Sedona residents spoke again, and they said the same thing: They do not want the city of Sedona to take ownership of State Route 89A in West Sedona.

Results for Proposition 410 from the Tuesday, Nov. 8, special election showed residents overwhelmingly rejected the Sedona City Council’s decision earlier this year to take ownership of the roadway.

According to Yavapai County elections results, 2,981, or 70 percent, of those who cast ballots voted against the city further considering ownership. Only 1,248 residents, or 30 percent, said the city should own a state highway.

I guess now we know what the “true majority” wants.

A conclusion to the question revealed itself in February, but some Sedona City Council members chose to ignore the survey they themselves commissioned and paid for. A professional study told us then only 30 percent of residents agreed with taking ownership.

Vice Mayor Cliff Hamilton, Councilwoman Barbara Litrell, and Councilmen Dennis Rayner and Mike Ward ignored the people and voted for themselves and their friends. Mayor Rob Adams, and Councilmen Mark DiNunzio and Dan McIlroy did as they promised and listened to the people voting against ownership.

Hamilton, Litrell, Rayner and Ward’s decision to ignore the survey resulted in grave consequences.

The State Route 89A referendum election further divided an already divisive community by pitting neighbor against neighbor, and, in may cases, the gloves came off.

An opinion on the issue could provoke hate mail, threats to boycott businesses, personal attacks or angry visits from the other side. We saw the lowest of the low as people fought tooth and nail to push their agendas at all costs.

Aside from the petty fighting, council’s vote cost the city and residents tens of thousands of dollars in county election fees and campaign contributions.

The city paid Yavapai County $24,600.32 to conduct the election.

We are still waiting for final campaign contribution numbers to be reported, but thus far we know the money spent by both camps trumps the city’s cost. For a breakdown on how much each group spent from June 1 to Oct. 19 and who were the biggest contributors, see Patrick Whitehurst’s story on Page 3A.

Time is also money, and months were wasted. If council’s vote at the end of February had reflected what the survey, and eventually election, told us, residents wouldn’t have spent the last eight months at each other’s throats.

Hamilton, Litrell, Rayner and Ward should be ashamed of themselves.

The results from Proposition 411 show residents don’t trust council to do the job members are elected to do — listen to the majority. Voters approved a measure with 3,226 votes, or 77 percent, requiring their approval to finalize any future route transfers negotiated by council. Only 953, or 23 percent, voted against it.

Future councils can thank Hamilton, Litrell, Rayner and Ward for the red tape.

If this all-out war between residents taught us anything, it’s that we must be careful who we believe when the next election season rolls around. It’s often difficult to discern who is genuine when candidates claim they will vote based on the majority opinion until they are called upon to do so.

Well, now we know who stuck true to their word and who blatantly denied the facts to push personal agendas. It appears a few council members are out of touch with Sedona residents.

Trista Steers MacVittie

Managing Editor

While the news never sleeps, takes a holiday or goes on vacation, those who bring it to you do.

Larson Newspapers will give its busy employees a day off to celebrate Thanksgiving, Thursday, Nov. 24, which means we’ll be working double-time beforehand to make that possible.

As the pace in our newsroom pushes full-steam ahead, we ask the public to do its best to keep up with us.

We’ve moved our display advertising, press release and column deadlines up to make sure we get your advertisement or news item before we are ready to put the paper together.

Thanksgiving represents our longest stretch of early deadlines extending throughout an entire week and affecting nearly every person who contributes to the newspaper.

Early deadlines go into effect Wednesday, Nov. 16, and affect the Wednesday, Nov. 23, editions of the Sedona Red Rock News, The Camp Verde Journal, Cottonwood Journal Extra, and the Friday, Nov. 25, edition of The Scene and the Sedona Red Rock News.

Our altered deadlines for Thanksgiving are:

For the Wednesday, Nov. 23, Sedona Red Rock News, The Camp Verde Journal and Cottonwood Journal Extra

  • Display advertisements due by 1 p.m., Thursday, Nov. 17

  • Classified advertisements due by 3 p.m., Friday, Nov. 18

  • News items — press releases, columns and letters to the editor — due by 8 a.m., Wednesday, Nov. 16

For the Friday, Nov. 25, edition of The Scene


  • Display advertisements due by 1 p.m., Friday, Nov. 18
  • News items due by 5 p.m., Friday, Nov. 18


For the Friday, Nov. 25, edition of the Sedona Red Rock News


  • Display advertisements due by 1 p.m., Monday, Nov. 21
  • Classified advertisements due by 3 p.m., Tuesday, Nov. 22
  • News items due by Monday, Nov. 21, at 8 a.m.


Our offices in Camp Verde, Sedona and Cottonwood will be closed all day Thursday, Nov. 24, and reopen Friday, Nov. 25.

Deadlines return to normal as of Nov. 25.

As is always true with submissions, anything received after our deadlines will likely not appear in the newspaper.

Around a holiday more than ever it’s important to get your advertisements, columns, press releases and letters to the editor in early so they have a better chance of making it into print.

We thank you for your cooperation and wish you a happy and safe Thanksgiving.

If you have any questions regarding editorial material, call or email me at 282-7795, ext. 124, or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

For questions about advertising, call or email Kyle Larson at 282-7795, ext. 114, or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., or contact your sales representative.

Only four days remain for Sedona residents to cast their ballots in the Tuesday, Nov. 8, special election.

We strongly encourage voters to vote “no” on Proposition 410 and “yes” on Proposition 411.

We clearly stated the position of Larson Newspapers in two past editorials.

Starting with Proposition 410, a “no” vote indicates the city of Sedona should not attempt to renegotiate a deal with the Arizona Department of Transportation to take ownership of State Route 89A in West Sedona.

The city simply cannot afford to take on an unpredictable expense, especially after some Sedona City Council members approved over $2 million for wetlands at the Sedona wastewater treatment plant and suggested taxing residents to pay for storm drainage improvements.

As our readers saw on Wednesday, Nov. 2, in the guest perspective “Resident fed up and looking for a little help,” by Chris Gruneberg, residents in flood zones are becoming desperate and are at the mercy of the city. However, some residents and council members feel its more important to own a roadway than it is to protect residents’ health, safety and welfare.

Then add to the city’s bonded debt amounts already committed to or needed for infrastructure projects, and owning a state highway becomes even more ridiculous. According to an email from the city of Sedona dated Oct. 25, the total amount of bonded debt the city had on that date was $59,930,000, only $70,000 short of $60 million.

The idea Sedona can do as it pleases if it takes ownership of the road is also a lie if the city is interested in protecting itself from liability in the event of an accident.

City Manager Tim Ernster knows the city has obligations. He wrote in our newspaper Dec. 22 the city should install the minimum safety improvements recommended by CivTech. These include, again for the record: continuous medians from Soldier Pass Road to Mountain Shadows and Rodeo Road to Andante Drive; pedestrian barriers throughout the length of the medians; enhanced pedestrian crossings; median refuge areas for pedestrians; a traffic signal at Andante and marked bicycle lanes.

That doesn’t sound to us like the city will be able to do whatever it wants, and those are not a menu of options, they’re the minimum requirements collectively.

A city that ignores the warnings of ADOT and fails to implement minimum safety improvements recommended by an engineering firm of its choice won’t have much of a case the next time someone loses his or her life on the roadway.

When it comes to Proposition 411, we recommend a “yes” vote.

The proposition does not stop council from negotiating transfers of state highway property. The proposition only states the voters get the choice of whether or not to accept a transfer negotiated by the City Council.

In fact, any agreement would have to be negotiated prior to voter approval or voters wouldn’t know what their options were.

The only power taken away from council is the ability to sign and enter into the agreement without voter approval.

Elected officials nationally and locally demonstrate time and again they will only listen to the people if they absolutely have to. Our own council ignored its own survey, which the city paid for, that reported residents did not want to take ownership of the highway. Forcing future route transfers to go before the voters is the only way to ensure the will of the people will be carried out.

Since we published our position, opponents of our views attacked our opinions telling us and others in the community they are not right.

The beauty of an opinion is there isn’t a right or wrong answer, and some seem to be confused by the difference between an opinion and a fact. Rather than presenting our opinions as if they’re facts, we instead make it clear, by publishing editorials on the Opinion page, that these are indeed our opinions.

Facts can be found, however, within our opinions, such as the accurate amount of city debt and the minimum safety improvements that must be made to avoid future liability.

Passion runs deep in Sedona.

Residents pick a cause and devote what sometimes seems to be their entire existence to advancing their interests.

Sedona passion also often creates conflict and can degrade the fabric of the community.

We all get caught up in it to some extent. We try to listen to both sides and navigate the onslaught of information — some of which is actual fact and most of which is opinion.

In this flood of championing causes, some of the small and much more important things in life can be lost.

While printing election story after election story, and Sedona Fire District story after Sedona Fire District story, I’m always happy to place a photograph or story in the newspaper illustrating a positive aspect of the community.

Photographer Tom Hood’s pictures from the Halloween party at Kindred Transitional Care and Rehabilitation Kachina Point on Thursday, Oct. 27, on Page 4B in today’s edition of the Sedona Red Rock News are a perfect example of a community’s framework.

Young children dressed in costumes visited residents of the retirement home to trick-or-treat bringing together two of Sedona’s distant generations.

Smiles are visible on the faces of the young and old alike as they enjoy each other’s company.

One of the most beautiful elements of the picture is its depiction of two generations not concerned with any of the issues consuming the majority of the area’s population.

They aren’t worried about taxes, highway ownership or who serves on which board and what his or her political affiliation may be.

Instead, their passion is directed at human interaction and creating happiness in others. The children bring joy to the seniors by simply dressing up and showing up to spend time with them. The seniors make the children happy by admiring their costumes and expressing genuine interest in what they have to say.

I think we could all take a lesson from the attendees of the Kachina Point Halloween party. Regardless of our age, history, beliefs or ideals, we can all find ways to make someone else’s life a little bit better.

As the holiday season rapidly approaches, it’s time to lay down our swords, even if just for a few moments, and remember what it means to be part of a community.

We can expect to see goblins, ghouls and skeletons, fairies, princesses and mermaids, and characters from “Transformers,” “Real Steel” and “Smurfs” swarming Uptown on Monday, Oct. 31.

Some will be miniature versions but some will be life-size. In fact, one Bumble Bee may be your accountant, child’s teacher or personal trainer.

That’s the beauty of Halloween.

We dress up and become something different for a night, and a person doesn’t have to be young to fully embrace the holiday.

It’s a time to let the creative child trapped inside return to the surface, if you’re brave enough to release your inner kid.

While I haven’t yet figured out what I will be this Halloween, I know I won’t be caught without a costume when the sun goes down.

I’m never anything scary. In fact, I think the closest I’ve come to scary is a witch, and even when I’m dressed in all black with a pointy hat people say, “Oh, you’re Samantha from ‘Bewitched,’ the good witch.”

My choice of costume most likely reflects my avoidance of all things scary.

I don’t visit haunted houses. Halloween decorations on people’s lawns are enough to catch me off guard while jogging in the neighborhood this time of year.

I don’t watch horror movies. I’m pretty sure watching a commercial for a new horror flick gave me a nightmare the other night.

So, as I evaluate past costume choices in my quest for something new this year, the list is of no surprise to me or those who know me.

I started as honey bee — the actual creature, moved to a clown — some may think that’s scary but that was not my intention — and I’ve been spotted as Rainbow Bright. I’ve been a mouse, fairy, rabbit, princess, ballerina, duckling, Snow White and Cat Woman.

While I’ve never been a fortune teller, I don’t see Freddy Krueger, Frankenstein or a zombie in my future.

Have a safe and happy Halloween.

Rampant methamphetamine use prompted the establishment of MATForce five years ago.

Since that time, the campaign slowed meth use only for new, trendy ways to pop up for children and adults to get high.

MATForce, Yavapai County’s substance abuse coalition, met Friday, Oct. 21, for its annual community meeting to reflect on the year’s successes and talk about the changing atmosphere of drug abuse and addiction.

Over the past five years, drugs of choice have shifted and users, particularly teenagers, aren’t looking for drugs cooked in shady meth labs.

Instead, they’re turning to their parents’ and grandparents’ medicine cabinets to get high. Prescription-grade painkillers are the main target.

A few weeks ago we asked in our People on the Street questions in Sedona and the Verde Valley which drug individuals remember being the biggest problem when they were in high school.

Depending on the generation, we received answers running the gamut of illegal drugs from marijuana and alcohol to LSD, heroine and cocaine.

Regardless of age, each person remembered one particular drug being a problem when he or she was young.

For me, growing up in a small town far removed from any cities, marijuana and alcohol seemed to be the most popular with LSD and psychedelic mushrooms making an appearance occasionally. Meth use began creeping in just after I graduated from high school.

Today’s teenagers would most likely name prescription drugs.

The misconception prescription drugs are safer because they are prescribed by a doctor leads many teens to try them. The problems occur when the drugs are combined with other substances — including alcohol, or an individual overdoses or experiences an allergic reaction to the medication.

While MATForce continues its fight to save young lives, this battle isn’t as cut and dry. To squash the problem, police officers aren’t looking for illegal drug production operations and often a “dealer” in the true meaning of the word doesn’t exist.

The best approach to this particular problem is educating not only the teens but their parents as well.

Dump the Drugs events encourage adults to get rid of unused medications rather than letting them sit around the house, and campaigns remind all of us to keep medications in a safe place and be aware of what we have in case something goes missing.

This fight will be difficult, just like those in the past, and the entire community must join together. Luckily, we have the guidance and support of MATForce.

It really is all about the money when it comes to your decision regarding the takeover of State Route 89A.

The city of Sedona taking ownership of the state highway in West Sedona would be a major financial mistake.

It’s impossible to project exactly how much it would cost the city to own a major state highway, and now isn’t the time to take financial risks.

On the verge of what some say could be a second dip into recession, biting off a multimillion-dollar project with no end in sight and more staff needed to manage the project would not be “fiscally responsible,” as candidates for Sedona City Council — including those currently seated — always claim is their goal.

Many of the roads the city currently owns need attention. This needs to happen before adding miles of highway to the equation should even be considered, not to mention other high-priority or absolutely necessary projects yet to be funded, such as fixing our drainage issues.

If the city can’t afford routine maintenance on Sedona’s side streets, how will it pay to maintain a roadway used not only by residents but by the thousands of tourists who visit Sedona each year?

Add to the equation a stripped-down staff and other expenses surface.

The city engineer currently also serves as the head of the public works department and oversees wastewater treatment operations for the city. Will he also be responsible for State Route 89A? Or, more likely, will he have to hire staff to help him? And who will do the actual work on the road? Will the city contract out all the work — filling potholes and cracks, resurfacing, maintaining sidewalks, clearing debris off the roadway including snow? Or would the city buy heavy machinery to do the jobs in-house? Either way, it’s going to be very expensive.

Now, we ask those in favor of taking over the road, how will the city pay for all of this? Over the past few years the city cut staff and programs because it collected less sales tax than in years past.

Eventually, the city will need lots of money if it takes ownership of State Route 89A. A higher sales tax won’t be the answer. With a combined city, county and state sales tax of over 10 percent in the city, raising the sales tax is out of the question. Do these road advocates also condone a city property tax to pay for their desires?

The bottom line is the city can’t afford the roadway, period. Even if it could, it would be the most financially irresponsible decision made since the incorporation of Sedona.

The city currently has over $60 million in bond debt that will not retire for 20 years. Add to that more than $25 million in critical infrastructure projects, which is just over half of the $40 million needed for all identified capital projects.

Which necessary projects will be pushed to the back burner? Who is going to tell the homeowners whose houses flood every time it rains that ownership of the highway is more important than fixing drainage problems?

It’s not about street lights vs. no streetlights anymore.

Proponents of taking ownership of the road claim Sedona will be able to do whatever it wishes with the roadway, which is not true. The report commissioned by the city and issued by CivTech clearly states the minimum recommended improvements are continuous raised medians, pedestrian barriers throughout the length of the medians and enhanced pedestrian crossing.

Anyone who votes to take ownership of the road can’t claim fiscal responsibility as one of their desires for the future of the city of Sedona. Committing to spending large, unknown sums of cash to prevent dark-sky-compliant lighting from saving lives is insane.

We encourage you to vote NO on 410!

Proposition 411 states: “A measure to amend the Sedona City Code to require that the Sedona City Council refer any offer by the state of Arizona for the transfer of a state route within the Sedona city limits to the qualified electors at a special or general election for approval and acceptance,” according to Yavapai County’s election website.

The proposition does not stop council from negotiating transfers of state highway property. The proposition only states the voters get the choice of whether or not to accept a transfer negotiated by the City Council.

In fact, any agreement would have to be negotiated prior to voter approval or voters wouldn’t know what their options were.

The only power taken away from council is the ability to sign and enter into the agreement without voter approval.

Council, with help from city staff, would outline a deal with the Arizona Department of Transportation prior to the election. The deal would include mileage of the route to be transferred, improvements to made prior, agreements for future services and the amount of money to exchange hands.

Then, voters would decide if they want the city to take ownership based on the deal offered.

The negotiations are actually a very important part of Proposition 411.

Without an idea of what is being offered, residents could not possibly make informed, knowledgeable decisions when it came time to vote.

Whether ADOT is willing to pay, for example, $30 million versus $15 million for indefinite takeover of a state highway is going to make a big difference when voters check their ballots.

Basically, the proposition forces council to listen to the majority of voters.

Unfortunately, democracy doesn’t often work as it should.

We elect representatives to carry out the will of the majority, and they fail to do so. Instead, they carry out their own will and that of their friends or financial backers.

Even in Sedona, we can’t always count on elected officials to listen to us, which is what Proposition 411 ensures. It forces council to pay attention and gives residents the right to protect the financial interests of their city.

An election, conducted by the county, is the most accurate way to determine the sentiment of the population.

Vote “yes” on Proposition 411 to protect the current and future interests of Sedona residents.

This is the official position of Larson Newspapers.

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