When I wake up and it’s raining, I dread my commute to work.

It’s not that I don’t know how to drive in unfavorable conditions. I learned to drive in western Wyoming and used to make a 10 to 12-hour trek from Missoula, Mont., to Lander, Wyo., on snow-packed, ice-covered mountain passes so I could be with my family on Christmas.

I’ve slid sideways at speeds that barely moved the speedometer and dealt with white-out conditions.

However, what made winter driving up north easier was people understood a few basic precautions and took them — slow down, and leave more space between you and the car in front of you.

My trip into Sedona on Thursday morning, Dec. 16, was quite possibly the worst I’ve experienced since I moved to Arizona. Luckily, after making the drive day after day you begin to pick out the drivers to stay away from — they cut people off, tailgate at high speeds and have little to no regard for others on the road.

I spotted one of those drivers approaching in the passing lane Thursday and knew right away I better keep my eye on him. Approaching a red light at Cornville Road he was tailgating a small Honda Civic with his big blue Dodge Ram in the right lane.

After the light turned green the Honda kept a safe distance from the car in front of it, proper technique for a water-covered highway, as it accelerated. The man in the blue truck looked over at me a couple of times — we were now driving next to each other — and then, in one fell swoop, moved into my lane pushing me onto the shoulder.

Luckily, I knew he was there and just as dangerous as the driver of the black Land Cruiser that weaves tightly in and out of traffic every morning, and I had only made it up to 45 miles per hour.

Shaken by the situation, I didn’t get his license plate number before he pulled the same maneuver on another vehicle to get back into the left lane.

I understand it’s frustrating when slow traffic drives in the left lane. I’ve been known to become quite annoyed by the oblivious driver traveling 5 miles per hour below the speed limit in the fast lane.

However, getting annoyed and driving dangerously are two different reactions.

When it’s wet and slick on the highway, be aware of those around you. If you’re going slow, stay in the right lane where you belong. If you’re going fast, don’t put others in danger by driving like a maniac.

I’m not surprised we rarely make it out of storm without a car accident. The sad part is the cautious driver is often the victim of someone else’s bad driving.

I almost became that victim Thursday. Strangely, it was the first day in months I didn’t see a single law enforcement officer between my home in Clarkdale and office in Uptown.

Yavapai County has grown since the last census, despite an economic downturn, and now it is feeling the growing pains.

The Yavapai County Board of Supervisors authorized $85,000 to be spent on a Maryland consulting firm hired to help the county redraw its district lines.

County Administrator Julie Ayers predicts the county outgrew the three-district model and will be forced to divide into five districts instead once the 2010 Census results are released.

Ideally, those of us in the Verde Valley would like to see two districts on our side of the mountain and three on Prescott’s side.

Yavapai County District 3 Supervisor Chip Davis currently stands as the lone Verde Valley representative on the board. Supervisors Tom Thurman and Carol Springer have not been known to blackball the Verde Valley when it comes to approving Verde Valley items that come before them, but their interests do rest with their constituents on the other side of the hill.

If there are going to be five districts, it would be nice if Davis received a little help.

Ayers predicted in November the population of the Verde Valley won’t be large enough to support two districts. Law requires all districts in a county be similar in size with regard to population.

She said a portion of the Verde Valley will likely be grouped with communities from the outside.
Where those lines are drawn will affect county residents forever, and it’s important it be done correctly.

Bringing in outside help may be necessary. Redistricting doesn’t happen often in small-growing rural areas so it’s not surprising the county doesn’t have the staff to do the job completely in-house.

Bringing someone in from the outside, however, and from as far away as Maryland, also presents challenges. It’s important the consultant does not just look at a population map and start drawing lines.

He needs to study the county, community by community, and understand the culture of each area when it comes to conservation, way of life and future economic plan. Many factors other than population density need to be considered.

Redrawing the lines will be a tremendously demanding job completed in a relatively short period of time, which means everything possible needs to be done to make sure it is done right.

The newspaper business isn’t for the thin-skinned.

Every story we publish has fans and critics, including feel-good feature stories we’re sure everyone will love. Someone always has a problem with even those, and they let me know.

For example, after we published the story “Sedona man plans to run for president,” I received an e-mail criticizing us for running it implying the story was a waste of space. The woman did, however, write back to apologize for flying off the handle. The first e-mail was definitely drafted in what could have been considered a harsh tone.

Since then, the story has proved to be the most popular yet on our website receiving over 20 comments as of Thursday, Dec. 2 — some of those in support of Dennis Knill and some of them not.

The woman’s first e-mail was a classic example of what we see at the paper. Her apology after I responded, however, was novel.

We receive more hate mail and phone calls telling us we’re horrible people when the story’s controversial, but I think readers would be surprised it can even happen when someone writes a story about a life being saved.

We have to let the insults roll off our backs, especially those that are personal. Criticism of the product is understandable and everyone is entitled to his or her own opinion and has the right to express that opinion. When the jabs turn personal — especially when we have never met the people dishing them out — that’s when the merit of the argument is lost.

We always welcome comments on our stories and work, whether they are positive or negative, but common courtesy goes a long way in getting your point across.

In a city that prides itself on being “different” and “diverse,” you’d think tolerance would be a given. Instead, hate seems to ignite at the mere spark of disagreement, which is too bad, especially during the holiday season.

We’re all in this together, whether we agree or not on any number of issues, and it’s in all of our best interests to follow the Golden Rule. It’s a simple concept but seems to sometimes be the hardest for many adults to master.

My home will soon be powered by the sun.

Pending an APS inspection and the flip of a switch, Mother Nature will heat my house, turn on my lights and power almost every other electricity-related activity at my residence, and her usage rate is much cheaper.

Granted, there is the up-front cost of installation, but with rebates and tax credits we didn’t feel we could go wrong.

Not only will our monthly APS bill decrease dramatically, if we owe anything at all, but I feel like we’re doing something good for the Earth and future generations who will inhabit the world the way we leave it for them.

As green living becomes a trend across the country, different states have begun to evaluate which source of renewable energy works best for their climates.

In plains states, people use wind to generate power. In cold states, they use geothermal. In states where water is plentiful, they use hydropower.

We figured in Arizona, how could we not ask the sun to help us produce energy for our home?
Our panels won’t cover the entire cost of our current rate of electricity consumption every month, but it will be close.

We estimate during our highest usage times, which is generally in the winter at my house, our solar panels will generate 85 to 90 percent of what we use. However, that simply gives us incentive to cut back on our consumption.

In the summer, when we use less energy, we should see our meter spin backward as we generate more than we need.

Going solar may seem overwhelming, or even expensive due to up front costs, but there are  resources available to educate the public on the benefits, both environmentally and financially.

Sustainable Arizona, a Sedona nonprofit dedicated to conservation and sustainable practices, offers several solar information links on its website.

I’m glad we made the switch, not only to save us money in the long run, but because we took a fairly significant step to mitigate our impact on the planet, which is something more people need to think about.

Sedona voters spoke loud and clear, and two Sedona Fire District Governing Board members blatantly ignored them.

Following the election of three new board members, the outgoing board had the option of filling a fourth vacant seat by appointing the candidate who finished just out of reach of a four-year term.

Douglas Fitzpatrick, the candidate in the fourth slot, lost the third seat to Dave Blauert by six votes, not a landslide or even healthy margin by any means.

Outgoing board member Liza Vernet and outgoing Chairman Ralph Graves voted to adopt a new policy allowing the board to appoint Fitzpatrick. Outgoing board member Bert Berkshire and board Clerk Charles Christensen decided their agenda is more important than what the voters — the people they are supposed to represent — want for the district.

Berkshire and Christensen claimed they simply wanted to stick with current policy, which requires interested individuals to go through an entire application process, and their claim is as transparent as a clean glass window.

Sedona Red Rock News Publisher Bob Larson was outraged when he heard the news that Berkshire and Christensen chose not to vote based on the will of the people.

“This is what’s wrong with government,” Larson said.

Berkshire stated at the meeting Wednesday, Nov. 17, that the item was put on the agenda because it served the best interests of those behind it. Who is that, Mr. Berkshire? The voters who would have elected Fitzpatrick if all four seats had been available by election? If so, yes, it would have served the best interests of Sedona area voters.

In fact, Berkshire should not have even voted on the item because he has a conflict of interest. He ran for a seat on the board and came in last. By not filling it with the fourth-place finisher, Berkshire himself can apply to be reappointed to the board.

Christensen, the only board member who will remain after the election, failed the simplest test he could have been given. He’s proved he is not interested in carrying out the will of the people, but instead is more concerned with his own agenda for the district.

It’s not often a board gets to poll voters before it makes a decision. This board had that opportunity through the election and failed to follow the people’s desire.

If Christensen thinks new board members will bow down to his wishes and appoint someone from his “team” rather than the candidate voters themselves selected, I hope Ty Montgomery, Dave Blauert and Phyllis Erick stand up for the community that voted them into office.

A reversal of this vote by the three incoming members would prove they’re ready to walk the walk they’ve been talking over the last few months.

It’s not about who finished fourth — it could have been Joe Demme or Mel Rycus or Berkshire himself. It’s about representing your constituents, which Berkshire and Christensen did not do.

A few years ago I hiked along the Broken Arrow Trail to the Devil’s Dining Room sinkhole with a local geologist.

While the hike was wonderful and the views were spectacular, recreation wasn’t why we were there.

The man took me to one of three sites proposed by the Arizona Water Company for a 1.5 million-gallon water tank to show me why building it near the sinkhole was a terrible idea. The sinkhole is approximately 30 feet wide and 90 feet deep, and potentially compromises the sturdiness of the ground around it.

I wrote a story about the geologist’s findings then, and the water tank issue drifted to the back of residents’ minds until it resurfaced a few weeks ago.

To my surprise, the Broken Arrow option is still considered an alternative among three others, one of which is to do nothing at this time. Even more astonishing was the discovery many residents, including some of our Sedona City Council members, aren’t aware of the issues with the Broken Arrow location or are simply choosing to ignore them.

The proposal offers four options — build a tank at Broken Arrow, northwest of the Chapel of the Holy Cross or in the Little Horse area, or do nothing at this time.

Right before the public comment period closed Monday, Nov. 15, residents turned out in droves at public meetings to voice their opinions on where a water tank should be built if it needs to be built at all.

Allegedly, the tank is needed to provide water for household use and fire suppression for current and future residents along State Route 179, a valid need.

However, let’s not rush the decision. If the economic downturn has bought us anything, it’s time.

Future growth won’t be an issue anytime in the near future. We have to fill the vacant homes in Sedona before we start building new ones and that alone will take some time.

The economy is improving but the climb up from the bottom will be much slower than the slide down; so there’s no reason to get in a hurry.

For now, the “do nothing” alternative is the best bet, but eventually we’ll have to do something. In the meantime, more research and public outreach should be conducted to determine the best location for the tank.

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