Guest Editorial: The Problem with Extremism

By Councilwoman Betty Janik

Extremism was once considered an ideology, a belief system, outside of the common sense attitudes of society.  Unfortunately, it now seems to be the norm.  With the constant news stream of outrageous commentary, we are tempted to believe what we hear and frequently what we are shown.  Social media has been used effectively to promote extremist positions as fact.  Pictures are altered and data manipulated to show a false narrative, for example, a rooster on ice skates doing figure of 8’s. This one is funny, but others are damaging, degrading, and have resulted in physical confrontations.

Unfortunately, our fair City of Scottsdale is not immune to extreme points of view.  The polarization in Scottsdale revolves around the topic of development.  The pro development advocates consider all development as a benefit to the City and essential to economic survival.  Frequent comments such as “if the City does not grow, it will die” are used to justify the growth position.  For the record, economists have been debating the relationship of growth to economic prosperity for decades with no clear answer. On the other side, the no growth advocates view any new development as the enemy of the city, creating more traffic, using valuable resources, and destroying our way of life.  The pro development group has the advantage of garnering generous donations from the development industry to support their position.  The no growth advocates work harder to get their message out using traditional methods such as handbills and door knocking.  Fortunately, the 2020 City Council campaign showed that the message can be more important than the war chest.

On a personal level, during the 2019 campaign, the pro development extremists tried to portray me as a radical with little regard for the welfare of the City using colorful language to disparage me. I have been in office nearly 17 months and the no growth extremists are now doing the same with name calling, portraying me as a traitor, and accusing me of taking bribes when I vote for a development. My note to extremists is that you are part of the problem, but a lively honest exchange of ideas from opposing factions can lead to a cure.

Recall I ran for office as an advocate for “thoughtful growth.”  I have approved about the same number units as I have rejected. Some projects offer great opportunity for Scottsdale, others offer great profits for the developer with little benefit to the city. There are strict standards for development set by the City and the goal is to meet the City’s needs applying these principles. Compromise by all sides is a given.

Overall, I believe there is an attainable balance between the past and the future.  I will strive to find that sweet spot. It is my firm belief that most of the Scottsdale voters are comfortable with “thoughtful growth” and reject extremism. No matter where you are on this spectrum, please study the candidates and exercise that most precious freedom we enjoy, the freedom to vote.


Councilwoman Betty Janik