Dark Money Dishonesty


It’s one thing for out-of-state corporations to contribute hundreds of thousands of dollars to try to elect their cronies (banker Linda Milhaven, good ole boy Dennis Robbins, and opportunist Jennifer Petersen) to Scottsdale City Council, by saturating our mailboxes and television programming with hysterical, hyperbolic portrayals of the good guys.

But it’s something else entirely when they their so-called “facts” are just plain not so.

The latest examples come in a mailer from Judy Eisenhower’s “Scottsdale Strong” group. It says in part (with my comments bracketed),

The facts speak for themselves…

In our downtown, higher density development helps attract new employers. [opinion, not supported by any facts]

Less traffic is generated by higher-density development than low-density housing per unit, making walking, bus and trolley ridership more feasible. [Not only not supported by facts, it doesn’t even make sense]

Independent studies show no relationship exists between density and crime. [If there were studies to support this statement, they’d have cited them…but it’s easier to just make something up]

People of all ages and income groups are choosing higher-density, low maintenance, turn-key housing. [and people in those same demographics are also choosing low-density suburban housing, more in a moment]

Studies also indicate that higher density development does not diminish property values for nearby single family homes. [Again, no studies cited, because they just made up something]

I hope the average voter will see through this paper-thin postcard. But if you need some contravening facts, consider these.

Russ Wiles reported recently on AZCentral about a study from the Finra Foundation that,

People who inhabit apartments and rental homes live closer to the edge compared to homeowners, and they aren’t as knowledgeable about money matters, making them vulnerable to job losses and other shocks. Renters comprise a widening share of the population, and they tend to be “financially fragile.”


In other words, not a demographic that generally contributes to a community’s economic stability.

Catherine Reagor reported recently (also on AZCentral) on study results from Demand Institute that more than 80% of Millennials (age 20-34) want to own their own homes.

And those are only two studies that the average reader can find in about 5 minutes via Google.

Zillow.com says,

The median list price per square foot in Scottsdale is $214, which is higher than the Phoenix Metro average of $123. The median price of homes currently listed in Scottsdale is $499,900 while the median price of homes that sold is $351,000. The median rent price in Scottsdale is $1,800, which is higher than the Phoenix Metro median of $1,150.

City-Data.com says that Scottsdale’s population density is 1,213 people per square mile and an annual serious crime rate of 171.6/hundred thousand residents, while the Phoenix Metro area has a population density of 3,135 people per square mile, and a annual serious crime rate of 414.8/hundred thousand residents.

How stupid does Judy Eisenhower think you are?

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  1. It seems so cool now for the young to be where the action is which is a 700 square foot apartment in downtown within walking distance to the bars and other party places.

    Like every generation, they eventually will tire of the party life and take a more mature approach as they trade in their stack of rent receipts for a property with space for a family along with house payments that will develop into equity for the future.

    Every generation goes through this. Youth has a lot of vanity and the idea of taking a different girl (or guy) home every night eventually runs its course as the individual realizes that enough is enough and that it is time to show some maturity.

    Therefore, anyone who thinks that downtown condos and apartments will build a long lasting stable community with serious homeowners that will be a credit to the city, are probably mistaken. So far, it is party central, and with the disturbances reported and the ages of the ones involved, I see no positive changes occurring.

    However, to quote the late great actor Walter Pidgeon in his role as Nick Carter, Private Detective, I qualify my opinion by saying “If I’m wrong, I’ll apologize.”

  2. As a new resident, I encountered this post in my search for information about candidates. I appreciate your insight, and recognize (as we all do) that all sources possess perspective or “bias” (using it here very technically), which we must take into account. So, with that in mind, allow me to offer some corrective for your readers.

    I found no evidence that “out-of-state corporations” are spending “hundreds of thousands of dollars” to “elect their cronies.” Based on my assessment of the amount spent, there is no evidence to support your assertion that “out-of-state corporations” are funding this election, nor that spending levels are as high as you imply. Indeed, as of May 31, all eight candidates had reported donations of a little more than $120K (with an additional $60K in self funding.) Granting that donations and spending have surely increased since then, there is no evidence at all to support what you claim. Incidentally, my data comes from the Scottsdale Tea Party (http://www.teapartyscottsdale.com/scottsdale_city_council_2).

    As for the second set of concerns, regarding the lack of evidence as regards the relation between density and crime, the data is far more complex and nuanced. However, most of the evidence argues that crime is most directly associated with the demographic characteristics of a neighborhood (low Social Economic Status), as opposed to density. See, for one example, http://proceedings.esri.com/library/userconf/proc00/professional/papers/pap508/p508.htm; I’d be happy to provide far more evidence to back my arguments.

    As for the notion that there is a migration to dense central cities by young and old alike, this trend has been identified by demographers. For example, the New York Times reported on a study by the City Observatory think tank that drew upon the Community Survey of the US Census, demonstrating that young college graduates are moving to densely populated urban cores.(http://www.nytimes.com/2014/10/20/upshot/where-young-college-graduates-are-choosing-to-live.html?abt=0002&abg=1).

    This is the sort of skilled workforce that employers are looking for when they relocate or entrepreneurs seek out when building businesses, and it is this sort of workforce that itself generates economic opportunity. So, Scottsdale would be well served in attracting millennials and college-educated workers (capitalizing on its proximity to ASU, among other things.)

    Likewise empty nesters and boomers are moving back to densely populated core cities, as reported (again using US Census data) by the Research Housing Institute of America (which is partially funded by the Mortgage Bankers Association), http://www.a4aa.com/Housing_Trends_among_Baby_Boomers_-_SECOND_HOMES.pdf.

    The discussion about renters cherry picks one data point (that renters are twice as likely as homeowners to be closer to the economic margins) to imply that building apartments in Scottsdale would be a mistake. A more nuanced reading reveals that apartments are not, of themselves, the problem, but they’re part of a broader issues of affordable housing and economic matters that shape the viability of communities. Take for instance, the MacArthur Foundation’s study on housing (http://www.macfound.org/programs/how-housing-matters/) or a report from the National Association of Realtors (http://www.realtor.org/sites/default/files/social-benefits-of-stable-housing-2012-04.pdf), the latter of which emphasizes social disorganization (usually tied to family structure and low social economic status) as prime challenges for housing in all types of communities.

    Finally, the last example, that compares Phoenix and Scottsdale on measures of density and housing values (per square foot) is fallacious, because it compares two numbers and posits a relationship, without any contextual analysis. For example, has there been other research that establishes a link between density and property values? (Answer: No.) Are there confounding factors that explain the disparity in property values? (Answer: Yes.) Indeed, the sociological research that has controlled for such interactions among the data (see the study cited above, and follow the cited research in its bibliography) recognizes that density does not (ipso fact) lead to higher crime rates or lower property values. Instead, it recognizes what common sense tell us, property values are related to the socio-economic status of those who live in a community. Rich people, who can afford more expensive housing, living in areas with higher property values, on average.

    I am surely not arguing for or against any candidates, nor against your view of Scottsdale’s future.

    I am only responding to the particular claims made here that are passed as “research” but are, in fact, cherry-picked assumptions in service of an attack on several candidates.

    1. Thanks for your comment and especially for your interest.

      I have more information I will share as soon as I can, and appreciate the opportunity your questions have given me to share more details!

    2. Mark, you’ve included a lot of information in your comment that deserves consideration and detailed reply. For the moment, I’ll only address what I think is the most important issue: campaign finance, and contributions by dark money entities.

      Adding up the contributions to candidate committees completely misses the point. Dark money in this context is that NOT given to the candidate committees, but instead to groups like Scottsdale United and Scottsdale Strong, who hide their contributors. The candidate committees don’t even represent half the money spent in this election.

    3. Mark, now that I have a little more time to respond in detail:

      The tone of your comment is to take issue with the information I provided…for which I provided source information, unlike the unfounded assertions of the campaign mailer which is the subject of my article. I’m a little surprised you would take issue with the information you criticize as inadequate ‘research,’ and you have nothing to say about those purely rhetorical campaign assertions!

      I had not intention of providing an exhaustively researched rebuttal, only to point out (primarily) that those assertions were themselves devoid of substance.

      Having said that, you can take issue with the statistics I cited all you want…but they aren’t made up and they aren’t mine. Which is why I provided the source information.

      I understand more than most that it is difficult to control for some of the variables you cited in order to winnow down to scientific correlations, but again, that wasn’t my intent.

      And further, I believe that there is plenty of information available to refute the unsubstantiated assertions in this mailer (and I think I gave a couple of valid examples) for anyone who isn’t looking, “to use statistics as a drunkard uses a lamp post; for support rather than illumination.”

    4. BTW, Mark, the Englehardt report is copyrighted (and presumable published in) 2006. I see at least one citation therein to a study published in 2004, which likely contains data that’s even older.

      I think it would be safe to say that the market has changed drastically in the last 8 years! So is Englehardt really relevant?

      This illustrates my ongoing push for voters to be critical consumers of information.

  3. Mark Tebeau – I hope you get to read my response, I am very sorry it took me a while to read your post. I went into your post and read everything. I love to research and will take all data and take it apart and do my own analysis. That is my thing, it helps me pass the time and further my own education. Now to your points.

    First there is Dark Money in this election. The research by the Tea Party is very incomplete. If you trust the research ability of the newspaper, it is very shoddy at times, even they show the huge influx of cash from the two groups – Scottsdale Strong and Scottsdale United. Now if you just use the public numbers from those groups, which is a huge amount of money for a city council race. Why so much cash for a city like Scottsdale? Think about it. Our city is built out, we cannot build any further, we are land locked by other cities and we have only one direction to go, up.

    So either these two groups want to continue to redesign or transform Scottsdale or get their agenda in place for Scottsdale. What agenda? The most obvious is light-rail. I know, why so much opposition to a rail system? COST and timing. If light rail was purposed decades ago, then maybe the citizens would have said yes, but now? NO. It is a huge damaging construction proposition to put into place at minimum and then to continue to operate it is just so costly that no city has made it any way profitable, let alone break even.

    I continue to harp on the ‘Millennial’ migration. I am not opposed to that demographic, but when the city and those two groups want to cater only to them, we have an issue. That demographic wants light rail, they want this and that, and when you cater to one and leave out what is here already, well you are doing a disservice at the very least. Funny thing, the transportation director for Scottsdale continues to state ‘The Millennials want light-rail, we understand that, but we are giving them buses.’ Hey, you want a steak, but here is a burger. Are you going to be happy? NO.

    Confused yet? Probably not, but it confuses the heck out of the residents, why does the city council give into the developers? They are getting the benefits and the existing residents get the short stick? Arizona state statutes say we need a General Plan, we have one, but nobody seems to read it in the city council, especially when the contractors and developers come a knocking. Well the Dark Money provides the incentives to get certain people in power and they get the development they want. That does not make for a healthy city, or a city that is being revitalized.

    You brought up many studies that show the importance of SES. In simple terms, what is the surrounding area doing economically health wise. Does it have good schools, an effective police force, a healthy workforce and a healthy economy (my very brief version of SES)? That is what Scottsdale does NOT have. What we are getting is just more places for people to live, but not a better place to live. If you continue to cram people into high density homes/residences you will not get revitalization, but the exact opposite.

    Remember those new residences are not economical, they are upper end. Why? What is the draw for them? The view of other residences? The close location to what businesses? The crime district/bar area? The aging infrastructure? What is the draw for the high rent apartments/condos?

    So you put up these expensive places to live and the surrounding area is not uplifted by that. In fact the city employees flaunt the ‘Field of Dreams’ mentality that those apartments/condos will bring business. No they do not. None of your cited works show that more bodies in residences bring business to an area. What they all say is that lower SES will bring more crime, which is exactly what we have here.

    What your research did not touch on was the lack of infrastructure planning. That is what Scottsdale has done time and time again. You cannot just plop down high density residential on preexisting commercial property and expect everything to work indefinitely. That is what is continuing to happen, that will also bring down the area. You will have sewage issues, traffic issues, and so on. Not only that but what about crime and fire coverage? Yes, more people DO put an increased load on those services.

    I am not saying that you will necessarily have an immediate increase in crime, but it will happen as the systems break down and the surrounding areas blight from the neglect. So you did some good work, the data was a bit dated in some areas, but continue to research your stuff.

    Dark Money is a powerful force in this election. It is not being reported like it should. It has influenced this election and the city council decisions for quite some time. If you want proof just read the transcripts of the city council meetings. Read what the three darlings who are supported by the Dark Money say. They don’t often vary from the script. Google is your friend, you can find more information on this matter and much more.

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