Norton: A litmus test for Scottsdale's 2020 candidates

Cavasson builds 320,000 feet of five story offices. Good or bad?


For a lot of reasons, the new Cavasson project before the City’s Design Review Board April 2, could not come at a better time.

Aside from badly needing some economic stimulus from the construction, the opportunity to provide work space for up to 2,500 more jobs provides a life line to help recover from the COVID 19 economic crisis.

The buildings will sit to the west of the Nationwide Insurance project now under construction, a project that some City Council and mayoral candidates vilify. Notably one council candidate complains that he can’t see the mountains when he rides his bike past the project.

So how will the 2020 candidates for mayor and City Council line up now that a big office project will go along with the new hotel, residential, retail and Nationwide projects already approved?

One mayoral candidate loves to bellow about “toxic over-development.” He claims that “evildoers” on City Council have sold out to developers and caused massive damage to our city’s financial condition. He loves to speak of “Kathy and I” as though they move in lockstep.

So will Kathy vote “no” on this project?

Other City Council candidates echo the claim of a Protect Our Preserve leader who argues that jobs are bad for Scottsdale’s economy. No. I did not make that up. He actually says those things.

Will the no-growthers really stick to their playbook and fight this project? I suspect that they will.

And there, fellow voters, is how you get to decide who you want to lead our city during a period of economic crisis.

This is also how we will tell all future developers whether Scottsdale truly is the place where all good projects go to die. Because if we are so foolish that we fight a project that could not possibly come along at a better time to help save our dying economy, then we don’t deserve any more nice new things.

Before I go, let’s clear up one little matter.

A silly claim that a former City Council member makes as he seeks office in 2020. The argument that “developers ruin our city’s financial condition.”

From 2010 to 2015 while this city was still stuck deeply in the trough of the last recession, we struggled to balance our budget.

Our net financial condition actually declined $100,000,000 in those years.

That did not happen because we had lots of development going on. Quite the opposite. It happened because we had no growth, stagnant or declining tax receipts and fought to balance our budget through strong cost cutting moves.

After construction and growth resumed, our city’s net financial condition improved by $1,100,000,000 in just four years, reaching a new record high of $5,200,000,000 even without stating the actual value of our City’s property holdings. If we reported actual value instead of cost of acquisition I suspect that our net would approach $10 billion.

At June 2019 when our annual financial report was issued, we had over $520,000,000 of cash and over $700,000,000 of cash and liquid assets.

Through February those positive positions undoubtedly grew. Thankfully Mayor Lane and the people some like to call “evildoers” fostered the growth that led to our financial success instead of succumbing to “toxic development” complainers.

I don’t agree with Mayor Lane about everything. And lord knows I fought hard with Virginia Korte and Linda Milhaven over a couple of nasty issues. But think where this city would be right now if instead of them we had Bob Littlefield as mayor and Tom Durham on our City Council.

In 2021 we need elected leaders who have visions for restoring a severely wounded economy. Not grumpy people whose only campaign platform is that they hate every new project in Scottsdale.

Once we hear who hates this new Cavasson project, we’ll know who we cannot trust with our vote.

Editor’s Note: Mike Norton is a longtime Scottsdale resident and research director for the Athena Foundation Scottsdale.