Scottsdale recommending body emboldened by 5-2 vote
By Naomi DuBovis | Digital Free Press
Scottsdale City Council, by a margin of 5 to 2, has approved a measure establishing a resident-only committee dedicated to developing sustainable financing for municipal open spaces.
Resolution No. 12532 creates the “Protect and Preserve Scottsdale Task Force,” which will comprise nine City Council-appointed residents who will give the local governing body suggestions for a sustainable financial strategy to preserve open spaces in the city.
A City Council report said that this agenda item comes in response to a 0.2% sales tax that will expire soon. It also said that all task force meetings will comply with open meeting laws, meaning that it will be open to the public for attendance and comment.
The Sustainable Scottsdale website says that 41 parks and 30,580 acres of preserved land belong to the city. This includes McDowell Sonoran Preserve, a designated area of desert trails that takes up roughly one third of Scottsdale’s land area.
Justin Owen is the CEO of McDowell Sonoran Conservancy, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that conducts research in the McDowell Sonoran Preserve, develops environmental education programs and recruits volunteers to provide stewardship at the preserve.
Mr. Owen says he looks forward to collaborating with the task force, offering the importance of working with residents to help local efforts thrive.
“Our funding only allows us to monitor a small subset within the preserve, and we know that we must have greater collaborations to share our findings and leverage others’ findings to benefit the preserve,” he said at Sept. 13 public hearing.
Furthermore, Mr. Owen cited data from the surveys given to elementary school students who participated in the youth education program. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, almost 75% of respondents said they had never been to the natural Sonoran Desert before, and after the program, nearly 99% of respondents said they are more likely to help protect it.
“I don’t know about you, but I believe that third graders don’t lie, so I’m willing to bet those are some pretty good statistics,” he said.
Scottsdale City Council discussion
The resolution passed 5-2 with Scottsdale City Councilwoman Tammy Caputi and Linda Milhaven dissenting.
Councilwoman Milhaven objected to the resolution due to concerns about the City Council appointment process. She said it allows councilmembers to “taint the outcome” by only appointing residents who share their interests.
Councilwoman Milhaven argues City Council should determine task group members in the same way they did with a short-term rental task force that also made policy recommendations to the City Council.
The recruitment process for that task force, according to Councilwoman Milhaven, involved the City Council identifying constituents who were stakeholders of the issue and selecting members from a pool of applicants.
Councilwoman Milhaven also said that the preservation task force would not have a broad enough range of representation. She expressed concern that “important community leaders or business leaders or business owners who don’t live in Scottsdale could not participate.”
Mayor David Ortega said that open meeting laws allow anyone to participate in the recommendation process even if they’re not a direct member of the task force.
“Everyone is welcome to speak just as people are welcome to be stewards of the preserve from any part of the country, even if they’re here half the year,” he said.
Editor’s Note: Ms. DuBovis is a journalism student at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication.