Kinchen: Vote ‘yes’ on Prop. 420 to Save our Preserve

In the spring of 2017, I found NODDC online and started learning what was being planned for our majestic McDowell Sonoran Preserve. I was outraged and wrote Jason Alexander and Mike Norton a message on Facebook to ask if I could join them at an upcoming city council meeting.

Christie Lee Kinchen

Christie Lee Kinchen

I ended up attending that meeting and worked up the courage to speak during public comment time. I spoke to who I was, explaining that my mom was the co-signer on the McDowell Sonoran Land Trust, along with Jane Rau, which started our preserve as we know it. I ended with sharing deeply personal reasons why I love our preserve – I’m a miracle survivor of multiple serious suicide attempts, and hiking in our preserve has helped me heal by leveling my moods naturally, without being on dangerous medications.

After that meeting, many people warmly came up to meet me, and thanked me for my courage. Mr. Norton told me he had never seen the city council react the way they did to me, falling back in their chairs, as they were not expecting my words.

For over a year, I have volunteered large portions of my time to help spread awareness of what the city was trying to build on OUR preserve land with OUR tax funds, and without public input. I continued speaking at any city council/commission meeting I could attend, hoping that our collective voices would finally be heard.

On Nov. 6, 2017 the city council voted on the future of our preserve. Our council decided to hold off on its Desert Edge development plan to give us an “opportunity” to get petition signatures on a ballot initiative, and to bring the entire issue to a public vote.

The thing is, they never thought we would succeed!  In fact, many were actively rooting against us; their own constituents! We had over 200 incredible volunteers dedicate five months of their lives to collect 37,608 signatures that ended up securing a vote for ALL OF SCOTTSDALE on the preserve issue. We were given the prop number 420 for the Nov. 6 election, and were off and running to protect our preserve.

We knew that our power was in actual human beings and not dollar bills. As Jason Alexander says, “. . . we have small bank accounts, but loud voices.” That’s basically the opposite of how politics-as-usual does business.

We had “Vote Yes Protect Our Preserve” signs made and started to get the word out with street signs, yard signs, etc. We designed flyers, door hangers, car magnets, bracelets, shirts – you name it! We were having great success getting the word out until “Protect YOUR Preserve” was established.

Imagine driving down the street and seeing a “Protect OUR Preserve Vote Yes” sign next to a insidious looking “Protect YOUR Preserve Vote No” sign. Naturally, mass confusion ensued. In fact, Laurie Roberts from the Arizona Republic coined the “no” side “the biggest disinformation campaign of the year.”

We had to quickly pivot and ensure we stood out from the opposition. We had new signs produced that stated more clearly what we were trying to do: “SAVE OUR PRESERVE.” We kept on the offensive and tried to amplify our message the best we could. “A yes vote saves the Preserve by giving us voting power on any development and use of our preserve tax funds, while a no vote would irreversibly destroy and develop the preserve.”  At times it still seemed too daunting of a task to counter the “no side” and their consistent, fear-mongering rhetoric.

Then, enter our secret weapon: citizens and technology. Money and massive mailers are nice to get the message out, but people and positivity are even more effective. Our group excels at communicating on social media because we are authentic, real people with fact-based messaging.

Since late spring 2017 I have committed to posting every day about the preserve mission. I have personally reached thousands across the city, state and world. Yes On Prop 420 has built up an incredible local community of neighbors, business owners, hikers, bikers and equestrians from far north to far south, across all age ranges and spanning the entire political spectrum.

We don’t protect the preserve by building directly on it. That’s like building on the rain forest because you want to teach people about it. It is just so incredibly silly!

I respect those who have brought the initial project into the spotlight. The architecture is beautiful, and it would be wonderful to have a Sonoran Desert Learning Center in Scottsdale. But, the citizens have spoken, they don’t want their pristine desert preserve destroyed for a pet project: and they don’t approve of using our tax funds to build it!  If they built it elsewhere without our tax funds, I would happily visit their “edutainment” center!

But, you definitely won’t see the opposition in a cactus costume in rush hour dancing around with a beaming smile of approachability, talking to voters during their daily commutes. You won’t see the “no side” canvassing neighborhoods actively talking to neighbors about why we should not destroy our preserve and use our tax funds.

And, there are hundreds of loving, kind volunteers just like me! This is why I’m confident Scottsdale will pass Prop. 420. I have never been more proud of Scottsdale’s citizens for using their constitutional rights when their voices were not being heard, to put a check on our city councils’ power.

Please consider voting YES on Prop. 420 which will give us a vote on future development of an asset we all have paid over a billion dollars to create.  We paid for it so we deserve a say in its future.

Christie Lee Kinchen is an Arizona native residing in central Scottsdale.  She is also an associate broker and co-owner of Twins & Co. Realty, is a local activist, and daughter of the co-founder of the McDowell Sonoran Land Trust.

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