Two weeks ago, all candidates for Scottsdale City Council received a plea from Friends of the Scenic Drive to not post campaign signs along Desert Foothills Scenic Drive. In case you’re not familiar with the area, Desert Foothills Scenic Drive is the six mile stretch of our signature Scottsdale Road from Happy Valley, north to Carefree Highway. The Scenic Drive celebrates desert plants as a part of our heritage.
The Friends of the Scenic Drive have been making the same plea every election season for many years. They remind all candidates that by reducing visual pollution, the candidates will be showing their respect for our desert, our visitors and our local history. And candidates would be validating their campaign rhetoric of protecting the preserve, by their individual preservation actions.
Pleading is about all the Friends can do. State Law guarantees the right of candidates to put up signs. For those who don’t remember the history (and it wasn’t that long ago!) the State Statute on campaign sign rules trumped local rights when it was passed in 2011. Councilman Ron McCullagh, had long supported efforts to prohibit political signs in Scottsdale and successfully led a 2007 Council ban on temporary signs from our rights-of-way easements. When his good efforts were overturned by state legislators, he lamented “They’ve given license to trash public property.”
In an oxymoron move, while the State guaranteed the right of candidates to put up signs, they also allowed the creation of two separate sign-free zones in each community, each of which could be up to three square miles in size (an arbitrary number that surely made sense to someone in our State Legislature.) On December 6, 2011, our City Council established two such zones – the Downtown Resorts Area and a northern area, running generally between the western City limits and the Arizona Canal, north to the Hyatt Regency Resort and Spa.
The State Legislature reasoned the “placement of political signs within these zones would detract from the scenic and aesthetic appeal of the area and deter its appeal to tourists.” And so, it follows, signs outside the zones will not detract from the scenic and aesthetic appeal of the area, nor will they deter its appeal to tourists. If tourists are not to be offended, they must carefully restrict their movements to stay within the gerrymandered three square mile sign-free-zones.
Scottsdale citizens have a long tradition of protecting the beauty of our city with some of the valley’s most restrictive sign ordinances; even the famous McDonalds golden arches are subdued in our community! Apparently, if we are to achieve similar control over political signage, it will occur only through group pleadings, like those of the Friends of the Scenic Drive or by the conscience of individual candidates.
I have decided I cannot campaign on a platform of respecting citizens’ visions, then clutter their vision with my own propaganda. I am proud to continue the tradition of “no signs” begun by Councilman McCullagh. If you want a sign declaring my candidacy for Scottsdale City Council, I’ll be happy to send you my business card, but you have to provide your own stake (or, you can drive to north Scottsdale where you’ll see brightly colored signs announcing David Burnell Smith is running for the legislature in District 15.) I ask for your support in the upcoming Council election.