Scottsdale race shows support for 2 political camps

Scottsdale voters made it clear in this week’s election there is support for two political camps that hold starkly different views about how the city should grow or not as well as manage its downtown.

If early results from the election hold, Councilwoman Linda Milhaven and former City Treasurer David Smith will take seats on the Scottsdale City Council in January. As of Friday, 83 votes separated Kathy Littlefield and Dennis Robbins for the third seat, with Littlefield holding the edge.

According to Maricopa County Recorder Helen Purcell, roughly 170,000 early ballots were returned by mail close to Election Day or dropped off at the polls that day.

The results were not official. On Thursday, 65,477 early ballots were tabulated and an estimated 104,500 early ballots were left for processing and tabulation, according to the recorder. In addition to the early ballots, the county recorder estimated there were about 40,000 provisional ballots left to process and tabulate as of Thursday.

The unofficial results highlighted how voters sent a mixed message of support for two conflicting camps of candidates, who differ in their priorities and visions for downtown, the general plan and the development of more apartments and high-rise buildings throughout the city.

Milhaven and Robbins have touted the city’s economic growth and support for downtown as a vibrant urban area, while Littlefield and Smith have voiced concerns about the current vision for downtown, including new high-rises and alcohol consumption in the city’s downtown entertainment district, which has a high concentration of bars and clubs.

Under state law, an automatic recount is done if there are 10 votes or fewer separating candidates who received the greatest number of votes for an office, in this case, for one of three council seats, City Clerk Carolyn Jagger said.

The 10-votes law applies to a city, town or a county or subdivision of a city, town or county.

Countywide, it’s not unusual to have 100,000 early ballots turned in at the polls and 10,000 to 20,000 provisional ballots still to be processed after Election Day, Jagger said by e-mail.

Jagger said she suspected there were thousands of Scottsdale ballots left to be counted. In the August primary, for example, the county counted 34,333 Scottsdale ballots on election night, but the final Scottsdale ballot total was 37,681 — a difference of 3,348 ballots, or potentially 10,044 votes, she said.

Littlefield said she believes voters sent a message that they don’t like what’s happening in Scottsdale. “They don’t like the building going on and the destruction of neighborhoods,” she said.

When asked about the differences between her and Robbins, Littlefield said, “I think Dennis is the one who has voted pretty consistently with the people who want the high-rise apartments and high density and voting to change the General Plan,” she said. “He has voted for the bars, for the apartments — all these things in this election the citizens are saying they don’t want.”

Robbins said by phone that the message voters sent was mixed. With Milhaven as the top vote-getter, it was clear many voters supported the status quo and the direction the city is headed, yet with Smith and Littlefield in the mix, “it says different things about different constituents,” he said.

When asked if the results show a divided community, Robbins said, “I think so,” adding that “people have different priorities because we are such a diverse community.”

“We are certainly not homogeneous as far as the future of Scottsdale,” he said. “I think the election does say we have residents who want different (things).”

Milhaven and Robbins aligned on many issues. Robbins said voters supported how they “marshaled the budget through a really difficult economy, and we are improving our tourism assets, and also that employment in general is improving, and the economic outlook for Scottsdale for businesses was better than we were four years ago.”

Milhaven and Smith differed in their priorities for 2015, with Milhaven pushing for transportation improvements and Smith supporting a path to financial stability.

Milhaven, who celebrated at an election party Tuesday night, said the city is working on a transportation master plan, which will study and lay out options to enhance ways to move around in the city.

That includes making sure the city has better transportation connections, Milhaven said.

“In the long term, folks talk about how do we connect to the regional system, what would that look like,” she said. “That could be anything. Technology is changing all the time.”

Smith, who was city treasurer from 2010 until his retirement in 2013, reported to Milhaven and other council members and the mayor.

Smith said his most important issue for the city remains returning Scottsdale to a path of fiscal sustainability.

“It’s not something I can immediately do on day one, but it’s certainly something I can make a primary focus,” he said this week.

Scottsdale needs to reinvest in its infrastructure, which is wearing out and needs to be replaced and restored, he said.

In 2013, city voters rejected four bond questions that would have raised taxes to reinvest in some infrastructure. Smith said the city will need to have a bond election again to raise money for public needs.

“When that occurs, I don’t know,” he said. “How much it will be, I don’t know.”

Unofficial election results

With all 53 precincts reported as of Nov. 7, here are the results, which do not include all early ballots and provisional ballots left to be tabulated.

Linda Milhaven — 24,032

David Smith — 23,148

Kathy Littlefield — 22,853

Dennis Robbins —22,770

Jennifer Petersen — 22,244

Cindy Hill — 20,392 votes

Source: Elections Department of the Maricopa County Recorder’s Office

Article source: http://www.azcentral.com/story/news/local/scottsdale/2014/11/06/scottsdale-council-race-shows-support-political-camps/18595241/