Were you for or against the sales tax increase to fund preservation of the McDowell Mountains? Were you for or against the Los Arcos hockey arena proposal? Were you for or against Proposition 420?
These have been the great questions and wedge issues that have shaped Scottsdale City Council elections over the past three decades.
Indeed, Proposition 420, which rallied the community to stop the Desert Discovery Center, was so resonant as to pull Kathy Littlefield and Solange Whitehead to gold and silver council medals by a wide margins. Littlefield and Whitehead were vocal supporters of Proposition 420 and it of them.
It begs the question: what might or should be the wedge issue of 2020 in Scottsdale when numerous council seats and the mayor’s office will be on the ballot?
Maybe a trip back to the future could be instructive.
In 2016 Mayor Jim Lane proposed, without little support from his peers, an intriguing reform to council representation in Scottsdale. He recognized that with no councilperson from southern Scottsdale then, or in the recent history, a change could make sense. It also could result in greater constituent service while at the same time maintaining a slice of Scottsdale’s historical commitment to “at-large” council representation.
You see, many cities now have council districts with the mayor being the only office elected throughout the city. But in Scottsdale all councilmembers and the mayor are elected at-large. Some years ago there was a Scottsdale ballot measure to go to an all-district system. At that time it was soundly defeated by voters.
But Lane’s proposal in 2016 was a hybrid. He called for three council seat and the mayor to continue to be elected at large with the remaining three seats coming from new North, Central and South districts. He argued this was the best of all worlds. And rumors suggest he struck a chord with voters as polling at the time showed very substantial support for the proposal. Lane went on to win his race by a wide margin.
While Lane was largely alone on the issue, times could be a changin’. Though Bill Crawford came up a little short for his council run in 2018 he was a supporter of the idea. And it appears Councilwoman-Elect Solange Whitehead may be too. Councilwoman Klapp, a potential front-runner for the mayor’s seat in 2020, flirted with the idea in 2016 but didn’t ultimately back Mayor Lane, her ally. That could change as Lane is widely expected to back a Klapp candidacy and everyone saw the resonance of popular ballot measures in 2018. That potentially leaves just one other councilmember to put the new council configuration to voters. If four do vote to move the matter along it will pass. The question now is, what’s the math?
For those potential candidates who opposed Proposition 420 this could be a great and helpful distraction in 2020. For those with Proposition 420 a hybrid-district proposal could be another fulfilling ride.