The David Smith Problem


First let me say that personally I find Scottsdale city council candidate David Smith to be pleasant and even likable.

Second, politically he is probably not much worse than the three Chamber of Commerce candidates: Banker Linda Milhaven; Good ole boy Dennis Robbins; and opportunist Jennifer Petersen. But that’s not saying much. And it should go without saying that when you cast your votes, you should treat them the way they’ve treated us.

Third, however, when it comes to what really matters–how Smith will vote on council action items if elected–he’s probably not much better, either. Like his good friend Ron McCullagh (former city councilman), I believe he’ll talk a good game right up until he casts his vote the wrong way.

That charming ability to disarm is one he also shares with former councilman Wayne Ecton, who infuriated many community advocates by turning his coat inside out to try to ingratiate himself with the Chamber crowd. And it got him dumped in his bid for re-election.

Councilmen Bob Littlefield and Guy Phillips (the only real fiscal conservatives on our otherwise 100% ‘Republican’ city council) have seen through Smith. They are both pretty smart fellows, but it doesn’t take a rocket surgeon. Unfortunately, it seems to have taken a little more than common sense, too, because Smith has charmed some community advocates into some pretty vitriolic defense of their endorsements of him.

I think that vitriol begs for another look at the David Smith problem. Here are a couple of statements on Smith:

From Bill Crawford, former city council candidate:

I intend to vote for David Smith for Scottsdale City Council. I hope the 10,105 people who voted for me in the primary will do the same.

During the primary campaign, I got to know the candidates. I believe there is one man who is running for all the right reasons, is the most qualified to serve and has the most experience: David Smith. I believe there is one man who truly has the best interest of Scottsdale residents at heart: David Smith. I believe there is one man who has not participated in campaign shenanigans: David Smith. I believe there is one man who is not supported by special interest, out of town police and fire unions, developers, bar owners, light rail and dark money: David Smith. He is not a “stand in” or an imposter [sic].

All of the other candidates have a tremendous amount of support from special interest [sic]. David Smith stands alone. His support is from real people. His finance knowledge and his experience as Scottsdale’s former city treasurer is unmatched. That is why I am only voting for David Smith. Scottsdale residents need the insurance [sic] that no matter who else gets elected, we will be represented on the Scottsdale City Council by David Smith, the incorruptible voice of reason. Please vote for David Smith.

Granted, me calling Bill Crawford a ‘community advocate’ is a bit of a stretch. Bill has done some good bringing attention to public safety issues in the bar district, though. That’s no small feat, and those are certainly not small issues. But those issues affect him personally, and when it comes to community issues outside that small geographic area, Bill has frequently supported projects which have infuriated residents in the vicinity. So if he’s supporting Smith (especially over Kathy Littlefield, and Cindy Hill–wife of a decorated Scottsdale Police officer), I’m not sure that says a lot about Smith.

Furthermore, after a surprise declaration of his ultimately unsuccessful campaign for council and upon not receiving the outpouring of community support he apparently expected, Crawford publicly berated yours truly as, “A back-stabbing coward.” He made equally unkind statements toward Councilman Guy Phillips. Oh well.

From JC “Copper” Phillips, COGS Political Committee, former city council candidate:

David Smith, as treasurer of Scottsdale, first sounded the alarm on the bar district’s toll on public safety.  He angered the mayor, council members, bar owners, and Chamber of Commerce by doing so.  Good for him and good for us.  Council candidates Milhaven, Robbins and Petersen are supported by the bar owners, high rise developers and zoning attorneys, as proven by their finance reports.  David Smith is not-no surprise, is it?

David Smith was NOT the first person to ‘sound the alarm on the bar district’s toll on public safety.’ In fact, if anyone could lay claim to that distinction, it’s probably Bill Crawford! But a lie is a lie. Ms. Phillips broadcast this lie to her email list, and when challenged on it she privately backpedaled and tried to qualify her statement as meaning Smith was the first city employee to ‘sound the alarm.’

I’m not even sure that’s true, as public safety chief Alan Rodbell was soundly berated by Mayor Lane and the council majority (including Milhaven and Robbins) for exceeding his budget with spending largely related to (I believe) police overtime in the bar district. I was there, and I filed an ethics complaint against Lane over the matter. It was upheld by a judge, but the council took no action.

Of course, many citizens had been complaining about bar district safety for years before Mr. Smith’s financial analysis, which was actually done at the DIRECTION of the council majority, not on his own initiative. Regardless, even when faced with these facts, Ms. Phillips never publicly corrected the misinformation she disseminated.

I’m very disappointed in Ms. Phillips, as she was someone I really liked and hoped would win a seat on council herself. I’m disappointed not so much for her mistake, but for her refusal to face the facts in evidence against her statement and to own up to the mistake. Further, she (and others) have tried to characterize my reliance on those facts as equating to some sort of personal grudge against Mr. Smith, a classic deflection in favor of their own confirmation bias.

But perhaps the most damning evidence against Mr. Smith comes from Mr. Smith himself, via the city’s official candidate information pamphlet:

Scottsdale is a beautiful place for us to live, for tourists to visit and for businesses to prosper. This didn’t happen by accident; Scottsdale enjoys the same sunshine as neighboring cities, but we were blessed by financial strengths that came from a booming construction economy and substantial tax revenues from millions of tourists. We were also fortunate we had leaders of vision who foresaw possibilities of greatness. How do we insure our greatness into the future?

We need Councilmembers who understand finance and will spend our tax dollars wisely. For more than three years, I was Scottsdale’s City Treasurer and Chief Financial Officer and that was after thirty years in senior financial management. The last fifteen years, I was Chief Financial Officer of multi-billion dollar government enterprises – The Tennessee Valley Authority and AMTRAK. I am the most qualified financial candidate in this race.

We need Councilmembers attuned to citizens’ visions for improving the livability of Scottsdale. Since moving here in 1986, I have had a family footprint in south Scottsdale, McCormick Ranch and north Scottsdale. The entire city is our “front yard.” It matters to me – as it does to you – what our community is and becomes.

We need Councilmembers who understand the drivers of economic development. My wife and I owned Scottsdale Airpark News for ten years, growing the business from a neighborhood newsletter to a 150-page magazine with monthly distribution of more than 30,000. I understand how to nurture and recruit both large and small businesses.

Citizens expect a more transparent, financially responsible Council pursuing citizens’ visions and supporting economic development – especially tourism, the bedrock of our economy. A vote for me supports responsible, visionary leadership to ensure a beautiful place for us to live, for tourists to visit and for businesses to prosper.

What’s wrong with that, you may ask? It makes him seem like someone for whom we should vote, you may say. Ah yes, but what about what he DOESN’T say?

Not one word about REAL fiscal responsibility, debt, budget deficits, deferred infrastructure maintenance and capital improvements. This from a guy who claims to be, “the most qualified financial candidate in this race.” Disregarding Smith’s Freudian transposition of descriptors, these economic sustainability indicators are probably Scottsdale’s biggest long-term problems.

On the contrary, 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, on top of our already staggering $1.3 billion in debt…equal to financially troubled Glendale); 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.

And in a stupendous irony, Mr. Smith utters not a word about adherence to the spirit of Scottsdale’s citizen-ratified General Plan, probably the best land use planning policy documents in the country. Nor does Smith even utter the words, “community character,” which should have been a defining part of the first sentence of his statement.

You may say, “But these pamphlet statements are so limited in length, and he’s talked about these things elsewhere.”

You might be right about that. But I believe the official candidate statement is the single most important affirmation of candidate values of their entire campaign. In his statement, Smith gives you everything you need to know about him.

Why is this ironic? The one endorsement Smith really needed after the Chamber of Commerce black-balled him was from the Coalition of Greater Scottsdale. He changed his tune, and he got the endorsement of COGS’ political committee.

And the official mission statement of COGS is:

“Consistent land use policy and preservation of our unique quality of life.”

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