Last month, I had the pleasure of joining many of fellow citizens for a dedication of the Jane Rau Interpretative Trail at the Brown’s Ranch Trailhead. Jane was there with her family celebrating her almost-completed life-goal of preserving our share of the McDowell Mountains and Sonoran Desert for future generations. I was surrounded by an ocean of blue shirts worn by hundreds of volunteers from the non-profit McDowell Sonoran Conservancy (MSC) whose members assume responsibility for Preserve operations and maintenance. They, too, were celebrating.
Then, just ten days later, a most curious thing happened in the Kiva at City Hall!
In a split decision, the Scottsdale City Council voted to agendize for discussion at a future meeting “…a possible moratorium on future land acquisitions…” for the preserve until some questions are answered.
What were they thinking?
It all began with the argument we needed to prepare for the future liabilities of maintenance and reinvestment (which, by the way, dismissed any thought that citizens, through the volunteer MSC, might shoulder this obligation in the future, as they have in the past.) Before long, others “piled on” with additional arguments for why we should stop purchasing land for preservation…each trying to make a more compelling argument than the other. “The next pieces will be too expensive!” “The State has no more matching money!” “We need to better assess our bonding capacity!” One Councilmember summed up the majority attitude with a sneak preview of their future discussion, “It makes sense for us to stop!”
For councilmembers who claim to “listen to the citizens” they seemed surprisingly tone-deaf to the most articulate, precise and compelling set of directives ever given by Scottsdale voters.
To even consider dealing with a future liability by stopping all preserve land purchases and squirreling the tax revenues away in an endowment fund or using it for some other project is wholly at odds with the wishes of citizens – if not blatantly illegal. The 2004 Preserve ballot measure (which passed 55%-45%) provided, unambiguously, that the preserve sales tax revenues were “…to be used solely for the general purpose of acquiring land…and constructing improvements thereto, for the McDowell Sonoran Preserve…” If a debate evolves around the meaning of the word “thereto,” it’s going to be about as silly as former President Clinton’s grand jury argument over the definition of the word “is!”
The Preserve is the city’s most valuable asset, enhancinglivability for residents and attracting visitors alike. If I am elected your Councilman, I will be vigilant in protecting the livability of our city and honoring the wishes of our citizens. That’s why I ask for your vote and your support in the upcoming Council elections.