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If a Vote is Cast in the Desert Does it Make a Sound?

By Michael Cassidy,  Class 23
Senior Executive Director at Valley of the Sun YMCA

“People often say that, in a democracy, decisions are made by a majority of the people. Of course, that is not true. Decisions are made by a majority of those who make themselves heard and who vote – a very different thing.” -Walter H. Judd

Family gatherings, golf outings, weddings, speaking or training gigs, any location that serves adult beverages and on my blog – there are two subjects that are absolutely off-limits: politics and religion.  As this is a guest blog, I will brush against one of those subjects.

“I may not have had 2 cents, but I always had my vote,” my grandfather once said.  Those Depression Era kids are always good for some priceless pearls of wisdom.

In this age of technology we are deluged with information, 24/7, 365.  There is so much information that a channel exists dedicated to just “headlines” – dig deeper on your own time if you’re so inclined.  The NBA, NHL, MLB and NFL have their respective seasons, even elections have their seasons, however politics has become seasonless – they are always on.

Millions of dollars are invested in our “education” as voters.  According to a recent article in the Arizona Republic, apparently it takes significant funding to over-inform us of what is actually important to us.  Would the truly bipartisan move be to have all candidates agree to simply write a check to the state coffers and everyone is provided 10 minutes on the eve of the election?

Photo: Reuse of campaign signs to create shade structure (An Arid Zone Shade Structure Jason Griffiths, ASU)

Every election we apply our noise filters (values, background, experiences, goals, opinions, industry, profession, life stage, etc.) sift through all the rhetoric and cast our vote.  Asking someone how they voted is akin to asking what they weigh – a dangerous proposition.

Despite what the seasonless political soothsayers have proscribed, I’ve yet to see the chaos of Armageddon when the nice volunteer hands me my “I voted” sticker.

There is no such thing as an “informed vote”, there is only your vote.  It is yours to cast after doing the diligence you determine is necessary.  There is no shortage of those telling us what to do with our votes, as always we will do what we determine is right for us, our family, and our community.

One voice, one vote, be sure to use it, otherwise you will not be heard.  The only wrong vote is the one not cast.

Guest post by Mike Cassidy, a non-profit Senior Executive Director specializing in membership development, engagement and retention. His ramblings can be found at www.membershipjedi.com

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Who was Frances Young?

By MELISSA RZEPPA, Class 23
Partner & PR Director – Serendipit Consulting

For nearly a half century, Scottsdale resident Frances Young mentored, advised, assisted and championed numerous local organizations and causes – simply for the good of the community. Among her admirers she was fondly known as “the mayor of South Scottsdale”.

Young epitomized warmth, caring and concern for people of diverse backgrounds. She embraced all people and advocated for their quality of life, whether Yaqui, Hispanic, Asian, Black or White. Her notable contributions include the establishment of an English as a Second Language program in the schools, the beginning of Indian Education, Head Start and Title I programs, and the establishment of the Vista del Camino Community Center.

During her tenure serving on the Human Services Commission, Young worked with other members to find funds for various social services. Young summed up her life by saying, “I’ve gained far more than I ever gave. That’s what I want everyone to know.”

Nominations are currently being accepted for the Frances Young Community Heroes award sponsored by General Dynamics. Nominees must be ages 14 or older whose volunteer services directly benefit Scottsdale citizens and/or Scottsdale organizations. They may not have previously received public recognition for their volunteer efforts. Nominations must be submitted by Friday, September 3.

Do you know someone who is a community hero and who deserves to be recognized? Now is your chance to say “thanks” for all they do!

For more information and to download the nomination form visit www.gdc4s.com/about/community.

Nominate a hero today!

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Finding my Passion and Making a Difference!

By Stefanie Lerner, Class 23
Director of Sales & Marketing at Encore Creative

I began the Scottsdale Leadership program with what I thought was an open mind.  I knew I wanted to get deeper involved in my community and thought Scottsdale Leadership would offer exposure to a host of opportunities, that it did.  I assumed with my professional background and areas of interest I would connect to the arts community or something of that nature. Little did I know that my heart would be grabbed by Phoenix Youth at Risk’s New Pathway’s mentoring program for freshmen at Scottsdale’s Coronado High School.

Fast forward to me signing up, being selected as a mentor, and being paired with Cheyenne for our 10 month journey.  I know that this program, and my involvement in it, is helping to change the trajectory of a young person’s life.  When I met Cheyenne (14 years old) she was prone to gang involvement, drug/alcohol use and self abuse as ways of dealing with life.

After 10 months in this program and with its amazing self empowerment curriculum and community building, Cheyenne found she has a talent and love of writing poetry.  Together we found some poetry open mic readings at Mama Java’s Coffee House and I brought her to hear other poets read.  She got up on that very first day (poems in her pocket…  I didn’t even know about) and read publicly.  She’s since been “publishing” her poetry on Facebook and even signed up to read her poetry at the New Pathways Talent Show….and was awarded …Best Overall Talent. There is no greater pride than seeing her proud of herself, proud of her accomplishments, and making positive choices.

Phoenix Youth at Risk is always looking for new mentors and they run several programs. While I’m just one person, volunteering a small amount of time, I know I am doing something extremely important.  I am making a difference.

For more information on Phoenix Youth at Risk please visit: http://www.phoenixyouthatrisk.org/

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Southern Scottsdale Character Area Plan (CAP)

You can give your input on June 17th!

By MICHAEL SEIDEN
Scottsdale Leadership Class 24

Sixteen years ago, when we were moving from Denver to the Phoenix area for a job that I just couldn’t refuse, we looked at several areas in the Valley.  We had been Colorado residents for 24 years and raised our family there.  It was hard to leave.  However, each year, for several years, we had vacationed in Scottsdale during our kids’ Spring Break, usually staying at the Embassy Suites, now the Chapparal Suites, on Scottsdale Road.  As a result, we knew something about the area before we moved.  The one thing that we wondered about was whether or not Scottsdale was a “real place”.  It seemed so beautiful and well cared for that we questioned its reality.  Even the McDonalds didn’t have its normally ostentatious golden arches sticking into the air.

Having decided that Scottsdale was the only place in the Valley that we wanted to live, we purchased a home and settled in.  It’s now been 16 years and we’ve never regretted our decision.  We’ve determined that this will be our home for the rest of our lives.  That’s why we’ve taken an interest in Scottsdale and want it to be the best that it can be.  To some, it may seem that Scottsdale consists of several separate enclaves, from the south to the north.  Still, we’re one city and the character of the city is determined by its whole.  Scottsdale needs a vision for its future.  For those who view the word “vision” as being too amorphous and “touchy/feely”, it’s simply addressing the question of what we want Scottsdale to reflect as its image to the world.  Do we want to have others see us as “The West’s Most Western Town”, the “Beverly Hills of the Southwest” or an “All American City” that attracts great jobs and families?

As part of the process to determine what Scottsdale will look like in the future, a Scottsdale Character Area Plan is being drafted.  This plan will document policy that will determine the vision for Southern Scottsdale and guide policy decisions for private and public projects in that part of the city.  On Thursday, June 17, there will be two Open Houses at the Convergence Room at SkySong.  The Open Houses will be held from 7:30 to 9:30 a.m. and 5 to 7 p.m.

For those who think that Southern Scottsdale is just a small enclave of rundown strip malls and older homes, you should know that the area consists of about 15 square miles, running from McKellips Road on the south to Indian Bend Road on the north, from the Salt River Pima Maricopa Indian Community on the east to the City of Phoenix and Paradise Valley on the west.  Approximately 30% of Scottsdale’s population lives in this area.  The future character of this area will have a major impact on the future of Scottsdale and all those interested in that future should try to attend one of these sessions.

As an aside, since the South Scottsdale area is adjacent to Tempe and Phoenix, the character of that area will probably be impacted by the plans developed for the Discovery Triangle, from which Scottsdale recently withdrew.  One may question whether isolation will improve the character of Scottsdale or diminish it.

For more information on the Scottsdale Character Area Plan please visit the City of Scottsdale website by clicking here.

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Scottsdale Loses Leader

By CHRIS IRISH
Scottsdale Leadership Executive Director

Tall, lanky and dressed in western wear, Councilman Tony Nelssen made an impression every time he entered a room.  His slow smile and wry sense of humor complimented his look.  Yesterday, Nelssen lost his battle to cancer and Scottsdale lost a strong leader.

Nelssen’s first term on the city council began in 2006. He was running for re-election this year.   Nelssen’s love for the equestrian lifestyle and view of Scottsdale as “The West’s Most Western Town” provided much of his motivation to lead.

A native of Arizona, Nelssen was a smart man who paved his path to political office by actively participating in community affairs.  His stewardship included service on both the planning and the parks and recreation commissions.  He was a vocal advocate for preserving our desert.

I worked with Councilman Nelssen in two capacities. The first is in my role as executive director of Scottsdale Leadership and second, as a member of the Scottsdale Public Art Advisory Board.  In all instances, I experienced Nelssen as a respectful, approachable and honest person.  Nelssen enjoyed sharing his knowledge and views with Scottsdale Leadership class members who were eager to begin making their own mark on the community.  He was proud and supportive of the accomplishments and highly-respected reputation of the Scottsdale Public Art program.

Nelssen’s leadership required huge personal sacrifice. He gave countless hours preparing for council meetings, talking with citizens and attending events throughout Scottsdale.

His death leads me to ask, how can each of us do more?

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Developing vision like a tango, but it takes more than two

By ROBERT LEGER,  Class 21
Opinions editor of the Scottsdale Republic and Phoenix Republic and an assistant editorial page editor of the Arizona Republic.

The first question answered itself:

“Does Scottsdale have a vision for its future?” the audience member asked a panel that had spent nearly an hour discussing vision and how a community develops one.

The city hasn’t been through a formal visioning exercise in nearly two decades. City staffers have sought residents’ thoughts about specific areas, such as the Airpark or downtown, but not for the city as a whole. No one has updated the vision adopted in the early 1990s that, among other things, called for creating a large Sonoran mountain preserve.

Does the city have a map to its future?

“Yes,” replied former City Manager Dick Bowers, who moderated the discussion. “Whether it’s in concert with the views of citizens is a question you have to answer.”

If he was tempted to leave it at that, the temptation didn’t last long.

“Vision is not something that seven people sit in a room and create. It’s not only the loudest voice,” Bowers said. “Vision comes only from conversation with the entire body that will carry it out. In my view, no, there is not a clear vision. It’s up to you to determine what it should be.”

Many in the crowd at the Scottsdale Leadership community forum left ready to do that. Board members said they will bring up the idea of promoting a vision process at their next meeting. Scottsdale Community College President Jan Gehler offered her campus as “neutral ground for difficult conversations.”

Here’s hoping the passions of the morning don’t fade away. Every community needs to regularly re-examine its goals. Scottsdale is due.

To read the rest of Robert’s blog on the Arizona Republic’s website click here.

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