Howard: a voter’s guide to Prop. 420 frequently asked questions

Question: isn’t the McDowell Sonoran Preserve already protected by the current Scottsdale City Charter, the Scottsdale General Plan, zoning and ordinances as claimed by Proposition 420 opponents?

Answer: no. The Preserve is not permanently protected under city ordinances or zoning. Ordinances and zoning routinely are changed by City Council; this happens regularly at Council meetings. The current city ordinance governing use of the Preserve lands can be canceled by majority vote of the council members at any time.

Kathy Howard

The Preserve is not protected by a Scottsdale General Plan. Arizona state law (ARS 9-461-05A) requires that each city adopt a comprehensive, long-range General Plan to guide the physical development of its community.

The law further states (ARS 9-461-06K) that the city’s General Plan shall be re-adopted or a new plan adopted every 10 years. The most recent Scottsdale General Plan is dated 2001 and was ratified by Scottsdale voters in March 2002.

Scottsdale has not adopted or ratified any General Plan since. This means Scottsdale has no current long-range land use guidance, including the McDowell-Sonoran Preserve. Any future General Plan must be ratified by a vote of Scottsdale citizens.

As far as existing City Charter restrictions are concerned, City Attorney Bruce Washburn gave the City’s legal position during a City Council meeting (see video: According to Mr. Washburn’s Charter reading, four council members can elect to build whatever they want in the Preserve, if it’s termed an “improvement.”

Prop. 420 (sections 12-13) closes these loopholes that were never tested until the $68,000,000 Desert EDGE proposal.

Question: is changing the City Charter a risky move?

Answer: City Charter changes have averaged one a year since 2000. Upon becoming mayor in 2008, Mayor Lane proposed numerous charter changes to voters including the City Treasurer change. They all were overwhelmingly passed by voters.

Former Councilman Bob Littlefield reports that during his tenure, 2002-15, the council asked the voters to change the Charter 19 times! 18 were approved. Changing the City Charter is not a rare event!

Prop. 420 is a citizen-initiated Charter change; something that has not happened in Scottsdale before. What is different here is that Prop. 420 recognizes that the $1.7 billion Preserve, established by popular vote, and bought and funded by taxpayers every day, is a vital long-term concern of all of us, not just the few who temporarily occupy seats on the City Council.

To say that the Preserve “belongs to the city,” not to the electorate, belies the true Preserve constituencies: the funders, the users, the volunteers and visitors who get to see the real Sonoran Desert up close, not in some Disney-like manifestation.

The Prop. 420 change to the City Charter has been at least as carefully drawn as has been any previous city-initiated Charter change. Its focus is strictly on protecting the promises made when Preserve approvals were sold to the electorate.

The proposal language has been well-researched and written by a group of former preserve commissioners and lawyers. All it does is put development decisions in the hands of the voters who committed to make the Preserve real, not four limited-term council people and a few developers.

Four council members, including Mayor Lane publicly support Prop 420.

Question: does Prop. 420 obstruct maintenance, fire, flood control and other routine Preserve activities; does it take control out of the hands of our elected city councilors and assign it to an “unelected, unaccountable” commission?

Answer: nothing changes with the management, maintenance or operations of the Preserve under Prop. 420. The proposition codifies the existing 25-year role of the McDowell Sonoran Preserve Commission to approve new trails. The Commission’s role is strictly limited: it starts and ends in Section 12.B(1) of the ballot language, which exempts from public vote: “New trails approved by the McDowell Sonoran Preserve Commission.”

The Commission is not mentioned outside that one, nine-word sentence. There is no ballot language granting new powers to the Commission — it does not exist. The commission is, and remains, appointed by the City Council. City Council retains final decision-making authority over the commission’s decisions.

See the proposed City Charter change wording at

Question: Who is financially supporting Prop. 420, who is financing the opposition?

Answer: Prop. 420 is supported by hundreds of small, local donors. It is opposed by 20 donors who averaged $3,000 each.

In its third quarter campaign finance report to Scottsdale’s City Clerk, No 420 Protect Your Preserve PAC listed its Individual and Corporate/LLC donors. Of the total $57,800 collected, there were no donations under $50; there were six donations between $50 and $200; six donations between $200 and $500, and thirteen over $500.

Of the 25 total contributions, 14 are identifiable as coming from people or corporations with business interests in real estate or construction ($38,800 out of the total $57,800.) Three donors were over $10,000, one from Los Angeles and another from Lake Havasu.

In contrast, Protect Our Preserve PAC’s third quarter report discloses donations totaling $39,538.67, with $574.02 in aggregate in less than $50 donations. Of the 13 contributions over $50, eight were between $50 and $200; three between $200 and $500 and two over $500.

All are from Scottsdale and none have business interests in the Preserve. The largest donor was Protect Our Preserve (POP), the sponsor of Protect Our Preserve PAC. POP was formed by two and a half years ago by citizens of Scottsdale concerned about the future integrity of the McDowell-Sonoran Preserve and the preservation of promises made to voters who approved its formation.

All of POP’s funding has come from contributions, all from residents of Scottsdale. According to POP, out of its 425 contributions over its two-year life, 129 were less than $50, 225 were between $50 and $200, 54 were between $200 and $500 and 17 over $500.

All these contributions have been identified as coming from Scottsdale residents, spread throughout the city, none of which have business interests in real estate or construction. POP led the petition drive that gathered over 37,000 signatures to place Proposition 420 on the ballot with the aid of over 280 volunteers.

POP is, by every measure, a broad-based, Scottsdale grass-roots organization.

Read the ballot and charter change language for yourself – it’s clear, its straight forward and it’s the best thing for Scottsdale to Preserve our Preserve!

The ballot wording and proposed Charter wording see: CITY OF SCOTTSDALE, ARIZONA, INFORMATION PAMPHLET/TEXT OF BALLOT AND CANDIDATE INFORMATION PAMPHLET (See Pages 58 to 62), GENERAL/SPECIAL ELECTION TUESDAY, NOVEMBER 6, 2018, (pages 19-20) sent recently to each registered voter.

Vote “Yes” on 420!

Editor’s note: Ms. Howard is a Scottsdale resident and longtime community advocate

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