Opinion

Alexander: Politicization may sink Scottsdale’s general plan

Posted 10/26/21

The Scottsdale General Plan faces a tough road to passage. It’s been heavily politicized by councilors on both sides of the issue.

Councilors Littlefield and Whitehead along with Mayor …

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Opinion

Alexander: Politicization may sink Scottsdale’s general plan

Posted

The Scottsdale General Plan faces a tough road to passage. It’s been heavily politicized by councilors on both sides of the issue.

Councilors Littlefield and Whitehead along with Mayor Ortega are misrepresenting the plan to promote their agendas and political goals. They’ve turned collaboration into division, and we residents are the losers.

In June, the city enjoyed a sense of optimism and unity. The council voted 7-0 to support the general plan. All seven members worked hard through months of meetings, negotiations and compromises to bring their seven different views together.

The result was an aspirational document that balanced multi-family housing in strategic locations, and guaranteed more resident participation in development. It included other great goals around education, the environment, transportation and business development.

The councilors’ teamwork and effusive support of the plan and each other made the general plan’s passage seem like a certainty. After the 7-0 vote, Mayor Ortega joked that the council should all enjoy a celebratory drink.

Councilor Littlefield ended the short-lived optimism, when she announced her opposition to the general plan on Oct. 11. It was a political torpedo that no one saw coming.

Councilor Littlefield has been in office for eight years, she was an active participant throughout the general plan discussions. She seconded the motion to pass the plan in June. Why was she changing positions, and why so close to Election Day?

Littlefield explained that she had always opposed the plan, but voted yes so that the voters could make the final decision. This makes little sense to me. She should have voted no in June. Or at least voiced her personal opposition in June so the voters, and her fellow Councilors, could lead a healthy debate.

Littlefield’s turnabout is so unexpected it seems wanton, or ignorant, which is far from Littlefield’s typically calm demeanor and methodical style.

The other explanation is that Littlefield’s opposition was premeditated. She feigned agreement and collaboration, while planning her timebomb for the week ballots were delivered, and to coincide with her announcement that she will seek a third term.

Littlefield’s recent social media posts suggest that she was never in support of the plan.

Her campaign manager wrote on Oct. 20, “Show us a good GP that protects Scottsdale’s special character and high quality of life and I will support it. This plan doesn’t and neither did GP2011.”

On her Facebook page Littlefield shared a video that warns “New urbanism scheme exposed in Scottsdale” that is “destroying cities all over the country.” I asked Littlefield directly how could there be a hidden agenda when she has been on the City Council for eight yrs?

Scottsdale’s Senior Planner Erin Perrault sent council a letter debunking the misinformation and explaining in detail where Littlefield was wrong. I then asked Littlefield what she disagreed with in Perrault’s explanation, and what she opposed in the plan that she did not see in June?

Littlefield avoided my question, replying: “If you actually read the plan for yourself you will see that ‘urban character’ allows apartments, high-density townhouses and taller buildings.”

Sadly, Littlefield’s colleagues have refused to address her surprising opposition, or the misinformation she is promoting. Littlefield’s 2018 running-mate Councilor Solange Whitehead has been an outspoken supporter of the General Plan in the press and social media. However, Whitehead has nowhere mentioned Littlefield’s opposition.

Instead, she repeatedly describes the plan’s opposition as “an outside group with nameless members.” Similarly, Mayor David Ortega is urging residents “Don’t let outsider dark money ruin Scottsdale,” but Ortega has not uttered a single word about Littlefield leading the opposition.

Why the obvious omission?

I think the answer is equally obvious. Like Littlefield, Whitehead and Ortega have their own political agendas, that they are blatantly overlaying onto the general plan.

Whitehead and Ortega fought the proposed development projects Greenbelt 88, 92 Ironwood, and 9400 Shea. They are drawing a bright yellow line between stopping these projects and the general plan. Whitehead wrote on Oct. 19: “Thank you for weighing in against the Shea apartments and I’m pleased this Council delivered results. Now let’s get this job done and protect Shea for 10+ years by voting YES on Prop 463/General Plan 2035.“

Ortega posted on Oct. 22: “Vote YES 463 Don’t let apartment developers bulldoze Scottsdale Old Town or Shea Blvd!!”

Whitehead and Ortega refuse to call out Littlefield, because they want her help to stop development. They are willing to accept her opposition, allow her misinformation, and match it with their own. All three have weaponized the plan against development, and sacrificed honesty and the best interests of the residents of Scottsdale.

A week after Kathy Littlefield’s announcements, the LD23 Democrats publicly endorsed the General Plan. Democrats Whitehead and Ortega should have used their influence to stop this endorsement.

It’s great to have discussions of municipal issues within partisan circles to raise awareness amongst our engaged voters, but endorsements are problematic. Partisan politics should not intrude on city issues.

Whitehead and Ortega turned the General Plan partisan. LD23 Representative Chaplik soon came out against the General Plan, and the LD23 Rs also endorsed a no vote. Again, the residents lose as partisan politics grow louder.

The general plan is not a zoning document, it is aspirational and expresses a vision for our city’s future that includes thoughtful multi-family development and resident participation.

Littlefield, Whitehead and Ortega all should have focused on this, focused on collaboration, and kept their personal agendas and propaganda out.

Editor’s Note: Jason Alexander is an 11-year resident, a father, a software engineer, and helped lead the Prop 420 initiative to protect the Preserve.

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