John Washington: why I love the community of Scottsdale

I love Scottsdale. I’ve written hundreds of articles on “why I love Scottsdale” for my blog, I love Scottsdale for many of the same reasons our visitors love Scottsdale. I love the sunny winters, the desert, the unique flora and fauna.

John Washington

John Washington

But I also love many of the things that are here because of our tourists and their economic impact: Great restaurants; shopping; destination events; public amenities like parks, good roads, great libraries, intentional open space … the ultimate being the McDowell Sonoran Preserve. And there’s a unique juxtaposition of many different interests: The old west and the equestrian culture; high-tech; the automobile enthusiast culture; physical fitness; professional sports; and recreational activities. Where else will you find all this in a suburban and rural environment like Scottsdale?

However, I love not having some things, too: High cost of living; population density; traffic and congestion; crime. The magic of having tourism as Scottsdale’s primary industry is that tourists pay for our amenities, and they consume public services in an efficient (i.e., at low cost to us) manner.

Our tourists love Scottsdale and help pay for our amenities, in a virtuous cycle where it’s hard to recognize which was the chicken and which was the egg. What really came first is probably something else.

Scottsdale has something magical that our neighboring cities don’t have. We have a physical character that’s different, low-scale, and low density. This didn’t happen by accident, but by careful and thoughtful planning, perhaps best exemplified by Scottsdale’s 2001 General Plan.

Scottsdale’s City Charter and our General Plan are the organic law of Scottsdale; “organic” because they weren’t legislated, they were ratified directly by the citizens. Our General Plan was so good that the legislature used it as a model for the statutory mandate that every large city have a thoughtful development plan.

The General Plan was not only approved by the citizens, it was crafted by them. It recognizes many of the overt factors that draw our visitors to help pay for what we love. But it also honors many of the principles that are the foundation of our economic success, and it proscribes processes whereby we can grow in a thoughtful, economically-sustainable manner.

It’s hard to pick out one thing about Scottsdale that I love the most. But after a couple of decades of neighborhood advocacy and working to promote thoughtful city government decision-making, I think I love Scottsdale’s citizens more than all the rest of the things I listed. Scottsdale’s citizens recognize that we have something special. They are willing to work for — and sometimes fight for — the protection and nurturing of that magic.

Scottsdale’s magic is always going to attract developers who want to generate short-term, fix-and-flip profit by eroding our principles and selling our quality of life to others. Sometimes the advocates for the longer-term approach (like me) don’t win those battles.

We haven’t won any of them lately. But whenever I feel like quitting, I’m buoyed by those who want to carry on.

Editor’s note: Mr. Washington is a Scottsdale community advocate and editor of the

Mr. Washington is a local community advocate and editor of

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