By Michael Wright
Sedona AZ — I am rather recent arrival in Sedona so Home Rule is new to me. In deciding how to vote a number of comments on Next Door (pro and con) have been very helpful. I appreciate the passionate, and mostly civil, commentary. There is no reason anyone else should care how I reached my decision but I share it in the spirit of “for what it’s worth.”
While small, Sedona is a complicated place with a slowly diminishing resident population and out-of-control tourism (which seems to be the one universal point of agreement). On arrival I was surprised how little control either the residents or the city government has over the forces impacting us. The State, the Forest Service, corporate prompters of destructive “adventure” tourism and of course the overall state of the economy all have the ability to frustrate many of our preferred options. I considered my Home Rule vote in light of the reality that we are 9,000+ souls in a life boat in a sea of 3- 5 million tourists.
This reality requires an otherwise “small town” to make complex decisions with huge short and long term impacts on us and the environment in which we live. In developing a budget, civic leaders have to weigh emergency actions vs long term investments. They need to predict the future as best they can while retaining the capacity to react to the unexpected (covid? STR?). They need to commission studies and compare options which requires an ongoing engagement between Council and city staff and the community. It requires reading vast number of studies and budgets and continual dialogue between city staff and the Mayor and Council. Most important to my thinking is this is not a once every year or every two year process…it is a constant ebb and flow, change and adjustment.
Those urging a No vote apparently feel our elected leaders have seriously fallen down on civic engagement, are not listening to “the community” or have been captured by corporate interests. These concerns appear to be a major driver of the desire to constrain the flexibility of the Mayor and Council and to shrink the city budget and staff. The No proponents state that with Home Rule, once elected, the Mayor and Council escape further accountability.
The proponents of a No vote also believe the Mayor and Council are spending lavishly or for projects with which these voters disagree. They argue that eliminating Home Rule will require that the Mayor and Council adhere to a more modest 1988-based budget and return to the voters if they want to exceed those constraints. They state that spending above those constraints can be addressed by future votes through a Permanent Base Adjustment (PBA) or one-time override (a “voter referendum”) which will create greater Council accountability. I believe, but am not sure, that a supplemental budget vote can only happen once every two years. It is unclear to me whether voters will have to vote all or nothing or could vote a la carte: project-by-project.
Given this reality there are two primary concerns that I weigh in making my decision on Home Rule: practicality and accountability.
Practicality: Beyond a certain size you can not run any complex enterprise, be it a business, an organization or a government, without extensive planning and understanding how the pieces of a puzzle of running a city fit together. Major infrastructure projects take multiple years to plan, budget, fund, etc. At what stage in project development would the supplement budget vote take place—too soon and you may not know enough, too late and much costs might be incurred before rejection. My biggest concern is the simple impracticality of voters seeking to micromanage a complex multimillion dollar enterprise through a process which is, sadly, more appropriate in a small New England village or Sedona in the past.
Accountability: The Council and Mayor are elected by the voters and thereafter all their votes are public—they are and remain accountable to us, the voters. If they ignore the concerns of a majority of the citizens, that appears in the public record and any one of them can be defeated at the next election. Anyone one of them can be queried about why and investigated on what might have unduly influenced their votes. I will undoubtedly disagree with some things that any one Council member supports—-if it is a major disagreement or happens too often they will lose my vote when they stand for reelection. The public nature of the votes and the ballot is the time-honored mechanism for accountability. To assert that we have no voice under Home Rule simple ignores the multiple on-going ways voters can access the Council and Mayor.
I also fail to see how elimination of Home Rule and creation of “supplemental referendum process” provides greater accountability. My understanding is that only about a third of Sedona’s eligible voters do so. The ballot is secret, as it should be, so we don’t know who voted and for what. We don’t know who might have influenced them or how much the voters actually investigated some or all of the proposed budget items. I simply don’t understand how No proponents trust their fellow voters to make complex long-term budget and financial choices but do not trust them to select and delegate to Mayor and Council overseeing the day-to-day management of the city and it’s budget.
There are some projects and priorities of the Mayor, the Council and city staff which I might like to weed out of the budget. Others certainly have their own list of weeds. However, voting No on Home Rule is akin to weeding the garden with a bulldozer.
I am voting YES on Home Rule.
Michael, thank you for your piece. You state that you’re fairly new to Sedona and Arizona’s Home Rule concept. Because of that, you are probably unaware of the city council’s and city’s long history of dismissing the concerns of residents, using scare tactics to influence past Home Rule elections, and the city council’s tendency to pass the buck (“it’s not us – we have no control because of the city manager form of government!”).
Unfortunately, past elections have not offered us good slate of alternative candidates. We do have some good options in this election but even if every single one of them is elected, that doesn’t mean we can stop the Tourism freight train that the incumbents and city manager are so committed to running through our little town. And, unfortunately, some of the activities that are in progress, such as the Uptown parking garage, are so destructive that we need to put the brakes on immediately.
Your assumptions about how the overrides or Permanent Base Adjustment don’t account for the fact that these solutions are part of the law and can be made to work. Will it be easy? No, it will require some work on the part of the city leadership. But if the city actually makes a sincere effort to involve residents in the discussion, they may find there’s a lot of smart, competent help to get through the process. There are a lot of well-educated, high-level corporate retirees in Sedona who could contribute to meaningful discussions about new priorities and even help lead the process. But for too many years they have been neglected, ignored or dismissed.
I voted No on Home Rule on my early voting ballot not because I want austerity but because — after a lot of thought about the law and what it can and cannot do — I realized that my No vote is only way I have a snowball’s chance of having my voice heard by this city and this city council. They have proven to me over the past decade that they cannot and will not do anything other than support growth in Tourism or “solutions” that only mitigate the Tourism impacts they have created.
Please be sure to read the editorial in the Red Rock News from July 22: http://www.redrocknews.com/2022/07/22/massive-city-budget-exposes-sedona-city-councils-errors/
This editorial highlights many, although not all, of the reasons people in this community are fed up and are voting No on Home Rule. What is most astonishing about this editorial is that it was written by someone who has spent most of his career supporting most of the city council and city leadership’s actions. The fact that he wrote the piece in advance of this election speaks volumes.
Kevin P exactly HOW has the City Council not listened to you? What were you looking for that you were ignored? Perhaps it’s to deduce traffic on State Highways that we have no control of? Keep in mind that if Home Rule fails all traffic flow mitigation will no longer be funded. Maybe it’s for more control of State Imposed short-term rentals which is a goal we ARE working towards? Are you concerned about paying money to the CoC when we have entirely defunded destination marketing?
As usual Scott the solutions to the traffic problems you and city council have created through your no bid contract with the chamber are not the answer. To spend 60 million dollars on a transit system that would require the citizens to take a shuttle every time we wish to take a hike is crazy. Scott there is nothing about group sales that is not destination marketing. You need to face the truth and can’t be trusted. No trust no home rule.
I have lived and worked in Sedona for twenty years. You made the right decision to vote yes for Home Rule. Without Home Rule our money goes to Phoenix for distant politicians who will never listen to us, yet they will be spending our money in Sedona and elsewhere. We want to keep our money in Sedona. The aspect of this issue that is most perplexing is that many of the people who vote No on home rule believe in less government control, yet they want bigger government to control our money. Stupidity is very scary!
You are absolutely right. What a bunch of nincompoops. They scream for less government control yet they want to create another level of bureaucracy between us and our money. They are a bunch of disgruntled people jealous because they have no power over the city government. All they could do is complain and complain. If they want a say in things they should participate in the city government by joining committees. All they could do is cast aspersions and throw rocks. Grow up!
More false information from people that don’t know a thing about home rule. A no on home rule does not mean the money goes to Phoenix. It stays in Sedona and the people can vote on how they which projects they want to support through the annual override. Give the power back to the people. Vote no on home rule.
An annual override? Why bother? The council does not need a public vote to approve its own budget so why should we need one to approve anything over it? Power to the people? Give back, what? Something the people never had anyway?
The people exert their power when they vote for the elected official they chose to represent them. No need to sit at the bottom of the table scrambling for crumbs.
That is the most preposterous bunch of nonsense I have ever read. You are one who believes the citizens have no rights. Why bother? We do not elect officials to do what ever they want without a voice from the people. We elect then to represent us and to listen to the people. To say there is no government waste is ignorant.
Why don’t you start creating another Move on .org piece.
Maybe you can get at least 2k this time to sign this time out of 10k residents Face it your views are only held by a minority in town. The only thing I’ve heard you do these past 15 years is COMPLAIN.. You need a new hobby.
The only people that vote in line with the city are the ones benefting from the current system. In other words are bought and paid for by the city of Sedona. Vote buying with public taxes. Never mind whats right or wrong as long as I get mine.
You said…generally speaking “that the only ones voting for the present council are the one benefiting from it”
Wrong again and wrong the last 15 years of bellyaching.
So your saying the only ones that vote Yes on home rule somehow havethier hands in the city’s pocket !!!! Your crazy…. Your a poor loser and complainer.. You love to make stuff up as well when your backed up against the wall..
Go back to SE where the 3 people that post over there love your nonsense.
I thank God for citizens like Dana who aren’t afraid to expose those who are addicted to government money, power, and stupidity.
Remember Mayor Sandy saying something to the effect of “I don’t do anything as Mayor. I just sit back and let the City Manager run things.” This is the level of incompetence and outright stupidity that needs to be exposed.
Number one, a town of 9k+ does not need a City Manager. This unelected official does not have the citizens best interest in mind, but rather panders to the goals of the UN Agenda 2030.
Number two, a city the size of ours does not need a multi-million budget where most of it is given away to the Chamber, developers and does not address the needs of the city when it comes to affordable workforce housing. With a budget so large why give away money to the Chamber when Sedona workers are nearly homeless? I just don’t get it.
Number 3, there is too much power in the hands of too few bureaucrats under the direction of home rule.The Council does not listen, does not care about the citizens of Sedona.
This city is ripe for change, and we’ll get that change = one way or another.
You are so right. Sedona was founded on lies and has never cared about the people. I have been here since 1993 and have witnessed the corruption get worse year after year. This city should disincorporate.
Both you and JJ think our city government is motivated by greed and a lust for power. I can’t imagine that being so. They are truly caring individuals. It’s just that they ain’t optimizing our city. They cannot give more than they are able to as defined by their intelligence and imagination.These council members are not power crazed, greedy and arrogant, though there have been council meetings where the members made people wait for hours before getting to the reason the people were there. But you guys with the attack, attack, attack mentality, it’s wearing thin. If anyone has evidence the council bribes people or treats the city’s money like their own money, then get the story to the press and the police. Confusing nefarious intent with incompetency, is a common mistake. There is a distinction.