There was a theme to Tuesday night's meeting, and that theme was "It's an election year."...
At last night's meeting of the Scottsdale City Council, the council considered an item placed on the agenda by Councilman Ron McCullagh to direct City staff to research and report back on the ramifications and impacts of a possible City "acquisition of the portion of the Arizona American Water Company that serves Scottsdale customers."
There was a few minutes of discussion, where each member of the council, especially those up for election this year, chimed in on the subject. Most took the opportunity to affirm their vigilant concern for the welfare of Scottsdale's residents.
In the end, Councilman McCullagh expressed the strongest condemnation of Arizona American Water, calling it a "poor corporate citizen" with "poor customer service."
Did I mention that Councilman McCullagh is a customer of Arizona American Water? :))
The council finally did pass a motion directing City staff to research adding Arizona American's Scottsdale customers to the City of Scottsdale water system.
I don't think this will actually go anywhere; it seemed to be more an exercise in "showing the voters that we're on top of things" than anything else. The council members seemed to hope that the staff's report will say that the problem has been dealt with and no one needs to worry any more.
Of course, the election-year posturing during the AzAmWater discussion was nothing compared to the sniping and backbiting that engulfed the Council (or at least 3 member of it) during the consideration of the item that preceded it, a request by Councilman (and more importantly, mayoral candidate) Jim Lane for an update on the progress of the protracted (and often adversarial) negotiations between the City and Barrett-Jackson for B-J's continued use of WestWorld for its annual collector car auction.
Last year, in an effort to break the logjam, Mayor Manross stepped it and took personal control of those negotiations.
The logjam remains, and many in the city have used that to criticize the Mayor (I haven't followed this particular topic all that closely, so I don't know whether or not those criticisms are justified.)
Two of the loudest critics, Lane and Tony Nelssen, sit on the City Council.
So does a third critic, Bob Littlefield, but he was remarkably silent during this discussion. Not sure why. (He is said to be mulling a run for Mayor, but he would have to resign his position on the Council to make such a run. He may decide that too many candidates could split the anti-Manross vote and just support Lane.)
Anyway, the three of them (Manross, Lane, and Nelssen) spent a big chunk of the meeting interrupting, talking over and just plain pointing the finger of blame at each other.
Lane tried to undercut Manross by proposing the formation of a blue-ribbon citizens' commission to handle the negotiations. His motion died for lack of a second, but his message was sent - he doesn't think that Manross can handle the job.
And when Lane wasn't criticizing Manross, Nelssen was.
Nelssen brought up the point that a couple of months ago, he suggested that Craig Jackson and his staff be invited to meet with the Council. Manross stated that she didn't want to turn this into "a political circus."
Nelssen responded to Manross by saying "You run these meetings. It's *your* responsibility to keep them from being a political circus."
Manross just stared at Nelssen for a "if looks could kill" moment.
More than a few of us in the gallery chuckled and whispered "yep - it's an election year."
Video of the meeting (the 'regular' meeting, dated January 22, 2008) is available on this page; the Barrett-Jackson part of the meeting starts at around the 17:00 minute mark and lasts 30 minutes or so; the AzAmWater part starts at around the 50 minute mark.