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Eddie Maddock: Business as Usual?

SedonaEye.com columnist Eddie S. Maddock

Sedona AZ (January 7, 2017) – At a Special Sedona City Council Meeting, 3:00 –Wednesday afternoon –January 11, 2017, after three long years of a contentious destination marketing agreement with the Sedona Chamber of Commerce, the City will again revisit the issue. We can only hope the negotiations will prove to be less controversial, fairer and, in turn, result in acceptable transparency which will dismiss suspicion and mistrust of City Hall dealings. That might very well have been the case had the original commitment for Requests for Proposals (RFP’s) as well as certified outside audits been upheld as proposed during the initial negotiations. Ignoring both valid concerns was a disservice to everyone.

Five options will be discussed at this meeting as follows:

Option 1: Move forward with the negotiations of a new contract with the Chamber of Commerce.

Option 2: Issue an RFP for tourism promotion services.

Option 3: Create a stand-alone destination marketing organization (DMO) without ties to the Chamber of Commerce.

Option 4: Create a City Department to handle tourism promotion.

Option 5: Issue a Request for Qualifications (RFQ) for a travel industry consultancy to assess the current structure, funding relationships, etc. and provide recommendations to the city.

Pros and cons of each option will be discussed at length, such as concerns RFP’s will include bids from for-profit agencies. That brings up several questions. Without an official outside audit from a qualified source, how do they know the Chamber has not been making a profit? How many employees have they hired? What has been the cost of improvement to their own facilities, etc? And what is the source of funding for those operating expenses?

And will the City acknowledge the Chamber currently offers their own RFP’s for specific services, realistically reducing them to a mere middle-agency, acting on behalf of the City of Sedona?

And how do they justify the extended branding of the Sedona Chamber of Commerce that has occurred within the past three years? What has been the source of that promotional funding for the Chamber instead of the City?

By creating a stand-alone destination marketing organization, the City could avoid real or perceived conflicts between tourism promotion services and the various other functions of the Chamber of Commerce. Although they specify: “Unclear how local and regional partners would react,” why should that concern the City? Should their focus at long last be redirected to the residents of incorporated Sedona? They are the people who created the City in the first place, clearly, and with knowledge, it attracted tourists.

Sure, a stand-alone destination marketing organization “would result in the re-creation of an already established and successful local agency.” However the extent of success of the present local agency has never been undisputedly proven. The source of increased revenue after the great recession coupled with a reduction in gasoline prices has never factually been factored into the increased tourism and resulting upswing in revenue. Nor has it been determined to what extent advertising monies have merely resulted in excessive day-tripping, which the City’’s infrastructure clearly cannot handle.

As for the suggestion for Request for Qualifications (RFQ) for a travel industry consultancy to assess and monitor the current structure, would that be nothing more than a baby sitter for the contract with the Chamber of Commerce? Should the City have been serving that function for the past three years?

It has frequently been said the City could not afford to operate their stand-alone department. And how would they know? With a Chamber of Commerce now providing funding for USFS trail maintenance, contributing money back to the City for their traffic study, and other generous, but questionably frivolous expenditures, most recently to propose purchasing property on behalf of the City with what appears to be leftover funds from the bed tax rebate, how can they make that determination without a precise and reliable audit from an authentic source? They cannot. Is there any reasonable explanation why the City should not take responsibility for allocating the bed tax revenue -– all of it – including over and above destination marketing?

And the perfect opportunity to establish a genuine Sedona Visitors Center has been ignored by not including such a service at the Western Gateway. How long will this City tolerate discrimination of their own legitimate licensed, tax collecting businesses within City Limits unless they are forced to be members of what clearly is a regional Chamber of Commerce? And the practice of paid referrals is common, but should the City be involved by financing the activity with public funds, and further discriminating against in-city businesses?

Molly Spangler

With the recent hiring of a professional, Molly Spangler, to serve as Economic Development Director, there i’s really no need to burden our busy Chamber of Commerce with more additional duties besides servicing their members, which is the purpose of their non-profit organization.

And, since when was “The Sedona Chamber of Commerce & Tourism Bureau” deemed “the Destination Marketing & Management Organization in Sedona for 65 years”? Up until just a few years ago was it not the Oak Creek Canyon Sedona Chamber of Commerce, then changed to Sedona Chamber of Commerce, and most recently “”& Tourism Bureau”” was tacked on? This elaborate extension of creating yet another illusion that simply does not exist is pretty much over the top. Wouldn’t you agree? Dumb question.

There i’s already a campaign in motion to “Make America Great Again.” How about a local endeavor to “Make Sedona Respectable Again”? Meet and greet our visitors with an authentic Sedona Visitors Center and related advertising. Don’’t we deserve it like other places? Flagstaff (AZ) and Park City (UT) are, but two, examples that offer proof they survive very well without financial support to their respective Chambers of Commerce.

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414 Comments

  1. Sales Tax & Affordable Housing says:

    Vacation rentals have already pretty much consumed Sedona’s regular rental housing inventory. So go ahead – raise sales tax. Up go rents even more. Commercial properties are already over the moon. And what about hotel/motel room rates? Don’t they collect sales tax as well as bed tax? What will that do to their rates?

    You people should all be recalled back to whatever planet you came from. The cost of living in Sedona is close to unaffordable as is. You don’t seem to get it. We are NOT all millionaires or even close to it. Sorry. But sure, you would just as soon kick us to the curb or better yet out of city limits. Well, you’re well on your way.

    The Chamber of Commerce and their regional members get richer while you unrealistic and unprofessional decision makers allow it to happen and at the same time drive the residents to the poor house – well – almost. Not the wealthy people from out of state that are buying up properties for vacation rentals. Affordable housing? Get a grip. But of course the question remains .. Will that become a product development commodity and not subject to taxes of any kind?

    Better use the magic words so I won’t get sued: In my opinion.

  2. Randy says:

    First congratulations Mrs. Maddock as you are the most engaging writer in the entire Verde Valley. This includes those who claim to write for the snooze bias news.

    SUGGESTION CITY COUNCIL- take the 3 million dollars that you GIFT the chamber and give it to the legitimate hotels that collect the bed tax. Since you have many claimers deserving this benefit from city bed tax I suggest that you take the 3 MILLION and divide it up among the 30 hotels that actually collect bed tax. Let them decide what brings them the most return or bed tax for their legitimate sales tax bed tax collecting business. If they find the chamber truly gives them the best return then they can invest in the chamber. If they feel a remodel gives them a better return then they should have the opportunity to remodel.

    To keep the playing field fair divide the money up by how many rooms they offer for visitor stays. Why should TINY BnB get the same as a large resort or hotel? Fair is fair.

    Since vacation rentals also contribute to those bed taxes they should be included in the scenario.

    Why should we pay to advertise those that don’t contribute to the tax base? Time to change things up. So Amara. L’Aurgure and Poco would be the largest recipients as they have the most amount of rooms. PERFORMANCE will be the deciding factor for the hotels based on FACTS!

    CITY let the businesses decide!!!!!!

    IMO LET the businesses do what they are trained to do!!!!

  3. Joyce M. says:

    Shopping for the weekends on Thursdays used to be a good time to do so. Judging on yesterday, no more. The traffic on W89 was bumper to bumper at 9:00 AM & creating congestion at the Y roundabouts. For once it wasn’t caused by a backup on 179!! Even the grocery store I shop at was overloaded with long lines at the check out lanes. Of course Sedona didn’t have enough congestion prior to all the money given to the chamber of commerce renewed once more. When timeshares were the going thing it was noticeable those part time residents were also shopping for groceries and cooking meals in their own space. Now we’re we deluged with vacation shortterm renters and guess what? Same thing? Of course that decision was made at state level. Isn’t it interesting how the state mandates their own dumb laws while at the same time completely ignoring the ones already on the books?? Such as forcing compliance of incorporated cities to stay within their own designated jurisdiction of metes and bounds and to represent primarily those living within those incorporated city limits. Not so in Sedona as we all know. Is it true? Are our state representatives even worse than city council? Keep that in mind next election.

  4. Bah, Humbug says:

    So these hair-brained nut jobs continue to give money to the chamber of corruption only to attract more and more tourists and yet have the audacity to say we residents don’t pay our fair share? Well guess what and who isn’t paying their fair share? The city by giving to the chamber millions of dollars thus increasing the need for more fire stations and emergency services. The Fire District Bond will be on the November ballot asking for $17.5 million to accommodate the masses. Nothing is fair about this.

  5. Affordable housing says:

    We continue to go down the path of MORE expensive housing. The city and the fire district are chasing everyone out. Vote no on the bond as it will raise the rents here. Enough SFD you get millions go take some business management classes and learn to save instead of spend.

    HEY Segner you should be screaming at the SFD They are making affordable housing go bye bye

  6. Another Option says:

    How about if the fire department bills the chamber of commerce every time they rescue a tourist? They love to take credit for them being in Sedona.

  7. steve segner says:

    HEY Segner you should be screaming at the SFD They are making affordable housing go bye bye

    Our governor did that not the fire dept. If you want to live in a up scale community they be ready to pay….. Black Canyon city may be for you

  8. @steve says:

    Hahahahah But then why don’t you pay Steve? The hotels should pay impact fees to the fire district

  9. Jim Bollock says:

    Segner I’ve seen where you live. Looks worse than Black Canyon City. What a (deleted by editor). No wonder you have to live (deleted by editor) citizens of Sedona.

  10. The Thought Proctologist says:

    @ At all hecklers at The Eye,

    Beware, Doxxing in coming to The Eye, and there’s no way to stop it!

  11. Wsr says:

    @the Thought Proctologist

    Good news now we can all know that you are really J Rick. And find out all the Tea Party rags you subscribe to…
    Awesome

  12. West Sedona Dave says:

    Thank you for the heads up Rick!

    So we will be blessed with some more mouth pieces from :

    Heritage Foundation
    Freedomworks
    American Enterprise Institute
    Manhattan Institute for Policy Research
    Lexington Institute
    Claremont Institute
    Hudson Institute
    Cato Institute
    Hoover Institution
    Project for the New American Century
    Center for Security Policy
    Foreign Policy Research Institute
    Center for Immigration Studies
    Center for Strategic and International Studies
    The Federalist Foundation
    NRA

  13. Changes? Not Always says:

    “Eye on Sedona Taxation & Representation” – Sedona Eye – July 4, 2013 – Referencing the Sedona Chamber of Commerce and the Sedona Lodging Council:

    “In myriads of publicity it’s been well publicized that both groups are proposing to increase city sales tax by .5% AND to increase the bed tax by .5% for the purpose of dedicating 45% of the TOTAL bed tax collections to be allocated to the “City’s Official Destination Marketing Organization” (under contract with the Chamber of Commerce) for marketing, 15% dedicated to visitor center management and 20% be allocated for tourism product development for as long as such tax is in place.” http://sedonaeye.com/eye-on-sedona-taxation-and-representation/

    Fast forward – June 16, 2017 – Red Rock News – City OKs Chamber Contract:

    “In regard to the chamber’s plans for the upcoming year, the goal is to attract more overnight guests, especially during the slower periods of summer and winter.”

    Does anyone remember a song title – “It Seems to Me I’ve Heard That Song Before.” The entire promotion during the instigation of the City/Chamber contract based on the .5% bed tax four years ago was exactly the same – to increase “destination marketing” during the customary Sedona down-times, as related in the RRN article. The only tangible product from the chamber’s past advertising efforts resulted in lines upon lines of traffic, many of those cars not even stopping in Sedona for various reasons including lack of parking and disgust with the congestion. Isn’t the chamber’s present effort to embark in an effort “to attract more overnight guests” an admission of their failed attempt to do that very thing – FOUR YEARS AGO? Sound familiar?

    Possibly the only thing that changed during that time is the ante has increased substantially to a whopping $2,141,700, plus an additional $245,000 from the anticipated current year’s collections that will be paid in next year. (2018)

    And for the record, how about we address the fallacy of defending the chamber’s policy to promote only their members, many outside Sedona City Limits and not collecting city sales and bed taxes. The big hype has been defending the guests staying in those facilities because they drive into Sedona (city) and shop? Really? And what catchy phrase has been coined for those patrons? Could it, by chance, be “Day Trippers?”

    Business as usual? NOT! Business even worse than usual sounds more like it to me. Although the increase in sales tax was dropped in 2013, it’s very likely to be back on the table in the very near future. Heads-up Sedona businesses – get those petitions ready to oppose it again and let us know where they are available.

    Eddie Maddock

  14. Marcelle says:

    This is all so very sad. It was a difficult decision for us to move from Sedona in the 90’s but following events of the past few years it was definitely a wise choice.

    Never ever when we lived there would it have been acceptable for a private, non-profit organization to be given money to run Sedona. (we were avid members of the C of C back then) What are these fools thinking? And as I read comments under other articles, the leader of the pack is someone named Steve Segner who according to one of his comments is an an advocate for communism? That is based on his remark that Sedona is NOT a democracy and the majority has no voice.

    Yes we had guardian angels on both shoulders the day we followed our moving van out of what once was one of the most beautiful places in the world. If anything the current management of the Chamber of Commerce coached by local government is the worst thing that could happen short of a natural disaster (earthquake, fire, flood, etc.) So sad.

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