Opinion

Henninger: Upcoming city council election calls for Scottsdale leadership

Posted 5/23/22

In preparing for a podcast conversation with community leader Gary Shapiro, I came across comments he wrote a decade ago about leadership in Scottsdale.

“The naysayers have taken great pride …

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Opinion

Henninger: Upcoming city council election calls for Scottsdale leadership

Posted

In preparing for a podcast conversation with community leader Gary Shapiro, I came across comments he wrote a decade ago about leadership in Scottsdale.

“The naysayers have taken great pride in creating roadblocks to our successful future.”

Sound familiar still today?

Yet with good leadership, he wrote, the city historically has found a way around those roadblocks to evolve and stay successful with high standards and expectations.

Former Mayor Herb Drinkwater, Gary wrote when receiving the Drinkwater Leadership Award from Scottsdale Leadership, was the perfect example:

“Herb knew the power of the word ‘yes.’ He knew that ‘yes’ made things happen. It kept our assets safe and in good condition. It enhanced property values and made us a vibrant community.”

As we head into another City Council election season, seven candidates are in the field to fill three seats. They’ll square off in a primary Aug. 2 to see which six of the seven will advance to the general election in November.

Of them, who is willing to look at the city with a “yes” spirit?

The election is, in effect, a call for leadership, and we need leaders who can look for ways around the roadblocks; who can articulate a vision for moving the city ahead; who can outline what they will work to accomplish, not what they will work to prevent; for what they can say “yes” to rather than “no.”

Four of the candidates have been clear that the highest priority on their platforms is to curb the supposed “out of control” over-development in the city.

That is not a strategy for moving the city forward. It’s a dead-end other than a way to win votes from naysayers and get plenty of attention on social media platforms. But it offers no paths forward on what the city needs to continue evolve and prosper. It’s just simply saying “no.”

Here are some issues that we hope the candidates will start talking about, things they can approach with a “yes” attitude:

• Strategic growth. It’s irresponsible to campaign by saying the city must stop development. That’s fiscal suicide. But it is reasonable to target development to areas of the city where it is suitable and makes sense. Where are those areas and how are you going to make it happen?

• Housing. Affordable housing is non-existent in the city. Young families with children can’t afford to live here. The city is aging and the dominoes will fall hardest on our schools, where declining enrollment will eventually choke off funding, and on our employers, who already are struggling to fill jobs they desperately need. This can’t be ignored. What are your ideas to address that?

• Education. Schools are not funded by the city yet are critical to the city’s vibrancy and economic sustainability. Collaboration among schools, residences and other entities is important. What will you do to encourage that?

• Fiscal sustainability. The city is healthy now. How do we maintain that? COVID funds were a one-time revenue source; projects approved in the 2019 bond campaign and others are facing cost overruns due to supply chain issues, cost of labor and materials. With the city’s population declining, state shared revenues are starting to shrink, too. There are caution signs ahead. What’s your plan to navigate through those challenges?

Back to Gary’s thoughts about leadership and Herb Drinkwater.

“Herb welcomed everyone into the tent to share ideas and debate the issues. However, once a decision was made, he expected everyone to row in the same direction.

“As philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre said: ‘Only the guy who isn’t rowing has time to rock the boat.’”

This year, let’s promote the leaders who will inspire us to work together.

Editor’s Note: Don Henninger is executive director of SCOTT. He can be reached at donh@scottsdale.com.

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