For the third installment of my series on the so-called “Jobs Team” of Suzanne Klapp, Virginia Korte, and Eric Luoma, I’ll focus on the aforementioned Ms. Klapp.
Suzanne’s friends on the editorial staff at the Scottsdale Republic gave her a well-timed prime spot in this morning’s litter box liner for a pre-election “My Turn” column full of political pablum [reproduced below]. So it’s timely for me to share a little more with you about Suzaanne that you won’t find anywhere else.
The Arizona Republic as “Watchdog”
I continue to be amused at the Republic’s new-found supposed interest in being “government watchdogs,” as stated in several back-patting columns by Randy Lovely, Republic editor and VP of news. Yet, the Republic has never once critically examined Ms. Klapp’s campaign claims or her performance in office. That didn’t stop them from endorsing her, though. Here’s a direct quote from that endorsement:
Klapp, in her four years on the council, hasn’t been flashy. She doesn’t grandstand or launch into long speeches. When Klapp speaks, she has something to say. She asks good questions that get to the heart of a matter. She makes solid, logical arguments. On contentious zoning issues, she weighs the desires of a neighborhood and the welfare of the city as a whole and generally arrives at the right answer.
Klapp “has something to say?”In her four years on the council I’ve never heard her utter a single thing of substance, let alone, “solid, logical arguments.”
“Weighs the desires of a neighborhood and welfare of the city as a whole and generally arrives at the right answer?” Funny how that “right answer” has ALWAYS (with only one exception I can remember in her four years) gone against neighboring residents and in favor of parties (mostly developers and bar owners) who stand to profit from the decision. What kind of “weighing” is that?
Klapp also supports eroding Scottsdale’s high development standards. Fortunately, the residents wisely voted to reject the General Plan “update” last spring that would have made converted that erosion into official policy. That won’t stop the erosion, but it won’t give the greedy bastards (to borrow a phrase from Guy Phillips, courtesy of the North Scottsdale Chamber of Commerce hit piece) quite as much cover to hide behind.
Independent Thinkers? Seriously?
In the same endorsement, the Republic also praises Klapp, Korte, and Luoma as being, “independent thinkers.” It’s hard to draw conclusions about independence thinking from campaign rhetoric. Neither Korte nor Luoma have a voting record that could be examined for such purposes. However, Klapp absolutely does have a track record…which the Republic has never examined.
In the last two years, Klapp has never (that I can remember) voted ‘independently’ of her seat mate, Linda Milhaven. I don’t recall that she’s ever broken with Dennis Robbins. In fact, I’d say that the three of them have formed as solid a Chamber of Commerce voting bloc as we’ve had on the city council since the Chamber broke away from the city to enable themselves to be more politically active.
The dwindling membership of the Chamber of Commerce (less than 0.5% of businesses in Scottsdale) is totally dominated by development interests and the bar lobbying association. Naturally, Klapp’s votes on development and bars have been almost universally in favor of those interests. How “independent” is that?
More on the development issue in a moment…
“Balanced Budget?” It’s a very hard fact…if you bother to look.
However, the statement that galls me the most is Klapp’s claim to have been part of a process that delivered a balanced city budget. The main reason that’s at the top of my list is that it’s so easy to fact-check. The budget is a bunch of numbers. It’s either balanced or it isn’t.
The very definition of a balanced budget is one in which revenues are equal to expenditures. In Scottsdale, we are more than $8 million short of that aspirational goal. The only way the shortfall could be “balanced” was by transferring money out of reserves–“savings,” if you will. Klapp approved that transfer, so it isn’t like she can claim ignorance on that point.
See there Mr. Lovely, how hard was that?
But what has she actually done?
As you read Klapp’s column (below), be mindful of the fact that she never references any specific thing that SHE has done to accomplish all the great things she cites. In my humble opinion, most if not all of them merely happened during her tenure, certainly not because of anything that she’s done.
Further, Klapp paints a rosy picture of the city’s economic health and “vibrant downtown.” In doing so, she telegraphs her belief that everything is OK and we need to keep doing things the same way we’ve done during her four years on the council. If you followed the mayoral race at all, you know that I have grave concerns about the long-term financial picture for our city, and those aren’t going to be resolved by sticking our heads in the sand.
And the so-called ‘vibrancy’ Klapp cites for downtown has created major headaches for the folks who have lived downtown, some of them for a half-century. Klapp having received major financial support from the liquor lobby, bar operators, and bar property owners like Shawn Yari, won’t lift a finger in the next four years to solve any of those problems, whether or not she gets re-elected. Hey, she lives in an exclusive , low-density, gated community in far East Scottsdale; what does she care?
Development conflict of interest?
Beyond the bar district, Klapp has been one of the leaders of the pom-pom squad when it comes to taller, denser development. Even after all that I know, I was shocked to learn from her financial disclosure statement (which the Republic has never bothered to publicly review) that Klapp and her husband own a development “consultation and sales” concern: Cactus Development Partners. One can only imagine what sort of “consultation” they offer; perhaps related to community ‘vibrancy.’
Free Market, or Government Intervention?
And on a closing note, at the final Scottsdale city council candidate debate a couple of weeks ago, Klapp (mostly parroting Korte, how’s that for “independent thinking?”) said that the “free market” should be allowed to dictate the development in the bar district. Almost in the same breath, Klapp said that city government should take an active role in planning and executing redevelopment along McDowell Road [coincidentally, Korte owns ten acres on the north side of McDowell across from SkySong].
How’s that again? You heard me right. “Free market” should govern bar district development, and city intervention is the solution for McDowell Road. If you’ve read anything I’ve written before, surely you know that city government has been tinkering with McDowell Road for twenty years, starting in earnest with the Los Arcos Redevelopment District.
That ominous designation spans a significant portion of the length of McDowell Road, and carries the ultimate penalty–condemnation–for landowners who might not agree with Suzanne Klapp’s “vision” for the McDowell corridor. Doesn’t sound very “free-market” to me. In fact, it is quite in keeping with Klapp’s push for urbanizing the area; the residents and General Plan be damned.
I say the last thing we need is more government tinkering with McDowell Road.
Here’s Klapp’s “My Turn” column:
Economic base has grown while keeping taxes low
City, residents can protect quality of life
What a difference four years makes in the life of our city.
When I was first elected in 2008, Scottsdale council members and city employees were grappling with a downturn in the economy and a drop in revenues, while residents saw their home values and business net worth deteriorate.
Planned development projects came to a screeching halt when capital financing dried up, arts- and culture-related organizations were losing donors, our tourism industry was reeling from the weak economy and business revenues dropped drastically, forcing many local shops to close their doors.
With residential and commercial vacancies becoming increasingly common, everyone tightened their belts.
Throughout my term on the City Council, I have focused on growing our economy and positioning Scottsdale to take advantage of the economic recovery. I weathered the same challenges in my own small business, and I know what it takes to keep a business alive and to bounce back from adversity.
Today, Scottsdale is the healthiest city in the Valley. As your councilwoman, my attention throughout these four years has been focused on being a good steward for you, our citizens.
We made government smaller while continuing to provide the city services that everyone needs. We streamlined processes, increasing efficiency and balancing our budget. [emphasis added]
And, unlike state government, we did not increase sales taxes — we grew revenue by encouraging private-sector growth. We improved our city by attracting new businesses and by nurturing our existing companies.
Numerous examples can be cited of businesses that grew throughout the recession. All of them were buoyed by their location in Scottsdale. They saw the city as a strong partner and relied on Scottsdale’s economic health.
A good example is the development of Scottsdale Quarter. The center broke ground during the recession and attracted tenants despite the challenging economic conditions. Today, it continues to expand and is generating significant sales-tax revenues to help with costs of city services. Fashion Square, our downtown anchor, has gained strength, adding an entire new wing and filling vacancies. It remains a significant regional draw for tourists and residents.
I am thrilled that arts and culture are alive in the city. The tourism industry has rebounded from its doldrums and is steadily growing. Home values are rising, and commercial vacancies are down. My attention will always be on controlling spending, keeping taxes low, growing our economic base, and encouraging job creation. This year, Scottsdale earned the designation as one of the “best-run cities” in the nation.
I intend to continue that title while we tackle the challenges facing our city: improve the McDowell Road corridor, complete the McDowell Sonoran Preserve, manage a vibrant downtown, encourage job creation in the Airpark area and along Bell Road and complete the Westworld complex. Scottsdale has a bright future, and together, working with residents and business owners, we will protect and improve the high quality of life we deserve.
Suzanne Klapp has served on the Scottsdale City Council since 2008.