The year started and ended the same way ... with the Scottsdale Unified School District in the spotlight.
January began with what the Voice of Scottsdale called the "first conspiracy of 2015." Of course the "food bank scandal" at the former Tonalea Elementary School was little more than a "tempest in a teapot." When retired school board member Denny Brown made a deal with SUSD to turn the abandoned school into a temporary Resource Center for families who needed a helping hand, nearby neighbors went nuts.
Brown's deal with the district was dissolved after the rogue group Respect Our Scottsdale Students went on the warpath with a vicious disinformation campaign - which only ended up proving that no good deed goes unpunished.
The next couple of months were relatively calm.
New Councilman David Smith unsuccessfully floated the idea of rescinding the food tax. Councilwoman Kathy Littlefield, also in her first term, showed she had a mind of her own. And Guy Phillips demonstrated he was able exist on the Council without the political companionship of Councilman Bob Littlefield who had termed out.
By the end of March, things began heating up.
Councilmembers Virginia Korte and Linda Milhaven proposed creating an ordinance to protect the LGBT Community from discrimination. Their proposal got a chilly reception from their Council colleagues --- it did, however, provoke a nasty response from religious zealots that ended up backfiring because the majority of the Council ended up agreeing to pursue the measure. Though far from over, the Non-Discrimination Ordinance process is on track and expected to be back on the Council's agenda in early 2016.
In late spring the Cultural Council began to implode with firings and departures of principal personnel. Eventually, the organization's shaky reputation spilled over into its request for $1.5 million in out-of-budget funding from the city and was overwhelmingly rejected by the City Council.
After several years struggling to make its broken business model work and suffering from a record of poor response times that triggered hefty fines, Rural/Metro was bought by American Medical Response, the WalMart of health and emergency services. Given the fluid nature of the emergency services industry, the city is now applying for a Certificate of Need from the state Department of Health Services. After the CON is approved, the city will be allowed to provide uninterrupted ambulance service to citizens in case there's a substantial change in the ambulance business.
June got off to a terrible start. City Manager Fritz Behring suffered a stroke during the first Council meeting of the month. Fritz' rehab process is progressing. Over the last several weeks he has visited City Hall -- which hopefully means he will be back at work soon and Acting City Manager Brian Biesemeyer can return to what he does best ... run the city's water department.
During the long hot summer, Chamber of Commerce President Rick Kidder moved to Massachusetts and Mark Hiegel replaced him. The city's General Plan update slogged along. The Desert Discovery Center concept was successfully reintroduced. And the Scottsdale Republic officially shifted its mission to providing less news and more fluff.
Following the Council's summer recess, downtown gallery owners mobilized against Artisan Markets, the group of artists who occupied the Marshall Way Bridge to sell their arts and crafts on Thursdays and Sundays. After several weeks of presenting their "hair-on-fire" case to the Council accusing Artisan Markets of engaging in "unfair competition," the city caved in and threw the artisans off the bridge. Unfortunately, the gallery owners' gain was the city's loss - and there was concern that the Council's decision put the "free-market" philosophy in jeopardy.
Inarguably, the biggest story of the year was voters rejecting four of the six bond proposals in November. A post-election canvass of all 12 polling places showed that North Scottsdale voters were responsible for defeating the four questions. Street improvements and new fire stations were approved.
Thanks to some of Scottsdale's most affluent residences, the city is now behind the eight ball. Finding the funding for the priority projects that were turned down by voters is expected to be the City Council's biggest challenge in the year ahead.
During the first week of December former three-term Councilman Bob Littlefield announced his candidacy for mayor - which could be foreshadowing of the type of year we can expect in 2016.
Two weeks ago, out of the blue, SUSD Superintendent David Peterson called it quits with two years left on his contract. He had finally had enough of the haranguing from the Respect Our Scottsdale Students group and Pam Kirby and Barbara Perleberg, the Laverne and Shirley of the SUSD School Board.
Proving that it ain't over 'til it's over ... several issues that cropped up in 2015 will carry over in 2016.
The most significant influence on 2016 will be the City Council election, including the mayoral race between Jim Lane and Bob Littlefield. Councilmembers Suzanne Klapp, Virginia Korte and Guy Phillips will also be running for re-election.
Here's hoping for a Happy New Year!