I like Scottsdale as Scottsdale
By Jim Derouin, originally published on SCOTT
Jim Derouin is a long-time Scottsdale resident, attorney, and member of the city of Scottsdale’s Districting and Charter review task forces.
There is an old song that includes the line: “Dance with the one that brought you and you can’t go wrong.”
My family and I moved to Scottsdale in 1985 and, by luck, found a house ready to move into on Scottsdale Ranch. The part of Scottsdale north of Deer Valley Road had just been annexed to the city – a large portion of which, at a cost of $1 billion, became the 45-square-mile McDowell Sonoran Preserve, which is about 25 percent of the entire area of the city. That single act reduced Scottsdale’s potential population by some 200,000 residents.
Always conservation conscious, Scottsdale’s growth boom occurred prior to 2000. Scottsdale has about 118,000 square acres in total of which 30,000 are dedicated in the Preserve. Something less than 15,000 acres are left elsewhere in the city for residential development.
Scottsdale is a great place to live and raise children and send them to school in the city’s 38 public schools with more than 25,000 students. Some people argue that Scottsdale is a retirement community, a “bedroom” community and a place where people who have made their money elsewhere come to isolate themselves from others. Some people even say they want Scottsdale to be Palm Springs. Well, fortunately, Scottsdale is none of the foregoing.
Scottsdale is home to 18,000 businesses at which 180,000 people work – 150,000 of them commute to Scottsdale daily.
Scottsdale is a center for tourism – 4.5 million tourists visited the city in 2018; 1.7 million of them from outside the United States. Scottsdale is the home for major resorts, health care, finance and technology firms.
It is known as a place with low property taxes and high property values; more than half its budget is paid by non-residents because our lifestyle is mostly paid for by sales taxes from visitors to the city. And oh, by the way, those 180,000 workers need buildings to work in; people who work in the high-paying jobs we seek do not work in tents.
So when people tell me that they wish Scottsdale were Palm Springs with its decayed downtown, closed golf courses and deteriorating property values, I say to them: “Bless you.” Palm Springs sat on its laurels, rejected renewal, thought the good times would last forever and now is a figment of its own imagination. Its glory dates back to, and ends, with the writing of the “Wizard of Oz.” People who made their wealth elsewhere, commonly in Los Angeles, moved to the desert to live in an isolated fashion separated from other people. Phooey. I don’t want that for Scottsdale.
I like the fact that Scottsdale has the highest median housing price of any of the large Valley cities. I like the fact that we have a real downtown that, with care, can become a year-round magnate for economic activity while still protecting its historic area. I like our 42 parks and 72 athletic fields. I like the fact that we are a city with diverse age demographics including a vibrant segment with families that have children — they have the highest incomes of any segment of the city’s population by age group.
In short, unlike Palm Springs, data shows that Scottsdale is a self-sufficient, economically diverse city, not one of those bedroom communities, retirement communities or one of those boring, failing, over-the-hill “I just want to be isolated from the world” cities.
In life we have to be careful what we ask for because, sometimes, to our disadvantage, we get what we ask for. I want Scottsdale to remain economically vibrant; to have more families with children because they add to our economic base; to continue to have low property taxes; to continue to have high property values; and to continue to get non-residents to pay most of the freight.
We have it good. Let’s not mess it up.