Paper of Record

The stories that defined Scottsdale in 2019


In the last year of the past decade --- 2019 --- the Scottsdale Independent extensively covered the ins and outs of the community of Scottsdale, including succinctly offering watchdog reporting at City Hall.

From the passage of a $319 million bond election with a multitude of projects touching every part of the city, to development concerns and the tragic loss of one of Scottsdale’s most beloved educators, the Independent and its dedicated reporting staff was there for it all.

Residents of Scottsdale are finding their voice, and making it heard. During election season, numerous residents and stakeholders opined their for -or-against position on whether or not the city needed increased funding.

When the city was considering adopting an official flag, designed by local artists, the residents banded together to have their collective voice heard. No matter the issue --- big or small --- if a resident had an opinion, critical or otherwise, the hometown newspaper would make sure those in power heard their perspectives.

As Scottsdale prepares for a new decade these are the biggest stories of 2019.

1. Scottsdale takes step toward unity with local election results, leaders say

Scottsdale officials are rejoicing following the unofficial results of the special, all-mail Nov. 5 election, where local voters were asked to approve four million-dollar ballot measures.

Also, voters were asked to vote on a budget override for the Scottsdale Unified School District, as well as three bond questions to fund up to $319 million in projects ranging from expanding senior centers to infrastructure.

Unofficial results by the Maricopa County Records Office showed a voter turn out of about 26% for the school district, and 27% for the city’s ballot initiatives.

As of results posted at 8 p.m., there were 47,798 ballots cast for the Scottsdale bond election.

Scottsdale bond question No. 1, seeking voter authorization to sell up to $112.6 million general obligation bonds for parks, recreation, and senior services was approved with 32,891 ballots cast, or 69%.

Scottsdale bond question No. 2, seeking voter authorization to sell up to $112.3 million general obligation bonds for community spaces and infrastructure was approved with 32,001 ballots cast, or 68%.

Scottsdale bond question No. 3, seeking voter authorization to sell up to $94.1 million general obligation bonds for public safety and technology was approved with 33,881 ballots cast, or 73%.

The Scottsdale Unified School District M&O override renewal was also approved by 61% of voters, with 25,780 ballots cast.

2. Museum Square development garners unanimous approval

After years of curves and bumps, the “long and winding road” of Museum Square has reached a straightaway.

The Scottsdale City Council unanimously approved several items along with the development plan --- including a fourth amendment to its purchase and sale agreement, rezoning, a right-of-way abandonment and a budget transfer --- as part of the project at its Oct. 15 meeting.

Zoning attorney John Berry spoke to the council regarding the project, calling it a big collaboration between a diverse array of residents, business owners and community members who care about the city’s arts district.

“Now is the time for the renaissance of the arts district, a once brilliant but now faded jewel in the city’s crown,” he said. “What’s before you tonight is a once in a generation opportunity, an opportunity born in collaboration.”

Museum Square is a mixed-use development that will sit around the intersection of Second Street and Marshall Way along the Goldwater Boulevard curve. The city sold the Loloma Lands, parcels west of Marshall Way, for $27.75 million to the developer Macdonald Development Corporation.

3. ‘How lucky we were to have him’: Scottsdale leaders remember Art DeCabooter

Thank you, Art DeCabooter.

Thank you for leaving a lasting legacy on Scottsdale; for casting your wisdom upon countless people during your tenure at Scottsdale Community College; and for bestowing your leadership upon so many civic organizations and groups.

Out of all the people who come and go from Scottsdale, it is rare to find someone who has an unmeasurable impact on the city.

And yet, that is who Dr. DeCabooter was.

Dr. DeCabooter was most well-known as the longtime president of Scottsdale Community College from 1978-08, in addition to serving many organizations including the Scottsdale Area Chamber of Commerce, Scottsdale Charros, McDowell Sonoran Preserve Commission and more.

Dr. DeCabooter died on Oct. 9, after a 14-year fight against Parkinsons Disease.

He was 78 years old.

4. Inclusion for all

The Scottsdale Independent covered LGBTQ equality three times in 2019:

5. City flag dilemma: Scottsdale retains original design

Scottsdale is sticking with its historic blue, white and gold flag featuring a horse and rider for the foreseeable future.

On March 5, the Scottsdale City Council voted 5-2 to rescind a Feb. 19 vote approving a new city flag, coined the Saguaro Blossom. Councilmembers Linda Milhaven and Virginia Korte were the two dissenting votes.

The morning after the City Council meeting, Scottsdale Public Affairs Director Kelly Corsette emailed news outlets informing the City Council was placing an item on their March 5 agenda to rescind the resolution adopting the new city flag and “provide possible direction to staff regarding a new city flag,” Mr. Corsette said.

“We will not do anything else with the new flag until after that discussion,” he said in the email.

Since the February meeting, the city has been in limbo as community members have voiced views on both side of the issue.

Scottsdale’s first city flag is simple: The city seal on a white background. The seal was adopted in 1951, the same year as incorporation, and a Dec. 14, 1954 council auction authorized “the purchase of a flag for town hall,” however, no official action was found regarding the design of the flag, the staff report states.

6. One voice: Scottsdale pursues citizen relief from disruptive commercial flight patterns

After nearly five years and hundreds of thousands of loud flights to the chagrin of Scottsdale residents, the local municipality is submitting comments to the Federal Aviation Administration regarding redirected Sky Harbor Airport traffic.

On Tuesday, May 21, Scottsdale City Council voted unanimously to approve a resolution authorizing Mayor Jim Lane to submit comments on behalf of the City of Scottsdale to the FAA regarding issues arising from airplanes arriving and departing Sky Harbor Airport, which has detrimentally affected local residents.

On Sept. 18, 2014, the Federal Aviation Administration implemented changes in flight paths using NextGen satellite-based navigation as part of an effort to streamline departures and arrivals of the estimated 1,200 daily flights to and from Sky Harbor Airport.

NextGen, short for Next Generation Air Transportation System, is a national procedure aimed to improve the National Airspace System. With the implementation of NextGen, the FAA made significant changes without a proper environmental assessment or notification to the public.

Ultimately, the new routes condensed and lowered flight corridors over thousands of homes, natural preserves and parks.

The changes were made without notifying the community, officials say.

7. Man of character: Saguaro baseball coach Joe Muecke teaches higher purpose

Coach Muecke has coached baseball at Saguaro for 16 years, starting as an assistant coach under former head coach Ryan Dyer. He became head coach in 2014.

He has a 99-79 overall record --- as of Tuesday, April 23 --- and his teams have made the playoffs four times in those six years. Coach Muecke credits his assistants Cody and David Fortney for their efforts in growing the team and being “men of character.”

As an assistant, Coach Muecke coached a team that won back-to-back state championships. It is this type of success Coach Muecke wants to continue as part of the program’s tradition, but he also wants to enhance the team’s character off the field.

“We are in the central part of Scottsdale where I think as we grow athletes, we also have a responsibility for these student-athletes to recognize how they can impact more so than just the athletics,” he said.

“That’s what you try to expand for these young men, is how powerful their reach is by being in other peoples’ lives, giving up their time, energy, Those are resources that are invaluable.”

8. Spring training entities ink funding agreement to begin Scottsdale Stadium renovations

Scottsdale is on its way to begin renovations at the beloved downtown stadium, after a funding agreement for nearly $50.6 million was reached.

During a March 19 Scottsdale City Council meeting, elected officials unanimously approved a memorandum of understanding with the San Francisco Giants and the Scottsdale Charros requiring binding capital financial commitments to Phase 1 of the Scottsdale Stadium renovation project.

In addition, $22.8 million for a construction contract with Hunt Construction Group, Inc. was approved, while the total cost of both portions of Phase 1 is estimated to be $50.6 million. The city’s portion of the Phase 1 improvements --- $35 million --- will come from bed tax dollars and municipal property corporation debt supported by annual bed tax allocation.

Scottsdale Stadium, which opened in 1956, is the only Cactus League venue part of a downtown setting, at 7408 E. Osborn Road. In 1992, it underwent a complete rebuild and was last renovated in 2005.

The stadium is mainly utilized in the spring and fall for baseball games.

The Giants have called Scottsdale Stadium their home for spring training for several years, while the Scottsdale Scorpions of the Arizona Fall League utilize the facility in the latter part of the year, including the championship game at the end of November.

9. Origins of Scottsdale: Mexican families piece together Old Town history

Circled around a large wooden table, enjoying their morning coffee in a meeting room at a local church, a world of knowledge unknown to the everyday Scottsdale resident is being shared about the origins of the city.

From afar, the sound of deep-belly laughter and teasing can be overheard, while a close familiarity can be felt by a stranger passing by.

The weekly Tuesday morning meetings at Our Lady of Perpetual Help Catholic Church, 7655 E. Main Street, is not the run-of-the-mill meet-up for Scottsdale residents. These individuals have deep ties to each other, and the Scottsdale community.

Just a stone’s throw from where the group meets every week, are the locations of where their family and childhood homes once stood.

Along Old Town roadways --- Main Street, First Avenue and Drinkwater Boulevard --- where municipal buildings, restaurants, art galleries and various other shops are now embedded, for a time, used to be a tight-knit community of residential homes where Mexican families planted roots.

These Mexican immigrants arrived to the area in the early 1900s, and started their families.

When Scottsdale incorporated in the 1950s, and the decision to set up the city’s headquarters was finalized some years later, the family homes were replaced.

Although, small traces of the original Adobe structures created back then still remain today.

10. People Killing People: Frequency of tragic events spurs mass-casualty healthcare mindset

At some point over the next four months it is likely an active-shooter situation occurs on American soil — as in the first week of August -- it has been widely reported there have been about 250 mass-shootings nationwide.

American places of worship, retail commerce and public education have become some of the most dangerous ground on planet Earth. However, the chances of a school shooting are 1 in 6.4 million and there is no need to be alarmed, experts contend, but emotionally, the statistics mean nothing.

As of press time, there have been more mass-shootings than days in calendar year 2019. In all, since the most recent horrific events in Texas, Ohio and California, 62 human beings have lost their lives to a mass-shooting event so far this year.

Definable mass-shooting events appear to have started 37 years ago, according to Time Magazine, defining the event as an occurrence where at least three people are killed by gunfire on civilian ground during one period of time.

The seminal American periodical offers a 1982 incident in Florida where junior high school teacher Carl Robert Brown killed eight people inside a welding shop as its first data point.

Since then, thousands have been injured, hundreds of lives lost; and here in Arizona, public safety officials and medical professionals are finding ways to cope with horrendous realities.