By Steve Segner, Sedona Resident
(June 15, 2013)
The recent city council vote to get rid of city commissions was rushed through and based on a biased staff report. The city council did not get a balanced overview from which to make an informed decision. What was presented was a one size fits all view of government commissions driven by a potentially overworked staff. I suggest the council should take a leadership role in determining the value of each commission and committee.
That being said the real question is “What kind of town does Sedona want to be?”
One that the city government takes care of us while we the citizens just sit back and passively observe our city government in action? Or do we want a government that is council and committee driven and staff executed – one that will be faithful to our city charter:
Sedona Vision Statement
To be a city that is animated by the arts, and lives with a spirit of volunteerism to help achieve our common goals.
I think it is important to have citizen involvement vetted by the city council as commissions are now. Under the newly proposed system, staff would limit citizen input by keeping projects small enough to slide under the State Open Meeting Laws.
The Budget Oversight Commission found huge savings in the last several years and has helped staff with accounting, planning and retirement matters. Without somebody looking at every line item of the budget and asking hard questions there will be a slip. Staff did not like this process and now staff is pushing back.
Sedona Vision Statement
To be a city that is constantly vigilant over the preservation of its natural beauty, scenic vistas, pristine environment and cultural heritage.
The idea of getting rid of Historic Preservation Commission, that finds and protects our historic buildings and landmarks and letting Planning and Zoning do it as a sideline is not well thought out. H.P.C. and P and Z make an odd mix. H.P.C commissioners have hundreds of hours of training that have nothing to do with zoning and are governed by city code, state and national regulations.
The Historic Commission was founded with the city Charter and to dissolve it now isn’t right – and is possibly not legal and do it before the new operating rules and codes are written and presented to the full city council is just bad management.
Sedona Vision Statement
To be a city that retains its small- town character.
Volunteerism and community input are part of Sedona’s DNA. Let’s not become a city led by autocrats. I ask the city council to bring this matter back for secession and look at each commission individually – not in the one size fits all. Let each commission come before the city with a plan that will make them work better and cheaper, then let the council vote. The way it was done was a sham and something I would expect from a large corporation.
The idea of getting rid of commissions and hiring two new employees just does not make any sense – unless the city government wants to change direction and now become staff directed without input front the community.
Staff driven or community led – that is the question.
I believe that it is important for us to benefit from the knowledge, creativity, passion, talent, and business acumen of those who live here. By selectively keeping and nurturing our most important commissions, you will make this into a better city government and better community for all of us to live in.
Steve Segner Sedona Az a personal view.
Member H.P.C. and Budget Oversight Commission
Sedona Vision Statement
The vision that the citizens have for the future of their City is . . .
- To be a city that is constantly vigilant over the preservation of its natural beauty, scenic vistas, pristine environment and cultural heritage.
- To be a city that retains its small- town character and creates its manmade improvements in strict harmony with nature.
- To be a city that is animated by the arts, and lives with a spirit of volunteerism to help achieve our common goals.
- To be a city that offers equal opportunities for all and fosters a sense of community.
- To be a city that welcomes and accommodates all of its visitors and future residents with a spirit of fellowship.
- To be a city that retains and enhances a strong and vital economy, which preserves existing lifestyles without exploiting the natural beauty.
- And finally, to be a city that lives up to the challenge of proper stewardship of one of the earth’s great treasures.
Well said Steve. The City’s action, seemingly driven by City Staff, will certainly make the Staff’s job easier. But I agree that it shouldn’t be the primary driver in our decision making.
We the residents need to ask ourselves what is the City of Sedona for, and how much of what it does adds value to our quality of life here. Making life easier for Staff is way down my list of priorities for Sedona.
I, too, am concerned about diminishing citizen engagement in city government. Does anyone know details about how the city plans to continue involving citizens in a more efficient way?
The City received approval at the last Council meeting to hire a part-time staff to ‘beat the bushes’ for community participation and a 2nd part-time staff to handle the arts.
The ‘unspoken’ here are the real issues. I can see many reasons for staff’s recommendations. I say all these things as a member of a commission whose term would have been up at the end of this year (and I had no plans to re-apply).
(1)the cost of open meeting laws (staff time, rules, meeting notice, recording minutes etc) which also slows work down (eliminated with changing to committees for special projects)
(2) Staffs’ “real job” is not working on commission projects (their words).
(3) the fact that everything, even a highly competent commissioner does has to be ‘checked out’ by staff, which takes up even more staff time
(4) I sense there has been a staff revolt, because many work long hours with minimal salary increases. Having only been here 8 years I know staff works hard. However, those same long hours have been going on for some time beyond my 8 years. That’s the career path they chose.
Theoretically staff has now met with the commissions to get their input on ways to make things better and may even decide some standing committees or commissions are OK. However, if the City staff really wanted commissioners’ opinions they would have asked for this feedback way back in January when they began the task of thinking about a ‘better way’ assigned by council. Most of us had no idea that this work was going on and were blind-sided. All City Council asked for late last year was a way to make commissions function better.
There are many ways to streamline commissions. The first should be to appeal to the state, because the commission model will otherwise disappear in Arizona – another instance of our “law-loophole-seeking” society. How about audio-only minutes for meetings? Commission report writing could be done on-line by commission access to make changes (and in-time viewing only by the interested general public, who can contact commissioners for changes). This method was pretty effective in my corporate workplace 10 years ago! I’m sure there are many other good ideas to bring commissions into the 21st century.
So after examining this issue thoroughly my feeling is that this move is simply to save money on open meeting law requirements and put staff in charge (to reduce workload and time for project completion). It is the wrong way to go and even though ‘legal’ – such a move is highly questionable behavior for a City that prides itself on its volunteer base. It has upset many people. There should be a resident revolt. Staff only works for the city and their work is directed by the Council, which is elected by residents. There must be an in-between place sweet to staff and residents. I think Mayor Adams’ assessment is pretty accurate – that we should find that place.