David Smith: Scottsdale Council Myopia

This column by former city treasurer (and now council candidate) David Smith appeared in the Republic this morning. Mr. Smith has eloquently captured a part of the systemic problem we face. Unfortunately, his lack of track record of involvement in these issues is reflected in the fact that he completely omits the city council’s ignorance of or intentional disregard for Scottsdale’s General Plan. That is the policy document which–if heeded–would have prevented the liquor license concentrations in our bar district, and kept housing density at a reasonable level.

Ironically, the public safety overtime bill is less than one quarter of the amount paid by the city every year to the Scottsdale Cultural Council for ‘management’ of our cultural arts assets under a free-rent, 20-year, no-bid contract with zero performance metrics. Smith’s wife is on the board of trustees of that private business.

Council’s ‘vision’ contributes to public-safety overtime

The Scottsdale city manager has promised an “in-depth analysis of the issue of overtime spending” by public safety. His report might identify oppor­tunities for better management prac­tices, but hopefully the report also will explore the causes and effects of overtime. Tourism is a cause, for sure, but so may be council’s pursuit of visions for the makeover of our city. When I was chief financial officer at the Tennessee Valley Au­thority, we grappled with how to improve electric service reliability from 99.99% to 99.999%. For utilities, service reliability carries the same high priority as public safety does for a community.

At TVA, we committed enormous dollars to the salaries and overtime of repair crews to quickly resolve power interruptions. However, we realized the goal of improved reliability only when we began treating the cause rather than the consequences; when we invested more to avoid outages, rather than adding more work crews to restore power.

The Scottsdale City Council has approved dozens of Class 6 bar licenses and applauds our entertainment district as a tourism mecca. When I was Scotts­dale’s city treasurer, I submitted a re­port identifying sales-tax revenues and expenses of bar-license businesses. Bar licensees in the entertainment district generated $400,000 of sales tax; but incremental public-safety expenses were more than $1.2 million! Council’s pursuit of its “vision” to develop Arizo­na’s most concentrated drinking dis­trict requires more public-safety em­ployees and/or more overtime.

The council also has authorized tall­er, denser housing developments, alter­ing our city’s socioeconomic demo­graphics and creating a demand for more city services, particularly public safety. Again, council’s pursuit of its “vision” requires more public-safety employees and/or more overtime.

Readers should not be surprised if the city manager lays some blame for public-safety overtime at the feet of council. Residents should then rightful­ly question whether these council vi­sions represent the visions of residents. At a minimum, residents should de­mand the council exercise financial integrity and transparency … asking for and studying the public-safety im­plications of the “visions” pursued.

David N. Smith was Scottsdale city treasurer from 2009 to 2013 and now is a candidate for City Council.

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2 Comments

  1. Scottsdale is failing in promoting the city’s art’s district. I believe the city needs to support arts and culture which is an important part of the draw for tourists and should contribute to the sophistication of Scottsdale. I can understand the frustration over non disclosure of the money the city gives to the Cultural Council but supporting the assets the city has previously invested in seems to be a necessary evil of past city government decisions. It appears that special interest groups are pulling the money away from the importance of supporting the arts’ district. If funding is not channeled back to support and promote the arts’ district, we will lose our crowning jewel. It would appear that the CC has not found a CEO. It’s been a year since the CC started their search throughout the US for a qualified replacement for Banchs. Why is this job so difficult to fill? Apparently, the CC is offering $200,000 for that position. Scottsdale has a low cost of living compared to so many prominent arts and cultural areas. Why is it so difficult to find someone who can really make the CC a viable operation? We need good public safety and financial support for the police but we also need arts and culture in Scottsdale. When will the city leaders start to realize the importance of both and make it happen? If they would stop the funding of unrealistic programs presented by city hucksters, maybe they would find the money to support what is truly important to Scottsdale’s reputation. Scottsdale does not need to be knows as Mini Vegas.

  2. The police department has rampant overtime costs, and that surprises who? With all the bars and high density residential (apartments and more coming) why is this surprising anyone? Look I am not waxing nostalgic for some far off time. I am someone who has lived in many cities in Arizona, but I love Scottsdale. I live here for a reason. It is because it is NOT those other cities.
    My home should not be surrounded by apartments and bars. That is not revitalizing the McDowell corridor. But the bars and apartments are going to help? All the bars and temporary residents are going to help, right? Why do I and my family have to fight thru all this ‘revitalization to get to what we love about this city? You know the arts and the culture that Scottsdale was known for. Or is that no longer helping Scottsdale? Really, bars and apartments are now better for Scottsdale than the arts?
    Do they consider the corners of the streets a new place for the arts? You know, right next to the sign flippers? Great, but I wanted to walk places and not be harassed by drunks and have my views blocked by tall apartments, thank you. I don’t want my neighborhoods become afterthoughts because the city planners think that moving us forward means leaving those who value it behind. Scottsdale already fell behind as the fastest growing city. We cannot regain that title by building apartments everywhere. You know next to bars, which is next to the high tech center. Oh and don’t forget, don’t let the hospital down here get bigger, we can’t have that happen. Let the apartments get bigger though. Really, that is sound planning right there.
    Who has control of the city? Do they have any idea where the city is to go? All I see are more bars and apartments. I don’t see any more community centers, schools, businesses, parks, libraries, art centers, innovation centers, or anything forward looking. What does the city of Scottsdale want except for higher taxes because it lost so many lawsuits? Because right now, Scottsdale has more bars, more apartments, a possible tax increase in its future.

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