Scottsdale mayoral candidates talk unique qualities for elected role

Election Art - Option 2 copy The political battle for the mayor’s seat on Scottsdale City Council is under way and Scottsdale voters will go to the polls Nov. 8 to elect either incumbent Jim Lane to a consecutive term, or offer support to challenger Bob Littlefield, a longtime community advocate and three-term member of Scottsdale City Council.

Scottsdale mayoral candidate Bill Crawford abandoned his campaign earlier this month, thus allowing the city of Scottsdale the option to push the mayoral and city council elections to the general election. Officials say the move could save the municipality about $150,000.

Voters in March 2010 approved a Charter amendment — the city of Scottsdale’s constitution — allowing the city to forgo the primary election process if no more than two candidates exist for each open seat, according to Scottsdale City Clerk Carolyn Jagger.

Scottsdale City Council Tuesday, June 7 approved Resolution No. 10498 that will dispense of the city’s planned Aug. 30 primary election and call a special election to run concurrently with the November general election.

Ms. Jagger says early ballots are expected to hit Scottsdale homes the week of Oct. 12.

The Scottsdale Independent and the Scottsdale Area Chamber of Commerce will host two debates leading up to the November general election. The mayoral debate, which has been confirmed, is from 6 to 8 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 27 at the Doubletree Hilton, 5401 N. Scottsdale Road.

The newspaper is also offering a weekly question-and-answer column with candidates from both the mayoral and council races.

This week, mayoral candidates were asked why they are running for the station of mayor and what they believe separates themselves from each other. This is what they had to say:

Jim Lane

The current mayor of Scottsdale first came to the city from New Jersey in 1973, taking a job as a certified public accountant with KPMG, known then as Peat Marwick.

Jim Lane

Jim Lane

He worked at KPMG for five years as both a financial statement and operations auditor.

“I have owned and operated businesses in construction, Internet and computer technology, and regional aviation and financial consulting,” he said in a June 9 statement. “I have also taught as an adjunct professor of business and accounting at Scottsdale Community College.”

Mr. Lane has served on Scottsdale City Council since June 2004 and began his first term as mayor in January 2009. He was re-elected mayor in 2012.

“Some of my other service for the community includes the 2002 Scottsdale Fire and EMS Advisory Committee and the Scottsdale Paradise Valley YMCA Board of Management where I chaired the 1999 Kids Campaign annual fundraising event,” he said. “I am now an emeritus board member.”

Mr. Lane’s municipal and regional government service is extensive, with service at the League of Arizona Cities and Towns and Maricopa Association of Governments among a host of others.

“My wife Joanne and I have three adult children — Bill, Scott and Nancy — along with six grandchildren — Megan, Aislinn, Madison, Carson, Caleb, and Brooklynn,” he said.

•Why are you running for Scottsdale Mayor?

I have lived here in Scottsdale for 44 years and have a long-term commitment to Scottsdale and now to all of its citizens to continue to advance Scottsdale as the best city in America. It has been my honor to serve Scottsdale as its mayor through the worst recession in the city’s history. Through the implementation of governmental reforms and with effective and efficient financial strategies we have created a positive business environment to rebuild and diversify our economic engine. It’s enabled us to recover from the recession without raising taxes.

I will continue the efforts to reform; governance through district representation, financial and tax policies to ease taxpayer burden and policies to efficiently use taxpayers’ resources. We will also use all means available to keep a fine balance for a sustainable and thriving economy in order to build value for all citizens and resources to keep the city at the forefront of services to our residents and businesses.

It is important we continue to attract the best quality of investment, jobs, products and tourists to Scottsdale. All of these things have immediate, significant and positive impacts on our community and neighborhoods. They provide the funds for infrastructure, services, increased property valuation and the overall vitality of neighborhoods. I don’t want Scottsdale to return to the malaise of the past where inaction and the lack of belief in ourselves had our downtown struggling and some of our southern residential neighborhoods losing vitality. That’s not so now.

I believe I have demonstrated through my tenure to date to have the ability, the integrity, and the leadership to continue to have the city ranked among the highest in nearly every category of achievement any municipal government is graded on.

•What do you think separates you from your opponent?

I came into the mayor’s office with a prescription on how to improve our municipal government and our residents’ lives here in Scottsdale with specific actions; to bring a business approach to the operation of government, and coupling that with a reform mission to amend the city’s Charter to increase and enhance the council’s and the bureaucracy’s transparency, accountability and control of information.

Through a revamping of the management and greater council scrutiny of department budgetary expenditures the attitude and morale of our hard working staff produced efficiencies and innovation in the execution of city duties. By my initiating and moving to establish a Charter Review Commission to reform the city’s charter, which were designed to institutionalize greater transparency, accountability and control of the taxpayer resources, the ballot charter amendments were sent to the voters for their approval. They passed overwhelmingly. These successful reform actions resulted in providing a city governance structure that allowed Scottsdale to have one of the most successful municipal recoveries in the country, without raising taxes.

In the worst economic times the city has ever endured, and armed with these reforms and an attitude to move, the city was able to complete projects in an efficient, innovative and effective way for the benefit of all our citizens. Also at the same time we saved millions of dollars in contract and debt renegotiations.

This reformed government also helped with my recruitment of significant private business and individual investment to Scottsdale, which in turn increased tourism, jobs and the rebuilding of our tax base.

What separates me from my opponent is my leadership in action in getting things done in spite of, the naysayers and the obstructionists’ camp. My opponent is more in these camps than not with respect to reform, the intended results and the positive recovery.

Simply put; Promising reforms, delivering results and providing the recovery for the best city in America. Others can talk Scottsdale down to serve their own interests. I won’t. Besides, that’s wrong. The state of our city is strong and will continue that way if I am fortunate to be elected to a final term. If you like Scottsdale and the direction we’re heading, I humbly ask for your vote.

Bob Littlefield

Mr. Littlefield, a former member of Scottsdale City Council, moved to Arizona in 1956 at the age of 8.

Bob Littlefield

Bob Littlefield

He grew up in Phoenix and graduated from Maryvale High School, where he was a National Merit Finalist and was selected to the National Honor Society and the National Forensic League. He was also an Eagle Scout.

Following high school, Mr. Littlefield joined the U.S. Army and served two tours in Vietnam as a helicopter crew chief and door gunner. After he left active duty, he served three years in the Arizona Army National Guard.

In 1970, while on leave from the Army in Hawaii, he married Scottsdale native Kathleen Bergen. They are still married 46 years later. The Littlefields have two adult children — both of whom graduated from Scottsdale public schools — and one grandchild.

After graduating from Arizona State University, Mr. Littlefield worked for a number of large high-tech companies as a programmer/analyst, systems engineer, computer salesman and sales manager, and regional manager.

In 1991, Mr. Littlefild and his wife, Kathy, founded NetXpert Systems, a network systems integration company. The company was sold in 1999, but Mr. Littlefield continues to consult in the area of computer security.

Besides cybersecurity, Mr. Littlefield’s other passion and area of expertise is aviation. He holds a commercial pilot license with instrument and multi-engine ratings and is a Gold Seal Flight Instructor with airplane single- and multi-engine and instrument airplane ratings. He also holds Advanced and Instrument Ground Instructor.

Mr. Littlefield was first elected to Scottsdale City Council in 2002, was re-elected in 2006 and 2010. During his tenure on the local dais Mr. Littlefield sat on several committees focused on improving the lives of Scottsdale residents.

Those committees include the city’s representative to the Regional Public Transit Authority, several internal budget and development subcommittees and a member of the Governor’s Advisory Council on Aviation, amongst a host of others.

While raising his family in Scottsdale, Mr. Littlefield spent 20 years working with Scottsdale children as a youth soccer and baseball coach, soccer referee and soccer club board member. He is also a member of the American Legion.

•Why are you running for Scottsdale Mayor?

I want to protect Scottsdale’s special character and high quality of life, both of which are being diminished by the current mayor. He supports a Scottsdale of tall buildings that block our views, urban-level density that clogs our streets with traffic that stresses our infrastructure, an oversupply of ugly apartments, and an out-of-control bar district. He is encouraging the destruction and decay of Scottsdale’s once world-renowned art gallery scene.

He happily approves commercial development in residential neighborhoods and even supports commercial development — the Desert Discovery Center — in the citizen-created crown jewel of Scottsdale, the Preserve. And finally, he is squandering our hard-earned tax dollars on special-interest handouts instead of funding our city’s critical infrastructure needs.

There is no better example of the stark difference between my opponent and I than his support of the Desert Discovery Center. The citizens of Scottsdale voted five times to tax themselves for almost a billion dollars to create a unique and special Preserve. They were promised that land would always be protected from development. Now, my opponent wants to break that promise and put a large-scale commercial entertainment venue, the Desert Discovery Center, right inside the gateway to our Preserve.

Once the prohibition on development inside the Preserve is violated the precedent is set and the Preserve becomes open to further exploitation. I oppose breaking this promise to the citizens of Scottsdale and I will fight to protect our unique and special Preserve from development.

In contrast to my opponent’s negative vision for Scottsdale, here is what I stood for when I was a councilman for 12 years, and what voters can count on me to fight for as mayor:

  • I will keep our property taxes low by ending the wasteful city spending and special-interest subsidies my opponent allows.
  • Enough is enough! I will continue to oppose the massive expansion of unsightly apartments and high-rises which obstruct our views, clog our streets and overstress our infrastructure.
  • Public safety is the city’s No. 1 responsibility. Funding public safety will always be my top budget priority.
  • I will protect the local businesses and galleries that keep our city financially strong and enhance our high quality of life.
  • I oppose bringing Light Rail to our city. It would raise our taxes by literally hundreds of millions of dollars and destroy the local business on Scottsdale Road.
  • As a city councilman I was a tireless advocate for Scottsdale residents and their neighborhoods. Voters can be sure I will do the same as Scottsdale’s mayor!

•What do you think separates you from your opponent?

In addition to fighting to protect Scottsdale’s special character and high quality of life, the other hallmark of my tenure on the city council was fighting against wasteful spending and special-interest handouts. Unfortunately, my opponent is doing just the opposite. While he claims to run an efficient and austere city government, the facts prove otherwise:

  • Before he retired as city treasurer, now Councilman David Smith publicly stated the city council was balancing the operating budget not by cutting expenses, but by cutting contributions to the capital budget. Unsurprisingly that cupboard is now bare, which is why City Hall has asked Scottsdale voters twice in the last three years to increase property taxes to fund infrastructure maintenance that should be funded from General Fund revenues.
  • Scottsdale residents pay the second highest General Fund cost per resident of any city in the Valley — only Tempe residents pay more.
  • Scottsdale has more employees per resident than any other city in the Valley. Interestingly, staffing for public safety, which should be the No. 1 priority of municipal government isn’t the issue. Those numbers are right in the middle of the pack. Where Scottsdale is overstaffed is with executives, 155 of whom make six-figure salaries.
  • The mayor and his allies often tout the bar district as an “economic driver.” Actually, the bar district costs Scottsdale residents money. According to a study done by then-City Treasurer Smith, the bar district contributes less than $400,000 in annual revenues to the city but costs $1.2 million annually just to police the streets. And, that doesn’t even count the costs for maintenance like street cleaning or code enforcement.
  • In 2014, the mayor and his allies on the city council voted — over my objections — to give golf pro Phil Mickelson about $2 million dollars in taxpayer gifts in the form of a new clubhouse and other improvements to the city-owned McDowell Mountain Golf Course — improvements his lease required him to fund!
  • For 10 years, the city has been sitting on 80 acres of prime land at 94th and Bell. Every year Scottsdale taxpayers shell out roughly $3 million in debt service to hold on to that raw land. It’s time to sell it and use the proceeds to fund some of our truly worthy and needed capital projects.

There are more Scottsdale city budget outrages than I have room to mention in this column. But the bottom line is clear: Scottsdale needs new leadership.

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

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