Before I begin my "sermon " let me just say that I hope city officials and assorted bureaucrats will take my comments in the spirit in which they were intended . I have attempted to champion the ideals they so enthusiastically embrace - at least in public .Heck, they have crafted entire political platforms on the principals of openness and transparency and so I have attempted to return the favor to the best of my somewhat limited abilities. I've also tried to articulate my opinions in what I hope they would consider a civil manner. We certainly understand how much city officials value civility. Sadly, unlike some politicians I also value full disclosure rather than the half truths and partial disclosure so many elected officials seem to prefer. City leaders also seem to prefer that some residents keep their opinions to themselves especially when they deviate from their well laid plans to transform Scottsdale into a developers utopian dream and a residents worst nightmare. Opinions are a valuable commodity. An opinion is the one thing in life that can't be taken from you unlike property, wealth, your home, your reputation and those kids you failed to adequately parent. Politicians seem to prefer those who are easily manipulated, those who will exchange their opinions for popularity. Everything has a price. If you have the audacity to express an independent thought , don't be surprised if your popularity plummets and your ability to command the fleeting attention of your elected officials ( whose attention spans have a shelf life as long as the next election cycle ) suffers a similar fate. You must remain steadfast in the face of such " disappointments ". Cling tight to your opinions and your integrity because there are so few - who do. If you insist on swimming against the political tide, be prepared for the consequences. Hell hath no fury like a politician who has lost a vote. Politicians are constantly on the lookout for fresh meat - those unsuspecting, naïve folks who are seduced by the limelight and the attentions of the local " glitterati " - Scottsdales " A " list. Hmmm - Ever wonder what the " B " list looks like?
If you are one of those rebels who insists on expressing unpopular opinions in an attempt to promote that open and transparent "vibe " city officials pretend to support down at City Hall, be prepared to be silenced. Openness and transparency are embraced as long as they don't shed light on inconvenient facts that are often left to dwell in the bowels of City Hall. I've often wondered who is responsible for enforcing the unofficial silence is golden rule. Is there perhaps a Silencer in Charge- a person with one of those V names- Vince , Vinney etc who dislocates knee caps? Or do they rely on their propaganda arsenal which includes tools like money, power, media manipulation? They seem to have added a new tool to their bag of tricks. Positive thinking. Positive thinking can be a constructive tool - in the right hands .Sadly, when used by folks who wish to manipulate the masses , it can be used as a distraction. They hope you will be so blinded by the array of positive things taking place in the community- litter clean ups etc - you won't notice some of the more distasteful things taking place and right under your nose too. The nerve. They hope to seduce you with the superficial in order to take your mind off the substantive. . These are the issues that unless you are blind, deaf and dumb ( three positives according to politicians ) you may have good reason to care about.Yes, it's hip to be positive. I am positive. I 'm positive I'm right. It's only after you have witnessed how skillfully they wield these WMDs , that you fully appreciate just how dirty politics is. I often ponder these things late at night when my neighbors penchant for rap music keeps me awake far after the 6 PM curfew for curmudgeons.
City officials decry negativity, apparently unaware that it is their own behavior and actions that have created the breeding ground for negativity and uncivil discourse. Here's what I have learned from my 10 years of experience with city luminaries and other members of Scottsdales " In " crowd. Asking probing , inconvenient questions earns you a reputation as being either negative or uncivil and virtually guarantees you will become a lifetime member of the " Out " crowd. Be warned. Even the most mild mannered and well behaved person can become a " community terrorist " after being involved in local politics. Yes, Scottsdale, not unlike other cities, is a city of contrasts. The good, the bad, the oh so ugly, the civil, the uncivil, the negative, the positive. In the world of local politics, civil discourse is considered a positive when it is used to divert your attention from behavior that is far from civil. Whether behavior is classified as civil or uncivil is often determined by those with a rather large ax to grind. Those that cloak their actions in civility often have an assault rifle ready just in case. Those " Can do " attitudes need some fangs/teeth ya see. Before you judge these terrorists too harshly, you need to take a walk in their shoes.
When I began my own career as a community activist//terrorist/annoyance to be dealt with and all around champion of lost causes I simply could not fathom why my neighbor, a bright , articulate , well educated guy had such a negative attitude when it came to participating in the community. He told me he would assist me in organizing my first community meeting but not to count on his continued participation. I was bewildered by his attitude . I was still in the " honeymoon " phase of community involvement and he had apparently entered the - divorce phase. He had come to the sad realization that fighting city hall involved more payback than perks. His solution? Admit defeat and move. My solution? I prefer my own company. I also prefer my own canoe especially when navigating shark infested waters. It's safer. Treating others the way you would want to be treated in a similar situation should be an integral part of Scottsdales- cachet. Sadly, it's not.
In closing ( I'll pause while you all heave a collective sigh of relief - or just heave ) , I'd like to share a list I created entitled Only in Scottsdale. Included on the list are a few things that may have fueled the negativity that politicians are so intent on eradicating.
- Local officials solicit public input and when it fails to support their position/agenda , they simply solicit more input - until they achieve the desired outcome as in an outcome favorable to them.
- Visionary architecture is often promised but seldom delivered. It's a Wal Mart. It's an innovation center. It's a museum - no it's a Wal Mart.
- City officials celebrate preserving some neighborhoods while simultaneously destroying others. It's a rare talent. In south Scottsdale, a designated revitalization area- beware. You know your hood may be marked for death when developers creep in under cover of LLCs with statutory agents who are real estate attorneys specializing in - land acquisitions as well as arbitration and mediation. Handy skills to have when you are attempting to grab property that isn't yours. You know you are really up the creek when you confront a Council Member with your suspicions as I did Council Member Milhaven and you are advised that although this may be of concern to neighbors- it is legal. Funny, I have found that the "It's legal " argument can be used to justify some of the most morally repugnant things - like taking some ones home and for less than what it may be worth if they can get away with it. Parcel assemblage. Brace yourselves. Don't worry. It is relatively painless. You won't know what hit you until the developers bull dozer flattens you - and your home. These are some of the less glamorous aspects of the revitalization process. I guess you could describe them as the negatives that politicians prefer to keep - well hidden. Perhaps they can divert your attention with - positives like litter clean ups and the like. Interesting to note that they held a recent work study session dealing with revitalization on April 1st. Yup - April Fools day which is apparently what they consider us. They also discussed the fun stuff. Should they allow Skysong to use banners to promote events and create - a sense of place? Should they spend a million or possibly less to acquire 2 patches of land or burms that no one cares about - so that they can landscape them and beautify the Mcdowell road corridor ? Here's an idea. If you want to beautify the area - have someone steal Skysongs shade structure. That won't cost a dime. Volunteers will be happy to oblige. Yup, Banners and - baloney.
Jungles are fast replacing desert environments - concrete jungles .
They are eager to support the aging in place concept but are fast replacing housing for those of modest means with housing that is often described as high end or - luxury. If we aren't careful , you won't be aging in place. You'll be aging in Yuma. A south Scottsdale apartment complex recently changed its name from Sycamore Creek - to The Sycamore - at Scottsdale. This was accompanied by a rent increase from what I was told by a tenant/ Apparently, some folks may be - up a creek.
Yes, in Scottsdale excess is celebrated, balance is banished and those who complain are silenced . They are outcasts who are left to roam the streets along with others who have earned the designation of - negative, uncivil and oh so - un chic. Again, I certainly hope that politicians will take this in the spirit it was intended accompanied of course with my customary wink and a smile - and OK maybe a finger or two. Scottsdale is a city in transition or is it a city lost in translation? It's not about preserving our past at the expense of our future or sacrificing our future to protect our past . It's about striking the right balance. When we lose our balance, when we replace the Scottsdale we used to know with the Scottsdale we have yet to meet, when we sacrifice our character, our heart and our soul- Can our cachet be far behind?