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Arizona Digital Free Press moderates Carter vs Graham Scottsdale City Council debate

Two Scottsdale City Council candidates seek 1 seat this November

By Jill Adair | Digital Free Press

Facing off a little over a month before the Nov. 8 General Election, Scottsdale City Council candidates Pamela Carter and Barry Graham – vying for one seat — focused on key issues and explained why they’ve spent months campaigning.

If elected, it will be the first elected office for either candidate.

Pamela Carter

Ms. Carter, an Arizona native and businesswoman, said she was raised in Scottsdale, adding that her roots run deep in the area. Her father, Colby Carter, trained in the Army Air Corps here during WWII and was a local businessman for decades.

“I love this city and the people,” she said. “I will fight on the City Council to preserve Scottsdale’s integrity and its rich Western heritage. I want to ensure that the citizens and legal residents are top priority,” she said.

Mr. Graham said his campaign is about “making sure residents’ opinions are respected more so more citizens have a say in the future of our city, especially on the pace of growth, the quality of development and preserving Scottsdale’s character.”

He, too, was raised in Scottsdale and now works and raises a family here.

“So, I value the importance and responsibility of helping to shape our city,” he said.

The Scottsdale Nov. 8 General Election

Barry Graham

The Nov. 8 General Election is essential a run-off between Ms. Carter and Mr. Graham, who emerged from a field of seven candidates for one remaining seat whereas at the Scottsdale primary election in August both incumbents on the ballot — Kathy Littlefield and Solange Whitehead — were elected outright.

The term for Scottsdale City Council members and mayor is four years. Those elected this year will begin their civic service at the first regular meeting in January 2023.

The candidate forum was held at Scottsdale City Hall, 3939 N. Drinkwater Blvd., where interested individuals attended during the lunch hour.

Terrance Thornton, editor and founder of Arizona Digital Free Press, moderated the debate, asking questions regarding the local economy, crime, short-term rentals, affordable housing, water conservation, and more — some questions coming from readers of the publication.

From your perspective, what is the No. 1 issue you seek to solve if elected to Scottsdale City Council?

Moderator Terrance Thornton

When asked what the No. 1 issue is each candidate would seek to solve, both candidates focused on development within the city — a hot topic as of late.

“We have to curtail the overdevelopment in Scottsdale, Ms. Carter replied. “But we need quality development. So, I’m in favor of quality development, and pursuing the safety of our citizens,” adding she supports giving police officers and first responders raises and seeing that the police department is fully staffed.

Mr. Graham said his No. 1 concern is the pace of development across Scottsdale.

“Part of that is that residents have lost trust in city government because there’s a divide between the direction of city government and what residents want for their city,” he said. “It’s about making the residents feel like they have more control … more say in the quality of development and the pace of growth.

What experience do you have that makes you more qualified for City Council and sets you apart from your opponent?

Asked what made them more qualified for City Council than their opponent, Ms. Carter pointed out that her various business, community and faith-based experiences give her an edge over her opponent.

“I know what it is to work with diverse groups of people and bring them together,” she said

She stated she is a “fiscal conservative” and “pro-business” and that she ran a large sports medicine and weight-training facility in Scottsdale.

Her background includes receiving a master’s degree in mass communications and Biblical theology. She became a producer and director of national television, including her own show, “Get in Shape with Pamela Carter.”

She sits on the board of directors for National Latina/Latino Commission and Help 4 Kidz.

Mr. Graham grew up in Scottsdale and where he now lives and works as a Certified Public Accountant for an accounting firm.

He earned degrees from Boston University in economics and international relations, and a Master’s Degree in accounting from the University of Massachusetts.

He stated he has been involved in civic affairs for the last 10 years and is the “only candidate” in the race who has been the chairman of a bond commission “that promoted public safety, which led to building a fire station in the north of the city and relocating a fire station to McCormick Ranch area.”

While the most recent bond program was approved by Scottsdale voters, Mr. Graham was chairman of the Transportation Commission which provided recommendations to the bond commission.

He also stated his service included being a commissioner on the city’s Planning Commission and chairman of the Transportation Commission and Building Advisory Board of Appeals.

Interested individuals gathered during the lunch hour to hear the candidates’ opinions.

As the fall legislative season looms, what has your attention?

When the candidates were questioned about the fall legislative season and what has their attention, Mr. Graham answered he’s concerned about short-term rental “bad actors.”

Noting that since 2018-2019, the state legislature took away much of the local control of STR’s and now there are 6,000 (or more) housing units within the municipality that have become rentals — having a “disproportionate harmful affect.”

“That’s unfair when you are on that street and you’ve got a bad actor STR near you, you hear the noise and other negative effects. I’m looking to the legislature to return more control to the municipalities and rein this in and address it at the local level,” Mr. Graham said.

Ms. Carter pointed out that she was endorsed by Arizona state Sen. Nancy Barto (R-Dist. 4) who worked on Senate Bill 1168 that was signed by Gov. Doug Ducey in July, allowing municipalities to require short-term rental owners to obtain local licenses and permits. Those permits may also be suspended if there are three violations with a year.

“It does put on restrictions. It gives power back to our city governments,” she said. “I don’t think it’s overreaching.”

She said she has spoken to many residents, particularly in south Scottsdale, about the problem of noise and party houses of STR’s.

Arizona Digital Free Press hosted the candidate forum.

“Ordinances need to be enforced, and they can be now because the power was given back to the municipalities, and I think that’s the good thing.”

When the topic of STR’s returned a short time later, Mr. Graham said he believes they have a “net negative effect on the city of Scottsdale.”

Stating Senate Bill 1168 was an “incremental” improvement, the problem was that it didn’t tie complaints to a housing unit so ownership can be transferred and business continued.

There are also issues of “public safety and quality of life — when you live near one of these ‘party houses’ — that’s jeopardized,” he said. “So, it’s something the city council should work hard to lobby the legislature to bring more local control.”

Calling the problem of STR’s a “crisis,” Ms. Graham added that she wants to make sure the Scottsdale Police Department is fully staffed – saying they are short 35 officers – to deal with the complaints through a special unit that was recently formed.

However, he says, “It does bring in income and taxes, so I don’t think we need to completely eradicate them; I think we need to enforce ordinances that affect other citizens.”

In the audience, Priscilla Moore, a new precinct committeewoman from LD 4 in the McCormick Ranch area, showed up to the forum, interested to find out more about what the two candidates were focusing on.

“I liked it,” she said. “I still need to go on each website to see more of their views. I think they’re both great.”

For more information on these candidates, visit Pamelacarter.com and Barrygrahamresidentsfirst.com.

The debate was held at Scottsdale City Hall, 3939 N. Drinkwater Blvd.
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