Proposition 420’s Evolving, Enduring Legacy For Scottsdale

The defeat last year of the proposed Desert Discovery Center in Scottsdale’s McDowell Sonoran Preserve, manifested in the overwhelming vote for Proposition 420, wasn’t just a vote to protect a slice of landscape. It’s proven to be a vote for powerful, important, new citizen activism that is exhibiting itself in interesting, important ways.

While Scottsdale has always had an engaged electorate this feels different. In the late 1990s the Coalition of Pinnacle Peak was undoubtedly a powerful political force but it was one that largely stuck to its part of the world. And when it did not, it both lost on issues and lost some of its luster. The preservation passion that led to saving the McDowell Mountains has few grassroots peers. Yet, it was singular to that cause.

The success of Proposition 420 seems to be something else, something almost akin to an #UsToo.

Many of that effort’s voices are supporting the city’s upcoming bond election to strengthen Scottsdale’s infrastructure. As a result the measures stand their best chance for passage in two decades. These citizens don’t just complain. They also commend. They understand you just can’t complain your way to a better city. You need to take charge, compromise and take an idea from start to finish. There are days for fighting and there are days for agreeing.

More development projects now know they have to raise the bar and engage those who think doing business in Scottsdale means do something more, and better. The Unger family has always done a good job of this no matter political circumstance so Southbridge II is not the best example. But the attractiveness and compromises of Museum Square and a new project, Gentry On The Green, are. You could probably put the redevelopment plan for Papago Plaza in this category too. Such developments will likely gain City Council acceptance not only because of their merits but because of their willingness to listen and learn from the new energy. Those who fail this approach such as a non-descript residential rezoning at 118th and Jomax or the Marquee either get defeated or hang on for dear life.

We get those in a republic who lament the rising tide of review. They have a principled argument about democracy. But the more consensus and compelling a project or proposal has the easier the job for the elected official, he or she hopefully realizes.

Some don’t like this new dawning in Scottsdale and its ability to harness social media and other tactics to make a statement. Former City Councilman David Smith seems to be foremost among the Empire Strike Backers.

That’s too bad because we think people named Janik, Alexander, Kirtley, Pejman, Meyers, Alley, Norton and many others are raising the bar for the city in much the same way people named Korte, Manross, Drinkwater, DeCabooter, Vairo, Carla, Rau, Pettycrew, Campana and company did a generation before.