Germek: Scottsdale is a community — not a development opportunity

How are decisions made by the Scottsdale City Council when the interests of developers conflict with the interests of its citizens?

AJ Germek

At a meeting with three Scottsdale Council members — Virginia Korte, David Smith and Guy Phillips — sponsored by the Scottsdale Independent news service on Wednesday morning, June 20, 2018 to discuss Scottsdale infrastructure needs and funding, we gained some insight into this process.

When asked “Who is worthy of a development variance? How does the Council decide?” Councilman Guy Phillips responded with two words, “money talks.” This is something most of us suspected, but hoped it was not true.

Councilman Phillips went on to explain that he expected the Crossroads East project to bring millions of dollars to Scottsdale over the next few decades. However, we were left with the impression that if a developer offered to widen a road, include a bike path or build a desert appreciation center, the project would be approved.

Is this in the Scottsdale Master Plan?

Councilwoman Korte must have been inspired by this sudden expression of truth when she stated that she “didn’t understand the opposition to the controversial Desert EDGE project.”

The residents of Scottsdale want to preserve the desert, not develop it. What’s so difficult to understand?

She went on to explain that the use of Preserve funds provides a more easily obtained source of funds than any public bond issue or increases in sales tax. And, if funds for infrastructure are not made available by the voters through bonds or sales taxes, the council would have to cut services like after-school programs, volleyball leagues and senior programs. Or sell presently protected Preserve land to developers to raise money!

Can they do that?

The voice of the community needs to be heard. We are a community first and a development opportunity second — not the other way around. Money should not be the only consideration and developers and commercial interests should not be the only drivers.

To be effective, the council must provide the leadership required to inspire citizens, not just work around them. Our past leaders inspired the citizens of Scottsdale to provide more than a billion dollars to preserve the desert.

Unfortunately those leaders seem to be gone and a new generation of leaders haven’t stepped up to the plate. When listening to Councilmembers, Korte, Smith and Phillips, I heard frustration in their voices.

The public seems not inclined to authorize bond issues even though the need for infrastructure repair and investment is critical. I heard an inability to get things done because the public furor over the Desert EDGE project has gotten in the way of progress. There comes a time in many projects when the tasks become too difficult and the rewards too few.

The Desert EDGE project has reached that point.

It’s time for the present leadership to either drop the Desert EDGE project entirely, or to move out of the way and make room for other civic-minded people to assume the leadership of Scottsdale City Council.

It is a tough job but sometimes the best strategy for success is to get out of the way and let others take the lead.

Editor’s note: Mr. Germek is a resident of Scottsdale

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