Rose Peddles

People are talking about a young political consultant named Jason Rose. But it's probably not the message he'd like to get across.

Under a new state law--sponsored by Rose pal Senator Scott Bundgaard and others--any two cities can form a special district and use the state sales tax from that area to help fund the construction of a public facility. That's how Mesa plans to pay for a new Cardinals stadium, and it's how Scottsdale hopes to get a new hockey rink for the Phoenix Coyotes.

Under the new law, half of the state sales tax collected from the special district goes back to the district. The Los Arcos developers estimate that could mean between $100 million and $150 million that would go to building the parking garages and infrastructure of the arena.

Everything in the district--the arena, the parking garages, the shops--also gets a property-tax break. The district also would be able to issue tax-exempt municipal bonds to help pay for construction costs, another way the taxpayers could end up helping pay for the project.

Arena opponents estimate the tax breaks add up to a public subsidy of $490 million--money NO PUCKS says will have to be made up elsewhere. The Ellman Companies haven't yet said how much it plans to seek in what it calls "public participation" in the project.

But the arena will keep tax dollars in the area, Rose contends. As it is now, Rose says, Scottsdale contributes about $250 million in sales taxes to the state coffers and gets back only about $12 million.

"Scottsdale subsidizes Arizona, to a great extent," Rose argues. "Rather than have that money go to Yuma or Nogales, it can stay in the city."

The City of Scottsdale hasn't done its own independent analysis, so no one knows for sure if the developers' estimates or the opponents' numbers are accurate.

Without the stadium district's funding, the developers say, there's no way they'll be able to build the arena, and no way to redevelop the area.

But first the developers need to form a district, and for that they need a second city to join Scottsdale. Carefree backed out earlier this month after citizens began to question the town's decision, made without public input. Other cities have been approached by the developers, but so far none has agreed to participate. Still, under the law, Scottsdale can team up with any other city in the state of Arizona--even one as far away as Flagstaff.

The night the city council voted for the project in December, Kaufman and NO PUCKS announced they would seek a public vote on the stadium district.

Four days after NO PUCKS filed its organization papers with the city, another group called Don't Let Los Arcos Die also organized. The group billed itself as citizens who said they wanted the arena and the new development, but its backers were the Coyotes and the Ellman Companies.

Kaufman says no public dollars should go to a private developer and a hockey team.

No one disagrees that the area needs help, Kaufman says, but the arena is the wrong solution.

"They [the city and the developers] keep saying they need this to draw people in from other cities," he says. "I came here from New York, and I can tell you, I didn't come here for hockey. People come here because it's a beautiful city on the edge of the desert, and we need to keep it that way."

Rose and Bob Kaufman, the Ellman Companies' vice-president, (no relation to Alan Kaufman) have been working the neighborhoods surrounding Los Arcos for weeks. They've held open houses, met with local business owners and negotiated changes in the proposal in response to feedback. For example, Rose says, the developers have added a health-care facility to the plan because people in the Los Arcos area said it was important. Rose has also been running TV spots advocating the arena on local cable TV.

Rose contends that his clients' plan is the only way to save the Los Arcos area.

"What's going to happen when Sears leaves on February 13? . . . [W]ithout the arena, the mall is dead. When that mall is dead and gone, I don't know what they're going to do."

Both sides gathered signatures to force a vote on the issue, which has been set for May 18. Along the way, the two camps have bickered over everything from invalid signatures to claims of dirty tricks to who really represents the Los Arcos neighborhood.

And the feud has expanded to include Rose himself.
Alan Kaufman says Rose acts like he's at war, and that's keeping the two sides from reaching an agreement. "Can we resolve our differences? Yes, I think we can. But if Jason Rose continues to operate the way he has, the answer is no . . . Jason himself may not be an impediment, but he is the lightning rod."

Rose replies that he and the developers have met with people from the Los Arcos neighborhood many times to address their concerns. He's willing to negotiate, he says, but he'll fight when he has to.

And this time, politics is getting personal in a way Rose doesn't like. Ironically, Rose--who raised the specter of Babbitt's conflict of interest on Canyon Forest Village--is a target of the same charge over his friendships with elected officials.

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