Let me say up-front that I fully support the principle that no one should be subjected to discrimination on the basis of race, color, national origin, religion, disability, income status, age, genetic gender, gender identity, or orientation. Furthermore, I believe such discrimination is plain silly, and it’s bad for business.
I also believe Scottsdale (both the community and the city government) has done pretty well at inclusion, even prior to the “Unity Pledge” adoption by the city council, and the recent debate about adopting an LGBT-oriented anti-discrimination ordinance. With the sponsorship of former mayor Mary Manross, the council amended the city workforce’s equal opportunity ordinance in 2007 to include gender identity and orientation.
Could we do better? Always. But whether or not the community will demand, and/or the council will ultimately adopt such a more encompassing ordinance to include all businesses in the city, I think it is important to recognize that a few of the most vocal supporters of it are using it primarily to advance their own political ambitions.
Why is this now an issue, you may ask? Has there been a recent epidemic of LGBT discrimination? None of which I’m aware.
The real reason is that Virginia Korte is planning to run for mayor in 2016 against our favorite punching bag, Jim Lane. Korte needs an issue with which to differentiate herself from him, because goodness knows it isn’t Scottsdale’s rampant apartment infection or the cesspool we call the Bar District. Korte fully supports her cronies in both those fields of endeavor.
But the LGBT issue is one where Korte has Lane in a box. She knows that he’ll never willingly support such an ordinance, and he can’t attack her on the issue because he’d be perceived as a bully…thus he would personify the need for such an ordinance!
I said recently that I enjoy seeing Lane slow-roasted over pretty much any issue, and in that respect this is no different to me. However, in this case the folks who are bringing the carrots and potatoes are no better than Lane, and maybe worse. They are using this issue as a stepping stone, when it is very real to many people.
So, you may ask: What’s wrong with addressing this issue now and in this manner, even if it’s done for the wrong reasons?
Maybe nothing. Maybe everything. You see, the aspirations for which Virginia Korte and henchwoman Linda Milhaven are so loudly clamoring of-late are already enshrined in the 2001 General Plan and have been for a decade and a half. As instruments directly ratified by Scottsdale voters, the General Plan and our City Charter are the organic law of Scottsdale, analogous to the US Constitution.
The last bullet of the “Community Values and Visions” statement of the General Plan says that Scottsdale will be a community that,
Recognizes and embraces the diversity of the community by creating an environment that respects the human dignity of all without regard to race, religion, national origin, age, gender, sexual orientation, or physical attributes.
The council could have at any time since the ratification of this statement (sometime around fifteen years ago) taken steps to codify this principle had they been sincere about it.
Of course that assumes that the council actually reads and heeds the General Plan or the City Charter. One of the reasons this General Plan statement is rarely invoked is that the next-to-last bullet on the same list says,
Promotes growth that serves community needs, quality of life, and community character.
How does the Bar District meet any of those criteria? How does a proliferation of apartments fulfill any such goals?
So Korte and Milhaven are in a bit of a box themselves. They can’t support their arguments by reference to the General Plan without simultaneously acknowledging that they’ve been violating it all along!
Not only that, but Korte and Milhaven (along with ordinance opponents Lane, Suzanne Klapp, and David Smith) have been giving away your tax dollars to their cronies for years. In the process, they’ve run perennial budget deficits, accrued the highest per-capita debt of any city in the Valley, and built up a billion-dollar backlog in infrastructure maintenance. If they are willing to steal from you, how can you possibly expect them to even care about discrimination, let alone actually do something about it?
If you are a person for whom this issue is the one that finally brought you to an evening City Council meeting, I’m glad to have you at the table. And I hope you stay.
But don’t think for a second this is anything but good-ole-boy politics at work. And don’t expect the Korte-Milhaven crowd to respect you in the morning.
On a final note, Virginia Korte, who through her anonymous blog “Voice of Scottsdale” (ironically, not unlike Ben Quayle moonlighting as columnist “Brock Landers” for Scottsdale’s The Dirty website) recently published this quote from Korte’s bud Linda Milhaven:
Members of the business community have been the strongest advocates of a non-discrimination ordinance. They tell us an ordinance is vital to their ability to attract and retain workforce talent and customers. They tell us that a lack of an ordinance will do us harm. How can one argue that they are protecting the business community when they ignore the business community’s pleas for an ordinance?
I find it astonishing that at the same time the same folks advancing this notion have also used as an argument that among survey respondents,
…98 percent of small employers (less than 20 employees) actively promote diversity, between 80 and 90 percent of medium sized business and large business actively promote LGBT diversity.
So, which is it? Is this ordinance “vital” to the “business community,” or do they have it pretty well handled?
I find it further astonishing that Scottsdale Area Chamber of Commerce CEO Rick Kidder, an unabashed proponent of a new ordinance, mentions only ONCE on the entire Chamber website the term “diversity,” and NOT EVEN ONCE the term “LGBT.”
There is little doubt where Kidder’s support will fall in Lane vs. Milhaven 2016. After all, the Chamber fully supported Mayor Manross in her unsuccessful reelection campaign against Lane (and broke state campaign finance laws in doing so). And it’s no secret that Virginia Korte was the president of the Chamber, from which she expects full backing in a campaign against Lane.
Yet I see no evidence that the Chamber has any sort of rule excluding from membership those businesses who don’t publicly embrace LGBT diversity. You pay to play at the Chamber, and doing the right thing never has been a requirement. Yet they claim to represent the business community in Scottsdale. Is this the same business community that’s “pleading for an ordinance?” Seek first to heal thyself.
Sadly, for the folks to whom this issue means so much, Korte’s amateurish politics may have bungled the issue for the near term.