Sam I Am

There's a story going around Scottsdale that Mayor Sam Campana is scared of the desert. That's how slow-growth detractors explain Campana's support for zoning changes they don't like. Sam's a city girl, likes the bright lights, they say. Now what kind of boss is that for "The West's Most Western Town"?

Dismissing Campana is tempting. She is, after all, the mayor who single-fingeredly knocked out Jay Leno's joke writers by phoning 911 for road directions. Also the one who stowed pricey borrowed jewelry on her car seat and temporarily lost it to a smash-and-grabber. And she was the councilmember whose scrambled credit-card accounting system seemed like something Lucy Ricardo thought up.

Brief as those episodes were, they've branded Campana a bit of a dingbat, guilty of governing while blonde. On the floor of city council meetings, they continue to fuel distracted mumblings: "Dumb blonde." "Scared of the desert."

She did start public life as the peppy and obedient wife of a Scottsdale city councilman. And she is of Scottsdale with its whipped-and-sprayed chiffon hairdos, its overaccessorized fashions, its clubby politeness and at-all-costs civility. But Campana is different, too, as witnessed by the stuff that puts her in the headlines. She's a little, er, unregulated for modern Scottsdale. And Sam Campana isn't afraid of the desert, she says, offering to show you the scars she has on her leg from a cantankerous baby javelina.

Dismissing Campana would be a mistake, if for no other reason than she's got friends with swag, and a history of clout in high places. In her 1996 mayoral campaign, she raised more money by a mile--$225,000--than any other candidate in Scottsdale history, and most of it came from developers. The previous record had been $75,000 in 1992, set by buckaroo-mayor Herb Drinkwater, whose enormous popularity precluded more spending.

Campana's got political alliances all over state and local government, and when she ran for mayor, an impressive array of Valley political talent lined up to work on her campaign. Able to prevail upon the sometimes dueling dray horses of the Republican party for endorsements and favors, Campana says she helped convince Fife Symington to set up the Arizona Preserve Initiative, and then snagged a political endorsement from Fife rival Grant Woods. A founding member of Scottsdale's Las Rancheras Republican women's group, she counts on the support of such prominent female Republicans as Jane Hull and state representatives Carolyn Allen and Robin Shaw.

She's one of the state's foremost arts advocates, and is an estimable political power who is one part social butterfly, one part steely boss and one part process-oriented, touchy-feely, new age bureaucrat. Campana served on the Scottsdale City Council from 1986 to 1994 and is now starting her third year at its helm. Whatever Scottsdale is at the moment, Campana's fingerprints are all over it. To some, that's a legacy; to others, it's evidence.

It's all a matter of how you look at it.
And how you look at it matters a lot to Sam Campana. She works overtime to make you see it her way. And she trusts in her practiced ability to make you understand.

She'll respond loquaciously to almost any criticism you can throw at her, diligently spinning the facts into something that the public can stomach, or politely professing her own ignorance, which, in a politician, is refreshing--even if it's not believable. If public policy is Sam Campana's religion, then dialogue, public discourse and communication are her sacraments, some would say, her utensils. And the implicit message is: "I am what I am," often harboring the testy subtext, "but I'm right."

In her eagerness to admit and explain away her problems, occasionally she'll spin right into a brand-new faux pas. A reporter was surprised the night Campana phoned to answer routine questions and wound up savaging an adversary.

She spins on and on with the beaming confidence of an ace baton twirler (which she once was) whose wand has just gone airborne. Meanwhile, a Scottsdale city council run-off election looms. Slated for May 19, the race has sent Campana into a hyper-spin cycle, even though she hasn't endorsed anyone. But endorsement is just a word--Mayor Sam knows that if the wrong team wins, her political world could easily be spun right off its axis.

Sam Campana, who turned 50 in February, is not likely to be overlooked in a crowd. She's nearly basketball tall. And her blond prettiness is either girlish or motherly, depending on the angle. Today her nails are polished fiery red, and she's decked out in a deep blue knit dress with a weighty-looking bunch of gold chains around her neck. When she first ran for council, she says, she wore delicate flowery dresses, later turned to business suits and now prefers this softer, less tailored look. It favors her as she cruises the reception area outside her city hall office.

Behind the gargantuan door and the oversize letters that spell out MAYOR in a type size appropriate for Mr. Magoo, Mayor Sam the arts maven has made her office her own. Jibing with Campana's reputation as a workaholic, an expansive desk is employed for the real work, but a comfy cluster of cushy chairs in the room's center dominates the space. Favorite pieces by Arizona artists are distributed throughout, several by Scottsdale's famed painter Phil Curtis, an old friend of Campana. A chubby, human-size ceramic lady perches on a chair, and Campana jokes that she's a constituent, says it's her Rorschach test for visitors: If they don't notice her lady, says Campana, "there's not much chance we're going to connect."

A shelf across the room is a clutter of hats: cowboy, firefighter, toreador, baseball, hard hat. She uses them as props when she speaks to kids about her job. The toreador hat, she naughtily tells the kiddies, is for all of the bull she encounters on the job. All things considered, she probably means that, although clearly some of it seems to be her own.

Campana nowadays often finds herself mired in something or other. Sure, she can point to several bright accomplishments in her two years, particularly the visiting Smithsonian Institution exhibit that unsealed the sarcophagus of the Scottsdale Galleria, and now promises at least serious talk about the Smithsonian opening a permanent outpost at that facility. And the city has purchased its initial properties in the McDowell Sonoran Preserve.

Smart-sounding plans abound for more downtown revitalization and desert preserves in the north, including an extensive, but not quite jelled, plan to snag enormous tracts of state trust land to complete a desert preserve that would run the length of the city and cover a third of its area.

But for every successful undertaking, there's another one generating questions. And Campana seems to be at the eye of every storm.

The resplendent new waterfront canal development spurs charges of corporate welfare for retailer Nordstrom's. Residents at the south end of the city cry foul that the bulk of civic improvements are going in up north, while north-siders claim that improvements such as lighted parks are being shoved down their throats. The South v. North divide is hardly new, but some say that Scottsdale's civil war is heating up under Campana. And the most divisive issue of all is growth. COPP (the Coalition of Pinnacle Peak), a vociferous new citizens group at the top end of town, has made it pretty clear that it'll oppose any development that Campana's for.

To ask Campana about any of that is to invite Hillary Clinton in for a chat about health-care reform. She'll talk your ear off, combing through the facts, teasing them to fit and repeating the process, until, if you don't understand, you'll wish you did.

In Campana's version of custom-spun reality, the sun is usually shining.
Take the city's deal on Nordstrom's parking garage. Critics have said it was too sweet to Nordstrom's, the canal project's retail cornerstone. Asked to explain it, Campana goes for a bold comparison: "Scottsdale is different than other communities," she says, citing the example of some sorry old Ohio dorf where troubled city elders pooled the municipality's meager resources and "literally wrote a check to some car dealer--$30,000 a job," says Mayor Sam, to lure the coquettish dealership into town. Scottsdale doesn't do that, but has to bring something to the table, she explains, pointing to the performance-based formula that Herb Drinkwater's administration devised to pay for infrastructure at the Neiman Marcus store in Scottsdale Fashion Square. She describes the deal in which Neiman Marcus paid for all of its roads and parking facilities with the understanding that the city would split its city sales taxes with the store 50/50, allowing the retailer to pay itself back for the building costs over 10 years--which it did, apparently, long before the deadline.

Is that the same deal Nordstrom's got?
"Uh-huh," says the mayor, "only," she adds, as if as a mere footnote, "it's more like 80/20."

Not quite that sweet, Mayor Sam. City staff says it's 64/36--and Nordstrom's has 30 years to pay off its expenses.

A recent flap involved land purchased in 1996 by Scottsdale for its McDowell Sonoran Preserve, a desert-preservation project that had been approved and whose funding mechanism was passed by referendum when Drinkwater was mayor and Campana was on the council. The Sonoran News, a weekly newspaper that circulates in northern Maricopa County, last week reported the seemingly little-known fact (although it had been reported in the northeast community edition of the June 7, 1996, Arizona Republic at the time of the purchase) that the initial parcel acquired for the preserve had been bought from former mayor Drinkwater, Sam's ex-husband Richard Campana, a prominent Scottsdale zoning attorney, and others for more than $9 million. Drinkwater owned about 3 percent and Campana 20 percent of the property. Sonoran News uncovered records of appraisals that may suggest the land prices may have been inflated above market value. Richard Campana says they were actually underappraised.

To explain Drinkwater's and Richard's part in the land sale and possible cronyism on the council, Sam Campana first chooses the path of ignorance: "I went out of my way not to know what Richard owned," she says, "and what he did with [Drinkwater] I couldn't tell you even today." Yet somehow she'd known enough to abstain from the council vote on the purchase, she's reminded. In other words, she knew Richard Campana owned it, so why not just say so? Finally, she settles on a tone of bold defiance: "I don't have to defend anybody," she concludes, "because it doesn't matter to me because I don't get any of it, don't want any of it."

Earlier this year, Scottsdale was ordered to pay out millions in lawsuits involving charges of racism in the police department. Those decisions came amid numerous reports of racial incidents at the hands of the department. Initially, Campana made strong comments suggesting an internal review of the situation. After the cops jumped down her throat, Campana publicly changed to a more conciliatory approach. But shortly, Chief Michael Heidingsfield resigned, giving the appearance he was squeezed out. Mayor Sam so eloquently circumlocutes the question that we still don't know.

"Where the chief and I differed was, I believe in human nature. That there are instances of that, we have to always be ready when there are, to say it and reprimand it. And I couldn't get our police chief to say that and mean it."

So, is she taking credit for his leaving?
"The chief chose to be in academia and unbeknownst to me, all those years he was our police chief he was working on becoming, I think it was, brigadier general in one of those reserve units. He was spending significant time away--which our city manager okayed--those are our fighting forces."

Did she encourage him to leave?
"I did not. Nope. I did not. It's a very good solution and might be an area that would differentiate me from Mayor Drinkwater. Mayor Drinkwater said to me that Chief Heidingsfield is the best police chief in the country and stand behind him. And I think when all that happened, that's probably what Mayor Drinkwater would have done." And what she didn't do.

And so the lively discourse goes when Mayor Sam dissembles. The funny thing is that sometimes, you get the sense she's even spinning the little stuff, the prepositions. For example, she once enrolled in a six-week public policy program at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University. But, now in repeated instances it's become, "When I went back to Harvard," implying she'd studied there before, which she didn't. Now, of course, she can go "back" to Harvard any time she wants, but until then, "back" for Mayor Sam remains Scottsdale Community College, Carroll College in Helena, Montana, and her hometown of Filer, Idaho.

One of Sam Campana's favorite moments in public life came while the recent Smithsonian exhibit ran at the Scottsdale Galleria. Two busloads of kids from the northern Arizona town of Snowflake had come to see the show. The kids raced around between Dorothy's slippers, Kermit the Frog and the Tucker automobile. "But they spent most of their time riding the escalator," explains the mayor. "Really, it made me cry because I was in the eighth grade the first time I rode an escalator. We went on our eighth-grade trip to the capitol, to Boise."

The story fits with a certain Dorothy-in-Oz fascination Campana has for her current life. Down deep, she may still be Kathryn "Sam" Houston, the small-town kid from Filer, Idaho, daughter of a rural mailman and a school librarian. She spent her childhood knocking around the agricultural community with her three athlete brothers, picked up the nickname Sam and later wound up playing clarinet in the high school band and being head baton twirler.

Catholics in a Mormon community, the Houstons didn't take anything for granted. To this day, Campana brags that she got to be head twirler based solely on talent. In 1966, she left Filer for Carroll College, a strict Catholic school in Helena, Montana, where, despite the absence of drugs, antiwar protests or any other '60s campus crusades, Campana managed to be grounded most of the time for violating curfew, smoking, and walking and smoking at the same time, she says. Two years later, Campana switched to a community college back home in Idaho, but soon took a road trip that changed her life.

"There was this thing, that I wanted something different," she says, explaining why at age 21 she hooked up with a girlfriend, loaded her friend's old white Comet with their possessions and headed south for Glendale, Arizona, where somebody's brother the priest was supposed to set them up with jobs at a school. That fell through, and after a brief stay at the famed Kon Tiki hotel in Phoenix, the two wound up sharing an apartment in Scottsdale and hostessing/waitressing at Reuben's restaurant on Scottsdale Road, walking distance from where Campana now lives at 68th Street and Highland.

Hick may be too harsh a word, but: Johnny Carson! Thomas Mall! Diamond's department store! Campana remembers being blown away by the sophistication of her new surroundings. Even with a local population still below 50,000, Scottsdale TV viewers were progressive enough to tolerate such a ribald Idaho no-no as The Tonight Show, with its segments sandwiched between suave high-fashion ads for the glamorous new Thomas Mall, which boasted a Diamond's and a Switzer's.

Then, just as the dazzled ingenue was asking herself, "Does it get any better than this?" she met an older (11 years) single Italian-American attorney named Richard Campana. The next year, 1970, the couple married, moved to a big house at Cactus and Hayden, and Sam set about learning to cook, speak, do everything Italian. Within six months, Richard was named to fill an open seat on the Scottsdale City Council, and young Sam, age 22, became a political wife, a lady who lunches.

The new bride was out to become the best political wife on record. She worked hard on political campaigns for Richard and his cronies. "Typing, typing, typing!" she recalls.

Janie Ellis, a Scottsdale native, stage director and longtime Campana friend, remembers Sam Campana becoming a mainstay in Ellis' annual "Follies" fund raiser show to benefit the Scottsdale Center for the Arts. "Sam became one of the yearly cancan dancers, and kind of got stagestruck," recalls Ellis. "I try to take all the credit for her deciding to become a public persona. She was fun and real game."

Largely because of her husband's influential position, Campana admits today, opportunities started to come her way. By 1972, someone at the new Center for the Arts suggested that snagging Councilman Campana's wife for its board couldn't hurt the new center politically.

"It's creepy, I know, but that's exactly what happened," says Campana. And so, she served on the board and later as a founding member of the Scottsdale Arts Center Association. "What did I know about the arts? Nothing." But, she said, her husband's name was tagged to it, and she felt responsible for making it work. Philanthropist Kax Herberger took an interest in the younger woman and, says Campana, helped her grow.

"I don't know arts from much--I've learned over all these years," she says. "I'm an organizer, and I can work harder and longer than anybody. I have more stamina than anybody." In a few years, she was the arts center association's president. She takes credit for helping grow the center's business and corporate memberships, key to its financial success.

Like a lot of other nonworking married women two decades ago, having a life outside the home clicked for Campana, who by then had three children--Cassidy, Katie and Richie. Meanwhile, the Campana marriage was taking its knocks. Sam Campana tells the couple's divorce story as a typical 1970s-80s wife's self-actualization victory. She wanted to have her own life, he wouldn't let her, so she wanted out. When the divorce papers were filed in 1983 after 13 years of marriage, Richard filed the "irreconcilable differences" claim. When the dust settled, Sam got the house and an annual stipend of around $30,000 for two years. They shared custody of the kids and have remained amicable, speaking frequently and occasionally attending their children's events together.

Richard Campana today says, "We had a civilized divorce many years ago. We're still friends, but she has no business ties to me."

Sam Campana has been spending time with Phoenix heart surgeon Lee Ansel for the past 14 years. He's the only part of her life about which she's obsessively guarded. She says he's never spent the night at her house, they like to hike together and they haven't married because it would disrupt her children. Only Richie, 16, still lives at home with his mother. Campana won't say much else, but cynical observers report that at public events, Ansel hangs back and circles the room alone, "ears open." Ansel initially served as treasurer of Campana's mayoral campaign.

The year of the divorce, Sam Campana went to work as executive director of Arizonans for Cultural Development, a nonprofit agency that had been formed in 1981 to advocate for the arts and nurture the state's artists and arts groups. She's remained with the group, currently earning a $100,000 annual salary as its chief executive officer--on top of her $27,600 "part-time" mayoral salary. It is her work with that group that is generally credited with allowing her to create the political network of support that she now enjoys.

Generally viewed by the arts community as an energetic and effective ally, one who can craft necessary political ties and bring funding mechanisms into play, Campana has been credited with helping win the Legislature's approval of the state arts endowment.

Shelly Cohn, director of the Arizona Commission for the Arts, the state agency that manages the endowment and provides arts support, credits Campana with building a strong partnership between her agency and Arizonans for Cultural Development, "based on her drive to make sure the Legislature and people who need to be involved are comfortable making the decisions that raise the profile of the arts." She says, "Campana helps them overcome their reservations and assures them it's money well spent back in the local community."

Campana's foray into politics followed a similar timetable. Not long after the divorce, Campana and her children had moved to the roomy house on a cul-de-sac near Scottsdale Fashion Square, where she still lives. By the mid-'80s, she was propelled into city council chambers to protest a high-rise building at Scottsdale and Camelback roads and the council's plan to build the "couplet" of Civic Center and Goldwater boulevards to divert Scottsdale Road traffic. She claims that the sitting councilmembers were mostly people whose campaigns she'd worked on, and their smug indifference to her testimony planted the demon seed of running for office.

"It was like, 'So, who are you?' And I was so taken aback by that," she recalls. "And I thought, now wait a minute here. I worked really hard on every one of your campaigns. And this is something that I care about, and I just didn't like the way I was treated." Then an idea struck her, she says: Seventy-five percent of the population would like to run for office but they don't know how. "I did know how."

In 1980, Richard Campana had decided to give up his council seat, telling his then-wife that the hard work had all been done, now it was up to someone else to make it all fit. Apparently, now she would take on that task. Typically, she began by calling her friends together. Friends from community groups, the Charros--the powerful men's club, arts groups, women's groups. And she rode into office on their backs, twice. In 1994, when Herb Drinkwater announced he would not run in 1996, Campana let her council term expire, looked around at her options for a while, thought about Congress, publicly acted coy--then decided to run for mayor. She named her twentysomething daughter Cassidy, who had been clerking at a bookstore while waiting to get into grad school, campaign manager.

Only one problem--a councilman named Bill Walton had been smeared for having accepted payment from the developers of the Princess resort. Campana was suspected of having brought the story to light, provoking a dramatic loyalty split within the established political forces. The Anti-Sams developed a so-called Anyone-But-Sam campaign and recruited former Chamber of Commerce president Diana Smith to run. The mud flew. After a run-off, Campana emerged victorious, but with many of her old alliances in tatters.

Smith, who continues to serve on several boards and committees including the Scottsdale Cultural Council, says she has not yet decided whether she'll run for mayor again.

Campana says Smith no longer speaks to her, not even to be polite in public.
"That's her problem," says Smith. "When I see her, I acknowledge her." She adds that the two serve on some boards together.

Once in office, Campana was faced with the prospect of coming to terms with the Herb Drinkwater Legacy. Drinkwater, who died in 1997, was the larger-than-life cowboy-mayor who'd come to Arizona from upstate New York to help his asthma, governed for 16 years and was known for being ubiquitous, funny and a guy who just couldn't say no to a constituent's request. Vern Swaback, a longtime Scottsdale architect, civic activist and friend of both Campana and Drinkwater, says, "Herb had this way of responding in excess to the needs of a single citizen. That was fine in a small town, but when you've got 185,000 people, it's impossible."

Campana says she thinks Drinkwater played a related joke on her on his way out. Apparently an Eastern European woman, an immigrant who now lives in Scottsdale, had been after Drinkwater to have the city accept the bequest of her antique gilt French Louis the Somethingth furniture. As Campana's swearing-in drew near, the lame-duck mayor finally found the out he needed; instead of simply telling the woman no, which his genetic code resisted to the end, he simply told her to wait until Campana got in office--she would handle it. And so now Campana receives the regular visits, the homemade goodies at holidays, the pleadings.

The serious parts of the legacy, Campana says, are three things Drinkwater said that would forever change Scottsdale. He said the Pima Freeway would "take" no Scottsdale homes. That meant that the new north-south freeway would be on Indian land, and it would open the Indian land to development. It also meant that Indian Bend Wash, which had been an alternative freeway route, would be spared.

Drinkwater said that there should be no homes on the McDowell Mountains.
And finally, the former mayor said that everything north of Shea Boulevard would be zoned one house/one acre--an idea that has since fueled many angry council meetings. "That's how the West's most Western town would develop," says Campana. "Everyone would have a horse in their backyard, and a horse trailer in their front yard."

To the Hopis, the kiva is an underground ceremonial chamber. To Scottsdale, it's an artsy conversation pit for anywhere from 50 to 300 where the city council holds its meetings. Scottsdale has long prided itself on citizen involvement, and this high-ceilinged arena is where the citizens come to be involved. Except for a small bronze statue of three cowboys on horseback right behind councilman Dennis Robbins' chair, the decor is pure Desert Narcoleptic. If the room could speak, it would be in the conciliatory tones of Mr. Rogers.

The councilmembers sit up front on a raised dais behind a counter that blocks sight of their bodies; what you see is just their heads, like so many stones plopped on a mesa. Seemingly conceived in the communal ethos of the 1960s, the city hall kiva is equipped with lots of soothing touches like stained-glass ceiling panels, calming rectangular wall hangings in Lava Lamp hues abstractly depicting--what? Mountains, rivers, sky, rocks, wilderness? All perfectly fine evocations of the 36 miles of city, north to south, that Scottsdale is--without the bulldozers. But two gray aerial maps of the city hint at the bulldozers and desert development that, more and more, are the subjects of kiva conversation. And the pitch of those discussions often is such that all the crystals in Sedona couldn't calm them, let alone Mayor Sam Campana.

The lack of what she calls "civil dialogue" has moved the mayor to institute a new city program called Scottsdale Voices. The program sets up meetings between small ad hoc community groups and the mayor and councilmembers. The idea is that participants will become schooled in cooperation, collaboration, creative listening and all those other handy skills of democracy initially overlooked by the founding fathers (they'd never been to Scottsdale), but fortunately rediscovered by the '80s self-empowerment movement. Theoretically, when Scottsdale Voices-trained citizens come to council meetings, they won't clap, bellow, boo or do anything else that clashes with polite Scottsdale decorum.

Typically at the beginning of council sessions, the mayor has the gentle bearing of the mother of the bride. She speaks in singsongy, measured speech and smiles often. But this night, she seems serious, loaded for bear. Her speech is even more enunciated, so automatic that it surprises you when she unaccountably grimaces suddenly. As usual, a scout troop leads the pledge of allegiance, and the mayor, in her precise, Lily Tomlin diction, asks each scout to "tell us your name, grade in school and your favorite subject." Most nights, she flashes an "OK" hand sign or "oohs" her signature whinny when a scout's favorite class is her favorite: art.

As usual, a local minister leads a prayer. Father Gerald Anderson, an Episcopal priest, beseeches, "Dear Heavenly Father, today as planning and zoning issues are laid before us, give great wisdom to all involved. . . . Help each side to hear what the other is saying with open ears and a sense of what is right. . . . Send down upon the members and upon Mayor Sam the spirit of wisdom, charity and justice. . . ."

And so on, amen.
After the ceremonial rites, the mayor has to face her adult citizens, the armies of the white upper-middle class. Neighbors. And that's when her faith in civil dialogue gets sorely tested. Unfortunately, tonight's hearing is the final one for a planned development called Amberjack. The project has been kicking around since Drinkwater days, and it's somehow, deservedly or not, become a lightning rod for all the issues surrounding growth. Most likely the cleric's prayers for open ears will go unanswered.

Amberjack's planner is Vern Swaback, a Taliesin-trained architect who's lived in and around Scottsdale for 41 years. He admits he's known the mayor for years, but says in his line of work, that's his job. He's known as a civic activist, and has been deeply involved for years in Scottsdale's various big picture "visioning" projects, planning the city's future for the advancing decades and millennia. Swaback, expensively dressed in contrasting neutral-toned blazer and slacks, looks a lot like comedian Garry Shandling. By now, he's probably squired this plan--to be built on property in far north Scottsdale owned by State Farm Insurance--to a hundred meetings. But this one will either red-light or green-light the project.

In the years since Swaback's original design, the issue of growth has ignited a kind of crusade in Scottsdale, and the new antigrowth movement, for one reason or another, has come to focus on Amberjack. Some of its opponents say its name the way the sailor in Moby Dick savors the word "ambergris." Amberjack has sort of become the great whale.

In the eyes of the opposition, Sam Campana is in the pocket of this developer. The leaders of COPP, a broad-based group of homeowners that increasingly flexes its growing muscle strength on zoning and planning matters, just won't believe Campana is on their side. "She ran two years ago on a managed growth platform," says Marcita Ryon, the Leona Helmsley look-alike who is COPP's president. "They talked all over the place on how we needed to manage growth--they haven't managed a thing." Her fellow COPP member Paula Silverberg complains that she campaigned for Campana, and signed her petition to run, based on her impressive work in the arts. They both complain of willy-nilly zoning changes and amendments to the city's general plan.

By now, the growth positions have become clear, and the differences, in a slight oversimplification, are plain. The leaders of COPP want north Scottsdale to settle into large one-acre lots. And the mayor, Swaback and others see themselves as preserving open space by clustering housing on smaller urban lots and maintaining surrounding open areas--an approach that follows the thinking of most academics these days.

With the teams faced off, the hearing begins. Swaback gets up and speaks wistfully about the process, the enormous numbers of changes he's made to please COPP. He ends plaintively, "We've done all we can; there's nothing more we can do."

A few more Amberjack supporters talk, and then more than a dozen COPP members speak about how their dark skies and quiet nights will be forever ruined by a 495-unit development with lights and a golf course and a clubhouse.

Campana looks nervous. After all, she has already publicly admitted that she thinks this is a great project, the best way to preserve open space in a city that eventually will be built out. Ryon speaks eloquently, concluding dramatically, "This plan is not acceptable!"

Campana: "Please don't do that. It's so much nicer if we can just have community dialogue."

But it's too late for that.
By now COPP's allies from south Scottsdale are up. Hannah Goldstein, the colorful council candidate and Campana nemesis, speaks. "Good evening, Madam Mayor and members of the council." She has many objections. "To whom do you want to answer, to a corporation in Illinois, or to the preservation of the desert?"

Cynthia Lukas, the elected but not yet seated councilwoman, speaks against Amberjack. She and Goldstein are specters to the two councilmembers who are up for reelection in the May 19 council run-off, Donald Prior and Robert Pettycrew; they well know the penalty for appearing pro-growth in Scottsdale in 1998.

Heidi Stine, a resident who borders on the Amberjack site, is choking back tears when she speaks, accusing the council of being "preoccupied with creating mini-cities in the desert."

Sam Campana breaks in, tells Stine she understands how upset she is, and adds, "We're trying to do things that really do build community--parks, schools and public trails."

When the speaking is over, to the shock of the assembled COPP multitudes, Mayor Campana concludes brightly, "The school and park, everyone agrees, is a tremendous benefit."

Just then, a roar is heard from the back of the room. It's Marcita Ryon on her feet, hollering, "No!" as though she's just watched some tragedy. "You've heard a group here tonight that said no!"

Prior, Pettycrew and the others must have heard the fury in her roar. Only Campana and lame-duck councilman Greg Bielli vote yes.

Amberjack goes down.
A few weeks later, Vern Swaback says, "If there hadn't been a run-off election, it would have passed."

If the Amberjack defeat was anything to Campana, it was a political signal of the growing strength of COPP. The fact is that COPP had endorsed slow-growth candidates Goldstein and George Zraket, who had faced off with Campana on opposite sides of several past issues. Incumbents Pryor and Pettycrew are members of what is often criticized for being Campana's "rubber stamp" council. Campana clearly began to envision a world without them and didn't like it.

According to Arizona Republic columnist Laurie Roberts, she decided to do something about it. The local daily, the Scottsdale Tribune, had run several stories detailing Goldstein's bankruptcy problems, but the much larger circulation Republic had virtually ignored the story. Roberts wrote (and Campana agrees with her account) that Campana called an editor at the Republic to question why the paper was ignoring Goldstein's bankruptcy. Campana says she was visiting the Annenberg School of Journalism and was smitten with a case of journalistic ethics, and so immediately called the paper from Philadelphia.

"I don't think that's making trouble at all," she says defending herself. "I didn't call the paper and say, 'Do you know this rotten thing about Hannah?' I asked, 'Why aren't you covering it?' You know, Catholic girls know how to divide up those mortal and venal sins."

The story about Goldstein, she claims, had run in the Tribune four times. She says she told media experts at Annenberg that the Republic wasn't covering the story, and when she asked them what to do, they told her to talk to the editor. So she called people she knew downtown.

The tricky part here is that Campana says that mayors should not endorse council candidates, and she hasn't--officially. But this smacks of some sort of bias. Was she working against Goldstein?

"Hannah's working against me! I have gone out of my way not to do public endorsements. I was critical of Mayor Drinkwater when he did. For whatever reason, he quit doing them around my election. And I respected him for that.

"For councilmembers, there's that collegial thing. . . . This sort of teammate thing of endorsing someone and then you have to work with someone. As mayor I'll work with whoever the citizens elect. Sincerely, genuinely. Treat them and their ideas with the utmost respect."

But there are people she's aligned with?
"Uh-huh. [She stutters.] I'm co-hosting a party for Don and Robert for somebody at their home--not my house. They knew I wasn't going to do those type of endorsements."

Whose house?
"A woman named Laurie Marsh." That would be the wife of Wes Marsh, the Republican state representative.

You did have an interest in supporting the other guys' candidacy?
"Oh, sure. I've worked with them for two years. They're good guys. They're thoughtful; they care. I think that Hannah is disruptive. I've never seen her support anything. I've never seen her have an answer for the really complex problems that we deal with. So, sure. That doesn't mean I'm gonna endorse them, and say that to everybody. I don't think that's right. I shouldn't be doing other people's thinking for them." For the record, candidate Pettycrew also has gone through a bankruptcy.

"My guess is that the supporters of Robert and Don are very happy to see in Laurie's column that Campana was supportive," she ends.

Goldstein chose not to comment before the election.
Bottom line, Campana tried to get more negative press for Goldstein and publicly backed the incumbents, nibbling away at her own position against endorsements.

If you want to know the reason, look back at Amberjack. While the mayor has publicly decried its loss to the city, it really has posited an even greater loss to Campana. It becomes pretty obvious when you look at recent growth and voting patterns of Scottsdale: Last election, Campana did well in almost every voting district, but she did least well in the northern areas where COPP is building its base. Where is Scottsdale's fastest-growing population? Up in the Sonoran Desert in the north.

The mayor may not be afraid of the desert, but maybe she should be.

Sam Campana is home in her kitchen, ruminating among carry-out cartons from Bandera American Cooking--the self-proclaimed "world's first valet take away." Well, Scottsdale's first, anyway. The mayoral residence is roomy, lived-in, comfortable and full of art that is decidedly not disturbing, except for some of the work by Phil Curtis. And some oddball stuff, like the three-dimensional paper floor sculpture that is actually an artist's version of a tablecloth. Otherwise, it's lighthearted '70s art with friendly colors, pieces that even Jesse Helms would agree won't corrupt family values.

"I wonder if I should--" the mayor doesn't finish her thought, but hurries her company outside to see her poolside garden of nine young rose bushes. They were her gift to herself to mark her 50th birthday, and she's wondering if they need water, now eyeing the sky for storm clouds. She pulls out the hose and begins watering.

Inside again, she muses on her future, thinking about the possible fickleness of voters, her options beyond city hall. "What could you love more than being mayor of Scottsdale?" she asks rhetorically. She points out that even if she remains mayor for the 12 years she is allowed, she'll be 60 with 10 years left of wanting and needing to be working. The conversation is truncated by her hasty dashes back to the roses to move the hose.

"Well, I don't have a big nest egg. I don't have investments. I don't have a safety net. I don't have parents who are going to leave me money, so I'm gonna have to go back to work. And I want a job. I want a job with people that I like, doing good things. I want big-picture work, about arts, humanities, deliberative dialogue. I don't think it will be political office. I don't have the skills to be governor," she adds, puzzlingly. "There should be something that I could do."

She says she wants to ask Senator John McCain how he finds the strength to move along after setbacks, after the Keating Five and his years as a prisoner of war.

She talks a bit about the vagaries of retail politics, how a simple road closing could cost her 10,000 votes. She says she follows her conscience, that "if they don't like me, they don't have to vote for me."

"I am what I am."

A few days later, after Congressman Matt Salmon leaks the news that he's pondering a run for governor, Mayor Sam calls New Times, cagily dropping the news that someone had tried to recruit her to run for Salmon's seat.

Did she accept?
"No, I don't even know if I'm in his district," she says.
Try calling 911, Mayor Sam.

Contact Kate Nolan at her online address: [email protected]

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Kate Nolan