By Nancy Robb Dunst, Sedona Resident
(August 15, 2013)
The Sedona City Council and Staff have eliminated the arts commission in their 4-3 vote on August 14th. Their arguments were, it was not effective, not productive, had high turnover, took up to much staff time, city money and they wanted to get around the open meeting law. They never completely identified the problems, and how they might resolve them; nor even asked the public what they thought. And never at anytime did staff ask the art commissioners for discussion or input. They just told them, this is the way it was and threw the “Baby out with the Bathwater”. They apparently don’t believe in reuse and recycle.
And here is the problem with that. When a room full of 60 people stand up (except 3) to keep the Sedona Arts Commission, and Council doesn’t listen to us, we all turn away, in regret. They have just lost 60 of their most valuable volunteers. When pillars of the arts community, like John Soderberg, Ruth & Henry Waddell and Joella Jean Mahoney come to speak about the importance of an arts commission, its because these people have been in the arts business for over a total of 150 years, and they know this subject well. So when the Council doesn’t listen to them, we all turn away, embarrassed. This vote has not only changed the structure of the City by pulling up its floor boards, but it will alienate much of the arts and artists community deep in its belly and soul.
Nancy Robb Dunst
Nancy is right on. The citizens serving on the Arts & Culture Commission have a history of creative strategic, imaginative plans. Many of these were approved by past Councils and you and I are the beneficiaries of those improvements. At last month’s Arts “listening session”, held at the Library, and sponsored by Council, Nancy Dunst reiterated a long list of impressive A & C. Commission’s achievements. At that same “listening session” half of the speakers used their time to plead with the Council to keep the Arts & Culture Commission and work on ways to make it even better. No one at that meeting expressed interest in eliminating it.
At last Wednesday’s City Council meeting, where this subject was on the agenda, approximately 30 people spoke in support of keeping our commissions, especially the A & C. Commission, while only four people said it was OK to end them. Clearly these opinions didn’t influence the Council majority.
That makes it particularly unsettling that primary element in the city staff’s substitute plan for the Arts & Culture Commission is more “listening sessions”. Our Council majority on Wednesday made it plain again that while they will ‘listen’ to the public it doesn’t matter to them what the public says when the public disagrees with their opinion. These councilors do what they want to do even if it is not what the public wants them to f do..
The staff plan for replacing our commissions has another part and it is demeaning to us. Staff’s plan establishes a committee to meet once a year to look at what everyone had said it wanted the government to do, in or out of listening sessions. In other words, the committee is to look at our big wish list and from it make a short wish list. This committee making the short list will be lead by staff and will be composed of staff members and citizens but only citizens selected by staff can participate.These will be closed meetings (no more open meetings means we can’t sit and watch). Staff will present this final short wish list to our Council. Council will chose suggestions from the short list and then direct staff to come up with a plan to do them.
Staff is calling this program the “Citizen Engagement Program” but it is not so. It is a Staff Engagement /Citizen Disengagement Program.
The public does not have to accept this demotion of its role in government. Arizona law protects us if we want to challenge it.
Paul is 1000% correct in his take! Only other issue is this all was done to defy the ARS Open Meeting Laws – as was clearly stated by Council. If transparency is the name of the game than how come our council can’t play by that rule? Reminds me of Oz Care …. opps, I mean Obama Care.