While Scottsdale has always had an engaged electorate, what happened in 2018 supercharged it. The ramifications are now becoming clearer, importantly and insightfully.
Three years ago about this time the “Desert Discovery Center” proposed for the Gateway in the city’s McDowell Sonoran Preserve was on its way to a landslide defeat at the ballot box. Years of wrangling in the making, it was a band of brothers and sisters, most of whom had never been active in Scottsdale politics before, that formed a movement to stop the ill-conceived project.
The effort’s alumni association is remarkable. Count among it Councilman Tom Durham, Councilwoman Betty Janik and Councilwoman Solange Whitehead. And don’t forget the effort’s pioneers like Jason Alexander and Mike Norton who continue to influence policy and politics in the city.
This group, especially the first three, now have a profound impact on Scottsdale present and future.
While some say Scottsdale has become too difficult a place to do business this group would likely say we are simply trying to raise the bar. While some may be fearful of getting to the finish line, they tend to say if you come in the spirit of compromise and collaboration we can achieve win-wins.
In other words say both yes, and no.
We are now seeing this play out in a series of multi-family projects headed for the council’s consideration . The extremists on either side of the growth debate say no, or yes, almost immediately to these or any proposals But that’s not what this group, born of activism, is all about. And that’s not where the broader Scottsdale electorate is at either. Instead, the new mantra suggests if your project has a greater good or is supported by most of the area residents then you may see a green light on your journey. If not, there will be plenty of off-ramps.
Of late, Councilwoman Whitehead has become the most engaged attempting to forge consensus when merit is obvious. Indeed, she might best be described as this City Council’s Kyrsten Sinema. That’s critical because it says to both residents and the business community alike that Scottsdale is a place of both commerce and conscience.
Over the next month we will see this dynamic play out. Three of the four apartment projects coming before the City Council have substantial merit (some more than others). They serve a public good, enhance important retail sales tax nearby and are supported (mostly) by those closest to their sites.
In other words, three of the four are good examples of meeting Scottsdale’s elevated bar and the affect of activism.
Following the 2020 elections the business community had acute concerns about what may lie ahead for Scottsdale’s economy. That’s rarely a good place for a city or town to be. Now, some of those concerns are being alleviated . . . thanks to activists.