Scottsdale mayoral candidates talk LGBTQ equality, the Black Lives Matter movement and police oversight

Posted 6/17/20

Scottsdale voters will see a slate of five hopefuls in pursuit of becoming the next figurehead of “The West’s Most Western Town” on its upcoming ballot.

The City of Scottsdale …

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Scottsdale mayoral candidates talk LGBTQ equality, the Black Lives Matter movement and police oversight

Scottsdale mayoral candidates from left are Lisa Borowsky, Bob Littlefield, Suzanne Klapp, David Ortega and Virginia Korte.
Scottsdale mayoral candidates from left are Lisa Borowsky, Bob Littlefield, Suzanne Klapp, David Ortega and Virginia Korte.
Posted

Scottsdale voters will see a slate of five hopefuls in pursuit of becoming the next figurehead of “The West’s Most Western Town” on its upcoming ballot.

The City of Scottsdale will host a primary election Tuesday, Aug. 4 as a general election looms if needed, which would be Tuesday, Nov. 3. To be elected at the primary election, a candidate must receive a majority of all of the legal votes cast.

The field of mayoral candidates includes two current incumbents but none are strangers to the political limelight. They are:

  • Incumbents Suzanne Klapp and Virginia Korte.
  • Challengers: Lisa Borowsky, Bob Littlefield, and David Ortega.

Independent Newsmedia reached out to each mayoral candidate to ask them what they thought about the unrest in American streets, the Black Lives Matter movement, and where they stand on local gay rights.
This is what they had to say:

Suzanne Klapp

•Why are so many people so upset with various levels of government? And, if elected what will you do to change the current tone?

Part of the controversy right now with the government is likely because this is a highly charged political year, nationally, and to a degree here in Arizona. Washington gridlock has further raised frustration levels. Federal and state actions related to the Covid-19 pandemic have exacerbated the fear and frustration among many people who have been confined to home for longer than some can tolerate.

Many people have been significantly affected financially by state-ordered business closures, and they must cut through significant red tape to apply for unemployment or loan programs. People are understandably upset when they lose income. They want the government to help them and this is the time to do so. As a city, we are devising ways to assist individuals and businesses with food needs, rent, utilities, child care, filling out application forms, and other programs. The city received money from the CARES Act just in the last week to begin providing much needed financial assistance.

As mayor, I will communicate clearly and often and reach out to business owners, organizations, and residents in our city to discuss what the city can do to provide assistance or to reach more people who need answers. I will work to create a feeling of trust that we understand significant economic, social, and health issues affecting our residents and businesses and we will establish and adequately publicize programs and activities. My desire is to promote more unity and less divisiveness.

• Does the Black Lives Matter movement matter to you?

Yes, the movement matters because people want their voices heard. They want others to understand their points of view and how their lives have been affected by discrimination. They want us to act to protect their freedoms and ask for justice. I share their concern, fear, and frustration.

•Do you believe everyone should be treated equally?

Yes, I believe very much in equality.

•Why do you think the City of Scottsdale doesn’t have a non-discrimination ordinance for members of the LGBTQ community who reside in the City of Scottsdale?

There was an effort by one councilmember to work with city staff to create a city LGBTQ ordinance a few years ago. That effort failed because inadequate attention was given to gaining input and agreement before the issue was brought to the council for a vote. Because there was not a realistic attempt to reach a consensus among council members, the council was uncomfortable with restrictions on input from individual members and opted instead to sign and distribute a Scottsdale Unity Pledge.

Other cities and many businesses have signed a UNITY pledge. Later, the City Council agreed to develop and discuss an ordinance with language that would be acceptable to all the members. As that language was being discussed and drafted, a councilmember asked to withdraw the ordinance from consideration because there was dissatisfaction with some of the provisions. I did not ask for the ordinance to be withdrawn.

In fact, as mayor, I would have attempted to fix those provisions through more discussion, built consensus among the City Council members, and taken draft language to the community to gain widespread support. I have always been willing to discuss and support a potential ordinance with a hope to find common ground and unity.

•Will you be an advocate for an LGBTQ nondiscrimination ordinance to be created by Scottsdale City Council?

This issue is best legislated at the state level so that it will apply to all municipal jurisdictions rather than a patchwork approach city-by-city. I, along with the rest of the City Council and the League of Cities and Towns, have asked the state legislature to take up this issue and create a statewide law.

Little happened in this legislative session because of the virus pandemic, but it should still be discussed at the next session. If the legislature cannot agree on a state-wide law, then I would support and advocate for an LGBTQ ordinance to be developed in Scottsdale with input from all the council members and from the community as a whole. I believe an ordinance can be accomplished with my leadership where everyone can present their opinions and a consensus on the language can be reached. This is a platform of my campaign – putting “unity” back in “community.”

•How about police oversight? Is there a need to keep tabs on police officers in the City of Scottsdale?

The oversight of the police department is the responsibility of the city manager and the City Council. We are provided periodic reports about police activities in the city. In addition, council members individually receive written reports frequently, with important details called “Public Safety Significant Incidents” immediately after an occurrence. Tuesday night City Council members (in a 6-1 vote with Councilmember Korte dissenting) asked for a more detailed report to the council, which will also be provided to the public, on the recent handling of rioting and looting at Fashion Square.

There have been numerous false accusations leveled against our police department in recent weeks about racism and fictitious incidents of police brutality in Scottsdale. In fact, Councilmember Korte in a recent political forum accused the police department of being “systemically racist.” That remark could not be further from the truth. I have had countless interactions with all levels of our Scottsdale Police Department over my 12 years in office.

The department is comprised of honest, courageous, fair and professionally trained officers who risk their lives and safety daily for the protection and betterment of our residents, businesses and visitors. To suggest otherwise is disrespectful, unjust and a discredit to our men and women in uniform and demonstrates a lack of knowledge about police operations.

Virginia Korte

•Why are so many people so upset with various levels of government? And, if elected what will you do to change the current tone?

At the local level, here in the City of Scottsdale, citizens give the city high marks in satisfaction surveys for city services like police, fire, roads, parks, libraries, community centers, water and trash. Over 80% of Scottsdale citizens believe the city is headed in the right direction.

City government is the most transparent, accessible, and inclusive level of government. All public meetings and documents are available for viewing on the city’s website. Citizens participate on boards and commission to advise staff and council. Citizens join us at meetings and provide comments. I have shared countless cups of coffee with citizens to understand their needs and concerns.

We have a rich history of community outreach and citizen participation however not since the 1990s has our community gathered for conversations that addressed the future of Scottsdale for generations to come.
I will expand the current conversation. Let’s call it Scottsdale Conversations 2050.

• Does the Black Lives Matter movement matter to you?

BLM is important to finally move us forward to create real change that ensures that everyone is treated fairly. It should be an ongoing effort to create checkpoints and accountabilities that continually challenge us to be better and do better.

BLM also reminds us that we need to listen and to respect what others tell us. Especially when conversations are uncomfortable, we need to lean in to learn, to understand and to take actions that insure that we have a safe community for all our citizens. Conversations can create change.

•Do you believe everyone should be treated equally?

Absolutely! We are all God’s children.

•Why do you think the City of Scottsdale doesn’t have a non-discrimination ordinance for members of the LGBTQ community who reside in the City of Scottsdale?

We do not have an NDO because Council Members Klapp and Littlefield turned a deaf ear to the pleas of community members. The recent Supreme Court ruling protecting LGBTQ from employment discrimination does not provide equality in housing and public accommodations.

In 2015, I worked with One Community, the Human Rights Campaign, the Scottsdale Chamber of Commerce, Honor Health, Experience Scottsdale, Scottsdale Association of Realtors, Nationwide, and many other businesses and organizations to adopt a non-discrimination ordinance in Scottsdale.
The council failed to adopt an NDO, by a vote of 5-2. The mayor voiced his opposition on NPR Radio saying that discrimination doesn’t exist in Scottsdale and the NDO was a solution looking for a problem.

Ms. Klapp expressed concern for creating more hardship on businesses. These are convenient arguments lacking facts. It is an example of a failure to listen and respond to the concerns of citizens. Members of the LGBTQ community were asking for a fair and safe place to live and work. Businesses were asking for a public expression of our community’s commitment to equality. Despite these pleas, the 5-2 vote of the council said “NO.”

The most recent Supreme Court 6-3 decision to include the rights of LGBTQ I in Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, now protects their rights in the workplace. However, LGBTQ can still be discriminated against by being denied healthcare, housing, and public accommodations. In a recent poll of Arizona residents, 77.8% support LGBTQ equal protections under the law. Scottsdale should have a non-discrimination ordinance.

•Will you be an advocate for an LGBTQ nondiscrimination ordinance to be created by Scottsdale City Council?

I continue to advocate for fairness and equality for everyone, including the LGBTQ community because it is the right thing to do.

Adopting an NDO also impacts the quality of our community. Cities perceived to be LGBTQ inclusive have higher measures of economic growth. Cities that are open, diverse, and tolerant are more appealing to creative and talented workers. Businesses seek to locate to diverse communities with inclusive policies. Tourists look for safe and inclusive areas to visit and the conference and event industry often determines their locations based on a community’s inclusivity.

I will continue to work with other council members and citizens to adopt a non-discrimination ordinance for Scottsdale that provides protection in housing and public accommodations for LGBTQ.

•How about police oversight? Is there a need to keep tabs on police officers in the City of Scottsdale?

We need to ensure accountability in everything the city does including the police. In Scottsdale, we set the highest standards and then create checks and balances to monitor our performance against these standards and to drive continuous improvement. We conduct independent third-party reviews of our policing activities. Our police wear body cams. We get high marks for community policing. We must continue to monitor and evaluate our performance.

Lisa Borowsky

•Why are so many people so upset with various levels of government? And, if elected what will you do to change the current tone?

I suspect people are upset because the government has lost touch with the people they’re supposed to serve. Citizens feel left out in contrast to moneyed special interests and political grandstanding, fueled by an overall lack of transparency, and, when something inevitably goes wrong, there’s no accountability.

In Scottsdale, the current tone can be improved through more citizen involvement from all areas of our city, a return of the citizen budget commission, more openness, transparency and accountability, and the establishment of direct representation of council members through districting.

• Does the Black Lives Matter movement matter to you?

Yes, every life must be respected and valued. Racial, or any other, bias by anybody, including police, is unacceptable. I support those seeking redress of grievances, peacefully, as guaranteed by the First Amendment, Bill of Rights. However, violence, looting, harassment, and intimidation are equally unacceptable.

•Do you believe everyone should be treated equally?

Yes, of course.

•Why do you think the City of Scottsdale doesn’t have a non-discrimination ordinance for members of the LGBTQ community who reside in the City of Scottsdale?

The Supreme Court just ruled that these individuals are protected from discrimination in the workplace, which renders this question moot.

•Will you be an advocate for an LGBTQ nondiscrimination ordinance to be created by Scottsdale City Council?

The Supreme Court just ruled that these individuals are protected from discrimination in the workplace, which renders this question moot. The city’s Human Relations Commission and Office of Diversity and Inclusion should be empowered to assist in furthering existing federal laws.

•How about police oversight? Is there a need to keep tabs on police officers in the City of Scottsdale?

The existing city structure provides departmental oversight. The chief of police reports to the city manager and the city manager reports to the City Council. In order to ensure a strong police department and public safety response, it is imperative that we have a strong mayor, council, and city manager, who are actively engaged with departmental oversight. In addition, the city’s Human Relations Commission must be empowered to address issues as they arise or, better yet, preemptively.

David Ortega

•Why are so many people so upset with various levels of government? And, if elected what will you do to change the current tone?

Constitutional protection for individual liberties is guaranteed by the Bill of Rights and ensuing amendments to our Constitution. Although the state of Arizona is only 108 years old, we carry forward progressive measures such as the right of citizen petition and referendum. Citizen concerns, both nationally and locally, relate to threats to our basic liberties.

Inscribed in the Scottsdale City Charter is the right of citizen-driven petitions to shake up entrenched government. Our Charter also mandates that the collective voice of stakeholders must be revisited every 10 years by the General Plan. The General Plan is a chore. It is a required self-evaluation which gives direction to the elected. But the General Plan exercise is 10 years past due.
I believe our direct citizen-to-city-to-citizen relationship is fractured because, for the last 10 years, the mayor and council short-circuited the mandated General Plan. City Hall has alienated residents, although all surrounding cities got their General Plan approved.

As mayor, I will listen to all stakeholders, learn from different points-of-view, and use my leadership planning skills to build a vibrant Scottsdale. I pledge to work full-time on behalf of the citizens of Scottsdale. Together, we must restore trust in the city government to secure public safety, protect neighborhood life, spur economic development, and ensure citizen’s voices are heard.

• Does the Black Lives Matter movement matter to you?

Yes, the Black Lives Matter movement matters to me. BLM reflects the disenfranchisement of many people of color who experience cyclical and systematic racism, prejudice, poverty and financial obstacles, which originated from slavery. Peaceful protest for change, Black Lives Matter, has many allies among all races, religious groups, educators, professionals and corporations who strive for an inclusive America.

This year, 2020, presents a momentous, geopolitical and economic shift. We must strengthen our core values and re-examine the heart and soul of “Liberty and Justice for All.” The BLM movement and the sharing of viewpoints about policing, housing, jobs, and education are an unprecedented opportunity to discern how, together, we can improve our society.

•Do you believe everyone should be treated equally?

Yes.

•Why do you think the City of Scottsdale doesn’t have a non-discrimination ordinance for members of the LGBTQ community who reside in the City of Scottsdale?

In 2015, the City Council discussed pro and con arguments of a non-discrimination ordinance. Without looking backward, or whether the Arizona Legislature might pass NDO legislation, Scottsdale city government should lead the community conversation. It is time to bring NDO discussion forward. I believe most residents would support it.

•Will you be an advocate for an LGBTQ nondiscrimination ordinance to be created by Scottsdale City Council?

Yes. My involvement with equal rights began in 1988-89, urging the City of Scottsdale to adopt a Martin Luther King holiday. At that time, the city called for a “floating” or personal holiday rather than honoring the nonviolent message of Dr. King. Eventually, the state of Arizona and Scottsdale declared a MLK day.

In 1992-96, I served on a task force co-sponsored by Scottsdale Unified School District, Parent Councils, City of Scottsdale, Scottsdale Leadership, Scottsdale Community College and the Scottsdale Tribune. Working on the leadership team, I coined the name “E-Race Hate.” I designed the E-Race Hate logo, bumper sticker and E-R-H button given to 27,000 SUSD students and to every city employee. The dialogue and awareness program launched from the steps of Saguaro HS.

For several years, the E-Race Hate allies hosted conversations to foster mutual respect and to counter racism, prejudice, status oppression, discrimination and hate speech against any race, ethnicity, gender or sexual orientation. E-Race Hate posters were placed in teacher and city staff break rooms. Subsequently, Scottsdale established the Office of Diversity and Dialogue and all allies focused on diversity.

In 2000 when I was elected city councilman, the Human Relations Commission was established. There is much more work to be done and the faith community should be included. As mayor, I will restore the alliances and redouble dialogue to establish equality and mutual respect.

•How about police oversight? Is there a need to keep tabs on police officers in the City of Scottsdale?

I expect the city manager to respond to any and all issues raised by employees and or individuals promptly and directly through department channels. Pertaining to the Scottsdale Police Department, I believe in due process as constitutionally afforded to every citizen and employee. I support due process as it applies to sworn officers per state of Arizona police certification. As our nation is discussing policing, we in Scottsdale should also open the conversation to make improvements.

Bob Littlefield

•Why are so many people so upset with various levels of government? And, if elected what will you do to change the current tone?

Scottsdale citizens don’t trust the city government because the City Council keeps trying to push development the citizens don’t want but that benefits the people who contribute heavily to their campaigns. The DDC and Southbridge 2 are a perfect examples of this. If I am elected mayor I will actually listen to the citizens and act on their concerns as I did during my three terms on the City Council.

• Does the Black Lives Matter movement matter to you?

I agree everyone, regardless of the race should be treated equally and fairly, especially by the police and justice system. I do not agree that all white people (or all police officers) are racists.

•Do you believe everyone should be treated equally?

Yes.

•Why do you think the city of Scottsdale doesn’t have a non-discrimination ordinance for members of the LGBTQ community who reside in the City of Scottsdale?

Because there were never four votes on the City Council to approve such an ordinance.

•Will you be an advocate for an LGBTQ nondiscrimination ordinance to be created by Scottsdale City Council?

The Supreme Court decision announced on Monday makes LGBTQ discrimination illegal. If Scottsdale needs an ordinance to bring us into compliance with that decision, I will support that.

•How about police oversight? Is there a need to keep tabs on police officers in the City of Scottsdale?

If you have the right leadership in the police dept. they will keep officers doing the right things. If you don’t have the right leadership then the solution is to get stronger leaders.

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