This “My Turn” appeared in this morning’s Scottsdale Republic:
We’ve had the light-rail discussion;
it’s time for us to move on
I read Tom Silverman’s recent My Turn in the Scottsdale Republic and realized I, too, had to speak out against this new push to put fixed rail in Scottsdale.
I have been an Old Town merchant for 38 years. My late parents were so relieved when the last go-around brought defeat for the light-rail promoters. Rail in Scottsdale didn’t make sense then and it doesn’t make any sense today, unless you want to destroy downtown and Old Town Scottsdale by turning our signature Scottsdale Road into Phoenix’s Washington Street.
Throughout the United States, all cities that have a tourist trade also have a wonderfully preserved and restored “old town.” Scottsdale is no exception. The merchants of Old Town have an immense pride in our area. We take pleasure in being mini-ambassadors for Scottsdale.
And while tourism is our major revenue source, the locals also love to shop and just stroll through Old Town. They, too, realize how fortunate Scottsdale is to have preserved its heritage in such a grand manner. Mind you, the city government seems pleased with the tax dollars generated in our area. So why would we take the chance to destroy such a source of pride?
Oh, “they” will say it is progress.
Really? Do you think putting fixed railroad tracks with ugly overhead wires and a train down the middle is progress? This isn’t 1910; we do have paved roads. Horse and buggy are no longer our major mode of transportation.
I talk every day to tourists (yes, some do come here in the summer), and if they’ve read an article about light rail, almost unanimously they say, “Don’t do it, it will destroy your town.” It breaks my heart to think these rail promoters can pull the strings of these so-called leaders in Scottsdale.
Mayor Jim Lane and Councilman Dennis Robbins say they are against light rail, yet I only hear Councilmen Bob Littlefield and Guy Phillips publicly speaking out against the train. These four can put a stop to this potential expenditure of another costly study that will undoubtedly yield the same results.
Before we get all caught up in this rail debate again, stop and think. Light rail systems are very expensive and costly to maintain. Subsidies for these systems run in the millions per year. Should Scottsdale decide at a later date that light rail is more of a detriment than a benefit, the city (ultimately you) would have to repay all the federal dollars used to build the system. Imagine the cost and inconvenience of its removal.
Don’t be lulled into complacency by the rail proponents. Old Town can never be replaced. Tourism will go elsewhere. Our source of pride, identity, our heritage and sense of being the heart of Scottsdale will be lost.
I would urge Scottsdale citizens who want to protect and preserve Scottsdale’s downtown to call or e-mail City Council members and remind them we’ve had the rail debate. It’s time we move ahead on more pressing issues.
Marilynn Atkinson owns Atkinson’s Indian Trading Post in Old Town Scottsdale.