Alexander: Campana update leaves much to be desired

I’m disappointed at the paltry update provided by DDCS, Inc’s Sam Campana.

Six months have gone by since DDCS engaged the community.

They’ve spent another million dollars of our taxes, traveled around the country, and continued to visit Scottsdale’s best resorts and golf courses while billing us over $100/hr. And we are yet again seeing the same bullet points and slides that we saw six months ago.

Jason Alexander

We see the same lack of details, the same absence of specificity.

If you’re building this great and glorious monument, why won’t you share it with us?

At NoDDC, we posted the delivery confirmation of our lawsuit against the city, and it got 4,000 views. NoDDC is actively engaging our community. Whether you agree with us or not, we are easily accessible both online and in the community.

DDCS, Inc claims they will save the Preserve and the tourism industry and teach us all about sustainable living, but they refuse to back up their boast with even the littlest bit of detail. We know that the teachers of Scottsdale Unified let out a big yawn to their workshop, and that ASU and SCC haven’t given the DDCS consultants one dime thus far.

DDCS, Inc claims to be the founders of the Preserve who are capping a 25-year public vision, but they’ve hidden from the community for six months.

The consultants at DDCS, Inc have finished their 18 month study, and we have no details of the core project pillars like financing strategy and attendance estimates. This is basic stuff about revenue and expenses that should be central to any project plan.

Have Campana and her team of experts forgotten these critical details? Or are they just uninterested in our feedback?

Virginia Korte didn’t even want DDCS, Inc to provide an update. She instructed City Manager Jim Thompson to “allow the DDC to have the full impact of a first impression.”

Why, then, is the big debut happening on July 31 when Scottsdale is half-empty of taxpayers? Tone-deafness like this raises red flags if you’ve worked in private industry.

Ultimately, the presentation Campana and DDCS, Inc make won’t hold many surprises. Its absolutely going to be a great pitch. For $2.2 million it will be the brightest and shiniest marketing pitch most of us will ever see.

The six-figure consultants, fancy designers from New York City, business plan from Boston and brand-new off-the-shelf curriculum will undoubtedly thrill us. For just a moment.

The financial realities tell us to be very, very concerned about this project.

Our entire city council agrees that Scottsdale’s capital budget is in poor financial condition. Capital needs to far outpace revenue. Council committees have been formed to study and prioritize capital items, and there is serious talk about raising property taxes.

Comps for non-profit event centers are equally worrisome. NoDDC looked at 25 comparable facilities including the Monterrey Bay Aquarium, the Desert Botanical Garden, the Sonoran Desert Museum and the Museum of the West.

Every single one of these projects require 40, even 50 percent of their budget to come from subsidies.

Any DDC – best case – will be a financial loser without donations, grants, or taxpayer subsidies of almost half their operating budget. The Museum of the West has the exact same publicly-owned business model as the DDC, and it has so underperformed that after 2.5 years they still won’t release their attendance numbers. And, the Museum of the West just renegotiated their city contract to open the taxpayers up to millions in new subsidies.

What the DDC looks like, and the color of the paint, are far down our list of concerns.

The city’s finances, proposed tax increase, and confidence in DDCS, Inc’s highly-paid consultants are significant and unshakable worries.

Linda Milhaven and DDC’s other advocates profess their belief in constructive dialog and project feedback. The DDC has been the focal point of local news for a year, we’ve collected over 7,000 signatures and raised almost $50,000 to sue the city.

Stop denying our voice, and let’s have the most meaningful dialog possible — a citizen vote on moving forward or shuttering the project.

Editor’s note: Mr. Alexander is a Scottsdale resident and founder of the NoDDC citizen group.

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