Howard: the power of ‘Y’ in the upcoming Scottsdale general election

The Nov. 6 election approaches — we see it everywhere, signs on street corners, TV ads, flyers in the mail and annoying phone calls we all seem to get as we sit down to dinner.

Bill Howard

This usual pre-vote mind-numbing propaganda onslaught notwithstanding, this year’s midterm election is crucial — on a national scale, for Arizona and especially in our city, Scottsdale.

What is at stake for Scottsdale this year is Proposition 420: the future of the billion-dollar McDowell Sonoran Preserve investment we all as taxpayers have made over the past 30 years – our city’s largest single asset. In a landmark expression of popular sentiment, we citizens directed our city to preserve the area adjacent to our own mountain range in its wilderness state.

The operative word here is “preserve” — the voters never intended it to be a park — where development is implied. We voted for bonds and taxes to enable this vision. Now four council members seek to breach this unambiguous instruction to the city.

The key concepts in Prop. 420 vote are embodied in the letter “Y.” Why is “Y” so important? Let’s consider some ways:

• “Y” did more than 37,608 Scottsdale voters (more than 20 percent of all Scottsdale registered voters) sign a petition to place the question of voter (not council) approval of Preserve development on the ballot? Achieving this number of petition signatures, with predominantly volunteer collectors, is a clear indication of the importance the Preserve project approval process to a large fraction of Scottsdale citizens.

• “Y” have ballot measure opponents felt it necessary to confuse voters by recently establishing a “Protect Your Preserve” organization, a blatant attempt to distract from the long-standing promotional efforts of the “Protect Our Preserve PAC?” It’s not because their arguments against approval of the ballot measure stand scrutiny — it’s because they must rely on voter confusion to have a chance of winning the vote. Just one little ‘Y” to distract attention from the proposition’s issue.

• “Y” did Virginia Korte, on her Twitter account, feel it necessary to equate this year’s Prop. 420 changing our city’s Charter to a 2003 California Law (Senate Bill 420) legalizing medical marijuana in that state? Again, the intent to confuse Scottsdale voters with a totally unrelated issue seems clear. This juvenile tactic coming from a senior member of the City Council is repulsive, to say the least.

• “Y” have opponents of the ballot measure insisted that the issue is not about development when the City Attorney has publicly told the council that it can build anything it wants in the Preserve, including a “nuclear waste dump,” under the existing city charter? Can the current council members speak for future council people?

• “Y” have opponents complained about “elite” beneficiaries of the ballot measure when the list of their supporters is a virtual index to the Scottsdale/Paradise Valley political power structure? The 300 unpaid Scottsdale volunteers who worked to collect petition signatures came from a broad cross section of Scottsdale geography and economic strata. Further, the voters who approved and funded the Preserve in the first place were certainly too numerous to be termed an “elite.” On the other hand, exactly who are the members of the elite who would benefit from the opening of the Preserve to development?

• “Y” have development and tourist interests invested heavily in advertising against the proposition? How do they expect to profit from their investment? The question of development in the McDowell Sonoran Preserve is much larger than the paltry tourism return from a small Desert Discovery Center/Desert EDGE. The real return on the opposition’s investment lies in restricting development decisions to a small number of City Council members who are much more easily convinced by short-term arguments for long-term desecration.

And, the real return — profits from Preserve developments — will ultimately come from the billion dollars we all have already invested in the Preserve.

• “Y” do those City Council members insist on pursuing a Desert Discovery Center/Desert EDGE when our city is $800 million in areas on maintaining the infrastructure we already have? Where is the prudent financial management acumen in establishing a tourist attraction whose business losses are forecast (by its promoters) to be millions of dollars per year? Tourism and development incomes increase while citizens pay for Desert Discovery Center/Desert EDGE losses out of the City’s General Fund.

• “Y” is the Desert Discovery Center/Desert EDGE project dependent on $68 million held in reserve for future additions to Preserve lands? The intent of this use of Preserve funds is to divert monies earmarked for the Preserve to other city use — tourism development. The issue at stake in the Prop. 420, Nov. 6 election is the likelihood conversion of public investment into private returns.

• “Y” do the opponents of putting Preserve development decisions in the hands of voters object to such decision-making by “uninformed” people (i.e. voters?) After all, weren’t these the same voters who approved the creation of the Preserve in the first place? Weren’t these the same people who elected the members of City Council? Aren’t these the same people who are paying city taxes?

Whatever happened to Vox Populi? Failure to understand the will of the electorate is an indication of the isolation of some City Council members from their real constituents.

“Y” encapsulates the issues in the Prop. 420 election. These and many more “Y”s highlight the fecklessness of denying popular will in making major decisions such as development in the McDowell Sonoran Preserve.

On Nov. 6, however, you have the ultimate power of “Y.” You can respond to all the Ys behind Prop. 420. Be Ys and vote “yes” on Prop. 420 — place any and all development decisions for the McDowell Sonoran Preserve where it belongs — in the hands of the people who made the Preserve happen – the voters of Scottsdale.

Editor’s note: Mr. Howard is a resident of Scottsdale and has served as chairman of the municipal Transportation Commission

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