I was very sad to learn from a friend today of the passing of Bob Vairo, longtime North Scottsdale resident, citizen, and advocate for the ideals that built Scottsdale and made it unique among area cities and towns.
In addition to, “United States Marine,” and, “Korean War Veteran,” his obituary says:
Bob was very active as president of the Coalition of Pinnacle Peak, which he founded in 1997 and was involved in the politics of the city. His major focus was keeping North Scottsdale residential while preserving the desert for all to enjoy.
What the obituary does NOT say is that there was a time when COPP was a force with which to be reckoned if you were a developer wanting to cash in on North Scottsdale’s quality of life with zoning concessions (higher density) and amended development standards (diluted quality).
Bob was the face of COPP. He had a quiet way of reminding developers, zoning attorneys, city planning wonks, and elected officials that when he had something to say, he was speaking for several thousand voters who trusted him without question.
There was a time when a developer applying to build in Bob’s area might have been asked by city planning staff, “Have you talked to the Coalition of Pinnacle Peak yet?” It’s my understanding that one such conversation led ultimately to Henry Becker’s long-running feud with the city, and Becker’s candy canes and other protest “artwork” along Pima Road in North Scottsdale. That’s an unfortunate and perhaps unforeseeable consequence of COPP’s effectiveness.
Sadly, as Bob gradually scaled back his involvement, COPP lost a lot of its clout. I guess no one was able to fill his shoes. Or, citizen passion had waned. Perhaps both.
Bob took pity on me as a young citizen-advocate, and tried to instill in me a sense of temperament and diplomacy. He wasn’t as successful in that effort as he would have liked. In fairness to me, the other side had gotten nastier and I REALLY don’t like bullies. But I always appreciated Bob’s gentle reminders.
Bob also worked hard to help set up the Coalition of Greater Scottsdale, with the vision of having a city-wide organization in the model of COPP, but unifying some of the disparate elements of South Scottsdale with their fellow community advocates in the North. And he encouraged me to seek a leadership role in COGS, which I did.
Unfortunately, the egos and agendas involved in South Scottsdale (probably mine included) were just not miscible. While COGS still exists, and some of its members carry on the mission admirably, it never captured the attention of South Scottsdale citizens like COPP did for the north.
I’m sure Bob was disappointed, but I’m glad he was here to see Proposition 420 pass overwhelmingly in November. We’ll have to keep fighting to protect the McDowell Sonoran Preserve in North Scottsdale, because the Dark Side will do whatever it takes to get around the restrictions of 420 just like they have the 2001 General Plan (in which Bob was also involved). But at least we have a basis in law to do so.
Thank you, Bob. Scottsdale is a better place because of your advocacy and leadership.