Naysaying Weasels and Luddites are Scottsdale’s Top Threat

In a classic bit of tired irony, a highly-paid (relative to quality of service) city contractor has produced a report that repeats the refrain of the (surprise) council majority: The problem in Scottsdale is the folks who complain about problems in Scottsdale (not the folks who CAUSE the problems in Scottsdale).

This arrogance is in the same vein as former Councilman Wayne Ecton’s comment, “The wrong people voted,” and former Councilmember Betty Drake’s comment, “If you don’t like traffic, move to Ajo.”

Knowing this would be the outcome, I declined to participate in this exercise a couple of months ago. My exact words were as follows:


Thanks for following up. I think, however, that I will decline.

I’m sure that you are a lovely and interesting person. I read some of your bio.

And I’m sure you are trying diligently to fulfill the terms of your contract.

Or all the above.

But, I’m very busy, and events of the past couple of years—culminating with recent events—have convinced me that working within the system simply isn’t effective. Worse, it is clear that whatever efforts I invest working within the system are simply used by the powers-that-be to fill squares along the path to their predetermined goals, regardless of what is actually best for the long-term health of our community.

Even if you interviewed a hundred folks like me and produced a report that reflects exactly my thinking, the mayor and city council would file it with everything else that doesn’t support their agenda.

These are people—to paraphrase a voice from history—who are drunkards seeking lampposts for support rather than illumination. I have zero doubt that they wouldn’t have hired you if they thought there was any chance that your final report wouldn’t provide that support.

If you want to incorporate some of my thoughts, feel free to glean from my hundreds of articles on ScottsdaleTrails whatever you find enlightening.

Otherwise, I wish you well and I will gladly indulge in conversation should a future opportunity present.

Edward Gately related the contractor’s presentation to the Council in his Republic article this morning:

Report cites negative views as threat to city’s prosperity

Edward Gately, The Republic|

Arrogance, citizen vitriol and a lack of vision all are perceptions that could stand in the way of Scottsdale’s future economic prosperity, according to a report from an outside firm.

That’s according to the findings of the city’s Economic Development Strategic Plan framework. The findings and strategic goals were outlined in a presentation during a City Council work-study session April 29.

The city paid IO Inc. of Phoenix $68,000 to conduct the framework process.

The goal of the framework is to guide the activities of the city’s economic development department in the next three to five years. It is anticipated that the complete plan will be presented for final adoption by the council on Tuesday, May 13.

“There’s a lot of work to be done,” said Ioanna Morfessis, IO’s president. “There’s a lot of catching up to do.”

The plan isn’t about accelerating growth, but about the city keeping its attributes intact and enhancing them over time, she said.

The framework is titled One Scottsdale: Elevating Excellence, Promoting Prosperity. Working in unison so Scottsdale becomes all it can be is critical, Morfessis said. “Everybody in the city needs to be an economic-development ambassador,” she said.

Mayor Jim Lane said that, while not everyone may agree with all of the findings and recommendations, it’s good to have a plan defined for discussion, and that the city needs to provide a friendly environment for business.

Part of the process involved engaging 300 Scottsdale public, private and civic leaders, as well as executives and professionals from the industry sectors that drive the city’s economy. In addition, state and federal government officials, regional and local economic development leaders, and senior-level executives provided input.

Among the city’s strengths are the Scottsdale Airport and Airpark, the downtown area, the city’s name recognition, quality of life, the population’s education and affluence levels, and its tourism destination.

The negative perceptions were among the lists of weaknesses and threats. A lack of vision for economic development by the city, including the mayor and council, was cited by 200 of the respondents, Morfessis said.

Both a lack of vision and divisiveness among city officials and residents “are a huge source of heartburn for people who care about Scottsdale,” she said.

A majority of respondents cited these threats: anti-growth attitudes, an unwillingness to invest in the future mentality, a lack of transportation, bond election and school override failures, a north Scottsdale vs. south Scottsdale mentality, and attracting and retaining talent.

Morfessis said there is a “strong perception of arrogance,” and of people of influence in north Scottsdale having little to no regard for the needs of businesses and residents in the southern part of the city.

As for the “citizen vitriol,” many employers said there is a great deal of noise made during public meetings from people who want the city to step backward, she said.

Councilman Bob Littlefield asked if that means residents should just be quiet and let things happen that they don’t agree with. He also said it was the voters, not the city, that rejected four city bond requests last November.

Morfessis said 200 people cited repeated bond failures as a threat to the community’s future health.

Priority sectors targeted for future growth include advanced business services, innovation and technology, bio-life sciences, visitor hospitality, higher education and entrepreneurship.

“Corporate headquarters jobs are really critical to the city,” Morfessis said.

The framework includes rebuilding the economic development department, and restoring trust and confidence in the city’s economic-development efforts.

Councilman Dennis Robbins said he likes the idea that everyone needs to be a “front-line, economic-development ambassador,” and that he’s excited about the plan and its implementation.

Vice Mayor Virginia Korte asked that the plan include more emphasis on K-12 education, and the city collaborating with the Scottsdale Unified School District.

“I’m so excited that now we will have a plan,” added Councilwoman Linda Milhaven.

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  1. What a waste of $68,000. It is disgusting that city staff waste taxpayer dollars hiring these consultants to promote staff’s self serving ideas. Lets see, unless we pass and overinflated bond issue, Scottsdale is going to wither away and die. Hey if we can’t build more $8 million parking rides for three cars a day, we are going to be in deep dodo. I know, how about a few more round- abouts to show a fortune 500 corporation how progressive we are.

  2. No wonder people call this city SNOTSDALE. Yes, preaching to the choir, gets this city no where with these out side consultants. Look at all the money the city is spending on the tourism sector with Valerie La Blanc from PA. We fly her in for the TTF meetings to basically tell the city to be Arizona Central. All this money being wasted and then the council debates for an hour about spending $400,000 on an existing library. So much disconnect going on. Why is there no COMMON SENSE in politics? Guess, that can’t be bought with developer money.

    ps. Jim, you are so right. I drive by that park and ride often and see a few cars. What a waste. Now that the Hayden Rd. round about is done, I wonder when someone will hit the statute in the middle. Who chose that strange statute? and how much did the tax payers spend on it?

  3. This “report” is a classic example of what is wrong with most consultant hired by governments — we pay someone big bucks to feed back to us a pre-determined conclusion, and hopefully add some credibility to that conclusion along the way! This report simply regurgitates the talking points of then Chamber that attempt to justify allowing a few monied special interests (developers, bar owners, etc.) to exploit and compromise what’s special about Scottsdale for their own short-term gain. One convenient aspect of Dr. Morfessis’ report is that her interviews were anonymous, so there is no way to independently confirm who the 200 people who supposedly cited repeated bond failures as a threat to the community’s future health are and what thyey might have had to gain from the passage of the bonds.

  4. The fact that Morfessis’ report claims there is great discontent in Scottsdale about the bond failures negates the report’s validity. The most relevant poll is the one taken at the ballot box. At the ballot box, the bonds were rejected… soundly. That poll was far more complete and unbiased than the work of Morfessis. She should have been asked to explain why her finding was so out of touch with the results of a very recent election.

  5. I have a question. I keep on hearing that the city of Scottsdale does not want to bring up the city bond issue this election cycle. The city fears its issues or “aura” will impact the Scottsdale Unified School District (SUSD) override and bond chances. Now education was one of the big points in this “study.” Since the school district has lost two overrides in a row, why does the city think it if it sits out it can help the school district pass the override? Does it think the voters are confusing the city and the school overrides? Look at the school district web site, it is going for the override again, and now is also going for bonds for the elementary schools. So with the city out of the picture, will the voters vote YES this time?

    1. Appreciate your comment.

      The school district is an independent political subdivision of the state led by its own elected officials, as is the city. I think the two should cooperate, but both are charged with keeping their own houses in order.

      It would be as inappropriate for the city to weigh in on the override (or any pending school bonds) as it would for the school district to attempt to influence the outcome of a city bond election.

      There is no doubt there was confusion in the last election. Contributing factors include a very poor job by override supporters in getting the word out and distinguishing it from city issues; and a pro-development lobby who felt it was more important to spend tens of thousands of dollars campaigning to raise city voters’ taxes to borrow money for no good reason, and not spend ANY effort on the school override.

      And the folks who complained about what they perceive as a city role in the demise of the override never seemed to work real hard at lobbying our legislators and the governor for better funding from the state…which has ultimate responsibility for funding (or not) public education. An override is just a way to make up for lack of state funding.

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