By Henry Twombly
(June 12, 2018)
Originally I wrote about the three main industries – tourism (the Chamber), real estate/development, and construction – that run Sedona politics and policies from behind the scenes. These vested interests are aided and abetted by the Sedona Red Rock News, which serves to promote and justify their pro-growth, make-us-rich agenda. One of our web-zines that are the alternative sources of news dubbed these powerful groups as “the Three Wizards.” (I briefly digress to acknowledge and honor the Sedona Eye and Sedona Biz for serving as the vox populi forums, where residents can express their opinions and debate a variety of issues.)
As true of all levels of government most everywhere, business mostly and some special interests infiltrate and eventually take over the government(s) who are supposedly representing their residents/citizens. Then these interests ignore that duty and primarily legislate for their own benefit, which they shrewdly define and promote as “the greater good.” So it’s not surprising that this has happened here in Sedona. What is surprising for me personally is that it took me so long (only just 6 months ago) to identity a fourth wizard.
Our city government colludes with the other wizards to advance the pro-growth agenda. Just a few examples…The City gives the Chamber approximately $2.5 million annually and has ceded some of its executive power to the Chamber by allowing it to jointly decide how to spend this money on “product development.” The City has recently bought the million-dollar 401 Jordan property for the Chamber which, of course, benefits the real estate/developers as well. Furthermore this latter wizard received windfalls, when the City bought the Sinagua property for $850,000 (when assessed at only $775,000) and the Brewer Rd. property for $650,000 (when assessed at only $520,000). Now the City wants to rehab the current structures and build a park. Obviously this is a benefit for the construction industry, not to mention this wizard will make millions on all the proposed traffic improvements.
City government itself reminds me of the 1958 movie, The Blob, in which an alien organism devours everything in its path, becoming larger, redder and more aggressive. Like any bureaucracy, it seeks to grow and feed/benefit itself. Employees are well-paid and have great benefits. Some enjoy perks like their own cars and free lunches at fancy restaurants. But more mind-boggling is the question: Why does the City outsource so much work when employees should be doing that work? For example, why does my wastewater bill come from some company in Utah? Moreover, I’ve come to believe that the city staff runs the Council. They give the Council so much material to read that it’s overwhelming. It’s a shock and awe tactic that then allows the staff to “suggest” what the Council should do. The bottom line is that many policy decisions are being influenced and possibly made by unelected members of the Chamber and the City staff.
In any case, below is an email from a friend that shows the Blob Effect of city government…
From City’s State of Arizona Official Budget Forms:
*In 2009, before the Great Recession, the City had 120 FTE (Full Time Employees). The City’s population was 11,436. This fiscal year (2018) the City has 142 FTE. The Arizona Office of Employment & Population Statistics projects the Sedona 2017 population as 10,333.
**There was a wash entry of $9,300,000 as a result of refunding and refinancing the 2007 Bond Series.
The FY 2018 budget was balanced between expenditures, revenues, use of reserves set aside for capital projects, use of restricted grants and donations balances, and the reduction of fund balances exceeding policy reserve requirements, including $3.484K in Wastewater Enterprise Fund reserves. One full-time position was added; two part-time positions were added; seven temporary positions were added; two positions were reclassified; and position title and/or hours changes were made to some part time and temporary positions. Indirect cost allocations involving the WW Fund were instituted. A total of $1,056,950 was charged the WW Fund by various City departments in FY 2018.
Carmel, CA 2018-2019 Budget: $25,467,110
Marketing (tourism) $333,995
Tourists: Millions, just like Sedona
It would have been 143 FTE if the city went one-hauler garbage service and hired a garbage manager at a cost of about $55,000/year plus benefits to allegedly save us money