Letters to the Editor, Dec. 6, 2006
Where's the Christmas spirit?
When I drive Arizona 260 in to Cottonwood to Main, Main to 89A, and up (or down) 89A toward Jerome, I can't help but notice the outstandingly beautiful Christmas decorations that adorn the route, and depict the holiday spirit of our wonderful little city because there ain't none! If the only three decorations visible are as good as it gets, then I suggest that Scrooge McCitycouncil in charge of running this city have a real problem.
It's blatantly obvious there is no spirit among those in charge. It's also painfully obvious, based on many things I've seen, that there is a tremendous lack of pride and/or careing regarding the appearance of our city. The city ordinance that Clarkdale just passed regarding clean up should have been on the books in Cottonwood years ago and someone needs to make sure it gets there, and very soon.
I'm really big on backbone, and really down on those who have none. My understanding is that there are three seats on the city council open, and the job of mayor is up for grabs. I sincerely hope that those who fill those positions are all four quarts over serviced on bone of back.
As for the Christmas decorations, or lack thereof, perhaps someone could pull a couple of hundred bucks from the $15 million allocated for the renovation of Mingus High School, and buy a string or two of lights. Maybe there is something I'm not aware of, or don't understand about the lights. If so, someone enlighten me, please. As you can tell, I wouldn't last one day on the city council, or as mayor, because I'm point blank, very up front, and I don't dance political dances.
County has abused system of checks and balances
I'd like to offer some additional facts and even some different conclusions about the two recent articles in The Verde Independent by staff members Steve Ayers and Dan Engler about the proposed 26-acre campus of Verde Valley Christian Church on the property adjacent to our neighborhood. Most of the facts and many of the conclusions were right on target.
I hope everyone realizes this is not a one-man effort, it is a neighborhood opposition. Twenty of 20 two-acre property owners signed against this church proposal. Even the two remaining large property owners to the south and west would not sign their approval and would not allow access when requested.
Because of the size and scope, traffic, etc., we made an appeal to the Board of Adjustment in February to deny this use. They granted this appeal on a 4 to 1 vote. The BOA is a five-member, knowledgeable well-informed cross section of our county citizens who are appointed to donate their time to try to interpret and resolve problems that arise from the administering of our county ordinances. This board is allowed to exist by the State Constitution. It is to be sustained by the Board of Supervisors but totally outside of their influence because this is citizen only government recourse in these matters.
For this reason, the Superior Court hears appeals of BOA decisions, not the Board of Supervisors. However, the Supervisors do pay the rent, provide clerical expenses, legal advice, etc. just as they do for our Superior Courts. In this church case, the Supervisors decided not to defend our BOA decision. They can do that but they also voted to reverse the decision.
They cannot do that, as they have no jurisdiction.
They also never even advised the BOA in public quorum of their options for defense of their decision. Therefore, the Supervisors caused default because of BOA lack of defense. In other words, the Supervisors with the power of the purse strings starved out the BOA defense because they didn't like the decision. That's like the Supervisors not paying a judge's rent or cutting his salary because they don't like his decisions. That is totally unconstitutional. The Superior Court did allow me to intervene to defend the BOA decision, as the county would not.
While we were waiting on some of the above decisions, we asked county staff how we could change the current policy of no public input on decisions of a development of this magnitude. Most counties and cities with growth issues requiring Use Permits. This required signatures, a fee, and planning and zoning commission hearings and a recommendation to the Supervisors for a vote. P&Z has nine voluntary appointments of the same qualities of the BOA. We and county staff gathered tons of evidence on the overwhelming benefits and protections offered to both the county and the public from the proposed administrative review and Use Permit process.
An example is Coconino County, who out of 50 or so applications has never turned one down and never had a suit on this subject. By contrast, Yavapai has had three suits and losses on this subject that I know about. P&Z Commission members were so professional and objective that anyone would have been proud of our system. They voted 7 to 1 in favor of the new process. I never talked to one county staff member on either side of the mountain who didn't realize the need for the change. So off we go to the BOS meeting for a final vote. After some testimony and no discussion by the Supervisors, Chip Davis boldly announces "There isn't going to be any use permits." Thurman and Davis voted against and Springer for. How do you think all those volunteers on the P&Z and BOA felt at this point? Don't bother me with the facts, my mind is made up.
It is much more than a "nuisance" when a neighborhood has to use their personal resources to defend a constitutionally established process of checks and balances that are flagrantly being misused by our county leadership.
As for the church, I still have the utmost confidence in our society and I just keep hoping for conscience to prevail.
Where is the commitment to promote tourism?
We feel compelled to correct the misconceptions reported in the recent article regarding Cottonwood hoteliers' opposition to the bed tax increase. Our main opposition is the proposed use of these funds. As members of the Chamber and being a group of only 7 business's who are being asked to support the new Chamber building we in turn asked for a business plan. We asked for written documentation allocating a percentage of the bed tax to be used to promote Cottonwood tourism. We asked to be included in the planning meetings for the new building, as we believe, if having a new Chamber building is going to benefit the entire community, then the community would be willing to assist in donations and or involvement. Our asking for this information did not seem unusual, as professional hoteliers, we are fully aware that most communities use bed tax to promote tourism, not for debt service or operation costs.
The request that mattered most to us was receiving some documentation that clearly upheld the promise of instituting a budget for the promotion of Cottonwood tourism. Our belief is that Cottonwood's needs for strong business economy takes precedence over a new Chamber building.
We were fighting for every business in Cottonwood. Tourism promotion isn't for the sole benefit of our motels. Arizona Office of Tourism numbers show an average $107 spent for every person, each day they are in a community. Tourism money supports every restaurant; every shop; gas station, the Verde Canyon Railroad. Blazn' M Ranch and yes the motels. Which benefit every employee ad the families of each business.
This money in turn is spent in local grocery stores. Every dollar contributes more money in the city coffers, more could be done with less individual tax. The trickle down effect is what would keep the Cottonwood economy strong.
Arizona Office of Tourism reports Yavapai County having a 19 percent increase in tourism dollars. That's wonderful for Prescott ad Sedona. Cottonwood stands at 7 percent, our occupancies are now even with prior to 9/11. These statistics show how much we are following behind.
Sedona has a 3 percent bed tax of which the current city contract with the Chamber of Commerce allocates $220,000 per year plus 30 percent of each years bed tax increase over the prior year. This money is contracted in writing to promote Sedona Tourism.
Flagstaff tax of 3 percent goes to the beautification of Flagstaff, but the city fully supports the Flagstaff Convention and Visitors Bureau for tourism promotion.
Current Camp Verde Chamber of Commerce Director, Roy Gugliotta reports Camp Verde has a 3 percent bed tax. Of the bed tax collected in Camp Verde, over 100 percent goes to promote tourism. The Chamber Board and City Council become converts to the accepted knowledge it is tourism funds that feed Arizona's cities. Roy explained it took education to make this change in thinking, including his Marketing Plan and Budget showing that every dollar spent promoting a community brings $11 back in revenue. Camp Verde's current budget just for tourism is $106,000. We heard at the Council meeting last week, Cottonwood has spent $19,000.
Tucson has a bed tax of 6 percent, of which 45 percent is contracted to be spent on tourism promotion. These communities understand what we were not able to convey in our opposition. Tourism is crucial to a community. Bed tax was originally instituted as a way of funding tourism, hotel and motel owners across our country understand that is the intended use; they also understand tourism is much larger than lodging.
These other communities have committed, in writing, percentages to go for tourism promotion, not debt service.
Since neither our Chamber nor the City Council have our best interest in mind and have voted to tax us 3 percent without specifying a percentage to go to tourism promotion, all the hotels and motels in Cottonwood are resigning from membership in the Cottonwood Chamber of Commerce.
Barbara Vogl, Best Western Cottonwood Inn; Sanjay Bhakta, Budget Inn & Suites; Becky Kulis, Little Daisy Motel; Anna May Cory, Pines Motel; Richard Goeglein, Quality Inn; Sunny Singh, Super 8 Motel; April Jackson, The View Motel; Barbara Vogl, Cove Parkway Rentals
Churches are protected for good reason
Dan Engler's editorial on zoning for churches was well written and caused me to rethink my views on the subject, a thing Dan has done for me on many occasions both privately and publicly.
If we think of a church as another amenity for the community like a park, a business, a concert hall or a sports arena, it only makes since to apply logic in locating it. There is a reason, however, why historically church placement was not restricted. Churches were sacred. They were places of refuge where people went to meet God.
They taught citizens to serve others, to be law abiding, to respect authority, care for parents and children alike, help the needy, they served their communities.
The example set by Jesus was to actually die for the sake of others, which is an unbelievably radical commitment to service.
It is my hope and prayer that the churches would again be warm lights in neighborhoods that are such positive factors in the fabric of communities that they would be welcomed and sought no matter what the size.