Hiegel: a response to Jason Alexander, a new view of Prop. 420 and a call for facts

Jason Alexander’s Aug. 16 column advocating for Proposition 420 is short on truth and long on insults.

Nothing does more to demonstrate how thin his argument is than the fact he devotes half the column to demeaning people who are the bedrock of this community.

Mark Hiegel

People like the beloved Art DeCabooter, president of Scottsdale Community College for over 30 years, and Jan Gehler, who continued his work in making SCC a major contributor to Scottsdale’s quality of life.

Or longtime and highly lauded former City Manager Dick Bowers. Or Joan Fudala, who literally wrote the history of Scottsdale and the Preserve. Or John Graham, whose company developed McDowell Mountain Ranch, donated land for the McDowell Sonoran Preserve and built four miles of improved trails linking the neighborhood to the mountains.

In Mr. Alexander’s mind, these highly dedicated community leaders constitute a special interest with nefarious designs to destroy the Preserve. He says they should shut up.

Could any argument be more laughable? Well, yes. It appears that Mr. Alexander must depend on personal attacks because he has nothing else. His case for Prop. 420 holds no water.

For instance, he claims that Prop. 420 makes a “small change” in the City Charter. There is no such thing as a small change in the city’s governing document, especially since it can’t easily be fixed if things go wrong. The loosely written Prop. 420 lays out the welcome mat for unintended consequences and expensive legal battles.

It removes City Council oversight of the Preserve, giving full unaccountable control to an unelected commission. It bans any alteration of land within the Preserve, with a few vague exceptions including “appropriate restoration efforts.” What is appropriate? People will disagree, and that’s when expensive lawsuits are filed. Or someone will insist it go to a public vote, costing hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Perhaps Alexander sees nefarious motives in others because he has his own in this initiative. If he and his allies simply wanted to require a public vote for the Desert Edge nature educational center, they could have written a one-sentence charter amendment that said that. They went much further.

Desert EDGE was proposed as a place to highlight for residents and visitors the majesty of the Sonoran Desert. It would be a place for educators to research Scottsdale’s desert mountains, uncovering its secrets. It would open the Preserve to people who would otherwise enjoy the Preserve only through their windshields.

Mr. Alexander dismisses the need for such a place, saying two lectures a month at the Mustang Library and a handful of hikes sponsored by the McDowell Sonoran Conservancy are enough. And if those dates don’t fit someone’s schedule? Too bad.

Imagine how far the conservancy could expand its good work in a place like Desert EDGE. Think of how many more people could learn about and appreciate this treasure in our city.
Prop. 420 says no to that idea.

The McDowell Sonoran Preserve should welcome all comers, from those who want to hike to Tom’s Thumb to those who can go no farther than the paved loop trail at the Gateway access; from those who find solace on the trail to those who seek knowledge in a center devoted to sharing it.

Prop. 420 rejects that view, proclaiming only a select few are worthy of entrance. We’ve all paid for the Preserve, tourists included. We should all have a way to enjoy it. That’s why I – and so many community leaders who have invested their lives in a better Scottsdale — oppose Prop. 420.

Prop 420 is the equivalent of a “keep out” sign. Vote “No,” and keep the Preserve open to all.

Editor's Note: Mr Hiegel is a resident of Scottsdale, a Charro and a longtime community advocate

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