Sedona AZ (December 13, 2019) – I hope you all had an amazing Thanksgiving and will have a happy holiday!
My second term representing the residents of this city has been very busy and rewarding. Some of the most rewarding work has been the partnerships formed directly with Sedona residents.
A year ago, Gail Digate, a constituent from the Chapel area came to me with a serious concern about a safety issue along Chapel Road. Ms. Digate and her neighbor Jim Mager, as well as many others along Chapel Road, saw an urgent need for a safe sidewalk along the full length of Chapel from State Route 179 to the Chapel of the Holy Cross. Mr. Mager and Ms. Digate attended a city council meeting in March 2018 and explained their issue: “As traffic volume increases steadily on Chapel Road, it is challenging for residents to walk safely. There is no direct alternative route to the entrance to Mystic Hills Trail and to the Chapel of the Holy Cross.”
Being very familiar with the area, I suggested that the best way to encourage the city to make major improvements to Chapel Road would be to engage her neighbors and gather signatures from every property owner in the area of Chapel Road and other intersecting roads. Ms. Digate contacted 33 homeowners whose property faces or lies adjacent to Chapel Road, and secured more than 25 signatures. In May 2018, she submitted the signed petitions to the Sedona City Clerk.
The city council had already responded to the numerous voices in the community wanting increased mobility, including bicycle and pedestrian facilities, by establishing such improvements as a high priority and putting funds in the budget. The high priority status and broad support from neighbors enabled staff to move quickly to plan the requested improvements. Fortunately, staff had already been working for many months with the U,S. Forest Service to acquire easements. Once that work was complete, Ms. Digate continued her leadership role by hosting a neighborhood meeting to further validate the petitions and solicit feedback on a proposed 10-foot-wide shared-use path that could safely accommodate bike and pedestrian traffic.
This kind of outreach was different from the way some projects progress. Instead of having a meeting at city hall or during a council meeting loaded with other agenda items, the cooperative approach taken by Ms. Digate meant that neighbors received a personal invitation to her home to talk about a neighborhood issue. Approximately 20 neighbors attended the meeting and expressed support for the project.
Tackling a local issue in such a local setting confirmed that the neighborhood was in the lead role. City staff was there to be responsive and was committed to help. Included in the staff proposal was a plan to improve parking at the Mystic Trailhead, further addressing a concern expressed by numerous residents of the area. With the neighborhood meeting recently completed and the broad support among neighbors established, the city could immediately proceed with design and construction of a new shared-use path and improved trailhead parking. The cooperative approach also expedited the planning and outreach phase of the project.
Making tough decisions that are best for the community in spite of some opposition is a necessary part of my job as a city councilor, but examples such as this one reflect what I love most about my job. I love to see our system work for the betterment of residents. We have virtually unlimited opportunities to partner directly with neighborhood residents to address real problems and improve quality of life.
I am always actively looking for more such opportunities as I schedule meetings with neighborhood associations or respond to individual inquiries. I’m grateful to be able to serve our wonderful community and work cooperatively with you to make Sedona even better than it already is.
These opinions are mine alone and may not necessarily reflect those of the entire city council.