By: Laurie Roberts
The Arizona Republic
It’s the hottest question in town for those who follow Scottsdale politics.
Will he or won’t he?
Last week, Councilman Bob Littlefield filed an exploratory committee to consider whether he will challenge incumbent Jim Lane in this year’s mayoral election.
Already the anybody-but-Bob crowd – the folks who cringe at the thought of Littlefield controlling the microphone — are trying to put him in a box, suggesting that if he doesn’t follow through it’ll prove that there’s not much support for his way of thinking in Scottsdale.
That is, of course, nonsense.
Mayoral races are all about money, especially now that Scottsdale elections have been moved to November, when we elect presidents and county attorneys and sheriffs and such. Generally speaking, it’s hard to be heard over all the shouting unless you’ve got a sizable pile of cash inside your mattress.
Of course, Littlefield won’t be able to acquire the kind of juice that Lane’s been squeezing. Lane has spent the last year attending fundraisers put on by folks like pitchmen Jason Rose and Kyle Moyer. I can only imagine the who’s who of developers and bar owners and yes – chamber of commerce types — who’ve pitched money his way. Probably the same who’s who that opposed him four years ago.
The sort of people that Littlefield would appeal to – a sizable crowd, I would guess – don’t have that kind of money to throw around. And that’s before independent campaigns funded by anonymous donors kick into gear.
Me? I’m hoping that Littlefield doesn’t run. Because he’s not in the last year of his term, he would have to resign his council seat and every council needs someone like him, to pose the questions that would otherwise go unasked.
I’m not certain that Lane could be beat. For one thing, there’s that $120,000 that he’s raised. For another, he’s done some decent things as mayor. Finally, we are using state Growing Smarter funds to acquire preserve land. And it was on his watch that the city established an independent treasurer to get a better handle on spending. (Of course, it was also on his watch that city managerment staged Operation Golden Parachute Drop, otherwise known as the city’s early retirement plan.)
But Lane has been a disappointment in other areas, most notably ushering in a new era of high-rise development, trading this city’s cachet for cash-in.
Someone needs to step up and run against Lane – if only to focus the community on a conversation about what we want to become and whether Lane can – or will — lead us there.
Do we really want downtown Scottsdale to become a series of Blue Skys, where actual blue skies can’t be seen for all the tall buildings? Is it now acceptable to have a skyline with “view corridors” rather than an actual mountain view?
Do we really believe that a bunch of bars should be able to hold neighboring businesses and residents hostage, especially when the bar district doesn’t even pay for itself much less bring money into the treasury? (And no, I’m not suggesting that we close it down. But I am wondering how the city let things get out of hand.)
Do we really want to raise our property taxes to pay for a $75 million Desert Discovery Center? A complex that would be built on land that we paid to preserve. And if we do, do we know who will cover the almost-certain deficit to keep the thing operating?
Without a mayoral race, I wonder whether the conversation will reach beyond a whisper?
For his part, Littlefield isn’t saying one way or the other whether he will run, only that he is testing the waters.
“If I can get the money and the support then I think I will do it,” he told me. “If I can’t, I won’t. Or, if some other credible candidate will come forward, that would be nice but I don’t think that’s going to happen.”
As I said, I’d hate to see him do it and so, finally, we come to the question.
If not Littlefield, then who?