"Resident Friendly" The New Measuring Stick

The election is over. The street signs are gone. And the dust is settling after what was arguably the most contentious election in Scottsdale history. 

Councilmembers Kathy Littlefield and Linda Milhaven were re-elected. Incumbent David Smith lost and newcomer Solange Whitehead won. The sales tax will be raised and the City Charter amended.

Some boast the election results have united the city and are taking it in a new direction. Others worry the city has come unhinged and may now be heading in the wrong direction.

Oddly, it was an election in which citizens were purposely polarized to supposedly "unify" the city.

The campaign to pass Proposition 420 pitted citizens against developers who voters were told want to "commercialize" the Mountain Preserve. That polarization tactic was also used to turn City Council races into contests between "resident-friendly" candidates vs. candidates who were "bought and paid for by developers."

According to Howard Myers, president of Protect Our Preserve, one of the groups that spearheaded the Yes Prop 420 campaign, this election "shows our citizens want council members who represent them, not developers who want to profit off of Scottsdale's desirability at the expense of our quality of life."

Yet, voters re-elected Linda Milhaven to her third term even though she received substantial support from developers, homebuilders and the real estate community.

Strangely, David Smith, failed to be re-elected. There has been no bigger "resident-friendly" member of the council than Smith. Ever the watchdog of taxpayer dollars, he repeatedly tried to eliminate the food tax that impacts those on low and fixed incomes. For four years, Smith has held developers feet to the fire on their projects and drawn their ire in return.

Another candidate, Bill Crawford, who was a staunch supporter of Prop 420, didn't make it into the winners' circle, either. Ironically, Crawford's campaign focused on a pledge to mediate compromises between neighborhoods and developers to help unify what many people believe to be a politically divided city.

The election proved "resident-friendly" is totally situational and is just a tool being used to continue an "us vs. them" strategy.

For those paying attention, November 6th should have put a lot of people on notice. The campaign that has been coined "Take Back Scottsdale" doesn't stop with developers. It's about systematically reforming city government and making it more responsive to citizens.

It's also about reconfiguring the status quo. That means no group or organization is immune from being called out for not meeting the broad criteria of being "resident-friendly" -- including Experience Scottsdale and the tourism community, Scottsdale Arts and the arts and culture community and the Chamber of Commerce and the business community.

Shaking up the downtown may also be on the so-called reformers' radar as well. The Entertainment District has long been an irritant for citizens who believe the bar and clubs are a blemish on the city's brand and a nightmare for nearby neighborhoods. So it will come as no surprise if there's renewed pressure on business owners to clean up their acts.

Have A Happy "Resident-Friendly" Thanksgiving!

The Partisan Non-Partisan Election

One word best describes the city's 2018 election: Confusing.

Proposition 420: One group wants to change the City Charter to prevent commercial development in the Preserve. Another group says the Preserve is already protected against commercial development and the proposition creates a chain reaction of unintended consequences. 

Question 1: Even though $800 million is needed to restore the city's failing infrastructure, the majority of the City Council rejected placing a bond on the ballot that would not have raised taxes. Instead councilmembers unanimously support raising the sales tax that would generate $100 million over 10 years, dedicated to repairing roads. 

As if Prop 420 and Question 1 haven't already confused voters enough, unexpected alliances in the City Council race have people puzzled even more. 

Five candidates are running to fill three council seats. Four are Republicans and one is a Democrat. Incumbents Kathy Littlefield, Linda Milhaven and David Smith are Republicans, as is challenger Bill Crawford. Solange Whitehead is the Democrat. 

That's where the clarity stops and more confusion begins.

Councilwoman Littlefield, the Republican, has aligned herself with Whitehead, the Democrat. Both are advocates for Prop 420. Crawford is too. But there's bad blood between the Littlefield and Crawford clans. Crawford, also a Republican, didn't just support Mayor Lane in his re-election bid two years ago against Kathy's husband, Bob, he attacked Littlefield repeatedly.

The Littlefield-Whitehead alliance has thrown dyed-in-the-wool Republicans for a loop. It didn't, however, prevent Councilwoman Littlefield from being the only candidate for City Council that the Maricopa County Republicans endorsed - not Milhaven, Smith or Crawford. 

To make matters even more confusing, a local precinct committee person produced campaign material patterned after the Maricopa County Republican group. The look-alike literature endorsed Littlefield and Whitehead. That forced the Legislative District 23 Republican Committee to disavow the fraudulent material and remind its members that Whitehead is a Democrat.

In reaction, the three "unendorsed" council candidates by Maricopa County Republicans (Milhaven-Smith-Crawford) pooled their resources and created a mailer touting their Republican values. Republican Kathy Littlefield was excluded. 

And, last at least for now ... Mayor Lane's political action committee, At Our Best, also got in on the action. The PAC sent two mailers to voters asking them to "keep Scottsdale headed in the right direction" by voting for Milhaven and Crawford. Incumbent Councilman David Smith was left out.

The 2018 election is arguably the most confusing election the city has ever experienced. Even the experts are confounded about the possible outcome.

Nevertheless, it raises intriguing questions:

When voters are confused, they typically vote No on issues. So does that mean Prop 420 and Question 1 will be rejected? Will this be the first time in the past 10 years a Democrat is elected to the City Council? Will the three incumbents be re-elected or will one of the challengers unseat an incumbent? If so, which one? 

These questions and many more will be answered in less than a week.

Pranks Backfiring On Prop 420 Group

Some are saying it's too little too late and others say it's better late than never. 

Whichever it is, the important thing is that Mayor Lane intervened in the Proposition 420 issue in an attempt to cool down the community's political climate. 

Arguably, Prop 420 is the most complicated, confusing and divisive issue that has faced our city since, perhaps, the inception of the Indian Belt Green Belt almost 50 years ago. Like then, emotions and tempers are boiling over. However, unlike the controversy in the 1970's over the Green Belt, today's dialog about the future of the McDowell Sonoran Preserve has become down and dirty, thanks to the dominant role social media now plays in politics. 

So the mayor stepped up ... and into the fray of the fear and loathing. 

It wasn't hard to know where to start. After seeing his name bandied about on one of the fake sites created by supporters of Prop 420 created to confuse voters, Lane contacted the leaders of the pro Prop 420 campaign. It took a couple of conversations, but the misleading comments attributed to the mayor were eventually deleted. Although the bogus site remained active, as many other of their fake sites still are today. 

Next, Mayor Lane learned about a site called "Boycott Scottsdale: Preserve The Preserve" It was said to be the handiwork of Mike Norton, one of the directors of No DDC. The site had been active for about a year and urged people to boycott Scottsdale businesses that supported the Desert Discovery Center and the defeat of Prop 420. Norton was persuaded to delete the anti-business site. 

Because he's aware of who the real culprits are, Mayor Lane hasn't felt it necessary to contact the Protect Your Preserve campaign that's advocating a "no" vote on Prop 420.

The mayor deserves credit for trying to stem the tide against the wave of rudeness. But there's only so much he can do. It's like Whack-A-Mole. After all, who has time to stay on top of all the games being played by the different tribes behind Prop 420?

Meanwhile ... the shenanigans continue: Frivolous complaints filed against councilmembers that waste the time of the city attorney's office, tattle-tail emails to the Mayor and City Council whining about being bullied and a series of other silly stunts like putting Yes Prop 420 magnets on No 420 supporters' mailboxes. So far they haven't toilet papered a councilperson's home. 

Most of their antics have been clownish. But some are creepy.

For instance, Jason Alexander, one of the co-directors of No DDC, has cyber stalked four women connected to the NO Prop 420 issue. He has been fixated on Jan Dolan, Scottsdale's former city manager and now the chairperson of the Protect Your Preserve Committee. His fixation has also included Lynne Lagarde, the treasurer of the same committee. Councilmembers Virginia Korte and Linda Milhaven have also received what seems to be more than normal attention from Alexander. 

Mayor Lane supports Prop 420. That doesn't mean he approves of the raunchy behavior by some of those promoting the proposition. 

Few do.

The Path to the Mayor's Office

In the good old days, the city used to be politically divided between North Scottsdale and South Scottsdale. The only thing up for debate was where one started and the other ended.    

Today the divide is no longer just geographical. It's political. It cuts through the entire community -- and if you don't recognize the deep political division, you haven't been paying attention.

In case you haven't ...

Using the Desert Discovery Center/Desert Edge as a wedge issue, No DDC has been the driving force behind the divisiveness. For more than a year, No DDC has waged a war of words aimed at those who support the DDC. Supporters have been called every name under the sun. Some City Council members have been called out as "garbage," and that's one of the milder comments.

The organization has also harassed businesses that have dared to support the DDC and even encouraged boycotting scores of Scottsdale establishments.

Ironically, the members of No DDC have convinced themselves that they are actually uniting the city behind their boorish behavior.

Solange Whitehead, City Council candidate who emerged from the ranks of No DDC, went one step further: "The notion that Scottsdale citizens are divided or uncivil is a myth. A myth perpetuated by some on the City Council."

No DDC is now on a mission that's less about the DDC/Desert EDGE. The group has moved on to changing the City Charter via Proposition 420. They're also working to unseat Councilwoman Linda Milhaven and replace her with Whitehead, who serves on the board of Protect Our Preserve (POP) -- which has become this election cycle's premier dark money group that's filtering anonymous contributions to help pass Prop 420.

As for No DDC, it has evolved into what the Coalition of Pinnacle Peak (COPP) once was, but without the integrity: a special interest group committed to changing the direction of the city by hook or by crook.    

For them the real change starts in the mayor's office in 2020.

Even though former three-term Councilman Bob Littlefield was trounced by Jim Lane and his wealthy friends in his run for mayor in 2016, he has remained active behind the scenes. For the past year Littlefield has been managing his wife's re-election campaign. It appears as though he has been living vicariously through Kathy's last three years on the City Council and keeping his skills sharp. Some say he's crazy ... like a fox.

Whatever the case ... if the current political trends continue, Bob Littlefield, who was left for dead two years ago, could be on the comeback trail with the political wind at his back ... and the support of No DDC members.

Could Littlefield have been ahead of his time?

Although he often seemed to be the odd man out during most of his 12 years on the Council, the issues consuming today's political environment seem remarkably similar to those he struggled to champion from the dais in the Kiva.

Old political proverb: Good things come to those who wait.