Littlefield: Scottsdale residents deserve a voice in planning the next bond package

I am a member of the City Council’s Capital Improvement Plan Subcommittee which is tasked with recommending the size and scope of the bond program to the entire council, which ultimately is responsible for calling a bond election.

We have been meeting since January to study Scottsdale infrastructure needs and to develop a plan for meeting them.

Scottsdale City Councilwoman Kathy Littlefield (Independent Newsmedia/Arianna Grainey)

As I went through this process, I became more and more uncomfortable with it, especially with the haste by which we’re trying to achieve that end. If our ultimate goal is to go to the citizens and ask for their approval to issue bonds, and tax themselves to pay for those bonds, shouldn’t we first ask them what they want to see on those bonds?

Currently, without their input, I have absolutely no idea why anyone would think they would say yes.

Having been on the campaign trail for the past 18 months, talking with literally thousands of folks and actually listening to them, I don’t see how anyone who has been watching the political climate in Scottsdale would believe it either.

Because of the way the DDC issue was mishandled, citizens are distrustful, and not inclined to vote for a bond just because the City Council says it’s needed.

Right now, the trust of our citizens in this city government is at an all-time low; I have never seen it worse. Citizens are awake to what their city government is doing, and they are watching.

In my mind, that is a good thing! It makes those of us on the City Council listen and insure that what we put on a bond is what they want to pay for –– not just what we say they should pay for.

Looking back over the last few bond elections, our track record has not been good. In the last eight years the city has held three bond elections which presented 13 bond proposals to the voters. Of those 13 questions only two passed, and those two passed by slim margins to boot.

So, I’m wondering, what are we doing differently now that would produce a different result? As the old joke says, doing the same thing over and over again while expecting a different result is the definition of insanity.

Even worse, in Scottsdale right now, it just won’t work.

Trying to rush a bond package to a premature election, with absolutely no citizen input or say in what is being presented to them, is simply a recipe for another bond disaster.

When Mayor Lane asked me to be a member of this sub-committee, I told him that for me to approve and support a bond package, I must see active citizen input that would not just be a pretense of listening but would actually be a part of the bond consideration and construction. He agreed.

We need to slow this process down, organize and advertise some open houses throughout Scottsdale, and give the citizens the opportunity for real input and dialog on what is important to them, — and what they see would improve their quality of life and the City of Scottsdale, itself.

It would be a big mistake to deny them this input. We have several months, if we start now, to gather their suggestions. Even if we want to put this on a 2019 bond election, we have the time now to plan and do this right. They are smart people, our citizens; they know what is needed and they know what they want.

So, at the Jan. 31 meeting of the subcommittee I made a motion (which passed, with the concurrence of the City Manager) to direct city staff to hold four to six public meetings to give Scottsdale citizens the voice they deserve in crafting a bond package they can support.

Here is how I suggest this process should work: the staff has developed good suggestions of things we need to do and the estimated costs for doing them.

Some I like more than others, and I’m sure the citizens will feel the same. Mix up the order and ask the citizens to prioritize them. Hold open houses in all parts of Scottsdale, at the Kiva, in schools, libraries and senior centers. Have project sheets with short descriptions of each project available to citizens so they can study them ahead of time and formulate questions, suggestions and priorities.

Also, have blank spaces on the sheets available for their ideas and input. Pass out the descriptions of the projects ahead of time and put them in the city’s libraries, senior centers, HOAs, at the guard’s desk, and of course, advertise heavily on our own website. Announce the meeting times and places everywhere we can.

This way folks can study the projects before they come. I personally commit to go to as many meetings as possible to listen to what citizens have to say.

Once we get the input back from our citizens, we tabulate it and correlate it with the priorities developed by staff. Where the two come together, that’s what goes on the bond package. If we decide to divide the package into questions, we make sure each question contains the projects our citizens have told us they want to see.

Then, and only then, should we present a bond for the consideration of Scottsdale’s voters. We need to make sure people know their input is an integral part of the bond and that we have listened to them. For a bond to pass in Scottsdale I believe it needs to reflect a true meeting of the minds, a partnership between the city and the citizens to keep Scottsdale the great place we all want it to continue to be.

I firmly believe that crafting a bond package our citizens can and would approve is worth the work and effort to create. If I did not, I would not be have agreed to serve on the subcommittee.

Editor’s Note: Kathy Littlefield is a Scottsdale City Councilwoman. She can be reached by email at kathy@kathylittlefield.com.

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