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Wizards of Sedona: Big 3 Powers and an Affordable Housing Sham?

Sedona AZ (November 19, 2017) – The following is a letter to the SedonaEye.com editor:

Dear Editor,

The Wizards of Sedona are at it once again, manipulating and pulling strings from behind the scenes.

The Big 3 Powers That Be – the tourist, real estate/developer and construction industries along with the help the Sedona Red Rock News (SRRN) – are making a big deal about “affordable housing.” A recent SRRN headline proclaimed that “Sedona’s housing shortage is a growing crisis” (11/15/17). Most of the front page and the editorial of this issue were a big propaganda push to garner support for affordable housing, which is really a wolf in sheep’s clothing. Why? Because this cause celebre is being used to justify their zoning law changes, and ultimately the overdevelopment of Sedona. Ironically this “growing crisis” is an unintended, misbegotten (karmic?) byproduct of this overdevelopment.

There are various aspects of their specious argument at play.

Let me first say I would be all for affordable housing if I believed that housing in Sedona could actually be affordable for “critical care providers, resort workers, [those of] grocery and retail stores…nurses…vets who served our country, retirees,” etc. Even the CEO of the Chamber said, “But we’re trying not to use the term affordable housing. Because, what is really affordable?” (11/15/17). Yet she pitched one aspect of their argument – diversity…”Many of us feel we’d be a richer community if we had more diversity in terms of age, ethnicity, and types of people with different incomes.”

Nice idea, a lofty gesture.

But the prospective, targeted renters/residents can’t afford to live here because the cost of living in Sedona is 35% higher than the national average. Why is that? The recent hike in the sales tax notwithstanding…because the Chamber and the other Wizards are striving to turn Sedona into a ritzy resort town like Sante Fe, NM and Palm Springs, CA.

Not that diversity isn’t a noble aspiration, but more to the point is the employees aspect of their argument. Members of the Chamber as well as small business owners related to tourism are having a hard time finding and keeping enough workers. They cite a lack of affordable housing as the main reason. I’m sure it’s a factor. But what about the low minimum wages, the lack of professional jobs? Would those employers who are complaining be willing to pay higher wages of $10-15 an hour? Moreover, could the shortage of workers be due to the fact that the Council/City has rezoned and promoted the building and establishment of more hotels, so that there are now more hotels competing for the same (or smaller) pool of workers?

Another questionable aspect of their specious argument is traffic.

They purport that there would be less traffic if workers lived in Sedona instead of commuting here from Cottonwood and other outlying communities. I don’t get it. It seems that more resident workers making multiple daily trips running errands would cause more traffic congestion than a single round-trip by commuters.

In the same SRRN issue (11/15/17) the editor wrote about the supposed benefits from “the city’s decision to eliminate maximum housing density…providing housing opportunities for young people and working families. Those families will enroll their kids in local schools, increasing per student education funding from the state. More residents also means more local spending in shops and restaurants, especially during the tourist off-season when many of these businesses are desperate for customers and thus more tax revenues collected for the city.” And more traffic. Thus he is also promoting affordable housing as a panacea for the City’s economic and demographic problems. But why would young families want to move to a community where the average is 57, the quality of the schools are rated average, there is a lack of professional jobs, and the cost of living is 35% higher than the national average?

Even our City Manager has the affordable housing bug: After embracing all the aspects of this specious argument, he said, “So in the end, a robust program that helps ensure housing choices is really a program about preserving our community.” He seems to imply that affordable housing is the glue that will keep our community together; without it our community would dissolve. Moreover I question his awareness when I read…”The citizen group meeting to take on this issue is not a city-organized one, Clifton said. Rather it’s a grassroots group of thoughtful residents who came to the city to ask for help” (11/15/17). Yes and No.

In the beginning of this front-page article…”Linda Martinez, a local business owner and former chairwoman of the defunct Sedona Affordable Housing Commission, recently spearheaded a citizen committee to look into the ever-increasing problem.” So obviously Linda was a part of a City-affiliated (if not -sponsored) commission. When that commission was unsuccessful, she founded a “grassroots” “citizen” committee to lobby for affordable housing. The intent and agenda of this committee is suspect, since her husband, Ron, owns a local construction company. A conflict of interest? Moreover she and he were 2 of the 13 who spoke in favor of eliminating high density restrictions at a Council meeting.

This brings us to how the SRRN is serving as a mouthpiece for the Wizards, the Three Powers That Be.

In the SRRN article “Public Favors High Density” (11/1/17), the headline is sheer hyperbole whose intent seems to be to mislead and misinform. “More than a dozen [actually 13] spoke in favor of the city increasing the density of the number of multifamily units per acre.” Most of these speakers were vested interests, like Linda and Ron. Some were likely not even residents of Sedona, since the Council allows non-residents to speak/influence/interfere in City matters. Thirteen pales in comparison to the hundreds that showed up at City Hall to protest smart phones. So I don’t think 13 out of 10,000 plus residents can be considered the “public.”

Now two weeks later SRRN’s front page is all about “Sedona’s housing shortage is a growing crisis” (11/15/17). It features a huge sidebar: “What type of impact has the lack of affordable or available housing had on your staff or business?”

Coincidentally (?) Jennifer Chilton of SOCSD and representatives of Sedona Rouge were quoted in the sidebar, and they were part of the 13 who had also spoken as part of the “public” at the Council meeting. Fire Chief Kazian was also quoted in this sidebar in spite of having his credibility tarnished by his advocacy for Phoenix construction companies during the SFD bond campaign. This recent SRRN issue reminded me of their May (2017) issue that was all about the SFD and promoting its bond.

So here’s my take on our affordable housing issue.

Though it’s a noble aspiration, here in Sedona it’s a sham, a scam to further increase housing density and enrich the real estate/developer and construction industries. Affordable housing has been tried before and failed. Nepenthe was originally supposed to be affordable housing. After a year or two the price/rents of the condos began to rise, and quickly they became unaffordable, yet quite profitable for realtors and developers. So I believe that the same thing will happen with any “affordable” housing that is built…unless the City or some agency subsidizes rents to make and keep housing affordable. The City claims that it would do no such thing; but they have made many claims that they haven’t kept, e.g. no rezoning in the Community Plan. So the City could end up indirectly subsidizing rents via the Chamber’s “product development” fund. Thus it’s possible that we residents could end up subsidizing the affordable housing of the Chamber members’ employees.

What is a “growing crisis” is the inept, irresponsible leadership, riddled with conflicts of interest, by the City Council and City staff. Its biggest failure has been to give away its power of the purse to the Chamber of Commerce via its 7-year contract that allows the Chamber to spend City funds via its “product development” fund. But more disturbing and probably more irreversible is the City Council’s collusion with the Powers That Be to overdevelop the City and destroy Sedona’s “small-town character,” the preservation of which was one of the stated and promised goals of the Community Plan. Unfortunately they are reneging on that promise, as they continue to transform Sedona from a quaint small town with charm and character into a congested tourist trap of pomp and glitz.

Henry Twombly
Sedona, AZ 86336

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73 Comments

  1. @Steve S says:

    @steve S

    Amen Steve

    Isn’t it amazing that the ones who complain the most do Zero to get involved in anything… They seem to think that complaining and finger pointing is positive action..

  2. Eddie Maddock says:

    Thank you, Steve Segner. The comment about the Arizona Republic article apparently made an impressive impact and sent you into orbit. Guess I did a stellar job. You just made my day!

  3. real facts says:

    Thank you Eddie for the post. It encouraged me to look up the actual numbers. The city of sedona does have them very nicely hidden on the site. If you go through State data it shows:
    INDUSTRY (RANKED BY EMPLOYMENT) Count Share
    Education, health care & social assistance 1,006 21.5%
    Arts, entertainment, food & recreation services 816 17.4%
    Professional, scientific, & administrative services 698 14.9%
    Retail trade 446 9.5%
    Construction 417 8.9%
    Other services, except public administration 301 6.4%
    Finance, insurance & real estate 271 5.8%
    Manufacturing 233 5.0%
    Information 140 3.0%
    Transportation, warehousing, & utilities 131 2.8%
    Public administration 117 2.5%
    Wholesale trade 86 1.8%
    Agriculture, forestry, fishing, hunting, & mining 26 0.6%

    Total of 4708 jobs TOTAL

    Looks like they reverse the numbers in Arts and Education. Making it higher in Arts, Entertainment Recreation
    If you take all categories that fit into tourism it is only 22.60% 1262 jobs TOPS!!!!

    Wake up people! Why would you believe anyone that gets 3 million dollars a year !!!!!! They are not telling the truth! CONFLICT $$$$$$ 1262 JOBS in tourism

  4. Tony T says:

    Wrong again Steve.

    https://www.azcommerce.com/a/profiles/ViewProfile/110/Sedona/

    4708 Jobs total in Sedona

    Arts, entertainment, food & recreation services 816
    Retail trade 446 (All the retail is not tourist related)

    So probably less than 1200 jobs are tourist related. Sounds about right in a tourist town with 10,000 residents.

    Quit making stuff up Steve.

    Also, contrary to your opinion, retired and non retired residents have rights too.Not just the Chamber of Commerce and city employees.

    Some city employees forget that they work for the taxpayers and voters. That needs to change.

    We can change things.

  5. Steve segner says:

    Tony Sorry look at this link it’s the most current number it’s done by you have a yapapai college read it and weepTony let’s say it’s 8000 oh I see it’s 12,000 what difference does it make it’s still more people that actually live full-time in the town
    Tony city employees don’t work for you and they don’t work for the voters they work for the city Council and the city manager this town is not just for the people that pay taxes it’s also for the people that visit here and the people that work here Nimby

    https://sedonachamber.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/08/2017-Annual-Report.pdf

  6. JayD says:

    And there you have it. Steve Segner FINALLY comes right out and admits the non-Sedona Chamber of Commerce is REGIONAL. And how does that justify incorporated Sedona identifying the uptown “official” Sedona Chamber of Commerce as being the “official” City of Sedona Visitors Center? What – half a million $$$$$ to support operating a misrepresentation of what it IS NOT? How can those responsible live with themselves? ANY OF THEM? (oh – very nicely – as they laugh their heads off while counting their questionably gained profits)

    Wasn’t the last time a futile attempt for outsiders to speak out at City Hall about the proposed change for garbage pickup? And what did it get them? Ridicule and embarrassment that’s what. The only reason the change didn’t fly is because it was proven to be a rip-off. Too bad such due-diligence isn’t applied to the idiotic give-away program to the C of C. NO ACCOUNTABILITY THERE. So why would anybody waste their time even making the trip to City Hall. The insiders sneer at the flatlanders and that’s how it is in Sedona these days. The arrogance of power at it’s finest? NOT!

    Bring on the work forces from Cottonwood, Clarkdale, Jerome, Camp Verde and elsewhere. Even by doing that it’s doubtful the count would reach 10,000 as Stevie would like for us to believe exists in Sedona alone! The only ones who unfortunately believe his tripe are those running City Hall making the decisions. Time for them to move on out!!

  7. @Jay D says:

    @Jay D

    You seem very mad at Sedona and you vent on SE using many different names..

    Please take a mental health break and move….Sedona would become more spiritual then it already is by that one event…

  8. Best Case Scenario says:

    City Hall drops into a giant sink-hole!!!!:-) YIPPEE~~~~

  9. @@Jay D says:

    Look in the mirror, you fool. You know nothing of spirituality except the might dollar. And you think Jay D is mentally ill? Rent your room to the needy you phony baloney fool.

  10. At best case scenario says:

    @ best case

    You and your 15 alias drop into a sinkhole..
    Yipeee

  11. Tony T says:

    I think Steve Segners comment above describes the attitude of most of the current city council :

    “Tony city employees don’t work for you and they don’t work for the voters they work for the city Council and the city manager this town is not just for the people that pay taxes it’s also for the people that visit here and the people that work here Nimby.”

    They charge us sales tax on our electricity, water, cable bill, telephone, and virtually everything we buy. They charge us a disproportionate share of the sewer.
    Then our dollars are given to the “regional” chamber of commerce, the Sedona Film Festival, the Hub and others.Taking something without permission is theft, pure and simple.

    Then Segner claims we should feel lucky we don’t have a city property tax. In other words feel lucky they don’t take all our money.

    “Organized, codified, legalized thievery without even the self-ware honesty of the street mugger.” Eric Peters

    We need a city council that works for the taxpayers, not everyone that puts their hand out.

    We can change things.

  12. Alarmed says:

    In addition to agreeing the Chamber is Regional, time is overdue for Steve to admit their figures for incorporated Sedona are Regional. Including data from the Enchantment Resort, the Hilton, etc., for Sedona is a one big Chamber racket.

  13. Norma says:

    @steve We all know you don’t tell the truth.$$$$in your head from that gift of 3 million a year for your club.

    The STATE has indexed the WORKFORCE and YOU are wrong AGAIN.

    Thanks Tony T GREAT information. When ones gets 3 million a year FREE money for their club like the chamber – segner they have a conflict of interest. They don’t speak in truths, they are blinded by the $$$$.

  14. Eddie Maddock says:

    Once again for the record, when Sedona incorporated it was stipulated there would NOT BE A CITY PROPERTY TAX!

    And, of course, if that option were to surface, it would have to be approved by the voters.

    Therefore any claims the chamber of commerce has anything to do with Sedona not having a property tax is without merit and NOT TRUE.

  15. Phil says:

    jackwagons = (deleted by editor)

  16. steve Segner says:

    13th in nation… great news
    ARIZONA NEWS
    Sedona is one of the top 25 destinations to visit in the nation
    PHOENIX — Sedona, known for its red rock formations and picturesque sightseeing was recently ranked by Trip Advisor as the 13th best destination in the United States.
    The unique nature of Sedona offers outdoor opportunities, including plenty of hiking trails, that most larger cities cannot be compared to. The small town in Arizona outranks several major American cities such as Nashville, Napa, and Miami Beach.
    Recently, measures have been taken to preserve the natural beauty of Sedona.
    Late in 2016 the Coconino National Forest received a $100,000 donation to preform maintenance on the many biking and hiking trails in and around the Sedona area.
    Even Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) has been seen enjoying the Oak Creek Canyon in his down time.

  17. Brand Monkey says:

    LMAO TRIP ADVISOR?? Last two times I used TA to get restaurant reviews it was massive fail. OUTRANKS? Do you even KNOW HOW TRIP ADVISOR WORKS??? FREE ONLINE TRAVELERS REVIEW SEDONA. THAT’S ALL TRIP ADVISOR IS. SUBJECTIVE OPINIONS OF RANDOM MOUTHPIECES.

    OPINIONS!!!! OF TRAVELERS !!!! READ THE ONES THAT SAY LATELY HOW DIRTY THOSE TRAILS HAVE BECOME??? HOW TO AVOID UPTOWN ????? READ REVIEWS OF SEDONA RESTAURANTS AND STORES??? GUESS YOU WEREN’T PREPARED TO LIST THOSE NEGATIVES REVIEWS????

  18. Catherine says:

    Please stop using capital letters. It hurts my eyes @BrandMonkey.

  19. steve segner says:

    Trip Advisor as the 13th best destination in the United States.

    I love it ,NO good news on Sedona Eye….
    Brand money,
    remember the majority of hiking trails are not in Sedona federal land, and they are not yours or belong to Sedona residents even in town…. and Monkey what is it like to get up each day and hate the place you live and everything else,,,,, no good anywhere…… Remember we just pass through this life and we share what we have,
    John McCain (R-Ariz.) has been seen enjoying the Oak Creek Canyon in his down time. he seems to like Sedona

  20. @steve Segner says:

    “Sedona is one of the top 25 destinations to visit in the nation”

    So what? and who’s to say that without you and your crappy regional chamber of corruption Sedona wouldn’t be among the top ten or maybe top five preferred destinations? You’ve no proof that you contributed anything in Sedona except more day-trippers by those staying in resorts outside Sedona city limits who do not contribute to either city sales or bed taxes. Toot your horn to those benefiting from Sedona taxes as you thumb your noses at the honorable who refuse to acquiesce to becoming a chamber member to be acknowledged at the phony visitors center.

    And somewhere along the line was it you who said the reason we don’t have city property taxes is because of the chamber of commerce? Really? How utterly stupid and uninformed you are. When Sedona incorporated a stipulation was included there would be NO Sedona City Property taxes. And if the subject were to be revisited it would require the vote of the residents (City of Sedona – City Limits) for approval.

    Put a sock in your mouth or stuff it with your turkey leftovers or maybe some Progresso Soup.

  21. FYI says:

    fyi @ steve segner. “John McCain (R-Ariz.) has been seen enjoying the Oak Creek Canyon in his down time. he seems to like Sedona”

    John McCain has had a ranch in Cornville for YEARS – (probably way before your time). so wise up. Most recently he was here for his daughter’s wedding. (not because of your idiotic chamber of comedy of errors or trip adviser. Your mouth overfloweth with nonsense.)

  22. Steve segner says:

    Yeah 13th at all the places to go in America we were 13th can’t get past that I know John McCain like his Oak creek and the area and I know he lives in the area because I’ve taken him and his guests on trips through Sedona .

  23. reality check says:

    The Truth Is Not What It Seems, But What It Is

    Dishonesty comes in many shapes and sizes. Of course, some people lie in error, in which they wholeheartedly believe their words when they’re spoken. Others tell bold-faced lies, knowing full well that they’re being deceitful. And still other people tell white lies, hoping to protect someone (often themselves) from the truth. Yet even though some of these folks may be well intentioned, it’s all lying just the same. How do you identify a lie? As a general rule of thumb, if your ears hear one thing and your eyes see another, use your brain — because something is obviously wrong. Here are some common forms of dishonesty that masquerade as acceptable behavior:

    Misrepresentation. Distorting facts to consciously mislead or create a false impression. Spinning the truth, presenting opinion as fact, and using revisionist thinking or euphemisms to masquerade the truth are all forms of misrepresentation.

    Omission. Leaving out key information to intentionally deceive someone. As Benjamin Franklin said, “Half the truth is often a great lie.”

    Fabrication. Deliberately inventing an untruth or spreading a falsehood such as gossip or a rumor.

    Exaggeration. Stretching the truth to give a more favorable impression.

    Denial. Refusing to acknowledge the truth or to accept responsibility for a mistake or falsehood that was made.

    Lack of transparency. Withholding information knowing that full disclosure will have negative consequences.

    Redirection. Deflecting blame to another person to prevent personal embarrassment or responsibility.

    https://www.franksonnenbergonline.com/blog/honesty-the-plain-and-simple-truth/

    The entire clan are being enriched by taxpayers money. This includes chamber, lodging, news as the taxpayers money is paying for their club. Even if the city isn’t handing them the money they receive it through the middle man paying them. Sedona City council need a reality check. they have enabled special interests to be funded. The businesses inside the city footprint are the ones collecting the taxes not a regional chamber,

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