The darkest years in recent Scottsdale politics – 2016 to 2018.
Many of us worried that it would take years to get over the damage done to our city and our schools.
A huge bloc of voters threw their shields on the ground and declared the Gateway Trailhead to be the place where they were prepared to die their political death. An equivalent group of voters threw their shields on the ground at Coronado High School in the SUSD Governing Board meeting room.
It felt like we were reliving the ‘60’s. Passion, commitment, everyone is your ally. News helicopters flew over protest marches in Scottsdale? Scottsdale – seriously. We had protest marches in Scottsdale?
It made you feel good about your city in some ways, but on the dark side, it was ugly, harsh and painful to watch. The entire community was in gridlock for almost three years.
It made no sense to me when the city came out of that brutal battle to announce a bond election. Way too soon, I thought. What were they thinking?
I knew SUSD had to have an override renewal to survive, but it made just as little sense that November 2019 should have been the time for that fight.
How could voters possibly get over all that pain, struggle and those emotions?
This is where this Netflix movie-quality plot gets cool.
Not only did former enemies lock arms and become allies (sometimes while gritting their/our teeth), but the city bond campaign and the SUSD override campaign became unexpected and seemingly accidental supporters of each other’s efforts.
The city bond PAC reached out to those who needed the athletic fields and the pool rebuilds. The SUSD Yes to Children PAC responded with some heart-warming columns authored by parents who made it obvious why the override and the bonds both had to pass.
SUSD reached back and was rewarded with enormous support from every single city bond PAC co-chair and public endorsements from four City Council members. Council members Klapp, Korte, Milhaven and Whitehead: your support will not be forgotten.
Now, look at numbers – because I’m a data guy and numbers always tell you something. These are the latest voting results.
The city bonds and the SUSD override had the highest voter turnout in the Valley, approaching or exceeding 30 percent on all four ballot questions. That is probably a record for an off-off-year election.
I can’t find anything remotely close to that kind of turnout in any recent election results on the county’s website.
The “no-voters” didn’t drop all that much. Between 16,000 and 19,000 off-year City Bond Voters have always said “No.” This year, 15,530 to 16,441 voters said “No” to the three bond questions – a few less “No” voters but that is clearly not the reason for the landslide win.
On the SUSD side, 21,604 voters said “No” in the 2013 off-year override election that was lost. This year the “No” voters dropped to 17,300 – significant but not the real story.
The real story is this – the record voters who turned out did so to vote “Yes.” Our bond questions passed by record margins. Even the preserve ballots of the ‘90s through 2010 didn’t come close to those margins.
The only ballot initiative that ever came close to the 73 percent win on one bond ballot question was Prop 420. Yes, the bond win topped the Prop 420 win. Who would have expected that in November 2018?
On the district side, SUSD’s override ballot also won by a record margin with 61 percent voting “Yes.” A few of the naysayers went away, but most important the “I Refuse to Let Naysayers Run Our City” voters came out in masse.
And that’s the real story here. Our Community refused to be run over by naysayers. By 3:2 margins at the district and 2-1 margins or higher at the city, those who want our city to move forward retook control.
How did that happen? People who fought with each other before put those issues aside and chose to team up for the greater good of the entire community.
I have no misconceptions about how many people will invite me to their homes for holiday celebrations this year. We don’t carry each other’s photos in our wallets. But we do all respect each other for having found a way to get over the emotions of the past and start moving the city forward again.
That is the coolest thing that came out of this year’s campaigns. Let’s maintain that momentum. Find ways to find consensus. Find ways to coalesce. Good neighbors do those things.
Let’s continue to find ways to be great neighbors even when we disagree.
-Mike Norton is 25-year Scottsdale resident and a member of Yes To Children PAC steering committee and the For The Best Scottsdale PAC