About 75 people turned out for the second Sedona City Council candidate forum of the year. And so far there have been prevailing themes among the questions — traffic, trash and tourists.
The forum, held Thursday, Aug. 11, at Sedona campus of Yavapai College, was co-sponsored by the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute and the League of Women Voters Greater Verde Valley. Those candidates attending the forum were Councilwoman Jessica Williamson, Councilman Tom Lamkin, Gerhard Mayer, John Currivan and Joe Vernier.
Incumbent Vice Mayor John Martinez was unable to attend but former Councilwoman Angela LeFevre read the answers to a pair of prepared questions on his behalf.
One of the questions asked dealt with tourism and how the city should encourage longer-term vs. day-tripper or drive-through tourists.
The candidates, in part, said:
- Mayer: “My take is, quality supersedes quantity. Resorts like Enchantment and L’Auberge will attract tourists who spend more time and more money in Sedona. The [Sedona] Chamber of Commerce has a vision of how to attract better-spending tourists. I also believe our economy is conducive to other industries based on health and wellness.”
- Williamson: “Sedona is a tourist town. Sixty percent of our revenue comes from tourists. It’s always going to have some type of impact on our community. I think we can make that industry, that we so heavily rely upon, sustainable by managing it better. Even if we stop marketing Sedona today, the tourists are still going to come. We have to better manage the tourists we have and I believe the traffic study is the first step in doing so.”
- Vernier: “On the issue of sustainable tourism, or day trippers vs. long-term tourists, I would have to defer to the experts such as the businesses, the lodging council and the chamber of commerce. We also have to look at those outside our area [such as U.S. Forest Service] and work with them in order to protect our area. They have a vested interest in what happens here as well.”
- Currivan: “It’s true that day-trippers don’t contribute to our bed tax but they do contribute to our traffic. If we want to protect this beautiful place, we have to solve our traffic problems. We know that traffic has its peaks and valleys. I think the peaks are getting to the point that it may threaten our quality of life. I believe the traffic during the peak times is also threatening our tourism despite the best efforts of the chamber to try and work against that."
- Lamkin: “Suggestions I have are to reach outside the driving distance — at least four hours away. Make Sedona the base for visitors when going around Northern Arizona. They can go to the Grand Canyon but also do things here in Sedona. Maybe we need to host events later in the day instead of starting them in the morning and ending in the afternoon. Have the day-trippers come up in the afternoon and start the events in the evenings. That way they have to stay overnight.”
- Martinez: “Without tourism, our city would suffer. I understand the value of an overnight visitor vs. a day visitor. Research shows that an overnight visitor spends $525 per day vs. $250 for a day tripper. I support the team efforts of the Sedona Chamber of Commerce and the Sedona Lodging Council to increase advertising in the Tucson and Southern California regions, while reducing the amount to the Phoenix area.”
The candidates were asked a handful of yes-or-no questions involving an array of topics. The first was in regard to supporting a referendum allowing the public to vote on whether or not the city should have a one-hauler trash system, Each explained their rationale but all were in favor of one if it was the will of the people.
In regard to reducing the size of the city staff, Mayer said he’d be in favor of it, Williamson, Lamkin and Vernier said no while Currivan said he’d need to take a closer look at it. As for whether or not they’d support the Sedona area seeking national monument status, Williamson, Vernier and Mayer were against it, Currivan said he can see both sides of the issue, while Lamkin said he would want to look into it more before making a decision.