Scottsdale City Council candidates talk equality for all, the Black Lives Matter movement and how to move forward as one community

Posted 6/24/20

Scottsdale City Council candidates are asked their thoughts about civil rights and political movements --- ranging from gay rights to the Black Lives Matter movement --- happening now across the …

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Scottsdale City Council candidates talk equality for all, the Black Lives Matter movement and how to move forward as one community

Posted

Scottsdale City Council candidates are asked their thoughts about civil rights and political movements --- ranging from gay rights to the Black Lives Matter movement --- happening now across the country in the latest Q&A series provided by Independent Newsmedia.

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 challengers are: Mike Auerbach, Tammy Caputi, Bill Crawford, Tom Durham, Betty Janik, Becca Linnig, John Little and Kevin Maxwell.

Read below to hear how the candidates feel about civil issues. Becca Linnig’s responses were not received at the time of publication.

Tom Durham

•It’s often said that people don’t believe their government “hears” them. Is there a way to change this public opinion? And if so, how?

It is often sadly true that the government doesn’t hear people because it doesn’t listen to them. The only way to change this belief is to elect people who will listen. In the case of Scottsdale, one of the reasons I am running for the City Council is to be a voice for the people who will listen to them and their concerns. In the case of the Desert Discovery Center, the Marquee, and Southbridge II, the people made their voices quite clear but the City Council refused to listen. The failure to listen led to great upset and division in Scottsdale. In some cases, Council members have even belittled and insulted the people who wanted to make their voices heard on these important issues. I want to make sure that the voices of normal citizens are heard on the most important issues.

•Our world today is in the midst of some monumental changes: the national Black Lives Matter movement; seeing rights upheld for the LBGTQ population; and the DREAMers ruling overturned. Will these movements/rulings change Scottsdale?

Yes, all of these movements will change Scottsdale. These movements will result in the voices of these communities being heard, and their voices should and will change our future.

•If elected, how will you show Scottsdale’s youth that their voices are valued?

The only way to demonstrate that the voices of young people are valued is to listen to them. Youth may not be as organized as the older generations, and so it is harder to identify their voices. If elected, I would work to identify points of contact to create better relationships. I will be participating in the Young Voters Engage the Candidates Forum on Zoom next Tuesday, and I hope I can learn more from this opportunity.

•The Supreme Court’s ruling on LGBTQ rights only covers anti-bias in the workplace. Do you believe Scottsdale should implement a non-discrimination ordinance that allows the gay, lesbian and transgender population the same rights as others?

Yes.

•What is your opinion on the Black Lives Matter movement?

The Black Lives Matter movement is certainly playing a critical role in bringing to the fore issues of racial injustice and police policies and procedures that need to be changed. The rapid changes in public opinion over the last few weeks on these issues shows that these reforms are overdue and widely accepted. I don’t think the Black Lives Matter movement should be blamed for the violence and destruction that has taken place over the past few weeks, but I am concerned that this violence may interfere with the goals of eradicating racial injustice and instituting police reform.

Betty Janik

•It’s often said that people don’t believe their government “hears” them. Is there a way to change this public opinion? And if so, how?

Yes, there is a way to change this opinion. When people send messages to City Council on issues of importance to them, listen to their concerns and vote in accordance with their wishes. The Marquee is a perfect example. Hundreds of citizens sent in email in opposition to this project, the project passed with the usual 4 to 3 majority. Consider what the citizens did to stop Southbridge 2 and Desert Edge/Desert Discovery Center, a referendum and an initiative. Costs for these two efforts, almost $500,000. City council should conduct unbiased surveys on controversial issues and respect outcomes by voting as indicated by the results of the survey.

•Our world today is in the midst of some monumental changes: the national Black Lives Matter movement; seeing rights upheld for the LBGTQ population; and the DREAMers ruling overturned. Will these movements/rulings change Scottsdale?

Yes, these movements/rulings will improve Scottsdale for the better. First there needs to be recognition of the problem. The Black Lives Matter movement and Supreme Court rulings accomplished this. Once the hurtful and now illegal behavior is made obvious, I believe the Scottsdale citizens will work to better relationships with all people. We will move forward with a goal of equality for all.

•If elected, how will you show Scottsdale’s youth that their voices are valued?

First and most important, I will encourage our young people to vote, to make their voices heard. I will recognize their importance as part of society, they are the future. I will invite them to the table as equal partners. I will set up a program on government similar to Scottsdale 101, but geared towards our young people. In addition, a mentor program should be instituted to allow students to shadow various staff and elected officials to learn how city government works. The city can do this in a joint effort with our schools. By showing mutual respect for each other, their voices will be recognized and valued.

•The Supreme Court’s ruling on LGBTQ rights only covers anti-bias in the workplace. Do you believe Scottsdale should implement a non-discrimination ordinance that allows the gay, lesbian and transgender population the same rights as others?

State law supersedes city law. This issue needs to be addressed at the level of the state and should be addressed soon. I encourage our city leaders to work with the state for passage of a non-discrimination ordinance.

•What is your opinion on the Black Lives Matter movement?

I applaud their peaceful protest. The movement has changed many opinions. We now see that African Americans face discrimination in many ways. We are appalled at the vision of police violence towards minorities. Let’s hope we follow through with actions and this time, the change is real.

John Little

• It is often said that people don’t believe their government hears them. Is there a way to change this public opinion? And if so, how?

Make no mistake. Government actually hears nearly everything citizens say in Dolby digital surround sound. It’s just that many government officials are not particularly adept at incorporating citizens voices into decision making. The result is people don’t feel like they’ve been heard. So what can be done?

  • Step one is for elected leaders to get out of the safe confines of their offices and echo chambers and spend more time with residents and business owners listening and learning more about the real challenges people are facing.
  • Step two is to demonstrate they have listened and learned by incorporating the ideas offered by citizens into policy solutions.
  • Step three is to identify then eliminate systemic barriers to real engagement through a process audit which will expose the barriers to citizen engagement and identify opportunities for improvement.

Ultimately change begins by acknowledging these are transformational times and citizens have new and elevated expectations about participating in governance and influencing public policy. It is a challenge for all of us to do better by making sure we open up the flaps on the tent and let everyone in.

•Our world today is in the midst of some monumental changes: the national Black Lives Matter movement; seeing rights upheld for the LBGTQ population; and the DREAMers ruling overturned. Will these rulings/movements change Scottsdale?

Ultimately it will not be court rulings that change Scottsdale, Instead it will be the next generation of young people who are already preparing to change our city and our world. I speak daily to dozens of young people and I have learned they have decidedly different and more expansive dreams than we do. They will change the trajectory of justice, inequality and inclusiveness far more boldly and permanently that any of us can imagine today. In the meantime, my generation must lead by example. Our greatest contribution will be to prepare the garden for the changes the next generation will harvest.

•If elected, how will you show Scottsdale’s youth that their voices are valued?

I think we can show Scottsdale’s youth their voices are valued by demonstrating to them their lives are valued. We can show them their voices are an essential part of the fabric of our community by making the effort to listen to them describe the hopes and dreams they need help with.
They dream of being able to find housing in Scottsdale they can afford. They want great schools that challenge them to achieve great things in life. They want to help create a clean environment and an opportunity to lead active, healthy lives. They want to have transportation options and clean renewable energy. They need help to get out from under the crushing weight of student loan indebtedness. They want access to the best technology in the universe. And they want all their contemporaries to enjoy the full range of our freedoms equally and without barriers and finally, they want the truth..no BS. It’s not difficult to show our youth their voices are valued. We just have to stop shouting at each other long enough to hear their voices.

•The Supreme Courts ruling on LGBTQ rights only covers anti-bias in the workplace. Do you believe Scottsdale should implement a non-discrimination ordinance that allows the gay, lesbian and transgender population the same rights as others?

Of course we should.

•What is your opinion on the Black Lives Matter movement?

I think the conversation about the state of black lives in America is important. I like the analogy that when someone observes, “we need to save the rainforest” we don’t immediately respond with “I think ALL trees need to be saved”. And while that may be true, the person making the observation is just pointing out that there is a problem on a special issue that needs everyone’s attention. Black Lives Matter. It’s OK to say it. It doesn’t diminish any other group of people. Black Lives Matter is the first chapter in the book we are writing to remind ourselves of the generational ravages of slavery. It is an ugly chapter that outlines the origins of discrimination against black Americans. There are other important chapters for other “Lives Matter” movements including Native Americans, women and immigrants to America from countries near and far. In time we must read them all.

Kevin Maxwell

•It’s often said that people don’t believe their government “hears” them. Is there a way to change this public opinion? And if so, how?

Try as we might to listen and understand each other and try to find compromise and opportunities to collaborate, it is rare if ever encounter an issue where everyone agrees. Often when folks disagree, they feel unheard. I think we continue to reach out, engage in dialogue, and seek to understand each other so that even when decisions are made, and we disagree, we understand each other’s’ points of view and feel heard.

•Our world today is in the midst of some monumental changes: the national Black Lives Matter movement, seeing rights upheld for the LBGTQ population; and the DREAMers ruling overturned. Will these movements/rulings change Scottsdale?

All of these things are good for Scottsdale and move us closer to creating a more welcoming community where everyone can be treated fairly and feel safe.

•If elected, how will you show Scottsdale’s youth that their voices are valued?

We need to reach out, listen, and find opportunities for them to participate. I would like to create a program for Councilmembers to go into high schools to talk about how our government works and how they can be good citizens and participate. I would encourage young business leaders to become involved in the Scottsdale Area Chamber of Commerce Raising Young Professionals Program. I would encourage young professionals to become engaged in Scottsdale Art’s youth programs. FUEL Scottsdale is another excellent resource for youthful members of Scottsdale to become engaged and have their voices represented.

•The Supreme Court’s ruling on LGBTQ rights only covers anti-bias in the workplace. Do you believe Scottsdale should implement a non-discrimination ordinance that allows the gay, lesbian, and transgender population the same rights as others?

Yes. I believe in the humanity of the people of Scottsdale and that we all want a community where everyone feels valued, respected, and safe. While some are waiting for more comprehensive protections on the federal or state level, we need to do that right thing for Scottsdale.

•What is your opinion on the Black Lives Matter movement?

I hope that BLM is a wakeup call and a pivot point for us to do better. We may want to believe that our country is fair, and that racism does not exist, but the videos of the violence against minorities make it clear that racism still exists. These events have also prompted others to tell their stories of unjust treatment. For me, movements like BLM are an opportunity to do a better job listening and respecting different experiences and points of view. This is an opportunity to ask ourselves if we have been looking at racism through a different lens?

Guy Phillips

• It’s often said that people don’t believe their government “hears” them. Is there a way to change this public opinion? And if so, how?

People say the government doesn’t hear them because when they come to us most ignore their emails and public comment. I try to answer or help everyone I can. As for the council as a whole, decisions are usually made regardless of public comment. I do not pre-vote. That is I wait until I hear testimony before making a final decision because I believe there may be information that people know that I wasn’t given by city staff.

• Our world today is in the midst of some monumental changes: the national Black Lives Matter movement; seeing rights upheld for the LBGTQ population; and the DREAMers ruling overturned. Will these .movements/rulings change Scottsdale?

I believe Scottsdale is a welcoming community and we support all individuals and communities

• If elected, how will you show Scottsdale’s youth that their voices are valued?

Scottsdale already has many youth-oriented programs, but we can always listen for more ways to engage our youth.

•The Supreme Court’s ruling on LGBTQ rights only covers anti-bias in the workplace. Do you believe Scottsdale should implement a non-discrimination ordinance that allows the gay, lesbian and transgender population the same rights as others?

I believe that is a State issue, as anything we implement will be eventually overruled by the state as they have done so many times before. In the meantime, Scottsdale has been designated as a Golden Rule City where we recognize all individuals equally.

•What is your opinion on the Black Lives Matter movement?

Everyone in this country is entitled to their First Amendment rights and as long as people maintain peaceful demonstrations and follow the rule of law I have no issue with them or any other group.

Michael Auerbach

•It’s often said that people don’t believe their government “hears” them. Is there a way to change this public opinion? And if so, how?

Scottsdale is special. The voters need enhanced tourism, smart growth, and protection of individual liberties. The 10 million annual tourists generate $3.1 billion dollars to our city. Tourism thrives= Scottsdale residents’ benefit. My vision for Scottsdale is to help hoteliers, restaurant owners, and event planners get back to as near pre-COVID normal as possible, as soon as possible. I promise that if you elect me, I will work harder than any of my opponents to ensure tourism returns with a vengeance. I can back up this promise because I am the only candidate being considered who works in the hospitality industry.

•Our world today is in the midst of some monumental changes: the national Black Lives Matter movement; seeing rights upheld for the LBGTQ population; and the DREAMers ruling overturned. Will these movements/rulings change Scottsdale?

Every person has value and dignity. If I am honored to serve you on the City Council, I will protect the first amendment freedoms of every Scottsdale resident. Our first amendment right of free speech and free exercise are precious and must be defended. Freedom is good for everyone! I will protect the right of all residents to peacefully live out their beliefs without fear of unjust punishment by the government. The Arizona Supreme Court rightly said, “the guarantee of free speech are not only for those who are deemed sufficiently enlightened, advanced, or progressive. They are for everyone.”

•The Supreme Court’s ruling on LGBTQ rights only covers anti-bias in the workplace. Do you believe Scottsdale should implement a non-discrimination ordinance that allows the gay, lesbian and transgender population the same rights as others?

Scottsdale is a thriving city that welcomes people of diverse backgrounds and viewpoints. We always have and always will. Ordinances creating new protected classifications are a solution in search of a problem. States and cities that have passed this type of legislation have seen a multitude of serious consequences. These laws have been used to take away first amendment freedoms of speech and free exercise, threaten the safety and privacy of women and children, and strip girls and women of opportunity and a level playing field.

Scottsdale is a city that values first amendment freedoms, safety and privacy for everyone, and equal opportunity for women. I would not support this type of ordinance. Alliance Defending Freedom is a nonprofit committed to protecting the first amendment rights of all Americans. They have an incredibly successful record, winning 9 cases before the United States Supreme Court since 2011. I am proud to have them in Scottsdale, defending the first amendment freedoms of many Americans.

The Southern Poverty Law Center is a widely discredited organization that uses these designations as a fundraising ploy and an attempt to silence those with whom they disagree. Freedom is a Scottsdale value and our guests can be assured that we are a city that protects the first amendment rights of everyone!

If I am honored to serve you on the city council, I will protect the right of every Scottsdale resident to peacefully live out their beliefs without fear of unjust punishment by the municipal government. The claim that resisting these ordinances that undermine freedom hurts tourism is a tool to silence opposition. We will not be fooled by it! Scottsdale is a favorite choice for residence and vacationing for a reason. Part of enhancing tourism will be maintaining the things that have made it loved and making it better!

•What is your opinion on the Black Lives Matter movement?

Disagreement is not discrimination. All lives matter. Law and order are necessary for a civilized society.

Tammy Caputi

•It’s often said that people don’t believe their government “hears” them. Is there a way to change this public opinion? And if so, how?

People don’t feel they have a voice in government when they are disconnected from the decision making process. We need to make sure we have diverse representation on our council, and on our boards and commissions. We need to increase outreach and leverage technology to make sure everyone who cares about the city has a voice in the process, working with council to enhance our livability and quality of place, balancing respect for neighborhoods and open spaces while developing our economic drivers. Successful efforts like the recent passage of the bond package and school overrides show that when everyone is included and feels represented we can have positive results for our city. An overwhelming majority of Scottsdale residents love our city and feel it is moving in the right direction.

•Our world today is in the midst of some monumental changes: the national Black Lives Matter movement; seeing rights upheld for the LBGTQ population; and the DREAMers ruling overturned. Will these movements/rulings change Scottsdale?

Of course outside events will impact Scottsdale. We are not a desert island; we are affected by the communities and world around us. These movements and rulings that encourage and inspire people to be kinder, more open-minded and more inclusive will move our city further in that direction as well. We are already a world-class city; these changes will make us even better.

•If elected, how will you show Scottsdale’s youth that their voices are valued?

I have 3 school-aged children and my entire campaign is focused on the future of our city, which means valuing young voices and making sure our city is even better for them. I am the chair of SCOTT, an organization that is hosting a “Young Voters Engage the Candidates” forum next week. This forum is designed to give younger voters a chance to get to know the candidates and where we stand on issues that are important to them. I strongly support issues that are important to young voters, like education, attainable housing, equality, and open, healthy spaces.

•The Supreme Court’s ruling on LGBTQ rights only covers anti-bias in the workplace. Do you believe Scottsdale should implement a non-discrimination ordinance that allows the gay, lesbian and transgender population the same rights as others?

Of course we should implement a non-discrimination ordinance that allows all our citizens to enjoy the same rights. Scottsdale is a golden rule city. We should be “open for business” and welcoming equally to everyone in all aspects of life in our community. It’s the right thing to do and the right message for our city. Since the legislature cannot agree on a state-wide law, I support and advocate for an LGBTQ ordinance to be developed in Scottsdale.

•What is your opinion on the Black Lives Matter movement?

The Black Lives Matter movement has been instrumental in bringing national awareness and engagement to the issues of justice and equality for all; issues that demand our attention as we strive to continually improve and make our nation a “more perfect union”.

When a group of people cannot count on the machinery of justice to treat them fairly, and are victims of systemic racism or sexism, our country is not living up to its ideals. I support the message behind Black Lives Matter that we all deserve to be treated equally under the law. None of us is free unless all of us are free.

We must also remember that justice is not a zero sum game- one group doesn’t have to lose in order for another group to gain. Justice is not a finite resource- we can all win. I support justice and fair treatment for all, balancing the needs of all of our citizens, which also includes our dedicated and hard-working public safety/police officers. I am proud of the measured response our Police Department has taken in balancing the needs of community safety, property rights, and first amendments rights to peacefully protest, and proud to have the endorsement of the Police Officers of Scottsdale Association.

Bill Crawford

•It’s often said that people don’t believe their government “hears” them. Is there a way to change this public opinion? And if so, how?

Yes. First, I encourage residents to learn all they can about candidates and issues. Do not rely on sound bites and ask candidates questions where there are no obvious answers. Vote for those that align with your beliefs. Show up at City Council meetings when something is on the agenda that matters to you and attend neighborhood outreach meetings regarding development projects. Ask questions and consider context. Be aware that often there is a bigger picture defining decisions being made on the dais. Write to your mayor and council and call to set up an appointment to talk one-on-one.

•Our world today is in the midst of some monumental changes: the national Black Lives Matter movement; seeing rights upheld for the LBGTQ population; and the DREAMers ruling overturned. Will these movements/rulings change Scottsdale?

I believe these movements heighten awareness and show that there is a thirst in our communities for equality and fairness. Monumental change often comes with great discomfort and pain, but out of that comes empathy and understanding --- not always, but often. If there are rulings made statewide or nationally, we as a city will embrace them. Elected officials are put in place to uphold the law, not defy it, and I would expect that we will especially embrace changes that respect the rights of our fellow humans.

•If elected, how will you show Scottsdale’s youth that their voices are valued?

“The world is run by those who show up.” This well-known quote rings true for all voices. I always encourage youth to get involved, and I know so many in current leadership that want their voices in the mix because they are our future. Let us help them learn this at an early age. The Mayor’s Youth Council is a great program that helps kids learn how the city works, from trash collection to elections to law enforcement, and I would love to see this publicized more.

•The Supreme Court’s ruling on LGBTQ rights only covers anti-bias in the workplace. Do you believe Scottsdale should implement a non-discrimination ordinance that allows the gay, lesbian and transgender population the same rights as others?

The Constitution and Bill of Rights are broad documents affording everyone fair and equal protection and treatment under the law. As someone who believes that there should be no bias in the workplace or anywhere else, if a symbolic ordinance were proposed, I would not oppose it.

•What is your opinion on the Black Lives Matter movement?

Scottsdale is a diverse city where everyone is welcome. The good people of Scottsdale want justice for any victim of all crimes, and especially hate crimes, racial or religious persecution and mistreatment of citizens by law enforcement. We uphold the right to protest, but we are also a city of law and order and we have no tolerance for violent protest, vandalism, and theft like that which occurred in Scottsdale on Saturday, May 30, 2020. America’s “Most Livable City” was developed for everyone as a high-quality-of-life community where families could live in safety with an abundance of opportunity. While I do believe changes can be made, I do not support calls to defund the police. Overall, I believe the non-violent aspect of the Black Lives Matter movement in communities across the nation presents the opportunity to change the conversation in productive and positive ways.

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