Rise of The Guardians

Every community has its dedicated citizens that pay attention more than most to the whats going ons there.  In previous days they would submit frequent letters to the editors of local newspapers.  Now, they tend more towards an ability to mobilize and influence on social media.  

Scottsdale is no exception. Activists like Carla and Jane Rau once upon a time joined names like Drinkwater, Decabooter, Korte, Campana and Manross to forge what became the McDowell Sonoran Preserve.  

And in 2018 we saw the democratic majesty of so many that came together to oppose an unwise idea called the Desert Discovery Center, ultimately prevailing via the initiative process that became known as Proposition 420.  

The success of that grassroots movement, forged by “two guys and a laptop,” led us to think about some of the names that might be in a Scottsdale Activist Hall of Fame.  And we say “activist” with all due respect.  For whether one agrees or not with the frequency or merit of their critiques, there they are providing a fourth-estate like oversight to those in charge.  

And on this Oscars’ weekend the nominees are . . .

*Jason Alexander:  Smart, evolving, energetic and one of the founders of NODDC.  

*Mike Norton:  He helped to not just take down the Desert Discovery Center but revealed trespasses in the Scottsdale Unified School District too.  

*Andrea Alley:  Keep an eye on her, a rising voice from the south.  

*Hannah Goldstein:  She struck fear in developers during the mid and late 1990s, at a time when it was much easier to engineer referenda against projects.  But then things got weird, and her reputation never recovered from getting caught shoplifting Whoppers and Neosporin, quite the combination, at a local grocery store.  

*Howard Myers: Learned.  Thoughtful.  Most of his efforts have focused on slowing growth in north Scottsdale.  It was his idea to pursue a public vote on the Desert Discovery Center matter that ultimately led to the opposition group’s success.  

*Bob Vairo: Tough as nails. He presided over the Coalition of Pinnacle Peak (COPP), a slow-growth and powerful organization that largely dominated the north Scottsdale landscape until its resonance declined with the onset of the Great Recession.  

*Sonny Kirtley:   Presiding over the city-wide successor to COPP she does so in her own informed, quieter, dignified way.  

*Bud Sampson & Hazel Watkins:  They became the face of southern Scottsdale support to build a hockey arena at what is now the SkySong site, helping to win two public votes by wide margins before a divided council couldn’t implement the will of the people.  

*Alan Kaufman:  COPP’s legal warrior and for a time, an indefatigable advocate for the group’s positions.  

*Linda Whitehead:  The worthy cohort and successor to Vairo.  

*John Washington:  He gets points for longevity but not effectiveness.  His runs for public office were decrepit and the salience of his stands was and is diminished by never, seemingly, being for anything.  The talent is there if only a semblance of class could match.  

*Bill Crawford:  We are big fans of the Entertainment District but when something becomes so successful so fast as Scottsdale’s did, challenges can arise.  Against many at City Hall and dozens of bar owners Crawford effected reforms that still stand to this day, balancing a tremendous urban achievement with the quality of life of nearby residents and businesses.  

*Bob Pejman:  A Scottsdale gallery owner and emerging, strong, insightful voice for his business neighborhood and the arts.  

*Sandy Schenkat:  She has largely replaced Washington for sheer tenacity but unlike him hasn’t made the mistake of always missing a smile or opposing 75 degree days and sunshine.  

*Nancy Cantor:  An underappreciated voice reminding that Scottsdale isn’t all about country clubs and the best of life.  Instead, she has importantly focused on the city’s social ethic, and responsibility.  

If we have missed anyone, and surely we have, our apologies.  But we look forward to your possible comments and recognition to make up for our deficiencies.