Preview of Scottsdale’s Future

An article on AZCentral this week may provide a preview of Scottsdale’s future [paywall].

Glendale, Arizona [official history] is our cross-town neighbor, west of Phoenix. Scottsdale and Glendale are very similar in many ways.

After modern canal irrigation (apologies to the Hohokam native American canal builders) was introduced to the Valley by Jack Swilling and WJ Murphy (who built the Arizona Canal and founded Glendale), cotton and other produce began to drive the local economy. Produce like sugar beets in Glendale and citrus for Scottsdale nurtured the young towns.

“Murphyville,” was one of the early names that was considered for Scottsdale.

According to Phoenix Magazine,

After overseeing the construction of the Arizona Canal in 1883, William J. Murphy planted the first orange orchard in the Valley in 1889.

Salt River Project history facts page tells us,

William J. Murphy planned and later built a private hotel call the Ingleside Club near the town of Scottsdale. The clubhouse was finished in 1910 and the grounds contained a golf course and asphalt tennis court. Murphy planted citrus and olive trees on this ten-acre townsite with views of Camelback Mountain and the Papago Buttes.

Both Glendale and Scottsdale saw significant influence from military training bases. Glendale was home to Thunderbird Field (and later to Luke AFB). Thunderbird II north of Scottsdale would become Scottsdale Airport.

Both cities now have significant economic contribution from spring training baseball.

Here are some interesting statistical points of comparison.

Glendale, has a population of 227,000, 56 square miles,median household income $45,000, median age 31.

Scottsdale, has a population of 217,000, 184 square miles, median household income $71,000, median age 42.

HOWEVER…

Glendale is wrestling with a city sales tax 0.7% “emergency” increase in August, which is under threat of repeal by referendum that appears to have strong support at the ballot. The Republican mayoral candidate is arguing that cuts could have been made in the budget to stave off the tax increase. The Democrat says those cuts will come from public safety and other essential services, and those that affect quality of life.

I think they’ve both missed a golden opportunity to have a conversation about how Glendale ARRIVED at this predicament, which is–I believe–one of the big points of distinction between the two cities, and one from which we SHOULD derive an important warning: Take a look at Steve Ellman’s Coyotes Jobing.com arena.

Thank heaven that Scottsdale didn’t get suckered into that. Of course, former Scottsdale mayor Mary Manross made an almost equally-serious blunder with the SkySong office building subsidy to Michael Crow’s ASU Foundation.

Glendale’s Republican mayoral candidate was quoted in the Republic about the pending Coyotes deal:

We’re fighting to try to come up with $25 million (in cuts) … yet we’re still funding millionaires. I have a major problem with that.

Wow, that sounds familiar.

The Republic says there were 100 residents on-hand for the newspaper-hosted debate last week. At the Scottsdale Republic Scottsdale city council candidate forum last night at Via Linda Senior Center, there were probably 30 citizens in attendance. 100 vs. 30. That may tell us a few things, including the fact that people pay attention when their taxes are raised against their will.

Scottsdale’s mayor Jim Lane and the Scottsdale city council are busy building up to the same situation here. Millions of dollars in subsidies to private businesses (some not even in Scottsdale) continue in spite of shrunken hospitality revenues. The first serious crack in the facade appeared Tuesday night with the berating of Scottsdale public safety chief Alan Rodbell regarding a $500,000 budget shortfall due to police overtime and other issues.

The Republic has never made a serious effort to expose the larger Scottsdale budget controversy over which Jim Lane and I have sparred extensively: The $8 million budget deficit. If we continue with deficit spending and bonding (borrowing to be paid back by dedicated taxes) AND if we keep DENYING the deficit, we are going to soon be in the exact same predicament as Glendale.

Ironically, Jim Lane criticized current Glendale Mayor Elaine Scruggs (not running for re-election) in a Republic “My Turn” column for her handling of the arena financial issues, and she spanked him back in a Republic opinion column. Then-opinions page editor for the Republic, Robert Leger, jumped on the bandwagon with an editorial of his own. It’s too bad Leger only criticized Lane for butting in, rather than taking a real look at Scottsdale’s financial situation.

Is Glendale facing serious financial trouble in the near future? Undoubtedly.

Is Scottsdale far behind? Yes, if we don’t elect city representatives who have an eye for real financial responsibility and an analytical approach to economic impacts of development and subsidies. The only three choice we have are Phillips, Phillips, and Schaffner.

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