Mayor Ortega Capitulates on Rio Verde Water Crisis, but Work is Left to Do

Photo Source: City of Scottsdale YouTube channel

Public outrage has a way of swaying politicians. So does looking around and seeing that you’re on an island with a particular view. Scottsdale Mayor David Ortega apparently has learned this firsthand, and it seems to have shifted the conversation regarding the most notable and controversial topic so far this year.

After public disagreement and obstinance, it now seems as though the city of Scottsdale is on board with continuing to help the Rio Verde Foothills through their current water crisis. In a unanimous vote, the Scottsdale city council has expressed support for a plan to resume the facilitation of water delivery to the embattled community. While details are left to be resolved, this de facto ends the showdown that had dominated the non-Super Bowl related news stories in Scottsdale since the beginning of the year.

This comes after Rep. David Cook requested an expedited decision by new Attorney General Kris Mayes, who affirmed the county’s ability to work with the city to resolve this issue. Mayor Ortega praised the ruling from the new AG, but it didn’t come without consequence: Brahm Resnik grilled Ortega about why it took a representative from Globe to move this forward instead of the mayor himself, a question to which Ortega did not have a concrete answer for.

Ultimately, Ortega earned the rarest of tributes: to have the legislature, county governance, and citizenry all focusing their anger on him and him alone. And while he surely fancies himself as a force, as someone who will not be swayed by the winds of short-term politics, these winds were closer to a Category 2 or 3 hurricane. If he didn’t notice that he was on an island, someone in his “kitchen cabinet” of supporters almost certainly whispered as such in his ear.

As the cliche goes, the devil is in the details, which will certainly be the case here. There are already significant rumblings about proposed pricing from the city. County Supervisor Thomas Galvin seems to be displeased by how this entire ordeal went down, and that view will likely color his future interactions with the city and the mayor. But the right thing happened, even if it took too long, and us in the chattering class can now go back to complaining about significantly less vital topics.

Now we get to see how much of a partner Mayor Ortega wants to be in this endeavor, or if he is simply allowing himself to get dragged along for the ride. I hope that he has learned that his power has limits, that being collaborative is much more fruitful than being obstinant, and that soft power is sometimes more meaningful than hard power. For the sake of the city as well as his re-election prospects, it is in all of our collective best interests for him to learn these lessons soon.