Korte on LGBT

This column by Virginia Korte was published anonymously under the “Voice of Scottsdale” moniker on April 9, 2015. I referred to it in my article, “Doubling Down on LGBT” the next day, and was recently asked by a reader to share the original column.

Scottsdale Challenging Mesa For Coveted Political Crown

One of the things that makes Scottsdale so special is never being content to rest on its laurels. Our city is always striving to excel.

Scottsdale has received just about every award under the sun — so many that the city is starting to run out of room in its trophy case at City Hall. Just last year, for instance … our city was named one of the safest cities in the country, chosen as one of the “Best Run Cities in America,” ranked the #1 Place to Raise Children, rated as the 5th Best Location in the U.S. to Retire and honored as a Top 10 Tech-Savvy City … just to name a few.

But so far there’s one prestigious award that has alluded our city: “Most Conservative City in America.”

That accolade was bestowed on Mesa last August after an exhaustive study of all cities across the country by two professors, one from UCLA and the other from MIT. Mesa ran away with the title. Oklahoma City was a very distant second.

The professors closely examined the public’s policy preferences and how citizens’ political attitudes and opinions translated into policies that elected officials ended up executing. The study merely memorialized what most people have known for years about Mesa. But when the Mesa City Council recently agreed to begin exploring an ordinance to address LGBT nondiscrimination issues, it gave people pause. Maybe they didn’t know as much about Mesa as they thought, after all.

Now the same is being said about Scottsdale.

Scottsdale is supposed to be special – a city in which the political process is transparent and our leaders listen. Citizens’ input isn’t just invited … it matters. Or at least it has until last week when a majority of the City Council chose to ignore it – including input from the business community.

A formal statement issued by the Scottsdale Area Chamber of Commerce said: “Increasingly, businesses seeking relocation to communities apply ‘litmus tests’ to those moves, among which for many would be the tangible and enforceable application of fully inclusive policies. For many of those businesses, the affirmative statement of an anti-discrimination ordinance would be a factor in future decisions, and a decision not to have such an ordinance could have deleterious consequences in business attraction and retention efforts.”

The Chamber of Commerce represents more than 1,000 members.

It’s baffling why the Council discouraged a community outreach process to solicit community input – and why they so blatantly dismissed the Chamber, the Convention and Visitors Bureau and scores of stakeholders in the business community who support the outreach process.

Could the Council be answering to a high power … perhaps politics?

Slowly but surely older more conservative voters have been dominating Scottsdale elections. Those voters, besides being fiscally conservative, are also to a significant degree socially conservative. LGBT issues aren’t high on their list of political priorities. And the growing number of voters with Libertarian leanings to which several Council members often pander, naturally want to steer clear of what they think are social issues.

In an appeal to those blocks of voters during the Council’s meeting about the nondiscrimination issue last week, Councilman David Smith, suggested: “I don’t think we need to create a law to send a message to the world that we are an inclusive community.”

Wrong. That’s the least expensive and most efficient way for Scottsdale to send a message that it wants to be competitive with places like Austin, Denver and Phoenix for business and Santa Fe, Palm Springs and Tempe for tourists.

Unless Scottsdale wants to send a message that it intends to compete with Mesa for the country’s “Most Conservative City” crown.

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