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Curtain Falls on May 2013 City Council Performances

SedonaEye.com columnist, Eddie S. Maddock, questions the decision-making process to spend on wish lists and not address the "broken" in the city

SedonaEye.com columnist, Eddie S. Maddock, examines the 2013 May performance of the Sedona City Council

Sedona AZ (June 5, 2013) – After the Sedona City Council’s Pre & Regular Meetings (3:00 PM & 4:30 PM respectively) on May 28, followed by a Special Meeting at 3:00 PM on the 29th, the final curtain (minus fanfare for an encore) came to rest, concluding the May performances in City Hall Council Chambers by members of the Sedona City Council.

As most of you are aware, the Pre-council meetings are for the purpose of reviewing agenda items prior to the “real” event, meaning the “real” meeting at 4:30 p.m. is when “real” decisions are made.

At the “real” meeting on May 28, not surprisingly the $20,000 request made by the Sedona Arts & Culture Collaborative (SACC) for destination marketing activities to promote Sedona as a center for arts and culture education was approved. (Mayor Rob Adams, because of his participation in formation of SACC, by his choice recused himself from this discussion.)

Also it was not a surprise when a request from the Sedona Chamber of Commerce for $80,000 in destination marketing funds to be used by the C of C and the Tourism Bureau was likewise approved.

For the first time ever, $100,000 had been designated as a Budget Line Item to be used as a “discretionary fund” and at the eleventh hour fiscal year deadline.

chicken rooster farm animals

Peter Fagan, Chairman of the Budget Oversight Commission, said Council eliminating his oversight committee amounted to the “fox watching the hen house”

Was there any doubt that amount would not be reclaimed?

As explained by Jennifer Wesselhoff, President/CEO of the Sedona Chamber of Commerce and Tourism Bureau, this $100,000 was in addition to the contract with the city for destination marketing and visitors’ services. She said that, in conjunction with their contract agency application process, C of C requested 55% of the bed tax which equates to just a little over $800,000.

What the C of C receives is $220,000 for destination marketing and $275,000 for visitors’ services. She reiterated it was in addition to that funding the Chamber came back and requested another $100,000which became the source for the discretionary fund Budget Line Item.

Michelle Conway, Director of Marketing at the Sedona C of C, commenced to make an approximate 15 minute presentation explaining the plans for using the increased funding, which included target marketing such as conventions and weddings as well as upgrading software for online promotions.

Councilman John Martinez asked how much of the $220,000 (destination marketing funds) was used for salaries? (He did vote “yes” on this issue.)

Ms. Wesselhoff explained that none of the public money goes to operate any functions of the Chamber of Commerce. She claims her salary is solely derived from C of C membership dues. She went on to say the Tourism Bureau is privately and publicly funded and the Visitor’s Center is funded by City.

However, Michelle’s salary IS primarily derived from the private funding portion of Tourism Bureau funds but subject to being subsidized as, perhaps, is necessary.

Sedona City Councilwoman Barbara Litrell

Sedona City Councilwoman Barbara Litrell

However, in a recent “Chamber News” article (Sedona Red Rock News 5/24/13), Michelle Conway reported that: “The public funds from the city are combined with private funding through Tourism Bureau membership dues and advertising to create a total marketing, sales and public relations budget of approximately $500,000. This total budget includes operational expenses, salaries, and administration, in addition to the actual execution of promoting.”

As both Michelle Conway and Jennifer Wesselhoff presented their cases for the $80,000, it was, in reality, the “same-ole” pitch with a slightly different twist, that being a link with the recent Sedona Lodging Council’s Long Range Tourism Development Plan, referenced by Ms. Wesselhoff in her presentation to the City Council.

These special interest groups have placed demands on the city to increase sales tax by .5% and to increase the bed tax by .5% requesting dedication of 45% of the total bed tax collections be allocated to the City’s Official Destination Marketing Organization for marketing and 15% dedicated to visitor center management and 20% be allocated for tourism product development for as long as this tax is in place in order to reap a more profitable harvest which will allegedly benefit tourists, businesses, and residents and, perhaps, and particularly the special interests doing the bidding.

Never, at any time, was it disclosed that as a member driven organization, the C of C is committed to servicing only businesses who, indeed, are members. Cost of membership dues and or number of members was not offered at this meeting.

Sedona Councilman Mike Ward

Sedona Councilman Mike Ward

Based on that premise, how fair is the use of public funds which clearly discriminates against those businesses who choose to not become members of the Chamber of Commerce? What about C of C members who are not within city limits and thus do not contribute to the city tax base?

Many important questions relating to spending public funds were neither asked nor addressed.

Comments and questions from Council Members & Mayor:

Dan McIlroy: Questioned tracking of numbers resulting in marketing effort. He voted “yes” to approve.

Mark DiNunzio: Questioned using demographics of targeting age 35 and use of youthful photos in ads because of median existing age being 56. He added that “boomers” are now retiring, much older than the age 35 target. Requested specific return on investment insofar as, for example, how many rooms are actually rented as a result of promoting a specific event. He voted “no” to approve

Barbara Litrell: Thinks 35 too old to target for weddings. What is time frame for implementing campaign? When will the $80,000 be spent? She supports “request for proposals” next year. She voted “yes” to approve.

Mike Ward: Questioned current process for C of C to repeatedly appear before Council asking for more money. Feels a lack of process for tracking return on investment (i.e. would $80,000 require generating $560,000 in sales to be worth while?) Feels need for resolve of C of C and Lodging Council’s request for increased taxes prior to approval for spending more. He supports “request for proposals.” He voted “no” to approve.

City of Sedona Mayor Rob Adams

City of Sedona Mayor Rob Adams

Jessica Williamson: Demanding return on investment does not work for her. She believes more money should be spent on software to facilitate better tracking methods. She voted “yes” to approve.

Rob Adams: He criticized Mike Ward, calling it “disgraceful” for his accusation about C of C’s ongoing appearances asking for city “hand outs.” He lauded the C of C for being responsible for bringing in all of the people who sustain Sedona. He extended C of C his total support although he will also support “request for proposals” next year. He voted “yes” to approve.

Motion passed: 5/2 (Opposed: Ward & DiNunzio)

MOVING RIGHT ALONG TO #9, REGULAR BUSINESS (d-AB 1602 discussion/possible action on reconsideration for city to purchase property adjacent to City Hall.):

This property had been one of several under consideration for City to purchase with the available funding from Development Impact Fees. However, it didn’t make the cut for further consideration at the March 26, 2013, Council Meeting.

Addressing the question of how and why this was being reconsidered, Dan McIlroy explained that he’d been contacted by the listing agent, John D. Miller, who convinced him it would be in the city’s best interest to own this land. Therefore, it was at the request of Councilman McIlroy that the vacant land was again on the agenda in order to request further consideration by Council for City purchase.

The motion to approve reconsideration failed 4/3:  (B. Litrell, M. DiNunzio, and D. McIlroy voted “yes.” R. Adams, J. Martinez, M. Ward, and J. Williamson voted “no.”)

theatre curtains 2MOVING RIGHT ALONG TO CITY COUNCIL SPECIAL MEETING May 29 – 3:00 PM:

Special Business Actions:

• AB1531: City Council unanimously approved Amendment #2 to the Design of A+ Upgrades Contract with Carollo Engineers in the amount of $345,588. This will allow for a design project to serve areas presently on sewer but will not allow for future sewer accommodations for the entirety of Sedona.

• AB1612: The discussion regarding staff recommended implementation and action plan for transition of current framework of city commissions also resulted in a 4/3 split vote. The motion, made by Councilwoman Barbara Litrell, was seconded by Vice-Mayor Mark DiNunzio. Council members D. McIlroy, J. Williamson, M. DeNunzio, and B. Litrell voted in favor; voting against that action was Mayor Adams and Councilmen Ward and Martinez.

For the record, Peter Fagan, Chairman of the Budget Oversight Commission, was one of the public speakers. He strongly objected to AB1612, especially the elimination of the BOC, comparing it to allowing “the Fox to guard the hen house.”

Is it possible for that theory to apply in other cases as well, in particular the control the Chamber of Commerce clearly commands over decisions and spending at City Hall?

What does the month of June hold in store?

More meetings; more decisions. Increased taxes?

Approval of a budget lacking adequate funds to pay for the extensive “wish list” of unneeded capital improvements?

Pipe dreams?

How many foxes are out there – not only guarding the hen house also known as City Hall  – but snatching every conceivable opportunity to help themselves for their own pleasures?

For the best in Arizona news and views, read www.SedonaEye.com daily!

For the best in Arizona news and views, read www.SedonaEye.com daily!

198 Comments

  1. Roger says:

    Gee whiz, maybe it was this 1949 Chevrolet ad that brought tourists to Oak Creek Canyon and Sedona and not the Chamber of Commerce after all. Mayor Adams . . . “hello, anybody home?”


    Click here: Oak Creek Canyon Arizona Travel: “Roads to Romance” 1949 Chevrolet – YouTube

  2. Paul says:

    Seems Jennifer and her assistant Michelle failed to provide truthful testimony prompting the question of accountability by both or one or the other? What are the rules about providing false statements to the city council? Remember testimony is recorded?

    Software updates? I recall that the state and national Chambers provide free classes on Chamber business software and applications and I would suggest they take their own classes. Better yet send someone to YC or NAU or UOA or ASU or CCC or MCC for a day class …..forget it I realize software updates is camo, camo for using the money the way we want so no one else can dispute it. Who keeps books with a checkbook account like this?

  3. Studio Live says:

    Studio Live now closing doors because they cannot afford monthly sewer fees. How many restaurants and other businesses now shut down for same reason. To think of considering higher taxes is nuts! All that overspending to chamber of commerce for destination tourists? Why? To spend a week looking in windows of empty stores? How weird is that? Take back money and spend where needed including methods to lower sewer rates not increase them. Hello! Earth to planet “whatever.” Wake up city council.

  4. Nancy Baer says:

    Failing to find a more appropriate place to comment on the Chamber’s and the consortium of arts and culture groups use of the term “destination marketing” I will post this here. These groups make it sound as if this is a whole “new” area of marketing which it is not and it should have been occurring for as long as the Chamber has been around. People think about this . . . when you’re a retailer your marketing is about getting people to buy your item, as in “retail marketing.” When you live somewhere that tourists visit, the type of marketing to encourage more tourism used should be “destination marketing.”

  5. E.S. Maddock says:

    Nancy, as you are aware I’ve been around for a long, long time and can assure you that destination marketing isn’t something just dreamed up by this particular Chamber of Commerce. It was being pursued even prior to incorporation although obviously not on such a grand scale, when all non-profits had to fend for themselves by providing community fund raisers which were always well attended and well supported.

    In fact, one of my sisters first heard about Sedona via a travel agency in the early ’70’s. The feature being promoted was the Annual St. Pat’s Parade sponsored by, even at that time, the Chamber of Commerce. And yes, that all occurred sans city funding because there was none.

    Considering the city voted to spend less on upgrading the sewer plant ($345,588) than with the Chamber for a combination of the Visitor’s Center, Tourism Bureau, and Destination Marketing ($595,000 including the $100,000 contingency fund) leaves me scratching my head. Of course, the $345,588 obviously is a drop in the bucket towards what it will eventually cost to upgrade the WWTP to accommodate extending sewer service to all remaining areas within City Limits.

    However, as Mike Ward was attempting to ascertain by placing some sort of logical perspective on this issue, how much must tourists spend to just barely recover the funds being spent on destination marketing let alone appreciate a realistic profit?

    What will happen if the WWTP isn’t kept up to snuff? ADEQ (Az. Dept. of Environmental Quality) will shut the city down which maybe, just maybe might not be a bad thing. Same as beauty being in the eye of the beholder, apparently supplying basic essentials for those of us who live here and those who still enjoy Sedona as a place to vacation is, to the City Council, a matter of priorities.

    Anyhow, thanks for taking time to post your comment and I’m pleased that my article was good for something. :-)

  6. Eddie,

    Your article was superb. In fact, I think that if you will write these Council reviews on a regular basis they will serve as an invaluable service to this community.

  7. Spent 4 days (3 nites) in Sedona as result of chamber of commerce referall (Enchantment) which we found out later didn’t charge city taxes. Entered Sedona via 260(?) thru Cottonwood turning out to be easy access to quaint Jerome and even “old town” in Cottonwood. Saw the Indian castle (Montezuma?) and Tuzigute. Most we saw of Sedona was Telacpocky. Very pretty but did not buy anything. Hope to return to visit Grand Canyon and see Flagstaff but will stay @ beautiful Enchantment. (hope not out of line to mention name of place) Felt this message important to good of your Chamber of Commerce which was a list of their members & no special event. First heard about Sedona from friends of neighbors. Thank you.

  8. C of C Membership Levels:

    (1) General business membership fees: $195.00

    (2) Investor in tourism marketing (must be a general member to become an investor in tourism marketings.) Scheduled as follows:

    Tourism Marketing Investment: $325.00/year
    $375 for member businesses located outside Sedona city limits

    Total Fee including Basic Membership:
    $520 in-City / $570 year outside of Sedona
    (plus additional variable fees if applicable)

    Please note that a mandatory annual “Lead Distribution Fee” applies to all Tourism Bureau lodging members that are situated outside of the Sedona city limits. This fee will be based on a percentage of the City of Sedona’s hotel occupancy tax collection from the previous year

  9. sharlett says:

    Excellent article Eddie and thanks very much for your time, education and efforts put towards it.

    You have taught me how to go to the city website and look for meeting schedules and “their” agendas.

    Guess what Eddie? Council has decided to switch up its game – by that I mean our Mayor has only agendized two meetings for this week!

    Could that mean that he is finally getting it into his brain that his Pre-Meetings don’t save time or money?

    This coming week our Council is not having a “Pre Meeting”! Instead they are dragging out what should be one meeting, as I look at both agendas, into two short meetings!!! Wow! Wonder why and also wonder just how much more that costs Us?

    To be very clear: there is the regular meeting on June 11, 2013 at 4:30 with another, yet again, “Special Meeting” at 3:00 for June 12, 2013.

    The regular meeting big topic is under Consent Items: # I : AB 1616 Approval of a resolution establishing criteria for waiver of development impact fees for governmental entities and further finding that the construction of the proposed Chapel Area fire station meets said criteria.”

    Huh? Thought this council was looking all over the planet for monies to cover their wish lists???

    Now, just focus on the second Council meeting of 6/12/13: AB 1591 Discussion/possible direction regarding development of a “residential rental inspection program”. Can anyone even begin to figure out how much that will cost US and the City? I find the wording very disconcerting as it reminds me of Council giving to Staff full rein over determining if City Commissions and Committees should hold or fold.

    Our Council and Mayor somehow seem to think they can skirt their fiduciary responsibilities by simply using the words “possible direction” as they give over – once again – their elected responsibilities .

    Guess they think its easier to pass the buck to staff than actually becoming responsible as we elected them to be?

    Lastly: to “Aa! Sou?” (ah so desuk ka). Are you telling us that there is a differential in fees the C of C charges? Would you please define the various levels of fees you reference with clean information? If what you are saying is correct then I’m thinking we have something very new to talk about and that subject has Never been brought before Council. Isn’t that called preferential? How do they split up their revenues from those of us in town and the “outside town” folks?

    How do we all find a level playing ground with this Council and now the CofC and guess we need to add the Lodging group into that mix?

    I’m feeling brain dead as it starts to look like we, our little town, has been taken over by aliens!

  10. Attn Sharlett:

    The following Chamber of Commerce web link is the source for the information you question:

    http://www.sedonachamber.com/article/3

  11. Dan, uptown says:

    @EddieMaddock wrote “For the first time ever, $100,000 had been designated as a Budget Line Item to be used as a “discretionary fund” and at the eleventh hour fiscal year deadline.”

    don’t you know that….A penny saved is a Government oversight ???

  12. Wow! says:

    Interesting revelations revived in this article. The additional $100,000 was just the beginning of the icing on the cake for the C of C planned takeover. And the discrepancy of how funds are spent? Jennifer says no, no – no public funds for salaries while Michelle Conway goes on record to say public funds and member dues are combined? And this city council doesn’t think there’s reason for a “real” audit? Seems the one thing that’s sustainable in Sedona is that con-games are well and alive. And add to the mix approval of an entertainment district uptown – more competition for legitimate businesses. No wonder this C of C omitted zip codes from their list of members in their latest publication.

    Woo Hoo – THEY are on a ROLL!

  13. Get Real says:

    The City Council did not vote down the .5% sales tax increase originally wanted by the Chamber in addition to the .5% bed tax increase. No, a City Council voting an issue down is an extreme rarity. The .5% sales tax increase never appeared on a Council agenda for a vote because the Chamber withdrew its request somewhere along the way.

  14. Another Bites the Dust says:

    Note on door at Java Love – Closed & For Sale. Yeah – businesses are really booming here. The best news would be signs on City Hall & Chamber of Commerce boldly stating “Permanently Out of Order.”

  15. Carl says:

    Starbucks killed Java Love – one at Basha, one at Safeway, one at Hyatt, one free standing across from Whole Foods coffee bar and the corporate list goes on and on sponsored by the Chamber and developers. Sedona lost its upscale reputation modeling Phoenix development and not Scottsdale-style. Too many CVS, Beales, Goodwill, Walgreens, Chipotle and Staples shoppers and day trippers with a single $20 bill to spend for the whole day in town. The town was better economically before the chamber was given its carte blanche. And now that CVS and Walgreens have announced possibly closing, love those empty storefronts Sedona is famous for these days.

    Thanks, Eddie Maddock, for your work to keep Sedona informed!!!!!

  16. El Stinko says:

    And isn’t it amazing but not too long after this intermingling of public/private funds was (oops) exposed publicly, the Sedona Chamber of Commerce name was changed to Sedona Chamber of Commerce & Tourism Bureau. Does that make their obvious hanky-panky now hunky-dory? Apparently so. BLAH!

  17. Ya are all nuts says:

    Since you hate the chamber and the city council no one on this site is surprised that you’re blaming both for the demise of Java Love (my favorite morning spot).

    It’s a fact that no one can stop a Starbucks or even a D&D from coming to town as long as no zone change is needed, if anyone thinks otherwise let them post it here. If you read any of the Sedona sites on FB you’ll also know that the kids who work at those places are loosing their housing because of your state elected people allowing short term rentals. Why don’t you all start blasting those greedy homeowners who are kicking the kids out for a quick payday with short term rentals. Without our kids to work any of our stores, many others will be shutting down. You bunch of idiots keep harping on the same old stuff that is never going to change How about refocusing on something new.

  18. @ yaan (yawn) says:

    I FB and nowhere have I read anything about “kids” losing their ability to work or places to live because of short-term housing rentals. It actually creates more work – think about it – and doesn’t impact those living here except to provide many homeowners or renters with the new income stream that wasn’t available before, except to a few hoteliers and developers of commercial and residential rentals who cornered the market and kept rentals and leases higher than they should’ve been. Ask many of the business owners In uptown areas and West Sedona why the rents are out of synchronicity with incomes because of out-of-state landlords heavily influenced by the various business networks including the chamber.

    And the kids I see working are Personally motivated to achieve and or parented by character builders who say they can’t be lazy do nothings in an unfriendly to children town that caters to and invites in the stranger dangers of tourism — not to forget to mention prostitution and drugs which are popular with tourists.

    Save your pathetic State of the sedona whine for Affordable housing – it’s alive and well without government or city purview in Sedona and its surroundings. By the way-how many of the Sedona 30 actually live here and live here full-time? Now that’s the story to look at. I suggest that you might be wanting to look for “rich people” to move into vacant big and rich houses that are standing unsaleable after many years.’

    You don’t see Sedona advertised well because it doesn’t pay to advertise Sedona well—think about it. (LR)

  19. Ya are all nuts says:

    Well @ Yaan

    I guess you must not be on FB. For those that are please go to Sedona Bulletin Board a post from yesterday 4/23 at 9:29 by Thomas Agostino that reads –

    This beautiful family shouldn t be going through this ! Adam is such a hard working man, dedicated to the service industry to all tourist and local people in Sedona. What is going to happen when there are no more houses for people like them? is Sedona going to be a 100 % selfserve city??? Somebody has to do something about this! built CASITAS for the workers in Sedona!!! City of Sedona Community Development please, we need to start thinking for a solution !!!

  20. Steve segner says:

    Carl, we live in a world of change. Starbucks, did not kill Java Love,people voted with their dollars and started buying coffee at the new Starbucks with a drive Thu. Javelin love has fewer customers and went out of business that simple.
    Carl, the chamber, the city,the Ecomomy, had nothing to do with killing Java Love, Carl we live in a fast moving world and you Either improve, grow or die. Same goes for cities.
    yaan, comment or just stupid SEDONA 30 raise $25,000 for the local high school last month who cares where they live what have you done for the local high school.

  21. Jess M. says:

    Well, there are very few places in Sedona that offer convenient shopping for residents. Personally I appreciate Beale’s simply because years ago I recall a Cornet store, similar in nature. A sort of shop for whatever – kitchen utensils, small appliances, bath towels, the kind of catch-all place that eliminates a trip to maybe WalMart. It must be successful or why has it survived so long? And although I don’t shop at Goodwill the advantage of curbside drop-offs is a handy thing.

    Then there’s Pet Smart – a large chain that seems to be thriving well in this area after many other operations have come and gone in that location. Didn’t care much for the idea of CVS coming in but now find it handy for a quick trip and avoiding the congestion at the Coffee Pot intersection where Walgreen’s is located.

    The Chamber says “shop Sedona” and as residents it’s very difficult but I do appreciate the above locations. And the best thing about them is when I checked out whether or not they are members of the C of C. Of the above the only one I could locate as being a Chamber member was Walgreen’s. Interesting – as it is interesting to review the “Business Directory Partner Index” on page 41 in the 2017-2018 Sedona home town guide that recently came out. Makes one wonder why this isn’t a cooperative effort as in other expanded areas that benefit instead of being paid for solely from Sedona bed taxes. No wonder zip codes and/or names of cities and towns are not reflected in the otherwise informative guide. Clearly and based on the Partner Index the majority of them are outside Sedona city limits. Tough nut to crack for in-city businesses. Why would any of them give money to an operation that represents competitive businesses that do not contribute to Sedonacity tax base?

  22. Response to Ya'll Are Nuts says:

    Responding to first comment posted 4/23 – 12.44 PM – in your obvious anger did you by chance mean for D&D to be B&B (bed and breakfasts) or vacation rentals? Attempting to decipher the meaning of your rant (kids are loosing(?) their housing) isn’t easy, but because of your reference to state legislation is that a fair interpretation?

    As for contacting state representatives, how about asking the City Attorney Robert Pickels to do so? At recent city council meetings he has lauded Rep. Brenda Barton for going to bat on his behalf and as reported in a RRNews article even indicates how she worked behind the scenes and together with Rep. Thorpe they managed to maintain the authority to Sedona to charge owners of vacant lots for monthly sewer standby fees. Why not see what this powerful Sedona employee can do to put in motion a reversal to disallow the operation of private property vacation rentals? And at the same time, how about lobbying the city council to cease and desist approving more lodging of any kind. Sedona is presently saturated in case you hadn’t noticed. Where were you when they just approved rezoning for more B&B’s in the Schnebly area?And you whine about lack of “affordable housing?” Get real. Stupid is just that – STUPID.

  23. Selective Enforcement says:

    So City Council was in a momentary snit about the prospect of losing the chance for dunning vacant lot owners for sewer stand-by fees? But they already intended to stick it to legitimate sewer hook-ups to make up the $400,000 loss had the State ended the shameful scam of charging for non-service. That $400,000 could have logically been withheld from the enormous funding to the Chamber of Commerce. In fact, if the city dropped financial support for the Chamber’s visitor’s center it would continue to function as id did prior to Sedona’s incorporation.

    However and maybe even more important – what happened to the code that required new lodging to provide a certain amount of “affordable housing” to be included in the development agreements? Did Marriott follow that contingency? Will the proposed auxiliary to the Marriott be required to do so? And what about the future resort hotel on the Biddle property – and the rezoning for B & B’s in the Schnebly Focus Area?

    Those complaining about the lack of accommodations might make better use of their time in asking questions of the City Council/Staff and follow up whether or not these existing codes on the books are being followed instead of crying for city taxpayers to foot the bill for low cost housing. Had the process been appropriately followed the young chap mentioned in a previous comment might have a place to live here.

  24. Too Much Nonsense says:

    It seems pretty clear that from the get-go this chamber contract was meant to be a constant – allowing this alleged non-profit to act as a branch of Sedona city government. That conclusion stems from then Mayor Adams pledging to support competitive bids after one year but instead that council renewed the chamber contract for three years without benefit of RFP’s or official transparent outside audits.

    Even more appalling is the refusal of a state agency (AG’s office or Auditor General) to authorize an investigation the same as they did with the Valley Academy for Career and Technology where they discovered 47 violations. That investigation revealed questions relating to reimbursement for non-district employees traveling expenses, improper documentation of other expenses, lack of oversight relating to check-signing processes, questionable control of finances relating to misappropriation of district assets, to mention a few.

    In the case of the Chamber of Commerce, a similar investigation could also include questioning of sources of funding for the renovations at the Chamber offices in West Sedona and funding for the temporary lease of office space at the “Y and transparency of the circumstances of Chamber purchasing the Jordan Road property for a future parking lot. And possibly more important would be verification that this special interest, member driven but extensively public funded group is living within the terms of their non-profit corporate status.

    No matter how you look at it, bed-tax is Sedona City revenue and does NOT belong to those collecting it any more than does the sales tax from related legitimate Sedona businesses.

    Too many unanswered questions here. It’s long overdue for authentic and reliable justification for this unsubstantiated contract without benefit of scrutiny by a higher authority than the city council or city staff that clearly remain prejudiced and base their decision almost solely on their admiration for certain individuals representing the transaction. That can be verified by cutesy remarks about whether or not the council “loves” them anymore. And whining about giving an accurate accounting of members outside city limits as being “too difficult” (as in poor little me) responses when anyone dares to question their procedures. This transaction was largely based on the premise of “Trust me (us)” and has never changed. Sickening IMO.

  25. @Too Much Nonsense says:

    But don’t you get it? That poor CEO of the Chamber simply cannot identify the physical location of her members. Otherwise why wouldn’t the cities/towns and/or zip codes have been included in the recently updated Chamber directory? That lack of competence alone should be enough to confirm it is definitely a charitable group of needy. Maybe the biggest problem is they are too greedy.

  26. @@ too much nonsense says:

    No, I guess you don’t get it. Obviously no one gives a darn otherwise someone would make a change. So you continue on and on and on and on and………..

  27. Wsr says:

    To much nonsense
    @to much nonsense
    Selective enforcement
    El stinko

    All the same crazy crazy person. FYI SE readers

  28. Cheer Up says:

    On another subject, one very good thing happened. President Donald Trump has taken action to reverse the fed’s control of public land by his intention to reverse and stop National Monument designations. See – you underhanded fools plotting your take-over. Not ALL of you get away with it.

  29. Jess Wondren says:

    Does anybody know the purpose of the current trend for men to quit shaving? Does that mean it’s OK for women to stop shaving their legs and armpits? (eeeww)
    Thinking back my daddy always wondered why gents would have hair on their faces when it grows wild on their a. . . . (deleted in advance to save the editor the trouble) – Jess Wondren

  30. To the CHAMBER says:

    L-A-I-R-S ——
    You can try and try to fool the people but the reality is you are greedy prrkkks. You are stealing and sucking the red out of the red rocks. How does it feel to be the most hated group in Sedona?
    David K article in the RRN only pointed out what rats you are.
    The Chamber is increasing the cost of living, Raising property taxes as they bring in tourist that play and clog our streets. They are 500% responsible for the TRAFFIC. Property TAXES are up and services are down. The Fire Department runs negative and NOW they want to RAISE the TAXES again. IMO David LIED your property TAXES are higher here than ALL rural towns in ARIZONA! This is why RENTS are HIGH!
    WAKE UP SEDONA !!!!!!!!
    You are funding a PRIVATE enterprise with public money. Wake UP Sedona. IMO They are dirt bags stealing your money

  31. Your Boxed In says:

    My own opinion is…….Over the years things have gotten aggressively worse for the residents in the red rock sedona district. You are boxed in, in more ways than traffic. The City Government has partnered with private entities that are using taxpayers money for their private enjoyment. The play the gang rule here. The propaganda written by the those benefiting from public funding for private enterprises is everywhere. More smoke and mirrors for those benefiting from over 4 million dollars a year to control and steal more. Follow the money. The friends and buddies agreeing with the “stealing” of funds are in it to “steal” it for their own personal enjoyment.
    It is going to get worst. You are lock in your house and can’t get around. The city tells you you don’t contribute but that is a lie. The public services you the taxpayers pay are extremely high due to tourism. Your schools are failing even though the taxpayers play extremely high rates. Your Fire District is running negative and now wants more money from the taxpayers. Rents are going to go up with every property tax increase taking away affordable housing. All because the Chamber and Lodging, Film Festivals, Red Earth and other private groups say THEY deserve TAXPAYERS money for private use. The City of Sedona is a City jurisdiction and provide NO services outside of police. The City runs negative also in the millions. No accountability. They are playing with YOUR money. The property owners ARE financially responsible and will have to PAY for the School, Fire and City Debt!!!!!!

    Are you MAD enough? You should be

  32. Jerry, Legitimate Sedona Voter says:

    While whimsical comments on a lighter side tend to counter-balance the incessant peevish tripe from unnamed people, they contribute to a common purpose. In both instances they result in at least a temporary distraction and diversion from the really serious issues at hand.

    As clearly the city council and staff are apparently aware, they can proceed with whatever deals they choose with the chamber of commerce – or any other non-profit group in town. Red Earth Theatre is another huge beneficiary – being paid by the Sedona for the use of a city-owned facility. Utter nonsense. But of course, these new kids on the block aren’t aware Sedona has had performing arts for years before there was a city and it was done without assistance from the chamber of commerce. Anyone else recall the variety of offerings at the old Art Barn uptown?

    More serious here though is the competition being thrown at legitimate businesses within Sedona City Limits. By just mentioning such a thing, those in charge will retaliate by instituting even more challenges for struggling businesses, most recently the Entertainment District uptown. Except for adding to already the biggest traffic snarl and more competition to bars and restaurants, what possible positive contribution will food trucks and similar infiltration have on legitimate product development?

    The open-ended, unidentified “product development” might better be described as a version of Russian Roulette. These people are playing a dangerous game. Quoting from an article in the Red Rock News on April 14, 2017 relating to a new stipulation for an annual meeting in January with city council and chamber prior to developing a new contract, “It’s also a way for council to decide on what projects would fall under the category of the chamber’s product development, which will have its budget increased greatly in upcoming years.” Take note: “. . . increased GREATLY in upcoming years.”

    And while they may be on a roll for now, at some point in time the money well will dry up and then what. However, at the moment it surely appears they will continue to thumb their noses at those of us living here.

    Just wait until the revolver inevitably makes contact with the magic bullet. BANG!

  33. Wsr says:

    @you boxed in
    @To the chamber

    Same person again using different names and false information…
    That person would do all the residents of Sedona a favor by moving…..Give yourself a mental health day from your hatred..

    Move to cottonwood….you’ll be happier and then you can drive up for visits. Or not
    Either way the city’s mental health quotient will increase dramatically.

  34. @Wsr says:

    I feel so bad that you have no life and write babble crap.

    You used to be funny but now you post the same old things over and over. baj baj bal

  35. @Jerry, Sedona Voter says:

    As a former Sedona resident and business owner I remember back in the day when we had a very strong, organized Sedona Business Association. One of our biggest concerns then was where the tour buses would unload because those businesses closest to that event tended to get at ’em first (obviously). Another thorn in our side was when tent vendors would set up large displays in what once was an Artisan’s Galleria at the present Whole Foods Center. It always surprised me how Uptown Sedona never acknowledged Sedona as being part of the city. Guess some things never change as proven by this new “Entertainment District?” Such a deal. Glad I got out when the gettin’ was good.

  36. PS from @Jerry, Sedona Voter says:

    Should have said Uptown Sedona never acknowledged WEST Sedona as being part of the city. Very competitive which makes it even more difficult to understand why they tolerate this competition from special events and apparently even some of them are city sponsored. Go figure. Oh, and BTW – VOC and uptown businesses also hassled ADOT every time a suggestion was made for an Exit to Sedona sign of I-17 at 260. Well, we all didn’t want West Sedona to get the tourists first either.

  37. @@Jerry says:

    Hi Jerry,

    How great it is that you keep up with your old town, SEDONA since you moved like you said; “Glad I got out when the gettin’ was good”.

  38. JeanJ says:

    According to the City of Sedona Proposed Budget 2017-18 (Page 6 of 29):

    “While the annualized visitor population represents 55% of the total annualized population, the visitors contribute less than 25% of the funding for the operations of the wastewater system. Even considering all funding sources in total, the annualized visitor population only contributes 40%. As the debt service is paid off and the sales tax subsidies are reduced, the portion of funding attributed to the annualized visitor population will decrease under the current fee structure.”

  39. John Boy says:

    Steve Segner, changes are not always for the best. But you are correct about one thing, and that’s how people vote – with money. However, it doesn’t only apply to keeping businesses alive and open. Isn’t that how the members of the last two Sedona City Councils were elected? By big bucks from Chamber and Lodging Council members? Chalk one up for you, Stevie Boy.

  40. MShobert says:

    People… look at your behavior! Cowardice commentary from the cloak of secrecy. Get a life – get involved – commenting under a fake name, about processes you know nothing about, is absurd.

  41. @MShobert says:

    We all know your not the REAL MShobert. I would think you be smarter than that to use his name XX now XX
    http://www.pe.com/2014/07/03/murrieta-fire-chief-critically-injured-in-freak-accident/ Matthew J Shobert
    Lives in San Diego CA

    http://www.pe.com/2014/07/03/murrieta-fire-chief-critically-injured-in-freak-accident/
    http://www.sedonafire.org/about-us/our-history/

  42. JeanJ says:

    The City of Sedona Proposed Budget 2017-18 states (Page 6 of 29):

    “While the annualized visitor population represents 55% of the total annualized population, the visitors contribute less than 25% of the funding for the operations of the wastewater system.” This inequity is an egregious rip-off of the approximately 60% of us on the sewer.

    As many are painfully aware, tourism in Sedona is not paying its fair share. The following percentages pertaining to the funding of wastewater system operations are straight from the horse’s mouth.

    An estimated visitor population of 55.4% pays 24.6%.
    An estimated residential population of 44.6% pays 75.2%.

    The sales tax allocation to the WW fund keeps being reduced. This means the residents portion of funding will be increasing from 75.2%. More increases will incur when new lodgings come to town and the percentages further shift in favor of tourism.

  43. sheri says:

    According to City’s current Budget: – “While the annualized visitor population represents 55% of the total annualized population, the visitors contribute less than 25% of the funding for the operations of the wastewater system.” (thank you Jean)

    Just for the record: All legal lodging business’s pay, what I will call, an “accelerated” price that does differ greatly from a residential unit. Why? because no washer/dryer/full kitchen/only one bathroom/etc are in lodging units. It was always recognized that restaurants’ and lodging should pay (per capita) MORE than a residential unit where 1 to ? people live and use the system more than 1 lodging unit.

    I would challenge the % quotes in the page 6 of 29 City Budget. Why?

    Easy answer: way back in the day when I sat on City Council it was well known that the tourists were supporting almost 75% of our budget….and I’m not aware that our population has grown nor has our tourist population…..so if the current City and Council’s want to keep increasing Their spending well above and beyond what the revenue from tourists are paying – well – That’s On Them!!!

    Time to have Council and Manager Slow their roll on spending and live well within their means – which seemingly is not a concept within their world. They are “Borrowing” aka “Stealing” from the Waste Water Fund in order to pay for ” Other things” not nearly as important as our Sewer System!

    As a side note: I find it quite fascinating how so many say the City is not a Business and can’t be run like one.

    Guess What??? This may be a rather novel concept – City IS a Business and not a 501 or a non profit organization and in order to survive it (City) needs to earn as much as it can in order to pay its bills and Save towards a rainy day And save enough to Pay Off (early) our debt so they can reduce our fees.

    Call me crazy but I think we are seeing some jerry pandering of budget – what’s new?

  44. Steve segner says:

    Another playing with the numbers . Hotels pay the sewer fee based upon the number of rooms they have and the number of dining seats or water usage.
    We must remember thousands of homes throughout sedona or hooked up to miles of pipes ,yes of course resident should be paying the majority of the fee to pay off the huge cost of bringing service to neighborhoods. ,I trust the city’s use of an outside consultant that did the studies more than I would trust J Jake’s made up numbers . Lets remember visitors now pay 70% of all the expenses and SEDONA but Jean wants them to pay all City expenses and sewer fees and she wants visitors to disappear , Jean says the city should never have been incorporated and we should still be the way we were back in 1956 good luck with that .

  45. Sheri Sheri oh Sheri says:

    Thank G-D our city is NOT run like a business! A business must make a profit or it will go under. Now that would make sense that a city must make a profit except a city has city services in place to take care of those who can’t take care of themselves.

    Here’s a few examples; bus, health and human services. Police & fire (well not in Sedona of course) department. Food bank, Meals on wheels, pool, parks and recreation. Of course so many of us came to Sedona decades ago for the beauty and as an artist I appreciate that we as a city invests in the arts. I know most of you, now that you’re already here, could care less and want to close the barn door, YOU SHOULD STOP WITH THE CLOSED MINDS AND LIVE YOUR LIVES.

  46. Norma says:

    Thank you Sheri. Spot on.

    I’ve seen the numbers and Steve is once again not being honest, trying to create smoke and mirrors. Steve benefits from government city funding. He can’t help himself. Time for the residents and legitimate businesses to take the city back.

    I wish Sheri was still on council. She understands the numbers and knows how to work within a budget. Health Welfare and safety for the incorporated city limits. The city is gifting money to entire verde Valley.

  47. How Come? says:

    Steve Segner writes: “,I trust the city’s use of an outside consultant that did the studies more than I would trust J Jake’s made up numbers .”

    Then why is it you wouldn’t trust the city’s use of an outside consultant to provide honest and reliable answers to the millions of dollars the chamber of commerce is receiving from the Sedona tax revenue – bed and/or sales tax. Your selective pick and choose practices don’t hold water except whatever it is the council members drink at their meetings with you and Jennifer.

    An outside audit from a reliable source remains conspicuous by absence and now the council has voted to eliminate consideration of a professional review of the chamber’s probably cooked books.

    Residential quality of life here has diminished greatly during the last five years and the future looks bleak. Sedona wasn’t incorporated to become a big city. Read the vision statement, largely based on maintaining a small town atmosphere. The opposite has happened since you guys took over.

  48. JeanJ says:

    Steve Segner is lying again. I’ve never said the City should not have been incorporated. Nor is my name J. Jakes.

    And let’s be clear about the super-expensive sewer system. In the past new developments were not charged the cost the City incurred to run sewer pipes up to their property line.

    Steve was on the former Budget Oversight Commission which looked at more than just sales and bed taxes. The Commission’s findings: residents were paying most of the City’s bills when calculations also included WW fees, shared vehicle license taxes, gas taxes,and shared state income and sales taxes.

    Tourists, who clog our streets, are being provided free public services by residents and hard-pressed businesses, including police, fire, ambulance, search and rescue, trail maintenance, etc. Not to mention that hotels generally have more toilets per acre than an acre of homes and routinely do more daily laundries.

    Our unnecessarily large Fire District will be going after the voters to approve $15 to $20 million in GO-bonds come November. And the City Finance Director has stated that it looks like her Citizen Engagement work group will be coming back to the City Council saying the City needs to come up with a new revenue source.

    Yet, the City continues to NOT live within its means. Estimated Total Expenditures for the FY 2017-18 PROPOSED BUDGET exceed anticipated Total Revenues by $10.8 Million. According to City Manager Justin Clifton, the proposed budget is conservative. So much for his credibility, if any, in my opinion.

  49. How Come? says:

    How come the results of an outside consultant should be followed regarding suggestions when it was perfectly OK to ignore studies and recommendations from Larry Harmer, also a professional consultant who clearly advised the City Council back in January of 2015 that their responsibility was to represent the people and businesses within the incorporated area as pertaining to the discussion of the contract with the C of C. His advice was completely ignored and remains so to this day by virtue of the policy of the Chamber of Commerce to represent ONLY their members – most of whom are outside Sedona City Limits.

    More selective enforcement? Worse than that! They only listen to outside consultants when the information they receive agrees with their personal opinions. To imply otherwise is dishonest.

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