous social mediaites and independent expenditures will be able to point to those who stood with the citizen’s, more rights for them and the McDowell Sonoran Preserve, and those who did not.
And it’s not as if Proposition 420 backers were ever irresponsible with the populist platform they parlayed. Without their support Question 1, a sales tax increase for local transportation improvements, would have gone down to defeat. Supporters easily could have riffed against the establishment as they did for much of the DDC odyssey. But they did not. And Scottsdale benefitted as a result.
Scottsdale politics is always interesting. And it just got a lot more so with so many council seats and a Mayor’s race taking center stage in two years.