New Year: Scottsdale City Council offers thoughts on the future

The Scottsdale City Council is made up of, from left: Solange Whitehead, Linda Milhaven, Suzanne Klapp, Jim Lane, Virginia Korte, Guy Phillips and Kathy Littlefield. (Independent Newsmedia/Arianna Grainey) 

For many, the month of January marks a beginning point, a time to start anew — and that sentiment is no different for the elected leaders who serve atop Scottsdale City Council.

The Scottsdale residents who make up the City Council have a variety of priorities they say they are ready to tackle in the new year — from tangible, specific goals to the quality of life for those who The West’s Most Western Town home.

From a needed bond election — to promising to make the best decisions for the residents of Scottsdale — identifying the most pressing needs in the city, members of City Council say, myriad goals and priorities envisioned will meet those demands.

In a question-and-answer series with the Scottsdale City Council members, those elected say they have identified what they deem most important as the new year unfolds.

In this Q&A, members of City Council discuss what they believe are their priorities as the new calendar year unfolds:

Scottsdale City Councilwoman Suzanne Klapp (Independent Newsmedia/Arianna Grainey)

Suzanne Klapp

•As an elected leader, what are some of your top priorities to tackle in 2019?

My overall goals are to be proactive, be a problem solver and deliver for Scottsdale citizens. My priorities to reach these goals are:

1) Promote transparency and earn respect –– Act in a manner that assures the Scottsdale community the council is working for them in full public view.

2) Improve city infrastructure –– In 2018, I supported the first step in a plan to provide better infrastructure all over the city by campaigning and gaining approval for a dedicated funding source to improve our city streets. The next step in 2019 is to discuss other needed infrastructure projects and develop consensus in the community on what projects should be funded by a Scottsdale general obligation bond election.

3) Focus on the vulnerable and needy –– Continue as an advocate to improve services and develop innovative partnerships with the private sector and governmental entities.

4) Protect the public –– Support our first responders with needed resources and greater focus on their role in the community.

•What would you like to see accomplished for the city of Scottsdale for 2019?

In 2019, I want a successful city bond election in November for needed capital improvement projects, increased awareness that not everyone in Scottsdale is privileged, and a safer and secure city. I intend to work with all on the council to help them accomplish their priorities.

•What is the No. 1 issue you think city residents should be aware of in the new year?

The No. 1 issue in Scottsdale is for people in the overall community to feel that the council is working for them. I will do all I can to listen and act appropriately to build trust, confidence and respect.

Scottsdale Councilwoman Virginia Korte at the 2018 Experience Scottsdale Annual Report event. (Independent Newsmedia/Arianna Grainey)

Virginia Korte

•As an elected leader, what are some of your top priorities to tackle in 2019?

This year, just as the last six years serving on City Council, my priority is always to make decisions based on what is best for Scottsdale. That includes our citizens, businesses and visitors. These decisions are based on maintaining our quality of life, public safety, low taxes and the best of the best city services.

•What would you like to see accomplished for the city of Scottsdale for 2019?

I look forward to working with my council colleagues to putting a capital bond measure on the ballot to fund the millions of dollars of infrastructure improvements and maintenance that has been deferred for many years.

•What is the No. 1 issue you think city residents should be aware of in the new year?

The No. 1 issue for our residents is the city’s crumbling infrastructure. The past two years, council has identified over 120 capital improvement projects in need of funding, totaling approximately $650 million. While some of our transportation improvements are being funded with the .01 cent sales tax increase, effective January 2019, (thank you voters for approving this 10-year sales tax increase!). Other capital improvement needs in our city have been postponed by voters for many years.

Scottsdale Mayor Jim Lane (Independent Newsmedia/Arianna Grainey)

Jim Lane

•As an elected leader, what are some of your top priorities to tackle in 2019?

One of my top priorities is to rebuild confidence with taxpayers regarding the need and desirability of public infrastructure funding through general obligation bonds that are authorized by a public vote.

Another priority is to meet our obligation to present to the voters a General Plan that is Constitutionally and statutorily compliant and fulfills the stated objective of growing smarter with our evolution of land use within the city.

•What would you like to see accomplished for the city of Scottsdale 2019?

Accomplished as in completed: I would like to see the Drinkwater underpass repair and the 68th and Indian School bridge repair completed.

Accomplished as in approved, voted and/or initiated: I would like to see the former Henkel building and its laboratories repurposed or reused as a bio-science and bio-technical R/D incubator sector in the Cure Corridor.

I’d also like the CIP subcommittee to recommend the needed and desired capital projects for the City Council’s approval to place a general obligation bond on the ballot.

I don’t have time to run through my entire list of things I intend to follow up on this year, but those are a few top-of-mind items.

•What is the No 1 issue you think city residents should be aware of in the new year?

More on a philosophical line than specific issue, I think residents should be aware of the balancing act it takes to be a successful and sustainable community. There must be a platform for business to thrive, a place of value for citizens and their families to reside, an efficient and well managed city government, and citizen representatives who have the success of the city on the overall foremost in mind.

Scottsdale City Councilwoman Kathy Littlefield (Independent Newsmedia/Arianna Grainey)

Kathy Littlefield

•As an elected leader, what are some of your top priorities to tackle in 2019?

Setting the budget for the upcoming fiscal year.

•What would you like to see accomplished for the city of Scottsdale for 2019?

Review the plans for the Downtown/Stadium and make decisions regarding them.

•What is the No. 1 issue you think city residents should be aware of in the new year?

Maintenance of our infrastructure is becoming critical in many areas and needs to be addressed.

Scottsdale City Councilwoman Linda Milhaven (Independent Newsmedia/Arianna Grainey)

Linda Milhaven

•As an elected leader, what are some of your top priorities to tackle in 2019?

The capital needs of our community must be a priority. We need to find a sustainable plan to invest in maintaining our infrastructure and keep our city special. We also need to support private investment to refresh and revitalize some of the older, more tired parts of our city to keep them vibrant and strong.

•What would you like to see accomplished for the city of Scottsdale for 2019?

Same as above

•What is the No. 1 issue you think city residents should be aware of in the new year?

We are paying down the bond debt that helped to pay for the amenities we enjoy but these assets are also wearing out. Last year, the City Council unanimously agreed that we do not have enough money in our annual operating revenues to support the over $600 million in capital needs identified by the City Council subcommittee.

The transportation sales tax approved by the voters in November will raise about $70 million of the $600 million. We have many more needs. We, the City Council will work on prioritizing these needs. As we do this folks should consider that a new bond would allow us to invest in our capital needs by just replacing the bonds we are paying down. As a result, our taxes stay flat and our city stays vibrant.

Scottsdale City Councilman Guy Phillips (File Photo)

Guy Phillips

•As an elected leader, what are some of your top priorities to tackle in 2019?

All three questions have the same answer: A bond.

The Capital Projects Subcommittee, composed of Kathy Littlefield, Susan Klapp and myself will gather information and recommend to council a bond for the infrastructure needs of the city. Although some have touted the needs of the city to be in excess of $800 million, a more realistic number is around $400 million.

These projects, like the Reatta Wash flood control project, the Civic Plaza renovation and the Indian Bend Wash — south of Thomas — rehabilitation and beautification project are all in the tens of millions of dollars and cannot be accomplished without a project bond placed on property owners, both residential and commercial.

Then there are also various “minor” projects that people want but are put on the back burner because of more pressing city needs.

Things like a new aquatic center at the Granite Reef Senior Center and finishing the bridge at Thompson Peak Parkway, both part of the bond 2000 but never completed, as well as amenities and upgrades to city systems as compiled and recommended by the last bond task force.

Since the voters approved the transportation sales tax to levy the county Prop. 400 funds, we do not need to add transportation projects to this bond, thereby allowing more infrastructure projects to move up the pipeline.

I thank the voters of Scottsdale for having the foresight to realize this one tenth of 1 percent, 10-year tax as a win-win for Scottsdale!

Not only is removing transportation from a property tax bond is a good thing by allowing other projects to move up, but there is another added benefit in that because of prudent paying down and refinancing of the 2000 bond by staff, this new bond proposal could go up to $400 million and your property tax will actually go down.

Yes, you will continue to pay a city bond tax for 20 more years, but the rate will be actually less than you’re paying now, so your city property tax will be less than what you are paying.

As you may have noted, Scottsdale has not been successful in promoting a bond in 20 years. With pressing infrastructure needs and projects that have been shelved for a long time, this is our best opportunity to put Scottsdale’s needs in the forefront and move us forward for the next 20 years.

My goal is to get the subcommittee recommendations to council and ratified as soon as possible so we can get public input and support before summer with a special bond election in November.

Scottsdale City Councilwoman Solange Whitehead (Independent Newsmedia/Arianna Grainey)

Solange Whitehead

•As an elected leader, what are some of your top priorities to tackle in 2019?

Building a strong partnership between the citizens and our City Council is my top priority. To accomplish this task, the council must change how the city develops. Overwhelmingly, development was the top issue for voters this past election. The Desert Discovery Center/Desert EDGE was really the “development” straw that broke the camel’s back.

I believe, every aspect of how we develop needs to change: The development approval process, community input/buy in, the fee structure, and we need to create and follow a community driven master plan.

This exercise will do more than restore public trust. Planned, thoughtful development can reduce the city’s development and upkeep costs and I believe will be critical to our future value. Our international Scottsdale ‘brand’ was built by design and that is what is needed to retain it.

•What would you like to see accomplished for the city of Scottsdale for 2019?

1. The city is required by law to amend the 2001 General Plan so let’s get it done. Many of the issues (written above) can be addressed through this process — if the process is resident driven. The development community should not have a seat at the table but instead serve as a resource for the citizen working group. The city is also required by law to get voter approval for the amended plan which is all the more reason to put residents in the driver’s seat.

2. Dig deep to catch up on all the city’s unfunded maintenance projects: streamline needed projects, eliminate non-critical projects, maximize the competitive bidding process, and adopt a “just say no” policy on tax dollar requests without equivalent and quantifiable benefit to residents.

Voters approved a transportation sales tax hike in November. Now it is the city’s turn to demonstrate how we will diligently get the most bang out of their every tax dollar buck.

3. Work with Arizona’s other city governments and Scottsdale voters to reverse a trend at the State level increasingly limiting city governments’ autonomy to enact laws, authority to impose fees especially pertaining to development, and access to sales tax revenue. Important note for readers: Sales taxes represent over 40 percent of the city’s general fund revenue.

•What is the No. 1 issue you think city residents should be aware of in the new year?

Water. Twenty or so years ago, Scottsdale built a state-of-the-art water treatment facility. That made Scottsdale an international leader. It’s time to reach for the next level in water conservation via public education, incentives, and future investments.

One specific idea, I’d like the city to consider a smart phone app so people can quickly report water leaks around town.

This past Saturday, a neighboring community had a substantial water leak. My neighbors and I called and a city tech came and shut off the water within an hour. (Huge kudos to the Scottsdale Water Department). But not everyone will take the steps we took to reach the City.

An app may increase reporting and save more of our precious water.

Northeast Valley News Editor Melissa Rosequist can be e-mailed at mrosequist@newszap.com or can be followed on Twitter at twitter.com/mrosequist_.

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