For Scottsdale City Council

Tom Durham

Committed to Smart Growth Which Preserves & Enhances Scottsdale’s Unique Character

Tenaru River on Guadalcanal, site of first US land victory in WWII

I grew up in a small town in Iowa and attended Cornell College in Mt. Vernon, Iowa, where I graduated Phi Beta Kappa and magna cum laude in 1977, with majors in Philosophy and History. About ten years ago, I was elected to join Cornell’s Board of Trustees. During my term on the Board, I have served as the College secretary, the chair of the Governance Committee, and as a member of the Executive Committee.

After graduating from Cornell, I attended New York University Law School in New York City (one of the top ten law schools), graduating in 1980. During my time in law school, I served as research editor of the Review of Law and Social Change, one of the law school’s journals.

After graduation from New York University, I wanted to return to the Midwest and joined the Mayer Brown law firm in Chicago. Mayer Brown is an international law firm with offices throughout the United States, Europe, South America, and Asia. I specialized in tax controversy, representing the firm’s clients in audits, trials, and appeals against the IRS. I argued several appeals in the Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, which is generally regarded as the second most important court in the United states. In order to represent my clients in court, I was often called on to master new and complex subject matter. I have visited candy, computer, pharmaceutical, and shingle factories around the world to understand these industries and became an expert on Brazilian tax law. My ability to analyze complex legal and factual situations and to “cut through” to the heart of the matter would be very useful on the City Council. I also learned to recognize BS, which would be another skill useful on the City Council. During my time at Mayer Brown, I was recognized by Chambers USA as one of the top 25 tax controversy lawyers in the US. I retired from Mayer Brown in April 2015.

In January of 2013, Cornell’s Board of Trustees held its annual retreat in Scottsdale. Although my grandfather lived in the Phoenix area and I visited many times while growing up, I had not been back to the area since my childhood.

My wife and I both enjoyed our visit to Scottsdale. Over the course of a long weekend, we hiked in the Gateway and were captivated by Scottsdale’s unique character and environment. By the end of the weekend, we were visiting open houses on our way to the airport for the flight back to Chicago. Soon after our visit we engaged a real estate agent and began looking for a home in Scottsdale. We completed construction of a new home in 2014 and we have been full-time residents of Scottsdale since 2015.

One of the features of Scottsdale which stood out to me on our visit was the obvious respect for Scottsdale’s unique environment which is reflected in zoning. The zoning allows for modern development while preserving the beauty of our surrounding landscape. My primary goal if I am elected to the City Council is to continue to balance development with Scottsdale’s unique environment and heritage.

In 2018 I became interested in the controversy over the Desert Discovery Center and was asked to serve as the treasurer of Protect Our Preserve PAC. The PAC was successful in protecting the McDowell Sonoran Preserve by putting Proposition 420 on the ballot, in which the protection of the Preserve won in a landslide. The treasurer of the PAC is responsible for legal and financial reporting, and I was honored by the confidence my fellow citizens in Scottsdale placed in me.

I thought the fight to protect the future of the McDowell Sonoran Preserve was extremely important to Scottsdale. In my view the problem presented by the Desert Edge was simple: I believed that the will of the Scottsdale citizens, as expressed in the plain words of the Preserve Ordinance, was that the Preserve should be maintained as a preserve and not as a park or museum. I therefore sided with those who argued that Scottsdale citizens should have a say in the future of the Preserve. I believe the November 2018 vote confirmed the view that the citizens wish to maintain the natural state of the Preserve. This vote also demonstrated that four members of the City Council were seriously out of touch with Scottsdale voters.

Following the battle over the future of the McDowell Sonoran Preserve, I paid increasing attention to the events at City Hall, including the Marquee development, which the City’s own staff concluded violated the Urban Design and Architectural Guidelines. But the same four members of the City Council approved the Marquee even though it violated these Guidelines.

In the recent controversy over Southbridge 2 (supported by the same four council members), I concluded, after a careful study of the plans for Southbridge 2, that it did not comply with the City’s Urban Design and Architectural Guidelines for several reasons. These included the lack of compact floor plates, the large massing of the buildings, and the blocking of views to the canal, all of which are discouraged by the Guidelines. For these reasons, I thought that Southbridge 2 would bring about a radical change to the character of Old Town, and that the citizens should be entitled to a vote on such a change.


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