Korte’s perspective, 5 months into Council post
Q&A with the Arizona Republic
Arizona Republic Editor’s note: Just more than five months ago, Virginia Korte and Guy Phillips were sworn in as the newest members of the Scottsdale City Council. Both accepted the Scottsdale Republic’s invitation to reflect on their experience as council members to date. Our interview with Phillips was published June 8.
Question: In your first public remarks as a council member in January, you stressed the need to work together with your fellow council members for the city’s greater good. How would you assess the strength of that collaboration so far?
Answer: The strength of any collaborative effort starts with developing trust. I believe my colleagues are more willing to collaborate than other councils have been in the past. And while trust is an important factor, I feel like we’re also communicating with each other much better than previous councils. A major benefit of our collaboration is that we treat one another with respect, which is something citizens say they expect.
Question: What are some of the challenges of being a new council member?
Answer: As with any new job, there are things to learn about process and procedure. Many issues that this council has had to deal with are carryovers from the past leadership, so sometimes it has been challenging to gain the historical perspective to make educated decisions for our citizens.
Another challenge is finding the time that’s necessary to meet with, speak to and respond to the abundance of citizen e-mails. Being more responsive is something I’m working to improve on each day because I know how important it truly is to be accessible.
Question: You were sworn in with Guy Phillips as the council’s newest members. Since then, you’ve voted differently on a number of issues, often related to development. How would you characterize your relationship with him?
Answer: I know it surprises some people that Guy and I get along so well. However, we were on the campaign trail together for a year, so we learned early on that we share a lot of the same values, like placing a premium on principles and treating people respectfully and with integrity. We may vote differently on some issues, but we remain respectful of one another’s positions because we know our respective decisions are based on what we each believe is best for our city.
Question: The council has held some especially important votes this year on matters such as the upcoming bond package, city employee pay and the Las Aguas development in south Scottsdale. Is there a vote you’ve been a part of so far that you feel is of particular significance to the city?
Answer: Two critical decisions were creating equity in employee pay and placing the four bond proposals on the November ballot. Scottsdale is a premier city. Citizens expect the best services, amenities and facilities, and in order to meet those expectations, we must have premier employees. In simple terms, you get who and what you pay for. The last time voters approved bonds was 13 years ago. Those funds are almost exhausted.
In addition, things are beginning to break down, wear out and need to be updated. That’s what this bond election is about, repairing and maintaining infrastructure citizens count on. I believe passing the four bond questions is an investment in our quality of life.
Question: One issue that has not been raised before council this year is the possibility of extending light rail to Scottsdale. You’ve advocated opening a dialogue about the ramifications of that proposal — is this community ready for that conversation right now?
Answer: I believe modern transportation options are no longer a taboo topic for a majority of our residents. Scottsdale is far too sophisticated and our citizens are far too smart not to at least have a conversation about it. In the past six months, the General Plan Visioning and the Tourism Five-Year Strategic Plan, distinct and separate citizen processes, both concluded it’s time to begin that dialogue.
Question: Lastly, what are some of the most important issues you anticipate the council will address in the coming months?
A: We just hired a new city manager, Fritz Behring, who will begin work July 1. David Smith is leaving as treasurer the first week of July. We need to make sure that Mr. Behring settles into his job. We also need to hire a replacement for Mr. Smith. It’s important that this period of transitioning of charter officers goes smoothly. I believe the council can play a part in achieving that.
While the council has taken important steps during the past year to rectify employee-compensation issues, we need to continue working on ways to retain our best employees and remain competitive in the employment marketplace to attract new ones who meet our standards.
I will also be advocating that we be more aggressive in creating an environment in which businesses repurpose the McDowell Road Corridor while continuing to respect the heritage and character of the surrounding neighborhoods in southern Scottsdale.