Scottsdale City Council candidates define political spark to seek elected office

Posted 5/27/20

Scottsdale City Council candidates are citing their personal catalysts for seeking and elected position and outlining their goals to achieve at City Hall in the second installment of the …

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Scottsdale City Council candidates define political spark to seek elected office


Scottsdale City Council candidates are citing their personal catalysts for seeking and elected position and outlining their goals to achieve at City Hall in the second installment of the question-and-answer series provided by the Scottsdale Independent.

Leading up to the Aug. 4 primary election, Independent Newsmedia is hosting weekly questions with council and mayoral candidates to offer readers a better understanding of the names on their ballot. A general election could be held 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.

Nine individuals are running for Scottsdale City Council, while five people are vying to win the mayoral election.

Guy Phillips is the only current City Council member seeking re-election. The challenges are: Mike Auerbach, Tammy Caputi, Bill Crawford, Tom Durham, Betty Janik, Becca Linnig, John Little and Kevin Maxwell.

Read below to see read about their desires and priorities if they’re elected to council.

Tammy Caputi

• Why you are running for Scottsdale City Council?

I’m running for the City Council to be a positive, forward thinking voice for Scottsdale. I want Scottsdale to be even better for my kids than it’s been for me. My top issue is the future; our livability and quality of place. To me that means economic vitality, a diverse, resilient economy, quality development with public benefits, and collaboration with our education system, so residents can find good jobs from hire to retire.

We need councilmembers who will govern with facts and integrity, who will create consensus and promote collaboration, who will have the training, business skills and creativity to help rebuild our local economy. Scottsdale’s winning economic formula is high amenities, strong property values and schools, and low property taxes. In order to maintain this, we must balance our green areas and open space while maximizing our economic drivers. We have an amazing city, and we want to evolve to maintain our excellence for future generations.

I believe I have the talent, experience, and vision needed to lead the city. I’m a longtime Scottsdale homeowner, business owner, mother of three children in our public schools, and served three years on the Development Review Board. I have a BA in Economics from Wellesley College and a Master’s in Business Administration.

I built my own successful business in the construction industry dealing with projects of the size and scope that come before City Council, keeping them on time and in budget. I work in an industry that experiences regular downturns and understand the need to pivot to new opportunities. I am willing to work as hard as it takes to earn your vote and do the best possible job representing Scottsdale voters.

• What do you want to accomplish?

I want to revive and diversify our economy. 42% of our revenue comes from sales tax; 30% of our 260,000 workforce is in entertainment, tourism and similar “high-risk” jobs. We must look to new revenue sources and pivot to new opportunities. Only 23% of our labor force is low-risk for job loss. Attracting technology companies and developing medical, biotech and higher ed industries is a priority. We have almost 200 technology companies in Scottsdale, and 30,000 jobs in the Cure Corridor and health services. It’s a great start. Let’s make Scottsdale where these companies choose to locate; we need to be open for business!

I want to re-create the education subcommittee between the council and the school districts. A thriving city needs strong schools. Good schools raise our property values and attract residents and businesses. The city and school leaders should share information on economic development, land use, and demographics. This way we can deliver better services that allow for the high quality of life that we enjoy. The only barrier to better school-city teamwork is our own limited imagination.

I also want to complete the General Plan, so we can define a clear vision for the future of our city. The General Plan must clearly reflect the needs, desires, and aspirations of our current population. We must focus on our livability and quality of place, balancing respect for neighborhoods and open spaces while developing our economic drivers. Our model is high amenities, strong property values, and low property taxes. This equation requires a robust, diversified economy balanced with livable, attractive neighborhoods.

• What do you want to change at City Hall?

I want to eliminate all anonymous cash to council and commission members. All gifts in excess of $25 should be disclosed, as required by the Scottsdale Ethics Code. Designating gifts as “personal” cannot be a reason for nondisclosure. Citizens need to know that their Council Members and public servants are above reproach. Public service is a trust and should not be abused.
I would like to have more communication between boards, commissions and the City Council. Council and city board and commission-members should see how their decisions impact the city at a more granular level. This will help our efforts for the General Plan. I would also like to have more communication and collaboration among the different parts of the city, with diverse representation from each neighborhood and industry on city commissions. More communication is always better.

I also want to talk about attainable housing. It’s an increasing problem across the city and the nation. Workforce housing is a question of political will. The citizens of Scottsdale have to say “yes in my backyard”. There are tasteful, beautiful affordable examples all over the country. The taxpayers and the city need to partner with developers to locate these projects appropriately in our community. The benefit is our teachers, medical services personnel, and first responders can live in the community they serve. Offering balanced mixed use housing options to people of all income groups leads to a more diverse, vibrant, economically robust community.

Bill Crawford

• Why you are running for Scottsdale City Council?

I am running to protect Scottsdale's financial future, our residents' quality of life, and business-friendly reputation. I have a history of successful collaboration with residents, business owners, and city leadership where we worked together to solve pressing and complex issues directly addressing the quality of life for the people who live here.

I believe that discernment and discretion in decision-making, acknowledging the needs and wants of all stakeholders, and big-picture, forward-focused thinking is how we will best move Scottsdale beyond the fallout of the pandemic we face now. I intend to bring that spirit and leadership to City Hall as your councilman.

• What do you want to accomplish?

As we all know, the COVID-19 pandemic has damaged our city's economy. Tourism is an incredible asset to our city and one that we should actively seek to rebuild quickly, but Scottsdale is, and is becoming known for, being so much more than a tourism destination. We must nurture our reputation as the top city for job growth in the nation, a top-ten healthiest city, and an overall excellent place to live.

Recovering from this crisis will require collaboration, creative solutions and the ability to see the full picture. This means acknowledging the needs of all stakeholders in Scottsdale --- uniting the goals of residents, local business owners and job creators.

I will work to uphold our quality of life through three key initiatives: protecting our unique brand, keeping crime low by prioritizing the needs of our first responders, and keeping taxes low and eliminating bureaucratic red tape that hinders innovation and growth.

Development has always been a hot-button issue in our city, and for good reason. Poorly-executed development has given even the best innovators a bad name and caused resistance where we should embrace the opportunities many projects bring to Scottsdale. I believe development should be balanced so that there is smart and compatible growth in our city. That means making sure our yes votes are earned and our no votes are warranted. As your councilman, I will bring people together from all sides to ensure development is quality and truly in line with what benefits residents.

My personal experience working with all stakeholders on projects has proven that collaboration, not finger-pointing, is how we all win.

• What do you want to change at City Hall?

Our City Council has been divided for far too long, and unfortunately has perpetuated the myth that we are in an "Us vs. Them" losing battle. Soundbites and misinformation have taken over the dialogue in the place of facts and data that drive some of the decision-making in Scottsdale.

My ability to bring residents together and unite them to solve problems is desperately needed on City Council. It's time to stop playing politics and put our residents and city first.

Tom Durham

• Why you are running for Scottsdale City Council?

I became involved in Scottsdale politics when I served as Treasurer of the Protect Our Preserve PAC. I was opposed to the construction of the Desert Discovery Center for two reasons. First, it was contrary to the City Charter, which prohibits development in the Preserve. Second, it was contrary to the will of the citizens. I was dismayed that a majority of the council supported the Desert Discovery Center under these conditions. Since that time, I have continued to follow the City Council’s actions on the Marquee, Southbridge 2, and other developments, and it appears to me that the majority of the council routinely ignores the desires of citizens while supporting developers and their projects. The Council Majority regularly supports developers on upzoning requests and continually ignores the wishes of citizens. If elected to the council, I would be a voice for citizens on the council.

• What do you want to accomplish?

If elected, I want to enhance and preserve the unique character of Scottsdale. For me, this means high design standards, open land and open views, and moderate levels of development. I support growth in high tech industries such as medical, technical, and communications research. The height and density favored by the current City Council leads to traffic congestion and would make Scottsdale a less attractive place to live. One of the reasons that Scottsdale is rated as the country’s No. 1 place for jobs is that it is one of the best places in the country to live. If we destroy its livability with high rises and dense projects, and the traffic these bring, we will destroy both its livability and its attraction as a job center. We would also destroy its attraction as a tourism destination if we allow runaway development.

• What do you want to change at City Hall?

First, above all, I want to restore a council majority which listens to and responds to the citizens. Right now, we have a City Council which listens to (and takes contributions from) developers, zoning lawyers, and other lobbyists. That must change. I have proposed amendments to the Ethics Code which would result in greater citizen trust in their council. Second, I want to work on a revised General Plan which will reflect the consensus of citizens about the future of their city. Once this new General Plan is developed, we must stick to it and avoid endless upzoning requests, which are inevitably approved by the current City Council majority. I also believe the revised General Plan should contain new elements concerning education and health care. These are essential elements of a livable city, and the General Plan should describe the location of and the relevant facilities within Scottsdale.

Betty Janik

•Why you are running for Scottsdale City Council?

Scottsdale City Council has been developer friendly for the past four years. They have approved virtually every request for zoning changes resulting in taller, denser buildings and loss of view corridors. The citizens are not happy with these changes to the landscape of the city. Our quality of life is being challenged. I am running for City Council to be a voice for the citizens, to represent the citizens’ vision for Scottsdale.

•What do you want to accomplish?

I will strive to put forth a new General Plan that is acceptable to the citizens and therefore, will be ratified by them. I want to usher in an era of thoughtful growth where citizens, developers and business owners all have a seat at the table and work together for the common good.

•What do you want to change at City Hall?

I want to follow existing zoning and minimize variances which are disrupting our neighborhoods.

I want to institute a bid process on city contracts, thus stopping the current no bid process.

I want to institute a new level of fiscal responsibility:

  • Approve projects only if all costs to the City including maintenance are fully disclosed;
  • Ensure that these project costs are covered by the developer, not the citizens/City.

Becca Linnig

• Why you are running for Scottsdale City Council?

South Scottsdale has been under represented for over 15 years. I live, work, volunteer and play in Scottsdale. As a Realtor for the last 14 years it is important to me that we are focusing on protecting property rights and values. In addition, I have been a volunteer as an Ambassador to the City giving countless hours to guiding our visitors (and residents alike) for the past two decades. We have a special city and I have been on the front lines every season promoting our city.

• What you want to accomplish?

Collaboration and communication between City Council, City Departments and residents. Efficient government performing core services at exceptional levels and protecting property values as well as the future of Scottsdale. I have seen countless examples of how more robust communication could have made a huge difference in the trust of our city government. When we consider all parties affected it will result in a better result.

• What do you want to change at City Hall?

The “us against me” mentality. A divided council will not accomplish as much as a council that has the citizens interest at heart. “Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.”

John Little

•Why you are running for Scottsdale City Council?

I am running for City Council to insure that this extraordinary community can preserve the unique and special traditions and spaces we have created. I will work hard to bring excitement, energy and new ideas to create an even brighter future for our city. I have been fortunate over the past three decades to have played an important part in building a strong foundation which has made Scottsdale the envy of most other cities and towns across America. We created a place that is well-regarded for its exceptional levels of service, low taxes, strong property values, environmental excellence, charming neighborhoods and vast open spaces.

However, these strengths when taken for granted can become our Achilles’ heel. If we let fear, misinformation and division dominate our political discourse we put it all at risk. Scottsdale has unique challenges and opportunities given our geography, changing demographics and lifestyles in a world that is fundamentally transforming in real time. And as we move forward in a post-pandemic world we will need to re-think our business model. We need to explore innovative service delivery models for everything from transportation, social services and housing to tourism and education. At the same time we must be ready to launch new strategies for re-building small business, attracting new investment, replacing aging infrastructure and capitalizing on infill opportunities. Our citizens deserve our best efforts and our legacy demands it.

•What do you want to accomplish?

The list of things I’d like to accomplish is too extensive for this space. It is important to note that “wanting” to accomplish something is vastly different from actually “doing” something. Campaigning is not the same thing as governing. Candidates find it easy to say what they want to do, but for the most part find it difficult to describe how they intend to do it. Even a terrific idea needs three other council members agreeing with you to make it happen. Fundamental to the extensive list of things I’d like to accomplish is changing the way the City Council interacts with citizens, and the way Council members interact with one another. Governance at the local level is not a contest but a collaboration. It should not be an exercise in flexing political muscle, but rather should be about generating consensus. A divided Council yields a divided community. A divided community is an under-performing community. Our disunity will ultimately threaten our quality of life, our property values and our community well-being. Accordingly, I would propose that changes be made to enable the City Council to spend less time in standing meetings and significantly more time in work study sessions engaged in real conversations and interactive public meetings that reflect the complexity of the issues we face.

•What do you want to change at City Hall?

We need much more citizen engagement. City Hall does not do enough to insure all voices are heard. Local government has over time adopted ordinances, procedures and practices that make it impractical or impossible for community members to fully participate in decisions. There is an old adage in leadership, “if people can’t weigh in, they’re not going to buy in.” The methods and approaches used by city officials to take the pulse of citizens looks remarkably similar to how it functioned a quarter of a century ago. City Council meetings are scheduled for 5 p.m., citizens are given three minutes to speak, City Council and nearly all boards and commission meetings take place in City Hall. Though technology has given local governments new ways of connecting with people, community sentiment and polling clearly show trust in government continues to fall. Much more needs to be done to open up City Hall and the city’s decision-making processes. I am proposing the establishment of a citizens’ commission on openness in government to conduct a thorough audit of all the rules, ordinances and practices that inhibit full community engagement in the city’s decision-making. The goal is simple, allow our citizens the maximum accessibility to government while accelerating the pace of decision-making. “Doing” citizen engagement right the first time will streamline processes and improve the quality of our city’s decisions -- and future.

Kevin Maxwell

•Why you are running for Scottsdale City Council?

Scottsdale has been my home for 30 years. I want to ensure our city is led by people who listen to citizens and believe in transparent dialog. With a significant downturn in the economy on the horizon, it is important that the City Council is populated with individuals who are able to process complicated financial and economic information. I am an analyst by trade who regularly takes financial information and comes up with a data-driven solution to sophisticated financial problems. That is precisely what we need on City Council right now. I love Scottsdale and want to see it prosper for many years to come. I am uniquely qualified to ensure that this vision becomes a reality.

•What do you want to accomplish?

Our city has many pressing needs, but the most important one is to help our small businesses remain viable. It is essential that as we reopen our economy, we do so safely and responsibly while still allowing small companies to rescale as quickly as possible. I will also advocate for protection our tourism assets so that our visitor related economy can rebound soon. Additionally, I have a plan to reduce Airport Noise that is viable and effective. My experience on the Airport Advisory Commission has allowed me to see first-hand the inconveniences many of our residents are facing with nuisance low flying aircraft.

•What do you want to change at City Hall?

I would like to bring an era of collaboration to City Council. In my service on several boards including the Airport Advisory Commission I have had success in bringing people of differing points of view to agreement. Whether that be smart development, transportation or tax policy I will work hard to ensure that the City’s needs are prioritized and common goals are valued.

Guy Phillips

•Why you are running for Scottsdale City Council?

As the only incumbent in this year’s race I will be running for my third term. In the last two terms, I have kept public safety as my No. 1 concern, helped individuals with their city concerns, supported small businesses, championed many amenities for tourists and locals to enjoy and fought to keep height and density in our city to a minimum.

•What do you want to accomplish?

If re-elected I will continue with those priorities as well as following through with our bond projects for the benefit of our residents.

•What do you want to change at City Hall?

Our biggest challenge on the council is addressing campaign contributions from major developers to council members and future council and mayor candidates which results in quid quo pro votes on their projects. I’m afraid until we include the words “Contributions from those who come before the council will be deemed illegal unless said person recuses themselves when the respective item comes before the council” in the ethics code, this practice will continue unabated.

Mike Auerbach

•Why you are running for Scottsdale City Council?

I am a Scottsdale resident, small business owner in the hospitality industry, and lover of our country and city. Like many of you, I’m concerned about Scottsdale’s future. We face challenges on many fronts. To meet these challenges, we need enhanced tourism, smart growth, and leadership that will protect our individual liberties and values.

•What do you want to accomplish?

Scottsdale needs…

  • a leader with the discernment to know how and where to grow – and where not to
  • an advocate committed to protecting our signature events and open spaces
  • a voice for the principles that make a thriving economy and respect individual liberties.

•What do you want to change at City Hall?

I have something truly different. I will offer an ordinance to help your grandparents, parents, you, and loved ones. An exemption (freeze) from all future property tax increases. If you are 70 years of age and older, have owned a home in Scottsdale for at least 30 years --- this would apply to you. “People run out of money before they run out of time.”