Voorhees: Scottsdale City Council Desert EDGE direction boggles the mind

Scottsdale City Council proposes drafting of language for a public vote, but all three options are unacceptable to those opposed to putting the Desert EDGE in the McDowell Sonoran Preserve.

Mayor Lane’s Proposal:

After an impassioned speech by Scottsdale Mayor Jim Lane regarding the terrible divisiveness in Scottsdale over the issue of the DDC/Desert EDGE, he proposed this amendment to the City Charter:

Nancy Voorhees

Amend the City Charter to allow construction of Desert Edge in the Preserve, and prohibit future construction of projects of similar size, scope, and location to be built in the Preserve.

Suzanne Klapp’s proposal, is similar, but amends the General Plan rather than the City Charter:

Amend the General Plan to allow construction of the Desert Edge in the Preserve, and prohibit future construction of projects of similar size, scope, and location to be built in the Preserve.

Do these proposals make anybody — who’s opposed to the Desert EDGE — happy? There are so many things wrong with these, it’s hard to start; but here goes.

1. Instructions to Mr. Washburn, the city attorney, included each of the above proposals be drafted in one sentence; requiring just one vote. This, despite the fact that each contains two diverse elements; The Desert EDGE project, and the issue of future construction in the Preserve.

2. More specifically, each of these proposals contain something that we don’t want, yet something that we do want. Confusing and counter-productive to say the least. So, how would one need to vote? The best answer is no! But that has its problems, too:

  • If either proposition was defeated, council could still consider building the DDC in the Preserve. It could be argued that the two concepts were tied together; it was the combination that was voted down.
  • A “no” vote to either of the above proposals would also guarantee that council could continue to consider construction in the Preserve in the future. After all, people voted “no” to limiting future construction.

Now let’s consider a scenario where either of these propositions were actually passed by the voters.

3. Both of these proposals would allow the DDC to be built in the Preserve; and,

4. They would still allow future councils to consider future construction in the Preserve; just not of the same magnitude! So, a slightly smaller project would be OK? Maybe even a larger project would be OK? No, this is not OK.

5. Klapp’s proposal has an additional problem, as it amends the General Plan, which can be changed at any time, simply by a vote of the city council. Thus, it provides no guarantee of anything ( … not to mention that the General Plan seems to be selectively enforced.)

How should these proposals have read to make the concepts consistent, and to capture the mindset of the voters?

Amend the City Charter/General Plan to prohibit construction of the Desert EDGE in the Preserve, and to prohibit future construction in the Preserve, without a citizen vote. Or, simply amend the City Charter/General Plan to prohibit construction in the Preserve without a citizen vote.

Kathy Littlefield, did in fact, do an eloquent job of proposing something along these lines, amending the City Charter. But Klapp, Korte, Milhaven, and Smith would not support it. It wasn’t clear where Mayor Lane stood on this, because when the council goes for “consensus,” there’s no protocol for clearly establishing, who thinks what. Without consensus, Councilwoman Littlefield’s proposal did not move forward as a viable option.

David Smith’s Proposal:

His proposal also combines diverse concepts into one vote, and thus has similar problems as the above proposals.

Eliminate the food-for-home-consumption tax from the Preserve tax, and split the remainder of the Preserve tax funds between Preserve maintenance and operating costs and funding for the Desert EDGE.

Good grief.

A “no” vote would not necessarily stop the Desert EDGE from moving forward. Councilman Smith, by the way, has stated that he is against opening up the Charter or even the General Plan to accommodate a vote.

What is going on here?

Is it possible these people actually didn’t think we’d notice the logic problems inherent in these proposals? All of them combine the issue of the Desert EDGE with another issue. Our council could spend a half a million dollars of taxpayer funds; act like they gave us a vote; and then proceed to do whatever they wanted anyway.

This is just mind-boggling. Was it intentional? Are they not particularly smart? Perhaps they’re ever so smart?  Are the citizens of Scottsdale that unimportant to these people? Are council members motivated by something else?

Whatever the reasons, it’s not a nice picture.

Editor’s note: Ms. Voorhees is a resident of Scottsdale, and retired executive of the multi national advertising agency Leo Burnett Co. Inc.

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