Scottsdale Mayor Jim Lane spent part of his 66th birthday giving his State of the City address — an extra sweet moment — after a consecutive successful election campaign.
Hundreds of guests gathered to hear Scottsdale Mayor Jim Lane give his annual State of the City Address Feb. 22, and enjoy a luncheon and birthday cake prior. The event held at The Scottsdale Resort at McCormick Ranch, 7700 E. McCormick Parkway, welcomed city council members, school district officials, business owners and a number of residents.
Aptly held in a ballroom titled Coronado, the mayor’s annual speech gave an overview of the accomplishment’s the city has recently experienced, and he discussed a couple of challenges the municipality faces. He also gave shout-outs to newly hired city manager, Jim Thompson; newly appointed Scottsdale Unified School District Dr. Denise Birdwell; Scottsdale Police Department Chief, Alan G. Rodbell; and former Scottsdale city councilman and mayor, Bill Schrader.
“Today is one of my favorite days of the year — and not just because it’s my birthday,” Mayor Lane joked at the beginning of his speech. “An occasion of my annual State of the City Address provides an opportunity to celebrate, evaluate and embrace Scottsdale.”
Mayor Lane continued on a theme of “Our Scottsdale” as he discussed volunteers, city programs, local accomplishments, infrastructure needs and turmoil over the Desert Discovery Center.
The city is shaped by its residents, Mayor Lane said, and the residents are who have worked hard to reach for excellence. Scottsdale started out as a small community that has grown so large that now over 200,000 residents call it home.
“You say Scottsdale and that means something good,” he said. “We have past generations to thank for that.”
‘A continual hum of activity’
Mayor Lane gave praise to the local Scottsdale economy, mentioning the recent lists the municipality has been named to including Money Magazine’s “50 Best Places to Live.”
“The economy through Scottsdale is strong; one of the strongest in the Valley,” he said. “Job growth in Scottsdale since 2012 is up 13.6 percent — head and shoulders above the regional and national vendors.”
Other top amenities the city offers is the McDowell Sonoran Preserve and the McDowell Corridor, in addition to Scottsdale Arts, SkySong, the art galleries, the schools, and the Cure Corridor.
“The McDowell Corridor has been the focus of much of our attention over the past several years with planning studies and council priorities,” Mayor Lane explained. “Many expansions are underway at SkySong, the ASU Scottsdale Innovation Center, which is anchoring a continual hum of activity.”
Mayor Lane says 48 businesses call Scottsdale home, adding up to an estimated 1,500 employees, with two more businesses scheduled to be moving in soon.
“People are adding life to this new bustling area,” he said. “Perhaps no where in Scottsdale was hit harder by the Great Recession, but the vacant storefronts and empty auto dealerships are giving way to new life.”
Mayor Lane says 2016 was a year of re-imagination for many areas of Scottsdale, including Scottsdale Arts and Experience Scottsdale.
Scottsdale Arts, previously known as the Cultural Council, has ultimately helped give the city the reputation of being a city of the arts.
“We should be very proud of that well-earned reputation,” Mayor Lane said. “It is good for our economy and it’s good for our soul.”
Additionally, what use to be Scottsdale Convention and Visitors Bureau, is now Experience Scottsdale.
“We are largely an events-based destination. That’s the No. 2 reason people come to Scottsdale,” Mayor Lane said.
“The city’s tourism and events department have been working very hard in this area, including a full re-write of our events ordinance and process. They’re also bringing new life to our events calendar with the creation of holiday events like Scottsdazzle.”
Tasks at hand
The lack of money for infrastructure is one of the challenges that top’s the list, said Mayor Lane. This is particularly important in the fact that the city just celebrated its 65th year of incorporation.
“We have some key infrastructure that while not quite that old, is getting close,” he said. “It’s easy to lose track of our infrastructure. Much is out of site, out of mind. We as individuals may only use a few roads, or one neighborhood park, but as a community of 240,000 people and millions of visitors, our infrastructure gets used by lots and lots of people all the time.”
Recent attempts to pass a citywide bond project through an election have failed, but Mayor Lane says he believes that option is the best way to pay for failing streets, land and buildings.
“I feel bonds are our most democratic and fair way to fund infrastructure,” he said. “One of our biggest remaining challenges is working on building that community trust and support so that we can once again have a well-funded capital program that addresses our most important needs.”
The hottest and most explosive topic within the city, the Desert Discovery Center, is a topic Mayor Lane asks the residents to be thoughtful of.
The DDC, as it’s coined, is a proposed project within the boundaries of the McDowell Sonoran Preserve that is said to serve educational purposes. A vocal group of residents oppose this project for a number of reasons, including its cloudy scope and location.
“Then of course, there’s the Desert Discovery Center — the DDC — three letters have not packed so much volatility since the invention of TNT,” Mayor Lane joked. “I’m here to tell you, and tell everyone, it will be OK.”
Mayor Lane explained that he supports a public vote, if a concept, plan and price are agreeable. The question about a public vote is one which anti-DDC figureheads raised during election season.
“At some point the city council will be presented with a concept, a plan and a price tag,” he said. “Then we, the community, can really decide what we want to do. If it is to move any further from that point, I believe a public vote is the appropriate path.”
The turmoil caused over the DDC is a good reminder that few decisions or ideas are universally loved, said Mayor Lane.
“Our Scottsdale should be a place where we can recognize the legitimacy, the honesty and different view points expressed in the community,” he said.
Mayor Lane closed out the address by outlining a goal for the future of Scottsdale.
“What’s important is not who’s right or who’s wrong, or who’s on the winning side,” he said. “But that our community should continue together regardless of any particular outcome. That’s my hope for the future of Scottsdale.”
The city will begin focusing time and energy on being a “Golden Rule City,” an initiative the city declared in 2003.
This means, says Mayor Lane, treating people the way you want to be treated. The mayor’s office and the Human Relations Commission are working to highlight the this effort and its positive message.
There will be a Golden Rule breakfast on April 28, said Mayor Lane.