Scottsdale mayoral candidates Tuesday, Sept. 27 fielded questions for over an hour on local issues at a debate held at the Doubletree Hilton Resort, 5401 N. Scottsdale Road.
Mayoral candidates are incumbent Jim Lane, running for his last term; and challenger Bob Littlefield who previously served 12 years on the city council.
About 150 people attended the debate hosted by the Scottsdale Area Chamber of Commerce and the Scottsdale Independent while sponsored by Comerica.
Hot topics for the candidates included the Desert Discovery Center saga; influx of apartment and multifamily housing; and mass-transit.
The first question of the debate highlighting the difference in views between candidates was on a popular topic of the 2016 local election cycle: the Desert Discovery Center.
“The Desert Discovery Center I supported has been built; it’s called the Gateway. It was dedicated in May of 2009, that is what the Desert Discovery Center was originally meant to be,” responded Mr. Littlefield.
“A small interpretive center, not making it tough on the land, that’s what I supported and that’s what was built. As far as I’m concerned, we’re done. I absolutely do not support the current iteration of the Desert Discovery Center, which I referred to as the Desert Disneyland — sorry but it is — the 30-acre, $70 to $100 million commercial enterprise, nighttime activity charging admission, no, I do not support that at all.”
Mayor Lane says he agrees that the size and scope of the project that has been suggested is too large, and he believes the residents who pay for the preserve land with their tax money have a right to vote on the issue.
“Last time we voted on this was in July of 2008, and both Bob and I voted for a modest, in relative comparison to what has been discussed and talked about, a modest facility of 20,000 square feet,” said Mayor Lane.
“And I frankly, am not also in favor of the kind of size and scope that has been put on the plate since; but right now we do not have a proposal in front of us. I’m not sure exactly what that’s going to be. But I will say there are enough people who have been in the community who are looking hard at the idea that they want a public vote, and that is where I am at. I would like to have, and think we deserve to give the public a public vote on this. It’s an important enough asset for the citizens of Scottsdale that this should be voted on. So whatever it takes to do that — we’ve had some proposals and we’ve discussed this — we’re not there yet but I think we will be able to do exactly that.”
When it comes to apartments and multifamily housing in the city, Mr. Littlefield believes Mayor Lane and the current city council is over-developing and contends this problem trickles down to create traffic congestion.
“Basically, they let the developer tail wag the city dog. What I mean by this is not that there should never be any apartments or any condos or multifamily housing; it’s a matter of balance,” said Mr. Littlefield. “Now who’s supposed to set that balance? Well the city council is supposed to set that. You’re supposed to say, ‘this amount of apartments is enough and this is too much.’ That’s not happening.”
Mr. Littlefield contends that Mayor Lane gives developers whatever they want when they come and ask for it. On the other hand, Mayor Lane says the influx in apartment and condominium communities is caused by the demand for a variety of housing.
“It’s a community that works and we work together to make sure the market meets how we need to grow in quality, not quantity,” he said. “It has been a good thing for the city because it has met market demand and has made the attraction for some of the businesses, and diversifying our economic engine for going into the future so we have a sustainable economy in downtown and throughout our city.”
While both candidates say bringing the Light Rail system to Scottsdale is not feasible, because of its expensive cost among other reasons, they both offered different solutions to fixing the congestion in the near future.
“Alternatives to that (Light Rail), and we’re working on those that are direct and real answers to our transportation issue, is last mile applications,” explained Mayor Lane.
“Whether they’re autonomous or otherwise, but electric shuttles. In the Airpark and Shea Boulevard corridor where we have significant traffic congestion and we need to break that down a bit with mass transit.”
The mayor says a big key to the problem is connecting those “last mile” areas in order to increase ridership and convenience, and doing so in a way that will move the city into the future is in the works.
Mr. Littlefield believes the city should be getting more out of its bus system for its $3 million it spends to host it.
“Now in the future, of course there will be things like Uber and all that will change radically the face of non-personally owned car transportation and that’s good for me,” Mr. Littlefield said. “In the near turn there is something we should be doing about mass transit and that’s the bus system we currently have. As you drive around Scottsdale if you see a bus, how often do you see more than one or two people in it? Hardly ever. Well what that tells me is we are not getting our $3 million worth out of the money we spend for bus transportation. We need to do a better job of holding those guys’ feet to the fire.”
Mr. Littlefield says if the city of Phoenix and the company Scottsdale contracts with for bus service won’t improve their services, the city of Scottsdale could do it better themselves.
More information about both candidates platforms can be round on their campaign websites: http://www.lane4scottsdale2016.com and http://boblittlefield.com.