Guest Editorial: Paying It Forward

By Don Henninger

You may know it as the story of a junior high school teacher who assigns his class to come up with an idea to change the world and then go do it. One of his students creates a way of “paying forward” favors that helps a single mother. But more. It creates a wave of human kindness that turns into a national trend.

That’s the way I look at Scottsdale’s bond package.

City, civic and community leaders are working on a plan to “pay it forward” to bring some much-needed changes to Scottsdale, not so much for us right now as for those who will follow. It’s an investment in our city for the next generation and beyond.

Like “paying it forward,” the bond proposal has created a wave of unity, if not kindness, among the city, including bringing people to the table to work together who less than a year ago were fighting like cats and dogs. Unlike previous bond packages, it won unanimous support from City Council, which several months ago couldn’t even agree on what a new city flag should look like. That work was the result of the three council members on the Capital Improvement Projects committee who led the way: Suzanne Klapp, Guy Phillips and Kathy Littlefield.

The steering committee for the bond campaign, “For the Best Scottsdale,” is made up of neighborhood advocates, business and community leaders and is chaired by two people who were on opposite sides of the Proposition 420 issue last November. (Disclosure: I am a member, too.)

If we’re lucky, this spirit of unity could turn into a sustainable trend for the city: people working together for the community good, building a better future for others to enjoy. The lesson: It’s OK to yell if you also are willing to listen.

What a nice change of pace since the last election cycle six months ago.

Scottsdale residents will be asked to approve a bond package in November that takes care of work that is long overdue, work that is vital if Scottsdale is to remain the shining jewel of Arizona for decades to come.

In the package are proposals to finance 58 projects totaling $319 million. They are projects that serve all areas of the city, from McDowell Road to the McDowell Mountains and points in between, grouped in three questions. One for parks, recreation and senior services; another for community spaces and critical infrastructure needs; and the other for public safety and technology.

Voters historically have not been kind to Scottsdale bond proposals. They haven’t said yes to a major program since 2000. That’s before Facebook came into our lives and before iPhones were invented. Does that not present evidence to you that the city has not been keeping up with the times? The world is changing at a rapid pace. Scottsdale needs to catch up.

This go-around its chances are much better. Not just because of the unity behind the campaign, or because signs of the city’s crumbling infrastructure are starting to become obvious. What really should be the selling point to voters who look at these projects with a skeptical eye is this: It will not raise taxes. In fact, your taxes will ultimately go down. As older bond debt is retired, this new proposal will mean that your new rates will come in at or below what they are right now.

So the needs are obvious, residents are pulling together from all areas of the city, diverse interest groups are in support of it, there is no organized effort trying to derail the program and it won’t cost residents a dime more.

So what’s the risk? Complacency. Often seen in voter turnout as low as 25 percent in odd numbered years. That means you need to vote when your ballot shows up in the mail this fall.

Most people have a soft spot in their hearts for the idea of “paying it forward.” Do you care about leaving our city in a better place for those who will follow? Dig down deep and I’ll bet you’ll find a way to say yes to that.