By Sedona City Councilor John Martinez
Sedona AZ (July 23, 2014) – This article is addressed to the 4,011 registered voters who did not vote during our recent March Special Election for the Community Plan. This represents 62.8% of the registered voters. In addition, when I ran for office in 2012, only 42.9% of the registered voters participated, which means the majority of you failed to vote at all. Don’t you care?
Since the mid 1960’s voter turnout across all ages, with a few exceptions, has been declining. The United States has on average the lowest voter turnout in the world (among mature democracies), by an average of 10 to 15 percent. Voter apathy is creeping up slowly. Some call it “Political Depression” and it begs the questions: If people do not participate, at what point does a democracy cease to be democratic?
The 26th Amendment of the Constitution states “The rights of citizens of the United States, who are eighteen years or older, to vote shall not be denied or abridged…”, and in August, the voters will be faced with two very important issues that will dictate the city’s future for years to come.
First, four council seats will become available for the voters to select from ten candidates that are running for council. Three seats are for the position of Councilor and one seat is for the position of Mayor. These individuals will determine the future of Sedona. This will be a contest between individuals representing a pool of the city’s best minds, and in this election, the candidates will represent the voices of young minds, working parents and business owners.
There is a phrase in the Preamble of the United States Constitution that says “and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”. Many heroic Americans gave their lives defending the basic right of voting and the democratic process, which the Preamble declared as a right. Here are the staggering results of the lives loss to maintain our democratic process: American Revolutionary War, 8,000; American Civil War, 212,938; World War I, 53,402; World War II, 291,557;Korean War, 33,746; and the Vietnam War, 47,355. We now know that the belief of freedom and the right to choose their leaders is being embraced by countries all over the world.
The Arizona We Want and the AZ Civic Health Index has reported that Arizona ranks in the “bottom 10” of every aspect of voter participation – be informed, register and turnout. So please, get off the couch and vote.
Second, future budgets will be impacted by the passage or defeat of the city’s Home Rule – Alternative Expenditure Limitation Option. Under Arizona State Law, Home Rule must be placed on the ballot every four years. The limitation controls the amount of money a city can spend, but it does not restrict the amount of money it can collect. It must be noted that Sedona has operated under Home Rule and set its own budget for 18 years.
All city council members and a number of citizens know that I have voted against the budget the last two years, because I believe that there are programs that should be eliminated to reduce the expenditures of the city, but voting against Home Rule is not an option to consider.
If Home Rule were to fail, the 2015/2016 Budget would be the first fiscal year of implementation. The following is a graphic example of the dollar amount that would be cut from the city’s spending authority. If we use the current 2014/2015 Budget as the example for the State Imposed Limit to hold expenditures, that dollar amount would be $24,506,158 compared to the approved budget of $38,385,154, therefore city council and staff would have to reduce the budget by $13,878,996. What critical services such as the Library, road repair, Police services, Community Center, Parks & Recreation, Storm Drain maintenance, etc. would you be willing to cut? I totally believe that we must control expenditures in the upcoming years. We cannot continue to spend more that we receive in revenue and I hope the next council will have the courage to implement this philosophy, but to chop almost $14 million is not an option.
To quote Edmund Burke, “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.” Not voting, not participating in the democratic process in your community, and not being informed is tantamount to “doing nothing.” Let’s change the statistics in Sedona. Let’s take the challenge to participate – to vote – to contribute in a positive way in our community, and let’s work together to make Sedona proud. If you don’t vote, you can’t complain. Keep in mind: If you are not part of the solution, you could be part of the problem.
The views and numbers that I am expressing are my personal opinions and estimates and not necessarily the opinion or position of the City of Sedona or the City Council.
Thanks John, for this article. Very well said, and I could not agree more completely! It’s strongly worded, but undoubtedly needed as a “wake-up” call for the very minimum of civic responsibility in a “representative republic” that we are.
Those who recommend against voting for “Home Rule” are completely misguided and are misleading the public. Their main argument is that somehow taxes or fees (Wastewater/Sewer) are being unnecessarily kept high based upon previous Home Rule acceptance by the voters.
I keep wondering what taxes they are talking about, or do they even know? Since the City has NO Property Tax and cannot affect the State Income Tax, the only tax left is the Sales Tax. And, Sedona only has a possible impact on 3 cents (%) of the 9+% sales tax being collected in Sedona (6+% is state and county levies). If Sedona City Council could take the drastic step of reducing its controllable revenue stream by one-third, we would all save a penny on every dollar that we spend in Sedona city limits. WOW – wouldn’t that be great!!
In exchange for that penny savings, (1) we would have to cut the library funding (only about one half of which even comes from the city) so the library would have to close another 3 days a week, (2) we stop supporting the Humane Society, so we could start killing cats and dogs, (3) we stop supporting the Sedona Community Center so we can kill the “Meals on Wheels” program, (4) we stop supporting the Sedona Recycle Center, so the counties can raise our taxes to pay for the increased landfills needed, (5) we stop supporting the flow of revenue coming from the tourist businesses, by shutting down the Chamber of Commerce Visitor Center and stop funding any Sedona Advertising/Public Relations, (6) since the majority of General Fund expenses are personnel related, and over half of the personnel of the city are in the Police Department, we would have to look there for budget cuts (how many Police vehicles do you see on a daily basis?) and are you willing to play with your safety regarding response times to save a penny?
The increased wastewater fees seem to be a major concern, yet it is merely an attempt to make this “Enterprise Fund” self-supporting. If it is NOT self supporting, it must be subsidized by other reductions in the General Fund…. see all the results above. There is probably no option of letting sewage flow in the streets.
Please put your concern for attempting to save a penny in sales tax into context, as the results can far outweigh any real benefit.
Former Sedona Councilperson and Vice-Mayor