Fenger Pointing
Skepticism a good thing

Becky Fenger | May 13, 2009

Becky FengerAh, the enigma that is Scottsdale. I met the Lady in December of 1967 and have been fascinated with her ever since. Those were the days when we locals looked forward to summer, because the town emptied and reverted back to "us." You could scoot a bowling ball down Scottsdale Road in July and not strike a thing. We gathered at the Pink Pony and pretty much solved the town's problems over lunch.

Oh, boy, has that changed. The transformation is beautifully illustrated in the opinion pages of the Scottsdale Republic. Letter after letter bemoans the fact that Scottsdale turned down a quarter-million dollars in stimulus funds. Bully for Scottsdale, I say. Why should she get all entangled in the strings that come with a federal Trojan horse and stuck with the cost of maintaining projects she may not have needed in the first place? She's not exactly a charity case, you know.

Maybe now the letters chastising the City for letting the Coyotes hockey team jump to Glendale will cease. Ha. Glendale spent upwards of $200 million of taxpayers' money to build the arena and may be left high and dry if the team bolts to, say, Canada. Poor owner Jerry Moyes got skinned for almost a third of a billion dollars of his disposable income.

But Moyes had better be damned careful in his desire to extricate himself from the team. According to Carrie Ann Sitren of the Goldwater Institute, Moyes has pledged that he "will be able to provide potential buyers assurances of the City's willingness to offer incentives to keep the team as a tenant in the Jobing.com arena." If Glendale tries to give incentives for a private enterprise to stay afloat, the same sharpshooters at the Scharf-Norton Center for Constitutional Litigation who scored a victory over Phoenix's City North will jump on Glendale like white on rice! And it couldn't happen to a more haughty and self-congratulating mayor than Elaine Scruggs.

While we're at it, those Scottsdale City councilpersons who demanded to see Steve Ellman's financials (which he wouldn't produce) before agreeing to the Coyote deal at McDowell Road must be feeling vindicated when they hear of his foot-dragging on developments he promised Glendale in return for their funding.

Next, Scottsdale has the decision of whether to participate in a regional development effort dubbed the "Discovery Triangle." It was hatched by Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon a couple of years ago, so that ought to be the first clue to be extremely skeptical. The goal is to attract so-called "knowledge industries" to the area inside a triangle reaching from downtown Phoenix, the ASU Tempe campus and SkySong. I don't blame Scottsdale council members for their cautious approach.

The Scottsdale Republic has really gone overboard on raking Mayor Jim Lane and Councilman Bob Littlefield over the coals for their concern that the Discovery Triangle may be used as a hook to pull Scottsdale into building either light rail or modern streetcar transit. Editors used words like Roswell, grassy knolls, red herring and such to marginalize those who believe that the LRT overlords won't rest until every possible route is laid with tracks. "Light rail will come to Scottsdale only if Scottsdale asks for it," the youngsters at the editorial board write. That's wrong. What they don't know is that in practically every city that has light rail or modern streetcar, the push was initiated NOT by the citizens but by the professional transit lobby going from state to state with the same goal: to trick the citizens into believing it was their own idea.

I attended a seminar some years back at the Mission Palms in Tempe. Fat cats (nothing against overweight felines, you understand) from Parsons Brinkerhoff and the like were giving instruction in how to twist arms and minds in towns they viewed as their next victims. There was even a playbook. One chapter was devoted to pounding on the reluctant taxpayers until they succumbed, coming back at them over and over again until the grassroots opponents ran out of money or steam, "like they did in Phoenix." There it was in print!

On May 6 the Scottsdale Republic printed a piece by Scottsdale resident R. Lamar Whitmer. Instead of merely identifying him as a Scottsdale resident (as is their usual identifier), the editors added that Whitmer is "a frequent visitor to Scottsdale Mayor Jim Lane's office." What a cheap shot! This isn't Kansas – or even Scottsdale – anymore.