Opinion

Norton: 2022 Scottsdale candidates need vision, leadership skills

Posted 6/7/22

A few decades ago, a great friend and I both ran for office. We each laughed about which of us was least qualified to be the next president of the Utah Law School Freshman class.

If elected, she …

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Opinion

Norton: 2022 Scottsdale candidates need vision, leadership skills

Posted

A few decades ago, a great friend and I both ran for office. We each laughed about which of us was least qualified to be the next president of the Utah Law School Freshman class.

If elected, she promised everyone a free ice cream machine in the student lounge. I promised everyone a new puppy. Puppies won in a landslide. (Not sure 14-7 qualifies as a landslide but go with me here).

Since the freshman class president is a meaningless title lacking authority of any kind, jokingly promising puppies is fine. Promising puppies is not fine if you seek a City Council seat in Scottsdale. Unfortunately, Solange Whitehead promises voters little more than the effective equivalent of “more puppies.”

We already have more park and Preserve space than any other city in the nation. If lots of parks solved cities’ problems, we would be in perfect shape. But we’re not.

For 12 straight years Scottsdale’s population has aged far faster than can be explained by anything other than a housing crisis. The number of neighborhoods that support families with children has dropped dramatically, due in part to the explosive growth of short-term vacation rentals, but also because we have cut off all efforts to build new housing for families.

Continuous aging coupled with the loss of young families is not economically sustainable.

Regardless of age, far too many now realize that there is literally no home for them in Scottsdale. Those of us lucky enough to have a home are not free from the trouble our housing shortage causes.

Our aging population needs even more medical services as it grows older.

Recognizing that rapidly growing need, Banner Health announced it is building its next big facility on north Loop 101. Banner will join Mayo, HonorHealth and the employers of thousands of other Scottsdale health care workers wondering how to recruit the professionals they need to serve Scottsdale’s aging population.

Despite those ominous trends dominating our economy for more than a decade (reaching crisis points in this decade) not a word is spoken by Whitehead about how to solve those problems.

I like Solange. I always have. I sincerely like her family. I like parks, puppies, and free ice cream, too. But after four years in office, I had hoped that at a very minimum Solange could produce a fragment of a plan for Scottsdale’s critical issues. Instead, she promises us more puppies. Not really — but close — she promises more parks.

Promising more puppies (or parks) is little more than a tacit admission that Whitehead has no idea how to solve the big issues. We have enough parks, Councilmember Whitehead. We have lots of birds and wildlife. We’ve cared for their living needs superbly.

Since we would never consider forcing coyotes and javelina to leave Scottsdale after dark, why do you think it’s OK to treat healthcare workers, teachers, police and firefighters worse than the coyotes?

From 1994 through 2016 Scottsdale worked fiercely to build and protect our 30,000 plus acre Preserve. Can we please apply that same fierce dedication to providing homes for humans for a few years? And that means, stop talking about more parks. If there’s empty land sitting around, put some homes on it.

A real human being needs that home far more than rodents need another park.

Before I stop, let’s look at one specific and horribly misguided promise Whitehead has made. A promise that gives us an idea about the level of Whitehead’s upside-down priorities. She wants to build another park directly across the street from a real Scottsdale crisis that should have captured her attention. But it didn’t.

Others see the former Travel Lodge for what it is — a boarded-up eyesore at best. East of the old Travelodge, 5th Avenue is booming. Tourists and residents pack the sidewalks, shops and restaurants. But the closer you get to the looming hulk of plywood covered windows the fewer people you see — can you blame them?

I’ve rarely seen “Visit the Boarded-Up Travelodge” in any of the Yelp reviews for “best things to see when in Scottsdale.” A quick check also confirmed that Experience Scottsdale does not highlight the Travelodge in its ads. Imagine that.

The fences around that eyesore are bent over where those with bad intentions find it easiest to break in. When you see plywood on upper floor windows, you’re looking at a room where someone broke in to sleep for a few nights, or to shoot up, or both.

Most City Council members driving past those two boarded up buildings (each of which is actually far worse than a slum) would be focused on how they could find ways to fix that problem. Enlightened Councilmembers would see an opportunity for more housing. They would look across the street at the barely used city-owned parking lot and see a chance to combine that land with the flophouse property and do something visionary both for residents and tourists.

Not Solange Whitehead. Since Solange’s solution to every problem is “hey — let’s build a park,” the boarded up and abandoned buildings will undoubtedly still be sitting there as long as Whitehead has her way.

In 2022 I’m looking for candidates with both leadership skills and a vision. In 2018 I knew Solange did not have the experience or existing skill-sets conducive to superior city leadership. But I thought she had a vision. And I hoped she would grow into the job.

Instead, Whitehead’s still promising us puppies.

Editor’s Note: Mike Norton is a 29-year resident of Scottsdale.

Comments

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  • jason.alexander

    As an Executive of the City, Whitehead has shown herself to be a very bad choice.

    -- She will raise taxes

    -- She is heavily funded by anti-competitive special interests

    -- She is increasing homelessness in our city

    -- She is weakening our police force

    -- She is making housing unattainable

    City Staff can give you an exhaustive list of times she has gone against their expert advice, and done so with so much waffling and indecision she has hamstrung our government time and again. The most gratuitous example would be her goal of turning the Rose Garden in downtown into a pocket park. She would take an incredibly desirable location that could generate millions in jobs and city revenue, and add a needless park to our already vibrant canal bank. The effect would be the need to raise taxes to make up for lost revenue, and, that it would be a homeless encampment because we can not remove the homeless from public property. Ask anyone Downtown their #1 concern, its the homeless squatters. Just down the street from some of our civic jewels, Whitehead will create the most dangerous place in the city.

    I like Solange personally and share many of her progressive goals, she is a nice person with a big heart, but she is so far over her head and out of her competence, she is a risk to the future of our city.

    Tuesday, June 7 Report this

  • derouinjg

    I just don't understand a Council Member who is in favor of taxes and transients; and who doesn't believe in individual property rights. We have voted for a billion dollars to buy 25% of the entire city and keep it for a Preserve and Council Member Whitehead wants an additional billion dollars for the few acres of scrub land that are left? And then wants a downtown park that will be used only by the homeless, right in the area which is already blighted and protected by the downtown landlords that don't want any competition? On top of that, she doesn't believe in private property rights to the point where she doesn't think a property owner can cut down a tree on the owner's property? Hopefully voters will cure this problem in November.

    Wednesday, June 8 Report this