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The Ten Thousand’s Two Million Shadow

Sedona AZ (March 18, 2017) – The following is a letter to the SedonaEye.com editor:

Sedona Red Rock View, a 2015 SedonaEye.com photo exclusive

After reading the SRRN 3/10/17 article “City & Chamber talk contract,” I began to wonder if the Chamber has become a part of a shadow government, and if the Council has unwittingly ceded some of its powers to the Chamber. The City gives nearly two million dollars annually to the Chamber via 55% of bed taxes and funds for destination marketing. This seems an outrageous amount for a “city” of only 10,000 plus people.

Consequently there has been a debate on whether or not to renew the City’s contract with the Chamber for destination marketing. An earlier SRRN editorial supported the Chamber with specious arguments against all the alternative options: a request for proposal for tourism services; an independent marketing firm; a city department of tourism; and a travel consultant study “to assess the current structure and funding and provide recommendations to the city.” It’s hard to believe the Council would pass up an opportunity to fund yet another study, when this would be the logical first step to figure out the efficacy of the Chamber’s destination marketing. Though the Chamber would argue an independent analysis has already been done (by a Yavapai College professor and friend of the Chamber’s CEO), I am skeptical about any statistics put out by the Chamber since the scope of those stats usually include the entire region and not just the city of Sedona. The end result is that it always appears that we are getting more bang for our buck than we really are.

Sedona AZ

Instead of reducing the amount of money given to the Chamber and taking back some of its powers, the Council wants more input in how the Chamber spends its allocation. Consequently the Chamber is worried it will lose control over the money and/or get less in the bargain. Could it be that the Council has realized it has given the Chamber too much money for marketing? The Chamber counters by saying it is spending it on “product development,” i.e. attributes and amenities that make Sedona more enticing to tourists…”And because product development has not been defined, funding can be used for a variety of sources that enhance the visitor experience – traffic and parking mitigation and trail maintenance – while benefiting the city.”

Examples of the Chamber acting as an independent arm of city government are the $56,000 donated to the US Forest Service and its proposed purchase of a Jordan Rd. property for a parking lot at the cost of a million dollars over the next 4 years. This “product development” benefits the tourist industry at the expense of the residents, whose wastewater rates could be reduced with this million bucks. Yet the City justifies its transfer of power in allowing the Chamber to set the agenda as the prudent use of the Chamber as a proxy. “‘That product development piece has given us [the city] some flexibility to do things that would otherwise have no dedicated funding source,” Assistant Karen Osburn said. She went on to add…”As far as we can tell, there is an unlimited number of possible programs and projects. There is a long list so I don’t think we’re going to be in a situation where we say, ‘What are we going to do with product development money?'”

City of Sedona Council Chamber

Wow, this sounds like the Council and the Chamber are now joined at the hip; that there’s been some sort of fusion, a probably illegal blurring of lines between city government and a non-profit; that the Chamber’s board members are now our unelected co-councilors. All the more reason for the Council to take back its powers and take away the Chamber’s destination marketing money and reduce its percentage of the bed tax from 55% to 30%. The Council should be making the decisions on how to spend “product development” money. In fact the Council should cut back funds to bare-bones support of the Chamber and hire an independent agency for destination marketing. Or the Council could eliminate the more non-essential jobs (around economic diversity, social media, etc.) and use those funds to do its own destination marketing. The Council was elected to represent us residents and work for the common good, not to collude in promoting the agendas of special interests.

Henry Twombly
Sedona, AZ 86336

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4 Comments

  1. Another Sedona Loser says:

    No surprises in your very fine letter to the Sedona Eye (Henry Twombly) and a reiteration of the alternatives outlined in a previous Eye article “Business As Usual” which garnered 344 comments. However, the deed is done and the road to ruination of Sedona by controlled interests marches on. The amount in the 2017 budget for the C of C I believe exceeded the $2 million mark at a whopping $2.01 million. And let us not overlook the ill-managed visitors center paid from city taxes at the tune of $300,000 annually only to discriminate against Sedona city licensed businesses unless they are members of the C of C.

    And is it just a coincidence that at least at one time the husband of a key player was listed as a partner at the bottom of the Red Rock News online version? That notation was missing the last time I checked but little wonder the print edition you mentioned ranted praises for the non-profit which we, Sedona residents, are under control. And BTW, is it another mere coincidence that same husband of the unnamed key player is a high-profile Sedona realtor? OMG- amazing but of course no conflicts of interest lurking in this questionable shadow government when it comes to real estate listing/sales commissions. Of course not.

    And the beat continues at the city owned “Hub” as yet another non-profit (Red Earth Theatre) is paid with city taxes what amounts to $50,000 annually to offer entertainment, performances, and who-knows-what including political rallies, again many of which charge admission and compete with tax-collecting legitimate Sedona businesses.

    And the qualification of “product development” as you so aptly pointed out is over the moon. And when is another Harmonic Convergence scheduled for Sedona so these folks can again plan for UFO”s to take off for parts unknown from Bell Rock. Oh – we’re in the big leagues now. Let’s add a landing strip out there at The Dells to accommodate other Martian’s & ET’s along with the upcoming Sanctuary City & Pilgrimage Site. The new and improved Sedona. RIGHT!

  2. Anonymous says:

    Bravo Henry!

    Except for the statement to gift the chamber 30% of thebed taz. No city funds the chamber form the bed tax. The chamber took over the city years ago.

  3. Jim Poole says:

    Great article Henry. It’s really nice to hear a sane opinion.

  4. Mary C says:

    The city is not being run for the residents, but for the business that profit from the two million tourists that clog our roads.

    As far as the city management and city council, they would prefer the residents would just go away.

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