Scottsdale mayoral candidates David Ortega and Lisa Borowsky met Monday night in a live virtual debate.
The 60-minute debate was moderated by Arizona Republic state politics reporter, Maria Polletta. The questions were submitted by both readers and reporters.
The debate began with both candidates introducing themselves and their vision for the City of Scottsdale and then moving forward with their thoughts on the idea of districting.
“I brought the item forward of districting. In February, I published an idea which would be a four district and two hybrid model,” said Mr. Ortega. “I’ve also considered a six district system. I definitely want to bring the issue through a panel of citizens and bring it to a vote in 2022.”
“I am in favor of the idea of districting. However, I believe it’s paramount that we hear from the citizens,” said Ms. Borowsky. “I would immediately move to organize a citizen review committee on this idea drawing from the various areas of our city so that the citizens have input on the process.”
Shortly after discussing districting, both candidates discussed their ideas of a development that would be an appropriate investment in Old Town and downtown Scottsdale after they both opposed the proposed Southbridge II project, which intended to bring more hotel, office, and retail space but was not supported by residents.
Mr. Ortega proposed that “a low density, especially down the canal was workable unlike Southbridge II which took up public parking.”
Ms. Borowsky similarly was insistent that a project that was not so “massive” like the Southbridge II project would be a better fit.
After discussing the project and ultimately, the developer’s decision to cancel the project, the candidates later discussed issues regarding COVID-19 and Mayor Jim Lane’s recent decision to rescind Scottsdale’s mask mandate.
“That was a mistake,” Mr. Ortega said. “It set the wrong message to the citizens of Scottsdale. In fact, all city staff and all interactions with the public have to be per the guidelines. So if necessary, I absolutely would follow and keep them in effect as long as the county had them in effect.”
Ms. Borowsky had similar views.
“I am not in favor of redundant and possibly inconsistent legislation,” said Ms. Borowsky. “I have maintained the entire time that if there is a public health litigation measure that needs to be instituted, that it is appropriate that it come either from the state or the county.”
Later the candidates discussed tourism, diversity, and discussed the Supreme Court’s ruling of discrimination against members of the LGBTQ+ community in the workplace is illegal in relation to Scottsdale’s lack thereof an ordinance and whether they’d be in support of one.
Mr. Ortega started off by saying “absolutely, yes,” and went on saying that “it’s the right thing to do.”
“Scottsdale’s renowned as a welcoming and hospitable city but at the level of the city employees themselves and as a city as a whole, that’s a very healthy environment that I totally support,” said Mr. Ortega.
In opposition to the support of an ordinance, Ms. Borowsky said, “I don’t support it and I have a lot of reasons why.”
“It’s redundant, and perspectively inconsistent,” said Ms. Borowksy.
She described how current laws are already in place such as the Title 7 of the Civil Rights Act and the Federal Fair Housing Act, which both extend to Scottsdale.
To close the debate, both candidates discussed their thoughts on police reform in relation to the riots that took place at Scottsdale Fashion Square, which happened in late May due to civil unrest across the country.
Both candidates showed their support for law enforcement and discussed the accountability that was demanded of the police in Scottsdale as well as across the nation.
Mr. Ortega said, “No one was killed in the incident at Fashion Square but if something did happen, there are two questions that are asked: did the officer fail the training? Or, did the training fail the officer? For instance, with the George Floyd situation, thousands of miles away, it was probably both.”
“I think we can enhance the process,” said Ms. Borowsky. “What has gone on over the past six months has really shown us that we need to refocus how we’re handling our public safety and give them support. As I move forward working with the police officers and the administration, I want to hear from them, because most of all I think they want to make sure that doesn’t happen as an organization.”
Scottsdale voters will decide on Nov. 3 who they want for mayor after 12 years of being led by Mr. Lane.
Editor’s Note: Gabriella Herran-Romero is a student reporter at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communications.