Barking At Bond Shadows

With one or two exceptions, Scottsdale has a coterie of often well-meaning watchdogs. You see their comments on this blog, on social media, and at the end of hundreds of online articles.

Sometimes they alert us to real problems, as with the DDC.  But sometimes they bark at shadows, as a couple are doing with the Scottsdale bond questions.

If voters say yes to Questions 1, 2, and 3, a long list of infrastructure, senior citizen, and public safety projects get done. According to a recent poll, the public is behind the measures, big time because a unanimous Scottsdale City Council did a great job crafting the package. The price tag is $319 million paid for by bonds funded through Scottsdale’s secondary property tax. That secondary property tax will continue to go down if voters say yes because payments are phased in, as payments for the 2000 bond packages are phased out. Increasing Scottsdale property valuations also help this dynamic. .

Notably, the City Council did what governments rarely do. Resist the temptation to tax more. In this case, the bond package could have been increased to $450 million for reasons described above. But they proposed even less. Kudos. The structure of these bonds leads most people to reasonably conclude that taxes will still go down and Scottsdale’s quality of life will go up if the voters say yes on Questions 1, 2, and 3.  And that’s the gist of one, but hardly the only slogan, embraced by the Bond Committee.

Enter the watchdogs. A few are complaining because in theory other taxes not related to the secondary property tax may go up. Sure, the state could hike the sales tax. School taxes could increase.  Maricopa County could raise property taxes. Scottsdale could increase the primary tax rate. Water rates could go up. But these have nothing to do with Scottsdale’s secondary property tax, or Questions 1,2, and 3. Arguing over the infinite possibilities of unrelated taxes is not only irrelevant, it is a profound waste of time.  Being a watchdog does not entitle one to their own version of the truth and conflating tax issues, as some are trying to do. It is unfair and dare we say, dishonest.  Some folks can spend days arguing over minutia, like the shape of the lights at Indian School Park, the fonts used on the signs at Stillman Railroad Park, or Jim Lane’s beard.

There is a fine line between vigilance and nitpicking. Between alerting someone to a real threat, or barking at shadows. Between making a difference or just making noise.

Our local watchdogs have done and continue to do great work, but sometimes they need to acknowledge if it ain’t  broke.

We conclude with the words of Councilwoman Kathy Littlefield who properly framed this issue in her eblast this week:

“These bonds include fire and police stations and upgrades to the training facilities for both.  It funds new parks and park renovations, a much needed bridge, a dog park, a senior center and an adult care facility, sport facilities upgrades, solar power systems, event space at Civic Center Plaza, better IT equipment and security, and on and on. I believe the quality of life for our citizens will be improved by these projects well beyond the point where the costs are justified. Therefore, I support the passage of all three bond questions for the good of both the City and its citizens.”

Well done. How her summation and that of others gets sloganeered by the bond campaign is a detail that will properly resolve itself.  That’s what good people in a good campaign do, and this one has them in spades thanks to the support of the diverse coalition embracing this year’s bonds. What should not be in question to anyone is that this bond package unlike previous ones will not increase property taxes. They almost certainly will go down. That’s a good thing, the truth and a tribute to taxpayers and a smart City Council that got it right. And it is why this bond package will win, in part due to the indefatigable activism that keeps any campaign effort on its toes but in some cases, this year, in spite of it too.