The people of Sedona spoke, and they said, “Don’t take back State Route 89A!”

Results from a scientific survey released by the city indicate the residents are not ready to commit the city of Sedona to the financial burden of maintaining a state highway simply to avoid the Arizona Department of Transportation’s roadway lighting plan.

According to the survey conducted by Behavior Research Center Inc., 56 percent of residents surveyed said ADOT should retain control of the highway and 30 percent believe the city should take back the road. The other 14 percent were unsure.

On the business side, which was also surveyed, 62 percent of business owners said “no takeback” while 30 percent supported city ownership. Another 8 percent were unsure.

The survey’s margin of error is 5 percent, which means it couldn’t possibly be clearer what the people of Sedona want.

They don’t want the city to take on a financial burden with unknown repercussions.
Residents voted no even before seeing a draft of the contract the city would sign with ADOT, which was not released to the public prior to the survey.

Even self-proclaimed anti-street light advocates, who have said they personally support the takeback, are now urging the Sedona City Council not to because it is not the will of the people.

Visits by city staff to community service groups also indicate the majority of residents do not support a takeback, and we have received numerous letters at our office indicating they don’t.

Despite blatant lack of support, it is rumored some City Council members’ minds have been made up, and they plan to vote for the minority 30 percent of residents and 30 percent of business owners.

Opponents of the takeback are already calling for a recall of any council members who defy the will of the people with a promise to circulate petitions immediately.

Council needs to remember it’s not about what it wants, it’s about what the people want.
All of the newly elected council members — Mike Ward, Dennis Rayner, Barbara Litrell and Dan McIlroy — ran on the platform of leading the city where the majority of the people want it to go.

When they were elected, they all felt the majority opposed installation of street lights, although without scientific evidence.

Now, the question has become whether the city should take back the road to avoid the street lights, and a scientific survey indicates the majority of residents don’t want the liability.

Will council keep its promise and follow the will of the people? We will find out Tuesday, Feb. 22, when council members cast their votes.

On Friday, Feb. 11, I met my new little sister.

On Sunday, Feb. 13, I spent time biking, skateboarding and playing basketball with my new little sister.

Now, we both have a new friend and someone to enjoy activities with thanks to Yavapai Big Brothers Big Sisters.

When I was asked to apply for the program, my first response was, “I don’t have time for that.”
The thought of adding one more obligation to my already overflowing schedule seemed impossible.

Then, I looked at others in our communities who also have full-time jobs and families and still find a way to give back.

After an extremely rigorous screening process — appropriate for many reasons — I waited for my match.

Not long after, I received a phone call and was on my way to my little sister’s home to meet her family and our match advisor.

My match advisor told me my little sister, like many other children who apply for the program in our area, had been waiting for years for a big sister, which is a problem the program faces.

There are far more little sisters and little brothers who sign up for the program than there are adults willing to volunteer their time.

Many people have the same reaction I first had or worry about being roped into activities they don’t enjoy.

I can assure you neither of these is true if a person is determined to help a child.

The program asks big brothers and sisters to spend eight hours with their little sister or brother a month, which can be done in one day or spread out among several.

Eight hours a month isn’t much when considering the difference it could make.

Age is also considered.

If a person feels they relate better to older children, the program attempts to match the volunteer with one of its older children.

If the volunteer is more comfortable with a younger child, that too is taken into consideration.
Matches are also set up so the adult and child have similar interests, therefore making a match rather than a mismatch.

I like to be outside, active and love an adventure.

My little sister enjoys the same, and I’m looking forward to new adventures with her.

The little sisters and brothers and their families are also asked what they’d like to do with a big sister or brother and what they prefer in an adult when it comes to age and interests.

Obviously, only so much can be done to make a match. Children, just like the rest of us, come in all shapes and sizes. The program staff’s job is to match as many desired qualities on both sides to increase the probability of a match’s success.

If you’re ready to become a mentor, contact the program, and if you’re not sure yet attend the Bowl for Kids Sake event at Cliff Castle Casino from Friday, Feb. 25, through Sunday, Feb. 27.

Government transparency — nearly every candidate running for office claims this as one of their platforms.

The funny thing is, once a candidate is elected they often quickly change their tune.

The Sedona Fire District Governing Board, apparently led by Clerk Charles Christensen, wants to now censor information released by the district. Christensen asked for a “courtesy” call whenever anyone from the district would be dealing with the media, or in other words, us.

The district, as one resident’s comment pointed out on our website, has had a media policy in place for quite some time, which calls for the chief to approve information releases. Since SFD Fire Chief Nazih Hazime started his job, every effort to uphold this policy has been made, and for the most part, policy has been followed.

If Christensen wants to be made aware of contact with the media, I’m sure Hazime has no problem filling him in on the details. However, much of SFD’s business happens outside normal office hours.

When I worked as a reporter I covered an early morning blaze in Back o’ Beyond, a hiker rescue on Castle Rock well into the night and various other emergency events at odd hours.

Does Christensen want SFD staff to call him at 3 a.m. to ask if they can comment to the media?

He said he wanted to be contacted regarding “policy” issues or items not discussed by the board in the past. That’s a pretty wide net to cast.

Clearing release of certain information with the board is actually appropriate in some instances.

However, Christensen’s move appears to be motivated by his attempt to control SFD and possibly a vendetta against the district staff and now the media.

Why is Christensen all of a sudden the point-man on all business with the board? Isn’t Dave Blauert the chairman?

If Christensen wants to be the controller of the district, he should have applied for the chief’s job.

Since he didn’t, and he wouldn’t be qualified to run a fire district anyway, he needs to realize his role in the organization.

The board’s job is to set guidelines, regarding both policy and budget, and let SFD staff figure out how to live within those boundaries. Staff’s job is to use its expertise in the field, which makes them qualified for their jobs, to make recommendations to the board and carry out day-to-day operations.

Christensen cited comments made by staff regarding their recommendations for adjustments to the tax rate as a reason for his new policy. He said, “It appeared this person was recommending the board do this.” That is the staff person’s job — to recommend, based on his or her expertise, options for the board. It’s the board’s decision in the end, but it needs staff’s help to make an informed choice. So, no, it wasn’t outside the scope of what that employee should be doing.

Shouldn’t taxpayers know their options? Shouldn’t all district business be available to the media and public? That’s what transparency means.

SFD has a very capable chief and its very own public information officer. Christensen and the rest of the board need to let them do their jobs.

The two most popular items in the newspaper are the letters to the editor and police reports, and nobody in a small town wants to appear in the latter.

Often when a person is arrested they, their significant other or their parent pleads desperately for the arrestee to be left out of the Page 2 police reports.

They call with every excuse in the book regarding their innocence or why they should be treated differently.

Deciding who is innocent and who is guilty isn’t our job. That’s up to a judge.
Our job is, however, to publish public records of crimes committed in the community as a service to our residents.

Residents want and deserve to know what crimes occur where they live.

Most recently, I received what may not have been intended as, but appeared to be a bribe. It was a very generous gift from a person who had contacted me about a police report.

I explained on the telephone we do not make exceptions for anyone, and the gift certificate arrived anyway. Obviously, I won’t be using it, and the gesture was actually a bit insulting.

When people call pleading for their names to be omitted they often say, “I know you leave some people out sometimes.”

I can guarantee I’ve personally never left out a police report upon request, including for my personal friends and family members. Everyone gets the same treatment.

Recently, someone brought a newspaper to us from Texas, which consisted solely of criminal mug shots with the crime committed listed below. Everyone who broke the law from traffic violations to violent sex crimes appeared in the paper.

In Sedona, we don’t generally use mug shots, and the offender has to be arrested before his or her name is published.

Ultimately, if you don’t want to appear on Page 2, don’t get arrested.

On Monday, Jan. 24, I relied on public transportation to get work.

Every few months I take the shuttle provided by the Northern Arizona Intergovernmental Public Transportation Authority and local municipalities from Cottonwood to Uptown. It used to be the Sedona RoadRunner on its way to its Uptown circulator route. Now it’s the Verde Lynx, a drastic improvement in comfort.

Monday’s ride was the best I’ve had yet with the service. Both buses were on time getting me to my office before 8 a.m. and home when I expected.

Ridership still seemed low with eight people riding in with me and five riding back to Cottonwood. However, three people did get on in Uptown and off in West Sedona using the service to get around town.

A recent Sedona Red Rock News online poll — which is not scientific for obvious reasons associated with Internet voting — indicated those polled feel public transportation between Sedona and other Verde Valley communities should be the top priority when it comes to public transportation.

My experience on the bus yesterday reinforces that belief.

Everyone on the shuttle going to work knew each other and asked about others they hadn’t seen in a few days. I seemed to be the only outsider, and they welcomed me warmly with a “good morning” and “have a nice day.”

These people were on their way to work getting off at bus stops all over the city, and they’ve come to rely on the service to get them there.

For me, riding the Lynx is usually about convenience. I should ride more often, and I always say I’m going to use the service. However, realistically, I only ride when company is visiting and needs my vehicle or I’m meeting my fiance later in the day in Sedona. At those times, I am very thankful we have the service.

Arizona is broke, which isn’t a secret.

Many groups, however, refuse to give up without a fight or at least an attempt to ward off complete elimination of their programs.

Arizona State Parks and the individual parks themselves have fought tooth and nail to stay afloat, particularly in Sedona and the Verde Valley.

In Sedona, Slide Rock State Park wasn’t in jeopardy of closing because it is one of few parks that actually generates revenue, but Red Rock State Park and its volunteers have fought for each day the park has stayed open.

In Camp Verde, a massive volunteer movement kept Fort Verde State Historical Park from closing.

Jerome State Historical Park fought back from the grave, in a sense, rallying to reopen after the state shut it down for structural repairs without a completion date set.

Cottonwood’s Dead Horse Ranch State Park is virtually untouchable. It, like Slide Rock, actually turns a profit each year.

In an effort to develop a plan for saving the parks, reporter Mark Lineberger wrote Wednesday, Jan. 19, a nonprofit group, the Arizona State Parks Foundation, commissioned a study. The report gave two suggestions for parks in the Verde Valley — limit hours or seasons of operation at some parks and develop other revenue generators.

Both ideas could help local parks stay above water, but only if administered correctly.
The study recommends closing the Fort Verde, Red Rock and Jerome parks November through March.

A four-month closure of Red Rock State Park isn’t going to go over well with Sedona residents.

A one- to two-month closure may be possible during December and January when tourism numbers are down, but Sedona fights to extend its tourism season every year. An extended closure could be viewed as detrimental to these efforts.

At Slide Rock State Park, one of the state’s most successful parks, the study recommends expanding the revenue base with possibly a zip line or a café.

Extra attention and care needs to be taken if this is the route Slide Rock takes. The point of designating a property a state park is to preserve its history and natural beauty. Building cafés and recreation equipment on a site set aside for preservation is tricky.

The best bet would be to brainstorm park-specific ideas that fit with the theme. Maybe Slide Rock could have a dessert café where desserts are made from apples, drawing a connection to the park’s apple orchard history.

Who should manage the parks and whether a private group should step in to be a liaison between the state and a park was also addressed.

In the Verde Valley, a regional operation responsible for all of the area’s parks would be the best option. Then money raised at our parks would stay here to support their operations, and the state wouldn’t be able to take it away.

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