Arizona tax breaks total $600 million, but oversight is lacking

by John Washington on December 21, 2019

Critics of Arizona’s tax credits argue the government is giving up money instead of spending on priorities such as public schools and roads.
— Read on


Norton’s Big Lies

by John Washington on November 11, 2019

Mike Norton just can’t help himself. Mike Norton

Setting aside the Scottsdale Unified School District budget override for a later discussion, Norton could have just silently savored the Scottsdale city bond election ‘victory,’ and parlayed his big success into the relevance he desperately craves.

Instead, he continues to lie, to inflate his own role, and to celebrate a massive increase in Scottsdale’s municipal debt (already among the highest per-capita in the state) which will, in effect, continue to fund corruption in Scottsdale city government.

Three points to Norton’s claims today in the Scottsdale Chamber of Commerce Newsletter (aka, “the Independent”):

1. Record turnout?

Norton claims to be a “data guy” before launching into his–shall we say–“analysis?”

The city bonds and the SUSD override had the highest voter turnout in the Valley. Approaching or exceeding 30% on all four ballot questions. That is probably a record for an off-off-year [sic] election.

This election likely did set a record for numbers of ballots cast. But as the first all-mail election in the city, such a claim has little relevance.

‘Turnout,’ is traditionally voters physically going to the polls, which requires some effort and some time. By comparison, marking a mail ballot (especially a simple ballot with only four items on it…three bond questions and the SUSD override), sealing it in an envelope, and dropping it in the outbox requires virtually no effort. Heck the envelope was post-paid; voters didn’t even have to buy or lick stamps!

To claim such a record is like the arguments surrounding Roger Maris’ 1961 record of 61 home runs; in comparison to Babe Ruth’s 60 home run 1927 season, when the latter played fewer games (154 vs Maris’ 162) in a shorter season.

I don’t know how you account for the difference in turnout between a traditional election and an all-mail ballot… or even, for that matter, what we’ve had for many elections prior to this one: Early voting by mail, followed by traditional election-day voting at the traditional polling places.

But common sense (which Norton lacks in spades) should tell you that claiming such an election ‘record’ is relatively meaningless.

I can tell you this: The powers-that-be wouldn’t have gone to an all-mail ballot if they didn’t think it would provide advantage to their desired result; much like a few years ago when the Republicronies in the Arizona State Legislature mandated that municipal candidate elections be held in the fall in conjunction with state elections rather than (as in Scottsdale) the traditional springtime local elections. In those, voters were focused on local issues in supposedly non-partisan races. [Disclosure: I have always been a registered Republican, though I don’t think many of my fellow registrants understand what that means these days]

This calendar change was touted as a cost-saving measure, but ultimately resulted in Scottsdale’s historically partisan-balanced (4-3 or 3-4) council membership turning 100% Republican for many years. The recent election of Solange Whitehead (who acts a whole lot more like her fellow cronies on the council than her Democratic affiliation might indicate) was an anomaly due to the Desert Discovery Center debacle. More on that:

2. Record Margins?

Comparison of the city bond election results to the Proposition 420 DDC election (which largely propelled Solange to her successful council campaign) are similarly flawed.

First, Scottsdale’s McDowell Sonoran Preserve is a very tangible municipal asset, established on very clear concepts. How many voters understand that issuing bonds means borrowing money against the good faith and credit of the taxpayers? How many know that Scottsdale already has well over a billion dollars in municipal debt?

Second, there was real debate about the legality of whether the council was usurping the organic (citizen-ratified) law that established and funded the Preserve. Yet, borrowing money through bonding is unquestionably legal… though the way it’s mostly doled out through no-bid contracts is much more questionable. But how many voters follow THAT issue?

Third, there was well-organized and passionate opposition to (if not outrage about) the actions of the mayor and council.

Contrast that against a well-funded, well-organized city bond cheerleading effort; and dozens of ballot arguments published in the election information pamphlet that was mailed to all voters (vs only two arguments against, for which the authors–one of whom was me–paid $100 each out of our own pockets). The funders for the pro-bond campaign are well-heeled contractors (or their representatives) seeking lucrative city contracts, and who view such expenditures as minor investments with major returns.

Fourth: Genuine media coverage was much more balanced and much more in-depth during the run-up to the Proposition 420 vote. This time, the letters-to-the-editor-campaign from the pro-bond folks completely overwhelmed the mainstream media’s trivial news coverage accorded the bonds and the underlying fiscal issues.

Fifth: As I said after the voters passed Proposition 420 with 70% of the vote, a similar margin in the bond election is in reality an embarrassment for the proponents. Just comparing the sheer numbers of arguments published in the ballot pamphlet, if the bonds were really a good idea, the tally should have been well over 90%.

If anything, I’d say that Norton, and his fellow jackass Paula Sturgeon, are responsible for failure to reach more universal support; much more so than the credit they are claiming for the ‘victory.’

3. Naysayers?

And that’s the real story here. Our community refused to be run over by naysayers. By … 2:1 margins or higher at the city, those who want our city to move forward retook control.

Norton persists in parroting Jason Rose, who led the PR effort for the pro-bond group; and who also does work for many of the aforementioned contractors, as well as being Mayor Lane’s PR manager and having received hundreds of thousands of dollars in taxpayer subsidies for his stupid polo parties.

For Rose and his clients, the modus operandi is to deride as “naysayers” anyone who advocates for the rule of law; the financial policies proscribed in the Scottsdale City Charter and the General Plan; and general best practices for municipal finance. Such things are obstacles to the graft and corruption that put money in Jason’s pocket.


Balanced coverage?

November 5, 2019

Just like with the Scottsdale Independent a few years ago, I had high hopes for the renewed Scottsdale Progress newspaper. The original Scottsdale Progress, under editor and publisher Jonathan Marshall, did great things for our community. In fact, Marshall and his crew had significant impact on state law affecting, among other things, government open meeting […]

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Quote of the Day: Curmudgeon

September 13, 2019

I have been called a curmudgeon, which my obsolescent dictionary defines as a “surly, ill-mannered, bad-tempered fellow.” … Nowadays, ‘curmudgeon’ is likely to refer to anyone who hates hypocrisy, cant, sham, dogmatic ideologies, the pretenses and evasions of euphemism, and has the nerve to point out unpleasant facts and takes the trouble to impale these […]

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Sedona residents challenge Rep. Bob Thorpe over vacation rentals

July 26, 2019

The 2016 law only curbs cities and towns from regulating short-term rentals, but says nothing about HOAs Guess where most of the legislators who supported this live. — Read on

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“A city government exists only for the purpose of…”

July 24, 2019

During a refreshing, unplanned visit to the Phoenix North Mountain Visitor Center, I saw on display this letter to the residents of the Sunnyslope area, sent to them upon annexation of the area into the City of Phoenix. It says, in part, A city government exists only for the purpose of performing necessary municipal services for […]

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I “DESERVE” Affordable Housing: How Minneapolis Freed Itself From the Stranglehold of Single-Family Homes

July 18, 2019

“Neighbors for More Neighbors.” Hmm. Yet another housing cost-related article popped up in my browsing of the news. This one is a little scary, with the premise that single-family housing is actually the PROBLEM when it comes to housing cost. And this is how city leaders in Minneapolis started down the path to “fixing” that […]

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AG’s Office investigates Scottsdale school board over private meetings

July 18, 2019

This year through May 31, when [former Scottsdale Unified School District governing board member Pam] Kirby no longer served on the school board, she and [then and current board member Barbara] Perleberg exchanged 1,892 text messages and phone calls, some of which occurred during [SUSD governing] board meetings… Yet, astonishingly, “This [open meeting law complaint] […]

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Not subject to ethics

July 15, 2019

Scottsdale and its city treasurer sued for discrimination by former employee City attorney Bruce Washburn ultimately dismissed the complaint, saying that Nichols was not subject to the complaint process under the city’s current ethics code. Because, of course, since both are charter officers, that would mean the ethics code would apply to Washburn, as well!  

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I “DESERVE” Affordable Housing in Scottsdale; Why Rent Control Doesn’t Work

July 14, 2019

I was scanning stations while driving today and stumbled across the most recent, and timely (given the uproar created by my post yesterday regarding millennial whining about high cost of housing in Scottsdale) episode of Freakonomics. The ultimate extreme of “affordable housing” is rent control. Maybe we should do THAT in Scottsdale? There are decades’ […]

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