Voice of Scottsdale

This week’s “Alert” from the Voice of Scottsdale blog offers perspective on Tuesday night’s city council discussion about next steps in the process of updating Scottsdale’s General Plan:

New Mayoral Candidate Already Intimidating Incumbent.

The suspense is over.  At least for those who believed Councilman Bob Littlefield ever really intended to challenge incumbent Jim Lane for mayor.

Littlefield has announced he has aborted any effort to run for mayor.

For several months the three-term councilman toyed with becoming a candidate for mayor.  Eventually, Littlefield decided that discretion was the better part of valor.  So now we know his flirtation with running for mayor was a political fan dance that, in the end, only teased his followers.

But as Bob Littlefield exits, John Washington officially enters the contest against Mayor Lane.

Monday morning Littlefield announced to his followers his intention to remain on the City Council, and that afternoon Washington was at the City Clerk’s office filing his paperwork to run for mayor.  It was a seamless hand-off between the two populist personalities who often work in tandem to torment the city’s political establishment.

The 2012 campaign for mayor won’t be an exception.   

There’s only one Bob Littlefield.  But Washington – a community activist, city government gadfly and local blog meister – could present some unique political challenges for the mayor’s re-election bid.  In many respects, a Washington campaign for mayor may actually be just as intriguing as a Littlefield campaign – excluding, of course, what would have been the endless string of clever sound bites from the esteemed councilman.
Washington boasts on one of his social media sites that he has been “annoying the City Council since 2002.”  Now it seems like sitting on the sidelines for nine years and just being a nuisance wasn’t enough.  Washington did have a short-lived experience as a write-in candidate in the 2008 mayoral contest between Mary Manross and Jim Lane.  But he withdrew his name from competition about 30 days before the September election.

More recently, besides serving on a couple of the city’s citizen committees and stirring up substantial controversy, Washington has been satisfied to share his opinions three minutes at a time during public comment periods at City Council meetings. Which hasn’t always been kind – whether he’s accusing the Cultural Council of financial malfeasance, ridiculing a rezoning request or calling out council members for not being transparent.

Washington, like Littlefield, has become accustomed to playing the role of the political underdog – and also serving as the self-appointed watchdog for taxpayers.  Both of which he does impeccably.

Nevertheless, there are plenty of people who doubt that John Washington can beat Mayor Lane.  They’re right.  Even Washington knows that.  But that’s not what this race is going to be about. The 2012 race for mayor will pick up where the debate around the defeated General Plan Update, Proposition 430, left off.  And that began last night at the City Council meeting when Washington put His Honor on the spot, only 24 hours after Washington declared his candidacy.

In his haste to regroup following the humiliating loss on Proposition 430, Mayor Lane rushed to discuss the creation of a task force to, as he said, “take action.”  He wasn’t sure what or by whom.  But, surely, there was something the council should do.  What followed was an embarrassing comedy of errors.  Washington confronted Lane for being confused about how to put the General Plan Update process back on a more citizen-friendly track.

The mayor and council finally agreed to slow down and continue discussing the issue in more depth at a later date.  But not before Mayor Lane was forced to apologize to Washington for being overly zealous and making it sound like he wanted to ignore that it’s citizens, not the council, who should drive the process.

John Washington may have no chance of defeating Mayor Lane. If, however, the first day of his campaign for mayor is any indication, there’s a good chance Washington won’t be letting Lane off easy.

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