2012 in Scottsdale is going to be a very interesting year. The economy and the housing market are obviously going to continue to dominate our local picture. Obviously much of our revenue comes from tourism-related sales taxes, and tourism depends to a great degree on disposable income. The worse the overall economy, the less disposable income is available for visitors to come see us and spend their money here.
Heated debates about development vs. character will continue, as will arguments about whether big business (mostly development-related) should dictate that balance instead of ordinary citizens, residents, and taxpayers.
The first real shot in that battle was actually fired this year, 2011, via the City Council’s action to put on the March 2012 ballot a developer-friendly General Plan Update. Neighborhood advocates have been firing back in skirmish fashion, trying to raise awareness. Expect a more coordinated counterattack in January.
Development interests, including the developer-dominated Chamber of Commerce are going to spend a LOT of money promoting the Update. I’m predicting victory for the residents in the form of defeating the Update, but there’s too much money on the other side for them to mend their ways. They’ve done a pretty good job working around the letter of the current General Plan, and that won’t stop just because the Update is defeated.
Nowhere has the clash of business-vs-residents been more visible or more controversial than the Downtown Entertainment District. You can expect the battles continue over noise, parking, litter. Courtesy of Mayor Lane and the Chamber of Commerce caucus on the City Council, we have the highest concentration of bars in the state, as well as a lame noise ordinance that isn’t being effectively enforced, a neighborhood parking permit program sure to cause as much trouble as it resolves, and a city litter ordinance targeting downtown with double fines as a redundancy to a state littering ordinance that the Scottsdale Police Department is already enforcing whenever priorities allow. Care to guess how often that is? More band-aids will follow.
Utilities costs will also make news in 2012. A sewer rate increase has been floated, and will be the subject of public outreach meetings in January. Natural gas rates are likely to increase and there’s a lot of controversy afoot regarding the Southwest Gas franchise renewal by the City, pending approval by the voters on the same March ballot as the General Plan Update. It won’t surprise me if the voters reject this, too.
Millions of dollars of bonds for pet projects are being ‘prioritized’ for presentation to and approval by (theoretically) the voters later in the year. Scottsdale voters don’t like bonds lately, mostly because the bonds that have been floated by the City Council are of dubious public benefit. No one wants to have the additional tax burden for projects that cater to special interests, especially when the City and the Council can’t responsibly spend the money we ALREADY give them…let alone millions more.
The Disney-like Desert Discovery Center proposal is sure folly, as is any notion of giving more money to the Scottsdale Cultural Council. However, to use Dennis Robbins’ language, you can expect a full-court Chicken Little campaign from the City Treasurer and others who have already declared that we are on an “unsustainable” path. Funny, I’ve been saying that since the LAST mayoral election and they seem to be just now figuring that out.
Of course this is a campaign year. Mayor Lane us up for re-election. If someone with any credibility will run, Lane is a goner, despite supposedly raising over $100,000 so far. Council members Klapp, McCullagh, and Borowsky are at the end of their terms. So far, none have committed to running for their seats again. Klapp is a consistent Chamber of Commerce shill, and McCullagh only votes with the good guys when the bad guys are sure to win. Borowsky has really come around on some important issues. I’d hate to see her leave the Council. It would be a lot more bland without her.
Since the State Legislature mandated that our City Council elections be realigned to coincide with the federal elections in the fall rather than our usual springtime vote, we’ve seen a lot more partisan politicking. Much of the support Lane needed to squeak by in the last election came from efforts to identify Manross as a Democrat. Conventional wisdom in our local political scene says this is worth quite a bit, but Lane’s margin of victory tells me that the voters are smart enough to know that he’s not a great leader just because he calls himself a Republican.
The kickoff skirmish of 2012 will be January 10th at the first City Council meeting of the year. I’ll be posting a “Council Preview” next week to run down the agenda items. Meanwhile you can view them on the officially posted agenda.
You’ll note that there’s a special meeting at 4 p.m. before the regular meeting to interview and appoint some new board and commission members. One of those appointments will go to the person who will fill my seat on the Airport Advisory Commission. That should lead to some interesting questions and discussions! Efforts to enable more residential development in the Airpark didn’t end with the three (two successful) rezoning efforts in 2011.
Scottsdale Quarter is planning to build out some of their previously-approved residential units, and there’s talk of some lot split machinations that are sure to lead to greater density. The FAA isn’t done looking at the residential encroachment issue and the effects on Scottsdale Airport, which has received millions of dollars in FAA grants in exchange for promises by the city to protect those investments from encroachment.
Stay tuned to ScottsdaleTrails for the most timely and detailed coverage of all these Scottsdale issues and many more!