Waking to the Nightmare
Sedona, AZ (November 11, 2011) – The effects from the defeat of Proposition 410 are already being felt. At the November 9 city council meeting requests were made by several councilors for City Manager Tim Ernster to request Arizona Department of Transportation (ADOT) for a stop light at the Sedona Medical Center intersection, lowered light pole height, and crosswalks and other safety measures. The answer came back loud and clear: ADOT owns the highway and they will do as they planned. Nothing will be added or modified. Traffic warrants do not suggest a light at the medical Center intersection. Pole heights have been decided already. No additional safety measures will be implemented. If ADOT considers any other safety design measures that are not included in the scope of work on 89a, the city will be responsible for any additional costs. ADOT has its marching orders: install the stop light at Andante Drive and 89a, resurface the highway, and install 108 35′ tall continuous roadway lights. Period.
With the votes in and unofficially counted, the community voted roughly 70% to reject ADOT’s offer for the city to accept ownership and control of State Route 89a in West Sedona and also to reject their $15 million offer for future highway maintenance. ADOT has patiently waited in the wings for the community to decide the fate of the highway. While they waited, plans were drawn and contracts written for the installation of 108 35′ tall continuous roadway lights (CRL). It is expected that the contract for the stoplight at 89a and Andante Drive, overlay paving, and CRL will be awarded at the next State transportation meeting on November 18, in Florence, Arizona. Work is slated to begin on the project around the first of the year.
The decision on whether or not to install CRL has long been a contentious issue for Sedona. The issue has been kicked back and forth like a soccer ball, depending on who was seated on city council, with the community observing from the stands, cheering when a goal was made or missed. Elections were won and lost by the position candidates took on the issue. Two years ago 4 members of the present council were overwhelmingly elected on a no-lights platform. The community did not want the lights. ADOT threw a monkey wrench into the gears when it added the highway ownership issue into the mix.
Here’s what Sedona will get:
No daytime safety measures
No cross walks
No pedestrian lighting
No light at the medical center intersection
No undergrounded utilities
No citizen input on highway improvements
No control on highway decisions such as signage along the roadway
No inviting shopping atmosphere
No working partnership with ADOT
No pedestrian walkability considerations
No traffic calming measures
108 35′ tall lights
Continued sharing of highway maintenance costs
Electricity bills for the lights
Loss of dark skies
A roadway designed to move automobiles as efficiently as possible
Ownership of the highway after the lights are installed with no maintenance funding
With the town consistently voting to reject the lights over the years, how is it that the voters embraced ADOT’s proposal to install the lights? There is evidence that several factors might have been beneath the swing in voter attitudes:
1. Fear, one of humankind’s biggest motivator, was injected from the very beginning. Voters were told it would cause a property tax. Maybe a food tax, maybe higher sales tax, maybe other city projects would be set aside. No facts were presented, only hypothetical circumstances and fear of the unknown. Even when a plan for financing the highway was presented, the fear tactics continued.
2. Editorial content was presented as fact on the front page. No rebuttal was allowed.
3. The mayor went public with his opinion saying ownership was not in our best interests. A clear election ethics violation.
4. Sedona experienced some flooding, which the no on 410 people blamed on city officials.
5. Accusations that an artist rendering showing how the lights will look if installed was trumpeted as a lie in full page ads. Artwork was stolen and modified to support the no on 410 position.
The election is over. Soon the vote will be certified as official. Voters are about to wake up to the reality of what just happened. Sedona, you’ve been scammed. The bulldozers waiting in the wings will be fired up and the work will begin. Highway 89a will be torn up for 1 to 2 years.
As Mayor Rob Adams so eloquently said November 9: “We’re all on the same page, until we find something else to fight about.” Stay tuned, there’s another train wreck just around the next bend.