Whitehead: Liberty Wildlife and Desert Discovery Center Scottsdale are foils toward approach

After 35 years of operation, having saved tens of thousands of animal lives while having conducted too-many-educational programs to even count, Liberty Wildlife finally has a building.

Solange Whitehead

The award winning facility is built on industrial wasteland they have restored back to health, benefiting the entire community. The cost to taxpayers: $0.

By contrast, the nonprofit Desert Discovery Center Scottsdale has zero programs to date, but expects taxpayers to fund the $68 million Desert Edge/DDC. Worse yet, it will develop pristine McDowell Sonoran Preserve. Without serving a single person in our community, the DDCS has already cost taxpayers over a million dollars. Charities, as Liberty Wildlife so elegantly demonstrates, should serve and enrich a community.

While the purpose of the Desert Discovery Center Scottsdale changes often, its reliance on tax dollars remains constant. Two years ago, it was envisioned as the Monterey Bay Aquarium of the Sonoran Desert. Though unlike the aquarium, though they lacked private land, private money, and animals.

Two iterations and $1.7M tax dollars later, the DDCS focus is now to serve ASU’s Global Drylands Center. Building ASU a “research station,” so to speak. The latest justification does not even pass the giggle test.

If the McDowell Sonoran Preserve was located on Antarctica or deep in the Himalayan Mountains, a research station might make sense. But it is not. A fairly fit scientist can sip on a latte at ASU in the morning, hop on his bike, and be in the Preserve in an hour. ASU can conduct its important research without a taxpayer funded Desert Edge/DDC and the Scottsdale City Charter unambiguously disallows the use of public debt and public tax dollars for the benefit of private interests.

The Desert Edge/DDC backers need a reset. With Liberty Wildlife as a role model, they should focus on building programs not buildings and serve our community tax dollar free.

Editor’s note: Ms. Whitehead is a resident of Scottsdale and is seeking a seat on Scottsdale City Council at the upcoming August primary election

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