Budget Overruns And Road Diets Dominate Council Candidates Forum

Scottdale’s budget and a controversial road diet project dominated a forum for those running for the Scottsdale City Council. It took place on June 11th and was hosted by the Scottsdale Independent. Jan Dubauskas was the only candidate unable to attend.

When the candidates were asked about road diets, Councilmember Tom Durham said he approved only one road diet on 68th Street. He pointed out that he did so because residents asked him to in response to the accident rate in the area as well as fatalities. Justin Laos says while he opposes road diets, he doesn’t feel it’s a major issue and he won’t make it a cornerstone of his campaign. Steve Casares, perhaps the politest candidate on the dais, simply answered ‘no’ when asked if he supports the idea.

Bob Lettieri, who repeatedly had difficulty turning on his microphone without assistance from MaryAnn McAllen, is making road diets a central issue and recently presented to the City Council a petition with 300 signatures opposed to road diets. Mason Gates said he frequently finds himself stuck in traffic. He also went on the attack against Durham making the bizarre claim of conflict of interest because Durham supports bike lanes. Adam Kwasman, who kept repeating he has the support of Councilmembers Barry Graham and Kathy Littlefield, gave a very forceful NO on the issue.

MaryAnn McAllen, who worked in Scottsdale’s Community Services Department in the 80’s and 90’s, said road diet is not an accurate term. She said they are traffic calming measures designed to save lives. Incumbent Tammy Caputi, who had to remind moderator J. Graber to call on her, said she does not support policies to reduce road widths or take away cars and neither does the city of Scottsdale. She says the city has plans to add 146 lane miles to Scottsdale.

Graber peeled away the veneer of objectivity when he asked the candidates about numerous cost overruns for city projects calling it a “history of failure.”

Durham said it’s not a failure, it’s called inflation. Gates called the overruns irresponsible, and they exceed the rate of inflation. Kwasman, a former state lawmaker with a masters degree in economics, said the reason why he is supported by Littlefield and Graham is because fiscal management has been a part of his career in the public and private sectors. Laos said it’s easy to scream fiscal irresponsibility. He says it’s more important to have people who do the research and search for answers.

Lettieri, a corporate CFO, said it’s too easy to tax and spend. He said he would be fired if he presented his company with massive cost overruns. McAllen says the logical approach is to hold people accountable, but every issue is unique and the resolution is due diligence. Caputi, who was again overlooked by Graber, pointed out Scottsdale has an award-winning budget and a surplus in the general fund. She pointed out a recent sewer line project went way over budget because the project was greatly expanded. Casares says he doesn’t believe in hyperbole and would rather focus on working with council and staff as a team.

While it would be impossible to declare an outright winner, here are some observations. Caputi had the most confidence, Laos, McAllen and Casares are tied for the Congeniality award. Gates should switch to decaf. Lettieri needs to brush up on those AV skills. Durham did his homework. Kwasman has the support of Graham and Littlefield (just ask him).