By Ronald Sampson
Following last year’s surprise victory for current Scottsdale Mayor Dave Ortega, there were plenty of legitimate questions as to the future of Scottsdale. Since he hadn’t been a member of city council in 16 years, there wasn’t much evidence tipping us off as to the direction he would take the city other than campaign promises. So how has he done so far?
While that answer will depend on who you ask, I would say: not bad. Not perfect, but not bad.
He started his administration by reinstating the mask mandate in certain indoor situations in the city. While masks have turned into a contentious issue, considering that this was done before the delta variant truly took hold, it is difficult not to see this as considerably forward-thinking and reasonable.
There was a lot of concern about Ortega being an “anti-development” mayor, but it seems as though those concerns were not well founded. From being supportive of The Kimsey project to Axon Enterprises’ new development plans, yet raising concerns about the Greenbelt 88 project, at first glance he is living up to his promises to focus on “quality development”. Some will certainly disagree, as “quality” is by nature a subjective term, but it is clear that development will not come to a standstill.
A less pristine and more questionable move was Ortega spearheading the effort to remove Prescott Smith from the city’s planning commission due to a high number of recusals. While the logic and rationale behind the move was sound, this was considered a blind-side, untactical move without much consultation with stakeholders. Moreover, Ortega’s desire to remake the planning commission with more “everyday citizens” seems odd. There is a very real need for expertise on that commission, and this move was seen by some as an unnecessary power play.
In developments that are a bit more “insider baseball”, Mayor Ortega has sometimes butted heads with other councilmembers. Some of it has been more public, such as battles with councilmembers Milhaven and Littlefield, and some of it has been quiet and behind closed doors. There are always egos in politics, and those egos clash often. However, Ortega’s temperament in the sandbox will be something to be watched. He will almost certainly need to use more honey than vinegar to woo votes, especially as more contentious issues like a district system start to be discussed.
All in all, the first 6 months from Mayor Ortega were good. His administration has definitely not turned into a worst case scenario that some people imagined, but as the honeymoon period ends, he may need to work more collaboratively in order to achieve his agenda going forward.