Newell: A response to Littlefield’s perspective of Scottsdale

I am writing in response to Mr. Bob Littlefield’s version of the 2018 municipal elections outcome dated Nov. 27.

I have resided in the Scottsdale area since August 1959 when we moved here as a result of my father’s employment change. When our family arrived, we stayed at the Safari Hotel on the outskirts of downtown Scottsdale for two weeks before moving into our home.

At that time, Scottsdale Road ended at Lincoln Drive with desert following thereafter.

The land between McDonald Drive and Lincoln Drive and Scottsdale Road and Cattletrack Road was a cotton field. Any development between Indian School Road northbound to Lincoln Drive was sparse with a few hotels and residences.

In the early sixties, in the middle of nowhere (which later became Scottsdale Road and Shea Boulevard) came a liquor store known as Drinkwater’s Liquors. It was owned by a man named Herb Drinkwater.

Mr. Drinkwater went on to be elected to the Scottsdale City Council in the 1970s and then became the city’s mayor in the 1980s and 1990s. In my opinion, he also went on to become the city’s visionary for what we now know and are proud to call Scottsdale. Mayor Drinkwater’s vision, in my opinion, included several different types of developed areas within the city limits.

It included areas of residential space with little development; a downtown (now called “Old Town”) with lots of developed space including small businesses, art galleries (to be some of the finest in the world, of course), western presentations, businesses, and small residential properties such as condos and apartments for rent; and it included medium sized residential property along with a small amount of manufacturing business and business development.

Of course, it had to include a baseball complex to bring in tourists. The city’s focus was the tourist industry but also bringing in permanent residents along with a business industry, which could sustain the city beyond just the winter months.

The citizens of Scottsdale embraced Mayor Drinkwater and his vision, electing him repeatedly over the years. In some of those elections, he received in excess of 90 percent of the vote. At one point, he stated he desired a preserve so the residents could enjoy the desert in its raw form by biking, hiking, and riding horseback inhibited by any development.

Mayor Drinkwater’s vision and his execution of that vision is now in grave jeopardy. In my opinion, Mr. Littlefield’s chest pounding regarding the results of the election this past November is nothing more than a stunning rebuke of Mayor Drinkwater’s vision and execution of that vision which made Scottsdale what it is today.

To be clear, developers and the developments they created with careful and responsible oversight by the city is responsible for where we are today. This city is the envy throughout the country. But we will not remain that way if we continue to belittle and berate developers for no reason other than that of political gain.

To be clear, developers created the residential communities that those in the northern part of the city enjoy so much, including the Littlefields. Desert Highlands, Desert Mountain, Troon, and many other developments all present wonderful residential experiences with varying sized lots and amenities. There is also very little business development, except that which supports the residences such as grocery stores, etc., in that part of town. That’s by design. It was intended that to be that way by Mayor Drinkwater.

I worked for one of those developers and I am familiar with just how much money (in broad terms) he paid for the infrastructure which created those communities. He (the developer) had to pay for the water lines and access to the water; he had to pay for the sewer lines to be put into the ground; he had to pay for the electrical lines to be provided to the property; he had to pay for all of the engineering required; he had to pay for all of the roads within the property, etc.

Nothing has changed. All developers still have to pay for these and other items within the city of Scottsdale. To say they are not paying their fair share is disingenuous at best and dishonest at worst.

Simply put, it is a complete misrepresentation of the truth.

Mr. Littlefield states that “the local development establishment … contributes heavily to the causes and candidates that enable them to exploit Scottsdale’s high quality of life and special character for their own financial gain.”

Yes they do. Here is the truth: the development establishment created Scottsdale’s high quality of life and special character; the developers want that high quality of life and special character to continue and grow; and, yes, these developers are in business and that means they want to make a living, which includes making money.

They also employ lots of people who pay taxes; who have a vested interest in making Scottsdale better; they eat at the restaurants in Scottsdale; they shop in Scottsdale; and they spend their money (yes, that same money they made when developing) which adds and supports the community.

In short, developers are friends of Scottsdale, support its continued growth in the quality of life, and we would not be where we are today without them. Scottsdale Road would still end at Lincoln Drive, and we would still have a cotton field east of Scottsdale Road between McDonald Drive and Cattletrack Road.

As for the preserve, it was voted on by the people (I know, I voted for it every time, in part because it was included in Mayor Drinkwater’s vision) and any issue associated with it was always going to be voted on by the people. Why? Because the Scottsdale City Charter always had language which supported that requirement.

However, Proposition 420 clarified and reiterated that language, which I also supported. Therefore, I voted in favor of approving Prop. 420.

Mr. Littlefield stated that “both Kathy Littlefield and Solange Whitehead ran on platforms of fiscal responsibility and reining in toxic over-development.” He provided no examples or evidence of “toxic over-development.” Neither did either candidate during the campaign. This is an allegation without substance and it should not be taken seriously without proof.

Mr. Littlefiled also asserts “Scottsdale development does not pay for itself.” He goes on to assert “the proof this is true is the fact, agreed upon by all involved, that our city has roughly $800 million dollars in unmet infrastructure needs. Ask yourself this question, if development truly pays for itself, where did that $800 million go?”

Well, his wife, the aforementioned Kathy Littlefield, has been on the city council for the past four years (she was up for re-election this past November), why doesn’t he ask her? Since she has been making decisions regarding the budget all these years, you would think she would know. Apparently not.

What we do know, however, is that Mrs. Littlefield voted NO the majority of the time a proposal was made to raise that infrastructure money, either through a proposed bond or sales tax increase. It was not until the very end, when it was clearly obvious there was a crisis created as a result of the “no” votes regarding the infrastructure money, that Mrs. Littlefield finally supported a sales tax increase.

The fact is the developers pay for the initial installation of the infrastructure, such as the roads, the bridges, the sewer lines, the electrical lines, etc., however, since the entire city and its included residents as well as visitors all enjoy those same items of infrastructure, it is incumbent upon the city to maintain those items, not the developer.

The “infrastructure” at issue here is that which is used by all within the city, not just those who own the development.

The $800 million needed refers to current, city wide obligated, infrastructure in need of repair. Again, it was Kathy Littlefield who voted “NO” nearly every time the council wanted to raise the money for said repairs.

I believe that’s the little secret Mr. Littlefield does not want anyone either to know or remember. In my opinion, he deliberately conflates the issue to deflect everyone away from the truth.

Mr. Littlefield has every right to be proud of his wife and her accomplishment of getting elected to the Scottsdale City Council not once but twice. And it is, indeed, an accomplishment to be proud of. However, she did not get there without help in the November 2018 election.

It is my understanding and belief, the LD23 group communicated to the Maricopa County Republican Party that there was only one republican running in the November 2018 election. Remember, the Scottsdale City Council election is declared and executed as a non-partisan election. Apparently, not this time.

Subsequent to the LD23 group communicating with the Maricopa County Republican party there was only one republican running in the race, the Maricopa County Republican Party printed for distribution approximately 20,000 “Golden Ticket” flyers encouraging voters to vote for the one and only listed republican Scottsdale City Council candidate, Kathy Littlefield.

In fact, there were four registered republicans on the ballot: David Smith, Linda Milhaven, Kathy Littlefield, and Bill Crawford.

The LD23 Democrats endorsed Solange Whitehead (who was a registered democrat at the time of the campaign and election) driving partisan votes to her as the only democrat running in the race.

At the same time, a rouge LD23 precinct captain sent out an email inferring Solange Whitehead was a Republican and said only vote two republicans for Scottsdale City Council: identified as Kathy Littlefield and Solange Whitehead. So much for a non-partisan election and accuracy.

Also, the Prop. 420 Protect Our Preserve soon became a political wedge used to support two candidates on the basis that there were only two candidates running who supported it. This was and is factually not true.

Additionally, voters were told to vote for only two candidates running based on their support for Prop. 420: Kathy Littlefield and Solange Whitehead. In truth, Bill Crawford always supported Prop. 420 and announced his support of it in November of 2017 on his campaign website. My opinion is the evidence is obvious: voters were clearly mislead regarding the above described issues.

Simply put, the voters were presented a false and misleading narrative, and this behavior impacted the outcome of the election.

As for Mr. Littlefield’s bragging about the degree to which his wife, Kathy Littlefield, won the election? I believe, it is nothing short of disingenuous and embarrassing.

It simply does not recognize Herb Drinkwater (who was immensely popular), who won his elections by wide margins. My recollection is that on at least one occasion he won his election by more than 90 percent of the vote.

While Mrs. Littlefield’s vote tally was impressive, it did not come close to Mayor Drinkwater’s. I think some respect is in order here.

I love this city. I want it to continue down the visionary path established by Herb Drinkwater. I believe in fiscal responsibility, not using the budget as a political weapon. I also believe the developers are not our enemies and should be respected for the contributions they have made to the positive growth of our city. Additionally, they should not be used as the tips of spears as the community argues about a falsely contrived political issue.

With the current make-up of the Scottsdale City Council, I fear this city will not meet its obligations, both fiscally and developmentally. Accordingly, I will be closely watching and holding those on the city council accountable.

Editor’s Note: Julie Newell is a Scottsdale resident.

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