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Last week, the Sedona City Council voted 4-3 to eliminate its resident commissions.

If council doesn’t vote on the matter again, the Budget Oversight Commission, Historic Preservation Commission and the Arts & Culture Commission and its Art in Public Places Committee will cease to exist on Aug. 1.

Vice Mayor Mark DiNunzio, Councilman Dan McIlroy, and Councilwomen Jessica Williamson and Barbara Litrell voted to kill the commissions.

News Editor Christopher Fox GrahamWell done, council members — not for your four votes, but for defining the phrase “epic fail.”

We applaud Mayor Rob Adams and Councilmen Mike Ward and John Martinez for voting against the measure.

As Adams suggested, creating a “hybrid” cost-effective structure may get more projects completed. Finding new funds for the commissions would also be an option.

City staff members are assigned to work on commission-directed projects and reports. Some staff members say they’re finding themselves spending more time working on commission projects than their actual jobs.

Killing the commissions doesn’t tell the electorate “we saved taxpayers some money.” It says “your priorities mean nothing to us; we know better than you what you want.”

The city somehow has enough funds to pay city code enforcement to spend Saturdays removing garage sale signs from State Route 89A, paying tens of thousands of dollars for study after study which sit quietly on shelves at City Hall, wasting 11 years to turn the Barbara Antonsen Memorial Park into something beyond a dirt field, approving then fighting streetlights on State Route 89A and myriad other projects that take far too long to complete.

In fiscal year 2012-13, the city collected $12.2 million in tax revenue allocated for its general fund. Sedona City Manager Tim Ernster said the extra hours cost the city an additional $112,500 per year. Surely the city can find a way to shuffle 0.9 percent of its budget to hire three or four new employees to work on commission projects and free up those other busy staffers. The Budget Oversight Commission meets as needed. The other two commissions meet once a month.

You know who’d be great helping the city juggle its budget to find money for staff time or more employees to work on commission projects? The Budget Oversight Commission. After all, its purpose is to “Work with a staff liaison to provide feedback and recommendations to City Council on the development, implementation and evaluation of the annual budget.”

Responsive Sedona Leadership 2010 supported Adams, Ward, McIlroy and Litrell in the 2010 election, telling voters the candidates would “… seek out and follow the will of the majority of our residents on all important community issues … insist on in-depth public education and … promote objective, informed public dialogue.”

Adams and Ward kept that promise with their vote. Litrell and McIlroy failed.

If the council doesn’t want community input on its priorities via commissions, then why bother with a council at all? Just hire a single manager to direct the city.

We need commissions of experts to make recommendations so we have a government responsive to the needs of its residents.

If the council doesn’t backtrack on this vote before Aug. 1 and find a solution, then we implore the ex-commissioners and others to make their voice heard another way: run for council. You’ll have plenty of silenced voters to back your campaign.
















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  • Greg Lilly

    I was a commissioner on the Arts & Culture Commission six years ago. Today, I'm the in-coming chair for the Williamsburg (Va.) Area Arts Commission. This commission is made up of three separate municipalities that have all agreed the time and salary of the government staff is valuable – as valuable as the volunteer time of the commissioners – to the encouragement and support of the arts in the community.

    The Sedona Arts & Culture Commission I served on in 2007 taught me how government can work to make a city more livable and inviting for residents and for visitors. I hoped to show my current city and two counties, that are over 300 years old, how arts can be celebrated and encouraged by a progressive new city, but I'm afraid my example has failed me (and the artists and arts organizations of Sedona).

    I'll look for examples from Asheville or Santa Fe.

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