Public Safety Band-Aid for the Bar District

This “My Turn” column appeared in today’s Scottsdale Republic. While I believe the real solution to the bar district safety crisis lies in better city planning, strong code enforcement, and revocation of use permits for violators, a real bar district safety ordinance would be a good first step…Unfortunately, I have to agree with Bill Crawford that what has been offered thus far is nothing more than a theatrical performance by Mayor Jim Lane and minion JP Twist, and not a very good one.

Scottsdale mayor’s bar-safety proposal has serious problems

The Association to Preserve Downtown Scottsdale’s Quality of Life accurately forecasted conse­quences of inaction regarding issues in Scottsdale’s bar district. We warned the may­or and council about the possibility of shoot­ings and stabbings. We warned about the dan­gers associated with pedicabs. We reported the increase in gang activity in and around the bar district. In­action has cost lives, degraded property values and tarnished Scottsdale’s reputation.

At the same time our concerns were dismissed, the bar developers were given a green light for anything they wanted to do. While residents continue to endure crime, trash, parking prob­lems and relentless noise, the love af­fair between the bars and the mayor plays on.

Earlier this year, as a symbolic ges­ture proclaiming the mayor’s unwa­vering support for the bars, Mayor Lane actually gave his State of the City address at the W Hotel. We believe this was nothing more than a “bar devel­oper puppet show” and was the first time Scottsdale’s annual State of the City address was not held on city prop­erty. This sent a strong message. The bar community heavily funded Lane and other bar-friendly council candi­dates’ campaigns in the last election. It seems to us the bar community is get­ting great value for money they spent.

In a knee-jerk public-relations reac­tion to the most recent stabbing, we believe the mayor is attempting to get out in front of the story by promoting a very weak bar-safety policy. If the may­or and council had been serious about the policy, they could have ushered the proposal into law months ago instead of procrastinating.

We believe the foot-dragging (like the noise ordinance) was an insurance policy to protect the status quo bars from any interruption of business over the summer. The proposed policy has some serious problems:

  • The mayor has sidestepped the City Charter, the council and neigh­borhood committees by attempting to control the process himself and protect the bars.
  • The time allowed between fre­quency of events is too short. There is always a short-term correction after a significant event. Trends don’t manifest themselves over days and weeks, but rather over months. Under the timeline stipulated in the mayor’s weak policy, the two stabbings at Martini Ranch would be exempt from consequence because of the tight time constraints.
  • The fines are too low. Trivial fines mean nothing to a bar and can easily be absorbed into the overhead. The fines are nothing more than a symbolic wrist-slap.
  • The most important tool for en­forcing bar-safety policy is missing. There is no provision to revoke the conditional-use permit for a chronic offending bar. This should be part of the policy along with specific non-nego­tiable guidelines and consequences spelled out.

A real revised bar-safety policy with significant, realistic guidelines and consequences has value. Now that the revision is on the table, I encourage the mutual parties to do what is in the best interest of public safety and move for­ward in a timely fashion.

Bill Crawford is a downtown resident, business owner and the president of the Association to Preserve Downtown Scottsdale’s Quality of Life.


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