The Scottsdale political action committee that will be pushing for the passage of a $319-million bond is beginning to take shape.
It officially has announced its steering committee and received its first major donation.
The For The Best Scottsdale: Vote Yes On Questions One, Two and Three PAC received a $10,000 donation from the Scottsdale Firefighters Association, according to a press release from the PAC.
The PAC is co-chaired by Scottsdale residents Paula Sturgeon and Mike Norton — a seemingly odd choice as the pair traded barbs last year during the Proposition 420 debate.
Firefighters Association President Sasha Weller, a captain with the Fire Department, is on the PAC’s steering committee.
“You can credit Jason Rose for having the odd idea to put these two oddballs together, but so far it’s been a blast,” said Sturgeon, referring to the Scottsdale PR pro responsible for organizing the committee.
The PAC does not just plan to promote the bond through traditional means, such as print campaigns. It also plans to engage in a speaker series, in which members can attend community events throughout the city to educate voters and answer questions.
“It is our intention to have members of the steering committee and other members of the community well enough prepared that they are able to be invited into all (types of places and organizations) to explain the bond on a personal level,” Sturgeon said.
Norton said the goal of the series is to maintain an open, civil and transparent dialog.
Norton said the key will be answering all questions honestly and openly.
“I really believe that part of the rancor of the last few years had to do with the poor decision to cut off civil dialog,” Norton said.
Norton also said no questions will be off limits.
“Our intention is to get the answers to questions,” Norton said. “If we can’t answer a question in detail when it’s asked of us, we’ll go get the detail and we’ll respond to each question, so the community knows where we believe this bond package is going and the impact that it has on our finances in our taxes.”
Norton said all position papers will be published on the PAC’s website.
Norton and Sturgeon said the PAC’s message will be based on actual data.
“It’s not just stuff that we made up; it’s stuff that comes out of the auditor’s annual financial reports of the city and our city’s budgets,” Norton said.
Norton said he has read every city financial audit for the past 10 years and that informed his decision to support the bond and the PAC.
“I came away with a completely different attitude about the way our city has managed the problems we’ve had,” Norton said.
He noted the city’s loss of revenue during the recession, coupled with failed bond initiatives, left no money for needed capital improvements over the last decade.
There are some bond detractors in the community, though no organized opposition groups yet. That opposition is rooted in a distrust of the City Council or local government.
Norton said he hopes those people will realize they can elect new representatives to the Council in 2020 if they are unhappy with the current members.
Sturgeon said she hoped individuals would make up their own minds about the bond itself.
“There was citizen input to create this bond, and at this point, use your own best judgment that this stuff is worth doing,” Sturgeon said.
The steering committee for the PAC includes a deep roster of well-known Scottsdale business leaders, vocal residents and local activists who have not always landed on the same side of prominent city issues.
But at least one well-known local voice has already declined to join the group.
The initial press release named Howard Myers, president of the Protect Our Preserve organization that sponsored Proposition 420 last year, among the ranks joining the steering committee.
However, Myers confirmed to the Progress that he has declined to come on board.
A revised press release also omitted Myers’ name.
Myers said he would support the bonds but not be a part of the committee.
“I am a member of a number of citizen organizations, president of several, and I don’t want it to appear that any of them are heavily in favor of these bonds because of my association with this committee,” he explained.
Myers said he voiced those concerns at the PAC committee’s initial meeting.
“They invited some citizens to this group because of those associations, but it won’t be clear to the public that the position of those groups is not represented by the few individuals who are board members of outside organizations and have chosen to be a member of this committee or PAC,” Myers wrote.
Even without Myers though, the PAC’s steering committee includes a number of recognizable names.
Betty Janik, also an officer for Protect Our Preserve, will be on the steering committee, but stressed, “I am part of the (steering) committee and represent only myself.”
Longtime McDowell Sonoran Preserve advocate and Scottsdale Hall of Fame inductee Les Conklin is also on the committee.
Craig Jackson, chairman and CEO of Barrett-Jackson, is a member and hosted its initial meeting.
The committee also includes Dennis Robbins, former Scottsdale city councilman and current Scottsdale Charros executive director; Michelle Pabis, vice president at HonorHealth and board member at Scottsdale Area Chamber of Commerce; John Bridger; Phoenix Thunderbirds executive director; and Scott Jenkins, Phoenix Thunderbirds member and assistant chairman for the 2020 Phoenix Open.
There are also several well-known local activists, including Coalition of Greater Scottsdale Chair Sonnie Kirtley, who has lived in Scottsdale for over 50 years and served in several council-appointed positions, including the general plan and downtown task forces.
COGS board member Joanne “Copper” Phillips is also on the steering committee, as is longtime Scottsdale activist Sandy Schenkat.
Andrea Alley, southern Scottsdale organizer with the South Scottsdale Project, is also on the committee. Alley has advocated for more resident input in development projects.
The steering committee also includes James Derouin, a Scottsdale lawyer who has served on several city task forces; Alex McLaren, member of Scottsdale’s Citizen Bond Oversight Committee; and Don Henninger, executive director of the Scottsdale Coalition of Today and Tomorrow, or SCOTT.