Sturgeon: in Scottsdale political debate too many opinions, personal attacks replace facts

Back in the last century, I was promoted to vice president at a regional hospital in central Arizona. My staff gifted me with a beautiful leather desk pad under which I kept pieces of paper with words of wisdom, cartoons and other important “stuff.”

Paula Sturgeon

Human resources was one of my departments, which often meant a carousel of disgruntled employees and frustrated managers. After meetings I would often lift the desk pad and find some wisdom or humor or both.

In our current political climate I think one cartoon is apropos; it’s from the famous cartoonist Larsen. Picture a nightclub full of sheep, at the bar sits a ram and a ewe. The ram says to the ewe, “Funny, I’m a follower too!”

It would be funny if it weren’t so true. Followers are overrunning our beloved city. Independent thinking is being replaced by group hysteria. The “But, what if they…” and near apocalyptic language of those supporting Proposition 420 is most concerning to me.

Concerns of council over reach and external forces (read ‘developers’) controlling the city’s future are not based in rational review of the facts at-hand. Yet they are the constant lyrics of the suffering song of the Prop. 420 proponents.

I blame this behavior on the leaders of the movement, Jason Alexander, Mike Norton, Bob Littlefield and their various PACs and not-for-profit organizations. The inter-relatedness of PACs, NFPs, “community organizations” appeared to defy conventional thought about campaign finance.

The city clerk and city attorney reviewed all their sleights of hand in the campaign finance complaint I filed and identified three campaign finance violations. This is further evidence of the unethical and uncivil tactics being used including lying to obtain signatures, Dark Money, vicious personal attacks, fake negative reviews of Scottsdale resorts, threatened boycotts of supporting businesses and even of the city itself.

This must not be written off as politics as usual; in fact it is demeaning to our great city.

Proponents of 420 have continuously referenced proposals that are over a decade old and no longer in play. Followers often refer to the “Desert Disneyland” that will occur if their efforts fail. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Broad criticism is leveled against developers (writ large) and other financial interests as having evil motives. Some members of our City Council are accused of being “incompetent,” “evil,” recipients of “bribes and payoffs” and “completely untrustworthy.” Leaders in the Yes on 420 movement have used all these words at one point or another. Followers mimic them on social media. It is now completely out of hand.

For followers, facts only matter when they receive them from a trusted source; in this case their leaders. Any attempt to discuss the current state of the Desert EDGE project, the long ago vision of a nature learning center, the citizens who do not hike, bike or ride horses generally goes unanswered. The most common answer is “we want a vote.”

I’m all for voting. Our system of governance is representative democracy. We use our vote to elect leaders to conduct the routine business of the city, and we elect them to make sometimes-hard choices to balance the needs of our very diverse citizenry. Of course there are relief options but these options should be used only in cases of truly serious misconduct by elected officials or to change existing/create new laws.

There are no facts to support the need for this in either scenario. Leaders must be accountable, to exercise caution and have clear facts before beginning such a process.

My greatest disappointment perhaps is in the tone and rhetoric from so many of the followers. For far too many, speaking to the facts is replaced by personal attacks. I have been called everything from “stupid” to “idolater” to “whore” (that one many, many times) to “liar.” My friends in the No on 420 cohort have been called as much and more. I blame leaders for failure to speak up against such rhetoric.

The incivility of Yes on 420 campaign starts with it’s leadership.

Now, by way of self-reporting, I have lost my cool on occasion; a fact of which I am not proud. I would like to say I had just had it with ad hominem attacks. If, however, I am expecting civility I must commit to the same. I do, and I hope that my neighbors on the opposite side do the same. Time will tell.

I grew up in Scottsdale when the area that is now the McDowell Sonoran Preserve was just the desert up north. It was the “boonies.” I voted “yes” every time the Preserve has been on the ballot. There have been “naysayers” from the start, but over the years it has truly become a place of great pride. My mom is an outdoor enthusiast and has often said it should be treated with reverence.

Every action that our council has actually taken (not just reviewed or considered) has been with great devotion to the establishing and guiding principles of the Preserve as outlined in our Charter. I call that great leadership. Our leaders are Protecting Your Preserve.

Soon this election season will be behind us and we will meet each other in grocery stores, malls, churches and the myriad wonderful other places in this city we call home. Many of us will meet in the Preserve, in all likelihood because we love it!

Editor’s note: Ms. Sturgeon is a longtime resident of Scottsdale, Realtor, and community advocate.

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