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Eddie Maddock: Business as Usual?

SedonaEye.com columnist Eddie S. Maddock

Sedona AZ – 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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1,180 Comments

  1. Alan J. says:

    Nothing about the city/chamber of commerce alliance makes any sense.

    Let’s suppose the “chamber” backs away from wasting city revenue to further promote Sedona but instead gets involved in infrastructure improvements. What business does a “chamber of commerce” have with such matters? Even creating a parking area on property THEY purchased with CITY MONEY?

    It’s neither their business nor charge to undertake such things. They are, after all, a member-driven group, existing to collect dues and promote only THEIR MEMBERS! Has NOTHING to do with shuttles, parking at trail heads or making alternate roads.

    Wake up city council members (and you are members of a city council rendering you as “council members” and NOT councilors! OMG – more pretentious BS)

    Time to clean house. Straighten up your priorities and actions. CANCEL THE DAMN CONTRACT WITH THE C OF C. Pull up your adult panties and for once – just once – do the right thing.

    For heaven’s sake, that money you ‘GIVE’ to the “chamber” could have been spent on the proposed walkway at Tlaquepaque and saved everyone a ton of unnecessary grief. Get off your high horses and make some decent decisions. If you can’t bring yourselves to do that then maybe a few future law suits against this incorporated nest of stinky sewer aroma might be the future answer to convey a message to get your attention? Wake up Sedona City Residents.

  2. Dolores says:

    Why aren’t we calling the AG? Why aren’t we calling city council? Why? You tell me.

  3. JJ says:

    @steve Segner: The SCC&TB purchased 401 Jordan Road using taxpayer funds gifted to them by the City of Sedona.

    The Chamber needs to transfer the 401 property to the City PDQ.

  4. Ms. Karena-Dawn Dart, Cottonwood AZ says:

    Is well injection going on like what caused earthquakes in Sedona before?

  5. Steve segner says:

    Yes the chamber made that suggestion at today’s meeting along with fixing the building with marketing money that has all way been the plan it is up to city manager the chamber is given no money the city council give them detection on how s a nd why to spend

  6. @ Dolores says:

    Well let me tell you I have said this for 8 years….But funny, nothing ever happens….We have an AG that is 100% republican and those darn democrats forom Sedona always win!….Well if be based law on emotion maybe the AG would listen?….But its based on law, not lies….So our tea party, or what ever their new name is, just lies and makes you look like a fool….Interesting isnt it?

    Nothing but blow hards who believe in rumors, and lies….and they get so frustrated!

  7. Dolores says:

    You obviously are an ass. I’m Mexican and a Republican and all my family are. We don’t drink tea. We like Mango juice. If it matters my Mexican husband is a lawyer and we know how to smell (deleted by editor) in (deleted by editor).

    (Use Anonymous when leaving comments if you prefer anonymity.)

  8. Ivah says:

    @JJ common sense voice

  9. Maria Mollen says:

    Caught part of that meeting today on Channel 4. Same old BS. Almost threw up when Jon Thompson newly appointed to fill the vacancy on city council spoke about what a wonderful job the chamber of commerce did with all that money. OMG give it a rest! Many people who live here have grown to loathe the chamber of commerce and with good reason. To continue the glorification of this membership organization is OUT OF CONTROL. Again let’s ask and not be told every reason why the city manager and president of the chamber left town? And we thought they meant what they said about loving Sedona?!

    One problem with that law suit filed against the city funding the Chamber was the charge being against a “gift clause” but I still don’t get it because it appeared the millions of $$$$ handed over to the Chamber was a “gift” and neatly packaged or repackaged in that questionable “contract for destination marketing?” Is it wrong to think cover up with money going in and out and out and in with little to no transparency? Is that how you and your bank get to handle your checking accounts? They had their way of finagling all right. Wasn’t that time with benefit of advice from former city attorney Robert Pickels? And don’t think it’s ended. Many are slick and many are sick of it.

  10. steve segner says:

    Last night was great meeting, the city told the chamber no marketing money this year. The chamber is to come back with plans for next year on plans for education for visitors and other projects. The city understands the terrific is from STR’s. Not the hotels. The data was public and public got to speak all in the open.
    Maria Mollen did not speak against funding ? Donna , no Donna….
    Chamber turning over parking lot to city all good

  11. Meghan Rafferty says:

    Read a visitor’s public comment on hotel site yesterday about the lack of spiritual feelings and no peace while trying to hike. It’s started people. We lose that and we lose period.

  12. Paul & Bev T. says:

    City manager and former C of C president loved Sedona @Maria Mollen? Judging from their performance here what they “loved” was the money they raked in. The legacy both left is, in our opinions, shameful. And wonder why the hubby of that former C of C president is still here? We continue to receive real estate for sale ads in the mail from him and his partner.

    Maybe the only final thoughts of either the city manager or chamber CEO for Sedona residents to love is the fact that they are GONE? But memories of both linger on and NOT with fondness at least not for us.

  13. M. Millward says:

    As if the destination marketing contract with the chamber of commerce hasn’t given enough cause for so much controversy here in Sedona, are you aware of the latest possibility? Brace yourselves.

    Elected MEMBERS of the Sedona City Council (NOT “COUNCILORS”) have suggested paying the chamber of commerce to collect TRASH at trail heads! Yep just when it seems it can’t become more ridiculous BINGO!

    The only capability the chamber/city non-“councilors” appear to have is spend their time creating more absurd reasons to give money to this members only club which should have NOTHING to do with business at City Hall.

    Since when did the C if C’s mission become anything other than representing their dues paying members?

    Maybe when the City of Sedona became their Cash Cow for free money from stupid taxpaying people?

    Doesn’t that also apply to stupid tourists who continue to feed this monster?

    Honestly who could possibly believe the absurdity of this ongoing dog and pony show?

    Apparently the voting residents of Sedona since they elect these idiots who continue to ruin Sedona with this never ending romance with a regional member driven organization.

    Wouldn’t the most beneficial and long overdue action be to bite the bullet, organize, and recall these clowns who continue to feed this obvious and outrageous giveaway? Sedona registered voters are the ONLY ones who can make that happen.

    Time to take action or shut up? YOU DECIDE!!

  14. Marc says:

    Seriously?!?!?!?!! Trash?!?!??! That’s done for free by volunteers and its paid for by our federal taxes because it’s on USFS properties?!?!? I personally smell Graft and corruption hey any buddy else have the same olfactory feedback?! LMAO

  15. Omni, Sedona says:

    I never believed city hall was as poorly missioned as several friends and neighbors would discuss at HOA or other civic meetings, but the Millward comment has left me speechless when it was discussed last night and was directed here and now I’m joining with those voices. Why usurp local volunteer organizations that exist already for those roles to play? The Keep Sedona Beautiful reason for being is for this kind of job. There is something quite fishy going on here and people are noticing where before we had faith that it was civics and not your wallets to keep city and residents first roles. The city isn’t in the business of guaranteeing chamber jobs or chamber management pay and those of us living here certainly aren’t in the financial position of guaranteeing continued jobs on our behalf when you’re not at city hall.

  16. Marion Teale says:

    Hey Everybody, guess what? The transportation tax that the city council promised us would have a sunset date now turns out …. to possibly be extended! Permanently! WTF?! Yup, folks, take a look at the “tentative” city council agenda for May 11 at https://www.sedonaaz.gov/home/showpublisheddocument/43423. Item 8b says …

    AB 2676 Discussion/possible direction to authorize staff to: a) prepare a notice of intent to permanently extend the transportation related project sales tax increase adopted January 9, 2018 by Ordinance 2018-01 to fund implementation of a transit system in Sedona; b) comply with the public posting requirements for a tax increase and modification to the model city tax code; and c) schedule public hearings for consideration of the sales tax increase and model city tax code modification.

    It is EXTREMELY IMPORTANT that you email the city council and let them know we are absolutely opposed to this! When this tax was approved, the city promised us it would have a sunset date.

    No surprise to me that that was a lie. Un-freaking-believeable!

    ***Please take the time to send an email to the city council and copy the city clerk, and let them know your comments need to be in the public record on this topic. And they wonder why we are so freaking angry.

    I promise you this: if this idea continues to advance I will be front and center working hard to make sure that we drastically cut the city budget in the next Home Rule election.

  17. Nancy says:

    for shame city of Sedona, it must go as promised

  18. Rob says:

    WE DON’T NEED OR WANT a transportation system run by this city of flash in the pans and uneducated middle managers. You city council and staff constantly fail to learn how to manage this town. We don’t need a city run transportation system, it’s a stupid idea to try and implement. If the private sector won’t touch it, IT’S A STUPID IDEA once again.

  19. Sam O'Sullivan aka SOS says:

    Thanks for the heads up @Marion Teale. Has the implementation of a temporary tax (with a sunset date) EVER been terminated? Doubt it!

    Wake up, Folks. Contact your council members as suggested. And if they continue this ongoing BS then time for recall?

    Actually that should have happened a long time ago but people get too distracted with things like making ends meet and surviving a pandemic. And just wait until you witness results of the grandeur plans set forth by the current US President. Filled up your gas tank lately? How about groceries and everything else?

    Say NO to maintaining the “transportation” tax. It’s now or never and THEY know it! How about YOU?

    LET’S DO IT!!

  20. Jennifer says:

    If I won’t ride my bike Miss Mayor, then I won’t get on a bus. Nuggets!

  21. steve segner says:

    Hey Everybody, guess what? The transportation tax that the city council promised us would have a sunset date now turns out …. to possibly be extended! Permanently! WTF?! Yup, folks, take a look at the “tentative” city council agenda for May 11 at https://www.sedonaaz.gov/home/showpublisheddocument/43423. Item 8b says … 90% of the tax is paid by visitors. we should up the tax to 1% and have more funds to fix trail head congestion and new parking lots

  22. Jackie, Uptown says:

    Take lodging council funds and give to trailhead congestion and improvement. Case closed.

  23. @ Marion Teal says:

    Do we need to address traffic?
    Is there not a problem?
    Roads, buses, are the solution.
    So you mean to tell me your this upset paying .50 cents per $100 dollars you spend?

    Is there an issue here you people dont light your hair on fire and complain about?

    There was no promise either way on the .5 cent tax….No lies, they said they would address it in the future….

    And here we are now!

  24. Denise says:

    Time to wake up Segner and his cheerleaders. The tourists aren’t a cash cow any longer because gas prices are going to skyrocket once again with the pipeline turned off which makes groceries and utilities and costs of doing my and your business climb too.

    We appeal to drive bys. Every fender bender pisses more people off including us locals. The roundabouts sped up traffic but we don’t have enough room for all the people you advertise to that come for cheap weekends. I’ve seen those ads and they aren’t good for Sedona because it’s about free and not quality. What were always typical backups are now monsters jams and it’s because of cheap see Sedona day trip advertising.

    People can come but we want people who have money to spend instead of just filling our air with car and RV smog and our trails with flycatcher poop and thousands of pounds of trash.

    The trails and parking aren’t our problem, it’s the kind of people and their behaviors. Our roads are what they are for a pimple on Arizona’s butt. If Flagstaff cut back on jobs and we have their employees looking for jobs here, we don’t need them bringing bad policy that caused Flagstaff to do an about face with tourism and college economically.

    Sedona is a small town with too many cheap and low income tourists to sustain more taxes. Nobody rides public transportation except people without money. Sedona isn’t walkable and will never be walkable with hundred degree heat all summer and bitter cold winters. Enough said?

  25. Roy & Gina says:

    Based on the lack of respect shown to residents in this “incorporated city” and the manner in which it’s being governed, we have a suggestion.

    How about adding this to Sedona City Limit signs? “Tourists are welcome. People living here are NOT”

  26. Curtis says:

    There’s no way I’d walk or ride a bike in this or any town. Never rode a bus except to school and that was enough to last a lifetime. My car gets 40+ miles per gal and it’s got a/c and nobody else in it and I don’t have to wonder if I’ll get there on time or how to get from a bus stop to where I’m headed lugging my tools or packages. Tell city employees to use the bus only. Yeah right they’ll quit first.

  27. Joyce & Andrew says:

    Oh please, give us a break. How many times has this transit BS been attempted in Sedona, none of which succeeded locally? Do you really expect us to haul a trunk load of groceries home on a bus? You people must be smoking some good stuff down there @the City Hall Institution in order to have “pipe” dreams about this utter nonsense.

    Cut the damn tax increase as was the original intent. Just for once please do the right thing! As if such a notion would even occur to you dreamers in the ivory tower you cherish in the sanctuary of poor decisions and doom for Sedona.

  28. Actually Denise says:

    Actually Denise the tourists are a very big cash cow. I suggest that you find a way to roll up the sidewalks and install your hitching posts by your house because that’s the only way that Sedona’s going back in time.

  29. Denise says:

    Heya Actually Denise and Steve, you’re the hitching posts. Try dealing with what I said and not what you think.

  30. @Denise says:

    Wow Denise you got it ALL figured out aye?!!! Why don’t you run for council!!?? Oh I know why….. your an armchair person who just likes to complain!!! Got ya.. btw half the stuff you said isn’t true….but don’t let the truth get in the way of a good complaint!

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