From today’s Scottsdale Republic. First, Virginia Korte [who has never in my recollection argued for fiscal responsibility…and in fact stood by silently while the City Council gave away millions of taxpayer dollars to subsidize professional golf, polo matches, and advertising subsidies for auto dealers on McDowell Road]:
We must assess costs of preserve
Recently, a group of citizens criticized five of our seven City Council members for wanting to study the long-range costs of maintaining and operating the McDowell Sonoran Preserve before the last parcels of land are purchased. Mayor Jim Lane and Council members Suzanne Klapp, Linda Milhaven, Dennis Robbins and I are simply being fiscally responsible.
It is hard to believe anyone would be critical of the Council for trying to ensure that your taxpayer dollars are spent wisely.
Here are facts to consider:
- We have preserved about 30,165 acres of the original 34,165 within the Recommended Study Boundary, approximately 88 percent. In 1994, the McDowell Mountain Task Force knew we could not draw a “fixed” boundary.
- The unprotected 4,100 acres are located primarily along Pima Road.
- Bonding capacity for the preserve tax is $63 million. Future improvements total $28 million. $35 million will not go far in purchasing 4,000 acres.
- We rely heavily on the non-profit McDowell Sonoran Conservancy to provide maintenance and programming in the preserve. The MSC does not receive any city money. Relying on a volunteer organization to help maintain a $750 million asset may not be a sustainable long-term business plan.
With insufficient funding to purchase the remaining 12 percent of the RSB and an inadequate long-term plan to manage and maintain our $750 million asset, I believe it is time for discussions regarding our signature community treasure, the McDowell Sonoran Preserve.
I chaired the first McDowell Mountain Task Force in 1993. I campaigned for passage of all five voter-approved proposals to fund the preserve. After more than 20 years of work to create this community gem, I believe it is fiscally responsible to evaluate how we are going to sustain it.
Virginia Korte is vice mayor of Scottsdale.
Now, David Smith:
Don’t ignore voters’ Preserve wishes
Last month, I had the pleasure of joining many fellow citizens for a dedication of the Jane Rau Interpretive Trail at the Brown’s Ranch Trailhead.
Only 10 days later, a most curious thing happened in the Kiva at City Hall. In a split decision, the Scottsdale City Council voted to agendize for discussion at a future meeting “… a possible moratorium on future land acquisitions …” for the preserve until some questions are answered.
It all began with the argument we needed to prepare for the future liabilities of maintenance and reinvestment (which, by the way, dismissed any thought that citizens, through the volunteer McDowell Sonoran Conservancy, might shoulder this obligation in the future, as they have in the past). Others “piled on” with additional arguments for why we should stop purchasing land for preservation: … “The next pieces will be too expensive!” “The state has no more matching money!” “We need to better assess our bonding capacity!”
One council member summed up the majority attitude with a sneak preview of their future discussion: “It makes sense for us to stop!”
For council members who claim to “listen to the citizens” they seemed surprisingly tone-deaf to the most articulate, precise and compelling set of directives ever given by Scottsdale voters. To even consider dealing with a future liability by stopping all preserve-land purchases and squirreling the tax revenues away in an endowment fund or using it for some other project is wholly at odds with the wishes of citizens — if not blatantly illegal.
The 2004 Preserve ballot measure (which passed 55 percent to 45 percent) provided, unambiguously, that preserve sales-tax revenues were “to be solely used for the general purpose of acquiring land … and constructing improvements thereto, for the McDowell Sonoran Preserve.”
David Smith. a former Scottsdale city treasurer. is a candidate for City Council.