Scottsdale Council candidates ready for general election – Your Valley

Election 2020

Posted Friday, September 18, 2020 1:21 pm

Scottsdale voters will decide in November who will represent them on the City Council.

Six candidates remain in contention for three Scottsdale City Council seats following the Aug. 4 primary election. None of the candidates garnered enough votes to bypass the general election.

The general election is Tuesday, Nov. 3. 

Meanwhile two candidates seek the office of mayor: former City Councilmembers David Ortega and Lisa Borowsky. 

The six City Council candidates are:

  • Tammy Caputi
  • Tom Durham
  • Betty Janik
  • Becca Linnig
  • John Little
  • Guy Phillips

This represents the second series of questions for these council candidates. For this round, the Independent asks what the candidates want to see improved within the Scottsdale community.

Tammy Caputi

•If you are elected, what one or two ideas do you have to improve the Scottsdale community?

If elected, I want to revive and diversify our economy. We need to get people back to work, and our kids back to school. Forty-seven percent of our revenue comes from sales tax; 30% of our 260,000 workforce is in entertainment, tourism and similar “at-risk” jobs, which have been decimated during the recent pandemic. We must look to new revenue sources and pivot to new opportunities. Only 23% of our labor force is low-risk for job loss. Attracting technology companies and developing medical, biotech, insurance, aerospace and higher education industries is a priority. We have almost 200 startup technology companies in Scottsdale, and 30,000 jobs in the Cure Corridor and health services. It’s a great start. Let’s make Scottsdale where these companies choose to locate; we need to be open for business.

I also want to address attainable housing. It’s an issue across the city and the nation. Workforce housing is a question of political will. The citizens of Scottsdale have to say “yes in my back yard.” There are tasteful, well-designed, and affordable examples all over the country. The taxpayers and the city need to partner with investors to locate these projects appropriately in our community. The benefit is our teachers, medical services personnel and first responders can live in the community they serve. That leads to a more robust community. It also decreases our traffic and parking problems; 150,000 people commute to our city to work every day. I’d like to support this effort and hope the citizens feel that way too.

•What is one city/community aspect that you like, and would like to build upon?

Scottsdale has excellent school systems, which is very important to me as a homeowner and mother of three children in our schools, but we can do better collaborating with them. I want to have an education subcommittee in service between the City Council and the school districts. A thriving city needs strong schools that raise our property values and attract residents and businesses.

The city and school leaders should share information on economic development, land use, enrollment and demographics. This way we can deliver better services that allow for the high quality of life that we enjoy. We need to ensure that students can get a quality education, a meaningful path to employment and great jobs right here at home, in Scottsdale.

The only barrier to better school-city teamwork is our own imagination. The current COVID-19 crisis has underscored the need for the city and the schools to work together towards common solutions, using shared resources. We can use this emergency as an opportunity to replace old systems with new and better ones; we can build back more prosperous, more prepared, and more equal.

•Where does Scottsdale need improvement? And, how would you like to see it changed?

Our community needs less “us vs. them” thinking, and more about how to work together; how to balance our economic drivers and our tax base with our open spaces and our neighborhoods. We need less “silos” and more communication between residents, commissions and the City Council about what makes sense economically and for the neighbors. Earlier and more aggressive outreach to bring neighbors into the collaboration. This also will help our efforts for updating the general plan. I will strive for diverse representation from different neighborhoods and backgrounds on city commissions.

Scottsdale needs to be open for business. If we tell investors in our future to go elsewhere, they will. Scottsdale’s winning economic formula is high amenities, strong property values, and low property taxes. Our city government depends on sales and tourism taxes. In order to maintain this, we must work together to stay vibrant and relevant. We have an amazing city, and we want to evolve to maintain our excellence for future generations. Being “resident friendly” means that we maintain quality of life for our residents. We can’t drive away our sources of revenue; this simply drives up our tax rates and decreases our amenities. Our leaders should be creative and open-minded; they should not have their minds made up ahead of time, and “NO” should not be a council member’s default position. This is not the path to a prosperous future.

Tom Durham

•If you are elected, what one or two ideas do you have to improve the Scottsdale community?

I often hear from citizens in the south end of Scottsdale that they think they are getting the short end of the stick in terms of attention from City Hall. They suffer the most from short-term rentals. Their retail space is drying up, and they believe they are being used as a “dumping ground” for high-density apartments, which often replace needed retail. The southern end of the greenbelt needs some tender loving care, which is reportedly on the way. I have had several conversations with former Mayor Mary Manross about district representation, and I am not convinced it is the best solution. But we do need to find a means of better communicating with the needs of those south of Old Town.

We are in desperate need of an updated general plan which is driven by citizen input. The lack of a current general plan means that we don’t have an agreed vision for our future. This lack of agreement leads to “freestyling” by the City Council, in which they often ignore zoning regulations and citizen input and regularly grant variances. This needs to stop. A new general plan needs to create a community wide consensus of our shared vision. Once this plan is adopted, variances should be the exception rather than the rule and should be adopted only in cases of a clear and compelling public benefit.

•What is one city/community aspect that you like, and would like to build upon?

It has become fashionable to claim that we should “diversify” away from tourism, but I think this would be a serious mistake. While COVID has created a rough patch for our tourism industry, the assets that make Scottsdale a world famous destination — the mountains, the sky, the climate, the golf courses, spring training, the great resorts — are not going anywhere. Tourism has paid the bills in the past, and it will again. We will, of course, add additional jobs in technology, life and medical sciences, and other emerging industries. But tourism will remain as the backbone of our economy. And tourism creates great amenities for those of us who live here (spring training, anyone?). So, as we emerge from COVID, we need to redouble our efforts to make sure that Scottsdale remains as a great tourist destination.

•Where does Scottsdale need improvement? And, how would you like to see it changed?

Scottsdale is the best place in the U.S. to live. Many other people think so, also, as we enjoy an influx of new citizens in the wake of COVID. Although new citizens and new jobs are a blessing, we must deal with the challenges this added population brings. These challenges include the need for affordable housing, the conflict between development and open spaces, the need for additional budget for additional services, etc. We don’t currently have a solid consensus on how to handle these challenges. As I indicated above, we need a citizen-focused update to our general plan to resolve these issues.

Betty Janik

•If you are elected, what one or two ideas do you have to improve the Scottsdale community?

My main idea to improve the Scottsdale community is to provide an opportunity for the citizens of Scottsdale to weigh in on the zoning changes/development projects affecting their neighborhoods. I recommend establishing five zones in the city — south, downtown, central, north and far north. Each zone would establish a citizen committee for representation. These committees would review project proposals and solicit input from area residents for all proposed projects. The committee would then meet with the developers to discuss concerns. Finally, the committee would make a recommendation on the project to City Council. We must recognize that we are a diverse city and each area has unique concerns.

•What is one city/community aspect that you like, and would like to build upon?

I would like to build on the importance of environmental issues. Scottsdale has an Environmental Advisory Commission, a citizen commission advising Council on “issues related to preservation and enhancement of local environmental concerns.” We need their guidance now more than ever. We have seen record-setting heat the past months. There are solutions. We are working on finding and implementing them. Scottsdale recently partnered with Arizona State University to tackle the problem, a big step in the right direction. I received the endorsement of the Arizona Green Chamber, and they provide valuable information on ways for businesses and planet earth to work in harmony for the benefit of both. Let’s highlight the importance of sustainability with real-life answers. What’s good for planet earth is good for the economy.

•Where does Scottsdale need improvement? And, how would you like to see it changed?

Scottsdale staff needs to include complete information to City Council on new/redevelopment projects. All costs need to be disclosed, including cost of maintenance, cost of additional infrastructure needs and the cost of fire and police manpower required to provide a safe environment. For every 1,000 Scottsdale newcomers, we need one additional worker to answer 911 calls for police and fire emergencies based on national standards. Full disclosure is necessary to make informed decisions and save the taxpayers from carrying the financial burden for the developers.

Becca Linnig

•If you are elected, what one or two ideas do you have to improve the Scottsdale community?

The citizens do not feel heard; the city should host a monthly forum with open Q&A that would allow the citizens to get in front of city council in a casual setting. Each meeting would rotate to a different area of the city. Once we offer transparency and an avenue for conversation the citizens will feel heard.

•What is one city/community aspect that you like, and would like to build upon?

The Arts and Culture in Scottsdale cannot be matched and should be celebrated. Surrounding cities have done a great job at duplicating our restaurants but our Arts and Culture are second to none. Once we have an opportunity to safely return we need an exclusive line of signature events that will return the vibrancy, tourism, revenue and excitement in our city.

•Where does Scottsdale need improvement? And, how would you like to see it changed?

Our infrastructure needs continuous maintenance. The roads are very rough and not conducive for bikes or other modes of transportation other than vehicles. We have more days with sunshine than without and we need to make sure our roads, bridges and all infrastructure is constantly improved and enhanced.

John Little

•What one or two ideas do you have to improve the Scottsdale community?

From everything I have learned over the course of the 35 years I have lived and worked in Scottsdale, I have come to believe there is nothing more important than recognizing the power of our shared vision. When Scottsdale has come together in the face of challenges, we have accomplished big, bold, audacious goals like the Preserve, the Greenbelt and the transformation of the canal banks in downtown. Unity produces results. Division yields failure.

As a member of your City Council, I pledge to invest all my energies to find a common language with which we can explore our common dreams. We can take a major step forward in this regard by completing a successful update of the city’s general plan. Over the course of the next 12 months, citizens will provide input and send an updated plan to the City Council for approval to be placed on the ballot. Then we will all get a chance to approve it or reject it. If we reject it, we will continue to operate under the old plan, which is now 20 years out of date. It is imperative the citizens and the Council are in harmony.

Remember it is a “general” plan. We need consensus on its goals but not necessarily on the specific strategies. Adopting a new citizen-approved General Plan would be the most important thing we can do for the future of Scottsdale.

•What is one city/community aspect that you like and would like to build on?

Scottsdale is beautiful. The attributes that contribute to its allure are first and foremost our natural environment, our open space, the views, the sunrises and sunsets, the cobalt skies and the towering clouds of the monsoon. Scottsdale voters overwhelmingly share these values by virtue of the fact they have invested a billion dollars to protect our McDowell Mountains. I would like to advance an idea that has been documented by real estate experts for the past 20 or 30 years: open space is good for communities. It is good for the environment, it is good for our health, it is good for our economy and tourism, and it is good for our “brand.” And if it’s good for north Scottsdale, it should also be good for those of us living further south. I think we can build on the idea of a desert preserve and have a conversation about dedicating funds to buy property and create new open spaces in our urban neighborhoods.

People want to explore community gardens, pocket parks, adaptive recreational facilities and trails, linear parks connecting neighborhoods to shopping and arterial trails. I think Virginia Korte deserves credit for advancing the idea of an urban forest initiative to increase shade, improve aesthetics and help clean our air. The opportunities are endless. All it takes is you and your imagination — and oh yeah, leadership on the City Council.

•Where does Scottsdale need improvement and how would you like to see it changed?

Everyone who knows me knows that before I talk about changing anything I insist on first talking about what we don’t want to change. People want assurances that there are essential things about Scottsdale they want to know won’t be threatened or put at risk by change. Things like protecting our property values, our children, our neighborhoods, our open space and our quality of life. Once we understand that we share these common interests, people will engage in discussing “change.” So, what would I like to see changed? I would like to see a shift from self interest to community interest. I worry that as a community we are losing sight of the fact that we are not just here to make decisions based on ourselves but we are in fact building a community for subsequent generations, our children and grandchildren. Maybe you no longer have kids in school. That doesn’t mean we don’t need to support school funding initiatives. Maybe you no longer play in our beautiful parks.

That shouldn’t preclude you from voting to pass bond elections that support recreational facilities. Maybe you are able to afford a single family home in a gated community, but not everyone can, still they want to live here just like you. Maybe you don’t drive anymore. Does that remove our obligation to fund street improvements? I don’t use the equestrian trails in Scottsdale, but I’m glad they are there for others who enjoy riding. While I’m elated that Scottsdale voters passed important bond elections last year, I want to make sure that given the changing demographics in Scottsdale we never forget our responsibility to each other and to future generations.

Guy Phillips

•If you are elected, what one or two ideas do you have to improve the Scottsdale community?

I am dedicated to beefing up our police force and assuring residents and businesses that we will protect not only their lives but their property as well.

•What is one city/community aspect that you like, and would like to build upon?

We need to not only bring back our tourism events but expand upon them and invest in Old Town as a tourist mecca.

•Where does Scottsdale need improvement? And, how would you like to see it changed?

We need transparency in government. I would like to bring back the resident budget commission for more oversight on city spending.

Read the original article

Author: HOCAdmin