The Scottsdale Independent offers its Top 10 stories of 2015

Scottsdale Top 10 StoriesThe Scottsdale Independent covered myriad topics over the course of calendar year 2015, ranging from a hit-and-run tragedy still unsolved to political fallout touching the peaks of several local organizations to the passage of a bond election and emergence of the creation of equal workplace protections for members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Scottsdale community.

The Independent offers a look back over the last year’s top 10 stories in the city of Scottsdale:

1. Hit-and-run victim identified as Scottsdale middle school teacher

Maureen Brown

Maureen Brown

The woman severely injured in a hit-and-run collision on Sunday, Oct. 25, has now been identified as 33-year-old Scottsdale middle school teacher Maureen Brown.

In an effort to obtain additional suspect information, a $20,000 reward is being offered through Silent Witness.

Ms. Brown was crossing 124th Street at Sahuaro Drive to attend a “trunk or treat” event at the McDowell Mountain Community Church when she was struck by a vehicle. Officials say she has had over 10 major surgeries to repair her body.

Anyone with information on this case are encouraged to contact the Scottsdale Police Department at 480-312-9093.

2. Scottsdale appears poised to create LGBT workplace protections

Scottsdale City Council is moving forward with creating a draft ordinance to be presented to the general public in an effort to create nondiscrimination laws protecting the members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community while observing and protecting the civil rights of all residents.

The local governing board held an hours-long debate Tuesday, Nov. 17 on the merits of the creation of such a ordinance, who should the new rules affect and what could be the long-term impacts on small businesses if such workplace standards were adopted.

No timeline was given for when draft ordinance language will be made available to the general public.

3. Voters reject 4 of 6 council bond requests

Maricopa County election results show that Scottsdale bond questions No. 4, “street pavement replacement,” and No. 5, “public safety,” passed in the November 2015 bond election.

Scottsdale City Council asked voters to approve a $95.9 million bond the majority of the governing body said would have paid for failing infrastructure, provide new technologies and help cover the costs of public safety facilities. The Scottsdale Independent, through a six-part series, provided readers with a breakdown, explanation and commentary on each bond question and its projects each week leading up to the November election.

The city of Scottsdale today carries $619 million in outstanding general obligation bonds, of which $331 million is supported by preserve sales taxes and $288 million supported by property taxes, Independent archives state. The city has about $3.5 billion in assets.

4. Scottsdale Schools superintendent resigns; claims ‘hostile’ workplace

David Peterson

David Peterson

The sudden resignation late in the year of Scottsdale Unified School District Superintendent Dr. David Peterson came after nearly two years of bullying, intimidation, harassment — and even extortion — according to a recent report provided to the Scottsdale Unified School District Governing Board.

The report, a “Chronology of Events” leading up to the resignation of Dr. Peterson, takes specific aim at the actions of two Governing Board members: Pam Kirby and Barbara Perleberg.

Superintendent Peterson abruptly announced his resignation Friday, Dec. 11, after only about one year into a three-year contract renewal.

In the report, Dr. Peterson claims that over the last 24 months Ms. Kirby and Ms. Perleberg cultivated a bullying culture that included “intimidation and extortion,” which ultimately forced him to resign — and even contemplate legal action against the district.

Both board members deny the allegations, but do acknowledge there existed a poor relationship between superintendent and Governing Board. Both members claim they always acted in the best interest of the district.

5. Former councilman to challenge Mayor Lane in November 2016

Bob Littlefield

Bob Littlefield

Former City Councilman Bob Littlefield is challenging Jim Lane for Scottsdale mayor in November 2016.

Mr. Littlefield filed his election paperwork with the Scottsdale City Clerk’s Office Thursday, Dec. 3 making him eligible to pursue the mayor’s seat next November. The election will be held Tuesday, Nov. 1, 2016.

“I thought about what I wanted to do and I decided what I wanted to do is run for mayor,” he said in a Dec. 7 phone interview.

Mr. Littlefield says his formal announcement will come this January.

Mr. Littlefield spent more than a decade as an elected leader of the city of Scottsdale from the 2002 until 2014 opting for a run of the Arizona House.

6. Scottsdale Area Chamber of Commerce hires new CEO

Mark Hiegel

Mark Hiegel

Mark Hiegel, a longtime Scottsdale resident and business executive, takes the reins from Rick Kidder who left in June for a similar position in New England.

Most recently, Mr. Hiegel served as director of marketing and business development for Greenberg Traurig, an international law firm in Phoenix as well as national communications manager for Make-A-Wish, America. Previously, Mr. Hiegel was managing partner at R&R Partners, Arizona, an international marketing agency with an office in Phoenix and a partner at Lavidge Hiegel Communications, an advertising agency in Phoenix.

Mr. Hiegel also spent multiple years with PepsiCo, working throughout the United States, at its corporate headquarters in New York, and was On-Premise Managing Director responsible for 13 countries located in Singapore.

Mr. Hiegel is an active and past member of more than 20 civic and philanthropic boards. He holds an MBA from Arizona State University.

7. New audit report shines light on SUSD inefficiencies

While the Scottsdale Unified School District was on instructional pace with comparable Arizona educational entities in fiscal year 2012 — it’s administrative costs, transportation system efficiency and financial reporting practices were not, according to a May 2015 Arizona Auditor General performance audit.

The district, from fiscal year 2004 to 2009 reported millions of dollars in electricity costs as in-classroom instructional spending, which is in violation of the Uniform Chart of Accounts. In fiscal year 2012 alone the audit claims the district inaccurately reported $5.5 million of in-classroom spending. In addition, the audit reveals while Scottsdale Schools plant operations were at a lower cost per square foot to its peer districts in fiscal year 2012 its cost per pupil was 8 percent higher, which resulted in the district spending fewer dollars in the classroom.

During that same period of time Scottsdale Schools did operate an efficient food service program, which was provided at a lower cost than its peer districts, the audit shows. But administrative costs per pupil were 11 percent more, which equates to $687 per pupil compared to the $620 peer group average while transportation costs were significantly higher, the audit shows.

During that year SUSD was operating four of its 31 SUSD bus routes with seven or fewer riders.

8. The Independent launches Scottsdale Salute series

In summer 2015, the North Valley Office of Independent Newsmedia launched a “Scottsdale Salutes” series spearheaded by News Services Editor Melissa Fittro where each week a Scottsdale volunteer is honored for his or her service to the community. Here is an excerpt from an early installment:

Substitute teacher and Scottsdale resident, Janice Marohn, volunteers as a Downtown Ambassador for the city of Scottsdale on the weekends. The hardworking volunteer has also traveled, and uses her experience to connect with people she meets while working downtown.

“I love meeting people,” said Ms. Marohn during a July 23 phone interview. “I used to work on cruise ships. I traveled all over the world.”

9. A streetcar named Scottsdale?

Desire may be the best way to describe the growing feelings a collection of city officials have about bringing a modern streetcar rail system to the community of Scottsdale.

A view of the modern streetcar service in downtown Tucson. (File photo)

A view of the modern streetcar service in downtown Tucson. (File photo)

A collection of Scottsdale officials traveled to Tucson Nov. 5 to better understand the trials, tribulations and successes the modern streetcar has brought to that community’s downtown sector. Officials along for the ride ranged from elected leaders and city commission members to tourism and chamber representatives who expressed an interest in getting dialogue started on bringing high-capacity-mass-transit to the city of Scottsdale.

The Scottsdale Transportation Commission, which is an advisory board made up of resident appointees to Scottsdale City Council, is in the midst of updating the community transportation master plan. The document is meant to encompass all things transit from the local government perspective.

10. Phoenix housing market remains fixated on supply and demand equation

The latest housing report generated from the Center for Real Estate Theory and Practice at the W.P. Carey School of Business shows continual price increases, a typical seasonal drop in sales activity and a significant decrease in distressed property transactions.

The good news for Scottsdale and the Town of Paradise Valley: The second quarter of this year was the best one for the luxury housing market — those homes that sell above $700,000 — in 15 years, according to the report.

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

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