By Joan Fudala
Eighteen years may not seem significant in the universe’s history (e.g., the recent Webb telescope images dating back billions of years).
However, for 18-year-olds heading to the polls, to college or starting jobs this year, their frame of reference of growing up in Scottsdale matters.
Taking inspiration from the former Beloit College, Wisconsin, Mindset lists (now compiled by Marist College, New York), here are some of the life experiences first-time voters, recent high school grads and new employees carry with them.
Born in 2003 and 2004, this generation, often called “Gen Z,” has experienced many Scottsdale milestones, or missed some altogether:
• Scottsdale has always had a population of over 200,000 people. They were born during the Mayor Mary Manross era and grew up during Mayor Jim Lane’s 12-year tenure. They graduated from high school with David Ortega as mayor of Scottsdale. To them, “Drinkwater” is the name of an Old Town street, not a former beloved mayor (1980-96).
• There’s always been a Loop 101 Pima Freeway (completed through Scottsdale in 2002).
• There’s always been a McDowell Sonoran Preserve (established in 1994), but it has grown during their lifetime to over 30,000 acres, with trailheads and trails built since their birth in 2004 (when voters passed a ballot issue that funded preserve infrastructure).
• There’s always been a Martin Luther King Jr. holiday in Arizona (passed by voters in 1992); however, Juneteenth is a new (official holiday in 2021).
• They never got to hang out at Los Arcos Mall (closed in 1999) but have watched SkySong The ASU Scottsdale Innovation Center revitalize the McDowell Corridor (since 2007).
• Fiesta Bowl headquarters and museum have been on the Scottsdale Waterfront for nearly this generation’s lifetime.
• There has always been a 125-foot Frank Lloyd Wright-designed illuminated spire on the southeast corner of Scottsdale Road and Frank Lloyd Wright Boulevard (2004).
• They were too young to realize that Rural Metro provided the city’s fire protection, 1951-2005; they’ve grown up with the in-house Scottsdale Fire Department since it began in July 2005.
• They’ve always met friends at the Ice Den (1997), the Wedge Skate Park at Eldorado Park (1996), for selfies at the LOVE sculpture (2002), Knowasis Teen Learning Center at Civic Center Library (2006), Cine Capri at Scottsdale 101 (2003) and multiple Starbucks locations (as of 1996 in Scottsdale), but never at Rawhide (moved out of Scottsdale in 2005).
• The Phoenix mountain peak and freeway have always been named in honor of Iraq War casualty Lori Piestewa (versus its former, culturally incorrect term).
• There have always been Americans with Disabilities Act accommodations (1992), and nearly always a smoking ban inside public places (May 2007 in Arizona).
• The Scottsdale Galleria has always been a successful corporate office center, not a short-lived shopping mall or so-called “vacant white elephant.”
• City council meetings have always been streamed live on the city’s website. (However, did youth ever opt to watch meetings versus Netflix or other streaming services?)
• Several popular institutions have come and gone in 18 years — Theatre 4301 and the Scottsdale Culinary Institute dining room at the Galleria; a reprised Trader Vic’s at the Hotel Valley Ho; Barney’s at Scottsdale Fashion Square; Pink Taco at the Scottsdale Waterfront; a gigantic American flag on an event tent at WestWorld.
• The Scottsdale Waterfront and Southbridge on the Arizona Canal in Old Town Scottsdale came about when they were preschoolers (2006-07).
• They’ve always shopped at Scottsdale 101, the Shops at Gainey Ranch, The Promenade and Kierland Commons; are the third generation to shop at Scottsdale Fashion Square (1961); and were the first generation to shop at Scottsdale Quarter (2009).
• They’ve always attended games of four major league sports teams in metro Phoenix, plus the Phoenix Mercury WNBA (1997), Waste Management Phoenix Open at TPC (1987), Barrett-Jackson at WestWorld (1989), San Francisco Giants’ Spring Training games at Scottsdale Stadium (1982), and Cactus League games of 14 other MLB teams in the Valley. They can also now attend FC Rising soccer matches.
• Their “hippie generation” grandparents are still in awe marijuana is legal in Arizona and several other states.
• As Scottsdale’s Gen Z was born in 2004, voters rejected a ballot issue that would have created voting/council districts in Scottsdale; 18 years later, it’s being debated again.
• There have always been active shooter drills at school, locally and nationally (since Columbine in 1999).
• Occurring two to three years before they were born, 9/11 is a historical factoid; they’ve always been screened by the TSA before flying; they’ve always had their bags and purses searched before entering big events; there has always been a Department of Homeland Security (2003).
• They’ve always been able to video chat with friends and grandparents (since Skype began in 2003 and Zoom in 2011), shop online via Amazon or other e-tailers, text, and connect via social media (Facebook launched in 2004; Twitter in 2006); what’s “snail mail”?
• They’ve continuously upgraded their tech gadgets, like to iPhone (2007), iPad (2010), and turn to Siri (2011) or Alexa (2014) for help with just about everything. What’s a paper map?
• Scottsdale’s area code has always been “480” (1999); there’s always been a national Do Not Call list (2003).
• They have to “Google” terms like Y2K, wardrobe malfunction, flashbulbs, rotary dial, switchboard, “Wallace & Ladmo,” Abu Ghraib, WMD and Watergate to find their meaning.
• They’ve grown up in the “gig” and “sharing” economy, able to use (by themselves or with their parents) Airbnb (2008), Uber (2009) and Lyft (2012).
• They’ll remember some of the big headlines of their high school years, like climate change, Black Lives Matter, mass shootings, opioid epidemic, cryptocurrency, 2020 election controversies, Jan. 6 Capitol insurrection, COVID-19, the toilet paper crisis, delayed Tokyo Olympics, Phoenix Suns “almost championships,” virtual classes on Zoom during COVID-19, private space launches.
• In 2004, their parents were likely discussing the package bomb incident that injured three city of Scottsdale employees, wondering where the rock burglar would strike next, and protesting a proposal to turn the Coronado Golf Course into a spring training practice facility (didn’t happen).
• In Scottsdale, today’s 18-year-olds have seen the opening of the CAP Basin Sports Complex and its soccer fields (2006), McDowell Mountain Ranch Aquatic Center (2007), HonorHealth hospital at Thompson Peak (2007), Appaloosa Library (2009), Salt River Fields (2010), the model railroad building at the McCormick-Stillman Railroad Park (2011), OdySea and Butterfly Wonderland (2013) and other attractions at Arizona Boardwalk on the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community (2000s), Scottsdale’s Museum of the West (2015) and the complete rebuild of the Scottsdale Airport terminal (2018).
• Just like their grandparents — and even some great-grandparents — they’ve continued to enjoy Scottsdale area classics like the Sugar Bowl, Parada del Sol parade and rodeo, Los Olivos, McCormick-Stillman Railroad Park, Poisoned Pen Bookstore, Harkins Theatres, selfies in front of the Cowboy Sign at Scottsdale Road and Main Street, the Phoenix Zoo, fishing at Chaparral Lake, and cool dips in backyard or municipal pools during hot summer days.
These items not only put the mindset of 18-year-olds into a historic context but also apply to the thousands of Scottsdale area residents who have moved here since 2003-04. As our customers, neighbors, family members, friends, students, work colleagues, visitors, fellow committee members and voters with whom we interact, it’s interesting to remember these more recent milestones that put their attitudes and actions into perspective.