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Scottsdale City Councilman Tom Durham talks No. 1 issue facing local community

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Scottsdale City Councilman Tom Durham who is seeking re-election in the July primary election. (Photo: Arianna Grainey/DigitalFreePress)
Tom Durham 1on1 on his re-election campaign as Scottsdale primary looms
By Terrance Thornton | Digital Free Press

Scottsdale voters are set to decide from a field of nine candidates who will fill three seats at Scottsdale City Council at the upcoming Tuesday, July 30, primary election.

Scottsdale is hosting a primary election to elect a mayor and three members of Scottsdale City Council whereas for a candidate to win outright in the July primary they would have to receive the majority of ballots cast, election officials tell the Digital Free Press.

For races still in contention, a November general election will be held to decide those races, election officials say.

In the event it is necessary, the Digital Free Press is hosting two (2) general election debates — one that will feature candidates for City Council, the other a focus on candidates for the position of mayor. Each debate will be streamed and air live on cable access television:

  • Scottsdale City Council candidates who emerge from the existing field of nine (9) will face-off during a debate hosted from noon to 1 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 26, at City Hall, 3939 N. Drinkwater Blvd.
  • Scottsdale mayoral candidates who emerge from the existing field of three (3) will face-off during a debate hosted from noon to 1 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 2, at City Hall, 3939 N. Drinkwater Blvd.

Candidates for Scottsdale City Council are:

Part of the existing field is Scottsdale City Councilman Tom Durham, who is seeking re-election to Scottsdale City Council.

Tom Durham 1on1 on his re-election campaign as Scottsdale primary looms

The Digital Free Press reached out to Councilman Durham to better understand what he believes to be the No. 1 issue facing the Scottsdale community — and, if re-elected, what he intends to do about it.

Mr. Durham talks about how he will work collaboratively with his peers and what he thinks is the best reason to become an elected member of Scottsdale City Council. This is what he had to say:

*What is the No. 1 problem facing City Hall and how did this problem emerge in your opinion?

The most serious problem in Scottsdale is the plague of short-term rentals. I have received emails and phone calls from many residents who have lost the private enjoyment of their homes due to loud noise, trash, parking problems, and out of control parties. Many are even thinking of moving. The problem is particularly severe in the southern part of town. And with the recent action by the legislature approving accessory dwelling units (ADUs) I am afraid the problem may get worse.
The source of this problem is simple — it’s the state legislature. They believe they know what is better for Scottsdale than the people who actually live and work here. To a large extent, the legislature has prohibited Scottsdale from regulating short-term rentals, although we have been able to convince the legislature to give the city a bit more power.

*If elected, what will you do to cure this issue?

I have been working on this issue for most of my first term. I regularly met with a working group consisting of our city staff, our lobbyists, and Paradise Valley officials to craft legislation which would give Scottsdale more power over short-term rentals. These efforts produced Senate Bill 1168, which went into effect in 2022, and which imposes some regulations (but not enough) on short-term rentals. Senate Bill 1168 included various remedies, including suspending a short-term rental’s license after three verified violations. The council has also devoted additional police resources to monitoring and controlling short term rentals. These efforts have led to increased enforcement activity on abusive short-term rentals.

*As a Scottsdale resident, how will you work toward common goals atop the local dais to ensure the exceptional quality of life?

That is our goal every day when we step on the dais. As I have mentioned above, short-term rentals are a major problem in the quality of life and I have worked to restrict them as much as possible.
Another major factor in the quality of our lives is the condition of the preserve and our parks. I enthusiastically support the ballot measure to provide additional funding to our parks and preserve. It deserves your “yes” vote. Maintaining our outdoor recreation spaces is critical, as many of our parks are showing their age, particularly as one looks farther south, and they need to be refreshed for a new generation.

Scottsdale citizens expect great services at low cost. Our tax rates are among the lowest in the Valley.
But we are coming close to running up against our expenditure limitation, another restriction imposed by the state legislature. This restriction would prevent us from spending our own money.

In order to provide the services Scottsdale citizens expect, we need to raise the expenditure limitation. This measure will be on the November ballot and it also deserves your “yes” vote. It is not a tax increase, but simply allows us to spend money the city already has.

On development issues, we need to balance Scottsdale’s continuing vitality with its unique character. In my judgment, the prior council (before 2020) approved too many 15-story buildings that did not belong in Scottsdale. Fortunately, they were never built. On the council, I have tried to compromise by approving only high-quality, lower, and less dense projects. We have reduced height in Old Town and have required higher building standards. I think this approach maximizes Scottsdale’s vitality while protecting our unique character.

*What do you think is the best reason to be a member of the City Council?

It is not an easy job. But when I look at the preserve or our greenbelt, I can see tangible evidence of the great work past councils have performed. I am hopeful that the work of the current City Council will be remembered in the same way.

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