Scottsdale for All campaign offers perception of equality to outside world

A view of a piece of Scottsdale Public Art depicting the word “Love” at City Hall, 3939 N. Drinkwater Blvd. (Independent Newsmedia/Melissa Fittro)

If beauty is found in the eye of the beholder then the idea of equality can be realized in the mind’s eye.

The Human Relations Commission — a five-member advisory board to Scottsdale City Council — has launched a marketing campaign to help others understand the different ethnicities and cultures around them.

The Scottsdale for All campaign has already reached thousands through its innovative social-media approach to spreading the idea of equality and inclusiveness.

City officials say the campaign aims to showcase:

  • The rich diversity that exists in Scottsdale;
  • A clear message to the community and visitors that Scottsdale welcomes all; and
  • The community’s unique personal stories and perspectives.

In tune with last year’s mayoral designation of Scottsdale as a Golden Rule city — one which holds fundamental values like kindness, empathy, respect and civility in high esteem — officials at the Human Relations Commission say the campaign is meant to help bring the stories of all walks of life together.

Numbers show Scottsdale has a population of 249,950, of which 88 percent are classified as “Caucasian.” The next highest ethnicity listed is “Latino” at about 10 percent, according to the United State Census Bureau.

As the Scottsdale for All campaign continues to pick up steam, elected leaders and community advocates alike agree the failure of City Council to pass a non-discrimination ordinance to protect members of the LGBTQ community illustrates the weight of legacy political influence.

Meanwhile the local political season begins to blossom as the visceral national political temperament continues to bleed to the local level showcasing a strong division between emerging voting bloc and established stalwarts of the 20th Century.

Two members of the Human Relations Commission say the equality campaign is meant to start difficult conversations surrounding the underlying tone of discrimination in the everyday lives of residents.

Some residents may think little or no discrimination exists within their city. Yet others offer a different perspective — especially those who may not look or act like the majority of Scottsdale’s population.

Scottsdale Councilwoman Virginia Korte has been a tireless supporter of equal rights and workplace protections for all who call Scottsdale home. (Independent Newsmedia/Arianna Grainey)

A new perspective emerging?

Scottsdale Councilwoman Virginia Korte has been a staunch supporter of establishing a nondiscrimination ordinance in Scottsdale, but those efforts remain fruitless.

In June of 2015, Scottsdale sent a letter to 88,000 utility customers encouraging residents and proprietors to sign what was coined a “UNITY Pledge” and join the council in its support of LGBTQ rights. City officials said about 50 hateful letters were sent back to the municipality following the UNITY Pledge effort.

But with no evidence of any LGBTQ discrimination, city leaders were reticent to pursue a citywide ordinance providing workplace protections for all employees within city limits.

The rainbow flag is a symbol of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender pride and LGBT social movements in use since the 1970s. (File photo)

However, Scottsdale municipal employees already enjoy LGBTQ workplace protections. In December 2007 the city adopted Ordinance No. 3765, which prohibits any city employee from discriminating against another employee based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

While the Supreme Court has ruled same-sex marriage legal throughout the nation, the future of a workplace LGBTQ protection ordinance remains doubtful in Scottsdale.

“First of all, I would like to give a shout out to the Human Relations Commission — this is their conceptual idea — they are the advocates getting this marketing message out,” she said. “Hats off to them because I believe it is an important message.”

Ms. Korte says she sees great value in educating all within Scottsdale about the various kinds of people who call the municipality home.

“Regardless of our council failing to pass a nondiscrimination ordinance, there are lots of things we can do as a community to embrace diversity and celebrate that diversity,” she pointed out. “And, this campaign is a great example of it.”

But when asked of the prospect of an LGBTQ non-discrimination ordinance emerging from the local dais, Ms. Korte replied, “Not with the existing council that we have.”

“If in the future, if the council changes, then it certainly is an important issue to revisit,” she explained.

“Know that some of the council believe this is not a local issue. I have been working with the city of Mesa, Mayor Giles, and presented to the League of Arizona Cities and Towns to move forward with a resolution and a recommendation for a statewide nondiscrimination ordinance to be supported by the League. At the annual meeting this will be discussed.”

The League of Arizona Cities and Towns, a voluntary membership organization of 90 incorporated municipalities in Arizona, exists to provide lobbying services to its membership, and represent the interests of cities and towns before the Arizona Legislature.

“I am hopeful that it will move forward,” Ms. Korte said of the equality measure that could emerge at the League. “I believe that it is an important statement that is morally and ethically critical to our community. I think it is a moral and ethical question and statement I think all communities need to stand by.”

Tanner Van Parys

Born and raised in Scottsdale, Tanner Van Parys says he is disappointed at a lack of non-discrimination rules in place for all Scottsdale residents.

Mr. Van Parys, who identifies as pansexual, is in his early 20s, is politically active — a former Legislative District 24 precinct committeeman — and pursuing a college degree while working in Scottsdale.

“I was born in 1995 and I am part of the 88 percent of Scottsdale who are white,” he said. “As far as what I have experienced, I have never faced a professional or social discrimination for my sexual orientation. When I was in eighth grade I ran into some discrimination.”

But Mr. Van Parys contends his local government is not listening to enough of the diverse socioeconomic pockets of Scottsdale residents.

“You have a city council that is primarily focused on wealthy people,” he pointed out. “I am in a place where I am trying to start my life. I feel like the city council is not making it easy for people like me. They are primarily focused on keeping the high-income workers happy. There is a forgotten working class here in Scottsdale.”

Most members of Scottsdale City Council didn’t come from Scottsdale, Mr. Van Parys contends.

“Most on council were not born here and most of them are over 55 years old. Most of them have always had money or came into money,” he said pointing out the south Scottsdale neighborhoods have little impact on dealings at City Hall.

“I don’t see them even acknowledging there is disproportionate representation for people who have wealth and who are already doing well.”

Scottsdale For All campaign posters are available for free at City Hall in an effort to showcase the municipality’s effort to be inclusive for all creeds and colors. (Submitted photo)

Scottsdale for All

Kansas transplant by way of New York City, Nadia Mustafa, says she is spearheading the Scottsdale for All effort, which is meant to bring a new view — and emerging nomenclature — to the discussion of equality.

Nadia Mustafa

“After college, I fled to New York City,” the Scottsdale resident who says she was raised in Topeka, Kan. “I moved to Scottsdale about a decade ago. Coming from a city like New York City, it was different.”

Ms. Mustafa says her impression of Scottsdale is a pocketed society with little understanding of the diversity that makes up about 12 percent of the population.

“It is pocketed. It seems that most of the diversity is the in the Old Town area. As you get into the central and north Scottsdale areas, where we live, it becomes more homogeneous. I found myself talking a lot of the time to anyone who would listen about how long the city is, the geography of it, you know?”

Ms. Mustafa is vice chair of the Scottsdale Human Relations Commission.

Inspired by a fashion clothing line made popular with the bold colors and fashion of the 1990s, Ms. Mustafa says the Scottsdale for All campaign is meant to be a celebration of diversity — and a conversation starter.

“I think we need a campaign like this because people in north Scottsdale rarely leave the north Scottsdale bubble and vice versa from south Scottsdale up north,” she said. “We wanted to show every Scottsdale resident that their is indeed diversity in Scottsdale. And, you don’t have to fear your neighbors.”

Ms. Mustafa says she does not believe any American can pull themselves up by their bootstraps, which many say is a core belief on what the United States of America represents.

“I don’t use the word ‘equality’ anymore,” she said pointing out focus ought to be brought around words like “equity” and “inclusion.” “The founding documents of this county use this word, ‘equality,’ but I have been disappointed with the usage of that idea: anyone can achieve anything. I don’t agree that is true. I do not believe that everyone in America starts with an equal baseline.”

Ms. Mustafa contends the lack of an LGBTQ nondiscrimination ordinance is proof Scottsdale needs the for all campaign to be successful.

“I don’t think that a poster that says, ‘Scottsdale is welcoming to all people’ is going to make everyone think Scottsdale is an inclusive spot,” she pointed out.  “There has been a lack of acknowledgment of these issues. That’s one of the reasons why some city council members are for not passing an NDO. This campaign is definitely not an attempt to polish over that.”

Dr. Stuart Rhoden

Dr. Stuart Rhoden of Scottsdale, says the Human Relations Commission effort is meant to help people understand how other cultures and ethnicities ought to not be feared, but discovered.

Dr. Rhoden is a black man living in a mostly white community, Census figures show, and he says he feels welcomed in Scottsdale.

But, he says, the underlying tones of what some might call, “discrimination” are present in his everyday life.

“I always like to make the analogy there are puzzle pieces and sometimes they fit and sometimes they don’t fit,” he said of how he feels living in place where most look different than he does. “There is nothing you can turn to and say, ‘look that’s discrimination.’ If you are attune to it, you can see it.”

Dr. Rhoden holds several degrees earning a doctorate at Temple University in urban education and education leadership. He teaches at Arizona State University.

“It’s not like I walk around with a Ph.D plaque around my neck,” he quipped. “Am I going to say that the other communities that I have lived in are any different? No. They are not.”

Dr. Rhoden explains his mother’s experience — she was born and raised in Birmingham, Ala. — was much different than the one he had and lessons learned translate into keeping one’s self away from potentially difficult situations.

“I don’t really put myself in unsafe situations and I am not really sure what I mean by that,” he said. “I mean, I wouldn’t go to a Tea Party meeting or visit the Scottsdale Gun Club. I don’t engage in actions that allow an opportunity that allows me to be in danger. The thing that I am more concerned about is not necessarily me, but my son.”

A moment of clarity occurs for people of color, Dr. Rhoden says, when they realize they really are perceived differently than many of their peers.

“I don’t know what his awakening will be,” he said of his son’s pending realization of the underlying tone of American society. “It is easy for me, I grew up in the big city, Chicago, buy my son has not. I call it my ‘spidey’ sense. I don’t know how to parent that or to teach that without eliciting fear.”

Dr. Rhoden says he can draw a comparison between current American political discourse and racial discrimination.

“On the flip side you have a more overt emboldened group of people who believe they can celebrate and say anything they want about someone who looks different than them,” he said pointing out his 7-year-old son may feel unwelcome at some point in his life. “I am a half-full person, but at some point, when he touches fire he will know it is hot. He is going to have to understand where the heat comes from.”

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

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