Several people have asked me recently for my opinion on the proposed $100 million bond (borrowing) effort by the City of Scottsdale. Here’s an answer that was published recently in the Scottsdale Independent:
Scottsdale resident John Washington says the current proposal is too big and contains too much unnecessary spending.
“It makes sense to borrow money for initial construction of infrastructure, or for extraordinary repairs that could not have been anticipated,” he said in an April 14 e-mail. “However, funding for ordinary infrastructure maintenance and replacement should be carefully planned and budgeted. It should be funded from revenues, not by borrowing.”
Mr. Washington is the editor of Scottsdale Trails, a local website dedicated to the local politics of Scottsdale.
“Bonding is borrowing. Borrowed money has to be repaid. In this case, the bonds will be repaid by us — the property owners in the city — via increases in our property taxes,” he pointed out on the nature of general obligation bonds.
“It always costs more to borrow than to plan ahead and budget properly. But for the last 10 to 15 years, the mayor and city council — including one David Smith, who was the city treasurer for several years — have done an abysmal job of planning and budgeting.”
Mr. Washington contends Scottsdale residents have the second largest tax burden among cities in the Valley.
“All that time, they’ve given away subsidies to their cronies as fast as they can, including forgiving (and then funding) tens of millions of dollars worth of neglected maintenance for the PGA-leased TPC golf course, and the Phil Mickelson-leased McDowell Mountain Golf; $4 million every year to a private cultural arts management business that has a no-bid, 20-year city contract; and hundreds of thousands of dollars in subsidies to promote polo matches for Mayor Jim Lane’s campaign PR manager.”
Mr. Washington says he wants to see a real discussion at the council level on the topic of wasteful spending.
“Given infrastructure needs that have accumulated from years of neglect, is bonding a necessity?” he said. “Not without proof that the borrowed money won’t simply allow the mayor and council to continue their wasteful crony capitalism.”
Scottsdale already has the highest per-capita debt of any city in the Valley, and one of the highest per-capita tax burdens. We have over a billion dollars in municipal debt, and seem to run a deficit every year in spite of having a Republican mayor and a 100% Republican city council, who don’t understand (or don’t want to understand) fiscal responsibility.
The proposed bond offering is riddled with cronyism. As I referenced in my earlier article about the Blue Sky project, one of the most egregious examples is also one of the largest: Item 26 is $13.5 million to do flood mitigation for a developer (Crossroads East, Diversified Partners) which bought land on which it can’t build without flood control for which it doesn’t want to pay. If more than 1/10 of the bond proposal is such a naked giveaway, how legitimate can the other items be?
You can see the entire, painful 2015 Bond Proposal document on the city’s website. The Republic attempted to cover this topic with a story that appears to have left out the Crossroads East item. Hmmm.
I’ll be strongly recommending a “no” vote on any such bond question, until such time as Mayor Lane, Virginia Korte, and the rest of the city council can demonstrate some real fiscal restraint.