Longform

Sam I Am

Page 6 of 9

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.

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Kate Nolan