Speakers’ Corner: Councilwoman Tammy Caputi

Scottsdale Councilwoman Tammy Caputi began her first term on the Scottsdale City Council in January 2021 and is currently seeking a second term. Caputi has lived and worked in Scottsdale for almost 25 years, and is the president and owner of Yale Electric West, Inc, a Scottsdale company.  She’s been married for over 20 years and has 3 daughters who attend our local schools. Councilwoman Caputi holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Economics from Wellesley College in Wellesley, MA and a Master’s in Business Administration from Simmons University in Boston, MA. She is passionate about keeping Scottsdale the Gold Standard of the Valley, and she is always running!

After so many years as a business owner, what prompted you to get into politics?

My kids are finally all in school, and my business is at the point where I can step back a little after 20 years of building it. As a 25-year Scottsdale homeowner, business owner and parent, I have so much invested in this community. I care passionately about our future success, and I don’t believe in sitting on the sidelines. Rather than complaining and increasing people’s frustrations and fears, I believe in working to find creative and effective solutions to problems. I want to use my knowledge and experience to give back to the city that’s been so great to me and my family. Municipal politics put you at ground level where you can really make a difference in people’s day to day lives. Decisions I make on a Tuesday night can make residents’ lives better the next day.

You are widely viewed as being pro-business. Is that a challenge for you given the city’s current no-growth leanings?

I’m all about balance- I ran for council to keep Scottsdale’s winning formula- high amenities and open space, high property values, and low property taxes, and this means balancing slow-growth with economic vitality. Our city runs on business activity, not bedroom activity- we have 200,000 employees and 18,000 businesses- a vibrant economy is what allows us to protect our neighborhoods and keep 40% of the city as open space. We have the highest amenities along with world class services- we must have a robust economy to make that happen if we want to keep our tax rates one of the lowest in the Valley. Scottsdale is the Gold Standard, an aspirational city. It didn’t become that way by shutting everything down and standing still. Successful cities do not stagnate- they continually reinvest and refresh to stay relevant and attractive. The challenge is having people understand that we have to move forward, with balance, to retain our brand. “No growth” is not a solution for any problem, or a vision for the future. Without healthy growth things die. Cities are no exception.

I’ve increased job creation by 10% in my 3 years in office, while approving only a handful of high-quality projects that contribute positively to our community. Scottsdale has been rated one of the best places in the country for start-ups. I weigh each proposal that comes before me with facts and data. We’ve slowed growth and reduced our pipeline, while supporting great projects and maintaining a strong economy- despite a global pandemic and record high inflation.

What is your definition of smart growth?

Balance, thoughtfulness, and careful planning. More intensity only where it makes sense. Protection of our residential neighborhoods and open space. Exceptional projects with measurable community benefits like workforce housing and water recycling. Making sure all stakeholders are included in decision making- we’ve doubled our outreach and rolled out several new digital platforms to gather resident input. Decisions based on facts and data and plans, not fear and misinformation. I hear from folks who say, “I’m not anti-growth, I want smart/quality growth”. But then there’s never a project they can support. We’ve approved only a handful of projects the last 3 years and anti-growth folks are still mad. They support candidates/councilors who say “no growth”, until they approve a great project that checks all the boxes, and then they turn on them. No to everything is not a solution, or a recipe for long term success. Scottsdale has always been forward thinking. We grow smart to stay on top.

What do you think are some short term and long term solutions to solving Scottsdale’s housing shortage?

We have a shortage of housing because there’s not enough housing at prices people can afford. In some ways we are a victim of our own success- Scottsdale is expensive. It’s extremely difficult to offer lower cost housing with land prices so high, material and labor prices at record highs, impeccable design standards, a lengthy approval process that can take years, and a political headwind against building more housing. 40% of our city is open space – 40%! We are almost built out and we’re mainly doing redevelopment now. To provide more housing at lower price points we would need to build denser where it makes sense. Along freeways, in our growth areas, away from residential neighborhoods. Our population is aging- we have one of the largest populations above 55 in the country and getting older. We’re seeing more assisted living projects. Not everyone wants or needs a large single-family home on an acre. We need to offer a healthy mix/balance of housing types for all our residents, of today and tomorrow. We’ve grown less than 1% per year for the last decade- controlled, thoughtful growth, always in line with our General Plan and other plans such as Transportation, Drought Management, Character Area.

What is your vision for the future of Downtown Scottsdale?

My vision is a thriving, vibrant, year-round Downtown with enough residents and tourists to support shopping and activities. Downtown is a huge economic engine for our city and part of our winning formula. We need to continue working with our partners (Experience Scottsdale, Scottsdale Arts, Chamber of Commerce, and more) to deliver excellent, unique programming that encourages everyone to enjoy our downtown. We need to continue to work on connectivity and ways to travel from one section to another without continually moving a car to find a new parking spot. We need to make sure we provide parking where it’s most needed so people can park once and enjoy Downtown. Each part of our downtown has a different vibe and focus, and the parts make up a greater whole.  Everyone needs to work together to maintain our brand as a world class city with a western flavor.

What is the best way to preserve Scottsdale’s quality of life?

KEEP MOVING FORWARD- we cannot give in to the calls to stop everything and look backward. We need balance. We can’t shut down the economy. Healthy sales tax revenue and thoughtful economic development is how we pay for the things we love about our city.

As the owner of a lighting and electrical supply company which light bulbs do you prefer at your home, soft white or day light?

I prefer Daylight, which is brighter (LED only!)- you can always dim bright light down, but soft white isn’t bright enough for doing things like kids’ homework!

*And we call them “lamps” in the industry, not lightbulbs!

What is the best and worst thing about serving as a councilwoman?

The best thing about serving on council is that every day is different. Every day I have an opportunity to help many different people and be a part of making the city better for the next generation.

The worst thing about serving on council is the toxicity, personal attacks, and the unwillingness of some to listen and compromise. The city is for all our residents and businesses and visitors- we must weigh the needs and desires of everyone and make decisions for all of us.

Scottsdale has had a number of impactful elected leaders. Who do you think was the most impactful?

Kathy Littlefield. She is always kind, whether in the minority or majority. She is always pleasant to work with and has a good sense of humor. Agree with her or not, everyone knows her name- that’s quite an accomplishment!

What is your favorite guilty pleasure restaurant?

None- I am a lifelong healthy eater and very careful with my diet. But I do love sushi, and once-in-awhile a nice glass of Whiskey. My current favorite sushi bar is Swan Sushi in North Scottsdale.

What is your daily exercise regimen?

I lift weights and run or cycle every day. I am always running! You have to keep working and reinvesting to maintain fitness. You can’t sit back and think about how great you looked in high school. You need to work hard every day to keep fit and stay ahead. I have 3 active teenage daughters and a very athletic husband (competitive mountain biker) that I need to keep up with!

How would you describe your relationship with Mayor Ortega?

Cordial. I can work with anyone!