Candidate for Coconino County Board of Supervisors District 3
01. How long have you lived in Coconino County and how deep are your roots here?
I have called Flagstaff, Arizona ‘home’ since 1982, although after graduating from NAU, I flew between San Francisco working weekend shifts at Genentec, Inc., returning home to homeschool my kids the other half of the week in Flagstaff. These couple of years I wasn’t officially an Arizona resident, but by perception I considered myself so.
Roots are a perception. This is home. This is where we happily raised our family, a wonderful place to raise a family. Each of our children are their own, and yet an extension of oneself. My oldest son Sean went from being a young child giving classes at the Arboretum and the Museum of Northern Arizona to other children, to becoming a teacher at DeMiguel Elementary School, well-respected and sought after by parents, students, teachers, and administration. He is now at NAU teaching teachers. He married Rebekah Schmidt, one of our local soccer stars and a teacher at DeMiguel, and they have 2 children. Tess, a friend to many as she grew up here, became a Merchant Marine, a Crime Scene Investigator, and is now working in support of CSI’s in Phoenix. She has 4 children and is married to Eduardo Abreu, a wonderful young man working in technology for a private firm that handles 911 recordings in the Southwest. Gered excelled in academics and received a Fulbright scholarship which brought him to Taiwan to teach English for the World Games. He remained there, continuing his study of Mandarin, and became the first foreign student at National Dong HWA University to receive his Masters in Environmental Science which led to the University expanding a foreign student program based on his success. He currently teaches Latin at BASIS-Flagstaff. And the roots are expanding. I have six young grandchildren I enjoy.
Our family helps others. They embrace this community. They have good ethos, and they give back to the community. The beauty, the sense of place and community gets into one’s blood and values where it is a part of oneself, and we fully embrace it. I have had the opportunity to expand upon this to help our community and to use these values as a County Supervisor. These are my roots. They are quite deep and manifest in many ways.
02. What is the biggest problem facing Coconino County? If elected what will you do to address this problem and how will you pay for your solution?
“Biggest” depends on the week. I prefer “challenges” or “neat things to be working on” versus “problem.” The world is not perfect, and we can always work on improving.
Neat things to be working on: Transportation. Transportation is costly and can easily undermine the greater budget if not addressed. Transportation is a network of interdependence upon cross jurisdictions that may or may not work together directly. While the voters passed the City of Flagstaff’s Proposition 406 and the County’s Proposition 403 to help fill the ever growing gap created by fixed user fee rates in the State and Federal gasoline taxes, in time they will not be enough since the lion’s share of our maintenance money comes from these two sources and still have a structural deficit.
We have put forward a local fix in the initiatives which was supported by the voters. Next is to work with our State and Federal representatives, while helping our populace understand the need to fix and support efforts to appropriately finance the maintenance of our infrastructure. To pay for this, the gas tax, which is the lion’s share of the revenue supporting this infrastructure, should be indexed at both Federal and State level, while the user fee should consider future changes to compensate for reduced use of these sources and for climatic impact.
On the local level, the City of Flagstaff will be considering Bonds for this next election. City polls have shown that congestion is the number one concern related to transportation. Through the Flagstaff Metropolitan Planning Organization (FMPO), the Technical Advisory Committee, and the Regional Transportation Planning Committee, the recommendations until now have progressed in taking steps to work on congestion and multi-model opportunities, particularly on the Milton and Lone Tree corridor which for many years have been dismissed because of costs. To help resolve the congestion, these major corridors need to be in the City’s bond measures and, most importantly, the Lone Tree overpass across the railroad should be included. These problems need to be addressed now rather than passing it them on, in order to address the community’s concerns. While the recommendations come from cross-jurisdictional advisory groups such as the FMPO and citizen’s advisory groups, the final decisions for recommendations will be made by the City Council, and then placed before the City electorate. City bonds based on sales tax will pay for the items supported by the electorate. It is important that the Lone Tree and Milton recommendations are placed before the voters, since these work on congestion relief while they also include multi-model improvements.
03. Is there anything the County is currently doing that you feel goes beyond the proper role of County government? Are there services you feel the County should provide that it is not providing already?
In response to the first question, no, not that I am aware of.
There is no broad category of services that we should provide and are not providing. However, I always keep an eye out for opportunities to enhance benefits to our communities by building on the work the County is tasked to do. For example, by addressing flood management projects, the County can help to improve flood rating, thus reducing costs and/or the need for flood insurance to our residents. Another example of where we can enhance services is working with communities and fire districts to reduce the threat of fire and make it easier to dispose of green waste, making our communities Firewise.
04. Recognizing that when businesses thrive, our community thrives, what are your plans to create an environment that businesses can grow in?
In response to this question it is important to note that State Statutes are designed in a way where tax codes and authorities set cities up as the economic engines and Counties fulfill other basic government functions. Even with this, in response to the question, we already do help businesses in several ways, such as through purchasing, contracts, engineering, professional services, etc. Government and private sector are not exclusive, but instead are a dynamic where many private businesses are thriving. In return, by using the private sector, more efficient or specialized services are provided at competitive costs reducing the costs and stretching the use of tax dollars more efficiently. Local money is spent and re-spent. A multiplier effect occurs, benefitting many sectors of our community. Some examples are Public-Private Partnerships such as at Fort Tuthill with Flagstaff Extreme, the North Pole Experience, or the Amphitheatre. Other examples are: contracting mental health services in our judicial system, using multiple engineering firms to address the Schultz Flood area, and in modifying and simplifying our international building code to make it easier for a business to locate here. To offer an analogy, government (in this case, the County) and our local business (the private sector) have a symbiotic relationship such as a lichen where there are two organisms, fungi and algae, with an interdependency and they both thrive. They are not exclusive and yet it is one organism which thrives and is efficient, like our communities.
We have been open and innovative in our approach to seek private sector opportunities that help foster an environment in which businesses can thrive and grow.
05. What are your feelings about mandating a living wage and how do you think it will impact local businesses and the County?
This is a very difficult question that our communities are wrestling with right now. I have not concluded the best way to go related to this topic. I support the concept of increasing the living wage. We do not want to see our workforce exploited, and we do want to see people have a reasonable income so they can provide for themselves and their families. On the other hand, we do not want to place undue burden on our businesses. We do not want our small businesses to cease to exist. I am not sure I know what the correct amount is that balances the two. It is a topic that needs to be further vetted by the community. This will probably come with a State initiative in November, provided it gets on the ballot.
06. Should the County spend tax dollars to sue the State or Federal government when they pass laws the County does not agree with?
A big part of our job is protecting our communities and our tax payers. One must not simply lay down and accept unjust measures. Legal strategies must be evaluated and considered. The community’s best interest should be foremost in priority. Sometimes the battle is worth it; other times it might be right, but the legal outcome may be a loss and it is important to not waste the tax payers’ money in such a scenario.
07. Polls show that the cost of housing is a big concern for Flagstaff residents. Is there anything the County should be doing to foster more affordable housing?
While public housing initiatives are good and are helpful to specific families, they are often costly and affect a very small portion of the population in need. We have worked to support both the private and public sector areas to enhance opportunities. In simplifying our requirements related to the international building code, we have modified our mother-in-law quarters in our zoning ordinance, now called accessory dwellings. We have modified approval of subdivisions when they meet our community plans. In most cases it is the private sector that provides a large enough inventory to establish a base price that affects a broader portion of the population.
08. How do you respond to concerns about the Sheriff’s department becoming militarized? Would you vote to accept DHS and other grants to provide military equipment to the Sheriff’s department?
“Militarized” is an adversarial term in such a question. It suggests adversarial intent against our communities and citizens. That I do not support. If one were to look at this from a peace keeping, public order perspective, which is the intent of the Sheriff’s Office (SO) it is important to understand what our officers face out there. They truly put their lives on the line–often. Not everyone is nice, and we have some very bad, evil people, bullies, etc. out there. Residents of Coconino County can live peacefully and be oblivious to much of this because the SO is dealing with these not-so-nice people on a daily and sometimes hourly basis. I support providing them with the tools that they need to remain safe and to protect us. Without this, the other extreme is, the bullies will rule.
There are many items that could be perceived as militarized depending upon the spin that is put on the terminology e.g. an officers side arm, a protective vest. I support pursuit of funds that offset the local burden to provide for our SO. Close to half of the County’s budget comes from other sources, some of which have been through Homeland Security. These help defray the local burden in budgeting. It’s wise fiscal management, if managed correctly. This I do support.
I support our justice system and our form of government which with the County, it uses the SO to perform the front line function. They do a really good job and are quite conscientious. They use a community-based approach, listen and respond, and are quite innovative.
09. What are your thoughts on the recently passed Animal Keeping code? Do you think it is important to promote and encourage local food and urban farming in Coconino County?
We had been considering visiting this for the past several years and with recent reviews of Community Development codes and ordinances, it provided an appropriate time for such review with recommendations from a citizen’s advisory committee. It was a good step in moving toward enabling folks to produce at a household level. It allowed for local production but also strives to create parameters for responsible production that does not create an undue burden on neighbors in a residential setting. The more we produce locally, the more we are able to have a manageable sustainable system.
10. How important do you think symbolic nonbinding resolutions are to conducting the business of the County? Should the County Board spend time and resources addressing these issues?
Periodically, they are very important when they affect our region or are needed by our State or Federal representatives in helping them decide to address the topic. They need to be considered carefully and should not be used often. The other side of this is that there is always someone out there seeking their own perceived notion of Public Good and want us to champion their cause. Even with good intent, it would be easy to have a topic of the week or of the day and consume time and resources that are better focused on the County at-large.