Battle Lines are Being Drawn Over Homelessness in Scottsdale

Photo Credit: Ross D. Franklin

Recently the city of Scottsdale took a more open and assistive approach to homelessness, taking advantage of a grant offer by opening its doors and helping house a number of them (read the full story here). While it was a move that would clearly be seen as empathetic and compassionate, it is not one that comes without potential ramifications, both social and political. And now we learn that a state legislator is carrying that mantle of challenging if this is the right move for the city.

Indeed, State Representative Matt Gress, who represents District 4 which covers Paradise Valley and most of Scottsdale, has officially lined up on the side of skepticism as it relates to this project. He recently submitted a list of questions to Mayor David Ortega related to the initiative; as he puts it, they are questions that his constituency have asked about the project.

While the initiative is relatively small in scope, encompassing the use of 10 hotel beds, and will be funded with a $940,000 grant, the argument could be made that it is opening up a pandora’s box of collaboration with the state, potentially leading to the city being opened up further for housing the homeless. Along with that is a concern regarding a dip in quality of life, assuming that some of the issues that led to those people becoming homeless in the first place (i.e. drug abuse and mental health concerns) would spill over into the city.

While the Scottsdale city council was relatively unified in their support of this plan, with a 6-1 vote in favor and only Barry Graham voting no, this does represent yet another showdown between Mayor Ortega and other echelons of government. Regular readers will remember legislators such as Joseph Chaplik and Alexander Kolodin taking shots at him, as well as county supervisor Thomas Galvin over the Rio Verde Foothills water crisis.

Mayor Ortega, never being one to back down from a fight, clearly isn’t about to start in the face of this challenge. He responded in a way that could be construed as passive-aggressive, saying “At last count, there are approximately 9754 licensed hotel rooms within Scottsdale city limits. Your correspondence regarding 10 hotel rooms will be answered in full by staff.”

While we tend to think that the positives outweigh the negatives for this move by the city, that while there are concerns that the positive brand identity of being a compassionate and pragmatic city should outweigh those, that doesn’t mean that a conversation shouldn’t take place. It is our sincerest hope that we can have that conversation, and that it is productive and not overcome with hyperbole and negativity.