Myers: A response to Ms. Blommel’s assertions

With all due respect to Ms. Blommel, she either does not understand the current protections for Preserve land, and the Preserve ordinance, or she is so biased toward building in the Preserve it has distorted her vision.

Howard Myers

First, the only thing the McDowell Sonoran Preserve Commission makes a decision on is new trails, nothing else.

The MSPC is already supposed to do that based on the existing Preserve ordinance, which also tasks them with developing the management plan for the Preserve. So, in reality nothing changes there either, except that responsibility is now stated in the Charter making it harder for the City Council to change it.

Second, emergencies like fire are already covered in a separate fire management plan for the Preserve that governs how to prepare for and respond to fire emergencies, and that remains unchanged and unaffected by this charter change.

Flood damage in the Preserve is covered by the restoration exemption, however Preserve funds cannot be used for maintenance with or without this charter change. This change does allow the project to occur without a public vote, but to use Preserve funds requires a public vote even now, unless the council calls it “an improvement” and uses that loophole to avoid public acceptance just like they are doing with the DDC/DE.

With regard to maintenance, the council has been sitting — for at least four or five years — on a proposal to designate some of the existing Preserve funds to maintenance, which makes sense and would cover this nicely, but a public vote is required to redirect some of the funds for that purpose.

Nothing in this Charter change alters that.

The same council members who denied citizens a vote, want the DDC, and are complaining about this Charter change, Milhaven and Korte, have refused to act on this change to put some of the Preserve funds into an endowment fund for maintenance.

And, now they are complaining that maintenance actions, as would be required to mitigate flooding issues, can’t be done and can’t be funded. This Charter change doesn’t alter this at all, but the council can fix that, but has refused to do so. The reason is that they want those funds to be available to build the DDC/DE.

Flood damage outside the Preserve is controlled by the city’s flood plain management group so any damage is the city’s responsibility and Preserve funds could not be used to mitigate any of that damage anyway, because of the votes that generated the Preserve funds. The flood plain management concept requires each property to maintain the traditional flow, including the Preserve and none of that changes.

Her last point is actually at the heart of this issue. The current Charter isn’t protecting the Preserve because the city attorney ruled that four members of the City Council can decide to build whatever they want in the Preserve regardless of what the Charter says and what voters approved.

The current Charter requires the same thing as this amendment, to leave the land in its natural state, but this council has ignored it, and we have had to hire a lawyer to challenge their authority to modify the Preserve without a public vote.

It isn’t the Charter change, we are proposing, that will generate litigation, it is the current Charter language and the council’s abuse of it. The current Charter will be litigated if 420 fails and the council goes ahead with building the DDC/DE in the Preserve. The proposed change fixes that by requiring a public vote, something the current Charter doesn’t.

I was involved with drafting the language of the current Charter and at the time we thought it would protect the Preserve against council actions, but it turns out it wasn’t good enough to do that, and that is exactly why Proposition 420 was born and is necessary and why so many Scottsdale citizens have put their time and money into getting it to the voters.

Prop. 420 is our one chance to take control away from just four members of the City Council, which also answers her concern that it will “limit the power of the city’s elected officials,” yes, we hope so. Also her statement that “The current City Charter sufficiently protects the Preserve.” I wish it were so, but this council has proved to us that it won’t protect the Preserve as we believed it would.

Lastly, if there was something really bad about the language in Prop. 420, which neither we or our legal team believe there is, there is nothing preventing the council from proposing any change they want to rectify any problems the city sees with it.

That is how the current Charter evolved. However citizens would have to approve that change and that is exactly why the Charter is the right place for this change, four members of the City Council can’t change it without public acceptance. It is why we put the original Preserve protections in the Charter.

Now it needs to be modified to accomplish the purpose.

The Protect Our Preserve PAC is maintaining a paper that refutes all these ridiculous arguments and it is on their website so anyone who is worried about any of them can read the other side, the whole story not a brief accusation that distorts the truth.

We will try to keep it updated as new accusations are made. It seems like they are inventing new ones every day when the old ones fail. See: http://protectourpreservepac.com/2018/10/01/against-420-arguments/

Editor’s note: Mr. Myers is a Scottsdale resident and community advocate

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