Featured Editorials




The New Orleans Themed Event Brought Top National Artists Together to Celebrate International Jazz Day at Scottsdale Civic Center’s East Bowl

Taking center stage for the ultimate combination of cool jazz and blues, The Molina Fine Jewelers Scottsdale Jazz, Blues & Brews Festival Presented by Mercedes-Benz of Scottsdale proved a record-breaking music festival when it hit Old Town Scottsdale on Saturday, April 27th.

The one-day New Orleans themed event took place in the Scottsdale Civic Center’s brand-new East Bowl, the city’s largest amphitheater in a beautiful setting. An estimated 2,700 people attended the festivities, a one-day for the Scottsdale Jazz Fest.

Also exceeding prior records were the one-day food and beverage sales, which rose substantially from previous years. The cuisine also followed a southern experience showcasing the flavors of New Orleans.

The Molina Fine Jewelers Scottsdale Jazz Festival Blues & Brews Presented by Mercedes-Benz of Scottsdale was part of International Jazz Day which has been recognized as a UNESCO Global event. It was founded by noted local jazz musician Doc Jones, a professional musician, educator, and recording artist for more than 40 years.

To up the ante for the 2024 event – The Scottsdale Jazz Fest partnered with the organizers and owners of the Bentley Scottsdale Polo Championships, America’s most attended polo event, to add an extra level of polo style luxury and excitement to the jazz event, as well as help introduce new elements to the event just as it has to for years with the Scottsdale Polo Party. The event’s marketing and cross-ticket promotion reached a broader audience to attract more ticket purchasers and bring more awareness the festival.

“I’ve been organizing the Scottsdale Jazz Fest for every year and there is no doubt we knocked it out of the park,” said Scottsdale Jazz Fest Founder and Organizer Doc Jones. “We owe a lot of gratitude to not only those who bought tickets and showed up to support us and honor International Jazz Day but also our great singers and the incredible performances of the artists who took to the stage to give one heck of a performance on Saturday night. Any event can improve itself and ours is no different but what a day and night it was.”

Headlining the festivities was Grammy award-winning contemporary Jazz/R&B superstar Norman Brown, who joined other artists including internationally known New Orleans jazz saxophonist Donald Harrison, renowned vocalist Nayo Jones, Carlos Rivas & Mexsal, Arizona-based jazz great Neaman Lyles, Kiara Jayne, Kings of Soul, and more.

The world’s foremost jazz singer George Benson attended as a guest to enjoy some of the evening’s performances, even introducing Brown.

One of the standout moments was the performance by the great New Orleans-born saxophone player, Donald Harrison.

Harrison’s set was not just a showcase of his exceptional musical talent, but a captivating history lesson on the evolution of Jazz. His mastery of the different styles, from traditional New Orleans Jazz to modern innovations, was simply mesmerizing. The audience was completely captivated and transported through the rich tapestry of jazz history.

“I believe Harrison’s performance was one of the highlights of the festival, providing attendees with a deeper appreciation and understanding of this uniquely American art form. His ability to seamlessly blend the past and present was truly awe-inspiring. If you were unable to attend this year’s Scottsdale Jazz Festival, I strongly encourage you to make plans to be there next time. Experiences like Harrison’s are what make this event so special and truly unforgettable,” said Jones

Proceeds from the festival benefitted the International Jazz Day AZ Foundation, which funds music programs for at-risk youth such as Next Student Academy for the Arts, Molina’s School of Jazz, and the Doc Jones’ summer music program.

In addition to a captivating array of sounds and sights, new this year was the Brew Garden Beer Tasting which featured a selection of craft beers in a signature beer garden. A beer cicerone was on hand to guide and answer any questions.

Tickets for the 2025 Scottsdale Jazz Fest will go on sale January 2nd. Visit www.ScottsdaleJazzFest.org for more details.

Among the New Tenants Now Open for Business – Michaels, Five Below, Chipotle, Starbucks, Freddy’s Steakburgers and Denny’s

Further proof the West Valley continues to surpass all population and retail estimates, Canyon Trails Towne Center, a West Valley Great Recession success story is pleased to announce 6 more popular retailers are now open for business and thriving at the 90-acre mixed use shopping center, which is located on the future southbound Loop 303 Freeway at the NEC Cotton Lane and Yuma Road in Goodyear.

The 16-year-old shopping center, which has been 100-percent leased for over a year and continues to add more GLA, is currently owned by the Santa Cruz Seaside Company, under re-development by Scottsdale Development Partners and managed by Vestar, one of the country’s largest operators of outdoor shopping centers.

New stores now open for business are Michael’s (18,300 sqft.), Five Below (10,434 sqft.), Starbuck’s (2,400 sqft.), Freddy’s Steakburger & Frozen Custard (3,190 sqft.), Chipotle (2,337 sqft.), and Denny’s (4,400 sqft.).

There are also new leases signed in the big-box lineup and on out-parcels with buildings under construction for Ulta (8,000 sqft.) which is scheduled to open at the end of 2024, Burlington (20,000 sqft.) which will open at the beginning of 2025, and OnoHawaiian BBQ (2,850 sqft.) and O’Reilly Auto Parts (7,228 sqft.) which are both scheduled to open in early 2025.

Also under construction is a new 14,500 sf multi-tenant shops building in the Main Street area of the project. Leases already signed for this new building which will be complete next month include America’s Best Contacts & Eyeglasses (3,000 sqft.), Einstein’s Bagel’s (1,217 sqft.), Baskin Robbins (1,386 sqft.), and Hello Sugar (1,200 sqft.). These new tenants are expected to open at the end of 2024.

Altogether 63,000-square-feet is under construction, which will increase the total GLA of the shopping center to 465,000-square-feet, not including the multi-family. Embrey Partners is currently building a large-scale multi-family development at Canyon Trails Towne Center. The luxury apartment project will span over 13-acres and include 284 units to the far northwest corner of the shopping center. Residents will start moving into units in August 2024 and construction will be complete in December 2024.

“What makes this center so unique is that it is a true mixed-use project that combines all segments of retail such as a daily needs grocer, soft goods, hard goods, and various services, along with lots of dining options. Then we add in the multi-family and Canyon Trails is the quintessential live, work and play environment not seen anywhere else in Goodyear,” said David Malin, president of Scottsdale Development Partners.

Malin who was the original developer of the center while with Vestar, has been the lead consultant on the redevelopment of the project since 2018 and instrumental in getting the shopping center to where it is today says it has been remarkable to watch Canyon Trails Towne Center evolve over the years.

with construction happening on new shop buildings, new pad buildings and new boxes. There is a ton of activity with an incredible roster of tenants and on top of all that our multi-family project is almost complete.”

Malin says the retailers in the center have experienced an enormous sales volume increase in the last 3 years with most retailers at Canyon Trails Towne Center reporting double and triple sales volume increases.

“There are a lot of factors and it all stems from that the huge explosion of growth that we’ve been seeing in the West Valley. The industrial wave started about five years ago which created an enormous employment basis. Most of these employees now live in Goodyear and around the West Valley, and retail follows rooftops,” said Malin.

Canyon Trails Towne Center is currently anchored by Super Target, Ross, Petsmart, and Pottery Barn Outlet. Other existing retailers in the shopping center include Orange Theory Fitness, Pedego Electric Bikes, Wingstop, Apex Physical Therapy, Clean Your Dirty Face, Pacific Dental, Tropical Smoothie Café, My Dr. Now, KFC, Carl’s Jr., Jack in the Box, Cobblestone Carwash, and Christian Brothers.

Jeffrey to manage the growth of the agency’s podcast network and consult with clients on advertising and digital campaigns

Since founding Star Worldwide Networks in 2009, Dave Pratt has continued to grow his marketing agency by producing hundreds of top-streaming podcasts and assisting clientele with media advertising, digital campaigns, social media management and influencer outreach, and has most recently brought fellow longtime radio broadcaster Mark Jeffrey to the team as a Project Manager.

“We are extremely excited to bring on another well-known and respected media pro,” said Founder of Star Worldwide Networks Dave Pratt. “Even more, Mark Jeffrey fits perfectly with our culture of being unafraid of the new media frontier, which is rare for most who have spent a career in older forms of media. Mark is a fresh, forward thinker who realizes the new media front windshield is much larger than the small rear-view mirror of radio.”

As Project Manager at Star Worldwide Networks, Jeffrey will be bringing his 30+ years in radio broadcasting and experience as an executive, podcast creator, consultant, public speaker and general connector of people, to not only grow the roster of podcasts on the network, but also work hand-in-hand with Business Director Annarose Quinn to help clientele on the development and implementation of advertising, social media and digital campaigns.

“I jumped at the chance at working with Dave and his team. His passion for helping people level up their message is contagious and aligns perfectly with my own values and goals,” said Jeffrey. “As a former executive at a big radio company, I had the honor of helping hundreds of amazing broadcasters bring their A-game to listeners everywhere and Star Worldwide Networks is the perfect platform to allow me to continue with my passion of helping great talent get their message out to the world.”

Jeffrey joins the team at Star Worldwide Networks following 30+ years on-air at multiple Top 10 radio stations across the state. His experience in roles that ranged from being an airborne traffic reporter to Operations Manage at iHeart for the entire Southwest region, as well as being an executive producer for podcasters on the VoiceAmerica Talk Radio Network, an MC for over 300 live events, the voice of hundreds of commercials and a live musician, will now all be valued skills used to help the clientele at Star Worldwide Networks.

Dave Pratt’s STAR Worldwide Networks has become one of the fastest-growing internet media producers, distributors, and marketing agencies in the nation. Their staff, consisting of a combined 150 years of experience offers both traditional and digital advertising, podcast creation and distribution, media buying, audio and video commercial production, content for social networks, social media management services, PR, graphics, audiobook recording, branding, and marketing consultation throughout the nation.

For more information on Star Worldwide Networks, visit www.starworldwidenetworks.com or call 480.510.1505.

The team behind the renowned Second Story will open a new concept this spring in the iconic Kazimierz location in Old Town. The highly anticipated opening of The Ends will take place on June 1st, 2024.

The Ends, a restaurant inspired by the spirit of Anthony Bourdain’s food travels, invites guests to experience a restaurant about all the things we love most in life; friends, weekends, and traveling to the ends of earth.

“We want to bring a concept rooted in the culture of experience and travel to the beginning of The Ends,” said Owner and Visionary Tommy Plato. “I feel grateful for the last 10 years that the community allowed Second Story to create lifelong memories with family, friends, and companions. My commitment is to continue creating a space allowing for rich life experiences over great food and drink.”

Plato recently accepted an irresistible offer to bring Velvet Taco to the Valley, a concept that originated in Dallas, Texas. That concept is set to take the place of Plato’s Second Story Liquor Bar and Gelato Spot space. Second Story closed its doors on May 4th.

Current and former staff look forward to joining Plato at The Ends. Plato also plans to invite all former guests who have dined at Second Story to the private pre-opening parties ahead of the June 1st opening.

The Ends will be a sultry, retro, airy atmosphere with a mid-century modern vibe. This marks a significant departure from Kazimierz, the low-lit bar that Plato also operated successfully in this very location for numerous years. Plato closed Kazimierz doors in July 2023 making way for his newest concept The Ends, where guests can immerse themselves in a cozy vintage ambiance. The sleek wooden low tops and tufted bar stools compliment a full-service bar with a stunning walnut top, which promises to be a focal point of the room. 

Setting The Ends apart is a captivating collection of contemporary art by renowned artists, including the talented Mike Wilcox, Milana Blackman, Leah Newton & local light artist Lily Reeves. These sophisticated touches along with the addition of lush greenery bring a level of elegance to the space, setting the scene for a great evening. Another creative addition to The Ends will be a cutting-edge ‘pasta room’ outside the entrance where homemade hanging pasta will be on display to tantalize palates.

The restaurant will offer an eclectic menu crafted by a team of culinary experts led by Executive Chef Jordano Sessions, offering a fusion of flavors inspired by global travel. From artisanal sumptuous main courses to a select few fan favorites seen on the Second Story menu including the “Life Changing Biscuits” and “Tomahawk Tuesdays”.

In the restaurant’s private dining room, The Bourdain Room, the culinary team will take guests on a revolutionary dining experience by offering a shared family-style dining experience that takes you on a journey of the entire menu.

Dinner will be served seven days a week with Happy Hour Monday-Friday and weekend brunch launching this fall. 

For more information please visit www.EndsRestaurant.com or follow on instagram: @endsresturant.

Eddie Valentino joins Cardone Ventures after a 15-year career in finance, with a proven track record and successful experience in multiple disciplines

Cardone Ventures, the Scottsdale-based company that teaches other companies how to 10X their business, is proud to announce a recent hiring into a dual role which will be critically important to the firm’s growth.

Eddie Valentino has been named both the CFO and the COO of Cardone Ventures; in this dual role he will collaborate closely with the leadership team to craft corporate strategy and enhance value creation across the enterprise. Valentino will oversee multiple key areas, including M&A, Business Development, FP&A, Accounting, Taxes, Technology, 10X BuySell, 10X Financial Services, and Business Operations within the Cardone Ventures group.

Prior to joining Cardone Ventures, Valentino served as the Global Head of Treasury at KKR & Co. At KKR, he successfully restructured the Global Treasury function, oversaw the firm’s Credit and Private Markets businesses, and monitored KKR’s balance sheet. Prior to KKR, he spent over eight years at Cerberus Capital Management, L.P. where he held various leadership positions, including head of International Finance and Operations in London. He also served as an active member of the brokerage selection and privacy committees. Prior to Cerberus, he held positions in credit modeling at Assured Guaranty and as an auditor at KPMG LLP.

With nearly 15 years of experience in the Investment Management and Financial Services sectors, Valentino has consistently delivered substantial value, exceeding $500 million in annualized recurring operating value through his adept leadership, innovative problem-solving, and comprehensive expertise in investment products and business operations.

Valentino holds an M. Sc. in Financial Engineering from Lehigh University, along with a B.S. in Finance & Accounting and a minor in Mathematics. He is also a Certified Public Accountant, bringing a wealth of knowledge and experience to his roles in the financial sector.

Regarding his new role, Valentino said, “Cardone Ventures is one of the most exciting and fast-growing entities around. To be able to bring my experience in the capital markets to bear and help the firm and its clients grow is an incredible opportunity.”

Led by CEO and Co-Founder Brandon Dawson alongside President and Co-Founder Natalie Dawson, Cardone Ventures helps business owners achieve their personal, professional, and financial goals through the growth of their business. With a vision to create one million 10X businesses, Cardone Ventures continues its vertical growth with the launch of 10X Roofing, 10X HVAC, 10X Home Services, 10X Health, 10X Cyber, 10X Insurance, and 10X Farm and Ranch, among several others in the company’s portfolio.

For more information about Cardone Ventures or its 10X companies visit www.CardoneVentures.com.

To set up an interview or to request more information, please email Jennifer Parks-Sturgeon at JParks-Sturgeon@RoseAllynPR.com or call (480) 495-3806.

Featured Editorials

When it comes to partisan politics, one dynamic has stayed constant for a long time: Democrats leaning towards compassion and Republicans leaning towards consequences when it comes to the legal process and crime. That dynamic has nearly always stayed in place when it comes to one of the more controversial topics of our time: the death penalty. Until now, that is

In a surprising about-face, Attorney General Kris Mayes recently informed County Attorney Rachel Mitchell that her office intends to pursue the death penalty as a viable punishment starting in 2025. Just two years ago, her and Governor Katie Hobbs stopped the usage of the practice and started a review of the process.

After the stance change, perhaps the most notable aspect of the back and forths between the County Attorney’s office and the Attorney General’s office is the clear enmity between the two offices. Correspondence is littered with jabs and passive-aggression, an obvious stench of mutual disdain. Clearly, the fact that they are now ideological aligned on one issue is not enough to overcome several years of battles.

But the overwhelmingly notable aspect is the about-face on an issue that Democrats have typically eschewed. Only ten states currently have the death penalty in statute and have performed an execution in the last ten years, and all of them are in Republican strongholds and geographically in the “deep south”, from Texas to Florida.

Of course, the right to use the death penalty does not necessarily mean that it will be used plentifully. Since its inception in 1976, it has only been used 40 times as punishment, nearly one time per year. A total of 112 people are currently on death row, and one would assume that the vast majority will die of natural causes in prison as opposed to being put to death. There certainly are ample opportunities to use this form of punishment, but if Republican-led administrations used it so infrequently, it is probably safe to say that that won’t ramp up in a very material manner under Mayes and Hobbs.

Perhaps the biggest takeaway is what life in a truly swing state will be going forward. Democrats will need to capitulate on some issues so as to not seem too liberal, and having a tougher on crime stance appears to be an issue that Mayes and Hobbs are willing to negotiate on. While the application of the death penalty will likely be rare, sometimes the appearance of moving towards the center is more impactful than the actual action itself, which seems to be the case here.

New Poll Shows 70% of Voters in Scottsdale Want to Reduce the Sales Tax, Improve Parks, and Protect Open Spaces

(Scottsdale, Ariz.) Two measures on the November ballot in Scottsdale get high marks from voters according to a new survey from pollster Data Orbital. The company was Arizona’s most accurate pollster during the last presidential election. The “To Protect and To Preserve” initiative is supported by nearly 70% of those surveyed. A measure that would allow Scottsdale to increase 20-year-old spending limits imposed by the State of Arizona is supported by nearly 60%. The poll was conducted between May 7th and May 9th.
“To Protect and To Preserve” would replace and reduce an expiring Scottsdale city sales tax to refurbish and maintain parks citywide, fund ongoing care for the McDowell Sonoran Preserve, as well as enhance related public safety and provide critical infrastructure improvements for WestWorld. It has unprecedented legal protections to ensure that the money must be spent solely on these projects.

After being presented with arguments for and against the measure, using language by proponents and opponents, a notable 69.2% said they would vote yes while only 21% would vote no. 41.5% strongly support the measure. 14.2% strongly oppose it. 7.2% are undecided. The numbers are an increase from another party’s polling on the same subjects in February.
The second measure, “The Permanent Base Adjustment” would lift 20-year-old state-imposed spending limits so Scottsdale can address critical needs for first responders and more. Increasing the spending limits is unanimously supported by Scottsdale’s Mayor and City Council. The poll shows 58.3% would vote yes on the measure while 31.6% would vote no.
The measure would not increase taxes or override the budget. It simply allows Scottsdale to spend the money it has already collected.
Both measures would protect Scottsdale’s exceptional quality of life and enable the city to provide the services its residents deserve.

A citizens committee made up of volunteers, current and former elected leaders, and first responders has united to form Vote Yes-Yes Scottsdale to ensure these important efforts become a reality for generations.

It’s leadership team includes former Scottsdale Mayor Mary Manross, current Councilwomen Betty Janik and Solange Whitehead, Scottsdale Fire Fighters Association President Sasha Weller, and Josha Currington, President of the Police Officers Association of Scottsdale.Read More

Shawn Fuller

Any city attorney office is typically a boring one, insofar as the public goes. The crimes that they prosecute are relatively inconsequential by nature, it is rarely a politically polarized position, and it generally flies under the radar. Except when it doesn’t. And the Scottsdale City Attorney’s office is learning that in a big way with one of the most scandalous developments in recent local municipal history.

Shawn Fuller, a former prosecutor for the city was fired reportedly as a result of a city-commissioned report which showed that he discriminated against women in the office. But in a major plot twist, a jury found that he wasn’t fired for inappropriate behavior; instead, he was fired for being a whistleblower and bringing forward evidence that the city ignored evidence that would have exonerated defendants in court cases.

And the price for having his reputation wrongly besmirched and his career detailed because of retaliation for doing the right thing? $5.2 million, with the bill made payable to the taxpayer.

Noteworthy is that Fuller was told on his very first day of a widely known rumor that evidence for DUI cases was not provided appropriately. This came to light as a result of one former prosecutor, Caron Close, refusing to meet with a defendant in the light of additional presumably exonerating evidence. Close has since been let go after allegations of a hostile work environment came to light. Was this just the result of one bad apple who is now gone from the office? It’s difficult to tell, but if rumors are widespread about a particular action, it’s difficult to believe that it would be solely from one person.

So how can this be prevented in the future? It seems evident that there is a culture issue within the City Attorney’s office. When the desire to get successful prosecutions exceeds the desire to have correct outcomes, the office has lost the plot. Moreover, when anyone who decides that correct outcomes should be the aim of the office and that is grounds for retaliation, it is evident that the pursuit of power has embedded itself in the office.

Sherry Scott is the current Scottsdale City Attorney, and has been in the office for the last 23 years, having been elevated to the position in 2022 after serving as the Deputy City Attorney. Usually experience is an asset, but in this case Scott has at least somewhat overseen these problems. The top of any department sets the tone for the office, and the tone doesn’t seem to be an ideal one at the moment. Perhaps it’s time for Scott to make an assessment of the department and ensure that the department culture wasn’t brought down by one bad apple.

Axon CEO Rick Smith. Photo Credit: Jim Poulin, Phoenix Business Journal

Axon is in the news yet again. We have been covering their absurd plans to plop nearly 2,000 apartments into an area of Scottsdale that doesn’t want them, and the bullying that they’ve been doing to try to ram their plans through against the wishes of essentially all local stakeholders (get up to date here). This time, it’s good news for them, and a further reminder of how ridiculous and wrong-headed their plans are.

Axon announced their quarterly earnings recently, and wouldn’t you know it, they knocked it out of the park again. Their earnings grew 31% year over year, and revenue came in above the range of expectations. All in all, they brought in over $460 million in revenue in just one quarter. But the most interesting news came in the way of an acquisition: Dedrone, a Washington, D.C.-based airspace security company with a focus on drones for use by law enforcement.

All these things sound great for Axon, and on the surface an acquisition like that does sound like it makes plenty of strategic sense for Axon. But it is more like a slap in the face of Scottsdale.

Clearly Axon is making money hand over fist. They have enough cash on hand to acquire a significant sized company, after all. Being headquartered in Scottsdale has been excellent for them, if only tangentially. And yet they just want more and more. They want subsidies in the form of an incredible degree of population density. They dangle threats over us thoughtlessly if we don’t acquiesce.

Axon could have nearly everything it wants, within reason. And the one thing it is focused on is something that no one else wants. Like children, it is throwing a tantrum and telling its parents that it hates them and is going to run away from home because it can’t eat an extra dessert. It’s petulant, childlike, arrogant, and the complete antithesis of being a good corporate neighbor.

We don’t want it to leave Scottsdale, but that desire to have it remain does have an upper limit. Axon needs to listen to Scottsdalians, the people who have helped it build into the significant corporation that it is now. Scottsdale has been so good for Axon, and now it’s time for it to return the favor, or at the very least not be such a bad actor. It should cease its apartment plans immediately.

Most of our readers almost certainly are aware of the Great Migration: the Covid-era phenomenon of people taking advantage of work-from-home policies and leaving major overcrowded cities for new destinations. The reasons and locations are varied, but typically surround a few key concepts, primarily leaving high cost-of-living and high tax areas for locations which are more affordable in both arenas.

It also shouldn’t come as a surprise that Arizona has been a beneficiary (depending on how you look at it) from these policies. While millions have left California, hundreds of thousands have moved to Arizona. If you were a homeowner before Covid, you likely see it as a positive. If you’re a renter with aspirations of homeownership, it’s much less positive.

That said, according to a recent report from an international consultancy, the city of Scottsdale still has a lot of potential room to benefit from the Great Migration, as Henley & Partners recently named it in its top three cities for potential millionaire population growth.

It was named alongside Palm Springs, CA and Greenwich, CT in that top three, for reasons such as resort-like homes and amenities, including golf courses, coming in at a much lower cost than in our neighbors to the west, as well as lower taxes and strong qualify-of-life as incentives for people to make the move.

According to Henley & Partners, 14,500 Scottsdalians currently are millionaires, putting it at about a 7% millionaire rate. While a relatively modest number, certainly as compared to bigger cities, that number has also more than doubled over the last decade. Considering that 1,555 people moved from the county that houses Silicon Valley to Maricopa County in the years leading up to the pandemic (and that number very likely spiking considerably in the years after the pandemic), it shouldn’t be much of a surprise.

Hopefully states like New York and California are taking notes: when you tax your productive members of society excessively, they not only have the ability to vote with their ballots but with their feet, and eventually they will be forced to either raise taxes more on the people who suffer in silence, or drastically cut spending. Actually, hopefully they don’t learn, because their loss is our gain.

This blog typically has pretty good takes. We’re not 100% correct, but we have a solid track record. So when attack ads against three of the top four challengers in the Democratic primary to unseat Representative David Schweikert go out but we can’t find one against the fourth (and that fourth is VERY well funded), well…it’s not hard to point out a likely culprit (read the entire story here). But this story has gotten significantly weirder, and the most likely culprit may not be that at all.

First, a representative of the O’Callaghan campaign reached out to us and denied their involvement in those attack ads. They pointed their fingers at the two other candidates in the primary, Andrew Horne and Kurt Kroemer. But both are significantly lagging in fundraising (Horne is nearly completely dependent on money he loaned to his campaign, and about half of Kroemer’s haul is a loan), and are political outsiders. Those factors combined make it unlikely that they would have the connections to make that happen.

Granted, the representative of the campaign could certainly be lying through their teeth; nothing new in politics. And recent ads from O’Callaghan that directly mirror the intent of that billboard are unwise if you didn’t want to be known as the culprit.

Is that proof of guilt? Absolutely not. But it is certainly using the same messaging, linking both to Trump and being anti-abortion.

When a citizen reached out to Democracy Rising, the group whose name is listed as the “Paid for by” for those ads, the director of the group denied putting them up. And since Democracy Rising has not filed any campaign finance reports, meaning that it is not spending in these races (or is being negligent), there is nothing we can glean from it.

We also reached out to Maria Perez from Democracy Rising. Her statement? “Our organization has nothing to do with these ads. Someone in AZ is using our name without consent for political ads. Our legal team is looking into this.” Wow.

However, this is where the story potentially turns very, very strange. Recently, Marlene Woods was the subject of television attack ads hammering her on supposed past views of abortion. They were paid for by a group named “Turn AZ Blue PAC”. The problem? The Turn AZ Blue PAC never registered with the FEC and never filed any campaign finance reports declaring the expenditure, both obvious campaign finance violations. The ads were paid for in cash, which is highly, highly unusual.

Come to find out, the treasurer of the group is a man named Thomas Datwyler, a prolific Republican campaign treasurer who recently worked with George Santos, the group that fed money to the Cyber Ninjas in their quixotic bid to find issues in our elections, and which has a long history of campaign finance violations. It has all the appearances of a Republican operation in a Democratic primary.

So is “Democracy Rising” simply the next iteration of “Turn AZ Blue”? A shady Republican-funded PAC meant to make all of the strong Democratic candidates look bad? Did they simply use a generic name that was already taken? It’s looking extremely possible.

In the end, we have more questions than answers. If the O’Callaghan campaign didn’t indirectly coordinate these attacks, then we apologize for implying that (and recommend that they stop using the same line of attack if they truly want to distance themselves from it). But we must conclude that there’s a very real chance that Republican operatives are slinging mud and making very muddy waters in Arizona’s 1st Congressional District Democratic primary.

For those of us who are a bit more advanced in life, we’ve often had the thought…it would be great to do something, but it’s too late. Too much time has passed, time to move on from that dream and embrace reality. But an Arizona icon recently demonstrated that it’s never too late to pursue a dream.

Enter Alfredo Gutierrez; old hats in Arizona’s political world, or people who are from here for a long time likely know the name, but relatively few know the story. He started out modestly as an Army private in Vietnam and being the first person in his family to attend college, but became one of the most prominent civil rights advocates in the state and rose through a traditionally white state legislature to become the Arizona Senate majority and minority leader, and later a candidate for governor.

But one thing that he never was was a college graduate…until now.

In another example of history being a circle, he was kicked out of Arizona State in 1968 for helping lead protests; however, unlike the protests in college campuses around the country today, those protests were in favor of better working conditions for employees at the school. While he didn’t pay the ultimate price as a result of his involvement in Vietnam, he did pay a significant price for his principles.

While he clearly was a bit sidetracked by one of the most impressive careers in public service in our state’s history, he finally got back to fulfilling his one dream that he had yet to realize, and walked across the aisle and received his degree from ASU’s College of Integrative Sciences and Arts at the ripe young age of 78.

While the many 22 year olds that also received their degrees that day likely had never heard of him and viewed the entire ceremony as the end of an era in their lives and a modest accomplishment, for those of us who have let a dream die for the sake of embracing our own personal status quos, it’s clearly something more.

Kudos to Alfredo Gutierrez, not just for a long life of public service and standing up for the voiceless, but for never losing sight of his goal and understanding that you’re never too old to learn and achieve. His example is the truest of inspirations for every one of us; it’s never too late.

Scottsdale is a city of incredible amenities, but of course that doesn’t mean it’s perfect. One complaint that many residents have around the Old Town area is that it’s a relative food desert; as in, there are relatively few supermarket issues in the area.

Therefore it was rather disheartening to hear that one of the few options, the Fry’s at Indian School and Miller Road, was closing up shop, confirmed in a Facebook post by Councilwoman Solange Whitehead. This was followed by numerous comments expressing their displeasure, future inconvenience, and questions.

While certainly nowhere near as bad of a food desert as downtown Phoenix, fewer options is certainly not in the favor of the consumer.

That said, that concern was fleeting; just as signs went up at Fry’s announcing their closure, a new development came to light: that this location would instead be the site of a Whole Foods. A perfect trade…actually, an upgrade, as far as brands go.

Councilwoman Whitehead soon edited her comment, clarifying that the scenario wasn’t as dire as previously thought.

That said, it’s clearly a sign of the times, and a consequence (both good and bad) of living in a city like Scottsdale.

As far as grocery stores go, Fry’s is certainly “mass market”: affordable and convenient for the middle and lower ends of the socioeconomic scale. Replacing it with Whole Foods, clearly a high-end store with a less comprehensive selection for more fine foods, fits in better with the ethos of Scottsdale.

That said, those who don’t have an income that is above average, be it those on fixed income, the working class, or students, they’re clearly being squeezed a bit, especially considering the massive food inflation over the last few years. There is a Basha’s down the road that will fit the bill, but who is to say that that sticks around? If not, dire days are ahead for those classes.

Yes, a city like Scottsdale is typified by high end brands, goods and experiences. But the perpetuation of that doesn’t come without costs; in this case, higher food costs.

We just spoke about the mess in Congressional District 1 that is the Schweikert campaign (you can read that coverage here). As Schweikert has slogged through ethics complaints, fines, and disturbing tactics for years, Democrats have continuously lined up to try to oust him, and this year is no different. Numerous significant names with strong financial backing are brawling in an attempt to challenge him in the general election.

Any time there are a few strong candidates attempting to pick off a weak incumbent, the fur is almost certain to fly, and this year is certainly no different.

First there was this billboard put up by a group named “Democracy Rising” that went up in Scottsdale, with a not-subtle insinuation: that Democrat candidates Amish Shah and Marlene Woods are just like Trump and Schweikert when it comes to abortion and gay rights.

Granted, Woods has been endorsed by a national pro-choice group and Shah has had a consistent, moderate Democrat voting record as a member of the legislature, so outside of the fact that in the past they were Democrats, there doesn’t seem to be a kernel of truth here, but hey…politics.

Notable also is that the same group apparently sent this below text about another strong competitor in the race, Andrei Cherny. Cherny started the financial firm Aspiration, which has been active in the climate change space.

The investigation seems to surround an apparent overstatement of the positive impact that they’ve had when it comes to mitigating climate change. Worth noting, but suffice it to say, his firm has almost certainly done more to alleviate the issue than any of the other candidates combined, bloated metrics or not.

So now that we know what candidates Democracy Rising is against, that leaves one very clear candidate that they seem to be doing all of this work on behalf of: Conor O’Callaghan. A former executive in investment banking (i.e. a Wall Street guy), he has the sort of background that much of the Dem base would abhor, so perhaps this plays into this strategy: make everyone else look so bad that you’re the cleanest shirt in the laundry.

Mind you, this is after Arizonans rejected “dark money” via the Arizona Voter Right to Know initiative that was voted in last election cycle and has withheld several challenges. This sort of spending is certainly not aligned with the views of most Arizonans, and certainly not Democrats.

The billboard especially is rather gross, even if these tactics go with the territory. O’Callaghan better hope it works though, because if not he may have ticked off too many people to be allowed back at the political table again. Even though he is likely not personally directing these attacks, it’s hard not to see his thumbprint on them.

By Alexander Lomax

There is a reason why many people call politics a four letter word. Negative campaigning is perceived as a must, dirty tricks abound, slander and libel rules don’t apply so awful things and half-truths (and sometimes lies) are routinely told about opponents. However, there is still a limit of decency that most campaigns will ascribe to. Sometimes it’s an inkling of a moral compass, and sometimes it’s self preservation, as the wrong attack can reflect negatively on your own campaign.

Enter David Schweikert. While generally seen as a relatively meek person, a former accountant by trade who lacks the charisma that can help propel people into the political stratosphere. That said, he’s had a successful career representing what is now Arizona’s 1st Congressional district, covering Scottsdale and areas north.

Schweikert has had an extremely unfortunate history of extremely questionable campaign finance practices (ironic for a former accountant), leading to myriad fines and House ethics violations. But a more recent issue is simply beyond the pale, and demonstrates the truly unfortunate degree that Schweikert is willing to go to win.

In 2022, Schweikert created campaign materials that all-but-stated that his primary opponent Elijah Norton was gay. While Schweikert himself didn’t create those materials (his consultant Jonathan Huey did), it came from the campaign, so Schweikert is all but certain to have at least seen them before they were distributed, and very likely signed off on them.

The problem? Well, there’s actually a few. But for starters, it seems to be a lie, as Norton is straight (and Huey acknowledges that he didn’t know anything about his sexuality). That said, the blatant appeal to homophobia in 2022 makes one want to take a shower to rinse off the filth. If he was gay, so what? IT’S 2022! That sort of tactic makes the entire party look completely backward, and now he’s paying the price for it in the form of a successful lawsuit

He used a similar tactic against Ben Quayle in 2012, so perhaps it shouldn’t be a surprise, but considering how far America has come with regards to acceptance of homosexuals in that time period, it is still a shock.

To his credit, Schweikert is first in all of Congress in one considerable metric: his campaign has now paid $1.4 million in legal fees since 2018, which is more than any other member of Congress in that time period. Truly breathtaking.

We’re not sure who still donates to Schweikert, but they should understand that they are simply donating to a legal fund to defend his crappy campaign practices. District 1 deserves far better than this embarrassment of a politician, and whether a successful challenge comes from the left or right, it can’t come a moment too soon.

For a number of weeks, Arizona Republicans were extremely nervous, Democrats were furious, and the eyes of the country (sometimes even the world) were once again on Arizona, as the state Supreme Court ruled that an abortion law from all the way back in 1864 was once again the law of the land. This ruling would ensure that abortion was about to be the most important topic for many voters in November, threatening to throw the balance of power to Democrats.

That is, until last week, where a few Republicans crossed the aisle and voted with Democrats to overturn the bill and revert the time period for legal abortions back to 15 weeks. In the House, Republicans Tim Dunn (representing Yuma) and Matt Gress, who represents parts of east Phoenix and Scottsdale, crossed the aisle to vote with Democrats. In the Senate, it was Shawnna Bolick, representing north Phoenix, and T.J. Shope, who represents parts of Pinal County, were the members who defied their party to vote with Democrats.

It is worth noting that every one of those four Republicans except T.J. Shope represent a swing district that could flip to Democrats, whereas Shope has burnished a reputation of being a common sense, pragmatic state senator, which likely explains his vote. Clearly, the desire to not lose a seat when Republicans only hold a 1 seat lead in both chambers illustrated the necessity of those crossover votes.

While Democrats comprised the vast majority of votes (including a signing of the bill by Governor Katie Hobbs) and there was an outward expression of relief, strategists were dealing with a negative outcome from this: their campaign strategies were now irrelevant. What was going to be the year of focusing on abortion as the issue of the election has turned into an election where Democrats don’t have an obvious clarion call.

Another potential casualty is the Right of Abortion proposition that will be on the ballot in November. Pro-abortion advocacy groups such as Planned Parenthood coalesced around this proposition in response to the 1864 bill, and it would codify the rights to have an abortion up to the point of fetal viability, a rather vague time period that is thought to be seven or eight months but whose definition makes it a likely target of legal challenges.

Presumably, part of the calculus was that when it comes to abortion, if voters had to choose between an archaic Civil War-era law and a rather liberal law, they would choose the liberal law. However, if the choice is now 15 weeks versus seven or eight months, that choice is much less certain now.

And Democrats nationally have had the wind at their backs over the past month or two, as Biden gains in the polls against Trump. But Arizona Democrats now need to figure out what the focus of their campaigns will be, because crossing their fingers and hoping for a blue wave election year won’t be a viable strategy.

Opponents of a measure that would fund parks and open spaces in Scottsdale as well as maintenance of the McDowell Sonoran Preserve have chosen a strange way to attack the plan. They say the money should come from bonds which are backed by property taxes.

The measure on the ballot would replace and reduce an expiring Scottsdale City sales tax.

Using bonds and increasing property taxes in Scottsdale doesn’t seem like a great idea when you consider that the majority of sales tax revenues in Scottsdale comes from people who don’t live in Scottsdale. This shifts the burden away from property owners. There is also a fairness issue. Tourists and visitors enjoy Scottsdale parks as well as the Preserve, shouldn’t they help fund those amenities?

The sales tax plan on the ballot won’t increase taxes. Issuing bonds would.

The “To Protect and To Preserve” proposition also includes legal guarantees that the funds would only be used for parks and the Preserve with citizen oversite, similar to any guardrails that would come with bonds.Read More

Photo Credit: paradisevalley.gov

Paradise Valley is unquestionably a special town. A destination for the successful, defined by beautiful scenery and truly unique zoning rules…one of a kind. And while it will never (and should never) be developed and promoted as a tourist attraction, that doesn’t mean that it does not have some amazing hospitality options.

The secret has gotten out, however. Travel and Leisure recently compiled a list of the 500 top hotels in the world (yes, the entire world), and Arizona had five entrants in that list. However, an astounding three out of five were located in little ol’ Paradise Valley.

Considering the population of the town (shoot, even the fact that it’s a town, not a city), that is stunning, even for huge Paradise Valley fans such as ourselves. The other Arizona resorts that made the list were rather random, underscoring how thorough and well-researched this list was: one is in Morristown, which embarrassingly we had to look up where that was (it’s on the way to Wickenburg, by the way) and another in Tucson.

Populating the list from Paradise Valley were The Hermosa Inn, Mountain Shadows Resort, and Sanctuary Camelback Mountain. As for how the rankings were developed, Travel and Leisure was light on specifics but “their rooms and facilities, location, service, food and overall value” were the factors that were considered.

One thing that isn’t explicitly mentioned but most certainly had to play a part is the scenery: with beautiful mountain views and unique desert landscape, it’s understandable why these locales would be utterly captivating for someone who is not from the area. You can’t replicate that.

Perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised. But we would never expect a town that has fewer than 13,000 residents to get truly international recognition. It just underscores how special this jewel of a town truly is however, and we should be thankful that it’s ours.

Peoria Mayor Jason Beck

Peoria doesn’t typically get much coverage in this blog, although recently it’s been making more appearances as it rises up as the jewel of the west valley (you can read our coverage here). Last time we took notice it was some great new developments and more entertainment options going up there (combined with leadership’s spirit of saying Yes and being open to change).

This time around it’s an entirely different reason reflective of a commitment to excellence: education. One of their public schools, BASIS Peoria, recently received the extremely prestigious recognition of being ranked the single best public school in all of the United States. Arizona’s BASIS schools were well represented in the top 100, but Peoria’s stood alone.

And why is that? First, it’s worth examining what those rankings were based on. In this case college readiness was weighted the most, state assessment proficiency and performance were next, and lastly were college curriculum breadth, underserved student performance and graduation rate were last. A fairly balanced take focused on the largest student body being ready to take the next step.

BASIS obviously deserves quite a few accolades for the operation of their schools, considering how well they’ve collectively performed. Perhaps a kudos should be given to state leadership making an atmosphere that is friendly to charter schools; while obviously not all of them are this successful, they do give exemplary students unique opportunities in a way that traditional public schools often do not.

While directly not responsible, we should also give respect to other echelons of leadership that have collectively fostered a dynamic city that is growing the right way. The Peoria Unified School District almost certainly plays a strong role. And although they are not directly involved in education, Mayor Jason Beck and the rest of the city council have been laying the groundwork to make a city that is quickly becoming a destination, not just for an evening out but to relocate to. Great schools don’t happen in a vacuum; they are often a symptom of something grander happening in the background, which is the case here.

We may not be too far away from considering Peoria something akin to the Scottsdale of the West Valley, and while there is only one Scottsdale, it is clear that they are building something special out there. Kudos to Mayor Beck for continuing the momentum of those who came before him.

This year’s Scottsdale city council race so far is a race of haves and have nots when it comes to money (read our coverage here). When candidates are overmatched from a financial perspective, it’s imperative that they stand out in other ways. Some candidates make goofy videos or take outlandish stances. In the case of candidate Justin Laos, apparently it’s taking a stance that may make him unelectable.

Laos recently made his views known on the Axon debacle, where the company is threatening to relocate its headquarters if the city doesn’t capitulate to its outrageous plans to put up nearly 2,000 apartments in an area that doesn’t need it and doesn’t want it, and Scottsdale voters are overwhelmingly against Axon’s plans as per recent polling (you can read more about it here).

When pressed online if he supported the plan for apartments, Laos’s silence was deafening.

Look…all of us would like to have Axon keep their headquarters here. But we are NOT fine with being bullied and threatened in order to keep it, and we are also not fine with having our quality of life diminished as a result. Residents want good corporate neighbors, and recently Axon has been anything but.

Laos is operating in a severe danger zone here. Perhaps he’s angling for some donations from Axon executives, and perhaps it will work. But then the activist community in the city will have even more reason to distrust him and spread the word about it.

If there is one thing that the 2020 Scottsdale municipal elections taught us (as well as more recent polling), it’s that the citizenry does not want massive population density in the city and is very concerned about traffic in the city. It’s why councilmembers are being mum or in direct opposition to Axon’s plans; they’re not dumb. They know it could be the end of their political career in the city. Laos apparently has not gotten the memo.

Taking bold stances is honorable and sometimes necessary to stand out. But taking stances that are in direct opposition to the desire of an overwhelming majority of the citizenry is simply foolish and not reflective of representative democracy. Laos would be well served to rethink this stance if he really wants to win his race…or perhaps should be rejected anyway, since he’s already shown his cards.

By Ronald Sampson

It’s the season for candidates to have their attempts to get on the ballot fail, either as a result of ignorance, laziness, incompetence, or fate. The signature requirement deadline just came and passed, and two incumbent state legislators were amongst those that didn’t make the cut (read our coverage on that here). Most candidates offer a statement of resignation, of acknowledging that they didn’t do what they needed to, of some sort of mea culpa.

But not Tim Dickman, failed candidate for the Paradise Valley Town Council. Ohhh no, he decided to go out in a blaze of excuses and finger-pointing.

In this attempt at going out with dignity, he speaks to his side of why he withdrew his candidacy after his signatures got challenged by incumbent Councilmember Ellen Andeen. In what reads as a rather pathetic attempt at Whoa Is We martyrdom, he said, “I obtained 190 signatures, far in excess of the required 172.”

As we stated in our previous write-up when talking about Representative Melody Hernandez, anyone who knows anything about signature collection knows that a 20% buffer is essentially the bare minimum. His 10% margin was not “far in excess” of the required amount, it was half of the bare minimum recommended margin. If he was prompted to run by as many dignitaries as he suggested and they actually wanted him in office, they would have likely told him this. Either they didn’t care that much about him or he didn’t listen. This is very, very common knowledge.

And then he goes on to whine about how awful an environment is when other competitors dare to use legal means to beat their competition. What did he think this was? A potluck dinner? A bingo game? This is politics! Did he honestly think that the people whose seat he was trying to take would simply welcome him in with open arms? Signature challenges are a part of every single election cycle.

We have to assume that he is not that devastatingly naive, and instead is attempting to deflect the blame from the one person that deserves it: himself.

So Paradise Valley clearly dodged a bullet, and avoided the prospect of someone with zero personal accountability and nothing but misplaced finger-pointing as a member of leadership. Good riddance. He has lived up to what his last name has spelled out for us.

By Alexander Lomax

Photo Credit: Ross Franklin

I appreciate fiscal conservatism and pride myself on having a watchdog eye on how our taxpayer dollars are spent. It’s our money, we should demand that it is used well. I am also pragmatic by nature, and realize that a race down to zero taxes often leads to a diminished quality of life, which is far from ideal in a city where we celebrate a fantastic quality of life.

With that in mind, Adam Kwasman’s recent op-ed just demonstrated that he is willing to violate all of these principles in a sad, unfortunate attempt to stick out in his campaign for Scottsdale City Council.

For those who are unaware, Kwasman is referring to the Protect and Preserve proposal that will be on the ballot in Scottsdale this November. It will replace the current 0.2% sales tax dedicated to protecting the McDowell Sonoran Preserve with a 0.15% sales tax dedicated to protecting the preserve as well as improvement and maintenance for all of the city’s parks.

Where do I even start? Well, for starters, do you enjoy the McDowell Sonoran Preserve and our best-in-class parks system? Well tough luck if Kwasman has his way. He’s apparently in favor of cutting all funding for it while giving empty lip service to how great the parks are. Hopefully, maybe, they’ll figure out a way to find some funding at some point, but until then his misguided proposal would cause our parks to fall into disarray (after which, he would almost certainly blame someone else).

As for how he intends to fund that maintenance, does he favor a property tax increase? Considering that north Scottsdale does the heavy lifting there, contributing over 50% of the city’s property tax receipts, he would then be penalizing north Scottsdale specifically…not wise. So what’s your solution, Kwasman? Because “we’ll figure it out” is not a solution.

Next, Kwasman has the gall to say that “only 18% of the new, billion-dollar tax is going to the preserve, itself. The rest goes to a citywide slush fund, with empty promises and hot air about how that money will end up helping parks.” With this, he only demonstrates that he couldn’t have been bothered to read the task force’s recommendations, since they very clearly spoke to how the funds would be used. From the recommendations themselves:

There it is. About half is dedicated to helping improve the older of our city’s 46 parks. Is he outraged that some may need a new playground? Is there some shadowy Big Playground complex that he fears is the master of puppets in Scottsdale?

You might be thinking, “that’s a bit vague, why isn’t there more information?” And if Kwasman had actually read the recommendations, he would know that there is more information on that, as you can see below:

Do you feel like your local tax dollars are used somewhat effectively, and that we have nice parks? Well the current initiative is calling for a 25 PERCENT REDUCTION in those taxes and yet believes that it can make our parks even better as a result. Isn’t that the very definition and ideal execution of fiscal conservatism?

Only in the world of politics, where politicians will defame their own mother if it means a bump in the polls, would a tax cut combined with enhanced services be a bad thing to some. And with this stance, Kwasman was either unwilling to educate himself or is purposely lying to you. With his deeply misguided and/or disingenuous views he is showing himself to be unfit to represent you or anyone else.

Arizona State University has been very good at marketing itself. Surely you have seen the moniker “America’s most innovative university”, and in some ways they have moved past their MO of being a pure party school as a result. But a new report uncovers one very serious deficiency that will soon demand that spirit of innovation.

Arizona State’s sports departments are falling behind as per this report. However, it’s not in the traditional sense that ASU fans have seen on the field recently; it’s related to revenue. ASU has a bit of a unique problem; it has some exemplary sports programs, but the most competitive are financial loss-leaders. Typically the big ticket sports, such as football and basketball, are the serious revenue generators once television rights are considered, and those help offset the losses from the other sports.

That said, the big ticket sports teams are in a serious slump. There are signs of life from both the football team, and the basketball team still has Bobby Hurley at coach, but it’s been a rough year. Meanwhile the Coyotes left Mullet Arena, which was a significant source of revenue for the otherwise cash-burning hockey team.

Now as they enter the Big 12, they run the risk of being left behind in the face of sometimes better competition, especially on the basketball side.

So about that spirit of innovation…what to do now? Perhaps they can host more paid events as a way to utilize the facilities when the teams are not playing in them. Maybe they can better market their big ticket teams, or build more organic buzz as to the major successes of their loss-leading teams to make them more financially viable.

There are some interesting stories here. A highly successful hockey team in the desert could help soften the blows of an NHL team leaving. A men’s swimming team that is near the top of the nation in a desert is also an interesting storyline. An excellent women’s golf team should certainly be a bigger deal in an area known as a golf destination. 

There are narratives here worth promoting. While none of them will replace football and basketball being primary revenue drivers, perhaps it would benefit ASU to get creative, become more promotional and cutting edge, build a more dynamic and engaging social media presence, and help these sports lift themselves up and bring in more revenue themselves. After all, while peaks and valleys come and go in sports, and the football and basketball teams will undoubtedly rebound at some point, they shouldn’t be so singularly dependent on them either.

Ohhh, and hire a nationally-renowned athletic director. It’s about freaking time.

Arizona legislators (and all candidates for those seats) have a few hurdles to qualify for the ballot. One of them is gathering enough signatures from voters in the district. The precise amount depends on a few factors, but is generally in the ballpark of 400 signatures. Considering that voters can sign online in what are essentially pre-qualified signatures, this threshold is generally little more than a tiny speed bump on their path to re-election.

Except that apparently this year, it wasn’t. In a truly shocking development, two incumbents failed to get the required number of signatures, and thus will not be on the ballot this year. Both happened partially as a result of falsified signatures, but in very different ways.

The first casualty was Melody Hernandez, representative in legislative district 8, a Democrat stronghold primarily in Tempe. She submitted a total number of signatures that was only about 10% over the minimum, a razor-thin buffer of safety (a minimum recommended buffer is 20 or 25%, but incumbents routinely submit double the minimum). Numerous inconsistencies were found in signatures she reportedly collected from a signature collection group, and the challenge to those signatures was successful.

This represents a real problem to Arizona Democrats in their quest to seek control of the Capitol. Along with the myriad resignations and seats that needed to be filled this year, Democrats will have to rely on the write-in campaign of former legislator Lauren Kuby to fill this safe Dem seat. Hernandez had also racked up $3,000 in campaign finance violation fees, exemplifying a campaign that was sloppy at best, utterly negligent at worst (and most likely).

Next is Austin Smith, representative in the Republican stronghold of district 29 in the west valley. Democrats challenged his signatures and found numerous inconsistencies, and Smith withdrew his candidacy instead of putting up a public fight. In Smith’s case, he reportedly collected the bulk of these signatures himself, which means that he may now face significant penalties for election fraud.

Smith had been popular with conservative groups such as Turning Point USA, and had risen to prominence by flirting with election conspiracy theories. In perhaps the most ironic (or worst juju) moment in Arizona politics this year, he mocked County Recorder Stephen Richer for the office’s signature verification process. It seems as though signature verification does, in fact, work adequately.

Ultimately, good riddance to both. Their signature requirements were so small that well organized districts can surpass that threshold for incumbents in a single weekend. Candidates can meet that threshold all by themselves with about two weeks of work. Their inability or lack of willingness to do the bare minimum of organizing demonstrates a degree of laziness and/or incompetence that should disqualify them for public office. We all deserve better than that, and thankfully they showed their cards before we were stuck with them for two more years.

By Councilmember Tom Durham

Would you like to see improvements in our Greenbelt parks, increased safety and security in parks and the Preserve, and maintenance of the Preserve to reduce the risk of fire—AND pay less sales taxes?  You will have that opportunity on the November ballot.

On Tuesday, April 2nd, the Scottsdale City Council took action to protect and preserve two jewels of Scottsdale: the McDowell Mountain Sonoran Preserve and the Indian Bend Wash Greenbelt and its parks.  Prior generations of Scottsdale voters had the vision to create these remarkable assets.  Now it’s our turn to ensure that they remain for future generations.

The Preserve was created through two sales taxes, both approved by the voters, one in 1995 and one in 2004.  The 1995 tax, set at 0.2%, is scheduled to expire in 2025.  This tax can be used only for the acquisition of the Preserve land.  The 2004 tax, set at 0.15%, can be used only for the acquisition of land and “improvements,” such as parking lots, trailheads, and restrooms.  The 2004 tax will expire in 2034 unless it is terminated earlier by a citizen vote.

But neither of the Preserve taxes can be used for repairs, maintenance, or essential tasks such as removing invasive species, which present a fire hazard.  Last year’s Diamond fire was a wake-up call to the dangers of fire in the Preserve.

The Greenbelt has a different history, but it is no less important to Scottsdale.  Citizen action led to the creation of the Greenbelt, which turned problematic flooding into the beautiful string of parks we all enjoy today.

But some of the Greenbelt parks are approaching, or exceeding, their 50th anniversary, which means they are showing their age.  This is particularly true of the older parks located in the south of Scottsdale.   Playgrounds, community centers, sport courts, and trails and paths need some tender loving care to preserve them for future generations.

The expiration of the 1995 Preserve tax, scheduled for 2025, presents a unique opportunity to fund the needs of both the Preserve and the Greenbelt.  The Council appointed the Protect and Preserve Scottsdale Task Force to consider how the City should address the challenges of maintaining the Preserve and our parks.  After over a year of intensive study and community input, the Task Force proposed a ballot measure to extend the 1995 tax at a lower rate of 0.15% to fund the maintenance of the parks and Preserve.

The Council passed a proposal to put this ballot measure on the November ballot.  If passed by the voters, the current 0.2% tax would be extended at a lower rate of 0.15% for 30 years.  The proceeds of this tax would be distributed annually as follows:

  • 48% for park improvements, with an emphasis on southern parks
  • 13% for park and recreation maintenance
  • 17% for maintenance in the Preserve
  • 6% for rangers in parks and the Preserve
  • 9% for fire mitigation and technical rescue
  • 7% for WestWorld improvements

These allocations are the result of intensive study and unanimous agreement by the Task Force and are set forth in an Ordinance passed by the Council on April 2nd.  The Ordinance and the ballot measure contain numerous safeguards to ensure that the funds from the tax will be spent as set forth above.  These safeguards include separate fund accounting, oversight by the Parks and Recreation Commission and the McDowell Sonoran Preserve Commission, Council approval of budgets and contracts, and an annual audit by a CPA firm.

The Council’s action only puts this measure on the ballot—the voters will have the final say on whether they agree with this proposal.

Some questions have been raised concerning the tax, and these are discussed below:

The money from the tax cannot be diverted.  The ballot language specifies that the money can be spent “solely” on the items specified in the ballot language, which are the six categories set forth above.  This language is legally binding on the Council and the City.  If the ballot measure is approved, this requirement could not be changed without another vote from the citizens.  The funds from the tax cannot be spent on anything other than the six categories specified above.

A supermajority of the Council (5 of 7) could change the percentage allocations as between these six categories if circumstances warrant, but the City cannot spend the tax funds on anything outside the six categories.

The ballot measure will reduce taxes.  The current rate of Scottsdale’s sales tax is 1.75% and the revised tax will be 1.7%.   So, no matter how you slice it, everyone’s tax rate will be going down, not up.  Scottsdale will continue to have one of the lowest sales tax rates in the Valley.  The tax rate will be further reduced when the 2004 Preserve tax expires in 2034.

The tax is not being used for “hard assets” and therefore issuing bonds is not appropriate.  Paying for these items with bonds doesn’t make sense for several reasons.  First, as most people know, interest rates are currently very high.  There is no reason to incur high interest costs when sales tax funds are available.  And bond fundings require additional legal and transaction expenses.  Second, most of the tax is going for repairs, maintenance, salaries, and miscellaneous renovations of smaller assets.  Bonds are ordinarily used for large, multi-million-dollar assets such as new fire stations or the Civic Center renovation.  By way of example, if your refrigerator needs repairs, most people wouldn’t take out a mortgage to fund the repair.  Third, much of the tax isn’t being used for assets.    For example, the Preserve needs to attack invasive species to mitigate fire risk.  We can’t issue bonds for pulling up weeds, or salaries for park rangers, repairing irrigation lines, or technical rescue teams.  Finally, paying for these items out of sales tax revenues means that tourists and our neighbors in Phoenix, Mesa, Gilbert, etc. will share a significant portion of the cost.  This is appropriate since they enjoy these assets.  If the costs were bonded, Scottsdale citizens would bear the entire burden.

A small portion of the tax is for one-time funding for critical improvements at Westworld.  Since this project involves urgent repairs to an income-producing asset with a longer useful life, it will be paid for with debt, which will be serviced with proceeds from the tax.

The tax proposal adequately expresses the uses of the tax.  As indicated above, the tax must be spent on the six categories listed; the tax can’t be spent on anything else.  These categories will include thousands of minor and major repairs, renovations, maintenance, expenses, and salaries.  Homeowners know they will run into maintenance expenses, but, by their nature, these expenses can’t be scheduled in advance.   These routine expenses are different from bonds, which are directed to large, identifiable hard assets.  The City Council quite literally can’t get “into the weeds” of deciding how to pluck weeds out of the Preserve.  Within the stated categories, the tax will allow the City to perform maintenance and repairs as and when needed.  The proposal has several layers of oversight to ensure that the funds will be spent as specified in the ballot language.

The tax will not create a surplus.  The tax in the ballot measure will be used, as and when collected, for the specified purposes, so there will never be a large surplus.  To the extent a surplus does arise in any year, the City ordinance provides the unused portion of the tax will be carried over to be spent in the same category as specified in the ordinance.

If the ballot measure is passed, the remaining portion of the tax (the 0.15% passed in 2004) will remain in place until 2034 or until terminated earlier by a citizen vote.  But there is no surplus in this tax, since the current fund balance is less than the debt outstanding for the Preserve acquisition and improvements.  Depending upon tax collections and interest rates, collections from this tax can be used for future capital improvements to the Preserve, but not maintenance.  The tax could also be terminated by a citizen vote if no longer needed.

On major issues in Scottsdale regarding the use of their money, the voters always have the last word.  The Task Forces recommendations were based on public input, and the e-mails I have received and the public statements on April 2nd indicate the voters are behind this ballot measure.  The vision of previous generations has created these beautiful emblems of Scottsdale, and I am confident that the voters will come through again.

2022 Scrum

With six months to go until Election Day 2024, Democrats hold a slight edge over Republicans in the State.For President, the Democratic incumbent President Joe Biden leads Republican former president Donald Trump by a slim 38.8% to 38.1% margin. Independent Robert F Kennedy Jr. has 13.5% support. 8.1% reported as being undecided.

In the US Senate race, presumptive Republican nominee Kari Lake trails Democratic Congressman Ruben Gallego, the presumptive Democratic nominee, 48.1% to 43.9%. 6.3% of voters are undecided.

Pollster George Khalaf had this to say about the latest results, “With Election Day 2024 a little under 6 months away, the races for President and US Senate in Arizona are a toss-up. As we get closer to Election Day, it will be interesting to note what happens to the support currently given to Robert F Kennedy Jr and if President Biden or Former President Donald Trump pick up more of his current supporters. One thing remains clear, all eyes will be on Arizona and the outsized role our state will play in shaping the direction of the Nation.”

This poll of 550 likely general election voters was conducted by live phone survey that collected 46.0% of the results from live caller landlines and 54.0% from live caller cell phones. It had a margin of error of plus or minus 4.26% with a 95% confidence interval. Respondents were weighted on a number of different demographic figures based on prior general election voter turnout figures. The poll was conducted from April 27th – April 29th, 2024. The questions released are verbatim from the survey provided to respondents. Toplines and demographic data can be found here. Crosstabs for this survey can be found here.

Photo Credit: The Hill

Here are the Arizona Progress and Gazette, we love to cover the weird world that is Arizona politics. Not many states are pure swing states, which brings with it an incredible amount of attention. And perhaps no race other than the Presidential race will be more watched than the specter of a three-person cage match to represent Arizona in the US Senate alongside Sen. Mark Kelly.

Campaign viability is almost always tied to fundraising, and with that in mind we received some clarity as to where the candidates stand in the way of their 2023 Q4 financial statements. And so far, it’s Advantage Gallego.

According to those Q4 reports, Rep. Ruben Gallego brought in $3.3 million and sat with $6.5 in cash at the end of the year. Compare this with Kari Lake, who brought in $2,1 million but with no cash-on-hand numbers available at the time of writing. Incumbent Senator Kyrsten Sinema’s numbers were not available at the time of writing.

Perhaps most notable with the fact that 99% of Gallego’s contributions were under $200. That means that he has been able to build an incredible breadth and scope of donors nationally, ones that he will be able to go back to time and time again until the election, as opposed to max donors who are tapped out until after the primary election.

All of this is a relative pittance in what is certain to be one of the most important races in the country however, especially considering the extremely tight lead that Democrats have in the Senate. For context, a stunning $236 million was spent in the 2022 US Senate election; in all fairness, over half of that was spent by outside groups, but regardless, the bar of competitiveness for a US Senate race starts around $30 million or so, so the early numbers matter but are not critical.

While Gallego’s strength is obvious, a big question will be Kari Lake’s ability to fundraise. During her run for Governor, she eschewed the necessity of traditional fundraising, relying instead on earned media and a strong social media presence. As a result, she was soundly defeated by Katie Hobbs in the fundraising race. While the national Republican party will likely come to her support unless Sheriff Mark Lamb makes it a competitive primary, she must demonstrate that she has learned a lesson from her failure in her gubernatorial race.

But of course, the big elephant in the room is whether or not Sinema will vie for another term in the face of low favorability ratings. But until then, she is certain to utilize her influence and power to raise huge chunks of money to assist her in whatever her next step is.

Connect Maricopa, the official campaign in support of the Proposition 400 renewal, formally launched today with a coalition of business, community, and public sector leaders advocating for the extension of the transportation funding measure. The effort is led by Pam Kehaly, CEO of Blue Cross Blue Shield of Arizona; Mesa Mayor John Giles; Maricopa County Supervisor Jack Sellers; Mike Hoover, CEO of Sundt Construction; and Jim Kenny, CEO of El Dorado Holdings.

In 1985, Maricopa County voters overwhelmingly passed a 20-year half-cent sales tax dedicated to transportation infrastructure. It was renewed in 2004 with the passage of Proposition 400 which invested in highways, streets, and transit. The funding is set to expire December 31, 2025, without renewal. The extension of Proposition 400 was referred to Maricopa County voters by the Arizona Legislature and will be on the November 2024 ballot.

“The renewal of Proposition 400 is an integral part of Maricopa County’s continued economic growth and the overall success of the region,” said Pam Kehaly, CEO of Blue Cross Blue Shield of Arizona. “Investing in critical transportation infrastructure will allow the region to appropriately plan for future growth so residents can travel with ease and not experience the burden of long commute times. I am proud of the coalition of business and community associations that are actively supporting this effort and we look forward to sharing our message with Maricopa County voters.”

“Since the passage of Proposition 400, Arizona has become one of the top 6 states for economic momentum,” said Mesa Mayor John Giles. “The regional half cent sales tax has allowed the county to grow responsibly and build a comprehensive transportation network to support Maricopa County residents. This continued investment is critical for future economic development and ensuring Maricopa County residents have access to a variety of transportation options that best meet their needs.

”The Connect Maricopa Executive Committee consists of key business, economic development, and community organizations that understand the importance of investing in the Valley’s critical infrastructure:

  • American Council of Engineering Companies of Arizona
  • Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry
  • Arizona Chapter of the Associated General Contractors
  • Arizona Multihousing Association
  • Arizona Realtors Association
  • Arizona Rock Products Association
  • Arizona Trucking Association
  • Greater Phoenix Chamber
  • Greater Phoenix Economic Council
  • Greater Phoenix Leadership
  • Home Builders Association of Central Arizona
  • NAIOP Arizona
  • Valley Partnership

Ne’Lexia Galloway

Students of history (or older readers) will remember the Saturday Night Massacre: it was the last gasp of the Nixon administration and its attempt to cover up the Watergate scandal. In it, Nixon ordered his Justice Department officials to fire the Special Prosecutor in charge of Watergate, which led to a string of resignations as a result.

The Maricopa County Democratic Party seems to have had its own version of the Saturday Night Massacre in what seems to be embattled Executive Director Ne’Lexia Galloway’s attempt to protect her own job in the midst of underperformance, internal dissatisfaction, and a potential financial scandal. As a reminder, Galloway is engaged to be married to Bruce Franks Jr., the disgraced former Missouri State Rep/battle rapper/campaign grifter who played a significant role in tanking Julie Gunnigle’s campaign for County Attorney (get up to date on him here).

In a bombshell recent action, we’ve learned that Galloway personally fired every member of the staff except for one older, part-time employee nearing retirement (i.e. someone not deemed a threat). Their last day was at the end of February. The positions that were eliminated were organizing director (the person in charge of reaching out to potential voters), political director, and campaign director. While short term jobs are not renewed immediately after an election, to have such critical roles eliminated in a battleground county with all countywide seats up for election next year is unprecedented.

Some might say that money is a significant issue, and they are indeed light on cash, with only $16K available at the end of February. However, insiders say that part of this cash crunch is a result of gross mismanagement of funds, including a large allocation of cash sent out for what was supposed to be for mailers; but those mailers never went out. Insiders say that Galloway pushed for this vendor because the pricing was so cheap, but the pricing was so cheap because it didn’t account for the large majority of the costs: postage. A true rookie mistake. Now the party is attempting to claw back those funds, and numerous district chairs are extremely displeased.

Adding to that awkwardness? The fact that one of Galloway’s first actions after becoming the ED of the county Democratic Party was a highly public attempt to attack her former boss Ruben Gallego. Galloway spent several days hyping up a major announcement she was going to drop, only for it to be this statement, amounting to little more than a Gen Z’er who is amazed to learn that their boss won’t fawn over every single idea that a new college graduate has. This is much, MUCH more awkward of a dynamic now that Gallego is the presumed Democratic candidate for the US Senate race in 2024.

Additionally, the friend’s list seems to be narrowing, as the county party became an official sponsor of an event that Galloway’s fiance Franks Jr. put on which neglected to invite the Kesha Hodge Washington, a Democrat and favored candidate of Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego. Attempting to purposely alienate the most powerful Democratic elected official of a local seat is…highly risky.

So in summary, it has been bad decisions compounded by bad performance followed by bad financial management that has led to this place: where threats were all around and where money was tight, so Galloway decided to solve both issues at once. And now they will be hamstrung regarding organizing for the future, and their brand has taken a real hit. Her hire has turned into a one-person disaster.

Good governance depends on at least two strong parties that are led competently and have compelling messages. We have seen parts of the Republican party in Arizona devolve into conspiracy theories, and now we are seeing the local Democratic party devolve into power struggles designed to paper over incompetence and underperformance. Much like the Saturday Night Massacre, it’s a sad state of affairs. We can only hope that much like that event, it leads to a wholesale change in leadership and an entirely new direction.

By Alexander Lomax

Now that midterm elections are out of the way, next comes the tradition of political parties having their “reorganization” meetings. What this entails is all of the dedicated party apparatchiks coming together to vote on who should be in their party’s leadership. At the county level, Precinct Committeepeople (PCs) come together to vote on county party leadership. PCs also vote to see who will be on the State Committee, the members of which then vote for state party leadership.

Often, these events are dry and long, full of procedural votes on their party platform, or votes for such boring and generally meaningless positions as 2nd Vice Chair of the county party or the like. Often, leadership will run for re-election, and unless they are particularly unpopular, any opposition will be token opposition. There often aren’t a ton of surprises. However, the chair of the Arizona Democratic Party, Raquel Teran, is not seeking re-election, which means a power vacuum. And with any power vacuum, it won’t go unfilled for too long.

Even more interesting and impactful is the fact that the Dems have had big wins, winning the US Senate seat, the Governor’s race, Secretary of State, and (pending recount) the AG’s office. There is actual power to be had in roles like this. So when those newly electeds all coalesced behind candidates quickly, our ears were perked.

Maricopa County Supervisor Steve Gallardo threw his hat in the ring; as the only Democrat of the five member board for several election cycles, he has not had much impact on local politics or policy, and while he has been a mainstay in the local Dem scene he hasn’t been too influential. Therefore it was intriguing to see Governor-elect Katie Hobbs giving her endorsement to him. While his other support seems to have been lackluster, having Hobbs on his side is not to be trifled with. Along with that is a member of her transition team stating that it is her right to anoint the next Chair, which…received pushback.

The next Chair shall not be anointed, however: longtime local union organizer Yolanda Bejarano has stated her intention to run. While many people announce an intention to run, hers is followed by a who’s who of local Democrats backing her: Senator Mark Kelly, Secretary of State-elect Adrian Fontes, presumptive Attorney General-elect Kris Mayes and Congressmen Greg Stanton and Ruben Gallego have all announced their support.

Quite the intriguing development, where Arizona’s incoming Governor is nearly alone in her support of the party’s next Chair. It seems as though Bejarano, an organizer by trade, organized around Gallardo/Hobbs and consolidated support extremely deftly. Meanwhile Gallardo, a candidate in a safe blue seat with no primary challenges for ages, didn’t understand the game that he was playing and assumed that being friendly with one person was enough.

While the votes still need to be tallied, it certainly looks like Bejarano is in the driver’s seat, and with that a deep understanding of organizing and less of the social justice dedication that Teran (or at least gave lip service to).

And now, we wait to see the glorious show that the race for the AZ GOP Chair shall undoubtedly provide! 

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