“The challenge for the new City Council will be to understand what has happened in the past, what is truly happening in the economy now, and what the real assets and inadequacies of the community are so that it can boldly develop ways to re-invent the Scottsdale of the future.”
Those thoughts from Don Hadder, a former city planner for Scottsdale and long-time resident, should be the theme of this year’s campaign for Scottsdale mayor and City Council.
Learn and respect the city’s past, recognize the city is at a critical economic crossroads that will determine its financial fate long into the future, and create a vision and new ideas for ways the city can progress and sustain the high standards we have come to expect, including great amenities and low property taxes.
The heritage and charm of the six-acre “Historic Old Town,” the creativity and will power to build the Indian Bend Wash, the willingness of residents to invest $1 billion to create the McDowell Sonoran Preserve, which protects more than 45 square miles of the city.
Those are among the achievements and qualities of the past that benefit us today. There are others. The widening of Hayden Road, the development of the “Cure Corridor,” the airport and the creation of economic power centers in the broader downtown and Airpark areas.
What’s next? What are we going to do to enhance that legacy?
COVID 19 has muddied the city’s financial future. Tourism and its revenue dominoes are tumbling. The city is facing an economic downturn deeper than the Great Recession of 2008.
At that time, Jim Lane was just beginning his first term as mayor. Among the strengths, he brought to the office was his financial acumen, based on years of finance work in the private sector.
Turns out the timing was good from a financial perspective. As his third term comes to an end, he gets credit for helping the city recover quickly from the recession and stay healthy over his 12-year reign. If it weren’t for COVID, the city would be in solid financial shape for his successor.
With Lane leaving in a few months – coupled with the retirement next month of city treasurer Jeff Nichols – our new leaders, mayor and council members alike, will need a thorough understanding of the financial issues they’ll face through this fiscal turbulence.
This may be the city’s weak spot.
A group of private- and public-sector leaders along with the Morrison Institute at ASU issued a groundbreaking report at the beginning of the century that challenged everyone to come up with a vision for the city. Twenty years later, the issues largely are the same but there still is no consensus on where the city should be headed as it nears buildout and enters a stage of redevelopment in key areas.
What is the next big idea for the city? What is the vision?
It takes creativity, courage and perseverance to rally people around a vision; it’s much easier to find fault than it is to lead. It’s time to show more leadership. It’s time to develop a path for Scottsdale to recover its financial moxie, to build out it final 15,000 acres and to make downtown, McDowell Road, the Airpark and Bell Road corridor economic engines that will support our quality of life and low tax structure.
The current work to finally update the city’s General Plan is not the vision. It’s a tactical exercise, though it could offer suggestions to prompt our leaders to start thinking big with an understanding of what might satisfy and unite residents.
And that’s where residents step in. Challenge the candidates to respect our past, to understand the fiscal challenges of today and to create a vision for tomorrow.
We all can get started on that by voting in the general election for mayor and council candidates who espouse the vision and values to move Scottsdale forward.
Editor’s note: Mr. Henninger is executive director of SCOTT and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org