PROP 420

Dear Friends…


In November, voters will consider Prop 420 as an amendment to our city Charter.  I urge each of you to study the issues involved.  They are far more complicated than a three-word sound bite on a road sign!  Even road sign messaging has been slanted by the unauthorized removal of many signs that had urged a NO 420 vote.


A more robust information resource will be your ballot pamphlet which will include 19 letters arguing FOR and 54 letters arguing AGAINST passage of PROP 420.  Among those letters, you may find several that are informative and persuasive.


A current information resource is available from the Scottsdale Independent. Editors asked each Council candidate four questions about Prop 420, then published their answers on-line last Friday.  I have repeated their questions and my answers below.



Question 1:  What is your impression of how Proposition 420 will change the provisions within the Scottsdale City Charter?

Our citizen-approved City Charter articulates a set of aspirations of how the City will be governed, akin to the US Constitution.  Implementing these aspirational goals is done with City ordinances to provide interpretative limitations and define operational details, akin to what the laws of our country do for our US Constitution.  City ordinances already exist to set limitations and operational details for the McDowell Sonoran Preserve.


The operational detail in Prop 420 is not appropriate language to include in a City Charter. Specifically, Prop 420 would incorporate additional limitations and details in the Charter through broad restrictions (…nothing shall be built…) and a limited set of special-interest exceptions (…trails, trailheads, parking lots…)  Any exceptions other than those enumerated – even to correct unintended consequences – would require follow-on public votes.


Question 2:  Are you in support or opposition to Proposition 420? (Why?)

I support the goal of Prop 420 to “protect the preserve”: I do not support the idea that trails, trailheads, parking lots and horse accommodations protect the preserve…whereas nothing else will.


I support the goal of Prop 420 to clarify that the preserve is an asset of all the citizens of Scottsdale:  I do not support language that protects the interests of a few citizens to enjoy this asset, while denying the interests of an even greater number of other citizens who helped pay for the preserve.


I support the goal of Prop 420 to prohibit commercial development on the preserve:  I do not consider public assets (libraries, museums, senior centers), owned in the name of citizens, to be commercial developments.


I support the goal of Prop 420 to clarify that the citizens’ vote for “improvements thereto” included trails, trailheads, parking lots and horse accommodations to create a recreational preserve:  I do not support the argument that those were the only improvements intended to be allowed.


In general, I support the expressed will of my fellow citizens: I do not support the will of an anonymous, “dark money” group of advocates who are not transparent in their attempts to influence Scottsdale’s local governance.


Question 3:  What makes the dirt within the Preserve so precious?

All “dirt” in Scottsdale is precious.  How we allow the lands of our entire city (including the preserve lands) to develop determine whether we can hold onto the special cachet that defines our city and makes our city an attractive place to live and visit.


Voters made it clear in two ballot measures that they wanted the McDowell Sonoran Mountains and adjacent lands protected from housing and/or commercial development.  Beyond that, voters authorized “improvements thereto” with the understanding such improvements would:

  • Alter the acreage from “preserve” to “recreational preserve” for citizen/visitor enjoyment.
  • Enhance citizen/visitor appreciation for, and education about, the preserve.
  • Be public assets, owned by the government on behalf of Scottsdale citizens.

We must honor citizen goals for preserve land, just as we honor City-wide land development goals approved in the citizens’ adopted General Plan.


Question 4:  What do you believe is at the root of the unprecedented local political opposition to development within the McDowell Sonoran Preserve?

In a word – misinformation!   Sometimes the spread of misinformation is inadvertent: other times, it seems intentional to incite public outcry.  Citizens have been led to believe the City Council is about to approve:

  • A developer’s commercial establishment within the preserve.  This is not true.  If the proposed educational/learning center is ever built, it will be a public asset, owned by Scottsdale citizens, the same as a library, museum or senior center.
  • A development that sets the precedent for violating the sanctity of the preserve.  This is not true.  If located in the 30,000-acre preserve, the project site of less than 7 acres would be small, compared to the hundreds of acres already disturbed for development of trails, trailheads, parking lots and horse accommodations.
  • Spending $68 million to construct (and millions more to operate) an educational/learning center.  This is not true.  The project is well beyond our budget!  If the center is ever built, it will only be after major modifications reduce its fiscal impact to a manageable level.

I concluded with the statement, “Civil and respectful, fact-based discussions in the weeks ahead may lead to greater citizen understanding.”  When one faction removes signs promoting an opposite point of view, civility and respect are compromised.


If you would like to read the answers of all five Council candidates, they are still available here.