The Dumbfounding David Smith
There are few more interesting municipal elected officials in Arizona today than Scottsdale City Councilman David Smith. Having served as the City Treasurer he was the ultimate insider. Then as a candidate he ran as a quasi-outsider. Smith is whip smart and no matter one’s view of him he cannot be questioned about his affinity for the community.
Recently, however, the new outsider showed great fidelity to an old insider. A project called The Outpost, essentially a glorified gas station at Pima and Dynamite was vehemently opposed by north Scottsdale residents. But due to a purported close relationship between Smith and well-known project architect Vern Swaback, Smith abandoned his constituency for a party of one rather than a commitment to all. Indeed, Smith cast the deciding vote leaving North Scottsdale fuming.
Fast forward to a new case at 128th Street & Shea involving a new BASIS charter school, the #1 ranked public school in the state. Despite clear state law requiring the entitlement, Smith has presided over Design Review Board hearings that seem more a kangaroo court. Two thousands parents of BASIS students are wondering what is happening to Scottsdale.
Smith may fancy himself the adult in the room but he is selling out children in the classroom by kowtowing to a handful of neighbors near the BASIS site to make up for credentials lost at The Outpost
Arizona Governor Doug Ducey has taken the unusual step of writing the City of Scottsdale in support of the plan. But even that seems to make no difference to Smith since the Governor is not named Swaback. Perhaps if he was the project’s architect . . .
Smith is too smart not to know he is setting the city up for a costly legal mistake. City staff does. And he should know what a black mark it would be for Scottsdale’s economic development if the #1 school in the state leaves the city with everything but a lawsuit.
Chandler, Tempe, Phoenix and even Gilbert are tugging at Scottsdale’s standing in the Valley. Every economic development office there and elsewhere will use this case as one of Scottsdale awry. And they will be right. For Scottsdale didn’t earn its reputation by approving gas stations. It did by recruiting (and retaining) the best in class(room).