Speaker’s Corner: David Ortega

This is a place where free speech and public debate are welcomed and encouraged. The Speakers’ Corner originated in the mid-19th century at London’s Hyde Park. The concept spread worldwide both physically and now virtually. Here at the Arizona Progress & Gazette, we are presenting this platform in the form of question-and-answer style interviews with people who have had a meaningful impact on the community.

Incumbent Mayor David “ Dave” : Ortega highlights his personal insights and civic  accomplishments while seeking re-election.

Why are you seeking  re-election?

I love serving Scottsdale residents as mayor!

Scottsdale shaped me an involved parent, Little League coach, successful businessman and church and community volunteer. I came to Scottsdale in 1978 to apprentice under architect Bennie Gonzales and in 2000 won elected office, becoming the first architect and Latino councilman in the history of Scottsdale.

Upon taking office in June 2000, the first agenda item I championed was to correct a major problem created by the previous city councils. Specifically, removing the ramp/tunnel obstruction at the defunct Scottsdale Galleria, to straighten Scottsdale Rd and reopen development access at the vacant Waterfront canal frontage. I also spearheaded senior housing next to the Granite Reef Senior Center and helped craft General Plan 2001—the 10- year vision which was approved by voters.

After my stint on Council, I served six years on the Development Review Board (DRB) and served six years on the Arizona State Facilities Board, which authorized 21 new public schools every year, on a $ 420M yearly budget. I also served three years on the Maricopa County Private Industry Council. I carry 23 years of public service at state, county and city levels as I seek my second term as mayor.

What is your assessment of council terms of Borowsky and Milhaven?

In January 2021 as mayor, I stepped into reversing preexisting blunders caused by Mayor Lane, Borowsky and Milhaven. I took office as the COVID-19 pandemic was peaking and uncovered runaway development, financial blunders and downright negligence since they had squandered Scottsdale’s water.

Before I took office, 23,689 multi-housing units were approved by Borowsky and Milhaven during the 12-year mayor Lane tenure. Borowsky and Milhaven together approved 6274 apartments in 2011 and 2012. Borowsky left council for a failed bid for Congress and Milhaven approved 17,415 more apartments. 23,689 apartments equate to 42,000 more residents!

SouthBridge2 (SB2) was the breaking point. As a civilian in 2019, I led opposition against the massive SB2 project in Old Town. SB2 would cram 970 apartments, push 160-foot buildings

against the Waterfront canal and excavate Fifth Avenue for private underground parking. Mayor Lane and Milhaven ignited a referendum, and 17115 voters signed a petition to overturn SB2. I carried the petition and helped truck the referendum into City Hall.  Subsequently, Council withdrew SB2, except Milhaven insisted it go forward. Borowsky did not sign the petition and stayed silent.

It turns out Borowsky was too busy attempting to up-zone SpringCreek, a 284-acre property which was vested for 142 houses. Residents of Sedona were enraged because Borowsky’s proposal would cram 2,000 dwelling units on the site with no water or sewer. Rejected by Yavapai County, zoning attorney Borowsky maneuvered annexation by Cottonwood, with a backdoor 18-mile access thru state land. Today the Borowsky land sits undeveloped, as worst example of a greedy failure. KeepSedonaBeautiful.org reports the failed Borowsky saga.

Mayor Lane and Milhaven gifted height and density subsidies to developers, and I am proud of my first term progress to unwind the Lane era debacle. Borowsky and Milhaven are masters of over-development and are trying to revive their failed ideology.

You are widely perceived aa a mayor who favors limited development.  is that accurate?

Community vision, land use and guiding principles must be approved by resident stakeholders every 10 years. Councilwomen Borowsky and Milhaven and Mayor Lane failed to craft and gain approval of General Plan 2025. They ignored their duty in 2009-12, in violation of Arizona statutes and opened the door to unfettered development.

Under my leadership, the new Council garnered citywide input, held dozens of meetings and unanimously forwarded General Plan 2035 (GP-2035) to the voters. It was approved in 2021. We also revised the citywide parking ordinance so that guest parking at all apartments is now required, and we lowered density and height limits. Milhaven, always the contrarian, clung to her failed past.  Borowsky railed against GP-2035 and opposed its passage and she lost.

I led community dialogue and unanimous Council approval of the anti-discrimination ordinance, a code of conduct for city employees and template for our hospitable city.  Borowsky opposed the anti- discrimination ordinance and Milhaven was inept and unwilling to get it done prior to my initiative as mayor.

What is your stand on Scottsdale’s economy and how could it be improved?

Successful economic vitality in Scottsdale rests with three essentials:  1) well-planned land uses; 2) engaged, innovative residents who can balance commerce and high-standard quality of life; and 3) skilled management of water resources and infrastructure.

Frequently, residents thank me for promoting water conservation, for wise stewardship during the megadrought and for my hardline protecting Scottsdale water from outsiders.

When I took office, the entire Southwest was suffering from the megadrought, and I was shocked to learn that Mayor Lane, Borowsky and Milhaven had knowingly allowed 1-billion gallons of Scottsdale water to be trucked to outsiders in dry-lot subdivisions in the county.

I immediately took action to stop the water losses. Council agreed with the cutoff and consented to formation of an adjoining Domestic Water Improvement District (DWID) in Rio Verde Foothills, so that outsiders would build their own facilities. But Maricopa County Supervisor Galvin double-crossed the DWID formation and stranded his constituents. Complying with federal drought mandates, Council followed through with the December 2022 cutoff and we immediately saved 65 million gallons of water!

For reference, Scottsdale Water delivers 65 million gallons of water daily to Scottsdale residents, hospitals, businesses and schools. And we retrieve about 35 million gallons to purify and then store. Lane, Borowsky and Milhaven squandered 1-billion gallons of our water. And after Milhaven left office, she sided with outsiders who sued Scottsdale, and lost in court.

Mayor Lane admitted that despite years of warnings, in 2017 he countermanded the directive given by Scottsdale Water executives to cutoff outsiders. From 2017 to 2020, more than 700 dry-lot houses were built in the Rio Verde area. For decades, Lane, Borowsky and Milhaven betrayed the interests of Scottsdale ratepayers.

It is true that I took “heat” because Galvin, Lane, Borowsky and Milhaven tried to deflect their blunders. Make no mistake, under my leadership, we will protect Scottsdale Water because our multi-billion-dollar water facilities and resources secure our residential and commercial property valuations and economic future.

What actions have you taken to address unhoused families and seniors?

Business owners and neighborhoods demand that city government find solutions. Yes, conditions worsened during the pandemic, however Council partnered with non-profit navigators, to redirect over 400 homeless veterans, seniors, and small families off the streets. For decades, temporary lodging has been provided by churches and non-profit groups and in 2023, the City of Scottsdale used funding provided by the conservative legislature for that purpose.

For the first time ever, in the City Budget, I designated $10M to fund housing solutions. Contrarian Milhaven opposed the idea, berated homeless individuals, and she was outvoted 6-1. Council has been exploring solutions such as partnering with affordable housing and bridge housing experts and several opportunities are pending. Milhaven and Borowsky never have offered constructive solutions and continue to be no-show naysayers.

What is your position on the Protect and Preserve ballot measure.

I strongly support the Protect and Preserve ballot measure, while Milhaven and Borowsky oppose it.  Our treasured open spaces must be renewed, maintained, operated, and monitored by public safety personnel for future generations.

A citywide task force appointed by Council worked for 15 months to assess the condition of 48 city parks, the Green Belt, worn-out trails, vulnerabilities in the McDowell Sonoran Preserve, and public safety needs at every site. A detailed report and conclusions were presented to Council recommending that dedicated pay-as-you-go sales tax revenues can safeguard our open spaces for the next 30 years. Milhaven and Borowsky simply do not care.

The current 0.20% sales tax, set to expire in 2025, is used to retire McDowell Sonoran Preserve debt, and would be replaced with a lower 0.15% sales tax rate. Simply stated, we can reduce the prevailing city tax rate and protect our quality of life.

Never forget that Milhaven pushed the Desert Discovery Center (DDC) to commercialize the pristine McDowell Sonoran Preserve. Mayor Lane and Milhaven’s DDC proposal sparked outrage and an initiative to prohibit DDC forced a public vote. I supported Prop 420 which won overwhelming, defeating Milhaven’s folly.

Today Milhaven falsely claims there is a projected $250M “slush fund” balance. Sadly, Milhaven deliberately omits that the outstanding Preserve Bond principal, about  $190M, must be repaid plus interest, just as a certificate of deposit would mature and principal paid back. Milhaven, a retired mortgage banker, knows she is being deceitful.

Borowsky prefers a scorched earth opposition, literally. Never forget zoning attorney Borowsky would blade 284 acres at SpringCreek. Sadly, Borowsky would let our 48 parks, the prized Green Belt and beloved Preserve deteriorate without blinking an eye.

Editor’s Note:
Milhaven says she supports To Protect and To Preserve. Here is a link to her Speaker’s Corner Responses.


Here is a link to Borowsky’s Speaker’s Corner Responses

What is your position regarding the Expenditure Limitation ballot measure?

Another financial misstep by Mayor Lane, Milhaven and Borowsky as they failed to examine the state mandated Expenditure Limit which was set in 1980 and not revisited for 18 years.

In 1980, the Arizona Legislature set an expenditure limit formula based on 1980 dollars and Scottsdale in 1980. The formula had estimated escalation and inflation, but does not keep up with expanded services, police and fire facilities, and technology as residents demand in 2024.

Under my leadership, the Council unanimously established a financial policy to revisit the Expenditure Limitation every five years, require that the City Treasurer advise Council should the expenditures exceed 90%, and if so, have the Treasurer recalculate the Expenditure Limit according to the State Auditor adjustment formula. The City Budget had redlined under the Lane and Milhaven mis-management within 97% of hitting the limit because they failed to have a policy.

The adjustment of the Expenditure Limit is not a tax. City revenues are robust, to meet expenditures, but the Expenditure Limit requires periodic revision.

The Arizona Auditor verified that our City Treasurer calculated correctly the $ 22M adjustment which is on the November ballot. Voters must restore prudent financial governance which was neglected by Lane, Milhaven and Borowsky. I urge voters to vote YES, YES for the two ballot measures.

What do you like best about Scottsdale?

Scottsdale is beautiful, clean, safe and centered on wellness. Scottsdale is wholistic– the complete package for every generation. Being mayor of Scottsdale, representing the best, is the greatest honor, better than I could imagine.

What is your favorite guilty pleasure?

Breakfast lox at Chompies, tortilla soup for lunch at Los Olivos Restaurant in Old Town and a double malt at the Sugar Bowl.


What is least favorite architecture aesthetic?

Worst aesthetic is sterile tall buildings without covered, shaded walkways.

What still captivates me is Scottsdale City Hall, designed by an icon, architect Bennie Gonzales.