Henninger: Millennial perspective reveals underlying community contrast

Life is often is a study in contrasts. So it goes with city affairs, too.

Don Henninger

On one hand, you have the Scottsdale City Council, whose job is to oversee and guide the well-being and future of the city.

On the other, you have a group of 30 Millennials who live and or work in the city and care about its future.

First, to the city council, and I’ll have to admit, it’s been painfully hard to watch what’s been happening at the Kiva over the past few weeks. To a person, each city council members knows the city’s infrastructure is crumbling. Left unattended for much longer, it will ultimately affect the quality of life and pocketbook of every resident of the city.

The city has identified over $800 million in capital needs and the council targeted $350 million to start on first. We’ll spare the drama, but the council became deeply divided on how to ask city voters to fund it.

Four members supported putting a sales tax increase for transportation work on the ballot for voters to decide in November, and regroup later to consider a bond in 2019 or 2020 for whatever other work they see fit. Three members favored putting all $350 million into a bond proposal in 2018 to hopefully start work right away

The four won. But it will be tough to get voters to approve anything if the council isn’t unanimous in its support, and the chances for that seem slim, given all the political maneuvering behind the scenes. So we face a rough summer/fall season ahead leading into the November election and no one has yet said what happens if the sales tax proposal is defeated.

Now, on to the group of Millennials. And I’ll have to admit, it was reassuring to watch the level of passion and interest they have in our — their — city. It wasn’t exactly the image that many of us had of that generation.

The Scottsdale Coalition of Today and tomorrow just finished a community focus group with 30 of our young city worker-residents in Old Town in the days while the drama was continuing to unfold at city council.

These 20-somethings, who gave up two hours of their time to visit with us, knew little of the city council action at City Hall. They wanted to stress how deeply they cared about the city and how they want to play a role in helping it progress.

Here are five takeaways.

  1. They agree that maintaining the McDowell Sonoran Preserve as one of the city’s core strengths is a must. Most of them have not heard of the Desert EDGE project, which has sparked so much emotional debate at the council level.
  2. They are concerned about traffic and congestion and wish there were more options for accessibility and mobility. Parking is a big concern for those who work in Old Town.
  3. They wonder how the northern and southern areas of the city have become so “polarized” and how much potential progress the city misses because of it.
  4. The lack of diversity troubles them, and they wonder how the city can do a better job or recruiting a more-diverse workforce and population base.
  5. They have a great deal of pride in the city and want to get involved though they often don’t know how to get started or who to ask.

In this study of contrasts, the first case leaves one frustrated; the second case leaves one refreshed in knowing that so many of our young citizens are ready to step up for our city. We’ll look for ways to present opportunities for them moving forward. We hope you do, too.

Editor’s note: Mr. Henninger is founder and executive director of SCOTT, the Scottsdale Coalition of Today and Tomorrow. Reach him at donh@scottsdale.com.

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