Most voters who planned to vote either for or against the Sedona Fire District’s $17.9 million bond decided months ago and likely filled out their ballot and mailed it back in the day they got it.

Wendy Tanzer
Wendy Tanzer is the treasurer of the SAFER Sedona political action committee
SAFER Sedona

Back in June, I wrote that many property owners have seen their tax rates rise as we return to pre-recession levels. These rates are adjusted by local governments by simple vote, but with a bond that heads to voters: “Property owners already facing higher taxes from districts they cannot fight will see a bond request on ballot as the one tax they can resist and vote ‘no.’”

The most recent campaign filing, which appears on the front page of today’s edition, raises serious questions about how the amount of the bond was determined, and who would benefit most if it passes.

We have serious concerns that the overwhelming majority of donors to the pro-bond political action committee bond, SAFER Sedona, are all Phoenix area contractors.

According to the November Pre-Election Report, several firefighters unions from Phoenix, Flagstaff and Daisy Mountain [aka Anthem], donated a combined $2,410, along with a mere $500 from the Sedona Verde Valley Firefighters Association. That one donation is the only one from anywhere in Sedona or the Verde Valley and only amounts to 2.42 percent of the total donations.

Where are the donations from local contractors hoping for a future construction contract? Or seniors who are most likely to call SFD for medical calls in the near future? Or wealthy, community-minded residents who always support SFD and our hardworking firefighters?

Or the dozens of letter writers who have written this newspaper to thank individual firefighters for saving their lives following car accidents, heart attacks, house fires or medical emergencies?

The single largest donor is CORE Construction, which builds public facilities all around the state, such as police stations, fire stations, community colleges, schools and jail facilities, with additional donations from Core’s subcontractors, totalling $17,750.

Not-so-coincidentally, CORE Construction also wrote the estimates for the renovations and new stations and presented those numbers to the Citizens’ Advisory Committee in May, which presented its findings to the SFD Governing Board. Thus, CORE Construction has had its hand in the electoral process from the beginning.

Will construction costs really be that high, or was CORE Construction padding the bill, then donating election funds to make certain the measure would pass under the nose of voters?

If the bond passes, CORE Construction is almost assured to bid. And should it win the bid, though completely legal, our election process will have been corrupted by a textbook case of vile crony capitalism, the kind liberals, progressives, moderates and conservatives rail against in Washington, Phoenix and even at Sedona City Hall.

There is nothing to suggest local representatives nor local officials colluded in this process, but rather, in looking at CORE Construction’s projects around the state, this would appear to be the firm’s modus operandi.

Financially, it makes perfect sense for CORE Construction: Invest a few thousand dollars to sway elections in small, podunk communities, win multimillion-dollar construction contracts funded by taxpayers and turn a huge profit. If the vote fails or the contract goes to someone else, a $17,750 write off is nothing for company “with over 1,200 employees providing annual revenue in excess of $1 billion.”

So voters who have their ballots in hand and are still on the fence have to weigh the following:

  • Do Sedona firefighters need to replace Fire Station 4 on Forest Road? Absolutely.

  • Should SFD vacate Fire Station 5 it currently co-owns with the generous Garland family in Oak Creek Canyon and build one at Slide Rock State Park? Certainly. Most canyon calls are near or north of Slide Rock and the park officials have stated they are solidly in favor of the plan. 

  • Should Fire Stations 1 and 3 be renovated? Eventually, and this bond could set the stage for that work.

  • Should voters let Phoenix area subcontractors steal work from local contractors? No.

  • Should we reward a multistate corporation for trying to co-opt our local election process? No.

In the end, voters must balance our community need with the sanctity of the democratic process and decide.

Christopher Fox Graham

Managing Editor