Scottsdale City Council candidates talk local threats to quality of life

Local voters Tuesday, Nov. 6 will elect three people to Scottsdale City Council.

This year’s election cycle will showcase the chase for three seats with those inhabiting those chairs today not quite ready to give up the local limelight.

The incumbents are: Kathy Littlefield, David Smith and Linda Milhaven, meanwhile the challengers are Bill Crawford and Solange Whitehead.

Scottsdale voters can expect a total of five candidates seeking three city council seats.

In partnership, the Scottsdale Area Chamber of Commerce and the Scottsdale Independent are hosting a candidate debate at City Hall, 3939 N. Drinkwater Blvd., from 6 to 7:30 p.m. Monday, Oct. 1, which will be aired on local cable access.

In early spring, seven people pulled packets, but one candidate — Becca Linnig — opted to pull out of the race prior to the May 30 signature deadline, which confirms the municipality is forgoing a primary election, according to the City Clerk’s Office.

In addition, one candidate, Alyssa Robis, failed to successfully defend a challenge in Superior Court for her qualifying signatures and ultimately dropped out.

But now, the field is set, and the Independent is launching an eight week, question-and-answer series to help readers better understand the motivations and beliefs of these five candidates.

The Independent reached out to each candidate to better understand what they believe to be the No. 1 threat to the quality of life of residents and what they aim to accomplish if elected. This is what they had to say:

Bill Crawford

Bill Crawford

• What do you believe to be the No. 1 threat to the quality of life experienced by those who call Scottsdale home?

First and foremost, my top priority is to maintain and improve our high quality of life. There are always threats and challenges to the quality of life Scottsdale residents enjoy. We have to be able to recognize them and respond to them. I believe they are:

  • Public Safety.
  • Infrastructure.
  • Regulatory Environment.

•If elected, what do you intend to do about it?

The primary responsibility of local government is to provide quality and effective public safety services. Scottsdale is one of the safest cities in the country because of our police officers and firefighters, who work tirelessly for our community. We must continue to give them the resources they need to keep our residents and visitors safe.

With an extensive background in law enforcement and public safety initiatives, I understand the positive impacts quality public safety services have on a community as well as a deep appreciation for the service and sacrifice of our first responders. As your councilman, I will fight to protect and enhance our public safety services to keep crime low.

We can no longer kick the can down the road. It is critical that we address our deteriorating infrastructure with a responsible plan that supports our long-term needs. What is very troubling to me is that we have a divided council on the infrastructure package, so I’m having a hard time seeing a path to victory, especially when you consider the failed bond measures of the past.

I strongly believe we must have a unanimous council on a bond request before we ask Scottsdale residents to get behind it. As your councilman, I will be a voice of compromise so we can get a much-needed infrastructure package passed. If we work together, we can present a bond package to residents that includes accountability and transparency, and one that can lead to positive results for Scottsdale.

We need to ensure that we do everything possible to provide a welcoming environment for new businesses. This means keeping our taxes low and eliminating bureaucratic red tape that hinders innovation and economic growth so businesses continue to choose Scottsdale as their home.

With a forward-thinking city government, low taxes and a business-friendly regulatory environment, we will continue to bring companies to Scottsdale that produce high-quality jobs and enrich our quality of life. In addition, we must not forget about our existing employers. These businesses are our backbone, and I will do everything in my power to retain and support them to keep our economy moving forward.

•What is one thing you intend to accomplish if elected to Scottsdale City Council?

As a business owner and community leader, I have a proven track record of bringing people together from all sides to solve problems citywide. As your councilman, I will work to unify Scottsdale by bringing the different factions throughout our city together to keep us headed in the right direction and to keep the shine on Scottsdale.

Kathy Littlefield

Kathy Littlefield

• What do you believe to be the No. 1 threat to the quality of life experienced by those who call Scottsdale home?

The No. 1 threat to the quality of life in Scottsdale is over-development. Scottsdale’s high quality of life is the result of our high standards for design, development and code enforcement, lots of open space, unobstructed views of the stunning natural landscape, low density and a unique Western character all our own.

Over-development undermines all of these qualities. It also imposes a financial burden on the current citizens – cramming more people into the existing space clogs our streets with traffic and stresses our infrastructure, requiring current residents to pay for the extra police, firefighters, water, sewer and road improvements to support the extra growth. Over-development is the major cause of the infrastructure crisis our city government currently faces, and I will continue to fight against it as I have for the last three years.

•What is one thing you intend to accomplish if elected to Scottsdale City Council?

I have many goals I would like to accomplish — strengthen our city finances, do a better job of supporting our first responders and fight over-development. But my No. 1 immediate goal is to put a stop, once and forever, to the idea of allowing commercial development in the McDowell Sonoran Preserve.

Linda Milhaven

Linda Milhaven

• What do you believe to be the No. 1 threat to the quality of life experienced by those who call Scottsdale home?

The quality of our infrastructure and the quality of city services are two of the most important things that contribute to our quality of life. To maintain these, we need a robust local economy. We must balance all that makes Scottsdale special so that people will want to live, work and play in Scottsdale.

Millions of tourists visit us every year and tens of thousands of people travel to Scottsdale to work. These folks spend money here and contribute to the sales tax revenues that pay for our roads, parks, libraries, police, fire and so many other things we enjoy. Sales tax revenue makes up almost 50 percent of our General Fund revenues.

Without this balance between the business community and the residents, we would need to do without or find other sources of revenue to support what we have come to expect. A strong robust local economy is critical to our quality of life.

•If elected, what do you intend to do about it?

My first priority has always been, and will continue to be, the financial strength of the city.
I will continue my work to make government efficient, to encourage business growth and to create new jobs. A strong local economy keeps our sales and property taxes among the lowest in the region, while helping to pay for the high-quality services that we all enjoy.

All this means that economic development is critical to our future success. I will continue to promote private investment and respond to changing trends. I will support high-quality development that is sensitive to neighbors and brings people and jobs to Scottsdale.

•What is one thing you intend to accomplish if elected to Scottsdale City Council?

I will continue to support economic development, particularly the renaissance of south Scottsdale and Old Town, and the redevelopment of parts of the Scottsdale Airpark.

Eight years ago, we were worried about empty store fronts and vacant lots. We have done good work since that time and now we have new development and new people living and working in these areas. We have south Scottsdale neighborhoods with home values increasing faster than other Scottsdale neighborhoods and other communities. We are not done yet.

I want to continue to support the private investment in our community that drives prosperity.

David Smith

David Smith

• What do you believe to be the No. 1 threat to the quality of life experienced by those who call Scottsdale home?

All threats to our quality of life ultimately evolve from pursuing change without a vision…at least, not a vision shared by most citizens. Change without a vision can lead to unwanted compromises on height and density; compromises on architectural excellence; compromises on job recruitment; compromises that affect everyone’s quality of life.

But, the lack of any vision of how we restore the city to a unsustainable fiscal path is what I consider the No. 1 threat. I have often said, “the entire city of Scottsdale is our front yard” and so, it follows, what happens anywhere in our city and to our city assets affects our quality of life.

We must begin to seriously address the deteriorating state of our city infrastructure, particularly the quality of our streets, our parks and our public facilities. Failure to do so will threaten everyone’s quality of life, not to mention their property values.

•If elected, what do you intend to do about it?

I will continue to support initiatives that reflect the visions I hear citizens articulate. In particular, I will continue working to achieve fiscal sustainability in our city government, since that is where my expertise lies.

I will oppose initiatives that worsen our financial condition. I will also work with the rest of council to convince our fellow citizens of the city’s financial needs and convince them those needs cannot be met without their help.
Working to achieve fiscal sustainability may require tax reforms. If so, I will work to insure any tax reforms are fair and equitable, relieving the punitive taxes we impose on our neediest citizens

•What is one thing you intend to accomplish if elected to Scottsdale City Council?

Tax reforms that lead to fiscal sustainability with a restructuring that leads to fair and equitable sharing of the tax burden among citizens, businesses, visitors and investors.

Solange Whitehead

Solange Whitehead

• What do you believe to be the No. 1 threat to the quality of life experienced by those who call Scottsdale home?

Scottsdale is a special place. Our most stunning achievements have happened when city council was aligned with citizens. These priorities, in turn, have been our city’s best economic drivers: the Indian Bend Greenbelt, our high design standards, the arts, historic preservation, resort-like amenities, and the McDowell Sonoran Preserve.

Citizens no longer have a voice at City Hall which threatens our quality of life, public safety, and financial security. The city council majority’s push to develop the McDowell Sonoran Preserve, deny a public vote, and hand tax payers the $68 million bill is a single, visible example. But city council’s misaligned priorities extend beyond the Preserve. By ceding development decisions to developers, our valuable Scottsdale brand is being chipped away with rampant up-zoning, harming our unique character, and stretching city services to a breaking point. Scottsdale’s once flush rainy day fund is bone dry leaving tax payers with $800 million of unfunded infrastructure needs.

We cannot tax, borrow, or overbuild Scottsdale out of this financial hole. Instead, we need dramatically change the bad priorities that got us here and restore good priorities – community priorities.

•If elected, what do you intend to do about it?

I will serve the community’s interests only and spend tax dollars wisely and conservatively. Development proposals seeking my support will require community benefit, citizen buy-in, and sufficient infrastructure and public safety funding. I will ensure Scottsdale’s quality of life amenities are a priority because this attracts new employers, first and second homeowners, and keeps our upscale tourism industry strong.

I will end the use of executive sessions – backroom dealing – to advance development proposals like Crossroads East, a project that up-zoned 1,000 acres while handing $21.9 million tax dollars to the developer. Of course, I will keep the Preserve and all city parks and open space free and accessible to the public.

•What is one thing you intend to accomplish if elected to Scottsdale City Council?

Make community benefit a requirement for tax dollar expenditures.

Northeast Valley Managing Editor Terrance Thornton can be contacted at tthornton@newszap.com

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