As election looms, Scottsdale politics reveal underlying tones

This month’s lead story is one focused upon what many consider “dark money” and the ramifications of fluid campaign finance rules and how those two factors may or may not be impacting local politics.

Terrance Thornton

Speaking with folks around the Phoenix metropolitan area reminded me of why we do what we do here at the Scottsdale Independent.

What Tempe City Council has done is truly remarkable, but not because of their stance on political campaign promises. No, rather because they appear, at least on one issue, to be in great tune with their constituency.

I love Scottsdale and I love the Scottsdale Unified School District as my daughter, which is by far my greatest accomplishment, attends a local public school here. But even I am feeling the deep distrust between citizen and municipality. And, that temperament doesn’t seem to be passing, which is evident by the inability for our city council to come to terms with how to pay for and maintain our infrastructure.

On page 12 we have a story about a bridge at 68th Street that has portions unsafe for public transport. If that’s not enough to find a solution, I don’t know what would be.

I know for a fact every member of Scottsdale City Council care deeply for their community, for doing the right thing and trying to make the world a better place than how they found it.

The most resounding factoid I picked up these past few weeks:

The city of Tempe, by a margin of 91 percent, passed Proposition 403 — keep dark money out of Tempe and local elections during its March 13 special election.

That’s incredible. And, when doing research for this month’s lead article, I reached out to both Tempe Mayor Mark Mitchell and Councilwoman Lauren Kuby to better understand their approach to campaign finance reform and, most importantly, why they are doing what they are.

Lauren Kuby

“Only the people who are going to do that are politically obsessed or a journalist,” Ms. Kuby said of the typical measures it would take just few years ago to get a copy of a campaign finance report from the city of Tempe.

“Why don’t we make it as transparent as possible? The whole idea of transparency is that we have to make all of our processes open, right?”

Ms. Kuby contends Tempe efforts to corral dark money — and those who play in those waters — is a measure for the betterment of all people — not a political party.

“This is not a party thing at all, people just feel like they need to know,” she pointed out. “And, we need to stand up as cities because we are the incubators of democracy.”

Ms. Kuby says she believes Tempe is a blue island in a red sea.

“It doesn’t matter what ideology you are because most people want to know who is trying to influence their local elections,” she said. “Local elected officials best represent the values in our community.

“Democracy ain’t cheap and if we don’t fight for it, who will? You know you are doing something right when half the people love your idea and half hate it — you might be in just the right spot.”

Mayor Mitchell echoed a similar sentiment.

Mark Mitchell

“Tempe is a very open and transparent city and government. We have worked hard to do that,” he said. “We are always making sure we are having an open dialogue and we are being transparent.”

Mayor Mitchell says the 2016 national election races were the catalyst for Tempe city government to look within and do a better job explaining the local political process and the players in that pool of play.

“Not too long ago, the Legislature changed the dollar amount of what a city council member can receive that mirrors what you can do in a federal race for Congress. We thought, we are a Charter city and we would like to limit the contribution rate.”

What they did on its most pure level was rule themselves, which is oftentimes a hallmark of the American democracy we all say we hold dear.

“The bottom line our governor approved it,” he said pointing out the measure was the exact opposite of new rules adopted by the Arizona Legislature.

“As a Charter city we value our voters and their ability to help shape the key function of the city. We believe implementing the disclosure and obligations of those, we will continue to build the public’s trust. We just really want to prove the integrity and transparency of our city and our elections.”

No matter where you stand on this topic — a 91 percent approval rate should make you sit up and pay attention.

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

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