Where Do We Go From Here?
by Mayor Rob Adams
Sedona, AZ (August 29m 2011) – The last three years have arguably been the most difficult and challenging times in our City’s history. The most severe economic downturn since the Great Depression was exacerbated by the impacts of the construction on State Route 179. I would venture to say that the “Great Recession” has adversely impacted every citizen and business in Sedona.
From my perspective, there is opportunity in difficult times. As Joseph Campbell has said, “Opportunities to find deeper powers within ourselves come when life seems most challenging.” We have all made adjustments in our lives to adjust to the faltering economy. In many ways, this has given us a different perspective regarding what we need or don’t need or what is important or not important.
The Sedona City government responded to the economic downturn by closely examining and prioritizing how we budget our expenditures. Over an 18-month period beginning in 2008, the City Council and staff cut City expenditures by approximately 30% without eliminating any essential services that provide for the health, safety and welfare of our citizens. We also implemented several actions and programs that will provide long-term sustainable revenue for our City.
Our response to the economic challenge has paid off. The City has consistently balanced its budget during the last three years. Additionally, due to conservative budgeting and stronger than anticipated revenue, the City realized over $1,000,000 in savings in the last fiscal year. The savings account in our General Fund is over 100% of our annual expenditures. Simply put, we are a leaner, more efficient government with a very healthy balance sheet.
Now that we have weathered the storm, the question arises, where do we go from here? We have reduced our government expenditures in response to the economic downturn, but we must continue to look for options to enhance our revenue. Considering that we have over $10,000,000 in our savings account in the General Fund should determine if we want to put a portion of this money to use for the public benefit. I would like to make a couple of investment suggestions for your consideration.
Sedona resident Steve Douglas has proposed the idea of promoting Sedona as a Center for Education of the Arts. Instead of trying to copy other arts destinations like Santa Fe, we should create our own model. Under this model, masters in the various art genres such as visual, graphic, culinary and performing arts would be contracted to give multi-day seminars. Our new Performing Arts Center, the various school facilities and the Sedona Arts Center could be ideal host locations. These seminars could also be available to Sedona area residents at a reduced cost. Sedona has the potential to become the premier destination for Arts Education in the United States.
Another idea is to develop an outdoor event venue. The former Cultural Park originated from community support of such a facility. Unfortunately, the future of the Cultural Park is unclear and the time has come to look for alternatives. When looking for an alternative site, issues of parking, noise, traffic and light pollution need to be considered. With that in mind, the Wastewater Plant may offer the best opportunity for an outdoor venue. The City has been working on alternative methods for disposal of our wastewater for several years. We are close to making a decision that could possibly free up approximately 300 acres that are presently being used to sprinkle our wastewater. This site is already owned by the City, would mitigate concerns about traffic, noise and light pollution and would be much more easily engineered and developed than a location within our City limits. The potential for Sedona to become a major event destination is limitless. Consider the success that Telluride has achieved.
Finally, many Sedona residents have expressed a desire for a community “heart” or center, as well as public access to Oak Creek. Several years ago, the Sedona Women organization supported a visionary idea for a “Heart of Sedona” in the Tlaquepaque, Los Abrigados and Brewer Road area. This idea was largely dependent on the successful purchase and development of the former Forest Service headquarters property by Los Abrigados. Unfortunately, the development has failed and the future of the property is uncertain. The dramatic decline in real estate prices may provide our community with the opportunity to obtain creek front property at a bargain price to fulfill this dream. Imagine a City park with permanent access to Oak Creek for the benefit and enjoyment of our citizens and visitors. It could be a crown jewel in Sedona.
Eleanor Roosevelt once said, “You must do the thing you think you cannot do.” Is this the time that we seize the opportunity?
The views that I am expressing are my personal opinions and not necessarily the opinion or position of the City of Sedona or the City Council.
Rob Adams, Mayor
City of Sedona