Myers: in response to Scottsdale Independent coverage of Proposition 420

I appreciated the coverage of Proposition 420 — proposed change to the city charter to require a public vote on any construction in the Preserve or on the use of Preserve funds not originally intended — in the July 1st Independent, both sides were interviewed to provide balance.

Howard Myers

However, there were some mis-characterizations of the charter change by the opponents and worse some grossly inaccurate numbers presented by Alex McLaren that need to be refuted.

First, this Charter change does not limit who can access the Preserve at all. It supports the current trail heads and trails installed to provide limited public access for passive recreation, as the Preserve ordinance allows and as planned.

The only thing it requires is public acceptance of any new buildings to be placed in the Preserve. As for accessibility, handicapped already have access and specific ADA accessible trails in the Preserve, but to add more buildings, than the existing trail heads, would require public approval.

On McLaren’s outrageous claims that professional signature gatherers were paid to collect 19,500 signatures or 53 percent of the signatures gathered. That is blatantly false. I personally logged in each and every petition submitted by the Protect Our Preserve PAC and volunteers collected 30,506 signatures while paid gatherers collected only 7,102 or 81 percent volunteer to 19 percent paid.

Also, 23,908 valid signatures were required so volunteers collected well over that amount. We used some paid gatherers to increase the pad we had to be sure to pass the county signature verification process.

That process indicated that over 82 percent of all the signatures we gathered were valid or over 30,000 of the 37,000 submitted. Further most of the original petitions submitted, that were rejected by the city and/or county, were from paid gatherers further increasing the percentage of signatures volunteers collected.

That means that volunteers collected more than enough signatures to meet the minimum required to put this change on the ballot. I know this is not the fault of the Independent, but still it is disturbing that such inaccuracies can be given to the readers. The opposition to Prop. 420 also submitted 51 “against” arguments, that will go into the ballot pamphlet, the last day arguments could be submitted. No crime there, but clearly a calculated move to prevent any rebuttal of their arguments.

Virtually all of those arguments praised the Desert Discovery Center, or Desert EDGE (DE) as it was changed to, with the claim that if Prop. 420 is approved by voters it will kill the DE, which they claim is desperately needed.

Again very misleading.

This proposition is not a vote on the DE, it is a vote to give citizens control over what is built in the Preserve. The fact is if Proposition 420 is approved, the DE can still be built, but the advocates of it will need to convince the public it is a good thing. That is it. Isn’t that they way it should be? The Preserve belongs to the public, not 4 members of the city council and not special interest groups who want to build in the Preserve.

Opponents also claim the city council should be trusted to make these decisions. The fact is this petition effort was initiated and embraced specifically because the council demonstrated it is not capable of making good decisions on the Preserve and/or giving the public a voice in the process. Back in 2016, we petitioned the council to give citizens a vote and that was refused 4-3. So citizens took on the huge task of getting a Charter change on the ballot that if approved would require a public vote on construction in the Preserve and/or on the use of Preserve funds for projects like the DE.

The public formed the Preserve, the public bought the land with their tax dollars, so the public should have a voice in any major decision like this that impacts both their Preserve and their tax dollars.

Now onto Mark Hiegel’s complaints that this charter change will remove city council oversight and give full control to an unelected body, the McDowell Sonoran Preserve Commission. Again, pure fantasy to confuse voters. The charter change would require that only new trails be approved by the MSPC, the council would still have to approve them and any other matters relating to the Preserve, just as it does now.

That provision was added specifically to provide at least some citizen oversight on new trails, nothing more. It does, however, also cover other “unintended consequences” the opposition constantly refers to like fire breaks that may become necessary, so that they could be done quickly without a public vote.

The only thing this Charter change does change is that the city council can not authorize new construction in the Preserve, like the Desert EDGE, without citizen approval, exactly what it was intended to accomplish. In fact now that citizens have put this change on the ballot, four members of the current city council are now in favor of this change, pretty much killing his argument.

The council also appoints members to the MSPC so they still even have control over that body and therefore what it recommends to the council.

Mr. Heigel also attacks Jason Alexander so he is carrying this effort to defeat Prop. 420 to a personal level. I can’t speak for Jason but we as an organization try to stay away from all personal issues and focus on the real issue, giving citizens control over their Preserve. I can understand the passion the Desert EDGE advocates have for their project, but they should be required to convince the public it is a good project before it is put on public land and paid for by public dollars.

That is exactly what Prop. 420 does.

The opposition has no valid argument against giving the public a vote so they are trying to confuse voters and cast doubt on it, all to protect their pet project. After all it is much easier to lobby four council members than to convince the public. The main thing missing in all their arguments is that this proposition just gets the public involved in any decision to build in the Preserve, it isn’t a vote for or against the DDC/DE.

However, obviously they realize they have little chance of getting public approval so they have to attack this Charter change, and the people who worked hard to get it before the voters, because if it passes there will be a public vote on the DE and that is what they fear the most.

Our effort has shown that citizens want a voice and vote and that is why so many citizens volunteered to collect signatures and why so many voters signed the petitions. They want a voice in what is done to their Preserve, and that is exactly what Proposition 420 will do.

Let’s stick to the real issue and avoid personal attacks and ridiculous arguments against giving citizens that voice they want and deserve.

Editor’s note: Mr. Meyrs is a resident of Scottsdale and longtime McDowell Sonoran Preserve advocate

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