The East Valley often loves to follow the latest antics of Scottsdale residents and leaders, and who can blame them? For sheer selfishness, it beats reality TV.
Scottsdale frequently sets itself up for pies thrown in its reputational face. It happened when the city decided to build designer $40,000 bus shelters for a population that hardly rides buses, or when a cop told a homeless woman to stop rinsing clothing in a city fountain because, well, we don’t do things like that in Scottsdale.
Of course, the West’s Most Festerin’ Town’s longest-running gag is the hand-wringing and finger-pointing over years of inaction about the former Los Arcos Mall site. Outsiders can just feel their municipal burdens get lighter every time they think about it.
And why not? Two years ago, Scottsdale actually sent a letter to Oscar-winning director Steven Spielberg inviting him to return to the community of his youth — actually, he lived in east Phoenix’s Arcadia district — to build a “satellite campus” of his film studio at Los Arcos. Now, that was a reason for more pies.
One reason Scottsdale’s been unable to make something happen at Scottsdale and McDowell roads is that its people have become more adept at insisting on what they don’t want than on what they do.
After the now infamous hockey arena-specialty retail plan failed in 2002, city officials announced a series of public input sessions and additional research by city staff. Immediately the outcry went up that this was a city wedded to “more study” on everything, because its leadership was incapable of bold, decisive action.
Of course, it didn’t help that once “more study” was undertaken, the quite underwhelming result from Los Arcos developer Steve Ellman — endorsed by several City Council members and many of the hockey arena’s former opponents — was to build a city-subsidized “big-box” shopping center.
Soon enough, though, what people didn’t want once more came to the fore. The famous observation by one exasperated resident became the battle cry for what became March’s referendum defeat for the big boxes: “I’ll be damned if I’m going to pay (taxes) for a Wal-Mart.”
Once more, city leaders went back to the drawing board. In May they, along with representatives of both the Ellman Cos. and Arizona State University, announced a proposal for a high-tech business incubation center to rise from Los Arcos’ concrete chunks and gravel. But within a few days, the public rejoinder was equally earsplitting: What’s the rush? What happened to careful consideration and study? Don’t you people know how to get us the best deal?
When it comes to Los Arcos, they mostly don’t know. But given that the locals are of (at least) two minds, it’s hard to figure out how.