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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 on 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 (RFPs) 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 RFPs 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 its own facilities, etc? And what is the source of funding for those operating expenses?

And will the City acknowledge the Chamber currently offers its own RFPs for specific services, realistically reducing it 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… it is 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 the 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 daytripping, 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 babysitter 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 is really no need to burden our busy Chamber of Commerce with more additional duties besides servicing its members, which is the purpose of its 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 is 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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1,364 Comments

  1. @Also Anonymous says:

    I call BS

  2. West Sedona Dave says:

    sure is funny, in the last 20 years any advertisement for Arizona always shows Sedona………….And I got news for you, some of that bed tax money goes to the state for advertising! ( its the law)….If you want to complain about taxes, ask the state why they get the most!….Want to complain about Sedona spending money on advertising, talk to the state who made the law that 55% must be spent on advertising.

    Complaining is one thing, not knowing the laws is another!

  3. Wm. D. says:

    @@Also Anonymous – so sad; too bad. Maybe the truth hurts?

    @West Sedona Dave. If in the “last 20 years any advertisement for Arizona always shows Sedona” then that must mean there’s a lot of freebies out there. Thus spending more to accommodate the Chamber of Commerce to promote ONLY their members in addition to accommodating the Lodging Council – an associate of the C of C – surely must be a waste of revenue. Karma lives. Short term home rentals!

    Also if you are actually making reference to the .5% bed tax increase, as a discretionary tax it’s true a certain percentage of the return (providing the amount can be accurately determined) should benefit the “Lodging Council” – but most assuredly the contract for marketing did NOT have to go to a “regional” chamber of commerce with the words “tourism bureau” tacked on! And the 55% you cite – since when?

    Wishing it will not make it so. And if what you claim is true why is the city council currently spending the bed tax via the C of C on things other than advertising? i.e. sustainability; garbage control at trail heads. More justification of the grandscam for which Sedona is most likely becoming better known than for the red rocks?

  4. @West Sedona Dave says:

    Since you think that you know so much, how about posting the ARS code number.

  5. Joanne says:

    Isn’t someone from the chamber on the hot seat with this issue? Over and over we hear cheerleading by the wallets giving out the contracts and cash. That’s not right or ethical.

  6. @west sedona dave says:

    Law requires 0.5% to be used for Tourism improvements .Which includes: planning, parking, traffic and other improvements which can be Library, Recycles, Trail Maintenance. NOT REQUIRED TO BE GIVEN TO THE CHAMBER or used for advertising!!!

  7. Dorothy says:

    Life is good here without tourists. We need a healthy balance.

  8. Matt Shobert says:

    Anonymity is for cowards! – Signed ‘Anonymous.’ You may as well simply say -‘Sedona Coward.’

  9. @Matt Shobert says:

    Seriously????
    By using a fake name K is that any better?
    Coward??? calling or shaming why do you care?
    Do you think you can shame them to shut up?
    step up k

  10. MShobert says:

    K? What is that? And… Yes, if you cannot sign your name to your opine – you are in fact – a coward! Sedona is full of them. Anonymous this – anonymous that! Stand up and be counted!

  11. MayZoe Faiala, Pleasant says:

    2020 AZ monsoon season set records for dry and warm with less than 30% of the average seasonal rainfall. The monsoon season was the driest for Flag since certain records kept and the 13th driest for Phoenix area. Wildfires will be a reality. That doesn’t make Sedona or Flag places to be staying and hiking in dry hills. Time to visit the oceans.

  12. Anonymous says:

    I’m confused why can’t the city do their own management? Are they not educated enough?
    Seems silly to give all those millions to a club.

  13. Anonymous says:

    YOU must listen to me. I know how to work the system. You must listen to me!!!!!

    (Deleted by editor)

    Check it out https://www.sedonaaz.gov/home/showpublisheddocument/43121/637526085059430000

    So proud I get the taxpayers to pay. Listen people and take what you can.

  14. Jack Simpson says:

    This is a message to all the nut jobs who continue to believe Sedona wouldn’t have traffic problems if SR179 had been turned in to 4-lanes.

    You ARE just that NUTS!

    The problem would STILL be at the “Y” only four lanes instead of the present two!

    The root of the problem has been and remains – UPTOWN SEDONA! And the idiot planners that created the recent design should most likely be declared certifiable!

    Oak Creek Canyon is generally the destination for most traffic and it will NEVER become four lanes. How about removing your heads from an area where the sun don’t shine???

    In the meantime consider contacting your Yapapai County Supervisor to lobby for reopening Red Rock Crossing. Sedona City Council had no problem contacting Matt Ryan in Coconino County to request Sedona property tax revenue for assistance in financing that multiple story parking “garage?” proposed for uptown.

    And drop the asinine notion that City of Sedona should consider an alternate Oak Creek Crossing via Back O’Beyond! More certifiable thinking!? That road is presently so jam packed with cars – many illegally parked by hikers – it’s impassable and impossible. Oh well – it keeps Sedona Police Dept busy writing citations for parking violations! Yep – it must be true. It’s them dang tourists keeping Sedonya funded??-)

  15. Jerry Uptown says:

    Isn’t the root of Sedona’s traffic overload really linked to the foolish alliance which incorporated Sedona made with the local “regional” chamber of commerce?

    Sedona had already been discovered and being promoted by favorable word-of-mouth “advertising”. Was the alleged “destination marketing” hype ever effective at attracting anything but more day-trippers we didn’t and still DO NOT NEED?

    The Sedona Chamber of Commerce (now also “tourist bureau?”) was successful without city funding. Volunteers willingly gave of their time. The C of C was once respected by this community. NO MORE!

    And now since the “city” has oversaturated the “limits” with undesirable policies they are planning to acquire land in the VOC (maybe elsewhere) to park cars and bus tourists into Sedona and up Oak Creek Canyon? Any bets on how successful this latest hair-brained idea with be? OMG – hard to believe but this is the way it is.

    In a word (repeated): “Certifiable?”

  16. No Jerry says:

    You really need to get out….Air B&Bs created this problem!…No spin, no lies….Sedona’s short-term rentals create problems the City cannot mitigate because state law prohibits local regulation. In Sedona, more than 2,500 rooms in 1,238 dwelling units are STRs. It is as if a massive hotel as big as the Rio in Las Vegas opened in our destination, with no provisions for parking, trash removal, dealing with noise or the most visible effect – more traffic.

  17. Dave, VOC says:

    We got rid of one bad supervisor by organizing the votes to get rid of him because he didn’t listen to VOC residents about expanding tourism here to suit Yavapai County and not us. Bring it on Sedona City Council. You’ll rue the day you thought we wanted your problems to be ours. We denied you access to the VOC when you tried to get us to fill your coffers with our tax money before. We will deny you again. Calling on VOC to kick butts and ballots again!

  18. @No Jerry says:

    Well here’s another point of view. As a Sedona resident who very much dislikes short-term rentals (Air BnB is a marketing name widely misconceived as “all” STR’s)
    the concept does give me reason to chuckle.

    KARMA LIVES!!!

  19. Caroline Welsh says:

    C’mon all you sappy people. Do you really believe ALL of the cars in the miles of backed up traffic are coming here to stay at shortterm residential houses? Get a grip! Isn’t is more likely they are still trickle down results from the ill conceived marketing program design from the city/chamber high priced contract?! Was any valid evidence ever offered to prove otherwise? Of course NOT!

  20. Lisa says:

    call Sarazona, ask her

  21. Lawrence Gibson says:

    Wonder what happened today – no long lines of traffic. Maybe all the people are in air conditioned theaters watching Film Festival movies. Most likely they aren’t out on the hiking trails in 110 plus degree heat! Such a shame! Any doubt who is REALLY in charge here? And it ain’t the control freak schemers at City Hall and the C of C. Mother Nature, you rock!

    Can hardly wait until it cools off enough again to attract more day trippers who come to Sedona for free hiking.

    That might be an incentive for residents to also make tracks. It could be great fun to watch the chamber of commerce staff at work spending some of that annual $2.5 mil from city coffers to monitor the trash cans at trail heads.

    Wonder what became of Keep Sedona Beautiful? They once did that kind of stuff for free. I want to know why the chamber of commerce staff doesn’t volunteer their time to pick up trash?

  22. Hi Larry Gibson says:

    Hi Larry:

    I guess you don’t get out much but I’m hearing that the CoC won’t be getting anything close to what they have in the past so why are you stirring the pot with fake questions? If you’re so quick to expect the CoC staff to volunteer to pick up trash then you should offer to pick it up also. As a KSB member, we don’t pick up trash in the forest service but I do volunteer along 179 and 89a twice a month, when can I expect to see you alongside me?

  23. Kayla Dow says:

    Volunteers do pick up USFS trash and should. Sedona advertised for those people who then dumped trash and litter. Sedona residents are responsible for tourist impacts because those people paid our city taxes while here. Ask Oak Creek Watershed about the hundreds of pounds they pick up each year. KSB lost its credibility years back. Ask Oak Creek Watershed people.

  24. Lawrence Gibson says:

    Kindly explain why a region serving chamber of commerce should receive one penny of municipal funding unless it’s received from the areas representing the chamber’s members. It’s on record that’s the way it works. Only chamber members benefit from referrals at the city funded Sedona Chamber of Commerce Visitors Center in uptown Sedona. @Hi Larry Gibson

    Are you able to cite other incorporated cities/towns that give money to their local chamber of commerce? Flagstaff? Camp Verde? Anyplace USA for that matter. It’s insane. It’s absurd. The C of C does NOT serve anyone except their dues paying members. End of report.

    Didn’t Keep Sedona Beautiful, once the standby watchdog for the Sedona area, really lose respect when they supported the efforts of the C of C to scare the hell out of wildlife during the Christmas holidays by blinding them with a laser light show? Shame on them! We loved KSB and what they stood for at one time. NO MORE!

    A certain former president of KSB once elected to the Sedona City Council was instrumental in not only rearranging the polices of KSB but also igniting the fuse that set off major funding to the chamber of commerce. And does that former council member still live in Sedona?! Of course not!

    No the City of Sedona should cease and desist ALL funding to the Chamber for any and all reasons! That is just one guy’s opinion.

  25. Tony T. says:

    Funny comments here on SE. seems like people like that guy picking up trash along 88A just do things Anonymously and quietly. Meanwhile the ladders complainers here in Sedona Eye said behind a computer and do nothing except point fingers!

  26. West Sedona Dave says:

    “Kindly explain why a region serving chamber of commerce should receive one penny of municipal funding unless it’s received from the areas representing the chamber’s members. It’s on record that’s the way it works. Only chamber members benefit from referrals at the city funded Sedona Chamber of Commerce Visitors Center in uptown Sedona. @Hi Larry Gibson”
    ———————————————————————————-
    Well there ya go…..Your uninformed or lying, so which is it?
    The law says you must spend a % the money from the bed tax on advertising!
    City isnt giving them anything….Its people staying here overnight paying that money….(bed tax)
    Im glad I could clarify that for you!

  27. Hi Larry Gibson says:

    My mother always told me that if someone answers a question with a question that’s because they don’t know what the heck they’re talking about. I don’t know about that political garble and it’s probably above my pay grade or the pay of a baker.

  28. Phillips CVAZ says:

    @hilarrygibson To answer a question with a question is to seek better knowledge and understanding and not to be trapped by others unknowing. It is why Americans excel at creativity and discovery while other cultures allocate and steal both from them. Intellectual stagnation is not compatible with the American culture. Good teachers know that.

  29. Jason & Sylvia says:

    We are former Sedona residents but mostly out of curiosity follow what’s going on. So far it reaffirms our decision to pull up stakes and move on.

    Two current events: (1) Not repealing that tax increase which was set to have a sunset date; (2) Reneging on the promise to make a community park at the former Ranger Station property on Brewer Road. We understand that is presently under consideration for a hub of some sort for buses or cars.

    What the ???? One of our reasons for moving on was the lack of foresight on allowing the expansion of Tlaquepaque across a State Highway without thought of pedestrians crossing! How stupid can stupid be when that section of SR179 had already become a bottle neck?

    And now they’re considering turning a promised neighborhood park into an asphalt parking area? How unfair to the residents on Brewer Road who were conned into believing the liars. Sure a different cast of characters on city council at the time but for this to happen is – well – no printable words from us.

    Thank SE comments for revealing the truth about life in Sedona for residents and reaffirming our decision to relocate. It was the correct choice and to save the SE haters from comments, don’t bother. You in our opinion represent the biggest part of the problem there.

  30. @West Sedona Dave says:

    Hi West Sedona Dave,

    I guess you didn’t get read the Attorney General’s letter. OR you are part of the FAKE propaganda machine aka Sedona CoC.
    The City was directed to “Claw back” remove any and all bed taxes being gifted to the Sedona CoC.

    Looks like your a crony as the law doesn’t require ANY % of bed tax on ADVERTISING. NOT required for advertising can be used for infrasture, management, planning and more.

    Stop posting lies @West Sedona Dave

  31. @Lawrence Gibson says:

    I guess you didn’t hear. Looks like the Sedona City Council is assigning “trash pickup at trailheads” for some good ole “funneling” of taxpayers money to the regional Sedona Chamber of Commerce.

    Looks like the CoC is getting what they deserve TRASH.

  32. @ Lawrence says:

    So, you’re against using that money for the good of the forest?

  33. Lawrence Gibson says:

    This is directed to the @Lawrence suggesting I’m “against using that money for the good of the forest.” No, I very much support the USFS and respect our national surroundings and wildlife. However the USFS is outside City of Sedona jurisdiction, the same as VOC, Cornville, Cottonwood, Flagstaff, etc. etc. etc.

    What I DO object to is funneling Sedona tax revenue through the local chamber of commerce for any reason. What business does a special interest organization, C of C and or others have in managing municipal affairs? They are NOT a division of Sedona government!! When Keep Sedona Beautiful was such a vital asset to Sedona they offered all of their generous services without begging for city revenue.

    Why is that so difficult to understand?

  34. Yona Eastman, Flagstaff AZ says:

    Who set the fire in Cornville area? A big burn in Sedona will ruin tourism for years. Look at Oak Creek Canyon and Flagstaff and the scars. We can’t afford to have a fire in Sedona. Justify bringing in thousands on weekends and not living in fear during this abnormal heat? People should be staying home and not taxing our northern AZ environment. We need our water and we need our electric to not be stressed. Everyone should remain at home during this season until enough rains have lessened the threats and heat has dropped. Nobody can be out and about in this heat.

  35. Parker says:

    The USFS can’t accept chamber money. It’s a special interest group. It can’t accept city money. It can’t accept money from you or you or you. USFS money flows from the federal government budget through the Dept of Ag. Talk to Biden if you think it needs more and not anyone in Sedona. Might see if Cindy McCain can deliver a message, doesn’t Biden owe her one?

  36. @Parker says:

    Then why does the USDA have the City of Sedona & Chamber listed on the back of every Recreation Guide to You National Forest document handed out for FREE at the Red Rock Ranger District ?

  37. Anonymous says:

    The City of Sedona has paid for improvements on Forest land.
    Bathrooms, trash containers. Bike repairs and water filling stations

  38. John says:

    The council should declare a state of emergency and close the city. It might work in conjunction with the state and federal land management and a special fire district. They did it for the coronavirus, they can do it for safety purposes right? Perspective?

  39. Kay & Ken, Sedona says:

    We agree with the comment that Arizona tourists need to remain at home during this drought. Oak Creek Canyon’s fire was caused by a tourist and we’re lucky it didn’t destroy the entire canyon and city. Accidental or Deliberate setting or lightning strikes means SFD and Forest Service don’t need tourists on paths, trails, jeeps or creek bottoms getting in the way of fire prevention or fire fighters. Let tourists visit Montezuma Castle or Tuzigoot or places with multiple escape routes and low land resources. Remember the 19 professional Hotshots who died and honor their sacrifices to prevent fires and to stay out of an Arizona fire areas. No amount of money will return firefighters back to life. No amount of money that tourism brings is worth a life.

  40. Rob, VOCA says:

    Attending church today is good for Sedona souls. Afterward check out http://www.everycrsreport.com forest service reports. Stay indoors.

  41. JuneRahn says:

    Tourists, Know that when you arrive in Sedona we expect you to keep yourself and our city and our forests and our trails and our accommodations neat, clean and healthy. Pretend you’re trying out for the Olympics in being a tourist and maybe we’ll award you a return medal.

  42. FNF (Fact Not Fiction) says:

    Saturday afternoon 6/19/2021 appx. 1:20 PM – reported to Sedona Police Dept. Someone in West Sedona tossing cigarette butts into dried vegetation. Yep – police reports should be of public record. Check it out.

    Another gift from the chamber of commerce and lodging council council who just love those tourists? After all, they are the cash cows for Sedona coffers. (Also the liability catalyst for destroying it.)

  43. West Sedona Dave says:

    Saturday afternoon 6/19/2021 appx. 1:20 PM – reported to Sedona Police Dept. Someone in West Sedona tossing cigarette butts into dried vegetation. Yep – police reports should be of public record. Check it out.
    ——————————————————————————–
    Just buy a Red Rock News, police reports are in their every week…
    So its the chambers fault someone smokes?
    You screw balls will blame anything on them!….

  44. Janine & Tim W. says:

    When is enough enough? Reading through comments always goes back to the same theme. This incorporated City of Sedona continues endlessly to glorify and sanctify a chamber of commerce as the heroic savior of this special place AND THE REGION. Why?

    Perhaps one of most blatant examples is their recent endeavor to link the C of C with the USFS in helping them out with trail trash slobs. Actually that might be translated as an admission of the chamber that at least to some degree their displaced advertising campaigns contributed to the current traffic mess – hiking trails as well as motorized vehicles.

    This most recent effort to portray the C of C as a potential savior of federal forests is not only a slap in the face to those who object to the outrageous financial giveaway to that organization but also a kick in the rear end (ass) to the wonderful organization Friends of The Forest who have been dedicated to precisely cleaning up after tourist slobs since at least the mid ’90’s?! Friends of the Forest current thank you reward is to be dismissed as even being in existence in favor of further glorifying City Hall’s pet project?! Promoting the Chamber of Commerce and their questionable talent for sending business to their members outside Sedona City Limits appears to be an ongoing obsession, an out-of-control rampage. To hell with legitimate city tax collecting businesses that prefer to NOT join their shameful club.

    Do the Friends of the Forest constantly hang out at city council meetings begging for funding and if asked how many of their members are outside Sedona city limits respond with a whine and pout that it’s too difficult to figure out????????!!!!! Of course not. Unlike the chamber, Sedona Friends of the Forest serves and benefits EVERYONE and NOT just its members!

    As for West Sedona Dave and his loyal defense of the chamber how does he know the smoker who tossed the cigarette out the window wasn’t a result of the C of C’s misguided and unprofessional advertising campaign?

    Friends of the Forest, YOU ROCK and we love you! Thank you all.

  45. @West Sedona Dave says:

    The RR snooze aka Chamber club. No thanks!

    They are part of the problem. Since you work for them you know that. Kyle sits on the Chambers board.

  46. James Harrington says:

    Tough act to follow all right!

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cN-VdgaZ9co

  47. Lakemont Ridge says:

    spot on about snooze and biz

  48. Pat says:

    Fires surrounding Sedona are lessons.

  49. Michele, Uptown says:

    Sedona Friends of Forest-great link @jamesh Sedona volunteers rock the rocks

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