Impressions On First “In-Person” Scottsdale Mayoral Debate

By Scottsdale Cosmopolite

Last month, mayoral candidates Lisa Borowsky and Dave Ortega debated at the Scottsdale Performing Arts Center in the first and only in-person debate of the political cycle. With limited in-person attendance, topics varied from political divides, attainable housing, remote work environments, small businesses, economic upgrades, transportation and the pandemic.

Moderator for the debate was lawyer Kurt Brueckner. The panel members consisted of Chad Arruda, founder and chief development officer of Windom Security, George Jackson with Wells Fargo Advisors and Lynndy Smith, Senior Director of External Affairs for Acronis SCS.

With early voting already underway, here are key impressions and highlights from the debate:

*One of the hot button issues throughout this election has been the concern of economic growth in Scottsdale, especially when handling the challenges brought on by the pandemic. While both candidates supported and agreed with the pre-determined areas for economic growth (Airpark, McDowell Quarter and Downtown), Ortega largely deflected answering the question and instead decided to reinforce his “expert” experience of the downtown area when it comes to development. Lisa called the Old Town/Downtown area of Scottsdale the “gem of the city” and expanding Scottsdale’s tourism reputation by improving transportation and parking with no hi-rise buildings.

*The most bizarre comment of the debate came from candidate Ortega when asked about mending the political divide in Scottsdale saying, “I believe I have a welcoming personality, I can welcome people into the downtown. I can work with all of South America and Spain. I speak Spanish, I can get along.”

*Candidates were asked about their approach to attainable housing, apartment complexes in Scottsdale and their plans to encourage younger families to move into the area. Instead, Ortega made it a questions about parking and lack thereof when it comes to apartment development – another hot button issue for Scottsdale but irrelevant to the debate question. In response, Borowsky simply stated her position of quality over quantity when it comes to apartments and that the city needs to stop granting entitlements to avoid higher density. Neither candidate addressed the concern surrounding affordable housing

*In response to COVID-19, candidates were asked how they would continue Scottsdale’s success at creating headquarters and corporate offices as some companies seek to decrease their commercial footprint. Borowsky reinforced her overall campaign message that business drives the market and the government needs to create the “table setting” for a safe, attractive and efficient city while keeping taxes low, schools strong and maintaining tourism at the center of Scottsdale’s economy. In contrast, Ortega stated he would make sure the city has a re-allocation of its own office space, resources and the city should analyze how it can best deliver public services for the lowest tax dollar.

*No debate is complete without a few zingers from the candidates. Ortega questioned Borowsky’s commitment to serve as a “full-time mayor” due to her position as a lawyer and inability to get actions done in an effective capacity. However, Borowsky didn’t shy away from rebutting those attacks and adding a few of her own questioning his past record on council.

*When asked whether the candidates were in favor of passing the anti-discrimination ordinance currently being reviewed by the city council, Borowsky said NO. This came as a shock to the audience especially as the city’s adoption of such an ordinance has been languished.

*Concluding the debate in a lightning round of questions, Borowsky and Ortega were asked “What is your greatest accomplishment?”

Borowsky answered “my daughter.”

Ortega answered “dog park.”