Sedona is in the middle of a primary election. Ballots go out on August 1; Election Day is August 28.
The major issue on the ballot is something called the Alternative Expenditure Limitation or Home Rule. Home Rule basically gives local government the authority to spend money based on revenues received. By state law, cities operating under Home Rule must vote whether to continue every four years.
Sedona has been operating under Home Rule for a long time. Very simply stated, if Home Rule fails, the state establishes an expenditure limit that is the community’s 1980 budget adjusted for inflation and population growth. In Sedona’s case, that would result in a 51% decrease in our projected municipal budget.
So, why would anyone want to cut the city’s budget in half?
There is a group linking traffic congestion and the Chamber to Home Rule. They say the city should not spend any money to market Sedona or manage our visitor experience; that tourism will take care of itself. Without tourism promotion, they say, traffic will decline. They offer no evidence to support this idea. Despite the $600 million impact to our small-town economy and the 10,000 people who rely on tourism for their livelihoods, they feel neglect is the best policy.
Here’s that reasoning again: defeating Home Rule = cutting off funds for marketing and tourism management = less traffic in Sedona.
Whaaat? No Home Rule actually means we will no longer have the money to complete Council and community-approved traffic mitigation plans. Not to mention cuts to every other service such as police, parks, and street maintenance. Traffic won’t get better. It will get worse. So will just about everything else.
So this is where it gets juicy. And distressing.
Arizona law allows any legislator to submit a complaint to the Attorney General’s office claiming a city is acting illegally. Once a complaint is made, it must be investigated. It’s easy to see how a politician could use this mechanism to generate publicity and fake news by making a complaint, no matter how absurd.
In an effort to discredit the City Council, the Sedona Chamber and to defeat Home Rule, a complaint was filed with the AG by an out-of-area Senator (though initiated in Sedona), claiming the City is violating the law by contracting with the Chamber for tourism promotion and management, paid with bed tax dollars.
They are generally saying two things:
1) We don’t provide any benefit to the community, making the bed-tax funded contract a gift and therefore illegal
2) We don’t have any performance metrics associated with the contract.
Incredibly, the formal complaint intentionally left out FIVE PAGES of performance metrics that are part of our contract.
That’s not all. Arizona law states bed taxes must be used for promotion of tourism and specifically mentions contracting with non-profits to do this. We’ve had a contract with the City – in accordance with state law - since the 1990’s. We are also Northern Arizona’s only certified Destination Marketing and Management Organization.
It’s easy to see the complaint is baseless and coming two weeks before vote-by-mail begins, geared to have a political impact. Nothing more or less. The timing is suspicious, the method is devious and the whole thing is a disappointment to thousands of Sedonans accustomed to honest debate on community issues.
That’s a very broad view of what’s happening.
As many of you know, I love working to make our town the best place to live, work, play and visit and I never forget what makes Sedona great: pride in our beautiful hometown, a commitment to our quality of life and economic health, and a tradition of tackling our challenges – together.
I’m always here to answer questions that anyone might have about this. Feel free to call, email or DM me anytime.
In the meantime, if you are a Sedona voter, join in me voting YES on Home Rule. Ballots will be in your mail box this week.
Jennifer Wesselhoff is the president/CEO of the Sedona Chamber of Commerce & Tourism Bureau.