Voice of Scottsdale: The Shrill Shill

In an emailed “Alert,” this morning’s Voice of Scottsdale takes to task the dissenting members of the General Plan Task Force.

Before I get into specifics, you should know that the Voice is in the employ of council members Linda Milhaven and Virginia Korte. If anonymity wasn’t enough to cause you to read with a critical eye, this relationship should be.

The first glaring dishonesty of the column is a convenient chronological rearrangement. The war of words between co-chairman Wendy Springborn (a City of Tempe employee) and Jim Heitel (long-time McDowell Sonoran Preserve advocate and volunteer public servant on city boards and commissions) didn’t begin with Heitel’s email to the City Council, which was quoted.

Heitel’s letter was a RESPONSE to Springborn’s published remarks in the Scottsdale Republic newspaper, not the other way around.

Next, the mischaracterizations of Councilman Littlefield are fraught with dishonesty. Not just political disagreement…dishonesty. Littlefield is perfectly capable of defending himself, so I’ll refrain from that here save for two points.

The Voice calls Littlefield, “…the boisterous voice of a vocal minority who are against development and government…”

  1. The oft-repeated anti-growth false equivalence (labeling those who support rules for rational growth as “against development) is really getting tired. This label is applied by a quiet and clever minority of folks who don’t want rules for development. Naturally, they get their campaign funding from…surprise…developers.

    I would remind you that historically Scottsdale’s General Plan and careful, thoughtful development and redevelopment has been held out as a model for other communities to follow…and in being the main differentiation between us and our neighbors, has led us to the ‘success’ we have historically enjoyed as a community.Further, no one on ‘our side’ has EVER opposed a development project that followed the rules.
  2. “Against government?” Where did THAT come from? Is Littlefield some sort of anarchist? And by extension, his supporters?

The Voice doubles down on the no-growth lie with a quote from Ivy League idiot Rick Kidder. It’s people like Kidder who give Harvard a bad name.

Here’s the ‘Alert’ from the Voice:

A L E R T  Gap Growing Between Task Force Factions.

What’s the difference between a political “divide” and a political “chasm?”

Answer: One week. Especially when it comes to the General Plan Update Task Force.

Since we left off last week, plenty has happened. The former co-chair of the Task Force took potshots at the current chairperson of the panel, the chairperson pounded the four members of the Task Force who resigned, the Mayor piped up on the resignations and a vice chair of the Task Force was named.

Could it get any crazier? Of course … because it’s only getting started.

In a letter to the Mayor and City Council members, Jim Heitel, the former co-chair who resigned from the Task Force with three others two weeks ago, accused Chairperson Wendy Springborn of not even knowing what a General Plan is. He also told the Council that Springborn “runs lock-step to the defense of those uncivil members attempting to further wrongfully disparage the motives of those who resigned.”

In her own letter to the Mayor and Council, Springborn wrote that the four members who resigned “suffered from the delusion that their concerns alone would be considered legitimate.”

Then Mayor Lane chimed in by concluding the resignation of the four was based on their complaint that “they should be getting their way.”

But the real doozy was yet to come.

Monday evening the city’s Long Range Planning Manager, Erin Perreault, presented a “progress report” on the General Plan Task Force’s work. She reviewed the process in great detail for the Council and assured them that things were on track and on schedule. Understandably, Perreault didn’t mention the resignation of the four Task Force members – because her report was about process, not politics.

Ironically, precisely at the same time Perreault was issuing her upbeat update, one block away the Task Force was meeting. The remaining members voted not to replace those who had resigned. (Task Force bylaws allow the group, now comprised of 19 members, to continue meeting as long as there are 17 active members.)

The Task Force did, however, decide they needed a “vice chairman.” Not to be confused with the “co-chair” position that Jim Heitel vacated.

After mulling over the 18 members from whom they had to choose to serve as vice chair, they selected the President and CEO of the Chamber of Commerce Rick Kidder. No kidding. While Kidder has the chops and credentials to serve in such a capacity, it’s difficult to imagine a more political poke in the eye for those who are convinced that the fix has been in from the get-go on the General Plan Update process.

If any more motivation was needed by those organizing the campaign to defeat the General Plan Update at the polls in November – they got it this week.

Clarification: Following last week’s column, (“Scottsdale’s Uncivil Civil War”), Ned O’Hearn, one of the four former members of the Task Force wrote the Voice of Scottsdale requesting a clarification: “There were no ‘heated political exchanges.’ The disrespectful labeling, raised voices and overall untoward behavior emanated from one side of the table, as observers and a review of the tapes will attest. This was pure political rope-a-dope with one side flailing and the other side taking punches. Also, it wasn’t a case of ‘diminishing returns’ – i.e. not getting what you want, but rather, as Cool Hand Luke would say, more a ‘failure to (respectfully) communicate’ that led to our resignations.”

Littlefield Takes The Leap.

After years of speculation about Bob Littlefield’s political aspirations, the suspense is over. He announced earlier this week that he is seeking a seat in the State Legislature.

The three-term Councilman will be campaigning to fill the seat now occupied by Representative John Kavanagh who will be running for the State Senate.

Many people believe that Littlefield’s considerable political skills may have been wasted on the City Council and better used in the Legislature. For the better part of the past four years he has been the odd man out, especially before Guy Phillips was elected to the Council in 2012. Littlefield has seldom voted with the majority. But what he has lacked in building consensus with his Council colleagues, he has more than made up for as the boisterous voice of a vocal minority who are against development and government. Not necessarily in that order.

No Councilperson in recent memory has stirred as much passion with the public, the city’s staff and his political peers. Few feel neutral about Bob Littlefield. People either love him or hate him … and that’s just the way he likes it.

Littlefield, who started his political career as a moderate Republican, was first elected to the Council in 2002. But the longer he served, the more conservative he became. The pinnacle of his political power came in 2008-2009 after he campaigned for Jim Lane in his first mayoral race. Littlefield and Lane were in lockstep. Around City Hall they became affectionately known as “Jim-Bob.” Together, they led the charge to fire two city managers, revise the City Charter and also successfully campaigned to expand the powers of a new city treasurer.

However, slowly but surely they became politically estranged. Mayor Lane became too cozy with the business community and developers for Littlefield’s liking.

If Littlefield is successful in being elected to the State House of Representatives from Legislative District-23, it will automatically put him on a two-year election cycle. In other words, he would be up for re-election in 2016.

Coincidentally, that’s when Mayor Lane’s term expires.

Bite Me!

This week’s best sound bite comes from the newly appointed Vice Chairman of the General Plan Task Force, Rick Kidder:

“I hear a mind-set that says we can kind of lock the gates, stop everything from happening, we’re going to be just fine. And that mind-set scares me, because I think communities have to view themselves as evolutionary.”

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  1. John, you correctly note the supposed “anti-growth crowd” has NEVER opposed a project that met the city’s published standards. It is also worth noting that “anti-growth crowd” has also not fought to toughen our standards. The only fight has been to have the standards enforced much of the time… not even all the time.

    Furthermore, for those who think the position of supporting long standing development standards are a vocal minority… Here is an idea. Conduct a poll. Ask the residents if they think our development standards should generally be upheld for new projects, or very nearly always ignored.

    We have a council majority that has voted in almost every single case (many times in front of throngs of angry citizens) to completely ignore published, longstanding standards. This is the same group that supported a General Plan for the city that was the only item on it’s ballot to be rejected, and an outrageous bond package that was defeated by an embarrassing margin (60-40) even though it received 200K in largely out of state special interest money to promote it.

    The epitome of hypocrisy is that group calling the rest of us Scottsdale residents a vocal minority.

    1. Excellent comment, Chris. I actually meant to give you credit for the observation that “we” have never opposed a complying project, as you are the first person I ever heard make that observation.

      Further, if they call us “anti-growth,” I think we are entitled to call them “anti-planning!”

  2. Talk about DISINGENOUS – that is the VOICE and Molever’s “community voice” in the 2/1/14 Scottsdale Republic. I’ve requested that the council request a resignation from Molever who started this mess. As a witness to Molever’s rant on 1/6/14, I believe he has violated the By-laws of GPTF #106 in all of his statements to the Arizona Republic. This bully needs to be stopped and the VOICE needs to retract their most recent post.

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