Furious George

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Zraket went to city hall and pleaded his case that allowing one property to rezone would open the floodgates to a mixed-use neighborhood. He lost, but his prediction turned out to be true.

Over the next 12 years, Zraket found himself standing before the city's elected leaders, fighting each new rezoning case in his neighborhood. He lost each time. Support from his neighbors dwindled, as they grew frustrated with the lack of response to their concerns.

By 1996, when a neighboring property owner who offered space to local artists asked for his support in her effort to expand the makeshift artist's colony, Zraket had had enough.

The plan, he says, included more room for the artists, which was fine. It also envisioned retail space, a restaurant and a performance theater, which was not.

Zraket said he wouldn't support a rezoning effort that included businesses that might be open seven days a week, attract more traffic to his residential street and bring additional noise and commotion to his quiet enclave. He worried that a restaurant would need a liquor license. He envisioned loud, boisterous parties.

He battled city planners, arguing their records didn't support the facts. He lobbied the council. He rallied his neighbors.

After more than a year, the city approved the rezoning. Zraket still wasn't done. He and a small group of supporters got enough signatures to put a referendum on the next city election ballot. Then he took the city to Maricopa County Superior Court for allegedly misstating the wording on the ballot, and won. The referendum itself was defeated by voters.

"We had realized early on we had no council members to turn to," he says. "This case was the prime example of what was wrong with Scottsdale's government. They had lost touch with the citizens."

At the same time he was busy fighting the rezoning case, he got into another public fight, this one with Mayor Sam Campana.

Zraket remembers the day clearly. A resident called him, saying the council was set to approve an ordinance that would limit who could circulate a petition in Scottsdale to place a referendum on a ballot.

"If they weren't breaking rules, they were making laws restricting the rights of citizens," he says.

By now a familiar face, Zraket showed up at the council meeting to speak against the measure during the public comment period. Campana, he says, refused to allow him to continue past the three-minute cutoff for comment.

She asked him to leave the podium. Zraket objected. And Campana ordered police officers to remove him.

Zraket says no one ever touched him. He sat back down, the ordinance was approved without public comment and he went home.

Sam Campana says it was the only time in her four years as mayor that she ever asked officers to intervene. She says she gave Zraket numerous opportunities to limit his remarks.

"If you don't do something about it, you end up looking foolish," she says. "There was really no other option. He'd still be talking if I had let him go on."

Richard Campana says that specific incident set Zraket off.

"I think something snapped at that point. From then on, he was hell on wheels," Richard Campana says. "His hatred of Sam Campana for publicly humiliating him . . . has poisoned everything from then on. He was on a vendetta against her and the city generally."

Zraket laughs when told of Richard Campana's observation. He says he wasn't embarrassed by Sam Campana's action and that he never thought about public office until September 1997, while attending a land planning conference in Cave Creek.

There, Zraket spoke to the group about his victory against the city in court. He says he told the group there were three ways to deal with city officials: sue them, get a referendum put on the ballot or run for office and beat them at their own game.

"I wasn't campaigning," he says, but a resident in the audience told him he should run for council. That resident was a member of the Coalition of Pinnacle Peak, a group formed to monitor government decisions that might affect their affluent neighborhood's quality of life.

Zraket has long been accused of being the mouthpiece for COPP, as the north Scottsdale group is known.

"They don't give a shit about south Scottsdale, downtown Scottsdale," Richard Campana says. "All they care about is open space, mountain preserve and their little place. They're organized, they're smart and they've got money."

COPP, he says, found its champion in Zraket and now "has literally taken charge of the city."

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John W. Allman