Special election: Scottsdale City Council approves November bond vote

Scottsdale City Council has officially called for a Nov. 5 special mail-in election to vote on $319 million of general obligation bonds. (File photo)

In an unanimous vote, the Scottsdale City Council has called for a special mail-in ballot election for three questions authorizing the issuance and sale of $319 million of general obligation bonds to address community needs.

On Monday, April 15, the Scottsdale City Council voted 7-0 to move forward with a General Obligation bond election to take place on Tuesday, Nov. 5.

The council chose authorizing the issuance and sale of the bonds — comprised of 58 projects equaling $319 million — in three questions, rather than one all-encompassing question.

Come November, the voters of Scottsdale will have the option to approve:

  • Parks, recreation and senior services — 14 projects equaling $112.6 million;
  • Community spaces and infrastructure — 20 projects equaling $112.3 million; and
  • Public safety and technology — 24 projects equaling $94.1 million.

On Feb. 7, the Capital Improvement Projects Subcommittee approved a list of 67 projects to be included in the public outreach effort, which included six open houses.

Following the public outreach, the council hosted a March 26 study session evaluating which identified projects should be included in a bond program, shall an election be called.

Based on that March discussion, two projects were removed from the bond program — converting Mountain View Park tennis courts to sand volleyball courts and building flood control structures to protect homes and businesses in the Reata Wash Flood Plain. And, a project to expand the Via Linda Senior Center was added to the program.

Lastly, a reduction of cost for building multi-use sports fields in the Bell Road area was established, and the project will now focus on two larger soccer complexes, according to Public Works City Engineer David Lipinski, who led the council’s presentation.

Since 2010, bond elections have mostly failed in Scottsdale. Their last successful bond election was in 2000, where six of the nine questions passed.

In 2010, a single question for streets, transportation improvements and drainage facilities failed; while all four questions in 2013 failed as well. In 2015, two of six questions passed, funding street pavement replacement and public safety for the fire department.

According to City Clerk Carolyn Jagger, because this election is during a non-regular general election year the county has the right to say how elections will be conducted. For 2019, any election must be conducted by mail, she said.

“Every registered voter will get their ballot in the mail roughly 27 days before the election,” Ms. Jagger said.

Additionally, there will be at least one voting center where residents can go and get a replacement ballot or receive assistance voting. There will not be polling sites for this election.

The mail-in election will not cost voters anything because the city is paying the return postage on the ballots, Ms. Jagger said.

Scottsdale resident Pascal Choucair proudly displays his “I voted” sticker during the 2016 election. (File photo)

Community voices

The vote and discussion by City Council on April 15 at City Hall, 3939 N. Drinkwater Blvd., was concluded in less than hour. A handful of residents voiced their opinions on the potential bond election, while some elected officials shortly opined about coming together for the greater good of the community.

Scottsdale Coalition of Greater Scottsdale Chairwoman, and local resident, Sonnie Kirtley said her organization wants the bond to pass but they’re concerned about the Reata Wash Flood Control project being removed from the bond program.

Downtown Scottsdale resident Alex McLaren also supported the bond election.

Alex McLaren

“This is the result of over two years of work by the city staff, and also two CIP subcommittees by the council, and also including the recent outreach to the citizens — that has been a great exercise,” Mr. McLaren said. “It is my hope we have a unanimous City Council that will put this bond election to the voters. The projects include a number of really critically needed public safety projects as well as parks, senior center improvements, infrastructure and technology enhancements.”

Scottsdale resident and City Council 2020 candidate, Jason Alexander, says he was very encouraged by the progress of the bond discussions and resident feedback, calling it a terrific exercise.

Jason Alexander

Mr. Alexander says the residents and council alike need to be united about re-investing in the city, however he believes residents may have reservations before voting for the bond projects.

“But, the reality as I’m seeing from conversations in my network, is the very best proposal council could muster — and it could be wonderful — no matter how good it is, there’s going to be support and hesitation to support it,” Mr. Alexander said.

“People will not view this bond as a standalone topic, no matter how many times we say it’s for the good of the city. The reality is, this bond proposal will be a reflection of confidence and support of direction the council has taken the city.”

For City Council members, some said they hope the community won’t hold the bond projects hostage when there are city needs to be met.

“I’m excited for tonight,” Ms. Milhaven said. “It looks like we may all agree on something that’s for the greater good of our community.”

Linda Milhaven

Ms. Milhaven said she was reminded of a saying by her grandmother: “Don’t cut off your nose to spite your face.”

“While there may be some people in this community who vigorously disagree with me on issues — someone mentioned zoning tonight — I think it does our community an amazing disservice if we make investment in parks, public safety and senior centers contingent upon if we agree on zoning issues,” Ms. Milhaven said.

“By holding a bond and our infrastructure hostage to a single issue or to a handful of issues does our community an injustice. I think we have an obligation to our community.”

Mayor Jim Lane agreed, saying he would share some of the same comments.

Scottsdale Mayor Jim Lane

“I would hope that on the basis of new issues that may be picked up, a group is going to decide, somehow actively work against the greater good — I think everybody has pretty much acknowledged there is a very lot that’s needed and is good for us here,” Mr. Lane said.

While stating his support for the bond election, Mr. Lane says he is concerned about one item in the package, which he deems very important: the Reata Wash Flood Plain.

“When we live in the desert, where run-off is a major issue, and we have drainage areas, and we end up leaving ourselves at risk — we’ve been 17-plus years in a drought. Anybody who’s been here less than that time hasn’t really seen anything that the rains can bring to us. I think it could be short-sighted,” Mr. Lane said, pointing to the devastation New Orleans experienced by not maintaining their infrastructure.

“I’m not a doom and gloom guy, I hope it never happens, but I’d rather we as a community work now for the greater good of everything, particularly since it’s been indicated to us that there’d be active determination to defeat the entire bond or the question that it would have rested on, I think that just adds to the dilemma. I think it’s important we consider physically — it’s not even a matter of what’s in it for me or for you, it’s a matter of what’s in it the city and how we have to protect ourselves. It’s a safety issue, it’s a value issue. Somehow or another we’re going to have to get that done.”

According to the city staff report associated with the bond election, staff has removed the Reata Wash Flood Plain control structures from the bond program to further explore other funding opportunities for the project. The price tag associated with this project before it was removed from the bond project was $27.3 million.

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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