Vineberg: Yes vote on Proposition 420 keeps Preserve’s promise

I’ll never forget the first time I saw the McDowell Mountains. It was December 2005 and I was still seven years away from being fortunate enough to call Scottsdale home.

Scott Vineberg

My wife and I, newlyweds, were visiting the area as we considered a move here. I had a job interview with a business on Thompson Peak Parkway and Bell Road. Arriving early, I stopped at the Basha’s market next door, picked up some breakfast and sat outside to eat.

In the sunny coolness of that winter morning, the beauty of the McDowells captivated me. I recall being awed by the panorama of saguaro-speckled peaks and experiencing a profound sense of hopefulness.

It was the first moment that I felt we were making the right move; even though we were leaving our friends, families and jobs behind, I believed we could make this valley our new home.

I did not know then that Scottsdale citizens had made a landmark commitment to tax themselves over $1 billion to acquire the land for our McDowell Sonoran Preserve. I would not even set foot in the Preserve until three years later, but I would see the mountains daily on my way to work and it was one of the highlights of my day. It still is.

In my opinion, there is one true reason that Scottsdale citizens agreed to acquire this land and create our Preserve. Yes, we understand and accept that we have a responsibility to protect and Preserve it, but it goes even deeper: we love this land, this mountainous Sonoran Desert landscape.

Despite taxes being almost universally unpopular, I’ve not once heard anyone in Scottsdale lament funding the acquisition of Preserve land. The 650 volunteer stewards of the nonprofit McDowell Sonoran Conservancy, who provide smiling service to Preserve visitors and carefully maintain the Preserve free of charge to taxpayers are another testament to how the Preserve inspires our community to selfless action.

Over the past two and a half years I have watched many members of our community come together and rise to a momentous challenge: to protect something we love and cherish, this Preserve that citizens gave birth to at the ballot box, land that we invest in every day when paying sales tax in Scottsdale.

The investment goes beyond dollars; it is a gift from our hearts, and in return we receive the countless blessings of preserving this wild, natural wonderland, right here amidst our thriving city.

Through my involvement I have come to know this city better, both the good and the bad of it. I’ve met more Scottsdale neighbors than I might have in 20 years of busy, garage-door-up-garage-door-down life; given countless hours to this cause with no thought of remuneration or gain; encountered kindred spirits and made some friends; and have fallen in love with the Preserve all over again. And I am not alone in this; I believe there are many hundreds of us in Scottsdale who have had a similar experience.

Lately, I’ve read more than a few “opinion” pieces here that attempt to challenge the language and implications of Proposition 420. Most are long on fright, but short on specifics. I’ve seen several claims that our Preserve already has protections in place, all of which fail to acknowledge that neither our current charter, nor ordinance, nor zoning will protect our Preserve from those who seek to build upon it, and that so much seems to hinge on the interpretation of two seemingly innocuous words on Scottsdale’s 2004 special election ballot — “improvements thereto.”

So, who can best decide the future of our Preserve? I think the answer is self-evident: Scottsdale citizens, who loved this land so much that they voted to create the Preserve and pay most of the taxes to fund it. Meeting so many fellow citizens over the past few years has made me realize we are a community of talented, thoughtful, and caring people. There is no one I’d trust more to make the right decision for our Preserve.

If our McDowell Sonoran Preserve is truly “The people’s Preserve” then the citizens of Scottsdale will have the last word on what gets built in it. This doesn’t mean denying access or input to anyone; all visions and voices can be represented, when all citizens are heard and all votes count.

I am confident that voters will make the right choice on Proposition 420. Thank you for voting “yes” and putting the future of the Preserve where it belongs, in the caring hands of Scottsdale citizens.

Scott Vineberg

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