Henninger: Scottsdale voters can follow the road map

Posted 10/26/20

A note and some perspective for voters to consider in this year’s Scottsdale elections, and the one likely to come up next November, too.

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Henninger: Scottsdale voters can follow the road map


A note and some perspective for voters to consider in this year’s Scottsdale elections, and the one likely to come up next November, too.

Nearly two decades ago, Scottsdale community leaders received a road map that would chart a course for a sustainable robust future for the city. They recognized that, like all things, cities must evolve and adapt, and even when you are on top of the heap, you have to work hard to stay there.

That was visionary thinking. Scottsdale’s reputation was stellar; its star was shining bright. But they knew the city needed direction and they commissioned a report from the Morrison Institute at ASU to do so. It came back with some good news:

“From the 1950s onward, Scottsdale combined upscale resorts, an outstanding arts and culture scene, and a spectacular natural setting to create a cachet that few other cities anywhere in the nation could match.”

And then it included a strong dose of reality:

“The shelf life of great places is getting shorter … The ingredients of a successful ‘quality’ place are changing. Surrounding towns are beginning to develop a cachet. Greater Phoenix has become a big and important metropolitan area in which all communities must work together to succeed. And, for the first time ever, Scottsdale is beginning to run out of land.”

Another group of community and civic leaders did some follow up work seven years later in 2010 to build a plan for economic growth, aligned with the points brought up by the Morrison report.

There were five themes:

  • How can Scottsdale retain and enhance its quality of place?
  • How can the city shape its niche in a new era?
  • How can the “three Scottsdales” work together?
  • How can Scottsdale play with “360-degree” vision in collaboration with the region?
  • How will “can-do” Scottsdale get past the “Stopsdale” reputation?

The themes are as relevant today – perhaps even more so – as they were then. Which is a nice way of saying there is room for improvement on just about all of them.

Some observers would suggest that residents can address many of those important themes right now, as there are elections coming up in the next two Novembers that could provide the leadership and the action plan needed to make progress on them.

This November, voters will be selecting a new mayor, ending a 12-year run by Jim Lane, as well as filling three seats on City Council. Which candidates for those jobs are best positioned to lead the efforts addressed by the Morrison report’s themes?

And, then in November 2021 the long-overdue General Plan is expected to be delivered for residents to approve. Planning for that is well under way. A citizen review committee is on track to deliver the plan this year.  After an extensive citizen review cycle, it goes to the City Council for approval and then referral to the ballot for voters to decide.

The General Plan, which is in effect a visioning tool, could – and should – address many of the issues brought out in the Morrison report.  The Morrison report will not remain relevant for another 20 years. It may not make it past the next 20 months without action.

Residents can jump start things now by voting for leaders with the fortitude and skills to move the city forward and then a plan that gives them a road map to follow.

It’s not too late. But the clock is ticking.

Don Henninger, executive director of SCOTT, can be reached at donh@scottsdale.com