By Shaeri Richards
(July 23, 2018)
Civics: The study of the rights and duties of citizenship and how government works.
I’ve never really been a civics girl. I say that a little shamefully, because I have a part that feels I should be. I feel being active and informed is the mature, responsible thing to do in our society. Yet I have so many interests and pursuits that actually bring me pleasure, I could never quite bring myself to use my free time sitting in City Council meetings and reading long articles about city budgetary practices. I’m guessing that I’m not alone.
This all changed for me about a month ago, when I heard that many of our City non-profits like the Humane Society, the Sedona Library and Sedona Recycles were at risk of losing their funding because of something called Home Rule. What the heck? I wanted to do something, so a friend sent me a flyer and I posted it on my Facebook page and tagged a bunch of my friends suggesting that they read the flyer, educate themselves and consider voting YES on Home Rule. I was surprised to get a whole lot of push back. A man named Dana Varney came at me with so much information and data that it made my head spin. If I responded with a comment in favor of Home Rule, he hit me with even more information that I frankly had no way of proving or disproving. I was even told that the flyer I posted was created by a Super PAC (Political Action Committee). Yikes! A Super PAC in Sedona! It all felt very strange.
Back in the 80’s I spent 10 years as a radio news reporter, so I decided to dust off my reporting skills and investigate.
First I wanted to know about the PAC.
As it turns out there are two PACS at play in the Sedona Home Rule battle. (Neither of them are Super PACS.) The creator of the flyer I posted on my Facebook Page is called Arizona Elections 18. The PAC was founded by Steve Segner to support progressive candidates for the State Legislature; they are also supporting home rule.
Here is part of the mission from their website.
We want to shine a spotlight on local government because we recognize the importance of who our state and local elected officials are.
This group is non-partisan but it is political and has liberal and progressive values. We value public education, economic development, and infrastructure. We also value democratic participation.
Here’s AZ Elections 18 sign:
The second PAC is called Arizona Liberty. It was created by Mike Schroeder and Dwight Kader. They are against Home Rule and are proponents of something called Permanent Base Adjustment, which I will get to a little later.
Here is part of the mission statement from their website.
We believe in fiscal responsibility (balanced budgets), efficient and responsive Government – Local, State and National. We also believe that LESS government is better than MORE government so individual liberty and freedom may flourish.
Here is Arizona Liberty’s Sign:
Dana Varney and his wife Donna Joy are also working tirelessly to end Home Rule. They have a website called http://sedonacity.com which is full of charts, graphs and data.
The City of Sedona is not allowed to take a position for or against Home Rule, but it is their job to inform the public about it and how it works.
The City’s website has a wealth of information. You can even click on a tab called Meetings -Video and Audio and watch a recording of every single Council meeting going back for years. I watched a few.
You can access it here: http://www.sedonaaz.gov/
How I did my research
I really wanted to understand the arguments for and against Home Rule, so I spent 1 to 2 hours interviewing each of the players including Steve Segner, Mike Schroeder, Donna Joy , City Manager Justin Clifton, and Former Sedona Mayor Rob Adams. And because the Sedona Chamber has become so tied up with the Home Rule debate, I interviewed Chamber President/CEO Jennifer Wesselhoff as well.
I also attended several forums, watched the necessary (and long) City Council meetings, downloaded the budget, read lots of articles, and even watched a League of Arizona Cities and Towns webinar on Home Rule. Whew. I learned a lot.
It’s been a little quieter in Sedona these past weeks. Summer monsoons are here, for the most part, traffic is flowing with ease, and sometimes you can even get a table at The Hudson without a reservation. Yet there’s no question that Sedona has troubles. We saw it in spades over Spring break this year where we witnessed a number of days when traffic was backed up from Tlaquepaque half way to the Village of Oak Creek in the mid-morning, and backed up late afternoon in the other direction, from the “Y” all the way back to CVS Pharmacy on 89A We see it in the lack of affordable housing for families and the working people of Sedona. (I feel sad when I hear from friends that they need to find a place to rent, as I know it’s not going to be easy.) We see it in the lack of money to fund our school system because enrollment is down, quite possibly because families with kids can’t afford to live here anymore.
I’ve been living in this wonderful town since 1992, back in the days when there was one stoplight; little to no traffic, and you could easily spend an hour skinny-dipping in Oak Creek and never see a soul. It was a lovely and special time in Sedona, yet Home Rule or not, those days are gone. And I can’t see how they are coming back.
Sedonans sitting in traffic have plenty of time to fuel their anger, and when it comes to an election, anger can easily be harnessed and focused toward a result (social media is great at that.) I feel it’s important to really think about that result and what we want it to be.
What does Home Rule have to do with it?
I want to move for a moment from the realm of fact, to that of perception. In reading the various social media posts opposing Home Rule, I came away with the perception that something nefarious was going on in Sedona, that the City was mishandling its funds, doing something wrong, illegal or generally bad. The posts led me to feel that the City had passed a run-away budget and that something had to be done to rein the City in. That something was to end Home Rule. First I wanted to find out if the City was really doing something bad. And secondly, would voting no on Home Rule really end the traffic problems?
How the City Works
I’m sure this is kindergarten stuff for a lot of folks who may be reading this article, but I’m writing for people like me who never paid much attention to the City and how it operates, so hopefully you will find this helpful.
Sedona has two governing tools that I find important to share: a City Manager and a Community Plan. I’m going to start briefly with the Community Plan, which can be likened to a blueprint to bring forth the vision of Sedona that residents want to see.
Community Plans are mandated in Arizona and must be updated every 10 years. The current version of the plan began with a steering committee back in 2010 that gathered the community together for input with 10 public meetings, 8 topical workshops, 7 public hearings, 51 Newspaper articles and more. 600 people attended the meetings, 750 idea forms were submitted and 400 questionnaires returned. Over the next few years, a plan was drafted, more meetings and open houses were held to get feedback and finally the Council approved the plan in 2014. So there was plenty of opportunity for engagement. I dimly remember the process happening, but as usual I was busy pursuing other things. However, it sounds like lots of people did get involved. In a few more years, the process for updating the plan will begin again.
You can download the entire Community Plan at the City’s website and read it in detail, or a PDF summary of the plan. I did both. In general I like what I see. Sedona residents came up with a vision which includes 6 major outcomes: Commitment to Environmental Protection, Housing Diversity, Community Gathering Places, Economic Diversity, Reduced Traffic and Access to Oak Creek, with sustainability as the overlying goal for the entire plan.
You can download the Community Plan here:
Now the Community Plan is not law. It does not require the Council to spend any money to implement the plan, however it is the document that sets out the directives of the residents of Sedona, and is meant to serve as a guide for City officials as they do their daily planning and implement City policy.
The City Manager
Sedona has a City Manager/Council form of government, which according to the League of Arizona Cities and Towns is the current trend for city management and the most prevalent form of municipal government. The League says, “the system is not perfect, but it is designed specifically to make sure professional municipal employees are responsive to the public and that government resources are spent in the most efficient, objective manner possible.”
The Council hires the City Manager (in our town his name is Justin Clifton.) Then, usually on an annual basis, the Council sets priorities that will be the foundation for policy decisions throughout the year. In addition, they deal with any other issues that may arise. The City Manager oversees the day-to-day business of the city and makes recommendations on how to implement Council priorities and policies with the over arching vision of the Community Plan serving as a guide. The Council then votes on the options provided by the City Manager and staff, always discussing them first and often modifying them.
Although the Mayor runs the Council meetings s/he has no more power than the other Councilors, each sharing an equal vote.
Elected officials like the Council and the Mayor are supposed to guide the policy direction and priorities of the City based on the directives of the residents as expressed in the Community Plan, and the City Manager is supposed to find the best ways to enact them. Theoretically the City’s job is to implement the vision of Sedona’s residents. Which begs the question, are they doing a good job of it?
City Spending: Should it be more or less?
Home Rule is ultimately about spending. It is a methodology by which the city structures its budget. As I look into the arguments on both sides of Home Rule, they seem to boil down to this particular issue. The Arizona Liberty PAC and its supporters favor tighter governmental controls and less spending. The Arizona Elections 18 PAC and its supporters favor the current level of spending as expressed through the city’s budget and directed toward the city’s goals.
Here’s where Home Rule comes into play. Home Rule is also known as the Alternative expenditure limitation. You might ask the question, alternative to what? Back in 1980, the state was worried about local government spending getting out of control, so they set a formula to control expenditures—a base that would be adjusted each year according to population and inflation. This base forces cities to limit their spending to a certain amount based on the formula, no matter how much money they may have available to spend.
The framers of this law also knew that the base formula wouldn’t work for all cities for all time, so they offered an option called the alternative expenditure limitation: Home Rule. Home Rule lets Arizona’s cities set their own budget limits. Like the name implies, they control their spending from home. The state still requires a balanced city budget, but each city under home rule can decide what their available resources are, (their limit) and how they would like to spend them. Since it does give municipalities more freedom, the state requires Home Rule to be approved by the voters every four years. And here we are. Home Rule is on the ballot along with the Mayoral and Council election on August 28th.
If Home Rule were to fail, it would force the city manager to drastically cut Sedona’s budget and the services the city can provide. Not because we don’t HAVE the money, but because under the 1980 state formula, we would not be allowed to SPEND the money we already have. Sedona has been operating under Home Rule for the past 22 years.
There is another option. It’s called the Permanent Base Adjustment.
There was a push on Sedona social media recently to get people to sign a petition that would allow a Permanent Base Adjustment on the ballot in November. The effort succeeded in collecting the necessary signatures by the deadline of July 9th, and Sedona residents will indeed be voting on the Permanent Base Adjustment at that time.
This is new. It’s believed to be unprecedented. From what the City knows there has never been a situation in Arizona where both options were being put to the voters during the same election cycle.
What is a Permanent Base Adjustment? With a Permanent Base Adjustment, control of the City’s spending limit goes back to the State, rather than remain in local hands as with Home Rule. Remember that 1980 formula I spoke about earlier. The Permanent Base Adjustment updates the base number to a current level and then adjusts it yearly for population growth and inflation.
At their June 26th Council meeting, the Sedona City Council discussed the Permanent Base Adjustment as an option, and whether it might be a better way to set Sedona’s budget in the future.
Most of the Council agreed that it was something to look at down the road, but Mayor Sandy summed up the discussion this way, saying, “If we are going to do a permanent base adjustment ever, we need to do it right. We need to do a very careful job of evaluating that number, knowing where it’s coming from. I don’t want to do it in a hurry. I don’t want to do it by July 9th. I don’t think it’s responsible to do that.”
There is a Permanent Base Adjustment that Sedonans will be voting on in November. The number associated with that adjustment was NOT set by the City, but by the petition supported by those in alignment with the Arizona Liberty PAC. The number is 36 Million dollars, that would be the limit. In fiscal year 2018, Sedona actually spent 39.6 Million dollars, 3 Million dollars more than what’s recommended by the Permanent Base Adjustment. In fiscal year 2019 the projected budget is even bigger. If Home Rule fails, and the Permanent Base Adjustment passes, cuts will have to be made, or a special election held to enact a budget override. Every election held costs the City about $25,000.00.
The more I researched, the more I had found myself asking questions. If Arizona Liberty believes in less government spending, why do they want to set up a scenario where the City may have to spend 25 grand on a special election? And why did they set the Permanent Base Adjustment so low—low enough to require the City to hold special override elections to handle necessary spending.
I watched a webinar by the Arizona League of Cities and Towns about this very topic, and they recommend setting the Permanent Base Adjustment at a figure high enough to cover all potential future scenarios and costs so that you don’t have to hold elections all the time. For example, the City of Surprise, AZ has an actual budget of $200 Million dollars and a Permanent Base Adjustment of over a Billion, just in case they need to build roads and do other things. On first view, this may seem extravagant, but other cities follow similar practices. Remember the Permanent Base Adjustment doesn’t determine what a city WILL spend—only how much it CAN spend. Sedona has plenty of money to meet her budget requirements. We are a financially healthy city.
Why is this all of this happening?
There’s a lot more that I’ve learned about Sedona’s budgetary practices, and you can find a lot out for yourself. I learned that the City is very transparent. You can attend meetings and watch them on video. You can download budgets and review them. There is ample opportunity for public comment and there is even a Citizen Budget Review Committee directly involved in the process. Plus, the City has regular independent audits, and for 17 years has received a certificate of achievement for excellence in financial reporting from the national Government Finance Officers Association.
The fact of the matter is the majority of residents don’t seem concerned about the budget. I watched the City Council meeting from both this year and last year where the budget was approved. Before approving the budget at both meetings the Mayor opened the floor for public comment, but no one had anything to say. No one was there.
What people do care about is traffic in Sedona. This is where it gets tricky. The Arizona Liberty PAC is tying Home Rule to this very important issue of traffic. They are suggesting that voting down Home Rule and stopping the City from spending its budget will solve our traffic problems. Is this true?
Sedona in Motion
I was not aware of this a month ago when I started all of this research, but the City has a traffic plan called Sedona in Motion. Remember, traffic reduction is one of the 6 major outcomes citizens highlighted in the Sedona Community Plan. Sedona in Motion, also called SIM, is the result of that directive from the citizens.
This plan comes from two years of work including citizen engagement, surveys, environmental studies, design and traffic engineering studies and all the things necessary to comply with Federal and State law regarding traffic. As usual the City has done an incredible job of documenting everything they have done, you can sign up for e-mail updates about the plan to be delivered directly to your inbox, and you can learn everything you want to know here:
Is it a good plan? Some would say yes, others would say no. What I can tell you is that it is a somewhat flexible plan. For example, there has been a strong outcry from Sedona citizens about a component of the plan that calls for building connector roads through neighborhoods. I have been told that this aspect of the plan is no longer a priority. Residents spoke, the City listened.
There are other aspects of the plan that are currently being considered and debated and public comment is open. If you, like me, have spent plenty of time in traffic pondering the cause of your current back-up, you can download and look at the plans and drawings and see what you think. I can see how some of the proposed changes will make a difference.
Voting no on Home Rule could potentially stop the implementation of the Sedona in Motion plan because it would prohibit the City from spending the money to pay for the plan, money that is already available and in the budget. In order to see the Sedona in Motion plan move forward, it’s important to vote yes on Home Rule.
So how can it be said that voting no on home rule would reduce traffic?
Now we come to the crux of the matter. I have been told that the ultimate goal of getting voters to turn down Home Rule is the defunding of the Sedona Chamber of Commerce and Tourism Bureau. Mike with the Arizona Liberty PAC told me he wants the chamber to get zero dollars from the City. He believes that there is a correlation between traffic and the destination marketing the Chamber has done over the years and he wants to put it all on hold.
Getting voters to turn down home rule and setting the number for the Permanent Base Adjustment below the actual expenditures in last year’s Sedona budget is a way to force the City to cut dollars to the Chamber. But, there’s no guarantee that the forced budget cuts would ultimately be implemented in that manner. The budget is in the hands of the City Manager, he will make recommendations, residents can have input, and the Council will ultimately decide.
I don’t feel the strategy of ending Home Rule is the best way to accomplish the goal of reducing traffic.
Is traffic the Chamber’s fault?
There are a lot of people in Sedona who are feeling really angry toward the Chamber. That’s a fact. We do have traffic here in Sedona, and a lot of folks do come up from Phoenix to enjoy the Sedona experience, just like we go down to Phoenix to enjoy theirs. It just so happens there are many more of them.
During the recession when many Sedona businesses were hurting, the Chamber started destination marketing to help area businesses by encouraging Phoenix residents to come up for overnight visits. Did this contribute to the problem? Probably. At the time businesses were struggling and the Chamber was doing its job of bringing in tourists to support the economy. Perhaps it was not the right choice. The Chamber does acknowledge the problem, and they have not done any such marketing for over a year. Nor do they plan to in the future.
Meanwhile, listening to those that aren’t happy with the Chamber, I got the impression the Chamber was up to no good, that somehow, they were involved in cronyism and elicit deals.
This is a small town. We know each other. Although I’ve never been a Chamber member, I did volunteer as the emcee for a marketing breakfast known as Good Morning Sedona, something I did for 24 years. I’ve never socialized with Chamber President/CEO Jennifer Wesselhoff, but I introduced her speaking segment at the breakfast over the years, and I always found her to be a pleasant person.
I honestly didn’t know much about what is happening at the Chamber, but if something really out of line was going on, I wanted to find out. I spent an hour and a half with Jennifer as I did research for this article. It was by far the longest exchange we’ve ever had. She was very forthcoming with budgets, documents, forecasts and plans. I have a huge folder full. She is also available to meet with any Sedona resident who wants to connect. In fact, citizens are invited to an open Chamber coffee chat on the topic of your choice every Monday morning at 9:00AM. If you have questions for Jennifer, go and ask them.
The Chamber is both a Chamber, and a Tourism Bureau, with the Tourism Bureau being in charge of Destination Marketing. There is controversy about how the chamber is funded, and it’s beyond the scope of this article. But I did look into how other cities do it, and there are those that fund their chambers in a similar fashion. Most notably for me was the Aspen Chamber Resort Association. It is also both a chamber and a destination marketing organization for a town with an even smaller population than ours. Their budget is comparable to the budget for the Sedona Chamber, so it seems to me to be within reason.
In recent years the chamber has changed it’s focus from a Destination Marketing Organization (DMO) to a Destination Marketing and Management Organization, a (DMMO). Sedona may not need marketing, but we do need management. In light of that the Chamber has paired up with ASU to develop a Sedona sustainable tourism plan, which feels in alignment with the direction of our own Community Plan. You can read about it here:
Do we need the services of a Destination Marketing & Management Organization? Is their budget too high? I can’t answer those questions, but I do know that most cities big and small have some version of one, and many of them receive city funding. I do feel these decisions can be handled through public hearings and through the regular budgetary process, not by ending Home Rule.
Where do we go from here?
Yes, Sedona has problems that we need to solve. The question is how. I support continuing to work with-in the system that we have. It may be a slow system. In some ways it has to be. Any action the City takes requires citizen input, public hearings, debates and meetings. A plan has to be developed; then it has to be enacted. We are not a dictatorship, that’s how government works.
Implementing the recommendations of the Community Plan takes money. The current focus of which is the traffic plan, Sedona in Motion. If we want to address traffic in this town, I feel SIM is a well thought out, well studied starting point. It may not please everyone, but it is a plan on the table that we can work with.
The good news is that we can all participate and our voices can be heard. We can do it together. Not everyone will get what they want, but we are a democracy and the majority will rule.
After my research, I want to keep moving forward. I don’t see that limiting the City’s spending power by ending Home Rule will solve our problems.
I plan to vote yes on Home Rule. And now I’m going back to my piano.
For those of you who don’t know me, I am a Sedona Author, Filmmaker, improv actress, zen artist, hypnotherapist, & musician. And I love Sedona.
Very well written article I think it lays out the questions about home rule very well in very fairly when you look at the numbers Sedona is actually spending less now than it was before the recession
I think Home Rule would be great if we had a frugal and responsible city staff and council.
A couple of points :
Traffic is down because the Chamber decided to stop advertising in Phoenix, this summer only. It works, cut the chamber advertising and traffic drops. By the City’s own study, half the traffic driving through Sedona does not stop in Sedona.
I’ve been looking at the WASTEFUL spending in Sedona for years. The 2017 Fiscal Year the Accounts Payable was 78 pages long. The most recent Fiscal Year, in order to hide what they are spending , Accounts Payable is 471 Pages long. I found many amazing example of overspending. On page 267, As nothing is too good for city staff they stay in 4 and 5 star hotels.
Meridien Hotel $914.76
Renaissance Hotel $486.91
Cartwrights Restaurant $603.73
That’s not the worst, all those were charged to the city on 12/31/2017 Your city staff credit card use, even on New Years Eve.
Jean Jenks has been looking at the city for years, when I sent her a copy of the 78 page report, she said” I knew it was bad, I did not know it was this bad .”
The most recent Accounts Payable is also full of wasteful out of control spending.
I could write a book on the waste. I’ll be happy to send copies for proof and your own research.
Please, NO on Home Rule, NO to incumbents.
Tony the 12/31 date is the date that it was posted not the date of the card was used ,Jesus I can’t believe you’re that dumb . Tony spends all his time and energy looking for pennies in a budget that has millions we need real foresight like tiny Tony who doesn’t even understand the cities accounting system Tony spends all his time and energy looking for pennies in a budget that has millions we need real foresight like tiny Tony who doesn’t even understand the cities accounting system
So you use personal insults. Sad.
There were no personal insults given. Only objective views. However, there are those folks out there that prefer to take things personally. Some folks just can’t stay out of judgment, in order to feel good about themselves.
This was well done! I applaud Shaeri for taking the time to do the research with NO ax to grind.
First let me say I appreciate your passion and concern for Sedona. It’s commendable that you want to make a difference and that you are running for Mayor. However, if you want take a leadership role in the city, you really need to take the time to find out the facts.
I saw you at the Mayoral Forum and received your handout detailing these charges, so I contacted the city to find out what was going on.
First the 12/31/17 date had nothing to do with a New Year’s eve celebration by city staff on the public dime. It had to do with the batch accounting of credit card charges which were recorded on that date.
Let me start with the Meridian hotel charge of $914.76. This was for our Chief of Police who attended a conference in Philidelphia on October 21-24 of last year. I’ll admit, a $300.00 dollar a night hotel room sounds high, so I googled hotels in Phildelphia around that time of the year. There are some cheaper and some more expensive ones, but they are within range.
If we want to insure that our city employees have a limit on the amount they can spend on hotel rooms, and make sure that the Chief doesn’t go over that limit even if he has to stay at a different hotel then the one where the conference is being held, I guess we can do that. We can show up enmasse to City Council meetings to let our feelings be known. But I’m not sure it’s really a problem.
The Cartwrights restaurant charge for $603.73 is for a team building retreat that the Police Department did on 12/14 in Cave Creek. The entire command team plus supervisors attended (10 people total). That sounds like a pretty reasonable tab for a group of 10.
We could question whether a team building retreat is a good use of city funds. I personally would like to see some team building retreats happen on Capital Hill. Perhaps we would have a less divisive government.
As for your concern about the report lengths, it apparently has to do with the type of request you were making. Different requests generate different size reports.
If you want to be Mayor, I would recommend that you assume a less adversarial role toward the entity you want to help govern.
If you have a question about an expenditure, ask. I have found the city to be responsive in providing information. And apparently so have you. Sometimes the information needs explanation. So ask.
All the best in your endeavors.
So you are saying the accounting is so bad that a stay in October was not booked until 12/31?
Or was it a credit card company mistake?
There were 4 other hotel rooms booked on 12/31, just another mistake?
Of course, 12/31 is a Sunday. Sedona City accounting was working, burning the midnight old to close out quarter. Oops, Sedona is on a fiscal year. Year end is June.
Or, accounts payable just enters what ever date they want?
Or, perhaps were they just caught and are now making excuses?
I reached out to the city for more clarification about the October charge you refer to. Here’s the response:
“The Chief attended an IACP Conference in Philadelphia. The hotel charges were for 3 nights for Oct 21-24. This would have been part of the November P-card batch, but that batch was inadvertently posted with the 12/31 date instead of the 11/30 date. The entire AZ contingent of participants of this conference was at this hotel. Many hotels around these conferences book up, this is the one the AZ group had available.”
I’m not an accountant, and I don’t think you are either, but since you are running for Mayor, I think it would be good to understand how the City’s budgeting works. As referenced above, they work with something called Pcard batches. I’m not sure exactly how that works, but I did find out about batch accounting. It’s a process by which data is entered over time, and the batch is processed on a certain date. That’s how these items all came to have the 12/31 date on it. As I understand it, a computer can be scheduled to run the batch at anytime. It’s common to do the batches overnight or on weekends as they don’t interfere with other tasks.
I may not have that exactly right, but I think I’m close.
I’m sure if you went and spoke to the director of finance Cherie Wright, she could explain it to you more eloquently. Her number is 928-203-5193.
I also had a very enlightening talk with City Council Candidate Janice Howes Hudson this evening. I have never spoken to her before, but I reached out to her because I knew that she volunteered on the Citizen’s Budget Review Committee for the past several years. and I thought that she might be able to help me understand all of these accusations of wasteful spending in the City. She’s really been in the trenches working with the budget and is also present with the staff who understand the needs of the city and exactly how the budget works.
I wish I could transcribe the talk I had with her and share it with everyone, but I’ll do my best to recap it. It was so enlightening. I may not have the terms exactly right, but the key thing to know is that the city has been moving from a line-item style budget to a performance based budget.
The performance based budget is considered the best way to really track the effectiveness of how the City is spending it’s money. For example, if the City spent 100,000 dollars on a parks and rec program for kids and only 10 kids showed up to participate, then the performance based budget would clearly show that the money spent on the kids program was not a good use of funds. The performance wouldn’t warrant re-budgeting that money for the following year.
In order to determine the actual cost of the kids program, the City has to figure in the expenditures made by every department which has anything to do with the program. That includes the cleaning of the bathrooms under public works, and the processing of the paychecks by the finance department, and the hiring of people by HR. This all effects the way the budget is put together.
Again, I may not have this exactly right, as it’s not my field of study, but as I understand it this change in budgeting has been going on in Sedona for the past several years, and because of it, it makes it quite challenging to compare budgets from year-to-year. It will get better in the future, and Janice feels the performance based budget is definitely the way to go. She has a lot of experience, so I tend to trust her. Plus, you can read about this style of budgeting here:
Janice says they have been through the budget with a fine tooth comb and there really isn’t any waste. You just have to know how to examine this type of budget.
Again, if you can’t make sense of something, reach out. Research. Ask questions. I feel their are reasonable answers for most of your concerns. At least reach out to the people who know for clarification.
Best to you,
One more time Tony makes a comment that is not true and then says oh they should be posting quicker
!Not oh I was wrong,
Does someone running for office attack city employees with out doing the home work?
Is this the kind of mayor Sedona want or needs.
Just look at this statement it say a lot about Tony
“Or, perhaps were they just caught and are now making excuses?
Thanks Shari. I appreciate your wise words and research Although I live in the VOC and therefore cannot vote on Home Rule, the outcome does effect me. I work in Uptown and often travel to West Sedona. This past season I had several days where travel took over an hour to go six miles to Uptown. So I have a definite stake, even without a vote. If I could vote for Home Rule it would be a YES vote, especially after reading your report. I will be sharing it on my FB page and hope my friends that are Sedona city residents will vote YES!
What’s said about Tony supposed is that he’s insinuating that the city employees was stealing or acting unethical, the city employee we’re going to a city sponsored function but Tony doesn’t tell us what it is, the city employee turned into an expense account but Tony doesn’t have it Tony would rather work at pages and pages and pages of credit card charges with no supporting data and just tell you the city spending wildly. But Tony doesn’t tell you it’s a city budget in 2018 was actually lower than it was in 2008 he also doesn’t tell you that income is up almost double digits for the last five years the city has won awards for its finance and accounting standards but Tony doesn’t bring that up
A city sponsored function on New Years Eve. Of course. Our hard working civil servants working Sunday Night, New Years Eve for our benefit. Please, accept a humble residents apologies th at only 4 star hotels were available for some staff. One did however find the 5 star hotel room they deserved.
I’m sure every one who obtains city dollars believes you. I doubt those who pay those dollars do.
Well said Shaeri. I learned a lot by reading your “course in civics.) I hope all citizens of Sedona do.
Sedona, as a city and a community is at a crossroads for sure.
I know this Home Rule issue on the ballot on August 28 has become an catchall referendum on the city, in governance, how it spends money, how the city council votes, the cities efforts to manage tourism, etc.
But in the end, it’s actually just a vote to continue running the city the way it has been run for the bulk of the 30 years it has existed. From my 20 years in Sedona (and in the village) perspective, nothing is broken, their is no need to throw the town away and start all over. We have many challenges ahead of us, but for a town that is only 30 years old, that should not be a surprise to anyone.
I will support Home Rule for sure, to do otherwise is not logical or productive, but I do want the city to move into the future having listened to all this outcry about traffic and overcrowding. We can’t turn the clock back, but we can be smart and pro-active on solutions which will make living here less stressful, especially during high tourism periods like spring break and holiday weekends.
I am on the board of directors of the chamber and have always be pro-business and know first-hand how invested the chamber is in understanding the scope of our challenges and our need to find the right balance between a vibrant tourism economy and a enjoyable lifestyle living here.
To blame the chamber for Sedona’s recent growth in popularity when the rest of the world of “iconic” destinations like Sedona have seen up to a doubling of tourists since 2010 is shortsighted and uninformed. And to want to slow the economy down which will negatively impact this community in so many ways including hurting many businesses and their employees is also shortsighted and selfish. Please tell me which of your favorite restaurants do you want to see close?
Like it or not, we are all in this together and we are a “tourist town” and will have to learn how to live with our popularity and find ways to reduce, lessen, and maybe, in some case eliminate some the negatives that comes with this popularity.
Intelligent people living in Sedona and other “tourist destinations” are searching for answers and comparing notes with each other. That is what our DMMO in the name of the Sedona Chamber has been working on for years. This is not an approach to tourism management they just decided to pursue no matter what you have been told by the naysayers.
I am not angry. I’m just confused and saddened that we have become so divided. I know this is not America in November 2016, but in some ways it feels like it. We seem to be lining up on the streets of life, facing each-other down, with pitchforks in our hands, ready to go to battle to prove we are right, or hurt, or ignored.
Not me, I will continue to enjoy my moments of life in Sedona. And adjust my choices on travel when I have to cope with heavy traffic. (I love using Google Maps with traffic turned on.) I will continue to love the events, restaurants, trails, climate, people, tourists, and all the wonderful things I’ve come to love about this place called Sedona I found by accident in 1988. I’m glad I chose Sedona as my home. Even with the traffic.
Thanks Shaeri for getting me to think about the big picture.
Awesome Al Thank you
Shaeri~ very well written, researched and presented in layman understandable verbiage! You know me not into the political “stuff” and yet this is interesting to me! Thank you for taking the time to do all this and I am certain the folks in Sedona will learn so much from your efforts!
The problem with a YES on Home Rule vote is that we’ve been there, done that. What’s the definition of INSANITY? Doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result.
The City and Chamber have abused the privilege of Home Rule. That’s why I voting NO and voting for PBA in November.
Take that 2.5 million the City is gifting the chamber and give it to the non-profits.
The editorial about Home Rule in the Red Rock Snooze is a joke.
A YES vote changes nothing. The citizens continue to get screwed and their residential streets become a freeway for tourist trying to avoid 2 miles of traffic. meh.
There’s a reason the Attorney General’s office is investigating the City of Sedona under a 1487 complaint yet again regarding the relationship between the City of Sedona and the Sedona Chamber of Commerce.
This is not a media distorted or twisted restatement of facts or quotations or events and it is based on law, not opinion or conjecture. This is a real probe which can be found at the Attorney General’s website:
Based on the City’s press release, I have reviewed the 15 page filing and it is quite enlightening; please do so yourself. It is anything but “fake news” or “disinformation”.
We the citizens have been protesting the Chamber’s relationship with the City for years, yet the protests always fell on deaf ears; no more the AG is listening.
Why are the city and its officials reacting with such vehemence and outrage? When the AG came down on Sedona with a 1487 inquiry related to requiring business licenses for short term rentals, we saw no such press release from the city nor hysteria from its employees. Wonder why we get this big press release now? What do these people know that causes such a reaction? Why are they so scared?
I suggest you move to a communist country where people do not have control of the taxes they pay. If you do not like how the city council is spending the tax revenue, most of which comes from tourists, then vote in a new city council. DO NOT allow the state to dictate how we should be spending our tax revenue of which the state will probably then take half, which a NO vote will do.
That’s What I’m Saying!! Keep local control. Quit whinig …get active. Volunteer, run for office, vote.
Is this the same Zach Richardson of the past school board?
1: We are working on replacing all the incumbents. Just watching them June 26th in the city video taped council meeting , item 8B should be enough for any astute person to pull the lever against these folks. (No personal animosity)
2:The State of Arizona has set up a brilliant program where the citizens have control of the caps and spending that the council has available. If a council gets out of hand, then the citizens can step in. Where else, what other state gives residents that kind of control over spending limitations.
THREE OPTIONS – Justin Clifton only likes to talk about Option 2. Which by the way is a legal problem as he is not giving equal time to 1 and 3 as required by law.
1) Permanent Base Adjustment (PBA)
2) Home Rule
3) One time Override (can be done annually if required)
13% of AZ Cities run under original BASE limitation – adjusted for inflation and population
87% run under PBA or Home Rule
Of the 87% – 56% run under Home Rule and 44% under PBA (Adjusted for population & inflation).
3: The STATE does not dictate anything, where in the world did you get that idea. The state only APPROVES the numbers requested to insure that the city can raise the revenue it wants to spend plus reserves as a city cannot print money – only the fed can do that. The COUNCIL sets the limits (and don’t think Home Rule is not approved either by the Auditor General); The Council can set a Permanent Base Adjustment number with 2/3 vote (WE gave the council the opportunity to do that on June 26, they refused – they also refused to do it at the April 10th meeting – would NOT even authorize Justin to look into it – Incompetent and a violation of their fiduciary obligation – video tape has a good memory),
OR a citizens group can do a PBA ballot initative (We did it as the council refused to put a safety net under Sedona – first time in State History that it has been done by a citizen group), and that number must also be State Auditor General approved from the standpoint that you can raise that much money including reserves,
and a ONE TIME OVERRIDE (can be done once a year), a spending limit number that is also set by 2/3 council vote AND must be APPROVED by the voters. Voters RULE in AZ Zach. But VOTERS need to pay attention or you get a run away council.
4: Where in the world do yo come up with the statement “DO NOT allow the state to dictate how we should be spending our tax revenue of which the state will probably then take half, which a NO vote will do.” Zach, if you have NO CLUE on how the system works please learn it before you type. The state takes NOTHING from our un-used revenue. It goes into OUR rainy day fund – OURS – City of SEDONA. Retailers, Hotels etc. send ALL tax revenue to the state, they take their 6.35% cut, or other cuts based on Excise Tax and a ton of other categories (as a retailer I have the list) and returns 100% of what the city potion is to the City. PERIOD. That’s the Sales Tax ONLY. There is also revenue sharing and a bunch of other revenue items that generate cash for the city which is why the notion that the tourists are paying the percentages that people are claiming of total income to the city is totally false.
If you are curious about the law, the process and the rules that we had to jump through, please go to our site and click on TOWN HALL for the weekly schedule every Tuesday thru August 21. 30 minute presentation plus an hour or more Q and A.
At this point in the game, we probably know more about this than anyone else in this city (excluding Councilman Currivan who has been trying to protect this city since April to no avail) as we had to go down to Phoenix multiple times to figure it out. You can learn or not. Your choice. We are happy to share our knowledge.
Archie Mendez says: “The citizens continue to get screwed and their residential streets become a freeway for tourist trying to avoid 2 miles of traffic.”
Stating that the Neighborhood Connections proposed in the Transportation Master Plan (TMP) will transform residential streets into “freeways” for tourist traffic is not only an exaggeration, it ignores the facts of effective traffic management.
First, systems of effective roadways generally provide alternative routes 1) for the convenience of local traffic and 2) as detours due to road closures or traffic congestion. Secondly, the suggested Connections (TMP Map p. 91) are rather remote from the normal 89A tourist traffic and generally unidentifiable by tourists except by the most astute and adventuresome. Thirdly, because the suggested Connections end at Airport Road, they do not provide a convenient, alternative route for tourists traveling from West Sedona hotels/motels to Uptown or the Gallery District.
I have not walked or studied in-depth the specific consequences of each suggested Connection. There very well may be some valid neighborhood concerns with some of them. With some rational thought and dialogue, maybe those concerns can be addressed. I don’t know. However, in any event, I’m not convinced the Connections will become “tourists freeways” as you suggest.
Consider the existing Thunder Mountain – Mountain Shadows connection, for example. It is a relatively convenient, alternative route for local, residential traffic to arrive at the grocery stores, drug stores, gas stations and restaurants on SR89A without having to drive too far along the highway during congested traffic situations.
If tourist traffic is impacting the Thunder Mountain-Mountain Shadows corridor, it’s most likely due to short-term home rentals now allowed by State law that over-rides what was local City control of development and land use. Short-term rentals are a separate problem in and of themselves.
Further, I’m not promoting, defending or even in agreement with all the Strategies proposed in the Traffic Management Plan. I’m also not promoting, defending or in agreement with all Council and City decisions related to the budget, fees, taxes and development. When I am in disagreement with a Council / City position I attempt to present my concerns or opposition in a logical manner backed-up by research, facts and alternative methods that address the problem. I also try to listen to opposing views and consider their opinions, provided that they are rational, logical and based upon facts. That is how democracy works.
Demagoguery and howling at the moon, whether it’s on either side of an argument, almost always makes the situation worse and usually doesn’t solve the problem at hand.
Thanks Shaeri for pursuing inquiry on this topic. Great job. I hope many people read it and will join you in voting yes on home rule in the Aug 28 elections. Ballots will begin mailing 1st week of August.
Well, Shaeri, it’s nice to experience your reporter self responsible for this well researched article. You provided much more detail than I would have done on my own. I do have a question. Do you get how we can have more personal liberty and control over what happens in Sedona by turning control over to the state?
For 20 years, Sedona has expanded and contracted due to tourism, real estate pricing, job availability, and residents who bring money with them. The recession hit Sedona hard, people lost their homes, and traffic was non existent because people had no money for vacation spending. The traffic was terrible before the development of our beautiful 179 scenic roadway and the traffic moving roundabouts that provide flexibility in all seasons.
Living and working in Uptown, I talk to tourists everyday. It is fun and educational. I personally love living in a tourist town because it brings diversity to an otherwise homogeneous population. Sedona needs visitors and their money to be sustainable.
I love the tourists, but I don’t like their cars. A sustainable vision must include transportation and activities that do not pollute our air and water. ( yea segways, boo 4 wheelers!)
I’m with you on home rule. I think we are a smart enough population to control our own destiny and elect people who will represent us.
Well written Shaeri. So appreciate you taking the time and effort to become informed on this important topic and to share it with others.
There are many ideas and solutions in the works for Sedona’s challenges and voting yes on Home Rule gives us the resources to support finding and creating solutions.
I love our community and am voting Yes to Home Rule.
For a girl (defined as a female child), you wrote a very impressive article – right on point. It is obvious that you are going to grow to become a very smart and determined woman. Thank you for your letter.
Fantastic article, Shaeri. I am very grateful to you for all you did to give such a well rounded perspective on this issue. It seems we have more power to solve the underlying issues that need addressing in Sedona with home rule than without it. In this time of so much disinformation, it is heartening to hear a rational, caring voice of reason, willing to be a bridge and listen to all sides. I would love to see this article in the other local papers as well.
Thank you Shaeri for researching and writing such an informative article.
I will be voting yes and I want Sedona to retain its power.
I appreciate your time and effort in clarifying a lot.
I could never do council meetings either but I sure do appreciate our citizens that do.
Shaeri, what an easy-to-read, fair article on the issues and the groups. Very clear. I read every word. Your breezy style kept me enthralled.
The company people keep often tells a lot about whom to vote for. When dating, making friends, joining clubs, I always ask myself, “Is this a group I can introduce my mother to?” Haha!
If I were to ask the candidates for Council, except those who’ve already served, I would ask:
1. How many City Council meetings have you attended? Did you stay all the way through? A second answer of how many you watched online is also acceptable, but for people running for office, I would double the weight on in-person attendance.
2. What city committees have you volunteered on? (Triple points given for a budget-related group).
3. How many times have you written, called or visited a city employee to discuss a city issue or make a suggestion? (Sorry. Council cronies don’t count here.)
Leaving vendettas and the people pushing them out of this dialogue, I’m not keen on accusations made by candidates and “No people.”
For example: “I’ve been looking at the WASTEFUL spending in Sedona for years,” says Tony Tonsich.
I have seen little waste. Hey, we all like using only one side of a fresh sheet of paper in the printer, right? Perhaps things have changed, but when the economy was suffering, the City removed free coffee and coffee pots out of the office. That would be cause for insurrection in some offices. They did it to save money. Along with a hundred other things.
“The 2017 Fiscal Year the Accounts Payable was 78 pages long. The most recent Fiscal Year, in order to hide what they are spending , Accounts Payable is 471 Pages long.” Tonsich again. That’s a plain outright accusation. Tony, how do you know their motive? Please go on…
“I found many amazing example of overspending. On page 267, As nothing is too good for city staff they stay in 4 and 5 star hotels.” Okay, this one I have to give Mr. Tonsich, because I myself try to stay in at least 4-star hotels. Sometimes we score a sweet deal on 5 stars. At three stars, you have to go out and pay for breakfast. Being part Scot by blood, I’ve stayed in a good many 3-star hotels. I don’t recommend them. And if at a work conference, the time seeing your comrades outside of meetings by being in the same hotel is often worth more than the price of the conference. (I’ve been a cheapskate and made that mistake, too.)
The primary reason I’m voting Yes on Home Rule is I trust our city management and the City Council. I don’t agree with all of them. I don’t even like all of them. But by and large, they are doing a good job. I certainly cannot risk a vote that turns this over to backbiters, slanderers and malcontents.
Rather than good ideas the slate of candidates wants to promote, I see what they distrust. Not a good recommendation in my book. Comparing our spending with other cities with a population of 10,000 (and daily average of 20,000 people)–oh wait, no one has done that!
Let me see if I get this.
The date that shows on accounts payable is not the date the account was paid.
Some entries will show a date over 2 months after they actually happened.
If something is recurring, the City never closes out the account, they just say continuing, making it impossible to tell when money was spent..
When I ask for accounts payable, one year is is 78 pages, the next year it is 470 pages.
Sounds totally transparent to me.
@ Lin Ennis
“the time seeing your comrades ”
That about says it all. Do you want to keep your money, or do you think one of the city “comrades” will spend your money wiser than you can.
I’d like you to keep your own money. Perhaps you would rather not have that choice.
LOL! Tom, I don’t even know what your 7:14 pm comment to me meant. I can tell from the tone, however, it is an accusation and a taunt.
I appreciate it, because it reveals a temperament I do not want sitting on the dais. One name it is clear voting wisely will not include.
Very impressive example of investigative journalism and responsible citizenship, Shaeri. If I lived in Sedona I would now, definitely vote for Home Rule.
This was long, comphrensive and covered all my questions. I’m voting Yes for Home Rule
thanks to Shaeri, and her talent for fair and intelligent reporting, Sedona will survive those who go bump in the dark night by record turnout in August—hurray for home rule
In a day where politics has boiled down complex issues into bumper stickers or lawn signs of 5 to 10 words, and news articles can’t devote the time to to cover the issues in detail, this was refreshing, well written, fair and balanced. I think the Home Rule needs to stay in place and budget matters handled by those closes to it. I don’t trust the state to know what Sedona needs, but I do trust locals to handle it we have some talented folks who live here. Yes on home rule.
Thank you Shaeri…. amazing information …. Lets keep Home Rule by voting Yes..
Shaeri, thank you so much for this well researched and well written article. You answered all my questions and even some I had not thought of. Everyone should read this, which is why I posted the link on my FB page and the Sedona Board FB page. I have been out of town for a while and came home to a town that seems to be blowing up over this. Your piece put everything into perspective. Thanks!!!!
With so many conflicting viewpoints and differing interpretations of information there is no wonder that people are confused about what the Home Rule vote really means to the community. I found Shaeri’s article easy to read with lots of links for additional information, I feel not only better informed but also curious to learn more. And thank you Shaeri for presenting the information in an unbiased manner. Well Done!
Finally a common sense, transparent, clearly sourced article with the logical conclusion we should all vote Yes for Home Rule. Thank you, Shaeri.
I’m going out on a limb on this one… I’ve lived here 24 years; I think I understand how our town works. 1. The Sedona Chamber of Commerce wants something from the City, usually more money for Destination Marketing. 2. The City Staff recommends to the City Council that the Chamber should get more money. 3. The City Council Votes “Yes” because they rarely say “No” to what the City Staff recommends. 4. The City Attorney writes it up. 5. The Mayor and Chamber sign the document. Simple, right?
One problem. The Attorney General of Arizona is presently taking a look at the legal documents written by our Attorneys. Our previous Attorney, Mike Goimarac wrote the FIRST 2013 document as a 2 PAGE “Ordinance” raising the Bed Tax from 3% to 3.5% – giving 55% to the Sedona Chamber of Commerce with less detail and oversight than the Side Dish section on the Menu Board at a Burger King Drive Thru.
SECOND, the 2017 “Memorandum of Understanding” between the City of Sedona and the Chamber – ALSO being scrutinized by the Attorney General – not only gives the Chamber 55% of Bed Taxes for 7 more years, into 2024, it throws in a prime piece of property in Uptown almost as a afterthought. The problem? This 4 PAGE Agreement has less “quid pro quo” than a Hollywood Pre-nup!
I’m all for a healthy debate about our Chamber, but in this day and age, I feel it’s so important to take the time to really understand what’s happening.
I didn’t set out to be a defender of the Chamber. I had no idea what was going on there a few weeks ago, but with all of this controversy I decided to take the time to find out.
The first point I would like to make is about your comment that the city is “throwing in a prime piece of property in uptown.” That is actually NOT true.
If you read the article in the Red Rock News dated June 16th, 2017, It states clearly that the building at 401 Jordan Rd in uptown is to be paid off by 2020 using product development funds and DEEDED BACK TO THE CITY. It doesn’t sound to me like they are gifting it to the chamber. I will link the article below.
I have heard there are those who call the Red Rock News a mouthpiece for the City and the Chamber. But after watching several City Council meetings and reading the reporting by Ron Eland, who also wrote this article, I have found his reporting to be very accurate. He does a great job of detailing the information that is presented.
Okay, so to really understand the underlying story of this Chamber deal, which by the way is at the root of the lawsuit filed against the City, you have to understand the term “product development.” What are product development funds? I had no idea, so I looked into it.
I started with the presentation that the Chamber made to the council last year which led to the approval of their contract. If you take the time to watch it, it helps explain what’s going on. I’ll link it below.
If I have it right, product development is about improving Sedona so that residents and visitors have a better experience. Here’s how the paper explains it.
“The property will provide free parking spaces with ADA accessibility, in addition to more motorcoach parking in the congested area of Uptown. This purchase also addresses concerns regarding the transition to 100-plus paid parking spaces being implemented along State Route 89A.
Potential uses for the property include transit hub and staging area, employee or bus parking, Geotourism center, business incubator, site for a potential parking structure or the city trades it for property to be determined.”
Right now there is nowhere to stage the big buses in uptown and that was a major part of the need for the building.
The Council approved the contract and the deal unanimously with the stipulation that the legality of such an arrangement was looked into by the city. I asked City Manager Justin Clifton about this, and he said he’s very comfortable that the city attorney researched the deal thoroughly and that it is fully acceptable under the law. He fully expects the lawsuit to be dismissed. I just don’t see anything evil about this deal. I don’t know about the bed tax stuff, I haven’t looked into it.
What I do find scary is the Senate bill under which the lawsuit in question was filed. I highly suggest people read about that. There was a group in town pushing hard to limit ATV traffic in Sedona, and it is fear of this very bill Senate bill 1487 that prevented the city from being able to move forward with some possible solutions.
Here are two articles about Senate bill 1487, they are well worth reading.
Here’s the article from the Red Rock News about the Chamber Contract:
Here’s the video from the City Council Meeting where the Chamber’s contract was approved.
Wishing you the best,
Hi Shaeri, I would like to add my own accolades to you for doing a superb jog researching and summing up the various aspects of Home Rule, No Home Rule and the inner workings of this town! I believe I’ve known you for over 24 years. I have always admired your talents on stage and on local TV, yet had no idea you were such a good researcher and excellent writer…. Thank you for sharing your expertise with us all.
My comments above were ‘tongue in cheek’, simply pointing out that if there is any blame for the situation the City is presently with the Attorney General, perhaps, it is with the Agreements that could have been better drafted; considering the amount of money being turned over to the Chamber ($8 million+ over the years) – with little oversight and no Audits! I believe Ron Eland and you, in your articles, covered more thoroughly what is expected from the Chamber than what is loosely covered in the Agreements themselves. https://www.azag.gov/sites/default/files/docs/complaints/sb1487/18-004/18-004_BurgesRequestReSedona.pdf …
I for one would like to see competitive bidding for Destination Marketing, simply because fresh new ideas should be welcomed when making such important, long range, expensive decisions for our town.
Regarding Home Rule or No Home Rule, of course we cannot run our City on $24 million… Councilman Currivan, made an excellent case for why the third option of Permanent Base Adjustment is long overdue. Mayor Moriarty and City Council chose to ‘kick the can down the road’ (4 years?)- thus forcing the Citizens of Sedona to obtain over 600 signatures to add it to the ballot on November 6. This third choice, amounting to approx $37 million is, to my mind, the better way to go. If the City makes more than this, it can be saved for a rainy day…. The idea that “whatever we make we must spend” is short sighted, especially for a seasonal tourist town such as ours. If the City makes less than $37 million, then some trimming couldn’t hurt, perhaps starting with the Chamber.
Ok, let me understand this. The city is giving the Chamber so much money that is has a slush fund large enough to buy a piece of property, then use city tax dollars to pay off the property, then deed it back to the city. All while under the management of the Chamber who gets salaries to run the Chamber and “manage” this for the city?
What’s wrong with this picture. If the city wants to buy a piece of property, write a contract, put out an offer and buy it. Why is the overhead of the Chamber involved in city business.
Anybody out there cast a ballot for Jennifer Wesselhoff or any other Chamber member that you can recall?
Sure doesn’t pass the smell test. Maybe the AG can get some answers for the taxpayers.
I have been a full time resident for 23 over years and part time for 12 before becoming a full time resident. Change is part of life and we must embrace it. We will never go back to Grasshopper flats and no stop signs or eliminate lights or our efficient roundabouts. Sedona has it’s issues, but honestly people, get a grip! We live in one of the most beautiful places on this earth and every community has it’s issues to deal with. start focusing on the positives.
Thank you Sharei. I am very impressed and know this took you hours, days to research, unlike many others in town, you did it well and presented it fair and open and honestly, more than I can say for our Washington politicians.
We cannot let national $ and or angry, controling, political people try to run and take our local control away from our beautiful town. It is ours warts and all and we are the ones that know what our issues are not Phoenix, the State of AZ or Washington.
I know there are the pros and cons on both sides, but knowing who is running the NO push, I trust your research over theirs. You have done it without malice, stuck to the facts and very clear, with no hidden agenda. It is not about being in control and making others feel bad for their opinions. It is dealing with facts and that has been so informative for me.
Thank you. I truly feel 99% of people who run for city office and have served do it out of their passion and love for Sedona like the rest of us who have made the decision that this is truly our home. As is often said,”no good deed goes unpunished.” I have great respect for those who have served with very little in return for their dedication and efforts to do the right thing. It does not serve our community to put down and say someone is ignorant or uninformed. We all do our best and have Sedona in our beat interest. I feel you have missed your calling in not doing more reporting. Outstanding, objective and factual. Thank you. I am better informed and will continue to support YES for home rule.
A very well thought out composition Shaeri. You have helped clarify some points on the home rule debacle. What concerns me is how many of our city government,and candidates, have any experience in running a city especially one with a budget as large as Sedona. We elect these people on popularity not really knowing what their agenda’s really are. Talk is cheap. They can say anything they want and some people will buy it. All these small town councils think the public are a bottomless pit when it comes to raising taxes.
How many running have anything to do with developers? Come to Sedona and buy some land. Develop it and leave. I sometimes feel the council will not be satisfied until the whole city is concrete.
Our traffic is the real problem. There are cities in England ( York, Oxford, Cambridge to name a few) where it is impossible to go to the city center because there is no where to park. For a nominal fee ( 50 cents ) you catch a bus that leaves every 15 minutes and drops you off at several places. Sometimes it is impossible to find parking anywhere in Sedona. The bus service works great at the Grand Canyon so why should it not work here.
I appreciate your concerns about the City Council. I have now been to three City Council Candidate forums and a Mayoral forum, So I have gotten a good sense of the folks that are running. I don’t believe any of them are developers and several actually do have experience running a city. The Red Rock News has done candidate profiles on all of them. If you do a little googling, you’ll find them.
There is actually another candidate forum on Saturday July 28th. at 1:00pm at the Mary D. Fisher Theater, 2030 W State Route 89A, Sedona. The topic is Sustainability, and it’s free and open to the public. First come, first served.
Like you, I’m also not a fan of development, but unless we have the funds to buy up all the privately owned land, then development will happen.
As I’ve been educating myself about Sedona, I’ve been looking into the Land Development Code. At this very moment, the city is in the process of updating it, and it’s a great time for people like yourself to get involved. You can actually download the whole code. It’s quite extensive, and if we didn’t have it, Sedona would be both developed and likely very ugly to boot. You find out all about it here:
I really like that the City of Sedona provides the opportunity for everyone to participate in the local governing process. I’m not sure how many people actually do it, myself included. But the opportunity is there, so we can take it if we choose.
Thanks for caring,
Yes, the Chamber did suspend marketing to Phoenix this summer (voluntarily and to help with traffic). But, these days the political landscape is such that even that didn’t go over well. Between the businesses who are not making what they made last summer and the people who are saying the Chamber should do their job, clearly, not everyone understands all the complex details of what is going on.
With the misinformation circulating and the fact that Sedona residents and businesses are now struggling to understand the facts, I suggest starting with this well-researched article and with the basic supposition that we all want what is best for Sedona. There is nothing to be gained in special interest misinformation or by listening to those who run with opinion rather than fact and don’t seem to want to KNOW the facts. Do your homework. Listen, interview, attend public meetings and THEN make a decision. I implore the community not to give in to biased, misleading rants. Please stop pointing fingers and be part of the solution. The Chamber and the City are not the enemy. We live in a beautiful town and yes, traffic is an issue. We are trying to work with ASU to get something done about it but cutting services and trying to make up for the lost revenue from bed tax and the Chamber are not the answer (unless residents want to try to make up the difference which is millions and millions of dollars). Start with understanding Home Rule and then move on to how the City and the Chamber interact and what money comes from and goes where. It is worth the research.
Thank you for such a well-researched and presented article.
Mostly, thank you for providing some history to those who have not lived here so long. I especially enjoyed your remarks about how we Sedonans worked to make the community plan ours. I held a “community in a box” meeting at my house with about 8 neighbors. What I learned from that experience was that many of us want and need to discuss issues with each other in order for us to formulate our opinions… I was surprised that my neighbors (in Uptown) were in favor of a 2 story parking garage! Yes! I had been told by others that the residents would never accept that. Amazing what you find out when you ask and then listen.
I’ll be voting for Mayor Sandy and for Home Rule.
When the dust settles, I do hope the connector roads are put back on the table. Shaeri, your next article should be the attitude before and after the Sanborn connection years ago. LOL. I’m told the people cannot imagine being without it.
Best wishes in everything you do…
I agree about the Coffeepot – Mountain Shadows connector Road.
I actually lived at the top of Mountain Shadows when they were building that road. Perhaps you’ve seen the cute dome house at the top of Coffeepot. I always felt bad for them, because their house was so private before that road, and of course there’s no way of knowing when you buy a property what might happen.
But I used that road all the time when I lived up there. And I still do. It’s a great alternative that the locals know about it, but typically the tourists don’t.
It’s hard to say whether the individual should be forced to sacrifice for the good of the whole. The connector roads would probably be helpful for the majority, but I totally understand the position of the folks who are directly affected.
Thanks for caring!
The foundation of Liberty is our ability to rule ourselves. And it begins at home.
I’m a 30 year Sedona resident, a former Chairman of the Board of the Sedona Chamber (served 27 years on the board), former chairman of the City board of adjustment (served 25 years, 15 as chairman). Served on the Board of Realtors and I’ve served on the Arts & Cultural commission and currently work as a mentor for S.C.O.R.E and many other volunteer organizations.
I’d like to know what the council candidates sponsored by Arizona Liberty have done over the past 30 years to improve the life of Sedona residents. What volunteer organizations have they held leadership roles in and what they actual plan to do to improve Sedona if elected.
It’s easy to criticize Sedona when you have not participated in anything here. I support Home Rule and believe that Home Rule will be our best solution to Sedona’s traffic issues.
Nice job in covering the issues in an easy-to-read piece. From our perspective, voting YES on Home Rule is just common sense. Who would really want to give up more control over our community to the crazy people in the State Legislature? They limited our ability to control our water resources. They stopped us from controlling pollution from plastic bags. They continue to destroy our children’s education by seriously underfunding our schools. Why would anyone want them to control our town budget?
As for the traffic issue, Sedona is far from alone in this. Every single desirable destination in the world is being swamped with tourists. A friend recently sent us an article in Le Figaro about how Paris, all of France and other destinations worldwide are being inundated too many tourists. I receive news from ecotourism organizations every week that talk about how we are “loving the beautiful places to death.” The tiny Lake District in England has over 250,000 visitors every day with no place to handle them. Last year, we went to Acadia, Maine and spent most of the day in bumper-to-bumper traffic. When we asked the park ranger, she told us it’s becoming impossible to handle all the visitors. And we live in Sedona, one of the most beautiful places in the world. If we cut destination marketing and the Chamber budget to zero, we’ll still have traffic problems unless we spend the time and the money to provide efficient transportation alternatives to the car. If we defeat Home Rule, that will never happen and our traffic problems will only become worse.
Thanks, again, Shaeri, for helping to spur more intelligent conversation about Home Rule and traffic in our community. It is interesting to me that it’s traffic congestion a few weeks every year that’s getting many people so upset. Meanwhile, we had to close a school for lack of funding. Go figure.
John, You do not give up anything to the State legislature. The three city funding options are all controlled by the voters. State keeps no Sedona money, State does not manage anything going on here, and the council via the citizens can pretty much do what they want as long as they do not go deficit spending.
The system is actually brilliant as it gives taxpayers a say if they feel that management – Staff and Council – are not doing things in their best interest. Where else do taxpayers get a say on how much of their money is spent. Probably not too many places.
20% increases in personnel, 63% increases in salaries, 45% is salaries adjusted for inflation in the last 6 years with 2% population growth since 2000? Not to mention other costs and departments expanding. Tourists – Chamber said 3-4 million in the early 2000s and they are still saying that. So why do THEY get $2.5 million for doing the same thing they did when they got ZERO bed tax for marketing?
Time to put the brakes on. The Disneyfication of Sedona must not happen. There are real people who live here. A NO on Home Rule will put the brakes on, then replace the incumbents and take a look in 2 years.
Thank you Shaeri for all your work and insightful investigations to uncover the issues and topics. You went above and beyond the call of duty to present this to all of us. It is greatly appreciated as you uncovered the truth to what is happening.
Because I live in the village, I cannot vote – if I could, I would vote Yes for Home rule. Thank you again for all the hard work you did for this very unnecessary and stressful situation. I wish more people would do research before they try to speak about issues they know nothing about. We are lucky to have you here in Sedona!
Thank you for doing so much homework on this issue, Shaeri! I didn’t have the time over the past weeks to give it my full attention, but noticed how hostile the conversation on Sedona facebook sites had become. So good to get some of the facts straight and thank you for going all the way to kindergarden civics for us. We are truly lucky to have you in Sedona with us. Thank you!
voice of reason: a person who influences others to act sensibly. A person who tries to get the group to adopt decisions using evidence and logic.
Thank you Shaeri for taking upon yourself to do the research on this year’s very controversial issues. It is easy to be emotional, to repeat without checking the facts what someone else is saying, to even try to bully our points down the throat of our neighbor and because we are fearful we repeat the lies like we are on a TV reality show hoping the neighbor will believe us.
Thankfully for all of us, in our beautiful Sedona community, in this case you decided to be the voice of reason. I second and applaud every comment that support your article. They are well deserved and show that being civil is the basis of our civic duty.
I can only hope that the spirit in which you presented your finding is contagious. Our household will be voting for Sedona Home Rule.
Red Rock Fake News tried to falsely refute some of my points on the mayoral debate.
Anyone who wants the geology report showing the City does not know where the “treated ” waste water goes please contact me. The Red Rock Fake News says “This treated water can take decades to filter through the ground before entering the aquifer, which is several miles downstream from where Sedona’s wells draw water.”
In essence, the City, and the Red Rock Fake News, feels it is OK to pollute, because it may take a few decades, maybe, before Page Springs, Cornville and Cottonwood might be affected. Of course, Sedona also, because they really don’t know. On what planet is this OK? THIS IS A CRIME. Against our home and our planet.
Please. Now you know. If you do nothing you take the responsibility for not standing up against these crimes.
Will you turn away, because your favorite non profit might lose some of their grant? A non profit that probably did quite well before there was a City? What does that say about you if you look away?
Honesty? Character? Truth? Sustainability? Karma is unavoidable.
No on home Rule, No to all incumbents.
Tony you do not have a clue about waste water. All residential septic systems use the earth as a filter – it only takes about 8 feet of rock/soil to purify gray water.
Vote YES on home rule!!
First off, feel free to publish your geology report here. If it’s important, than we should all take a look at it.
I was at the Mayoral Forum where you spoke about pharmaceuticals in our wastewater. I looked into it, and you are right, we are having a problem with that. In fact, it’s happening nationwide. It’s not because the city is being a bad steward of the environment, it’s because allopathic medicine has become the primary way to treat people when they are sick in this country. And the main tool of allopathic medicine is drugs, pharmaceuticals. So when people pee, they pee out drugs. They also flush old drugs down the toilet and that contributes to the problem.
You can read more about it here:
The City of Sedona has regular events to take back unwanted prescription drugs, so they are working to help on that end.
I also discovered that even if we didn’t have a sewer system and a waste water treatment plan, we would still be peeing, and flushing into our septic tanks, and that drug-laden urine would still be affecting our water table. Here’s an article about that.
I’m not saying that everything the City of Sedona does is perfect. But, I understand the effluent they are working with has been rated and tested as A -plus by the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality and that’s the highest rating possible.
Tony, we’re all trying to figure out the problems here. I learned that Sedona was actually forced to incorporate in 1988 in order to handle problems with sewage contaminating Oak Creek. It was dictated by the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality.
Perhaps the City over did it with the size and the scope of our wastewater treatment system. I’m told it was expensive, and because of all the rock everywhere, very difficult to build. Even so, the current system is what we have, so how do we move forward.
Here’s my question for you. If you were Mayor, how would you propose to solve the problems with wastewater?
The city pays $31,225 in car allowances, this is just extra’s paid out to employees, many of them making six figure salaries. We have staff traveling and staying in the Ritz Carlton. Employees get two weeks paid leave and two weeks paid vacation the first year of employment. We send employees all over the country.
I can give you the payable reports. Just ask, or ask the City directly. I have to warn you, when the City found out we were looking the payable report went from 78 pages in 2017 to 470 in 2018. I later found out that charges were no longer corresponding to the date charged. Transparency?
If you want this to continue, vote for Home Rule. They always squeal, ” but with No Home Rule we will have money we can’t spend !!” They never even think they could reduce your taxes.
If you do research on those that were pro Home Rule on the ballot or posting here, almost all of them get City funds. They think they can spend your money better than you can.
They say “tourist’s pay !” Bull
Of average total City Revenues for the past 4 years
9% comes from the bed tax
35% comes from sales tax
That equals 44% , the most tourists could pay if residents paid NO sales tax. Tourists use about half the City and Fire District services. They are a net loser cost wise.
It’s your money.
No on Home rule. No to incumbents.
Thank you, Shaeri! This is the first piece I have been able to read from start to finish. Not only that, it was an interesting, captivating read, completely lacking in sensationalism, half-facts, rumors and hearsay! I now feel like I have a good handle on what Home Rule is and what it means for Sedona. In fact, this was the easiest to understand explanation of how our City is run that I’ve seen in my whole 23 years of living here.
I know from past experience how well you research whatever you are involved in and I’m very grateful for the time and dedication that it obviously took to prepare this article. What it made me realize is how little so many of the loud and pushy voices I’ve been hearing on this subject really know about it. It’s refreshing to have someone say they don’t understand something, and so they took the time and effort to learn.
Thank you, thank you, thank you!
Who is really paying for these adds?
Business of ONE PAC?
Arizona Elections 18 PAC, Inc.
Director CONNIE SEGNER 95 PORTAL LN, SEDONA, AZ, 86336, USA 8/14/2017 8/15/2017
Director STEVE SEGNER 95 PORTAL LN, SEDONA, AZ, 86336, USA 8/14/2017 8/15/2017
President STEVE SEGNER 95 PORTAL LN, SEDONA, AZ, 86336, USA 8/14/2017 8/15/2017
Secretary CONNIE SEGNER 95 PORTAL LN, SEDONA, AZ, 86336, USA 8/14/2017 8/15/2017
Treasurer CONNIE SEGNER 95 PORTAL LN, SEDONA, AZ, 86336, USA 8/14/2017 8/15/2017
Here is who is paying for the AZ Elections 18 PAC – and this is is directly from the mandatory expense filings. And I will give you a guess, it is NOT the residents and VERY FEW businesses.
FOLLOW THE MONEY.
Thank you Shaeri! I completely agree with Jyoti!! I’m so impressed that you were willing to take the time and patience to research this matter in detail. I really appreciate your fairness and willingness to see both sides of the issue without unnecessary drama or insults to anyone group or person. Thank you!!
Now have fun playing your piano!!!
oops…forgive my typo! ?
At some moments, I find it fascinating that there are adults who have the financial resources to live here in Sedona who actually believe that the city spending money is what brings tourists to this town and not, the tourists that come here and leave their money allow the city to spend what it spends. Then those moments pass and I realize that this is America and that’s how half the people who live here think. i.e. backwards. The Home Rule issue is ‘about spending’ because the clueless half of the population fail to realize where the revenue comes from. If this vote passes and Home Rule is defeated. The clueless who voted it down or did not vote are going to accomplish one thing. They will have allocated more money for nicer roads in Scottsdale. This is nothing more than a play on what is happening at the federal government level. ‘Too much spending’ means ‘too much spending on the wrong things’. The traffic situation is not going to change until people learn how to drive and or the business owners (who make the most money off the locals by treating us the same way they treat the tourists) change their shift hours so that the army of minimum wage workers who come and go twice daily to the places where they can actually afford to live (and eat) don’t create the traffic that they create coming and going. If anyone here had half a brain, the one thing on the ballot would be the implementation of Hug a Tourist Day. A day of thanks for tourism in Sedona to be celebrated once per week.
I was at the meeting last night on Home Rule versus the alternate. I thought it was well represented on all sides although I did not agree with everything that was presented. The pro Home Rule gave a paper showing how the city has come in under budget since 2006. That is easy to achieve. You pass a budget out of all proportion knowing full well the city can come in under that unless a catastrophe happens. It is like the airlines saying they fly A to B in ten hours. Actually it takes eight and a half hours but it makes them look good.
Coming in under budget makes the council look good to the uninformed.
I attended the Home Rule meeting last night also. I find it hard to swallow when the pro Home Rule group is chamber members and owner of a tourist business that most recently had a paying job at the Sedona Library, a Library that is funded by your county property tax with a bonus $400,000 for the City. If you give someone funds, and tell them they will lose the funds if they don’t spend them, they will spend the money.
You have two sides on Home Rule,
For Home rule , The Chamber with their $2.5 million take, The city staff with their high pay, car allowances and stays in the Ritz Carlton. Lots of other people that get grants or are associated with people on the take.
No on Home Rule, we citizens who have to pay and deal the traffic excessive tourist advertising generates.
I think we voters outnumber those on the take. Vote wisely. No on Home Rule, No to all incumbents that enabled these give aways.
Oh man. I was hoping the challengers stood a chance of winning and no home rule would pass but I think our side awakened a sleeping giant and now all hope is lost. It was bad enough we had to overcome the natural aversion people have of the term no home rule itself, but now with the newspaper investigating the public officials who were employed to initiate the investigation into the city and chamber, and the paper ready to unload both barrels of negative publicity against the challengers, I believe the hurdle has been set too high for us to clear. We have resorted to name calling when not necessary and hardened the resolve of local print media to derail our efforts. We are underestimating the power print still wields in this community and it’s a fatal mistake to do so. Did anyone notice how fat with ads this Friday’s edition is? Ugh. And whoever is the political mastermind behind the no home rule effort, they should have taken a course in Political Science 101 and from jump street never used the term “no-home rule.” Tree Hugger Tommy picked up on the natural aversion the term “no-home rule” instills in people and is running like a pit bull in a nursery with it. People hate the term no home rule. It infers we should not have the right to rule our homes. We should have called it by its legal name and referred to it as Alternative Expenditure Limitation from the beginning. It’s too late now. We blew it.
Thank you so much for such a well-written well-researched article. It clarified so much for me. Having participated in some of the city-planning meetings and the on-line transportation surveys, has helped me to know city employees and the Council are doing a much better job than you would guess. I’ve found the few times I’ve reached out to the city over issues, I’ve been responded to. I don’t always get the answer I want, but I appreciate that we can ask and easily get answers. Being somewhat involved has helped me deflect some of the rumors and disinformation in the ongoing cycle of issues in our town. More articles researched like this could really help those of us semi-involved or too-busy-to-get-involved, be better informed. Anyways, thank you!
If the voters are informed and vote wisely I think we can win. People are waking up. The Chamber was never going to go down easy, there is $2.5 million of free money for them at stake. The newspaper was never going to support me. The backstabbing will continue as the Red Rock Fake news loves the status quo and the revenue they receive because of it. .
What we need to do now is tell everyone on our email list. Have them tell everyone on their email list Have each resident talk to two or more neighbors.
I want to make clear, I will do my best if elected. I can’t do this myself. Vote for me, for Sam Tardio and Noell Julian. That with Currivan will give residents a majority.
Don’t vote for ANY incumbent or past government worker. I can make this work with or without home rule with a majority on council. If Home Rule passes, and we don’t have a majority on council, nothing will change.
If you are not mad, and not willing to do some work, you are not paying attention !!
Thank you for providing an even-handed, well researched article on the confusing issue of Home Rule. The state spending limitations and appropriation formula might work for tiny cities that do not want to have elections, etc., but it isn’t appropriate for Sedona which has an engaged citizenry willing to serve the public. I live outside the city limits and cannot vote in this election, but I support Home Rule and the city council form of local government.
WHO’S MONEY IS BEHIND AZ ELECTIONS 18 PAC?
Residents First Vote YES on Home Rule
STEVE SEGNER (El Portal & Lodging Council) $ 2,855
ROBERT HOLEMAN (Sedona Real Inn) $ 1,000
WENDY LIPPMAN (Tlaquepaque) $ 750
NANCY MATHEWS (Sedona School of Massage) $ 700
CHERYL BARRON (Courtyard by Marriott) $ 500
HOLLI PLOOG (CGI Technology & Solutions) $ 500
SUBTOTAL INDIVIDUALS $ 6,305
SEDONA LODGING COUNCIL $ 2,000
DIAMONDROCK (L’Auberge) $ 1,000
SEDONA REAL INN $ 1,000
SEDONA ROUGE $ 1,000
CANYON BREEZE (Al Spector) $ 1,000
CANYON PORTAL (Al Spector) $ 1,000
L’AUBERGE DE SEDONA $ 1,000
OPEN RANGE RESTAURANT $ 500
SEDONA PIZZA $ 500
CANDLE MAGIC $ 1,000
SINAGUA PLAZA $ 1,000
SUBTOTAL BUSINESSES $11,000
GRAND TOTAL AS OF JUNE 30, 2018 $17,305
Source: June 30, 2018 Campaign Finance Report submitted to the Secretary of State.
Easier and more fun to watch the Video – Follow the Money.
This list is all business owners and extensions of more business like the so called Lodging Council, which points back to Segner. How deceptive to say Residents First on your signage…. Deceptive but not surprising……Vote No
The Red Rock Fake news is upset they are being called what they are. They even issued an editorial threat to one of our candidates, “Don’t pick a fight with someone who buys ink by the barrel and newsprint by the ton.”
This is hilarious from a soon to be obsolete media that is better known as the mouthpiece of the Sedona Chamber of Commerce. The same paper whose editor is on the board of the Sedona Chamber of commerce.
I previously bought it as one would take a flier for the coupons. I never considered it serious news. I am canceling my purchase of a publication that tries to intimidate candidates. I suggest you do the same.
I also suggest you vote NO ON HOME RULE. Please join me in cutting off the funding to the Sedona Chamber and The Sedona Red Rock Fake News.
Why The Sons of Liberty Fought the Revolutionary War?
Lets fast forward to the Civil War. A nation split between what was right and wrong for all people.
North and South.
The South is not rising again. They are still distancing themselves from their past. Austin, Big Tobacco. They are changing/discussing their names more than 150 years later.
Resident and Business.
The Chamber of Commerce has no right to rule over the land. They do not win.
The City gov’t is in place to rule for the people, not just people in business. They need to be replaced with new. They are all beholden to someone you don’t know.
VOTE NO to Home Rule and regain our Sedona so we may fix years of problems created by the recent past and present.
As I see it, the Arizona Liberty PAC is promoting a specious and contradictory argument regarding Home Rule and the traffic situation. It is simply not logical to have as a mission statement “Less Government ” and then support “Big Government”, the State of Arizona, dictating to municipalities how much can be spent in their own towns and cities, forcing them to bank money rather than to spend on local services, infrastructure and other local projects as they deem appropriate. This is analogous to an elderly parent intruding into a middle aged, financially successful adult child’s family expenditures and dictating how they should invest or spend their money. Who would think this is appropriate and rational behavior? Certainly there is no legal support for such an intrusion. Self-determination is what “Less Government” means. THE ARIZONA LIBERTY PAC IS ACTUALLY ADVOCATING MORE GOVERNMENT INTRUSION WHEN THEY ADVOCATE A “NO VOTE” FOR HOME RULE. The issue they should be addressing is not how much money the city has to spend. They could certainly meaningfully challenge how the city allocates the funds. Let’s deal with the specific issues through logical and meaningful debate and not engage in specious assertions and proposals that are global in nature and miss the mark.
No Rob, the big Government of the State of Arizona is not involved in the running of a local city, but also you need to remember that ALL incorporated cities and towns are a subset of Arizona Law.
There are some that would like to have you believe that we are a “Sovereign City”. There is no such thing. There are sovereign countries but not cities.
People would have you believe that Phoenix has a heavy hand in running the City of Sedona under any form of expenditure program except Home Rule. Actually there are 4 expenditure programs, and three out of the four are controlled by the voters. PERIOD.
Other than the city being obligated to run and abide by the US and Arizona Constitution the state is not involved unless the CITY violates that Constitution.
We are putting the effort out every Tuesday at 6″30 through August 21st at the church at 580 Brewer Road. We would love to see you and any friends of yours put out the effort and learn about the 4 funding systems that the state has provided the voters so the taxpayers have some control on how THEIR money is being spent. We have a unique opportunity to control our politicians – very seldom is that the case.
We look forward to seeing you. All questions are answered in detail Q and A after a 30 minute review of the city finances made simple.
What is the Local Alternative Expenditure Limitation, or “Home Rule” Option?
The State of Arizona Constitution imposes a formula-based budget spending limit on Arizona cities and towns, including the City of Sedona.
This formula-based spending limit does not take into consideration the services and programs provided to citizens by each city or town, such as public safety, water and roadway infrastructure.
As an alternative to this formula-based limit, the State Constitution allows voters of a municipality to approve a Local Alternative Expenditure Limitation, otherwise known as the “Home Rule” Option.
The Local Alternative Expenditure Limitation, or “Home Rule” Option allows a city or town to adopt its own budget limits locally-based on local needs, service levels and available resources.
A “YES” vote on Home Rule would allow City of Sedona to continue to set its own budget spending limits locally via the budget adoption process.
A “NO” vote would limit the Town expenditures to the State-imposed formula limit, resulting in a 50% reduction in Town services, beginning in fiscal year 2019/20. Budgeted expenditures would be limited to no more than $24 million. However, if you remove exempted debt service, grants and highway funds, spending for city services would be capped at $13.5 million which would translate into a severe reduction of City services, including police, parks and recreation, streets and roads maintenance, transit services, development services, and water utility services.
Forecasted 2019/20 income for spending on City services is $49.5 million which includes $10 million for Transporation Improvements as part of the cities $30 million dollar “Sedona in Motion” plan to address traffic, transportation, and tourism crowding issues.
Did You Know?
The Local Alternative Expenditure Limitation Option is not an increase or decrease in tax rates. Funding estimates are based on existing income sources that the City already receives.
These income sources would continue to be received by the City under the State-imposed budget limit, but could not be spent in the full delivery of services to the community.
The City of Sedona does not impose a local property tax.
Want to learn more about the cities planned $30 Million Dollar Transportation, Improvement projects to address traffic, transportation, and tourism crowding issues, go to SedonaAZ.gov/sim
And remember, the bulk of the cost of the $30 million dollar projects is being paid for by new income from the 1/2% sales tax increase of which the majority is paid by tourists, not local residents.
And remember, if Home Rule is not approved on August 28, 2018, then the city would lose the ability to use most of these funds and many of the planned projects would be stopped.
As Paul Harvey said – “Now the Rest of the Story”.
There are 4 spending options that the Sate of AZ allows cities to run under.
1) The initial limit established in 1979/1980 which was $2.96 Million. Indexed for inflation and population growth that is now $24.3 million 13% of ALL Arizona cities run under their initial base indexed for inflation and population growth.
2) Home Rule which allows a city to set spending based on what its income and reserves are. This is fine if you have a council that is responsible. From 2012 to 2018 employees have risen by 20%, salaries by 63% indexed for inflation 45%. The city has grown 2% sine 2000. Plus other huge spending commitments like the Chamber of Commerce at $2.5 million next year. Unacceptable. IF Home Rule does pass, $49.5 million may not be the limit, city can go higher. Home Rule takes PRECEDENT over the other 2 options. Of the 87% of the cities left, 56% operate under Home Rule.
3) Permanent Base Adjustment (PBA). The Council or the Voters can elect to increase the base, and in our case we recommended an increase of $2.58 Million added to the original for a total of $5.54 million, adjusted for population and inflation equals $36 million today. The 2013 to 2017 audited actual expenditure average was $33.4 million, $32.5 in 2016/2017 and $$39 projected in 2018/19. The projected $49.5 is a bogus number as you could not spend $10m in one year on Sedona In Motion with all the controversies if you wanted to. All for show – $49.5 vs $24, Oh the pain…never going to happen. Of the 87% of the cities left, 44% operate under PBA.
4) One time Override which can be done every year and voted on in May, prior to the start of the next fiscal year. The council comes up with a number, and asks the voters for approval. That option is ALWAYS there.
If HOME RULE Passes, you still want PBA to be increased as that is the city safety net – what our existing council has FAILED to do multiple times. So we did it.
The scare tactics of having a budget cut in half are just that. We have never spent that much, and that is why the VOTERS have the ability to reign in a rogue council. Pretty neat system.
Mr. Segner said that tax rates are not going to be increased, tourists pay the bills. That’s CITY tax dollars. And unless I am mistaking, the city just RAISED sales tax that we all pay by .5% (temporary – if you can believe that).
The City of Sedona does not impose a “property tax”. Another scare tactic form the spinmeister? The city has NO authority to impose a property tax. The only people that can impose a property tax for the city are the voters. How about it out there – ready to give these people more money to spend? How much is the Chamber of Commerce going to get to jam more traffic onto our roads and trail-heads.
PBA will allow more spending than the past averages, bring spending under control and give a responsible council the opportunity to improve our quality of life.
One Time Override is the safety net.
Proven council leadership we do not have, but you have the choice NOW to change that. A NO VOTE on Home Rule is only going to slow things down a bit. If the voters want it back in 2 years, their choice. But time to put the brakes on. However, the hotels and lodging council have contributed 89.5% of the money to the PAC supporting a YES vote on Home Rule. More money to the chamber, more clogging of our city? More promotions? Residents First? That’s a joke, Hotels First is what is being bought and paid for at our expense. There is a balance between the lodging industry and residents – but we are not there yet.
You have a choice. NO on Home Rule and toss out the incumbents.
Want more Home rule discussion? We talk about it every Tuesday night.
Yes, the improvement at TLLAQ put all the trees in motion to the dump. More land to be cleared for roads. Pave paradise.
There are many towns that are visited around the country that chose not to sell their soul for $$$$ to a few. They are visited because of their uniqueness. They are not destroying their trails and roads.
Much damage is already done.
Vote NO to Home rule.
Thank you, Shaeri Richards, for such an informed piece of information. I usually can’t read a paragraph for I have too many emails to read, but your article deserved completion. I do not have a partisan bone in my body, but your report was in terms that a non-political person could understand. At the end of your article are comments from various readers which unfortunately showed how many people speak about items they shouldn’t for they do not have all the facts to voice such accusations.
The NO to TRAFFIC signs are the worst advertisement this party could have used for there is no guarantee that a budget cut means no traffic, but it certainly means no protection for the kids at Red Rock High School! I have lived in Sedona since 1965 and was able to leave the house at 7 am to play in the forest, swim in the creek, work at the Munch Polar for my lunch and just had to return home by dark. I love LIVING SEDONA!
However, it is not the friendly environment I enjoyed while growing up in Sedona. My daughter was threatened at least three times, once with a gun, once with a knife, and once with a baseball bat all on School Grounds. You vote No to Home Rule, and you just put more children in harm’s way. The parks our kids find safety in will be the first budget cost.
We need a budget to control the traffic that is caused by the SCENIC HIGHWAY SIGNS, the destination restaurants, the world-class spas, our beautiful mild seasons, and the fact that more and more people are trying to get their kids back to nature, riding bikes, hiking, and camping. Plus people are scared to travel abroad, so why not visit this gorgeous place! How many places do you know where in 45 minutes any direction you can be in a better temperature either on a lake, playing in the pink sands, hiking, biking, horseback riding, ballooning, skiing, or just relishing in the beauty and safety of the United States of America!
The Chamber is taking the heat for something that would have occurred with or without their SUPERB ADVERTISEMENT and contributing to the uptown regeneration. Yes, we need a fiscally responsible city council that will use the budget to control the traffic that is here to stay regardless of how you vote on Home Rule! We need to get the forest service’s cooperation in opening back some of the alternatives I used as a teenage getting from West Sedona to the Village of Oak Creek by use of the low water crossing at Red Rock Crossing near the Crescent Moon Park. Or build a toll road through Turkey Creek down to the State Park increasing the revenue of the park while providing an alternative to travel from West Sedona to the VOC. I use to drive my mustang up Schnebly hill road to Flagstaff for High School, then a few years back I rattled my mountain bike apart coming down Schnebly Hill Road–there is no reason for the condition of that road! We use to be able to drive Brins Mesa Trail up to Fry Park near the top of the switchbacks. We drove Casner Mountain to Flagstaff, now everything is blocked off and unpassable, so these are the roads we need to connect, not Panorama Blvd to Sunset. How about a tunnel UNDER the road at Tlaquepaque to Tlaquepaque North, similar to the underground walkway connecting the Biltmore Fashion Square to the AMC Dining Theatre near Camelback and 24th Street.
To create a solution, we must have more money, not cutting a budget that already does not cover Sedona’s needs. Those tourists are attracted to our beauty and lifestyle–it has little to do with the Chamber’s promotions, but the use of the funds they do raise, pays for our traffic facilitators that DO HELP TRAFFIC!
My opinion only,
Arizona Liberty, the Sedona Tea Part, has said over and over that Sedona is not well managed.
Well lets look at some key numbers
2018 city expenditures were 17% under budget
2017 city expenditures were 11% under budget
2016 city expenditures were 19% under budget
2015 city expenditures were 21% under budget
2014 city expenditures were 13% under budget
On average the city has been under budget 16% each year over the last five years.
That is because income was up and expenses were down.
Sedona Actual for 2007 $33,814,641 18 years later 2018 Actual 33,968,013
really Sedona Actuals spent only $153,372 more in 18 years
and the sedona Tea party wants to cut it in 1/2
Yes on home rule NO to out siders trying to take over Sedona
It’s easy to be under budget when you make the budget 50% higher than it needs to be.
The most blatant example is the current $49.5 million budget against the 2018 actual spending of about $34 million. Gee, ya think the City might be able to come in under budget? I bet they can and even keep staying at the Ritz Carlton on your dime like they did last year.
Cut off the big City spenders on themselves and the Chamber.
No to Home Rule, No to incumbents.
It’s easy to be under budget when you make the budget 50% higher than it needs to be.
Tony and you know this how? you did not go to budget meeting and you know every thing the city paid for they paid 50% to much?
what about the paving paid to much,
New pumps at wast water plant paid to much
flood control projects paid 50% to much
parks and rec paid to much
Sedona Actual for 2007 $33,814,641 18 years later 2018 Actual 33,968,013
The city has been underspending for years…. please show us how you will run sedona , show us you budget…… one that will give more to sedona for less money
Steve Segner’s statement that “expenses were down” during the last five years is unbelievable. The facts are quite the opposite.
FY 2018 – $39,640,263
FY 2017 – $33,968,013
FY 2016 – $34,827,975
FY 2015 – $30,192,508
FY 2014 – $31,467,519
When SS compares the Actuals for FY 2007 with those for FY 2018 he uses a $5.7 million lowball figure for FY 2018 ($33,968,013 instead of $39,640,263).The City has spent $5,825,622 more in 18 years, not the erroneous amount of $153,372.
The reason the City is consistently under their expenditure budget caps: their expenditure budgets are several million dollars higher than estimated revenues.
Naturally City income is up. There’s the .5% bed tax increase effective January 1, 2014 to take into account as well as the .5% sales tax increase effective March 1, 2018, not to mention the ongoing recovery from the Great Recession.
NO to Home Rule. NO to Incumbents. YES to the $36M Permanent Base Adjustment (on November ballot).
Thanks so much for the time and energy you put into this article. I just heard that the entire reason for Home Rule is so that casinos can be built in Sedona. It’s been in the making for the last 20 years and the only thing left on the list is to create a SWAT team as part of this plan and the SWAT team will be complete by next year…???
Do you know anything about this?
Thanks so much!
Wow. I reached out to the city manager on that one. He said, “ In my three years here I’ve never heard anything current or historic about a casino in Sedona. I don’t even know if it’s possible given state laws that restrict gaming.”
That would be my thought as well. I think casinos are only possible on Native owned lands.
I also asked him about another rumor I heard that there are big corporations waiting for small local businesses to go under during road construction and the they are going to take over uptown. Here,s his response to that.
“I have not heard of any major development whatsoever, let alone “corporations” coming to uptown, irrespective of any roadwork being done.”
Hope that helps,
Thanks so much Shaeri for your efforts in the research 🙂
Sad to see so much hatred spewed by the Liberty people and their puppets. Those terrible videos about the chamber president are disgusting. Yes, the council was stupid messing with the right of people to do what they wish with their homes and vacation rentals. But these Liberty people with their hate mongering are showing the ugly side of Sedona to the world.
@ Meghan Love,
I looked for video’s about the Chamber President on the Arizona Liberty website, I could not find any and have not seen any.
I have some thoughts on Jennifer Wesselhoff, the Sedona Chamber president. She has done a FANTASTIC job for the Sedona Chamber. The has gotten a foolish City Council to gift her organization millions in City taxpayer funds with virtually no accountability. She has gotten the City to gift the Chamber Visitor Center about $400,000 per year for the CHAMBER visitors center, where they only recommend Chamber members, many of whom are outside the city. She has made friends with City management, so she gets inside information. She and her organization have gotten so many day trippers to come to Sedona our roads are bumper to bumper. She has even brought in sustainability. Just to let you know, bumper to bumper traffic is sustainable by definition. You may not want to live with it, but it can be sustained. Don’t fall for that con.
I’m running for mayor of the residents. While Ms Wesselhoff has done a fantastic job for the chamber, she and her group have virtually destroyed the residents quality of life. Property values are not as high as they should be. Sedona has lost about 1000 residents over the past few years, while the baby boomers are retiring. She and her group are trying to turn Sedona permanently into a 3RD rate Disneyland.
You did a great job for the Chamber Jennifer, when we get NO on Home Rule and a new city council, we are cutting you off. We are going to take our town back so that residents and tourists can fall in love with Sedona again.
Well written article Shaeri, Your talent for professional writing and research are definitely expressed here. The City and/or Chamber did a great job in selecting you to write their side on the topic of Home Rule. However, like your book, we don’t necessarily need to be told how to think or live our lives. As a self proclaimed Hypnotherapist, Spiritual Councilor, Healer, Drummer, Dancer… I would think that You would take the time to Center Yourself, meditate and think about what You’re not only doing to people’s lives here, but what You’re doing to Mother Earth Herself.
The destruction to our city, roads and trails here are obvious, and encouraged by greed to line people’s pockets. Unless you are also being paid to back the ‘yes’ on Home Rule, I employ you to think hard about what you’re doing. Do you not live within your budget at home, or do you spend more money then you make? Do you not have a savings account, or do you just take out another loan? All that the people who are voting ‘No’ on Home Rule are asking for is better financial control, a good quality of life for the residents, and the protection of the beautiful land we live on.
Here’s something to meditate on: We all get irritated sitting in traffic here, whether it’s coming down the canyon which is backed up to Midgely Bridge, heading into Sedona on 179 with the round-a-bouts, or on 89A heading to the ‘Y’ which is backed up to almost Airport Road. All that should be a 10 minute commute turning into an hour. Now add to that an Emergency Call telling us to ‘Evacuate because of Fire’. It could happen, look at the small towns in California for an example. Lives could be lost.
We only have 3 roads in and out of the City. Now in this scenario, what if only one of those roads was shut down because of fire. We have approx. 10,000 residents so let’s say they left in 5,000 cars. We have many people that work here from out of town so let’s add another 1,000 cars. And we could have as many as 2,000 or more tourist’s cars Who don’t know the area. I come up with a guestimate of approx. 8,000 cars on the road, at once. Add to that emergency vehicles that need the right of way, and all drivers being a bit panicked. Please stop for a minute and think about this.
Of all the many, many traffic studies the City has done, and money spent, I haven’t seen one that included the above scenario in them. Now the City and Chamber want you to vote ‘yes’ on Home Rule saying they have a plan to take traffic through residential streets to bypass the highway. While residents are trying to get out of their streets? Is that the best they can do? Yes it is, because we have no more roads. The logical alternative would be cutting down on traffic. Now I see that there are even more hotel rooms planned for the future to add to the bed tax. Our small city is just Not able to handle this type of insanity, and heads should roll if only one life were to be lost because of their lack of planning.
I’m not writing this to panic anyone, just to open your eyes. We had the highest fire alert in Yavapai and Coconino counties ever this summer. The weather predictions say we can look forward to even hotter and dryer weather in the future. We need to elect and hire people in our city that understand what Health and Welfare of their citizens mean instead of just lining their own pockets. If it’s to late for You to vote ‘No’ on Home Rule and get our city back, then you will have another chance on November 6, when you can vote ‘Yes’ on PBA.
The chamber/city mouth piece Steve, aka Gretchen need not respond to Me here, as you are part of the problem.