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Dear Editor a Response to Red Rock News Opinion!

Sedona AZ (October 6, 2010)GO TO THE SOURCE IF YOU WANT THE FACTS ABOUT THE SEDONA FIRE DISTRICT! writes SedonaEye.com reader Karen Schmitt in all capitals to the Sedona Times news, adding, “This is in response to Mr. Dave Zirinsky’s charges against the Sedona Fire District that appeared in the Opinion column of the September 29 edition of Red Rock News.”

Sedona Fire Chief, Nazih M. Hazime

Sedona Fire Chief, Nazih M. Hazime

The following is Ms. Schmitt’s letter:

Mr. Zirinsky begins by charging that in 2009-10 the SFD had a per capita cost of $760, which he states is “almost triple that of neighboring departments.”  He says he took the budget figure and simply divided it by an estimated 20,000 residents.

A per capita comparison that depicts per resident costs would only be a fair measurement if there were no commercial businesses who pay a much higher tax rate than residences, and if Sedona were not the number one destination for tourism in the country (per USA Today), patronized by millions of visitors annually. Ignoring the existence of commercial property in a per capita analysis makes little sense, since not only do commercial properties commonly have greater value than residences, but they are assessed at double the rate. This means commercial occupancies pay a disproportionately higher portion of the total district tax burden. This significantly offsets the amount paid by residents of the community.

Sedona Fire EMS ArizonaIf you take SFD’s total 20,000 residents, a naïve person might conclude that each resident pays $760 per capita; however that would only be true if there were NO taxpaying commercial businesses, no utilities which pay taxes, and no home owner associations which also pay taxes.

Further, if one wanted to manipulate the per capita rate in the opposite direction, we should count the 4,000,000 tourists who also pay taxes (sales) here, in an analysis of per person costs.  Then everyone using SFD services actually pays only $1.08 per capita!  This is about as logical an analysis as Mr. Zirinsky’s argument.

There isn’t room here for me to list the per capita costs of other AZ Fire Districts. Suffice it to say they range from a couple of hundred dollars to $18,000. . . which should tell you this figure means little to nothing at all.  Especially when examined in a vacuum.

Facts are facts.  Too often lately the facts have been distorted and/or misrepresented for political purposes.  If you have questions, contact someone who really knows them: Fire Chief Hazime or SFD’s Business Director, Karen Daines.

Karen Schmitt
Sedona AZ

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!


  1. Bob C. says:

    Very good rebuttal Mrs. Schmit and it did make me rethink that which we are being told on the streets and in the stores-I encourage the people who are candidates to get their message out in the next Sedona Times News because it seems to me that the OTHER newspaper does not do such a good job. I do wish that signs were not allowed except in certain designated areas at the main access points to town. Then everyone is allowed to display political signs and no sign stealing and such ridiculous behaviors will be necessary. I heard someone say that they would not buy goods at the Outlet Mall because the grounds were displaying signs of those they opposed. I promptly said how ashamed as an American it made me to hear them say that-we veterans fought for all to have their say not just the crotchety and narrowminded people who talk the loudest and carry big sticks so keep those signs up no matter whose name is on them. We should be grateful that the people care about our system and are running for an office. Vote them in or out fair and square and not by bullying. Thank you for your time.

  2. Jerry Reynolds says:

    Until you mentioned the 4,000,000 visitors per year your might have convinced me of your calculations but you are drinking, and are asking the rest of us to drink, the cool-aid involving this 4,000,000 visitors per year to our area.

    You do realize that is equal to 10,958.9 visitors each and every day of the year, rain or shine, snow or sleet…this is BS!!! It was BS when I first asked the population of Sedona back in 1983 at the CofC and was told 10,000, plus the 3,500,000 visitors per year!! The population of Sedona based on the 1990 census was just under 4,000. That’s fact!

    You people have been selling this fantasy at the expense of the people who bought into Sedona based on these false statistics for the past 25 years…have you no conscience?

    Thankfully we didn’t move here to start a business. We moved here to retire because we loved the slower pace and simpler life we at first found here, before the timeshares started pouring in.

    If you looked up (google) the expression “pooping in your own nest” you would find a map and pictures of Sedona and it’s city council as a prime example.

  3. Lin Ennis says:

    Good article. Yes, where are the facts these days? Like a recent opinion piece in the RRN, (paraphrasing), “I have my facts and you have yours.” That shouldn’t be possible. We all need to agree on baseline facts. Thank you for this insight.

  4. Tom Longo says:

    This was an excellent rebuttal to the mistatements made by Mr. Zirinski and the group he is part of. It’s very easy to make accusations without giving any details to back them up.When I listen to the various presentations made by his group, including last night’s Candidate Forum sponsored by DORR, I hear criticism of the District, accusations against staff and nothing specific to justify their reasons.The other slate provides details, analyzes their data before they present it and shows a willingness to educate themselves about the inner workings of the SFD. They have stated their ideas on how the budget could be paired down, yet being aware of the fact that District runs a 24/7, 365 day operation, that deals with our lives and safety. It’s a misconception to think and say that it can be run like a business. When you provide critical care like the one given by the District and any medical facility, people’s lives are at stake and you need to hire and keep competent people to get the job done.The new board members will need to find and maintain a balance between cost containment and adequate level of service for the taxpayers of this District.

    To do this, we need individuals who can analyze all of the data before them and make unbiased decisions, NOT based on preconceived notions.We need board members who can work together WITH staff instead of AGAINST them.

    We have a tough road ahead of us in the upcoming years and we need high-caliber people representing us, the taxpayers of this District. In my opinion, the only individuals who can do that are Fishel, Fitzpatrick and Montgomery.

  5. Sedona landlord says:

    The chamber of commerce needs to stand on its own and not get funding from this city. Let the chamber get its dollars from the foreign countries that are financing the chamber of commerce ads against the democrats! republicans and nonpartisans ought to be concerned that our elections are being bought with the help of OUR COMBINED MEMBERSHIP AND CITY SALES TAX DOLLARS. if Rob Adams and the city council doesn’t cut the chamber funds off, the will of the people will not have them seated back at the table.

  6. karen says:

    Thank you Mr. Reynolds for correcting the figures I got from USA today who still names Sedona as being the Nation’s #1 tourist destination. Evidently that information was a bit outdated, and that was a good year, which he does not want to count. Therefore, I just called the Sedona Chamber of Commerce to get an overall AVERAGE, and they verify that although there have been 4,000,000 visitors in one year, the AVERAGE is “only” 3 MILLION per year. I was told that Individual weekends often bring 40,000 visitors alone, so Mr. Reynold’s quote of “over 10,000 per day” isn’t far off, is it? Thanks again Mr. Reynolds. I want to be completely accurate!

  7. Fred H. says:

    Someone on city council must contact ADOT and ask that ADOT “VEHICLE COUNTERS (air hoses that when laid across the roadways to “count” vehicles)” be installed for an appropriate analysis of estimated tourists/residents that enter sedona highways from all access points into town; 89A in west sedona and 89A uptown as you enter from the canyon; 179 as you cross into the city limits. The ridiculous numbers tossed around by the CofC and the City need justification and or determinations based on “real tourist dollars” AND MUST BE VERIFIED.

  8. Jerry Reynolds says:

    For Pete’s sake!! You think Sedona is more popular than Disneyland? You believe what you read in USA Today? Use your common sense…who, exactly, told you we had 40,000 visitors on a weekend? You believe whatever is in your best interests as a saleswoman. Why would you be so ready to quote inaccurate ‘rumor’ as fact? So you can repeat these “facts” to an unknowing prospect?

    I can’t get over your statement that you actually believe that we have had four times the towns population here over a weekend…any weekend. You probably think we have a population of near 20,000 too.

    I just told you what the “Chamber” told me in 1983..a total falsehood…and you are willing to accept their “estimate” as fact? They really don’t have any idea how many visitors Sedona has on any given day, let alone year! Noone has bothered to hire anyone who specializes in demographics…probably because the truth will pop their bubble and they’d rather continue to rely on rumor and propaganda so they can continue to “hype” Sedona to the hilt.

    In closing…do you really think that the other districts referred to in Mr. Zirinsky’s letter-to-the-editor of the RRN don’t also have commercial properties which also pay taxes? Apples and apples please. Your argument is full of holes. His is not. The comparison is as accurate as one can get. You appear to be a union person and like paying $100,000.+ per year for each of your fellow union members on the bloated payroll of the SFD.

    Relying on what the nebulous “they” say is no way to run a business. Just the true facts please.

  9. Ken says:

    Three million or four million, what’s the difference? Let’s just agree that SEDONA HAS A LOT OF VISITORS, and there is no practical way to count them without spending more money than the Chamber can afford. Three million is an old figure, and tourism has increased at least 3% a year since the study was taken. Besides, Ms. Schmitt’s point was not disproved by Mr. Reynold’s letter criticizing her total visitors to Sedona statistics! The point is that per capita cost, when considered in a vacuum, is meaningless. I get it, but I don’t think Mr. Reynolds ever will!

  10. Jerry Reynolds says:

    “Three million or four million, what’s the difference?” Wow!!!

    This town incorporated in 1988 using the argument that the “visitors”sales taxes would pay for the cost of incorporation, the running of the new city and the sewer system. And you think the true number of visitors is insignificant?

    The “pro-incorporation” bunch seemed to throw those numbers around pretty freely…as if they knew the real numbers. You think it doesn’t matter?

    You’re right, Ken. I’m the one here that “doesn’t get it”. Your simplistic view, and those who share it, is responsible for the the beautiful condition Sedona is in after 22 years of being an incorporated city. I’ll bet you are a “voice 0f choice” groupie who insisted on the 179 Hwy re-consideration to two lanes rather then the four lanes originally proposed by ADOT. Real clever that group. Now we have gridlock on a brand new highway rather than that which existed with the old one…and it only cost the taxpayers $100 million+!! Not many of them will admit to being a part of “voice of choice” anymore. They don’t want to be associated with one of the stupidest pro-active activities of this century. They just want to go hug a tree! The “swath” they feared would cut through our forest with four divided lanes is just as wide with our new two lane result. Happy?

  11. Will says:


    Ken is right.You are missing the point. The issue here is NOT how many visitors come to Sedona. All Karen is saying is that the per capita figure does not represent a true measure of cost or efficiency that was used by Mr. Zirinski when he criticized the Sedona Fire District.

  12. Jerry Reynolds says:

    OK, Will, then what does? Per capita means the total cost divided by the number of people served. You have a different definition? Efficiency? You think buying a hook and ladder fire truck for a million bucks for a district that doesn’t have a building over 25 feet tall is efficiency? If other districts compile the per capita cost of their service per person served so why would comparing ours to theirs be wrong cost analysis? Zirinsky has been a CPA longer than you’ve been alive! I’ll take his analysis over that of Karen’s…who seems p—ed off over not having a new 5 million dollar fire station in the Chapel area. Not exactly an unbiased opinion is it?

  13. Jerry Reynolds says:

    How come Karen Daines doesn’t enter this discussion? She afraid she can’t substantiate her per capita costs as necessary? What about the Red Rock News? Where are they in this fight?

    Why doesn’t somebody mention how the zillion jeep tours clog up the roads causing the emergency teams consternation about getting to their emergency in time…like the Fire dept did in commenting that the two lane 179 would cause a hardship in getting a person to the hospital in time..which was promptly dismissed by the ‘voice for choice’ , the RRN and the city council. ADOT hopes they never hear the name Sedona again!
    Good job people.

  14. Will says:

    Based on what you have written, I would definitely not consider your assumptions unbiased. You don’t seem to want (or choose) to understand that a per capita comparison does not seem to work when you compare apples to oranges (i.e, do all districts provide the same identical services, do the other districts cover 168 square miles like we do, are the fire stations spread out or centrally located, do they have as many commercial structures (they pay double the tax) like we do, do they have the same number of vacant lots which pay taxes, do they have the same number of utility companies that pay taxes, do they have the same HOA’s like we do that pay taxes). Dividing the total cost by the number of people served would work only if the items above were not to be considered. If per capita was such a good measurement of how to best equitably distribute taxes, someone in one of our taxing agencies would have figured a way to use it, but, it isn’t, because it is not a valid measure – the following are per capita costs for just some other fire districts within AZ.

    Blue Ridge Fire District $1,007
    Buckeye Valley Fire District $1,059
    Crown King Fire District $2,164
    Greer Fire District $1,053
    Highlands Fire District $994
    Thunderbird Fire District $18,274

    As far as the 100ft ladder truck that was bought used for about $800,000—it would behoove you to find out how it’s being used and how many structures and brush fires have been contained because of that unit. Mr. Zirinski may have been a CPA for a long time, but I also know from my experience, as I am sure you do too, that figures can be manipulated at will. I also wouldn’t assume that he has been a CPA longer than I have been alive, because he hasn’t. I have also learned the hard way not to assume that because people profess to be CPAs, that they automatically know their figures. In conclusion, I would take Karen’s data far more readily than the biased opinion of someone who, for the past couple of years, has constantly provided us with financial missinformation.

  15. Ted Ball says:

    Mr. Reynolds,
    I have been reading and following this conversation for its duration and have come to the conclusion you are unwilling to accept facts that are not in-line with your agenda. Much like the rest of your party, you are not happy with answers and facts that represent the true story and provide information that shows the department is operating efficiently. Just as you attacked a previous posting, your numbers in the last post are inaccurate at best. First, if you would look at the true costs of the hook and ladder truck provided for the past 3 years, you will find that the cost to the department was 800,000 and not 1 million as you accuse. Some may mention that this difference is minor, but then they would be guilty of skewing the numbers, correct? As far as buildings over 25 feet tall, I can name a few off hand. Have you been to Arroyo Robles lately? Not only would I challenge your estimate in the front of that building, but the back as well.
    I am sorry, but Mr. Zirinsky is way off-line. I have attended meetings and seen him speak and have come to the conclusion that anyone who cites him as a reference or aligns their ideals with is, a fool. He is an angry individual and is unwilling to accept any statistics or facts that don’t agree with his preconceived notions and agenda. I am sorry Mr. Reynolds, but I enjoy the services our fire department in this town provides and I am proud of them. Unlike you and your party, I am not looking for a scape-goat during difficult economic times. Looking at the “FACTS”, I see on paper it does not appear you have much to worry about financially, but again, does this represent the true facts? Please remember that these individuals are humans also and have families and lives. It seems they have chosen this profession to help individuals like you and I and it is sad when they begin getting attacked for reasons beyond their control. I have a feeling if the economy were still at levels seen from 2000-2007, you would be making your money, Mr. Zirinsky his and the firefighters still plugging away putting their lives on the line, but without criticism.

  16. Will says:

    Why bother giving you facts, when obviously your mind is already made up. Obviously, you are far from being unbiased and you have blinders on that prevent you from seeing anything beyond a couple of inches. Go and join your fellow mates and steal a few more signs from the opposing slate— that will make you feel real macho!

  17. Will says:

    Speaking of signs…has anybody been noticing that candidate signs for Fishel, Fitzpatrick and Montgomery are being stolen in mass in Sedona and the VOC? What does that tell you? The opposing slate, in an act of desperation, is trying to fight the only way they can because they ran out of ammunition. I bet you feel real proud!

  18. Jerry Reynolds says:

    AGENDA???? I have been waiting for someone to place me with a “party” as you all have. You assumed I am an opposition party member who would stoop to your level and mess with someones signs. I have no agenda as you all obviously do. Lock step one and all.

    I have lived here over 27 years and call them as I see them. I have watched and listened to the likes of you who when you run out of facts and logic you resort to personal character assassination. You will all get what you deserve in the long run because you are single-minded enough to miss the big picture. There are other things going on which affect the community besides the SFD board election.

    Off the subject I know, but in line with what I have been harping about (Hwy 179)…I just spent the better part of a half-hour coming from VOC up Hwy 179 with an ambulance behind me (about 8 cars) which had made an emergency call at the Subway in the Village. I assume they carried no one who needed immediate medical attention, thank God. What if one of you was that person needing an ambulance to take you to the cath lab in Cottonwood for emergency heart attention.

    Are you all so narrow minded that you can’t see the failures of the local administration and RRN. You should insist that all decisions on issues concerning our community are fully and transparently aired and need lengthy review before letting the few “loudmouths” dictate how these vital decisions affect all of us…both residents and businesses.

    You who march to the “beat” of the ‘union drums are but a notch in the history of the Sedona area…you’ll probably be like the pro-incorporation group who after we incorporated moved away after seeing the folly of their ways.

    Again, I am no one’s mouthpiece but my own. I have no “AGENDA”. Can you say the same?

    Will and Ted…you have been bought and paid for. Cheap shot guys…shame!

  19. Will says:


    Unfortunately you are off the subject on much of what you have to say. The comments in this section deal specifically with the SFD and you are ranting and raving about all kind of issues that don’t have any direct relationship with the
    topic ( i.e., tourists, 179, city government, the RRN, etc). I can’t speak for Ted, but the only concern I have as a taxpayer in the SFD is to make sure that my family and I get adequate and professional services. Just like you, I don’t have an “AGENDA” and am no one’s mouth piece. I have never been bought and paid for by anyone.

  20. Dan says:

    I saw this on another blog. Looks like it may be bad news for the Erick, Blauert, Demme slate, as well as the Sierra Club of Sedona.

    I thought I would pass this information along. This slate just sent out a mailer bashing unions and especially union firefighters ( I take exception to bashing unions, as I am a union working and know plenty of school teachers that are union).

    The permit used on this mailer was from the Sierra Club / Sedona-Verde Valley Chapter (permit #100). On their site, the Sierra club has a blog on how they are trying to decrease the number of trees wasted and find a solution to junk mail. I would ask, why then would they allow this slate to utilize their permit number and send out this garbage to over 11,000 resident mailing addresses?

    It makes me think that this slate either has a member in the club or a close friend (Zirinski, Norton or Dible) that belongs to this club. I wonder how the national board and committee of the Sierra Club may feel about this? I have to wonder if they too would endorse such nonsense or would they be upset that their mission of reducing wasteful use of paper through junk mail is being ignored at the local Sedona level.

    Once again, another example of poor judgment associated with this slate and their agenda.

    For your own information, please follow this link to have a look for yourself.


  21. Andy says:

    Dan, looks like Craig Dible has struck again…This is what I saw on another blog…

    Sedona-Verde Valley Group, Craig Dible, Chair


    His name shows up on this slate’s financial summaries as well…




    He sure hasn’t learned his lesson from helping in the 2008 campaign for Don Harr and Charles Christensen.

  22. Doug Davis says:

    Well, well, well, look who got caught in the act. Hopefully, voters will take this into consideration when voting, since Mr. Johnson is an avid suppoter of the Blauert, Demme, Erick slate. “Tell me who your freinds are and I will tell you who you are” never rang more true!


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