Sam West, one of my occasional political allies, regularly sends famous historical quotes to his subscriber list. This morning he sent one that reminded me of a conversation I had with another friend recently. In it, my friend asked my opinion on why I feel our Scottsdale City Government is so dysfunctional. The quote Sam provided today would have been a perfect answer:
“All I know is just what I read in the papers, and that’s an alibi for my ignorance.” Will Rogers
This is, however, only part of my would-be answer. Let’s call it Part B.
But there is also a Part A, which is this:
The typical Scottsdale resident has it pretty darn good.
We have reasonably good infrastructure in even the oldest parts of the city. We have good public safety services and public amenities. And considering those resources, we have a relatively low cost of living. In short, all of the reasons that make Scottsdale a great place to live also make it a place about which few residents have complaints.
The fewer the complaints the lighter the voting turnout. Historically, Scottsdale has light turnout.
Our last city council election – in Nov 2010 – had about a 62% turnout, but that’s up considerable from years past (normally 20-30%).
Why such an increase? It’s mostly due to the recent realignment of city elections from springtime to coincide with November state and federal elections. Many more people vote in the federal elections (and to a lesser extent the state elections). However, the “undervote,” or ballots cast that had NO vote marked for the city council races was still high, reflecting apathy or lack of awareness of the local issues and candidates.
But back to Part B. If folks feel there’s not much to complain about, then there’s not much market for news stories about complaints. The Arizona Republic is a business, after all, and they are in the business of selling advertising and newspapers.
Additionally, however, as I noted in our kickoff announcement last week, the management of the Republic is very heavily cross-pollinated with Scottsdale Leadership and the Scottsdale Area Chamber of Commerce. Scottsdale Republic General Manager Mike Ryan is on the board of Leadership and was on the executive board of the Chamber. Opinions Page Editor Robert Leger is a Leadership grad. Publisher John Zidich was on the board of the Fiesta Bowl during its recent legal debacle. Is it any wonder that the Republic’s coverage is overwhelmingly in favor of the positions advanced by the Chamber of Commerce? Can you recall a single article, column, or editorial that was critical of anything the Chamber did? I cannot.
So, consider Will Rogers’ quote. Don’t rely solely on the Arizona Republic, providing you an ‘alibi for ignorance.’ Seek out other viewpoints and get involved so you can see what’s going on firsthand. As always, just let me know if you’d like me to save you a seat at the next City Council meeting.