Home » Jim McCarthy

Jim McCarthy

Candidate for City Council

01. How long have you lived in Flagstaff and how deep are your roots here?

I was raised in Tucson and have been visiting Flagstaff since 1957. Fourteen years ago, my wife Kathy and I moved to Flagstaff full time. My son lives and works here. Ever since moving here, I have been active in the community. I have served on the city Water Commission, and the Planning and Zoning Commission. For years I have worked as backstage manager at Pickin’ in the Pines. I taught guitar through Young Jammers. The friends I make here are my strongest roots.

02. What is the biggest problem facing Flagstaff? If elected what will you do to address this problem and how will you pay for your solution?

Land use decisions are changing Flagstaff’s character. We need a community discussion about Regional Plan and zoning improvements that are possible and desirable. Because of rapid NAU growth and the city’s need for affordable housing, there is a need to build. But I am concerned that affected neighborhoods could be changed into something alien, with intense parking and traffic issues. Just look at the Hub high-density housing project.
There are limits on what city council can do. Property owners have legitimate rights under existing zoning. However, council can make some changes.

Different visions yield different outcomes. The current trend is to steadily change the zoning code to the advantage of inappropriate development. Instead, we need to improve the code to protect our city character. I will lead a meaningful council discussion about right-scaled development. We need to consider the interests of established neighborhoods, affordable housing, economic development, and community character. The cost of this discussion will be minimal and can be covered by the existing budget.

03. Is there anything the City of Flagstaff is currently doing that you feel goes beyond the proper role of City government? Are there services you feel the City should provide that it is not providing already?

We do not have the budget to add additional services, but most of our current services are supported by our residents. After sitting through several city council budget retreats, I know there is not a lot of fat in the city budget. That said, as I get deeper into the city budget, looking for inefficiencies and unnecessary programs will be one of my priorities.

04. Recognizing that when businesses thrive, our community thrives, what are your plans to create an environment that businesses can grow in?

Small businesses are important, but so are larger high paying companies. For both small and large businesses, the needs are similar. They need a good customer base, locally or regionally depending on the business. They need infrastructure and locations to put their business, and need a predictable and reasonable process to build or adapt their facilities. Progressive employers need us to support public education from kindergarten through the community college and university. They demand it for their employee’s children and for their workforce so that they will have educated employees. The city must assure the safety of structures and must maintain the character of our city, but must streamline the process.

05. What are your feelings about mandating a living wage and how do you think it will impact local businesses and the City?

Flagstaff voters should have the chance to consider a minimum wage increase. Higher wages would put more money in the pockets of families trying to live on an unrealistically low wage, which would improve the overall economy. On the other hand, many employers warn of negative effects.

I worked at the minimum wage in 1968 to support my wife and son. It was essentially impossible. Adjusted for inflation, that wage would be 10.90/hour now. With that rate, and an annual inflation factor of 6.6 percent, it would yield $15.00/hour five years out, which is the local proposal. Like everything else, there will be positive and negative effects. I believe that the voters will make a rational decision.

06. Should the City spend tax dollars to sue the State or Federal government when they pass laws the City does not agree with?

I believe in local control above overreaching state mandates. However, I would only support suits against the state or federal government in the infrequent case where there is a clear and compelling need for our community.

07. Polls show that the cost of housing is a big concern for Flagstaff residents. Is there anything the City should be doing to foster more affordable housing in town?

Affordable housing problems can only be resolved with cooperation between the city and the private sector. Although the city manages some housing, the vast majority of our housing is private. The private sector will provide housing at a reasonable cost if the city provides opportunities.

The costs are primarily market driven; however, the city can affect the market. For instance, the highest cost to builders is land and infrastructure. Allowing – not forcing – smaller lots can help. Sometimes minor zoning changes in cooperation with builders can facilitate formats that are very livable and economical. Accessory dwelling units can increase the supply of housing while providing income to the primary resident.
My six years of experience on the Planning & Zoning Commission will be useful in this area. While certain candidates support reducing impact fees, I do not want to burden existing homeowners and renters with new construction subsidies. Besides, there is no evidence that a reduction in impact fees would be passed on to the buyers.

08. How do you respond to concerns about Flagstaff’s police becoming militarized? Would you vote to accept DHS and other grants to provide military equipment to the Flagstaff Police Department?

No, I would not vote for this, not without some very good rationale as to why we need to become militarized. I Militarization of our police department would be counterproductive. Having well trained police officers, with a balance of sensitivity and assertiveness, is paramount. It is imperative that our police department reach out to the community on a routine basis so that when there are crimes or emergencies, that there is a pre-existing relationship. The community relationships will do way more than armored vehicles on our streets. There are some types of equipment that could be effective, for instance night-vision goggles.

I have very strong values about the importance of civil liberties and fair treatment of all people. I support the decision to have our officers wear video cameras; this will reduce the probability of police misconduct and reduce the probability of unfounded complaints.

09. What are your thoughts on the recently passed Animal Keeping Ordinance? Do you think it is important to promote and encourage local food and urban farming in Flagstaff?

It is important to encourage local food production. It is practical, helps sustainability, and adds to the city character. I have several friends that raise chicken in Flagstaff without problems. Although I have not raised animals, I have grown food in my yard.

The old ordinance was ambiguous and unnecessarily restrictive (e.g., with unnecessarily large setbacks). The new ordinance addressed these issues in a reasonable manner, although some of the Table 6 limits (e.g., for chickens) may be overly restrictive. My reading of the new ordinance is that it provides nuisance protection to neighbors, yet allows animal keeping for food production and other purposes. Overall, it is a good ordinance.

10. How important do you think symbolic non-binding resolutions are to conducting the business of the City? Should the council spend time and resources addressing these issues?

Resolutions can be anything from a waste of time to a method to inform our Legislature and Congress about important issues. I will support resolutions that serve a solid purpose and will reject resolutions that serve no obvious city purpose.