Editorials: Light Rail and Debt

The Scottsdale Republic printed a couple of opinion columns from the good guys this morning:

Voters don’t OK Scottsdale’s debt, but shoulder the burden

There are logical fallacies and false equivalences throughout Councilman Dennis Robbins’ recent opinion piece equating Scotts­dale’s excessive city debt to citizen demand for services. Debt is debt regard­less of how it’s in­curred. Debt means debt service, which detracts from public safety and other ser­vices.

If only 22 percent of Scottsdale’s debt is voter-approved, that means 78 percent is not! Robbins’ dismis­siveness toward the majority of the debt — “vetted in a public process and approved by your elected officials,” he wrote — does not make it less burden­some, nor does it accurately portray the utter lack of substantive public discussion about the total.

Robbins would be mad as heck if one of his employees used the company credit card without explicit permission to run up a level of debt equal to three times the annual gross revenue of his business. He’d be furious if he found out about it at the end of the month via the monthly statement instead of being told immediately.

Ninety-nine percent of the citizens of Scottsdale are shocked when they find out how much debt we have, and rightly so given how Robbins and his colleagues keep them in the dark.

Robbins rationalizes increasing debt and raising taxes by crowing about low tax rates. Taxes are low, therefore we should raise them? Nowhere does Rob­bins talk about efficiency in spending those tax revenues.

Yes, Scottsdale citizens have high expectations about public services. However, that’s not the same as hand­ing Scottsdale government a blank check.

John Washington is a former mayoral candidate in Scottsdale.

Scottsdale is unique without rail transit, big-city problems

My family owns and has operated a hotel on the corner of Scotts­dale and Chaparral roads since 1953. My dad originally named the re­sort Paradise Valley Guest Ranch. To­day it has grown from 37 kitchenettes to more than 300 suites. He started this busi­ness because of the desire of others to come and experience the desert lifestyle in the “West’s Most West­ern Town.”

Yes, this city was built on tourism. To say otherwise would be inaccurate. To Scottsdale’s credit, we have remained a tourist destination. People come from all over the world to get a feel of the “Southwest.” They love to explore and shop the downtown/Old Town stores along with its many great restaurants and fine art galleries.

To say I’m a little bewildered by assertions that Scottsdale needs a dia­logue regarding rail transit in Scotts­dale is an understatement. Everyone who has lived in Scottsdale for the past 10 years knows we have had an ongoing dialogue regarding rail transit. I can say this without any reservation be­cause Chaparral Suites hosted most, if not all, the forums held regarding rail in Scottsdale.

There were at least a thousand indi­viduals who attended the numerous forums. Standing-room-only crowds came to see and hear transportation experts from around the country de­scribe the pros and cons of rail transit.

The negative response to rail was overwhelming. It was all over the media. There was so much attention given to this topic, the City Council hired an outside rail-consulting firm to hold meetings to determine if there was indeed a need for rail; $1.2 million later, they concluded rail transit was not wanted or needed in Scottsdale.

To ask the taxpayers to pony up another $1 million or $2 million is un­conscionable. Besides, it would have to go to a vote of the people, which would surely end in another humiliating de­feat for the rail lobby. The rail propo­nents might be silenced, but it would come with a hefty price tag extracted from the taxpayers’ hard-earned mon­ey.

Over the past few years, Scottsdale residents have observed a city deter­mined to build a high-rise apartment complex on every corner along Scotts­dale Road. This is called Transit Ori­ented Development and gives devel­opers and rail planners a reason to call for fixed-rail transit along any major corridor. Most of the small businesses along Scottsdale Road would be put out of business by construction time or condemnation. Why would you kill the goose that laid the golden egg?

We are not Mesa or Phoenix. We pride ourselves on living in Scottsdale, which is unique, clean and extremely friendly. Think about why you chose to live in Scottsdale and you will agree with me. Please do not let vested in­terests turn Scottsdale into just another city with typical “big city” problems. The results of rail on any part of Scotts­dale Road would be disastrous.

I am an unabashed proponent of tourism as well as a non-apologetic booster of Scottsdale, the city I love and call my home.

Tom Silverman is owner and general manager of Chaparral Suites Resort [and a former Scottsdale city councilman].

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