Scottsdale Election 2014 Recommendations

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Most of you who are on the Permanent Early Voting List have received your early ballots by now. If you have not yet marked them, or if you prefer to vote on Election Day, here are my recommendations. Regular readers of ScottsdaleTrails know my well-researched positions on the local candidates, but I’ve added some ‘Cliff’s Notes’ on this page for your convenience.

  • City Council, vote for only two: Kathy Littlefield and Cindy Hill. These are the only two candidates I trust to represent me on City Council and to watch over my tax dollars. The rest have not honestly or ethically presented themselves, and will vote against you in favor of their campaign contributors: Developers, bar owners, zoning attorneys, professional golf cronies, and others like the Cultural Council (a favorite of pretender David Smith) who enjoy no-bid city contracts with no performance metrics.
  • State Senate, Paula Pennypacker. Kavanagh is an uber-crony and was a train wreck as a state representative, with votes that seriously eroded local control, more responsive government, and citizen quality of life in Scottsdale. Partisans: Get over it. Partisan rhetoric is what gave us Kavanagh. You had your chance to nominate a better Republican (Schwartz) and you blew it.
  • Prop 122, NO; state v federal actions; poor justification, no practical benefit, purely partisan rhetoric.
  • Prop 303, YES; investigational drugs; seems OK with little downside.
  • Prop 304, YES; low salaries have been a problem for getting real candidates (i.e., not just ‘rich’ and/or well-funded partisan extremists) to run.
  • Prop 480, NO; county healthcare network; a billion dollars in new debt bonds with very little justification for such a staggering sum, or restrictions on how it is spent.
  • SUSD Q1, no recommendation; Maintenance and Operations budget override; the schools need the money but this override has very poor justification, no guarantees of how money is spent.
  • SUSD Q2, NO; sale of taxpayer-owned district HQ on 44th st; no justification, no restrictions on spending proceeds.
  • SUSD Gov Board, vote FOR Laddie SHANE and Pam KIRBY. I wanted to interview all candidates, but the Scottsdale Independent did a good job of publicizing their positions. We need folks on the board who will hold administration accountable for spending, loss of students to charters, etc.
  • Judges, vote NO on Benjamin NORRIS and Gerald PORTER; low marks from judicial performance review commission.

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27 Comments

  1. Solid recommendations – well thought out.

    But re: the Override for Scottsdale Schools – consider this. We need a new Board. Pam and Laddie will shift the majority and can start to create change. But they need money while they start to fix the problems.

    SUSD lost its 10% Override already. It is about to lose the K-3 5% Override. And it just lost 1,000 students this year. The combined impact on anticipated revenue next year will be brutal without an Override.

    Does the current Board and/or Superintendent deserve our added tax dollars? No. They don’t. They’ve wasted taxpayer funds on overbuilt schools, massive bus fleets, and a fat Admin Staff especially at 44th Street. They’ve hired more District level staff while they fired teachers and lost students and closed schools.

    BUT – that doesn’t mean our kids and the new Board should be punished for the old Board Majority’s failures.

    1. Thanks, Mike, I am conflicted as are many who are trying to balance support for quality public education against results and fiscal responsibility. That’s why I didn’t make a recommendation.

  2. The override is critical funding for our district. Not only are we competing with charters who received $1200 more per pupil (due to the fact they do not have access to override funds), we are competing with neighboring districts (ie; Paradise Valley) who HAVE passed their overrides. We do know that specials (art, music, and PE) will be restored and therefore, we will eliminate the current weekly early release for k-5 if the override is passed. Override funds will also secure current teaching positions, lower class sizes and maintain full day kinder. The override is also good insurance for maintaining property values. Good neighborhood schools = strong property values.

    1. Dana,

      I was not familiar with the $1200 figure. That’s very interesting. On the other hand…

      It is my understanding that SUSD facilities are paid for by the district’s taxpayers, which is not the case for charters.

      And I believe strongly that good schools equate to higher property values (everything else being equal), but I do not believe it is necessarily true that funding without accountability will equal better schools.

      Again, I’m conflicted myself, but I appreciate your comment.

      1. When we are talking about facilities, we are talking about bonds, not M & O override dollars. Bonds are another can of worms. Also, why the lack of accountability when they’ve already stated where the funds will be allocated?
        By the way, I do agree with your other recommendations, just stuck on your “no recommendation” for the override.

  3. Override? Ha! What is it called on the ballot? Budget increase. That is all it is. Nothing more, nothing less. Do the voters in the SUSD boundaries give the same set of malcontents $18 million more?

    Don’t parrot for the children. Don’t say it will restore this or that. It is simply giving the school district more money. Get it? Mike wants to say if Pam Kirby and Laddie Shane get elected, there will be change. I am all for that! But UNTIL that happens, NO DICE. NO VOTE. NO MORE MONEY.

    We want to gamble and give the same set of malcontents $18 million on the hopes of those two are going to get elected and can get change done? Did you read about how much money is being spent by these candidates to get elected? Why so much cash to be on a school board? Is it just for the children or to get after all that money? Look beyond this override, but next year’s override for the books and other curriculum and the big fat bond for rebuilding elementary schools!

    How about we say NO and wait to see if we get some sanity FIRST. Then with some sanity, we give them the cash. Until then NO. Punishing the children? Mike, tell us all where does the law say a NO vote means the district must take it out on the children? Is this district that petty? I don’t see any law that says a NO vote means the children must suffer.

  4. John Washington is bitter about the Cultural Council because he got in hot water with a guy who is no longer in the city. How dare he defame David Smith’s character because of his own personal issues. It’s deplorable how petty these comments are about the council race. Stop with the insults and state the facts correctly. You’re being very abusive and inappropriate. Good thing your readership is very limited. For being a very smart guy, you are acting very stupid. This city will go down the tubes because of your irrational comments. Guess, we can all blame you when Milhaven, Robbins and Petersen win. You’ll have lots to write about then. Stop with the Smith bashing.

    1. Right on, Sandy — John’s “research”is affected and infected by bitterness, lack of an intellectual altitude, sophomoric problem solving, and #1on his Hit Parade — enormous ego!! OK, go at it!

    2. Wow. For someone who didn’t know anything about city government before meeting me, and someone else who’s never met me, hmmm.

      Point to one untrue statement in my comments about Smith and provide factual rebuttal, and I’ll be glad to run a retraction!

      It takes more than a few drinks at AZ88 for me to support a candidate.

    3. wow~ i don’t see any Smith bashing…. just a personal opinion. i do see plenty of Washington bashing, though~
      let’s express our disagreements without getting personal, please. i know John~ his is not the type of man to waste his time on bitterness.
      thank you!

  5. I have to admit I am surprised to see you are not supporting the SUSD override. Poor justification? Have you seen the presentation?

    http://susd.schoolfusion.us/modules/cms/pages.phtml?pageid=298231

    It is fairly detailed about how the money will be spent. What don’t you like? The cuts have had a real impact to quality of the education in SUSD. Also, both candidates you support for the School Board support the override.

    Speaking of your recommendations for the School Board, I will give you Pam Kirby. She has good support in the community, including many teachers–a good sign. But Laddie Shane? Can you give 3 reasons why Mr Shane would be a better board member than Ms Hartmann or Ms Thomas?

    1. Thanks for that link (for which I’d searched and was unable to find it…which speaks to the poor job done by the district). I hope other readers will find it useful in making their decisions.

      How the money will be spent: From long experience with these things on a city level, the only LEGAL constraint on how the money will be spent is the exactly language of the ballot item upon which you are voting. And even that is subject to interpretation by those spending the money, against which our only recourse is the courts…at our own expense.

      Laddie Shane: 3 reasons? It’s too early in the morning! Seriously though, none of the three (excluding Ms. Kirby obviously) have any track record to which we can point. So, I default to the candidate statements and to their campaign finance reports, neither of which is favorable to the two others. Laddie appears to me to be committed to administration accountability and to representing the taxpayers of the district in that pursuit. The others seem (from their own statements) to be cheerleaders for the administration.

      I believe we should support the administration when they are doing the right thing, but not be afraid (or constrained by our campaign contributors from) criticizing them when they deserve it. Given the flight of public schools students to charters, closing of schools, increase in class sizes, increase in administration salaries, etc., we need agents of accountability overseeing SUSD.

      1. To see the presentation, just click on the pie chart near the bottom. I think the district has provided a specific plan on how it is going to spend the money, and if it is not spent according to the plan there will be a number of very upset citizens. The argument that the law doesn’t provide enough control over how money is spent is starting to become overused. There is always an aspect of trust, interpretation, and accountability in every law passed and candidate elected.

        I asked for 3 reasons as I was hoping for specific answers for supporting Mr Shane but it sounds like your support is more just opposition to the other candidates. For me, Mr. Shane’s recent active role in right-wing politics and opposition to Common Core is enough for me not to vote for him. I don’t think anyone who is knowledgeable about education could say the kinds of things he was just saying less than a year ago.

        How can I see the campaign finance reports for the SUSD board candidates? I have not been able to find them online.

        1. >The argument that the law doesn’t provide enough control over how money is spent is starting to become overused.

          “Overused” would imply that it never happens, yet the Scottsdale City Council has a long history of exactly this paradigm! But I repeat myself, as I already said that in my earlier reply.

          Of course, I realize that SUSD and the City are distinct political subdivisions of the State, but if SUSD was doing such a good job with managing the budget, why are we closing schools, cutting programs, etc.? It’s not like any of the current challenges were not foreseeable. I believe I’ve said that before, too.

          I’ll repeat in slightly different language: The SUSD budget is NOT a legally-binding constraint on spending of money. That’s a fact. You can argue about it all day and all night, but your objections won’t change that fact.

          I believe I already explained my position on my support for Mr. Shane. I also echoed your concerns, which you repeated in your reply. I can only say to you that I share those concerns, but I’ll say once again that I have less concern about him than the others…especially since Ms. Thomas has taken to publicly attacking me for asking questions about potential misuse and misrepresentation of SUSD resources for the benefit of Scottsdale City Council candidates.

          Campaign finance reports for SUSD elections (candidates and bond/override related political committees) are filed with Maricopa County. I’m surprised you don’t know that.

          1. Surprised? I don’t know why you would be surprised. I am a novice at all this city and school board politics. I am an avid national and state political watcher, but it wasn’t until a month ago that I tried to understand more about the SUSD board candidates. In doing so I stumbled into City politics, too. I am still very much in learning mode and despite spending dozens of hours on the SUSD and City counsel elections, I am still not 100% sure how I will vote. I did attempt to find the reports myself but was only able to find the City campaign finance reports. Now that I know they are filed with the county, I know where to look. Thanks. But I doubt I have the knowledge of the relevant individuals to make heads or tails of the reports. It will just be a list of names to me.

            And I did not argue the SUSD budget is legally binding, only that there is always a level to trust in every act of voting. And there is also voter accountability. There are many parents watching and if SUSD does not spend the override as specified, the parents will speak up loudly.

  6. I am a fast learner and thought I was learning from a concerned citizen and very knowledgeable guy but I was wrong. How dare you say anything about AZ 88. I had one drink with Louise L. Mr. and Mrs Smith happened to stop by our table and we talked. Mr. Smith did not buy me drinks and I do not support people for city positions for any other reason then that they are good and honest people. You need a serious reality check, Mr. Washington. Turn your bitterness into good for the community and stop bashing every one that doesn’t agree with you. You have too much talent to waste on staying in the past. Get over yourself and help this city become the great city is was meant to be.

    1. “…stop bashing every one that doesn’t agree with you…”

      Funny, it sounds like that’s exactly what you are doing.

      For readers of these comments who may be unfamiliar with the circumstances under which they are made: Ms Schenkat is a member of the COGS Political Committee which endorsed Smith over my objections; contrary to the wishes of many COGS members; and AFTER I had already published my recommendations for the primary election.

      My opposition to Mr Smith’s candidacy is based upon facts which I have published over the past several years, which Ms Schenkat and her fellow committee members have ignored, and which despite their highly agitated protests they have utterly failed to rebut.

      Ms Schenkat et al also conveniently forget that Mr Smith has never supported the other COGS PC endorsee, Kathy Littlefield. In fact, he has openly ridiculed her efforts in defeating the recent city money-borrowing effort (and attendant taxes), calling her “fiscally irresponsible.” As treasurer of that effort, I’m also victim of his attack.

      Why SHOULD I support Smith? He’s the least fiscally conservative of ALL the candidates, including Linda Milhaven and Dennis Robbins…and THAT’S saying something!

      There is nothing “bitter” about my opposition to Smith. These are FACTS, available in the public record for all who care to look for them rather than practicing self-destructive confirmation bias.

  7. For the override supporters here is a simple question – where in the LAW does it say the money HAS to be spent that way? Please tell me, because it does NOT. The LEGAL definition of the item you are voting on is a BUDGET INCREASE. That is IT. It does not have a punish the children clause. Now here are some cold hard truths that the override can NOT FIX.

    SUSD asks for my Override Vote. But the High School serving our neighborhood, Coronado High School, has no Merit Scholarship students. None. Of the 45 high achieving students in SUSD, are you telling me that not one single smart student can be found in the Coronado complex? I refuse to accept that conclusion. I conclude instead that Coronado is short-changed. We get “just enough” to get by while the best programs are moved to Northern Schools time after time.

    We have a new Principal who stands up and tells us she will raise Coronado up. But we see nothing from the District to support her. Can she achieve those goals on her own? Or is Dr. Peterson just marching her out to make speeches with no meaning?

    We have a Middle School, Supai, with a diluted Honors Program. Why? Again, are we being told that there are not enough smart kids in our community to justify blessing us with those chances?

    Board candidates Francesca Thomas and Kim Hartmann openly admit that they believe “Separate but Equal” programs for Minority dominated schools are a good plan. But history and the law say otherwise – either SUSD provides proof that it will support our Minority dominated schools or SUSD can forget forever the minority population vote it needs and wants for our Override.

    I am one person who will vote No until I see proof of equality in the programs offered at my school. Don’t build me a big and beautiful building and expect me to be pleased and shut up.

    I am not the only person who will vote No. I am just the most vocal.

    Tell me what I gain by paying more tax so the money will get shoved off to the Chaparral and Desert Mountain complex? Nothing. I wish I was wrong.

  8. I question the motives for encouraging Scottsdale voters to vote for only 2 candidates in this election. Why throw away your vote when there are 3 people who will be elected-doesn’t it matter who holds the third seat?

    Why not vote for someone who will vote as you would more often than not? While Cindy Hill openly supported Jim Lane, Suzanne Klapp and Virginia Korte in the last election, her primary platform is an important one, public safety. Her focuses on salary increases for our officers is important for retention and hiring the best, but without a budget and funds to fund that effort, it is meaningless.

    David Smith has the most financial knowledge to prudently manage funds and make wise decisions. He has the best grasp of city income, expense and where dollars can be cut and reallocated to fund public safety and capital infrastructure AND he has the commitment to do so.

    He was the first to denounce dark money, has spoken solidly against the bar district, height and density, and FOR citizen vision and voice. Do I agree with all of his opinions? No, but we agree on most that are of true consequence to this city!

    1. The “don’t throw your vote away” sentiment is simply not valid. This is not rank/preference voting. It’s an at-large election. Every candidate is effectively running against every other candidate, and a vote for a less-than-ideal (or worse) candidate has the potential to put that candidate far enough ahead of a good candidate to displace them from the seat.

      “Why not vote for someone who will vote as you would more often than not?” That’s a pretty weak reason to support a candidate, even if it were true. There simply is no evidence that David Smith would EVER vote as I would vote, let alone “more often than not.” In fact, Smith has a history of supporting budget deficits (every year when he was treasurer); out-of-control debt (he supported the quarter-billion city bond offering); and millions in taxpayer-funded subsidies to private businesses like the Scottsdale Cultural Council (his wife sits on the board), which enjoys a 20-year, no-bid city contract, and free rent.

      Cindy Hill has said unequivocally that her support for Lane, Klapp, and Korte in the last election was based on their assertions (since proven to be dishonest…gee could David Smith every lie like that?) that they supported public safety. Your comment completely (and dishonestly) disregards Cindy’s current position on her previous support.

      “David Smith has the most financial knowledge to prudently manage funds and make wise decisions.” Yes, he has the knowledge (and the experience), but that doesn’t mean he WILL “make wise decisions.” His track record speaks otherwise, as I outlined above.

      “[Smith] was the first to denounce dark money…” This is a lie. I’ve been fighting dark money since even before Smith became treasurer. We just didn’t call it that. And I wasn’t the first. Thanks to recent judicial decisions it has become worse. This statement has no more validity than “[Smith] was the first to raise the alarm about the bar district.”

  9. Good job, John of waking up some readers. I’ve already voted but the mention of AZ88 in one of the comments reminded me that it’s time to stop by that great establishment for a club sandwich. I’ve been going there since they opened and have never been disappointed.

  10. I came from NY where they pulled the heart strings getting more money for schools then diverting it to something else then asking for more money the next election

    Now the taxes are thru the roof and ppl are leaving

    This is the same rhetoric and the ppl of Scottsdale fell for it

    NO NOT GIVE THEM MORE MONEY THEY WILL USE IT FOR PET PROJECTS THEN ASK FOR MORE

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