Hybrid-district pitch is crushed at Scottsdale City Council

 A view of a flag signifying the city of Scottsdale at the Scottsdale City Hall complex in downtown Scottsdale (Independent Newsmedia/Melissa Fittro)

A view of a flag signifying the municipality of Scottsdale at the City Hall complex in the downtown sector of the city. (Independent Newsmedia/Melissa Fittro)

Scottsdale City Council has put the kibosh on Mayor Jim Lane’s hybrid-district model suggestion as the item failed to gain political support on the local dais Tuesday, April 19.

Scottsdale Councilwoman Suzanne Klapp was the sole supporter of the item.

Jim Lane

Jim Lane

Mayor Lane proposed the new hybrid district council system, he says, in an effort to ensure all Scottsdale citizens — in particular south Scottsdale residents — have an equal political voice on Scottsdale City Council.

Under Mayor Lane’s failed proposal, three members of Scottsdale City Council would have served at-large while three members of city council would be elected specifically from newly created districts serving north, central and southern Scottsdale. Under this model, the mayor would have always served at large and be elected by all of Scottsdale.

The hybrid model would have required an amendment to the Scottsdale City Charter and the matter would have likely been put to a public vote either through a special election in 2017 or general election in 2018, Mayor Lane has said.

The city of Scottsdale adopted its municipal charter in November 1961.
Scottsdale is one of 19 Arizona municipalities that have adopted a city charter that experts say gives a more dominate role to the general public in local matters. The city incorporated in June 1951.

The municipal charter works in concert with the council-manager form of government prevalent throughout Arizona’s 91 cities and towns.

The notion of representation

Scottsdale community advocate John Washington argues southern residents are represented just as well as other Scottsdale residents — And, that’s the real problem.

John Washington

John Washington

“I don’t think this an underrepresentation issue, specific to one geographical area,” he said in an April 19 phone interview. “I think it is an underrepresentation issue of business interests against Scottsdale residents.”

Mr. Washington says depending on who you’re talking to he’s considered a south Scottsdale resident.

“I live on the corner of the designated area of downtown Scottsdale,” he pointed out.

“A lot of folks try to characterize the problem as south Scottsdale versus north Scottsdale. These are the same problems. If you impose the same as you have in south Scottsdale in north Scottsdale you will have people speaking out against that as well.”

Mr. Washington contends the fight is between the interests of the liquor industry that spurs dense development versus the every-day Scottsdale citizen.

“That is where I think the real divide is,” he said. “There are a lot of people that are on that train because they feel that their interests will be realized because of the similar interests pursued by the liquor industry. I would say the citizens are drastically underrepresented.”

Mr. Washington says he would like to see the city of Scottsdale pursue a straight district model because of underrepresentation issues at Scottsdale City Council.

“It becomes a bit of a money game to get yourself out in front,” he said of media advertising campaigns that are effective but expensive. “I believe council districts for six districts would give folks that chance to go out and meet more people specific to their race and be less disadvantaged.”

Mr. Washington says the south Scottsdale call-out by Mayor Lane is political pandering and nothing more.

“If he was serious about representation his voting record would be a lot different,” he said. “This is an election-year bone he is throwing to the dogs of south Scottsdale and that’s it.”

While Mayor Lane contends the effort is one in the pursuit of equal representation, he does acknowledge positive efforts in south Scottsdale spurred by Scottsdale City Council in recent years.

“I know there is a perception out there that is not the case and it is expressed publicly from time to time,” he said in an April 19 phone interview.

“I don’t know that I would take issue with the representation south Scottsdale has received and I don’t know that there is really a problem with them getting good representation, but this is a good way to address that perception.”

Suzanne Klapp

Suzanne Klapp

Scottsdale Councilwoman Klapp says not enough south Scottsdale blood has been present on the local governing board over the past decade.

“Most of the council lives in the central part of the city,” she said in an April 19 phone interview.

“Nobody lives in the south, if you have an issue that you come before the council, yes, there would be someone who speaks to the needs of the south, but if you don’t live there, you truly don’t understand the need.”

Councilwoman Klapp says the effort, to her, felt like an effort to level the political playing field.

“If you don’t have equal representation though the city — dictated by legislative districts — you end up with only certain people getting elected. My feeling is that the best way you can have the people on the council truly represent an area of the city is to have those people actually live there.”

Scottsdale City Councilman Guy Phillips says political lines in Scottsdale are drawn by dollars and cents — not geography.

“Districts will never work in Scottsdale because the lines are defined demographically and not geographically,” he said in an April 20 statement. “The districts would end up being long squiggly lines from north to south.”

Independent Newsmedia Arizona Managing Editor Terrance Thornton can be contacted at tthornton@newszap.com

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