Fri, Feb. 28

Editorial: Best approach to VOC incorporation is to ‘Keep It Simple, Stupid’

If indeed a group of folks in the Village of Oak Creek are going to test the waters of establishing municipal government in their community, they should take a page from the U.S. Navy.

The commonly heard phrase of “Keep It Simple, Stupid” was first coined by aviation engineer Kelly Johnson and quickly adopted by the Navy in the 1960s.

It’s obviously stood the test of time.

It’s an important concept to grasp with an issue such as municipal incorporation.

Too often with incorporation and annexation efforts, proponents of self-government get lost in the weeds of details to the extent they overlook the simplicity of the process.

According to Arizona law, incorporation is a straightforward and rather simple process, for those who want to keep it simple.

First, you have to designate the boundaries for the area to be incorporated. For VOC, the most simple approach would be to closely examine the boundaries of the existing sanitary district and the portions of the Sedona Fire District that serves VOC.

Once boundaries are determined, there is the question of whether the area to be incorporated has a population of at least 1,500 and is “urban in nature.” In the case of VOC, that is a given.

The third major consideration is a determination of whether the community should be incorporated as a “city” or “town.” A community with less than 3,000 people is required to incorporate as a town. Those with more than 3,000 have the option of being designated a “city.” That’s not a requirement, though. Take the Town of Camp Verde, for example. Camp Verde clearly has more than 3,000 residents, but has always opted for the nomenclature of “town.”

Beyond those basic issues, incorporation is nothing more than a petition process of registered voters in the designated corporate boundaries.

There are two ways to do this. The most common is a petition process in which 10% of the registered voters in the designated boundaries sign petitions in support of incorporation. Once that happens, the Yavapai County Board of Supervisors would be required to call an election. At that point, incorporation is in the hands of local voters, as was the case for Sedona in 1988.

The second petition option has only been used twice in the history of Arizona. It requires signatures of two-thirds of the registered voters in the proposed corporate boundaries. If that signature threshold is achieved, the board of supervisors is legally required to declare the community a municipality and appoint its first town or city council.

There is some important local history on this method of incorporation. Camp Verde, in 1986, became the first community in the history of Arizona to incorporate directly via the petition process. To this day, Camp Verde is only one of two Arizona municipalities to become incorporated in this manner.

So, if you want to “Keep It Simple, Stupid,” those are the only issues that really matter for communities such as VOC that are considering incorporation.

Getting stuck deep in the weeds of finances, services and who is going to be the first mayor typically only stalls the process at best and kills it at worst.

To keep it even more simple for the folks in VOC, there is one basic question Villagers should ask themselves about incorporation.

Would VOC be better off governed by folks who live and work in the Village of Oak Creek or four county supervisors who live in Prescott and one who lives in Cottonwood?

That should be a no brainer for folks who like to “Keep It Simple, Stupid.”

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