Hiegel: no matter election outcome, Scottsdale has already lost

This divisive election over Proposition 420 will soon be over. But Scottsdale already has lost.

Mark Hiegel

The proponents’ scorched-earth campaign has poisoned our city with the same ugliness that permeates politics nationally.

The Sinema-McSally campaign has been civil in comparison to the tantrum thrown by Jason Alexander, Mike Norton and their colleagues. Yet Alexander, just last week, in an Independent op-ed, insisted their campaign was positive and constructive.

It this what you would call positive or constructive?

  • Practically every “vote no on Prop. 420” campaign sign was defaced. And these people call themselves “preservationists.”
  • Alexander, Norton and others have verbally assaulted their opponents, besmirching the reputations and questioning the altruistic motives of leaders who have devoted their lives to building a better Scottsdale.
  • When they couldn’t silence us with their bullying, they lodged complaints against employers — mine included — and promoted a boycott against every member of the Scottsdale Area Chamber of Commerce.

How can you say you love Scottsdale while seeking to destroy its economy? This isn’t civil debate. It’s civil war.

It is completely out of character with our community’s history. When the Indian Bend Wash greenbelt was just an idea, advocates and opponents fervently debated the merits of the idea. The same thing happened before the election that created the McDowell Sonoran Preserve, which opponents dismissed as a “billion dollar boondoggle.”

But no one was labeled as evil or a profiteer because of a difference of opinion. Scottsdale’s debates over big ideas have always been impassioned, but until now we’ve been able to disagree agreeably.

No one needed to lie to make a point. Prop. 420’s apologists tell us that building a low-scale, environmentally sensitive educational facility on a mere five acres of land is akin to creating a Disneyland in the preserve. They project a dystopian vision of the Preserve overrun with hotels and amusement parks. It’s absurdly ridiculous. Such a plan would be a non-starter with any City Council.

Let’s try some context.

More than 100 acres of the Preserve has been cleared — scraped of cactus, ocotillos and sagebrush — for the trails that hikers, bikers and equestrians enjoy. More than 35 acres have been bulldozed for parking lots, all within the boundaries of the preserve.

The proposed Desert EDGE would take up one-seventh as much land as that allotted to cars, while opening the Preserve to those who can’t hike, bike or otherwise physically enjoy it. That’s why the no-campaign adopted the name “Protect Your Preserve.” We want everyone to experience its splendor. The advocates’ name, “Protect Our Preserve,” claims ownership for a privileged few.

And, to ensure it stays that way, they’re pushing a Charter amendment that shifts responsibility from the elected and accountable City Council to an unelected commission.

So much for representative government.

Scottsdale became the shining city it is because it embraced big ideas. The Indian Bend Wash, Westworld, the TPC golf course, the Waterfront and, yes, even the McDowell Sonoran Preserve seem obvious now, but they came about only after deep debate.

Imagine if any of those ideas had faced as vicious and hateful a campaign as that waged by the proponents of Prop. 420. Would anyone have been willing to stick their neck out for the next big idea? Big ideas have persisted in Scottsdale because we argue their merits collegially. That encourages the next big idea, and the next one. I’d rather have my legacy be one of supporting visionary thinking than killing it.

If that’s the legacy you want, please make sure to vote on Nov. 6. Defeat Prop. 420, which takes Scottsdale in the wrong direction. Reject scorched earth tactics that simply don’t belong in our city.

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

You are encouraged to leave relevant comments but engaging in personal attacks, threats, online bullying or commercial spam will not be allowed. All comments should remain within the bounds of fair play and civility. You can disagree with others courteously, without being disagreeable. Feel free to express yourself but keep an open mind toward finding value in what others say. To report abuse or spam, click the arrow in the upper right corner of the comment box.

Facebook Comment