Dolan & Lagarde: Scottsdale Prop. 420 debate is trumped-up, misinformed hysteria

Newcomer NIMBYs living around the McDowell Sonoran Preserve, who are enjoying the benefits of years Preserve taxes paid by all city residents, want to reverse past public votes that overwhelmingly told the City Council to buy the Preserve and enhance its use with a nature education center available to all Scottsdale residents.

Jan Dolan

If their confusing Prop. 420 and disingenuous campaign promoting it succeeds, they will slam the door on the Preserve, freezing its use mostly for themselves and depriving the rest of us the opportunity to enjoy a world-class nature center.

Even more dark and Machiavellian is that Prop. 420 could take away the right of the City Council to make critical decisions of any kind on behalf of its residents. If it’s controversial, all the voters must make the choice, say proponents of Prop. 420, leading to government by sign, slogan and soundbite.

Prop. 420 overturns prior public votes and the 2007 council approval of a nature education center at the Gateway. Citizens voted to tax themselves to create the Preserve and to pay for public access improvements with Preserve funds, including the nature education center that had been in the city’s Preserve planning since 1993.

Citizens who lived primarily in the southern part of the city approved these taxes before most people now living around the Preserve moved there.

Lynne Lagarde

These citizens will now be deprived of Preserve funds to assure access in the future because Prop. 420 would prohibit their use without another public vote — thus nullifying the previous public vote.

NIMBY latecomers near the Preserve now view it as their exclusive backyard and Prop. 420 is their way of restricting future access to “our” Preserve to keep the rest of Scottsdale out. It is “your” Preserve too; over 80 percent of those using the Preserve live north of Shea.

NODDC/POP want to keep it that way by blocking future access, including the nature education center that many residents long expected to be part of the Preserve.

This expectation was reaffirmed in 2007 by the council approval of the Gateway Municipal Use Master Site Plan, with the Desert Discovery Center as the second phase. For years city planning studies gave residents the expectation of a nature education center at the Gateway to provide an opportunity to learn the inspiring story of the Preserve and to deepen knowledge of the Sonoran Desert beyond what can be seen hiking and biking.

But that opportunity is now threatened.

That is the real motive behind the ugly and deceitful campaign to keep a nature education center out of the Preserve. That is what the NoDDC and POP are really about. Under the guise of protecting the Preserve they are trying to keep you and your children and grandchildren out!

Do not be fooled by the lies.

The proposed nature education center is no more a commercial development than the Desert Botanical Gardens or the Heard Museum, treasured cultural amenities that add to the quality of life of their communities, as would the proposed nature education center.

But more importantly, Prop. 420 sets the dangerous precedent of using Charter amendments to oppose every controversial project. One of its leaders has said that “a simple majority vote of the City Council can no longer control the dealings of the municipality.”  The intent is to subject every controversial issue to a costly and lengthy public vote process. This will come back to haunt the city when other community quality of life and economic assets fall victim to the same kind of negative sloganeering.

Ugly tactics, cyberbullying, name-calling, fake social media, disinformation and the anonymous blogosphere have been used in this mean-spirited campaign. Resorts and businesses have been targeted with fake negative online reviews, threats of boycotts, even boycotts of the city itself. Citizens need to stand up and say, “no” to this type of behavior. Those using these tactics will be emboldened to continue if you do not.

Take the time to read the restrictive Charter language that sets such a dangerous precedent and the arguments by 51 leading Scottsdale citizens against it. Then vote “no” on this disastrous proposition and preserve your access to your Preserve!

Editor’s note: Ms. Lagarde serves on the Desert Discovery Scottsdale Inc. Board of Directors. Ms. Dolan is a Scottsdale resident, former city manager and longtime Preserve advocate.

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