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City Talk Column for April 28, 2010


This article is authored by Vice Mayor Cliff Hamilton and submitted by the City of Sedona.

Sedona AZ (April 28, 2010) – A paradox is a contradiction that also happens to be true. We have several here in Sedona.

One paradox is our notion that Sedona is just a small town. We talk about small town character and small town feel. In so many ways, however, we are not a small town at all but a much larger city confined to a small space. This is one of the things that makes Sedona so different from many other cities of similar size.

In many ways we function like a much larger city. Sedona’s education levels are among the highest – if not the highest per capita – in the state. It would typically take a much larger city to tally so many college degrees and advanced degrees in one place. You would need a much larger city to find so many people that had been “captains” in their past careers and who come from so many different parts of the country or world. Many also still seek the larger-city features they left behind. As Council members, we regularly hear questions like, “Why don’t we have a ____ here?”  The blank may be anything from an indoor olympic-sized swimming pool to a Neiman Marcus store or a city recreation center complete with basketball, handball and indoor tennis courts.

Since it’s so recent in our minds, even the cost of running for public office in Sedona far outstrips that of running in our neighboring communities. This reflects another of our large city characteristics. Spending upwards of $10 to $15 thousand for a city election is common here where a similar kind of race in other small Arizona towns of our size may cost $2 to $5 thousand.

Another paradox of Sedona is the fact that there is a lot of wealth here but we are not a wealthy city. Sedona city government runs primarily on sales taxes paid by tourists. That form of funding does not begin to reflect the personal wealth, number of upscale homes and general property values here. Thus, what city government can afford to deliver does not either. City residents probably pay barely $300 per person each year in sales tax to run the city’s operation.  It’s just a fact of life in Sedona. Our fire district and school district, which operate separate from city government, are property-tax based and thus do reflect some of the wealth of Sedona in their funding.

With tourist numbers and their spending levels way down, city government today reflects even less of Sedona’s wealth.  This gap will likely increase if the recession persists. In terms of city funding, we are not a wealthy city, financially.

Still, Sedona is a small town physically and we do enjoy many small town features like being called by first name in the bank, post office and restaurants. School activities, parks programs and things like our community fair likewise preserve some small town flavor. We also enjoy a kind of wealth few cities can match in the beauty that surrounds us every day, the number of days the sun shines on us and the wonderful people we meet here.

I wouldn’t want it to be any other way.

This City Talk Column authored by Vice Mayor Cliff Hamilton and submitted by the City of Sedona with the following disclaimer: Opinions expressed are my own and do not necessarily reflect those of other Council members or the city staff.

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