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The Wizards of Sedona

Sedona AZ (March 28, 2017) – The following is a letter to the SedonaEye.com editor:

A basic tenet of our democracy is the freedom of speech, where each of us can express our beliefs no matter how varied they may be. And here in Sedona these opinions span the gamut of the spectrum when it comes to city politics. So here’s my take on what’s going on…

Sedona Arizona Open Gate

There are five major players:  the City Council; the Sedona Oak Creek School District (SOCUSD); the Sedona Fire District (SFD); the Chamber of Commerce; and, the Sedona Red Rock News (SRRN). Behind the curtain as in The Wizard of Oz, the power brokers pulling the strings are these Big Three business groups: tourism; real estate and development; and building/road construction. The agenda of the Five Players and the Big Three is to fully develop and densify Sedona within its confines of being surrounded by a national forest. Their vision is to transform this small-town community into a ritzy tourist paradise that will attract the rich and famous, emulating Palm Springs, CA. Their goal is to make a lot of money and have Sedona serve as a mecca for the arts and arts education, like Santa Fe, NM. The trouble with this agenda and vision is that their greed has short-circuited common sense in what’s logistically possible, and has overlooked the wishes and concerns of most residents who are not affiliated with any of these vested interests. Besides a common goal, the Big Three and the Five Players have a common foible: fiscal irresponsibility at the expense of resident taxpayers.
(sedonaeye.com/the-ten-thousands-two-million-shadow/ )

Sedona scenic view

Here are some examples of how the Big Three impact and influence the Five Players. In terms of the City Council, the Chamber has become an arm of city government, where the Council funnels $2 million (including 55% of the bed taxes) through the Chamber, who spends it on destination marketing and questionable “product development.” As evidence that it receives too much money, the Chamber doesn’t know how to spend it all; so it gives $56,000 to the Forest Service for trail maintenance and nearly a million dollars to realtors and contractors for the purchase of a Jordan Road property to be used as a parking lot and staging ground for tours. The legality of such expenditures on product development is being questioned and analyzed as a possible violation of the state’s Gift Clause.

City of Sedona Council Chamber

Moreover in the history of the Council there seem to be obvious conflicts of interests. A couple of Councils ago, three member of the Council were also members of the Chamber who didn’t recuse themselves when voting on funds for the Chamber. More recently a former councilor, whose spouse is a realtor, pushed through the Council the purchase of a hard-to-sell, adjacent property for $850,000 when it was only assessed for $780,000. Contractors have also been spouses of councilors. And, for whatever reasons, the City Council likes to buy up land from realtors and then have contractors build parks and/or new structures. Some examples are: the under-used, million-dollar walkabout/bird sanctuary near the wastewater plant; the skateboard park; the mountain bike park; the Brewer Road historical restoration and park; the yet unused Barbara Abramson (sp?) park; and the nearly-million-dollar elevator next to the uptown Wayside Chapel, etc. All these and other numerous parks for us 10,000 plus residents, whose average age is 58.

 

In terms of the SOCUSD, the construction industry has been the main beneficiary of the 2007 $70-80 million capital projects bond. The 502 high school and junior high students got an extra 750-seat auditorium (SPAC), a STEM lab, and an astro-turf football field. Administrators got a new office building. The old one on Brewer Road was demolished, and the new and improved one was erected on the same site. I can’t remember how the rest of the money was spent, but I do know that the teachers got nothing. I also know that the West Sedona School complex of buildings is the most lavish one I’ve ever seen for a K-6 school; but that was built years ago. The Budget Overrides that have passed – supposedly for maintenance and operations – have gone for some increases in administrators’ salaries and other expenses not stipulated in the Overrides. Moreover SOCSD was not aware of, or ignored, the declining student population (just over 1,000 now), which resulted in the big brouhaha of whether or not to close the Big Park School. Strictly from a financial solvency perspective, the Board should have closed it, but it lacked the political will to do so.  Now they want to increase teachers’ salaries, which I applaud because teachers never get paid enough.  These two factors will surely cause SOCSD to raise their mil rate and over time they max it out. Then like the SFD, SOCUSD will have to issue their own GO bond to right their financial woes.

In terms of the SFD, realtors and contractors will be the beneficiaries of its probable $15-million GO bond (if it passes in November). As with the SOCUSD, the priorities of the SFD seemed to have been skewed, as money was misspent on two $600,000, 10-story fire engines instead of being used to repair the deteriorating stations. Besides refurbishing some, the SFD want to buy land, move and reconstruct another station as well as a temporary office structure. For further details see these earlier articles (see five related article links below this post).

In terms of the Chamber of Commerce, this non-profit has become a shadow government that discriminates against non-member businesses and subsidizes members who are not located within the city limits. Their discrimination is reflected in their refusal to have Visitor Center employees/volunteers refer tourists to non-member businesses. It is also reflected in their vision and agenda to target and woo wealthy tourists who will stay in Sedona for at least 2-3 nights. This is a form of socioeconomic discrimination that is arrogant and greedy. For further details see these earlier articles(sedonaeye.com/the-ten-thousands-two-million-shadow/ and more on SedonaEye.com using search words “Chamber of Commerce”).

In terms of the SRRN, it serves as the mouthpiece for the Big Three and the other Players, always supporting and exhorting their pro-growth agenda and ritzy, elitist vision for Sedona. The paper is one of many in the Verde Valley owned by members of the Sedona 30. Another questionable coincidence is that the spouse of the CEO of the Chamber allegedly is one of those part owners. Because it is understaffed, the SRRN does very little investigative journalism and depends on the Five Players to feed the paper the information that gets used in articles about the Five Players. Thus the Five Players essentially get to shape/spin the context and facts of these articles, as politicians would do with Fake News/propaganda.

As far as I can tell in the interplay of our city politics, there is no organization that advocates for the non-vested residents, who moved to Sedona to enjoy its natural beauty and its small-town character and quality of living that is now deteriorating due to the pro-growth over-development and greed of the vested interests.

Henry Twombly
Sedona, AZ

Read www.SedonaEye.com for daily news and interactive views!

18 Comments

  1. J. Rick Normand says:

    @ Henry Twombly and All Readers at The Eye:

    Henry, this is yet another superb article. Since I notified The Eye’s publisher late last year that I was retiring from my role as a co-lead writer with Eddie Maddock (who is a better writer, hands down, than I), Eddie has had to carry the mantle all by herself. The Eye needs a new co-lead writer and I submit that you’re the No. 1 candidate, if you’re interested. If so, please send a request to The Eye’s publisher at “publisher@sedonaeye.com” and submit your request to become a primary writer for The Eye rather than a writer of Letters to the Editor.

    In fact, I hope all you who are fans of The Eye who see this post will submit a missive to The Eye’s publisher requesting that she persuade Henry Twombly to join The Eye’s writing staff.

    Sedona really need’s you Henry!

    JRN

  2. Eddie Maddock says:

    Couldn’t agree more. Henry Twombly deserves a headline with a byline. And, no, I’ve never met the gentleman.

    ESM

  3. Lucas johnson says:

    Henry, u should really be investigating the “Sedona 30”. These are the elite of Sedona, own most of the land, and funnelling funds into plans and local politics to bring forth their idea of modern day slavery, based on greed of course….A couple to mention… (names deleted by editor)…

  4. Wsr says:

    Yes Henry

    Sedona really needs you for entertainment value.

    Keep on writing you FAKE news story’s ..
    I see the other “do nothings” ESM and JRN are right behind you

  5. Henry Twombly says:

    I would like to post that I got a few facts wrong about the SRRN. I was informed by the editor that Mr. Larson is not a part of the Sedona 30. And that the Chamber CEO’s husband is also not a part owner. I apologize to these people, the paper, and you readers for not getting these facts right.

  6. Rich Collister says:

    Henry

    You also wrong about SFD having two 10 story fire engines….first off there is no such thing…A fire ENGINE hooks up to a FIRE hydrant and has hose to put the fire out.

    A fire TRUCK has a ladder….There are no 10 story fire ENGINES

    The Fire Truck that SFD has is s multi useful Tower Ladder…They only have one not two. I’d explain to you what that means but you seem to ignorant of any true facts..
    Seems like you just make it up as you go along

  7. West Sedona Dave says:

    Oh yes…..

    Just what we need on this blog….Another person who writes eloquently, and makes up the facts as they go along….Just to try and sway others there ideologically driven opinions.

    But it is the norm here….Opinion and spin is all thats matters, when you aint got nothing else!

    sigh

  8. steve Segner says:

    Lucas johnson says:
    March 31, 2017 at 11:05 am
    Henry, u should really be investigating the “Sedona 30”. These are the elite of Sedona, own most of the land, and funnelling funds into plans and local politics to bring forth their idea of modern day slavery, based on greed of course….A couple to mention… (names deleted by editor)…

    Well Lucas, what have you done for Sedona lately ?

    The Sedona 30 found out that the new music program at Red Rock high school did not have all instruments they needed for the new class.

    With the help of the Sedona Chamber Music board and the Sedona 30 members at last months meeting $30,000+ was raised in one evening.

    The money will be given to the school at this Tuesdays board meeting.

    Sedona Chamber Music and Sedona 30 fixed it in just one week,

  9. Mshobert says:

    Twombly… you are incorrect, again! Please get a clue! SFD has one ladder truck – not a “10 story engine.” Such an ignorant comment! Yes, it is a 100 footer – 102 to be exact! On a good day, with everything perfect, it might reach the 5th or 6th story of a mid-rise building! The truck is a very versatile, property and life-saving piece of equipment! Please get your facts straight!

    I am guessing you are one of those older, bored retirees with nothing to do but complain about your local government… Probably a Trump fan too! Did I nail it? Oh yeah… forgot to mention closing the gate now that you moved here. Absurd.

    At some point, when, not if! You will need the services of SFD and you will need to utilize 9-1-1 for a fall, stroke, heart attack, etc. or something and you will be in awe of their expert care.

    Please, do some research, post facts, get a clue… use a lifeline – phone a friend, ask the audience, walk away, or use the 50/50… you sound an awful lot like Sarah Palin!

  10. West sedona resident says:

    Twombly

    Great article!!!!

    You got 2 out of 3 facts wrong that you article is based on…
    Great reporting and fact finding!!!! NOT

    It figures that the orther two people ESM and JRN that also write FAKE NEWs are giving you such kind words…

    Phoney s love other phoneys

    Hey you should try to get a job at briebart news… They don’t care about the facts or truth either…. That’s why JRN always references thier FAKE news

  11. Sheryly says:

    good letter

  12. Numeroff says:

    rip off any testicals other than sedona’s?The feedback by some is beyond ridiculous!

  13. The Thought Proctologist says:

    @West sedona resident,

    I want to remind J. Rick that you said above that you’re a mountain biker on our USFS trails. All of us who are hikers know that it’s mountain bikers who utterly ruin a hiking experience for the massive majority of trail users. I might have guessed you’d be one of those little runts, Wsr.

  14. Jessica Winehard says:

    Sedona without the red rocks is one ugly town. This reflects the city management. Hang low. Weathly people won’t come here. Too ugly and low life.

  15. Mary C says:

    @Jessica Winehard

    I’m in full agreement. 20 years ago Sedona was a pretty little town. It had a hometown feel. It also had the highest property values in Arizona. None of that is true now, without the Red Rocks this would just be a congested tourist trap. The city was the biggest mistake this town ever made.

  16. JeanJ says:

    FROM THE CITY OF SEDONA 2017-18 PROPOSED BUDGET (found on the Finance Dept’s web pages):

    The increase in the proposed budget is 26.2% when compared to last fiscal year. The increase over the FY 2017-18 Home Rule amount approved by the voters in August of 2014 is 49.1%.

    There will be a new City dept, the Economic Development Department, with Molly Spangler (new last summer) as the Director. Her salary for next fiscal year is $105,810. By adding in her benefits–Other Allowance, FICA, ASRS Retirement, STDL/TD Insurance, HealthyDental/Life Insurance, Workers Compensation Insurance–the grand total comes to $152,670.

    And there’s this: “The Economic Development program….will focus on services and programs that foster entrepreneurship, leveraging existing public and private resources at the local, regional and state level whenever possible.” The City is wasting money in its quest for economic diversity in my opinion.

    This morning Sperling’s Best Places (to live) reports: “Compared to the rest of the country, Sedona (zip) 86336’s cost-of-living is 43.90% Higher than the U.S. average.” Also, “Home appreciation the last 10 years has been -9.04%.” Does City Hall know WTF it is doing?

  17. @ JeanJ says:

    You know JeanJ the 4th line from the bottom says it all for me:

    “The City is wasting money in its quest for economic diversity IN MY OPINION”

    The problem is that you only see YOUR opinion and you think that YOUR opinion means EVERYTHING. Well judging from the fact that OUR city elected officials seem to do the opposite of what YOU want says a lot.

    If it wasn’t for them ignoring YOU YOU’D have nothing to BIT*H about on SE and then wouldn’t have any life at all.

    I love this quote also- “The Economic Development program….will focus on services and programs that foster entrepreneurship, leveraging existing public and private resources at the local, regional and state level whenever possible”

    As a long time entrepreneur that’s exactly what I would expect OUR city to be doing what ever they can to bring business big and small to Sedona.

    I see two issues here, one you want to see our city fail so that you can blame the government and the “regional” CoC. Or two you are so out of touch by being home bound that you don’t see the handwriting on the wall.

  18. JeanJ says:

    I see in the 2017-18 proposed budget where although visitors represent 55.4% of the total annualized population and residents 44.6%, visitors contribute 24.6% to Wastewater operations while residents contribute 75.2%. Wasn’t it Mayor Adams who wanted residential users to completely fund WW operations?

    Probably I will be blasted by @JeanJ who doesn’t have the guts to reveal his or her name because I don’t believe Sedona’s tourists are paying their fair share and feel that the approximately 60% of residential sewer users are getting screwed.

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