Washington: The facts about Scottsdale are public record

John Washington

John Washington

I have a lot of respect for former city councilman and former state legislator Paul Messinger. He is the very definition of a senior statesman of Scottsdale. Thus, it pains me to hear his criticism of my comments regarding Mayor Jim Lane.

It pains me not because my comments are inaccurate, but because Paul has dismissed them as a mere personal attack against Lane, rather than embracing them for the well-documented and well-vetted facts that they are.

Before that, however, whether I’m friends with Lane opponent Bob Littlefield has absolutely no bearing on facts that are readily available in the public record. Whoever my friends may be and whichever opponents may arise against Lane, the facts are the facts.

For example, Paul’s characterization of my comments about tourism. I never said it was bad. I have said and will stand by the statement that Lane’s agenda of turning Scottsdale into a party town is making it every less appealing to our most desirable tourists. And that massive taxpayer subsidies to for-profit events (like $1 million for a Super Bowl party) are not good investments.

The Bar District: Sure it generates tax revenue, but that’s not the point. Does it generate revenue that exceeds the incremental cost of public safety services? It is a fact that it does not. And I didn’t identify that fact. Former “independent” (to quote Messinger) city treasurer (now council member) David Smith did!

Scottsdale’s Debt: It’s a number. It’s a fact. And how it got to be as big as it is doesn’t change the number. It doesn’t change the fact that Scottsdale residents are now saddled with the highest per-capita debt of any city in the Phoenix area.

Bond Ratings: Messinger channels the rally cry of former Lane foe Mary Manross. However, the facts are that only some of Scottsdale’s bonds have the highest possible ratings. However, not all of them do, and some in fact have had their tax exempt status challenged by the IRS because it was determined that building a parking garage for Nordstroms was not the “public purpose” for which tax-exempt municipal bonding was intended.

Desert Discovery Center: All you have to do to determine what Lane supports and what many others (including Littlefield and me) oppose is watch the video of the council meeting at which over a million dollars of “study money” was approved for the DDC. Yes, Littlefield and many others (including me) supported the initial vision for a small, contextual interpretive center…which has actually been embodied twice already by the city, in the form of Florence Ely Nelson Park, and by the Gateway. This new monstrosity is far beyond anything that the taxpayers envisioned when they approved the Preserve tax.

I also note the uncharacteristically (for Messinger) illogical ad hominem attack on me, discounting the facts I’ve provided because Lane won the 2012 election. Even here, Messinger overlooks the facts of the election: Lane didn’t win “resoundingly.”

As an incumbent with a massive advantage in name recognition, Lane won by a mere 5 percent of the vote against two virtually unknown candidates. And he did so by buying votes at a rate of more than $15 per vote in campaign spending, compared to less than $1.50 for me. He spent virtually all of his campaign war chest in a desperate–and ultimately successful–attempt to win in a primary to which no one was paying attention, and avoid a general election fight against a single candidate–me–where he wouldn’t be able to skip half the debates (as he had in the primary) without notice.

Lane will be lucky to pull it off again in 2016. Scottsdale residents have seen Lane betray them time-and-time again with zoning decisions made against massive public opposition, and fiscal mismanagement that has left Scottsdale with staggering deferred infrastructure maintenance. That’s why we just voted to borrow (bond) $12 million to fix potholes.

Meanwhile Lane’s cronies are doing OK, thanks to millions of dollars in taxpayer-funded subsidies to the PGA, Phil Mickelson, the Super Bowl Host Committee, Fashion Square Mall, the Scottsdale Cultural Council, the Museum of the West, and the list goes on.

No wonder Lane’s people have lined up a “hit parade” of letter writers supporting him!

Lastly, I take great offense to Messinger’s implication that I don’t “…think our community is a very good place to live.” On the contrary, that’s why I’ve pushed as hard as I have for better leadership. I’ve lived my entire time in Scottsdale in a small house about 200 yards from City Hall, unlike Lane who moved north at his first opportunity. This is my home, and I want to see Scottsdale work harder to maintain its small-town charm, even while embracing the technologies of the future.

Mr. Washington is a local community advocate and editor of Scottsdaletrails.com

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