As election day nears, candidates for Sedona City Council are trying to get their messages out to the public, which included their third forum of the season.
The Democrats of the Red Rocks hosted a breakfast forum on Thursday, Aug. 18, at Olde Sedona Bar and Grill. Mayor Sandy Moriarty, who is running unopposed, spoke briefly to the crowd of about 30 before turning things over to the other council candidates.
Attending the event were incumbent Jessica Williamson, Joe Vernier and John Currivan — who are running for the three, four-year seats that are available — while Gerhard Mayer and Tom Lamkin are seeking the open two-year seat. Incumbent John Martinez was out of town and unable to attend the forum but former councilwoman Angela LeFevre answered prepared questions on his behalf.
The two prepared questions asked the candidates which line items in the budget they would add to and which they would decrease. Because of the time limits, three candidates did not have time to finish. They were also asked their stance on the proposed national monument, which they were asked at a previous forum.
One of the questions from the audience referred to what the city could or should do in terms of offering affordable housing. It was pointed out that a large percentage of the workforce in Sedona commutes from towns such as Cottonwood, Camp Verde and Cornville.
To that question, the candidates said, in part:
- Mayer: “I’m definitely for affordable housing. We need housing for people who work here. When looking at the city staff, there’s hardly anybody living here. So the people who are running our city from the administrative side don’t have roots here in Sedona. I see that as an issue. The city owns nine acres on Soldier Pass Road and four acres in another place. The city needs to contribute to this, too, not just the land owners.”
- Williamson: “I sat on the Affordable Housing Commission for six years. We worked extremely hard to try and secure a mechanism for affordable housing. A lot of it has to do with the cost of land. The most popular mechanism for making multiple dwellings affordable is tax credit. In order to make that work financially, you need at least 40 to 60 units. The state of Arizona prohibits land transfers so the city can’t make land available for nothing because it’s against state statute.”
- Currivan: “I think there’s a lot to be said about affordable housing for people who work in Sedona. It’s a benefit, obviously, to the people who work here. It’s also a benefit to Sedona because once they’re living here they’ll also be spending money here. What is affordable housing? You have to come up with some sort of definition to figure out how much you need and demonstrate how much you need. It’s not a simple question but it’s one I’m willing to look at.”
- Lamkin: “I’m all for affordable housing but what I’m really for is an affordable lifestyle for people. With the minimum wage we have, people are having to work two jobs, three jobs. The jobs we used to have available to us that paid a living wage are disappearing at a rapid rate. I think it’s a matter of, if you pay them they will come. Is there such a thing as affordable housing in Sedona? It depends on what you get paid. I would say probably not.”
- Vernier: “One of the things I recall during my time in service here [as police chief] was that in the Land Development Code, whenever a new subdivision or timeshare was proposed there was supposed to be a certain amount of affordable housing dedicated to that project. I’m not sure of the reasons behind it but that never seemed to come to pass. I feel the council needs to hold the development community’s feet to fire to make this come to pass so we can have housing for people such as teachers, public city employees, city workers and resort employees.”