Scottsdale’s Major Issues

In a Scottsdale Republic poll of the mayor and city council today, each listed top priorities for their attention.

Here are the questions and answers, along with my commentary:

What is your top priority in 2013?

Klapp: I will continue to work on eco­nomic development issues, such as McDowell Road and southern Scottsdale area investment, a WestWorld and Bell Road-area master plan, and retention and growth needs of existing Scottsdale businesses.

Klapp was a member of the so-called campaign “Jobs Team,” who as I noted during election silly season has never lifted a finger to actually do anything related to jobs or anything else she listed in her answer. All hat, no cattle.

Korte: Our biggest challenge is to en­sure that our city is protected against fu­ture economic down­turns. My priority is to help establish a long-­range strategic plan to create a more stable econ­omy. We must not only ex­pand our economy, we must diversify it by pur­suing new businesses that generate well-paying jobs — the kind of employ­ment opportunities that will allow people to afford to live and raise their families here. To accomplish this economic objective, it’s essential that we refine our business attraction and retention strategies and be willing to discuss collaborating with our neighbors and economic development organiza­tions to strengthen and diversify our economy.

On principle, I agree with diversifying the economy. However, whatever new businesses locate here will do so because of our quality of life (which we should aggressively protect), and we should focus on those that bring in more money than they require in city services. They must be sustainable, as tourism has been proven by data to be.

Lane: As mayor of the greatest city in America, I am responsible for bal­ancing multiple priori­ties. But first and fore­most, my goal is to ensure that Scottsdale’s reputa­tion as the best place to live, work and play is pro­tected. That is why we continue to responsibly manage our budget while keeping taxes low and especially why we continue to invest our time and energy into tourism, unmatched city services and creating a strong economic platform for businesses large and small to find success here. We will continue these ef­forts in 2013 and beyond.

Pure platitudes. And I am keen to highlight, it is the COUNCIL’S responsibility to balance the priorities. It’s not a responsibility reserved to the mayor in our COUNCIL-manager form of government.

Littlefield: For the last two years, the City Council agenda has been dominated by development issues, but in 2013 the No. 1 issue will be money. Revenues are still anemic, and we are faced with mil­lions of dollars of infra­structure needs left un­met during the economic downturn. The City Coun­cil is considering calling a bond election in Novem­ber, but I believe the vot­ers are in no mood to see their property taxes in­creased. Our challenge is to find a way to fund the current and future needs of our community while living within the new economic and political realities we face. In order to achieve this goal we must be clear about our priorities and firm in saying “no” to special interests who want to get their hands into the tax­payer cookie jar.

Couldn’t agree more!

Milhaven: I would like to convene a citizens’ task group to consider a sales ­tax increment to fund arts and culture. Arts and culture have been an important part of our community identity for our entire history. Today, Public Art funding is challenged and we have several pro­jects on the drawing board — the Desert Dis­covery Center, the Mu­seum of the West and an outdoor performing arts venue. A small sales-tax increment — two-tenths of a cent is 2 cents on $10 — would make these and/ or other projects possi­ble. A sales tax deserves consideration since a large portion of our sales tax is paid by visitors and we have (and would still have) one of the lowest local sales-tax rates in the region. A citizens’ task group would consider what projects might be supported and if we should ask our citi­zens for a sales-tax increment to fund these projects.

I hate to give the evildoers an opportunity to call me uncivil, but this is just plain dumb. Even Lane won’t fall for a “citizen’s task group” to raise taxes in support of the worst and most inefficient cultural arts program in the country. Heck, even the Republic thinks this is a dumb idea (editorial, same edition).

Did I mention that Milhaven was the chairman of the board of the Scottsdale Cultural Council before she ran for mayor…oops, city council? Pay attention: This woman is running again in 2014, either for her council seat or something worse.

Phillips: Fiscal responsibility, ensure balance exists in a new General Plan, hire a competent city  manager and ad­dress the proliferation of apartment buildings along Scottsdale Road.

Right on Guy! Top marks for making the best points with the fewest words!

Robbins: My top priority for 2013 is to produce a balanced budget that pro­motes and protects our high quality of life in Scottsdale. We have been through some very lean economic times that have affected our budget. As we cautiously move through a recovery, we will continue to provide high-quality services that our citizens expect. Our approach to a balanced budget should be twofold. First, we must focus on continu­ing to be as efficient and effective as pos­sible in the delivery of services to our cit­izens. Our city employs very talented and dedicated professionals who pro­vide the best possible services at the low­est possible cost. Second, we must con­tinue to create an economic environment that encourages business growth and job creation and that supports our tourism industry. If we focus on these principles, we can ensure a quality budget that pro­vides great service to our community.

Talk is cheap, and you vote the wrong way ever time; exactly contrary to what you have said.

The council will likely select a new city manager within the next six months. What are some “must have” qualities you think he or she should possess?

Klapp: The new city manager must be experienced in success­fully serving multiple bosses, have great moti­vational and communica­tion skills, possess strong capability to manage a large and diverse work­force, be experienced in team building and be a recognized team player.

Doesn’t address a single issue important to the citizens, but a good description of bureaucratic survival.

Korte: The most im­portant quality the next city manager should possess is the abil­ity to communicate clearly and honestly with the City Council, the city employee workforce and citizens. The new city manager must also have administrative experience, and the ability to engender respect from staff in order to inspire them and earn their loyalty. The next city manager should understand that his or her job is to manage and administrate the city’s affairs, not set policy or politi­cize those activities. Working closely with the city and using the ideas and in­put of citizens, the city manager can be instrumental in creating a vision for Scottsdale.

High marks for your answer. I hope you mean it.

Lane: Our new city manager must have a strong character, backed by a wealth of knowledge about managing a city of our size and complexity. He or she must also have the ability to take direc­tion from the council and a commitment to protecting the taxpayers’ interest at all times.

High marks for your answer. You’ve proven that you don’t mean it.

Littlefield: It is not the role of the city manager to have a vision for Scottsdale. His role is to implement the vision of the residents as expressed through their elected representatives. Trying to im­pose a “vision” for Scottsdale on unwill­ing residents is exactly what got two of the last three city managers in hot water. The actual role of the city manager is specified in the job title, which is to man­age the city government. The vast major­ity of Scottsdale’s almost 2,300 city em­ployees report through the chain of com­mand to the city manager, who also over­sees a $254million annual operating budget. That’s a big job, one that re­quires lots of administrative skill and leadership. So, we need to forget vision and look for management talent when hiring the next city manager.

Absolutely. So much so, I underlined it. And I underlined it to emphasis the following.

Milhaven: Our city manager needs to be a visionary and a creative thinker. We have many capable and talented depart­ment heads to manage the day to day op­erations and continue our legacy of pro­viding world class services to our citi­zens. Our new city manager needs to look to the future to help us keep the old­er parts of our community vibrant and imagine what more we can be.

Read the previous answer by Littlefield and you’ll see exactly what is wrong with Milhaven’s. Well, that and the fact that her answer makes no sense. Korte gets it…maybe because she was actually AT the visioning Town Hall that’s been going on for the last couple of days. Milhaven? Never saw her.

Phillips: Someone who is not just seeking a city manager position in “Any­town,” USA. An individ­ual who understands Scottsdale has a unique character and cachet which needs to be en­hanced, protected and preserved. One who will maintain a healthy bal­ance between the citi­zens, small businesses and the development community. Last, but not least, one who will follow the General Plan.

BIG ditto, Guy. Nicely done.

Robbins: The qualities that I am look­ing for in the next city manager are lead­ership, accountability and performan­ce. The city manager is in charge of an or­ganization that employs 2,400 people and covers a service area of 184 square miles. The ability to set goals, develop a plan to meet those goals, and the dedica­tion to gain the support of those provid­ing services are critical for a good lead­er. Our employees need to know the plan, work the plan and get results from the plan. The city manager will make sure that employees who get results will be rewarded and those who don’t will be given the proper tools to improve. Each one of us is accountable and the next city manager will make sure this is true in Scottsdale.

Nice statistics, but meaningless relative to the only scorecard that counts: Your votes on council. However, I do agree that the city’s workforce deserves respect, fair pay, and reward when their performance exceeds expectation.

Why do you think residents rejected the last General Plan in 2012, and what changes do you think are necessary for voters to pass it in 2014?

Klapp: Whenever voters are unsure about a ballot measure or have not been adequately educated about the proposed language, they will vote no. Residents must understand and agree with the mission and goals contained in the plan. Broad communication about the plan is critical.

Shades of Ecton: “The wrong people voted.”

Korte: My focus is on the future and keeping my commitment to building consensus on issues, and that applies to my approach about the General Plan — which is a critical road map for the next 10 years of our city’s future. The changes in the approval process of the General Plan have begun. I support that process. A cross-section of 100 citizens are convening to create a shared vision built on community collaboration. The three-day dialogue is a healthy method to achieve our objectives by listening to a variety of voices and opinions about Scottsdale’s future. I believe it is important for the citizens of Scottsdale to create a shared community vision, which can then be reflected in the General Plan. I want to take this opportunity to thank the citizens who are volunteering their time to take part in this very important process. I look forward to hearing their recommendations about how to respect our high standards and keep our city moving in a positive direction.

Good words. I hope your actions follow suit.

Lane: Not long ago, the City Council made the decision to hire an outside firm — AZ Town Hall — to host multiple in depth meetings with the public in order to gain a better perspective as to what, specifically, that the voters didn’t like. I look forward to their results and final report to the council. The General Plan sets our community vision for the next 10 years; it is important that we get it right. And we will.

AZ Town Hall was NOT hired to find out “…what, specifically, that the voters didn’t like.” Jim, your answer is a good example of the fact that you don’t understand what you are voting on when you vote to approve these things. You should read Korte’s answer, above.

Littlefield: The General Plan is Scottsdale’s most important planning document. Ideally it should embody the community’s vision for what kind of city Scottsdale should be, provide guidance to city government when making land use decisions, enhance Scottsdale’s worldwide appeal as a highly desirable tourist destination, and protect our community’s exceptional quality of life. Unfortunately, the last proposed General Plan update achieved none of these goals. In fact, it actually would have weakened the General Plan through language that encouraged special interests to exploit Scottsdale’s unique character for their own short-term gain. In order to be acceptable, the next proposed General Plan update must close the loopholes in the current plan that allow these special interests to circumvent the citizens’ vision for our city.

I would only add the correction that the General Plan is the city’s master POLICY document, which of course includes land use designations from which our zoning code flows. But you are absolutely right about exploitation by special interests.

Milhaven: The General Plan rejected by citizens in 2012, despite claims made by the opposition, was the product of significant citizen input and was more restrictive than the prior plan. For the 2014 plan, we must revisit the desires of the citizens to ensure that their wants and concerns are addressed. In addition, supporters of the plan will need to have a voice in the dialogue to provide citizens a balanced discussion of the plan.

Again channeling Wayne Ecton, and woefully out of touch. There was significant citizen input in 2011 and 2012, but it was by a small group of citizens selected by staff and the council, while the most passionate, knowledgeable citizens were intentionally cut out of the process.

Phillips: Aside from the vague vision for Scottsdale’s future, it was staff-driven, not citizen-driven, and tilted too heavily toward the development community.

Right to the point!

Robbins: The General Plan did not pass because we had a group of citizens who were very passionate about the plan that we put before the voters. Our city staff worked on the General Plan update for over two years. Many citizens were involved with the process and provided input throughout the update. Before the council adopted the final plan, we were asked to make several changes. We accommodated most of those changes, however, the vision statement was not what many citizens wanted. The General Plan is for the benefit of our citizens. It was rejected because changes need to be made. I am confident that the next update will provide those changes and our citizens will agree.

Everyone wants to be Wayne Ecton!

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  1. The city’s fiscal situation should be the #1 priority of the council. It’s already unconscionable that the city sales tax applies to food for home consumption (grocery store food) while fiscally conservative city council members in Phoenix are trying to repeal it and now Linda Milhaven is considering an increase in the sales tax in an economic recession with stagnant wages and inflation.

    No one is talking about how the city plans to prepare financially if it loses the Hulstedt and Loxas lawsuits. Does the city have commercial liability insurance to cover the claim or will the taxpayers be on the hook for over $40 million if the city loses?

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