I could have finished Tony Nelssen’s final campaign finance report a long time ago. In fact, I’ve had it done for almost a year except for a few minor details. I’m a huge procrastinator, but that’s not the problem. These reports are tedious, kind of like filling out long-form tax returns. But that isn’t it, either. I guess I just never wanted to admit that it was over.
Tony was about as close to being Mr. Scottsdale as we’ll probably ever see. Even so, most of us never really knew how much that was true until he turned to ride away into the sunset. Then, just like that, he was gone.
It seems that’s the way it is with Scottsdale herself. She seems to be slipping away. It didn’t take long for the buzzards to start circling up north where Tony lived. The Environmentally Sensitive Lands Ordinance, the Desert Foothills Overlay, and so many other juicy morsels have gone lame, just waiting to be picked clean. How long before they are just words in a history book that no one bothered to write?
After Tony died, there was some quiet gallows humor among his friends. We tried to figure out who Tony would have supported so they could say, “Endorsed by the Dead Guy.” We joked about Tony haunting his rivals and “tourists” on the City Council. We were mad at Tony for being “inconsiderate” by having gone and died on us. We whispered that his ghostly hand must have influenced the drawing of names from Tony’s Stetson, so as to put his wife Marg in his seat for the remainder of his term. More denial, I suppose; not wanting to face what had happened, let alone what was coming. As much as we felt sorry for Tony and his family, we felt sorry for ourselves.
I reviewed and re-reviewed all three (count ’em, three) pages of Tony’s final campaign finance report, looking for any error that might require me to amend it. By accident, I hit the wrong tab and pull up the previous report which lists all of Tony’s campaign supporters and friends. It also lists all of them as receiving a full refund after his death. That’s the way Tony wanted it, and that’s the way Marg wanted it, so I wrote the checks.
Tony and Marg put a lot of their own money into the campaign, too, and they weren’t exactly wealthy. But after campaign expenses and refunds to contributors, all they got back was $86 and change. You can’t buy a lot of hay these days with $86. You can hardly drive from Tony’s house to the Kiva and back for $86.
Gone forever are the days, however, when campaign finance reports could be folded into a business envelope. I contrast Tony’s final accounting against the 80-page campaign finance report that Jim Lane filed last week. Tony’s list of contributors is pitiful in comparison. I’ve seen small-town phone books that weren’t 80 pages.
Ironically, there are a few names of development-types that appear on both lists. Some gave money to Tony’s campaign even though he almost always voted against them. They recognized how important it was to have Tony involved in the process and what a symbol of Scottsdale he was. Too bad they didn’t believe it enough to respect the work that he and his allies put into keeping Scottsdale special.
These days most of Tony’s friends look pretty weary. After the long City Council meetings that end in defeat and late-night community events that keep us from families and from sleep, we’ve quietly asked ourselves,
“Is it worth fighting anymore? When will it stop, and if so, where? Does anyone else get it? Does anyone else care?”
We’ve rarely asked each other these questions aloud, but we can read them on each others’ faces.
OK, I’m off to the Kiva to file this last report. It’s a beautiful day…the kind of day that reminds us why we suffer through July in the Sonoran. I think I’ll ride my bike. I wish I had a horse. I’d take a ‘shortcut’ out through the scrub and circle back to tie-up to the rail at City Hall after sundown; after everyone has gone home except Carolyn, so no one else could see me hand her this final report.
If I can get some rest tonight, maybe I’ll fight a little more tomorrow.