Sedona Elections: The following is a Sedona.biz interview with Sedona City Council candidate Kurt Gehlbach. All candidates have been invited to share their platforms with Sedona.biz by answering election-specific questions. The following are the questions and responses:
Mayoral Candidate Questions
- What office are you running for?
Mayor of Sedona – WWW.KurtforSedona.Com
- Why are you running?
Sedona needs an ambitious administrator, Kurt Gehlbach, who understands leadership is a social process which is more about the people working collectively to achieve the results together. A leader with self-awareness, integrity and the respect of city employees and residents alike. A leader able to communicate and delegate while influencing people through transparent logical, emotional, and cooperative appeals. I’ve spent a lifetime preparing to lead Sedona and as the mayor of Sedona every voice will be heard as a result of resident participatory programs intended to engage all residents as we collectively research every issue graciously creating the solutions for our future.
- How long have you lived in Sedona?
26 years ago Sedona called me home after spending my childhood in Sedona through cultivated relationships created by my Grandfather’s historic ceramic industry, La Solana Pottery, which relocated in 1954 from Laguna Beach, CA to Scottsdale, AZ after awarded recognition for their Solana Ware. I spent early childhood in the Acadia District of Phoenix and would accompany my Father when he personally delivered ceramics to the Artists of Sedona and others in northern Arizona. My introduction to Sedona was in the 1960’s when the land was archaic amongst unmatched majestic red rocks. An introduction that lasted a lifetime full of fond memories like the Old Miner and his Donkey in uptown sharing stories of his gold mine at the top of the mountains up Oak Creek Canyon, while handing me a nugget of fools gold I treasured for many years.
- When did you decide to get involved politically?
Many years ago I spoke with our Mayor, Rob Adams, regarding accomplishments he was achieving as the mayor and his thoughts on Sedona’s future. We spoke of the importance of our newly established Sewage Treatment Plant and the relevance of land, water and agricultural conservation. I shared my interests and thoughts for Sedona’s future and my belief Sedona is a destination for guiding and educating others while protecting our resources through establishing a well planned future for our community. I continued with my futuristic mindset describing my vision of Sedona providing for herself and the Village of Oak Creek while generating extensive earnings through guiding and educating tourism. When I asked his thoughts I was offered a very important response, “strive for further involvement and education within the structured politics of the city allowing for a better understanding of how to approach your vision for our future as a community”. I honored his advice and initiated involvement within city committee’s and commission. Over the last 7 years I’ve personally witnessed the suppression of the “Voice Of The People” while sitting on the Historical Preservation Commission, 2016/17 Fiscal Year Budgeting Committee and endless conversations with you, the resident of Sedona. It was through the constant deception and untruthful actions witnessed among our elected officials, city management and city employees that prompted me to make change within our local government.
- What do you believe are your qualifications for office?
Over 26 years my proven devotion to Sedona and her residents is unrivaled with a lifetime of experience, education, knowledge and skill-sets to lead Sedona into a new dynamic course in time. I’ll successfully surpass all expectations piloting Sedona with the intellect to create a framework for Sedona’s future models and programs all functioning in unison with the intent to protect Sedona’s small town atmosphere, her TownFolks chosen way of life and life resources for generations to come. The answer to Question 2 also describes my qualifications.
- What have you accomplished in serving the community?
Sedona City Government;
- 1997/2004 Sedona Fire Department, Firefighter/EMT
- 2014/Current Citizen Resident Survey’s (When Available)
- 2015/Current Vice-Chair, Sedona Historical Preservation Commission
- 2016/2017 Sedona Fiscal Year Budgeting Committee
- 2017 Citizen Engagement
- 2020 & 2022 Mayoral Candidate
Sedona Personal Commitments;
- 1997/2001 Large Events Consultant, Boynton Canyon’s The Legends Ranch
- 1997/2008 Sedona Forte Inc. (Sedona Residential Development)
- 1997/Current Sedona Residential Real Estate, www.SedonaResidential.com
- 2004/2009 Concord Massachusetts Residential Real Estate
- 2009/2019 Resident Long Term Housing Support
- 2014/2017 Investigated organizations malfeasance, (Investigation Current)
- 2017/Current Initiated U.S. Federal Investigation (USDHS)
- 2019/2021 Investigated organizations malfeasance within vacation real estate
- What do you think is better? Electing people who have served for years in office, committees, etc.? Or electing a candidate that may be politically inexperienced but brings new ideas to the table?
If an inexperienced candidate becomes the mayor our city will retrogress as the newly appointed mayor spends the first year acclimating him or herself to the issues, gaining respect among city management and employees, inspiring community, etc. Inexperience is another word for incompetence which is exactly what we’ve been experiencing through our elected officials over the last 6 years. Why would we continue in our current declining direction with another incompetent mayor?
I believe in electing leaders who’ve proven themselves over years of dedication through personal actions. A leader who’s given of their own time educating themselves on the method of operation within our city government. A leader who possesses a new dynamic approach with enough political experience and knowledge to advance Sedona. A leader who truly understands his/her responsibilities of hearing, responding to and protecting the rights of the people. A leader who is, “By The People For The People”.
- What are the main challenges you see Sedona facing and how would you address them? Please include the issue of homelessness and panhandling at shopping centers, etc.
A Poll was taken prior to our Aug. 4, 2020 elections with the following results;
Traffic and Transit, still popular with the most commentary. Overwhelming support for electric transit along all major corridors. Residents continue to question the uncertain design of “Sedona in Motion”.
Workforce Housing, Residents agree regarding emphasis on Hardship Housing Protection.
Short Term Rentals needs regulatory authority to limit the impact of investor developed short term rentals.
Tourism, Residents concerned for the continued promotion of Sedona and the potential number of new hotel rooms and automobiles to be added.
Arts and Culture, Residents would like to see increased financial support for our Art community & promotion through local Art festivals, etc.
Zoning and Budget, Environmental Stewardship and Economic Diversity – Residents desiring to be fully engaged in all future decisions regarding the future of Sedona..
In 2022 Nothing Changed!
Transportation was and still is a very serious issue with no analytical design like implementing a 7 stage color coded system with electric transit (ART) as the main system intended to park and guide tourism through a comprehensive hop-on hop-off model offering memorable and educational experiences. A system that includes relationships with other licensed transportation companies in Sedona.
Workforce Housing was and still is a very serious issue effecting the livelihood of most of our workforce and every business owner within Sedona. Business owners are offering bonuses and creating housing in other towns for their employees in order to retain them. Just this last May 31st I was invited to a subdivision forum for candidates where I provided local desserts, tea and coffee. The local business could not locate an employee to do the set-up. I offered $150.00 for three hours of their time and still no one was available.
Short Term Rentals was and still is a very serious issue in Sedona needing regulatory authority to limit the impact of investor developed short term rentals. I’m also aware of a city code which has been in place for years needing further legal discussions while exploring the possibilities of enforcement. My intent is to legally regulate the shot term rentals while taking care of our own residents economic needs.
Tourism will always travel to and through Sedona with annual averages between 3.5 and 4 million tourists. Our responsibility as “Stewards of Sedona” is to create the experience for each person enabling their open heart to accept the gifts Sedona offers. It’s our responsibility to make sure every Tourist experience is without hindrances enabling them to achieve whatever there heart desires. It is also our responsibility to guide and educate tourism throughout our outstanding city ensuring Sedona’s future and that our chosen way of life is restored and respected throughout generations forthcoming.
Arts and Culture has been neglected incurring a decline within the Arts community. A decline that over the years eliminated Artists creating live within their exclusive shops working on artistic pieces while engaging and sharing with tourism and locals as they meandering through. A decline promoting our local Artist through festivals, art shows and most importantly worldwide exposure. My “Artist Unite” model honors our Artists through ongoing festivals, promotional events, world artists day, city wide mural programs and so much more engaging Sedona’s Artists within daily tourist activities and community.
Zoning and Budget the residents requested affirmation they would be included in all future discussions. I’ve taken steps to ensure the voice of the people through Resident Participatory Programs (RPP) creating the solutions for the future of Sedona. These programs encourage accountability and transparency within our government as residents of Sedona engaged within all future decisions for the city. I’ll be recruiting and leading all residents to be apart of all decisions of the future always ensuring Open Meeting Laws are upheld though appropriate visual, sound and seating for all to hear and engage within discussions through a voter App designed for community participation.
Environmental Stewardship is the reason behind the “whole sustainable models” I’m creating to ensure ecological conservancy through community supported agriculture programs (CSA). All the things we need to survive, such as food, water, air, and shelter, come from natural resources. Natural resources are materials and substances that occur naturally and can be used for economic gain. They include minerals, forests, fertile land, and water. Some natural resources, such as soil and water, are essential for the existence of life. Refer to www.kurtforsedona.com and click on the Sedona Gardens and Sedona Farms page for further information. Another example for the protection of our environment is to establish a fully electric 7 stage color coded transportation system designed to eliminate automobiles, all terrain vehicles, etc. as we guide and educate tourism. Refer to my website Transportation page for further information.
Economic Diversity Economically diverse models increase regional resiliency and stability designed to perform in unison through a broad range of economic activities. All relying on public and tourism revenue and employment sources consecutively improving cross-industry cooperation and mutual benefit, productivity rates, and the health of the local labor market.
Home-free & Panhandlers must be addressed through solutions benefiting the individual and the city of Sedona. All models and programs I’ve created instill within community to help others in need by welcoming them into and to be apart of Sedona’s future through gainful employment and housing. In other words, Sedona will offer gainful employment, housing and education requiring home-free, panhandlers, etc. to become apart of and work with community.
Ask yourself, What is livelihood?
Livelihood is defined as ‘a means of securing the necessities of life’.
It is a vital part of the work that we do to secure a ‘holistic’ solution to health.
The following is 1 example of 3 structures as part of a comprehensive tourist incentivized 7 stage color coded transportation model. 1 of 3 tourist incentivized park and ride structures intended to securely park large numbers of automobiles outside of the city and within resort parking. Through ongoing education and collaboration with the Chamber of Commerce, Sedona small businesses, and resort management all tourism will successfully engage in Sedona’s fully interactive and educational system, Sedona Septennial Transport.
The largest of three models, as a private corporation, intended to lease 265.60 acres of city owned land east of and across from the Sedona Sewage Treatment Plant. Intended to sustain food resources through Sedona’s community supported agricultural program (CSA), Sedona Farms and Sedona Gardens. Two other incentivized park and ride programs are intended to be located at the Forest Service information center on 179 south of the Village of Oak Creek and north in Oak Creek Canyon.
We are at a crossroad needing drastic change by the way of a leader (mayor) with the experiences, knowledge, skill-sets and relationships to lead Sedona into a new dynamic future, a future made of community participatory intelligent decisions through in-depth research. When considering the worldwide continued declines of all resources we recognize a serious indicator that logical decisions must be made to protect our viability through models fashioned to formulate a framework designed to function in unison for the future preservation of Sedona. A formulation of models designed to resurrect Sedona, reestablish and protect our way of life while guiding and educating tourism.
- Are Short Term Rentals (Airbnb type rentals) beneficial or detrimental to the community? Should they be licensed, limited or eliminated? As a member of the city council how would you address the issue?
Short term rentals are Detrimental to the community. First I would need to research the legalities regarding city codes which have been in place for years to see if we can enforce them. If yes, we would need to enforce the code for everyone placing us as a community in a position of taking care of our own residents using AirBnb for personal economic security. If no, I’ll address our community within resident participatory programs designed to create solutions even if it means bringing every town and city in Arizona together to come against AirBnb and rebuild our future.
- Do you support the city’s current SIM (Sedona in Motion) initiatives and plans for infrastructure improvements? Why or why not?
No, Sedona in Motion has and continues to fail through continued illogical decisions. If there’s a real plan in place our city government would be following that plan instead of reaching for a few buses here (not electric), a parking lot over there and how about that church parking too! When reviewing the forest road extension to 89A and the 3rd roundabout with the intended transportation hub I cringed and wondered, what idiots thought of this?? The algorithms used to show the demonstration were set to show all vehicles moving through all 3 roundabouts with no problem. When I asked, Did you consider human behavior when working with the algorithms their comment was, we can’t do that. So I asked, what do you think will happen when you interject human behavior into your program? He just looked at me – so I replied, Human behavior already has issues getting through 2 roundabouts so you know damn well a third creates an even greater disaster regarding our continued traffic issue. He had no comment!
- What should the city do to address the issue of affordable housing, especially for people working in businesses in Sedona?
It really is a terrible thing when you’re having lunch and next to you is the owner of the restaurant and her friend who also owns a business in town having conversation throughout their entire lunch about how they can not find housing for their employees and bought property in rimrock to accommodate and retain them.
First and foremost, condensed development is not the answer to our housing situation. I like to step back and take a look at preventative measures while finding the solutions. For example, if I can enforce the city code of no 30 day or less short term rentals I will succeed in creating long term inventory with competitive rental rates. The city should also be identifying property suitable for workforce housing and purchase these properties at fair market value. I’ve spoken with a few of our Sedona police officer’s asking them what they would like. One response was, I’d love to have a condo! 6 words from this officer and my mind instantly created a small cluster of 4 to 6 condos on one property housing a teacher, firefighter, police and our workforce. This is also a very good example of why the resident participatory program is paramount to successfully guiding Sedona into her and our future.
- What is the role of the Chamber of Commerce and Tourism Bureau in the community?
Currently they have to much control! No where throughout the United States does any other Chamber of Commerce or Tourism Bureau have the role Sedona’s Chamber of Commerce and Tourism Bureau has currently. Gifting practices have been legally questioned through discrepancies found by the Arizona Attorney Generals Office and there’s a very questionable “Slush Fund” that needs to be addressed and more… My intent is to defund the Chamber of Commerce and reestablish their responsibilities and the responsibilities of the Tourism Bureau as an organization of business owners and entrepreneurs who promote the interests of local businesses within our community. Our Chamber of Commerce will also continue providing access to valuable resources, discounts and relationships that help businesses save money and market their products. I believe it is pinnacle to prepare for the possibility of future economic hardships amongst our small businesses providing financial hardship subsidies.
- Sedona’s economy is primarily based on tourism. How should it be managed to benefit both residents and visitors?
I’ve researched and developed models designed to work in unison incentivizing tourism to be apart of our future as we guide, educate and excite everyone engaging within Sedona’s futuristic designs. For example, Sedona Gardens, Sedona Farms, Sedona Septennial Transport – 7 Stage color coded transportation system, Sedona History Walk, Sedona Murals Walk and so much more guiding tourism, eliminating automobiles, OHV’s, AirBnb’s, as we together resurrect Sedona and our continued way of life. Refer to Www.KurtforSedona.com for continued descriptions.
- What approach can the city take in mitigating the impact of ATV’s and OHV’s on city streets and forest roads?
Most are unaware that the Resident 2021/2022 Fiscal Year Budgeting Committee, made up of brilliant minds, found discrepancies regarding gifting practices between the city of Sedona and chamber of commerce. The Budgeting Committee offered the information to the Arizona Attorney General’s Office who did investigate and found questionable (legal) gifting practices being violated. The Budgeting Committee also recommended to our mayor and city council to impose a moratorium on all ATV’s and OHV’s declining all future business license applications and all current licensing when up for renewal. Our residents were ignored once again! I applied for the Resident 2022/2023 Fiscal Year Budgeting Committee and all who applied received a follow up email indicating there will be NO Resident 2022/2023 Fiscal Year Budgeting Committee this year…. Voice of the People shut down again! My intent is to continue creating the relationships needed to collaboratively overcome and hopefully eliminate all vehicles threatening to our environment.
- Do you support the city’s Sustainable Tourism Plan?
Looking back at election 2020, I proposed to all elected officials and the residents of Sedona that now is the opportune time to reevaluate Sedona’s Community Plan, Sedona in Motion and others to also include budget talks with the intent to cut the budget. Two years later Sedona is in worsening conditions as our elected officials continue making illogical choices with a 2021 budget of almost 65 million to a 2022/23 budget of almost 113 million. Currently our elected officials are pushing through transportation guesswork with absolutely no comprehensive plan in place. Let’s buy a few busses here, hybrid not electric, and maybe parking over there and while we are at it there’s a church parking lot we can use for Cathedral’s trail… Currently any bus will help, but don’t be fooled! Sedona’s decline over the last few years is no accident and the sole responsibility of elected officials making implausible decisions while neglecting their responsibilities to hear and engage the voice of people. We The People have and continue to witness the elimination of Citizen Engagement programs like the 2022/2023 Resident Budgeting Committee. I’ve personally sat on the Historical Preservation Commission for the last 7 years witnessing the elimination of information from future plans misleading the commissioners and residents of Sedona. For example, the Brewer Road Historical Park restoration project which we all know the city intended to use for the entirety of the transportation hub and not for the TownFolk of Sedona until the residents stood up along with the Historical Preservation Commissioners and maintained our viewpoint.
“In all places, a community’s livelihood, food and health are tightly interconnected.”
Looking ahead we must resurrect our chosen continued way of life while guiding and educating tourism. Governing Sedona though logic, common sense and the relationships needed to create consensus among Sedona’s residents and elected officials. I’ve created models/programs for the future of Sedona such as bipartisan resident participatory programs ensuring the voice of the people will be heard as we research together developing alongside one another creating for Sedona’s future and the future of generations to come.
- Do you support the city’s Climate Action Plan?
It’s not that I don’t support climate action plans, as I mentioned within an earlier question Sedona in Motion, Sedona’s Climate Action Plan, etc. must all be reevaluated through resident participatory programs and reestablished to work in unison with every model designed for our current residents and future generations of Sedona. I also mentioned a template designed to bring all models and programs together working in unison successfully guiding tourism all throughout our city educating them on sustainable projects for the future.
- Do you oppose or support voter approval of the Alternative Limitation Expenditure (Home Rule) which is also on the ballot for renewal August 2nd. Why or why not?
When educating myself on this subject I find information always being neglected from whatever source I’m reading through. Thankfully our community helps fill in the missing pieces!
From my current understanding if we choose to appose home rule all future decision making is placed in the hands of the County to include the elimination of to many resident services. If this is the case, our Resident status will be threatened once again through the continued elimination of services, etc. Not to mention, all the models and programs I’m designing would now be scrutinized by others unrelated to our future success as a community. I’m currently standing by for a call from an Attorney who I trust will offer me correct in depth information on Home Rule.
So lets review a bit and go back four years ago when we knew 79 of 91 cities and towns in Arizona have adopted an alternative to the state-imposed expenditure limit. Of those 79, 28 are managed under a permanent base adjustment, which is different from Home Rule. These include larger cities such as Tucson, Scottsdale and Glendale, as well as smaller communities like Cottonwood, Clarkdale and Fountain Hills.
According to the state, a city can permanently adjust its base limit with voter approval. The state will use the adjustment to calculate the constitutional expenditure limitation beginning with the next fiscal year following the fiscal year that voters approved the adjustment. The adjustments will apply to future years, but voters can adopt additional adjustments.
The last time Home Rule was up for discussions Councilman John Currivan suggested council take this route and that staff come back at the next meeting with a presentation on this alternative. He said that 28 cities using it shows that permanent base adjustment is not some “far-out idea.” “The advantage is, you don’t have to go back every four years like what we’re going through right now,” he said. “The base adjustment, if it continues to work for a city, never needs to be renewed. But if it doesn’t work, it can always be adjusted again.” Az Constitution Article IX 520(6) Allows city/town to permanent adjust its base limit with voter approval.
- There are a few parcels of land remaining in Sedona suited for a high-end resorts and/or hotels. Do you believe the city should oppose any being built or permit them to be built with limitations on size, design, etc.?
I believe the city should appose the building of additional resorts and consider establishing workforce housing, revive our educational system, create additional parks, etc. to bring balance back to our community.
- Where do you see Sedona and the Verde Valley ten years from now?
I envision Sedona’s residents using their brilliant minds as we collectively make logical choices for the future of our beloved Sedona. I envision our community collaboratively creating templates and models designed to completely support Sedona and the Verde Valley through relationships created with all agricultural farmers, cattle ranchers, etc. I foresee Sedona and her TownFolk loving and embracing the opportunity to take back our chosen way of life while guiding and educating tourism throughout Sedona.
Sedona’s decline over the last few years is no accident and the sole responsibility of Sedona’s elected officials making illogical decisions while neglecting their responsibilities to hear, engage and respond to the voice of the people. Sedona’s residents must set aside party loyalties and unite using our brilliant logical minds and common sense to vote in the only candidate with the proven courage, character, experience, knowledge and determination to lead our new dynamic government,
“By The People, For The People.” Take back Sedona, Vote Kurt Gehlbach!!