The Demise of Retail Politics

Last night there were a series of G.A.I.N. parties in Scottsdale neighborhoods. G.A.I.N. stands for Getting Arizona Involved in Neighborhoods. The aim of the program is to unite neighbors and communities to create safer neighborhoods. These parties have also traditionally been an opportunity for elected officials and senior city staff to connect with folks who aren’t regulars at City Hall like developers, Chamber of Commerce types, and…me. That’s what you call, “retail politics.”

City Councilman Bob Littlefield

Meeting Citizens is Scary!

Preliminary reports indicate that our elected officials must have been frightened by the prospect of mingling with the crowds this close to Halloween. Of course, they could have been at some Chamber of Commerce Halloween party. Bob Littlefield made the rounds of the neighborhoods as he always does. However, the only other city council member to make an appearance seems to have been Ron McCullagh, and he didn’t last long. [Correction: McCullagh was spotted at a GAIN party on the 22nd, and one Lane sighting was reported on the 29th. JW]

I think this is a reflection of the new attitude pervading Scottsdale politics. You don’t have to wear out any shoe leather or shake hands with any voters to get elected. You can do it WHOLESALE. All it takes is money…money for TV and newspaper ads, campaign junk mail, and campaign signs. Scottsdale ordinances to limit campaign signs have taken a hit courtesy of new state sign laws so we’ll see more of them sprouting up in 2012.

Rick Kidder, Scottsdale Chamber of Commerce CEO

Crush the Activists

Two election cycles ago, Chamber of Commerce CEO Rick Kidder publicly stated that the Chamber was going to “…raise a million dollars to crush the activists.” I don’t know if they raised a million, but they raised a lot. They put together the most expensive advertising campaign in the history of Scottsdale politics. And they came darned close to getting hammered in court over the way they spent it, too. However, a recent US Supreme Court decision, Citizens United, has said that corporate money is OK in political campaigns, as is reduced transparency in the actual sources of the money. We’ve already seen big problems in this arena, including in the Russell Pearce recall that is underway in Mesa.

The Scottsdale Chamber’s record was only 2 out of 4 in that cycle, but even so they now have a solid voting block on City Council courtesy of recent ‘winners’ Dennis Robbins and Linda Milhaven (added to previous ‘winners’ Suzanne Klapp and Ron McCullagh, and new convert/poster boy Jim Lane). Robbins and Milhaven benefited from a huge influx of advertising cash from Southwest Ambulance. Gee, Southwest Ambulance doesn’t contract with the city or anything, do they?

The Chamber has implemented “candidate training” for the upcoming election cycle, too. Word on the street is that longtime Chamber power broker Virginia Korte will join the Chamber candidate A-team of Klapp, McCullagh, and Lane. You can expect another 4-page, full-color brochure in your mailbox next fall courtesy of the Chamber…along with a very expensive TV and newspaper advertising campaign.

But don’t expect any of these Chamber candidates to actually come to your neighborhood and shake your hand.

Please also see our post, Wanted: A Few Good Men (and Women)

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