Speaker’s Corner : Linda Milhaven

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.

Former Scottsdale Councilmember Linda Milhaven is running for Mayor in a race that includes incumbent David Ortega and Former Councilmember Lisa Borowski. Milhaven served on the Scottsdale City Council for 12 years. She spent 40 years in the banking industry including a number of years as a regional bank president.

It’s been several months since you finished your last term as a member of the Scottsdale City Council. After all those years of service, what prompted you to want to run for Mayor?

We need a Mayor that understands our city’s financials, wants to protect the taxpayers from reckless spending, and has the experience necessary to sustain a strong local economy.  All of these are needed to have the financial resources to continue to invest in and improve our quality of life.

We need a Mayor who can listen, respect and respond to differing opinions in order to move the City forward.

We need a Mayor with a deep and broad history of serving the City and the knowledge and relationships to get things done.

I am that person.  I am honored that the Police and the Realtors agree that I am the best candidate and have endorsed me.  I am honored to have been inducted to Scottsdale’s History Hall of Fame for my contributions to Scottsdale.

As compared to other candidates, I bring greater experience as a businessperson, a banker, a former Councilmember and a volunteer community leader that provides me with the skills to manage the City’s finances, ensure the continued prosperity of our local economy, and the ability to work with everyone.

What is your assessment of Mayor Ortega?

This is an uncomfortable question.  Grandmother told me if you don’t have something nice to say don’t say anything.  But, in an election, I suppose, it is important to share why I am not supporting Mayor Ortega and instead running myself.

Mayor Ortega creates problems rather than solves them.  The water crisis in Rio Verde Foothills was completely manufactured by Ortega. Not a drop of Scottsdale water nor a dime of Scottsdale money was needed to help.  The Rio Verde Foothills residents found another source of water and wanted to pay us to process and deliver the water to them.  This was the ultimate solution that should have been implemented before the City cut off the water.

Mayor Ortega tarnished Scottsdale’s brand by going on the national news and creating the erroneous impression that Scottsdale is running out of water.  His response to the crisis, that he created, threatens our home values and our tourism industry.

Mayor Ortega antagonizes other elected officials who should be our allies.  State representatives and County officials reached out to Ortega to work on solutions to the water crisis and his response was a “hard no”.  He lashed out against the City of Phoenix and the Coyotes criticizing the proposal for a hockey arena on our border even though Scottsdale has no authority over Phoenix land use.  By doing this, he threatens our chance to cooperate with Phoenix on project designs that would minimize the impact on Scottsdale.

Mayor Ortega doesn’t understand the City’s financials and spending has ballooned under his leadership.  He put aside $10 million to address homelessness without a plan – and increased it to $15 million the following year – still with no plan.  To date, none of it has been spent.  It is just smoke and mirrors.

Mayor Ortega does not listen and does not tolerate people who disagree with him.  Watch a City Council meeting and you will see him cut off Councilmembers and members of the public when they are saying things he doesn’t like.

In short, I think Ortega is more of a liability than an asset to Scottsdale.

Editor’s Note:

Here is a link to Ortega’s Speaker’s Corner responses

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

You are widely viewed as a pro business candidate. Is that an accurate assessment and do you feel it works for or against you in Scottsdale’s present political climate?

We need a Mayor with business experience and financial expertise.  The first question when making every decision must be to ask what value the decision will bring to the community. My business experience helps me to understand the City’s finances, especially in the area of controlling spending.  My business experience helps to support the business community and ensure their continued contributions to our tax base.  My business experience also helps me to understand the importance of creating value.    Of the candidates running, I bring the most experience and the greatest expertise to ensure that we are good stewards of tax dollars and make wise decisions that maintain and improve quality of life.

As someone who has spent decades in local banking, what is your take on Scottsdale’s economy and how could it be improved?

Our economy is in good shape but we must be diligent to ensure its ongoing success because the business community pays a large portion of the taxes that pay for our quality of life while keeping our tax rates among the lowest in the region.

During my time with the Chamber of Commerce, we worked to diversify our economy and attract high paying, quality jobs.  Our economy had been largely dependent on tourism and real estate development, both of which created extreme boom and bust cycles.  Diversifying our economy has made us less vulnerable to boom and bust cycles.  The Airpark has become one of the largest employment centers in the state.

Going forward, we must support the business community to help them stay and grow in Scottsdale and make sure that the few remaining vacant commercial parcels become home to quality businesses that will be good neighbors and contribute to our tax base and our community.

What is your definition of smart growth?

First, smart growth follows the voter approved General Plan that maps out what uses go where in the City.  Commercial and high density uses must be compatible with the surrounding areas and should only be approved in existing commercial areas and employment centers and not intrude on single family neighborhoods.  I have never – and would never – approve new, dense projects in existing single-family neighborhoods.

Smart growth also means that new projects should also be reviewed broadly comparing the impacts of the proposed uses with the impacts of the existing allowed uses, particularly in terms of quality, traffic and water.  All development will have impacts, but different uses will have different impacts.  For example, an office building may create more car trips than a similarly sized residential project. Or, a residential project may use less water than an existing commercial use.  All of this must be considered when reviewing project proposals to ensure smart growth.

Is Scottsdale’s housing shortage a crisis and what should be done about it?

The housing shortage is a regional supply and demand problem that we cannot solve alone in Scottsdale. Scottsdale is an amazing community that is in high demand, and we all pay a premium to live here.  In terms of affordability, we are victims of our success.  We can make small improvements, but they may not be enough.

Other cities have decided to build their own affordable housing or to subsidize rents.  Given the cost of land and our charter constraints, these are not options for Scottsdale.

New housing commands premium prices.  They might put downward pressure on the cost of older properties but not enough to solve the problem.  More recently, new development projects designated some of their units for affordable housing.

We can continue to participate in federal, state and county housing programs but the need is greater than these resources can address.

All of these things together may have an impact.  Although a formidable challenge, we must continue to seek out ways to make it possible for our children to afford homes in the City they grew up in.

Is traffic in Scottsdale a problem and what should be done about it?

We have all experienced challenges with traffic.  We need to improve our overall signal timing.  We need to do a better job adjusting signal timing around road construction projects.  We need to do a better job pacing projects so that we don’t have simultaneous projects disrupting traffic flow on alternate routes that we may use to avoid construction.  We must make decisions about road design that ensures the safe and efficient flow of traffic.

Do you support or oppose increasing Scottsdale’s spending limits as outlined in the Permanent Base Adjustment ballot item? (feel free to elaborate)

I support the increase in the City’s Expenditure Limit because the risk is too great that we may not be able to pay for vital services without it since the Expenditure Limit restricts how much the City can spend regardless of the amount of revenue it receives.   However, going forward, we need greater transparency and accountability.

Mayor Ortega has not explained how the City’s spending has increased faster than population growth and inflation. In 2019 (the last full year before COVID which distorted reporting), we were at 86% of our limit.  This year we are predicted to be at 96%.  We need to know what happened since 2019 so we can eliminate wasteful spending.  When passed, the new limit should not be considered an open check book.

Do you support or oppose a measure to reduce and replace an expiring city sales tax to fund improvements to parks at the Indian Bend Wash and upkeep at the McDowell Sonoran Preserve? (feel free to elaborate)

I support additional funding to maintain our precious Preserve and parks and the tax.

When the new tax is approved, I will work to retire the second Preserve tax.  The second Preserve tax expires in 2034 and is limited, by the voters, to purchasing land and building trailheads.  It will generate $250 million more than we need to fulfill these purposes.  It would have been more responsible to ask voters to expand the use of the second Preserve tax.  If voters agreed, there would be enough money to support the Preserve and parks for the next ten years and we would not need the new tax now.  We get to a similar place if we retire the second Preserve tax after this tax is approved.

What do you like best about living in Scottsdale?

I love that Scottsdale is beautiful, clean and safe but what I like most about Scottsdale is the people.  People make a community.  Our residents are smart, thoughtful and friendly people.  So many of them invest themselves in the community to ensure that we are the best community we can be.

What is your favorite guilty pleasure restaurant?

My new favorite is Luna by Giada at the new Caesar’s Republic Hotel.  I want to go back again and again and eat my way through the whole menu.

As there is only one L in Milhaven, how often does someone misspell it and how do you deal with that?

It isn’t misspelled very often but when it is I have no worries.  What is the old quote?  A rose by any other name?