Scarp: Maybe new Scottsdale council will get past rhetoric - East Valley Tribune: Opinion

Scarp: Maybe new Scottsdale council will get past rhetoric

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Posted: Tuesday, November 11, 2008 6:14 pm | Updated: 9:40 pm, Fri Oct 7, 2011.

I got my hair cut on Tuesday and observed one big difference from my last trip to my Scottsdale barber shop.

Read Mark Scarp's blog, 'Scarpsdale'

As always, a cable TV news broadcast was on the set attached to the wall, its commentators and experts still talking about the aftermath of last week's presidential election.

But it was otherwise quiet in the shop, if you don't count the sound of magazine pages turning. It was a contrast to September, when there was little shyness there about making an observation about McCain or Obama or Palin or Biden.

While in the chair Tuesday, I mentioned that Maricopa County elections officials still haven't finished counting the ballots for City Council and mayor.

"Mayor of Scottsdale?" the barber asked. I said "Yes," thinking that our local, still technically undecided election might not be any more fascinating than the national one that was decided.

Maybe it's because the future of Scottsdale isn't about to take an historic turn to head down a new road. Maybe it will be just a lane change. (Oops, I just made a pun. Sorry.)

In this space on Sunday, when I talked about the likelihood of Councilman Jim Lane as the new mayor, I mentioned overemphases on aesthetics and moralizing by the Scottsdale City Council coming to an end. I should have added: Overemphasis, yes. Plain old emphasis, no.

To be sure, if indeed trends in vote-counting results continue and both Mayor Mary Manross and Councilwoman Betty Drake retire from the council, you'll hear less about the disappointing appearance of proposed buildings (Drake) or about the evils of gambling (Manross) from the dais.

But newly elected council members Lisa Borowsky and Suzanne Klapp certainly have views about growth to the extent that they aren't swing-wide-the-gate-and-let-the-stampede-go-its-way types.

At least, the council's slow-growth, developers-should-be-seen-and-not-encouraged members, Councilmen Bob Littlefield and Tony Nelssen, will find themselves lonelier.

Littlefield has assumed the role of council tribune, its voice of the people. And to him, the people don't want most things that real estate developers have to offer.

That's true to some extent, of course, but the electoral facts, both from a little more than a week ago and from both times Littlefield was elected to the council in 2002 and 2006, don't make this philosophy into a mandate.

Each time, Littlefield was the last council member to be seated, via two runoffs that each featured only him and one opponent. Candidates in runoffs are those who didn't win as many votes as those elected outright in the general election.

Meanwhile, Councilman Ron McCullagh, who has voted in favor of far more commercial projects than Littlefield, captured the most votes of any of his opponents in the Sept. 2 and Nov. 4 elections. In 2004, McCullagh won election to his first term by winning the second-most votes, after Drake.

Voter rejection of such views is not anything personal to Littlefield. The two challengers in last week's council runoff with clear slow-growth credentials, Tom Giller and Nan Nesvig, whose campaign promotions clearly identified them as of this philosophy, finished fifth and sixth out of six candidates.

Drake was not much for slow growth as much as she relied on her career in urban design as a means to go into detail at many council meetings about where an applicant for a new building didn't quite get it right.

If, as it appears, Drake will retain fourth place in a race for three seats when the last votes are counted, it won't be so much for this trait as it will be due to her penchant for something most of us say we find refreshing: Plain speaking accented with wit.

Except Drake's plain-spokenness was sometimes directed at voters. Her well-known observation - which had considerable merit - was that Scottsdale, population 240,000 or so, was a big city with big-city problems to overcome and that if one was so unnerved by traffic, perhaps one should move to Ajo.

Never mind that she was right. But it seems that Scottsdale folks do not like to be told, as it were, where to go, and last week, a number of them decided to vote to send Drake packing.

The new council, to be seated in January with what appears to be new members Borowsky and Klapp, may have a different tone, one where rhetoric might take more of a back seat to actual governance.

Hey, if I can have faith that my barber can make me look handsome, I can believe in that, too.

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