Bounty + Apathy = Low Voter Turnout

Sam West, one of my occasional political allies, regularly sends famous historical quotes to his subscriber list. This morning he sent one that reminded me of a conversation I had with another friend recently. In it, my friend asked my opinion on why I feel our Scottsdale City Government is so dysfunctional. The quote Sam provided today would have been a perfect answer:

Will Rogers

 “All I know is just what I read in the papers, and that’s an alibi for my ignorance.”   Will Rogers

This is, however, only part of my would-be answer. Let’s call it Part B.

But there is also a Part A, which is this:

The typical Scottsdale resident has it pretty darn good.

We have reasonably good infrastructure in even the oldest parts of the city. We have good public safety services and public amenities. And considering those resources, we have a relatively low cost of living. In short, all of the reasons that make Scottsdale a great place to live also make it a place about which few residents have complaints.

The fewer the complaints the lighter the voting turnout. Historically, Scottsdale has light turnout.

Our last city council election – in Nov 2010 – had about a 62% turnout, but that’s up considerable from years past (normally 20-30%).

Why such an increase? It’s mostly due to the recent realignment of city elections from springtime to coincide with November state and federal elections. Many more people vote in the federal elections (and to a lesser extent the state elections). However, the “undervote,” or ballots cast that had NO vote marked for the city council races was still high, reflecting apathy or lack of awareness of the local issues and candidates.

But back to Part B. If folks feel there’s not much to complain about, then there’s not much market for news stories about complaints. The Arizona Republic is a business, after all, and they are in the business of selling advertising and newspapers.

Additionally, however, as I noted in our kickoff announcement last week, the management of the Republic is very heavily cross-pollinated with Scottsdale Leadership and the Scottsdale Area Chamber of Commerce. Scottsdale Republic General Manager Mike Ryan is on the board of Leadership and was on the executive board of the Chamber. Opinions Page Editor Robert Leger is a Leadership grad. Publisher John Zidich was on the board of the Fiesta Bowl during its recent legal debacle. Is it any wonder that the Republic’s coverage is overwhelmingly in favor of the positions advanced by the Chamber of Commerce? Can you recall a single article, column, or editorial that was critical of anything the Chamber did? I cannot.

So, consider Will Rogers’ quote. Don’t rely solely on the Arizona Republic, providing you an ‘alibi for ignorance.’ Seek out other viewpoints and get involved so you can see what’s going on firsthand. As always, just let me know if you’d like me to save you a seat at the next City Council meeting.

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7 Comments

  1. Since the article mentioned the Fiesta Bowl, I thought I’d bring this up.

    Early on, I asked what ever happened to John Junker’s indictment. Surely this individual isn’t getting away with misuse of funds. Last I heard that was called embezzlement…fraud.

    Yes, I know this is Arizona where money buys all kinds of privilege, but surely there’s got to be a criminal charge involved here…or is it that Junker has the goods on too many of our fine citizens and politicians?

    Will Junker just suffer embarrassment at being caught with his hand in the til, or will he be brought to justice?

    1. That’s a good question, Mike, and now that you mention it, Junker HAS dropped off the radar.

      I moved here right after Ev Mecham malfunctioned…well, before he PUBLICLY malfunctioned. I’ve been amazed ever since.

      Thanks for the reminder!

  2. With powerful friends in influential places, it seems that unless the media keeps the issue of Junker’s wayward ways in front of the public’s fickle fleeting memory, he’ll get away with his misdeeds, Scott free.

    Junker may just be the tip of the slimey iceberg. I’ll wager many a legislator and perhaps a media manipulator or two could suffer serious injury should he be called upon to testify in a court of law. That’s why this issue has dropped off the radar.

    John, I’m hoping that scottsdaletrails.com might pursue this story. Do they give Pulitzer’s to websites for excellence in investigative journalism?

    1. Agreed, Mike. Thanks for your comments – yes, this situation is outrageous. Much to our surprise, John & I have been invited to look into a number of issues since the launch of ScottsdaleTrails last month. In each case, we’ve had to rein in our enthusiasm to dig in, reminding ourselves to keep the focus on our main mission: connecting citizens with their city. While we view this issue as currently on a state level, and not specific to just Scottsdale, we *are* keeping a look out for a direct connection to our city government and any perceived misuse of city resources…in which case we’ll likely accept your invite and pursue that Pulitzer. Thank you again for your comments – keep them coming!

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