Sedona Arizona

Sedona City Election:

Who Will Be the Next Mayor?

Plus:  Sedona's Top 10 Issues

Story and Photos by Mike Cosentino

Videos by Steve DeVol

                                                           Sedona Mayor Ruth "Pud" Colquitt/Mike Cosentino


Sedona's March 11 election

While our state and national readers may not care about Sedona's city elections, the list of Top 10 Issues at the bottom of the page will certainly generate some intrigue. There they will find topics similar to what their own communities face: economic development, transportation, water, unmanaged growth, the lack of affordable housing and an undocumented immigrant labor force.

By hearing what our city council candidates have to say about these challenges, readers far from Sedona can gain some insight that can be applied to their own regional concerns.

On March 11 the city of Sedona will conduct a vote-by-mail primary election to fill four council seats. Three of the seats carry four-year terms and the other is for a two-year term.


Dan Surber, an incumbent council member, is running unopposed for the two-year seat. Four candidates will run for the other three council seats: Cliff Hamilton, Marc Sterling, Suzy Chaffee and incumbent John Bradshaw.


Three candidates have stepped up for the mayoral race. Sedona Mayor Ruth "Pud" Colquitt is running for reelection. Her challengers include current City Councilman Rob Adams and newcomer Matthew Turner.


If a council or mayoral candidate receives a majority of the votes cast at the primary election, that candidate will be declared elected without running in a general election. If less than four city council candidates, plus the mayor, are elected, the city will hold a general election on May 20 to fill the remaining seat(s).


If the mayoral race remains undecided at the primary election, there will be a runoff at the general election. The key here is whether or not a candidate obtains more than 50 percent of the votes cast in the primary election.

Political reporter Mike Cosentino took the time to meet with each of the candidates to ask some tough questions and listen to the their vision for Sedona's future.

In addition, Sedona filmmaker (and former city council candidate) Steve DeVol videotaped live interviews with the candidates to give Observer readers an armchair introduction and a chance to hear them talk about their visions for Sedona's future.

Click on the links below to watch video interviews with each candidate.

Although these interviews took place in late December and early January, they offer a current sample of each candidates personality, philosophy and political platform. We begin now with the mayoral candidates and will feature interviews with the city council candidates as Part 2 in our next issue.

After all, between the national and city elections, we don't want to bombard you with too much information all at once.

The Mayoral Candidates

City Councilman Rob Adams

Mayor Pud Colquitt

Matthew Turner

There is more than a dime’s worth of difference among the three candidates who aspire to be the next mayor of Sedona.

Current Sedona Mayor Ruth “Pud” Colquitt wants to “finish what I started or what was begun on my watch” and that means the Hwy. 179 project. “People have asked me to see us through it,” she said.

Colquitt has concluded enough interviews with the phrase “I hope you like me” for some to believe it is important to her.

A big difference between Colquitt and City Councilman Rob Adams, for instance, is that he believes the city “should be run as a business.” While Colquitt has acknowledged the business aspects of running city government, she says, “The city is not a business; it is a municipality.”

The intent seems clear. Colquitt sees the art, cultural and social programs funded by the city as more sacred than the businesslike approach that might make them more expendable in tough budget times.

On the other hand, Matthew Turner’s positions on affordable housing echo the liberal programs of the past: His plans could set the city up in the housing rental business.  His ideas include the Sedona city government supporting a variety of energy alternatives and alternative transportation amenities.

Setting all their difference aside, let’s look at the candidates, one at a time.


City Councilman Rob Adams



                                                                                   City Councilman Rob Adams/Mike Cosentino                      


Robert Adams was appointed to the Sedona City Council in 2006, and his bid for mayor in the current race represents his first elective office effort in this area.

Adams classifies himself as a businessman who has owned and operated half a dozen enterprises. While real estate investing numbers among them, Adams said his work doesn’t involve any projects in Sedona to avoid conflicts of interest. 

Other previous businesses include raising and selling horses, a health spa, a wholesale jewelry business, a chain of stereo stores and a mobile communications business.

“Presently, [I] buy and sell real estate, play the stock market and make private loans,” Adams said. “Most of my time in the last two years has been devoted to the city council and other public service.”

Adams says he would like to serve as mayor because he has “the business background and leadership skills to guide this community through some difficult times.”

Many would agree that Sedona must embrace tough times ahead.

“We are faced with budget deficits, the impending impacts of the Hwy. 179 construction and the employer sanction laws,” Adams noted. “I want to develop a plan to help guide the city of Sedona into the future.”

Sedona as the model city

When looking for a model that the city could emulate, Adams said Sedona could serve as that model. “We have the opportunity to be a model city of sustainability if we choose to come together to make this our goal,” he said.

Adams recommends Boulder, Colo., as a city Sedona could model itself after.

“I lived there for a while. What I liked about Boulder is that it envisioned itself and it stuck to its guns,” he said.

“Back as early of the early 1970’s, Boulder was talking about limited growth, smart growth; it wasn’t no growth. If you know anything about Boulder today, it is people-friendly, bicycle-friendly and pedestrian-friendly. Lots of use of green building and alternative energy. I would use it as a model city. Great energy there.”

Adams also notes that many people like to use “Aspen and Telluride” as a comparison for Sedona. “But they are really different,” he said.

Programs for youth and seniors

According to Adams, the city has a role in helping those groups that “don’t have the opportunity to help themselves as much,” including the youth and senior citizens of the community.

“I guess there is always a question whether the city should subsidize these programs.  You have to use your judgment in what to subsidize and how much,” he said. “We have a teen center and an adult center and I applaud the city’s role in them,” he said.  “I would like to see a community center here for all ages. We have a community referral service as a paid city position.”


Adams served on the board of the Verde Valley Senior Center until recently. In Cottonwood, most of the VVSC was built with grants.

“I would like to see more of a regional approach to a new community center where we could take advantage of grants,” he said. “We could possibly do a joint venture. Most of that funding [for the VVSC] came from the county. If they can do it in Cottonwood, I don’t see why they couldn’t do it in Sedona.”

Sedona’s budget

Adams considers his financial expertise a major strength in his leadership roles.

“One of the first things I did when I got on the council was to call supervisors Davis and Ryan and have a meeting. I asked them what their understanding of the Sedona financial picture was. They both said they felt as if Sedona had plenty of money,” Adams explained.

“I said, ‘Let me give you a reality check.’  I showed them [that] we are dipping into our reserves… we are spending more than we are bringing in.

"We have no property tax in Sedona, and I know that the taxes paid to both Coconino and Yavapai are a significant part of their financial picture.  And there is no formula for what Sedona gets. They just use their best judgment,” he said.

The supervisors did not respond to information directly at the time, Adams said, but the new council member felt that he delivered an important message.

“The main thing was to make them aware of the fact that Sedona doesn’t have the economic picture that everyone thinks it does,” he said. “Everyone thinks it's fat-cat city here, and it’s not.”

Adams said both counties hold a part of the solution to Sedona’s budget woes. “I think we need to continue that effort.  I think it’s a big one,” he added.

Noting that Sedona has funded a lobbyist at the federal level, Adams justified the position: “Most of the big grants will most likely come from the federal government,” he said.

According the councilman, every time Sedona has an event, there is a significant spike in revenues. “There is no reason why we can’t improve on that. That is something we can do right away,” Adams said.

He also called for more “medical tourism” as a result of Verde Valley Medical Center programs and Yavapai College economic partnerships.


Adams admitted that most people “pawn this question off” on the state and federal governments. “And,” he added, “it’s true that Sedona can’t make its own rules on illegal immigration.”

With regard to immigrant workers, Adams said: “My feeling is that, if they are undocumented, you need to get them documented. You need to provide documents for them. Then you have to have the ability to confirm that they are documented, and businesses should not be punished until this is set up and running.”

According to Adams, once there is a foolproof system for verifying an individual’s immigration status, then he feels that businesses should be punished for hiring undocumented workers.

Weaknesses and strengths

“A lack of patience,” Adams declared when asked for one of his weaknesses. “Government is government, and it moves slowly” he added.

Business experience is one thing Adams sees as a strength in his bid to become Sedona’s next mayor.  “I have the ability to read financial statements, budgets and so on,” he said.  “One of the most important things the Sedona City Council does is to set the budget."


Streetlights for Hwy. 89A

“We have a pedestrian safety problem in West Sedona, and the solution was 76 street lights,” Adams said, explaining that he opposes that method to solving the problem.

“My approach is that we have esthetic problems also,” he noted. “What do we want it to look like as a whole when we are finished? Look at all of components: sidewalk, landscape, pedestrian safety and bike paths, which then leads to bike safety.”

Adams is a firm believer in looking at the big picture. The Arizona Department of Transportation, the city council and staff were just looking at night issues. “We need to look at day and night issues…and get to something in harmony when we are done,” he said.

“Am I in favor of the lights? I would say that lighting is going to be part of the solution, yes, if it does not interfere with our dark skies,” he said. “For me, everything is on the table.”

And, Adams repeated what is a theme in his approach: “We put everything on the table and then see want we want and don’t want.”

“Voting for the lights was a knee-jerk reaction to what we thought was a safety issue,” he said of his vote for the lights. The council has subsequently appointed a committee to get recommendations and possibly change its direction on the issue.

“Everyone thinks it's fat-cat city here, and it’s not.”

City Councilman Rob Adams


According to Adams, the city loses significant revenue because of “shoddy local accounting” or businesses not reporting taxes properly. “We need to consider the possibility of spot audits,” he said. “Some people think we are losing $1 million a year from businesses not paying their taxes correctly.

Adams had a list of 15 programs Sedona has added in the last few years. He noted that there have been substantive changes in some of the programs and their impact on the general fund.

Art, cultural grants, city retirement programs, the controversial public transportation effort and the Sedona RoadRunner Trolley are all on his list.

“Do we start eliminating some of these? Cut them or freeze them? I don’t know until we put everything on the table. “There are no sacred cows,” when it comes to budget cuts, he said.

“On the other hand, when you have a budgetary issue, spending is only one side of it. We may keep all this and look at ways to increase revenue” he concluded.

Cultural and retail support

Adams wants to see more ventures like the Sedona Cultural Park and the plans that Fitch Industries is making for the area because they serve the tourist and local resident populations, making them a stable and continuous revenue source.

“The outdoor amphitheater, the indoor performance center – these get people in Sedona to spend more money in Sedona. But they also draw local residents as well,” he said.

The councilman would like to see more local expansion and support of local business. Sedona residents buy their food here, but their entertainment and cars are bought out of town, he said, noting that uptown Sedona has much more potential for generating revenue.

“Locals see uptown as a place for tourists,” he said. “I want to see locals go uptown to shop, dine and be entertained.”

Adams wants to develop nighttime attractions for locals in uptown and create a community in itself in uptown. He would also like to see a “village concept” where everything is pedestrian and the area is used at night.

Yavapai College, Sedona Medical Center role

Yavapai Community College and Sedona Medical Center both have significant land tracts within the city, Adams noted.

“Yavapai College expansion of programs could be an income source,” he said. “Sedona Medical Center could be an income source with research and treatment facilities such as cosmetic surgery. We need to work with them to develop these things.”


“The type of person that I am, there has to be a balance – a balance between being environmentally concerned and having business savvy,” he said.  Adams does not see protecting the local environment and healthy business as mutually exclusive.

“They are interdependent,” he declared. “If it wasn’t for the type of environment and the setting that we have here, the businesses wouldn’t exist."

For more information, visit www.RobAdamsforMayor.com.

Matthew Turner



    Matthew Turner/Mike Cosentino

Two-year Sedona resident Matthew Turner believes that his age will both hurt and help his candidacy for mayor. "My youth will hurt with older, more conservative voters and help with younger voters,” he said.

Suzy Chaffee, another current candidate for Sedona City Council, and Turner are linked through the Green Sedona organization that he founded while she serves on the board of directors. Chaffee has given Turner credit publicly for helping her solve health issues through his advice on changing her use of various home products.

Green Sedona has been instrumental in moving the Sedona City Council toward more environmentally friendly decisions.

Turner’s background includes seven years as a social work case manager in North Carolina.  He worked with mental health professionals on rehabilitation plans as well as community and environmental services and programs for the disabled population, according to his Web site.

“I am running for mayor because the present council and mayor will not protect our red rocks,” he said.

Turner has a degree in environmental science from the University of New Mexico and owned or managed several businesses over his lifetime, including full financial management of mental health facilities, a restaurant, Web-based businesses, as well as general business management and accounting, according to his Web site.

“I am also running because I truly believe Sedona has much more potential and can become an inspiration to the world as a model city for the arts, spirituality and environmental sustainability, and now, after talking with a group from the community, they would like to add education to this model,” he said.

Sedona finances

While many candidates talk about increasing tourism as a means of boosting Sedona’s revenues, Turner advocates the use of general obligation bonds to fund projects like affordable housing. He cited that these bonds would be secured with insurance that would pay them off in case the city was unable to.

“Low-income housing would be financed with the bonds, and income received from rents would be an increase in funds for the city,” he said. “We could also invest a portion of Sedona’s $60 million budget."

Overspending and under-spending

“The RoadRunner Trolley is spending $1,000 a day and nobody’s on it,” Turner said. “I think this should be looked at. People say it keeps some from driving their cars, but that is not so if nobody is on it. They need to find a way to get more people to ride it or do away with it,” he said.

His organization, Green Sedona, brought in a bid from a green custodial service to the city that he claims was $22,000 less than the city’s current provider. “And that is just one aspect of the city. If we look, I am sure would could find others,” he said.

According to Turner, Sedona under-spends on media advertising.

“You don’t see commercials for Sedona, but you see them for Sante Fe and Taos,” he said. “The mayor should work with the Sedona Chamber of Commerce on that. Without tourism, nobody is making money; nobody is surviving.”

Model city

While there is no single city that Turner said he would look to as a model for Sedona, he cited several from which he would take ideas.

“Not one city; a little from each,” he said. “Like Santa Monica has a great green business model. We can learn a lot from Portland, Ore., too.”

“We have to have solar power. Berkeley is using city funds to provide it,” Turner said. “We can get everybody on solar. The city could provide the $500 deposit for the equipment for solar energy equipment to be installed on residents’ roofs.”


Sustainability and water

“Solar power is the way to go; oil will not last forever. When it’s gone, the party will be over,” Turner said. "We need bike lanes. All progressive cities have them.  Also, solar, low-to-the-ground lighting to protect dark skies and save money,” he said.

“The city just purchased two gas guzzling SUV's,” he explained. “I think, for an extra $15,000, they could have bought flex fuel or hybrids and saved that in $15,000 in the first one-and-a-half years. It makes me wonder why they did that.

“Most businesses want to be green. They do not want to be known as causing global warming or sickness,” Turner contends. “President Clinton has a mayors program that is making the cost low for cities to be greener.”

On the use of herbicides, Turner said the city should hire or use workers for mechanical removal of weeds. He eventually wants ordinances to restrict the use of them to protect the groundwater, much like Santa Fe has.

He also wants to change the zoning laws to let more people use gray water, or the use of household wastewater from washing machines and sinks. “As long as people are using toxic products, we can’t yet,” he said.

Turner wants rainwater collection units reflected in the Sedona building code “as long as they are esthetically pleasing.”

He believes that watering grass and plants outdoors need to be restricted. “You see people watering at 2 p.m. when it’s 105 degrees here,” Turner noted. “We need an ordinance to prevent that, and there should be some kind of fine for those who do.”

Turner also believes that low flow faucets and toilets should be required on all new construction, with grants to support that. Some incentive programs are run through the water companies, he said.

Regarding the Sedona Waste Water Treatments Plant’s method of spraying treated effluent on the open ground, Turner advocates for the “need to stop spraying wastewater.” We could create wetlands out there, he said.

To introduce water back into the aquifer, as some have suggested, “the water need to be very clean, close to reverse osmosis standards before reintroduced into the groundwater,” he said. “I have never seen a sewer system like that.  I have taken wastewater treatment classes in college.”

“I am running for mayor because the present council and mayor

will not protect our red rocks.”

Matthew Turner

Trees and Hwy. 179

The controversy over the tree removal for the Hwy. 179 project “showed us that we needed to take a closer look, and they ended up removing fewer trees,” Turner said. “I realize that trees would have to be removed sometimes; I am not a radical.

"But I can’t believe they wanted to take those old trees out," he added. "It’s the heart of Sedona.”  


Sedona’s greatest need

“Sedona needs promotion most – worldwide,” Turner said. “That is what is going to draw people here, and that’s what going to keep our revenue base up,” Turner said.

“Everybody has to work together. It may be tough if everybody has different political views. I do not think it’s working now. 

"The city council is passing things against what the residents want. They will pass something, and then there is a public outcry; then the do the research,” he said.

Immigration and employer sanctions

“I am documented; you are documented,” Turner said. “We need to know who someone is. What if they commit a crime? It’s not a racial thing.” He also believes they need to be documented to handle crime and accidents.

“I support the laws,” Turner said. “If undocumented people are discovered, they need to follow the law.”

“Businesses should be punished for hiring undocumented workers,” Turner said, supporting Arizona’s toughest in the nation employer sanctions law. “They are taking away jobs.”


According to Turner, when it comes to more development in Sedona, “there is a whole spectrum. We need to find a balance. I am not against development,” he said.

“Development is going to happen; that’s just the reality," he said. "I think we need to be careful how we develop and how quickly we develop.

Turner also believes in the need to protect existing property values. “I am for the National Scenic Designation,” he added.


Streetlights in West Sedona

The youngest mayoral candidate favors solar footlights that sit low to the ground and are installed near the sidewalk. People can see where they are going and [it will] not affect the dark skies, he claims.

“I also favor on demand lighted crosswalks. They have them in a lot of cities now,” he said.


Services to youth and seniors

“There is a senior center here and there should be a center for the young as well – somewhere they can go for sports and education and spirituality. They need a place to go and have something to do,” Turner said. 


Greatest conviction

The environment remains Turner’s strongest conviction.

“The environment of Sedona is the reason we are here.  My great conviction is to maintain that,” he said.


Strengths and weaknesses

“I am loyal to a fault, very dedicated, passionate and do not give up easily,” he said, noting these represent strengths and weaknesses.

“I am a doer. I like to get things done quickly. But, I am patient. I have had to be, working with the city,” he said.

For more information, visit www.matthewformayor.com.

Mayor Pud Colquitt




                                                                                             Mayor Ruth "Pud" Colquit/Mike Cosentino                      


Incumbent Sedona Mayor Ruth “Pud” Colquitt is the first directly elected mayor in the city’s history. She wants another four-year term.

It may seem like Colquitt is always running for office. Now in her third election in four years, she first ran for city council in 2004 and was elected to the top spot by council appointment. When the council changed the method to a public election, she had to resign from the council to run for office. Colquitt prefers the direct election of mayor.

“You are the face of Sedona. The people have the right say who they want,” she said.

Colquitt claims to have the support of five out of six council members - all except for Rob Adams, who is opposing her in the March 11 election.

Most vital issue

According to Colquitt, sustainability poses the single most important issue facing Sedona.

“Or, you might want to say ‘survivability,’” she said, noting that the issue overlaps many other concerns.

Colquitt said partnering and planning represent allied issues. “A very important thing to me is long-range planning,” she said. “Partnering is important concerning sustainability because you can’t go it alone. I will continue to bring Sedona into the mainstream of the Verde Valley,” she added.

The mayor cited Sedona’s involvement with the Yavapai County Water Advisory Committee and the city’s reestablishing its membership on the Coconino Plateau Water Advisory Council after an absence the last few years.

Colquitt notes that sustainability is comprised of three circles: the environment, the economy and quality of life, or social issues.

“These things are intermingled,” she said. “Without a healthy business community, you will not have a healthy city. I do not separate businesses and residents. We are all part of the economy.”

“We haven’t even touched on how we can expand tourism,” Colquitt said. She gave an example of connecting tourists with Northern Arizona University’s educational programs and Jeep tours for those who wish to learn about archaeology or geology.

What Sedona needs

“Sedona needs less apathy the most,” Colquitt said. “What scares me the most in Sedona is apathy.

“Everyone needs to be more involved. I think you shouldn’t move here and just have a home here,” she said. To change the apathy, “we need to keep having community events.”

Colquitt cited Western Americana Day as an example of a community event.

“This was for the community. Not to make money. And it was to preserve the fact that we are a western city. That is important to me,” she said.

The event grew out of discussions with Al Comello, public relations director for the Sedona Airport, and received support from the Sedona Chamber of Commerce staff.

“I would like to see us more in the education field,” the mayor noted. “We have Northern Arizona University and Yavapai College close by and I would like to see us develop more programs in cooperation with them.


Streetlights for Hwy. 89A

Colquitt wants to see streetlights along Hwy. 89A in West Sedona.

“I don’t think we need 76 of them,” she said, referring to the number of lights the ADOT has recommended. “Special interests put aside, human life and public safety have to be the overriding issue. In my heart, I know that’s the right thing. It is a hard one politically.”


“I am a government official and sworn to uphold the law. But my heart, well, that’s another thing,” Colquitt said.

“Until the federal and state governments get their act together, we have to abide by the law.  I will tell you, in a community like this, it will have a definite impact on our work force. There has to be more pressure to come up with a viable solution,” she said.

Colquitt agreed that the employer sanctions law would have a negative impact on the local economy. “You could be splitting up families.” She added that any law should have a provision that prevents the splitting up of families.

What about the economic impact on documented Sedona workers? Are local employers getting away with cheap labor? And what happens to those undocumented workers who have already settled in Sedona?

“That’s where my heart comes in,” Colquitt said. “This issue didn’t happen overnight. There has to be a fair way to deal with undocumented workers. I believe in securing the borders. It is a war zone on the border. I don’t think people understand that.”

“Do I think businesses should be punished? I think after a reasonable time, they need to make certain their employees are documented,” she said. “I think we are going to have to come up with a process where they are allowed to come in and work.”

“What does Sedona need the most?

Everyone needs to be more involved. I think you shouldn’t move here

and just have a home here. Sedona needs less apathy the most.”

Ruth “Pud” Colquitt, mayor

Development and affordable housing

“I do not seek any development. The only development we have is people exercising their private property rights,” Colquitt said. "We do not keep building for the sake of progress. We are so close to build-out.”

Sedona’s growth rate must be the lowest in the state, she noted. And, according to the mayor, the only way affordable housing can happen is through a regional approach. Realistically, land costs prevent us from doing it here, she said.

Revenue sources

Sedona receives most of its revenue from sales and bed taxes. Colquitt thinks revenues could be increased by educating people to shop locally instead of going to nearby big-box stores for lower prices. She also said that working closely with the Sedona Chamber of Commerce could offer a way of increasing city funds.

The mayor does not believe Sedona is overspending. “I believe we might be under-spending in public works regarding infrastructure,” she noted. “We will be incorporated for 20 years next year. Things are getting old.”

Colquitt said the Uptown Enhancement Project was an Americans with Disabilities Act requirement and had to be done.


The mayor believes that conserving groundwater is accomplished through education.

“What do you not understand about this being a desert?” she asks, noting that the city’s efforts to stop spraying effluent at the wastewater treatment plant.

“I think the day will come when residents are not allowed to plant things that are not drought-tolerant,” she said. “I serve on all the water committees. Our public outreach is as good as the county’s.”

Strongest conviction

Colquitt’s greatest conviction remains the desire to compromise. “Compromise is not a bad word when you are dealing with the things we are,” she said.

The mayor emphasized that this represents “the heart” of why she is running for mayor: “Because people have asked me to see us through the Hwy. 179 project to the year 2010.

I think the way this community pulled together in the Brins Fire is the same kind of conviction we will need to get through this project,” she said.

Strengths and weaknesses

Colquitt believes that she has made a point to connect with every sector of the city. “I never turn down an invitation,” she said. “I have taken that to a new level. And it is hard.”

The mayor says her other strength lies in her experience. “I had to declare two emergencies: the flood in 2004 and the Brins Fire in 2006,” she noted. “Public safety is very important.”

“Weaknesses? We all have them,” she said, adding that one of hers is worrying about “how things look.” 

Colquitt told a story about an old woman who came to her with a problem and her extended efforts to help her solve it.  “I suppose my weakness is that I get a little too involved with people. I can waste time like that,” she said.

The incumbent mayor cited her activities while in office. “I have a mayor’s breakfast every quarter; I go to homeowners associations meetings; I have mayor’s coffee chats; I meet with the art community, the metaphysical community. I support the Focused Future II Strategic Plan for Community and Economic Development and the Chamber of Commerce.”

“Now that you know me, I hope you like me,” she concluded.



Information on the city of Sedona Web site notes that Colquitt was born in Hot Springs, Ark., and graduated from the University of Arkansas with a political science degree.  Her first job was with the State of Arkansas, followed by several years in the Washington, D.C., office of Arkansas Senator John L. McClellan. She has lived in Sedona more than 10 years.

Mike Cosentino is an investigative reporter who specializes in politics and education when he’s not teaching English at Yavapai College. E-mail mikec@SedonaObserver.com.

Sedona's Top 10 Issues


Not just for journalists:

Questions everyone should be asking


The next time you attend an election forum, ask the candidates how they stand on these hot-button issues. The Sedona Observer has provided the candidates' position on the first one as an example.


National Scenic Designation

Known by its acronym NSA, this represents for many locals the single most important issue that will preserve the nature and character of Sedona. The Keep Sedona Beautiful organization has led the charge to get this legislation passed.


In November 2005, the Sedona City Council sent a resolution to U.S. Rep. Rick Renzi (R-District 1) and Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), encouraging them to introduce a Sedona Red Rock National Scenic Area.


The KSB Web site states that “160,000 acres of national forest surrounding Sedona, the Village of Oak Creek and Big Park are now protected from land exchanges by a provision of Amendment 12 to the Forest Service Plan but are not permanently protected.  The NSA designation will permanently preserve that land…”


Rob Adams and Matthew Turner support the NSA; Dan Surber and Ruth “Pud” Colquitt do not. Of the council candidates, Cliff Hamilton and Suzy Chaffee are supporters. Marc Sterling and John Bradshaw are not.


Visit http://www.keepsedonabeautiful.org/national_scenic_area.html for more info.


Alternate Route/Hwy. 179 Expansion

The biggest overall controversy of the last 30 years in Sedona is what has become known as the alternative route between Sedona and the Village of Oak Creek. Or, more specifically, how to direct traffic from I-17 to Hwy. 89A without going through the “Y’ bottleneck in Uptown Sedona and without contributing to the traffic snarls as that highway passes through West Sedona.


Although this issue has quieted down in recent months, it still represents the litmus test for some Sedona residents for any candidate to local office. Many see the prospect of a bridge spanning Red Rock Crossing next to Crescent Moon Picnic Area as damaging to the esthetics of the Sedona’s most popular and photographed natural landmark.


The businesses and commuters along Hwy. 179 have howled about the disruption in their operations and lives due to what some regard as ADOT’s mishandling of the construction project to widen the road.


As the project moves from the Village of Oak Creek to the city’s major intersections and heavily used business access points, some are bracing for even greater troubles. Many residents predict constant calamity as 11 roundabouts prepare for emergence in just a 7-mile swath of the roadway.  


Affordable Housing

According to the city’s Housing Commission, a worker must earn $84.50/hour to afford the purchase of a median-priced home in the city of Sedona. With average home prices topping $500,000 and median wages ranging far below $20/hour, that leaves most Sedona workers out in the cold – and outlying vicinities.


With studies showing 65 percent of Sedona’s work force living outside the city limits, the city council has devoted significant staff and committee time to finding a solution for affordable housing.


While there are some proposals on the Housing Commission’s drawing board, Sedona’s workers are currently spending a small fortune in gas for commuting while the city struggles to resolve a difficult issue. Meanwhile, the number of existing affordable units plummets as trailer parks and rental apartments. make way for pricey condo conversions.


Streetlights along Hwy. 89A

After a number of accidents in the dusk and evening along Hwy. 89A, residents sought a solution from the Arizona Department of Transportation. The city council approved ADOT’s plan to install 76 street lights along the route but residents have revolted, claiming that the lighting would interfere with Sedona’s dark skies.



First it was Rachel’s Knoll; then it was the Schuermann Farm and Cook’s Hill. What’s next – parking garages in Oak Creek Canyon? Yep! Ask the candidates what they think of that one, ironically known as Serenity on Oak Creek, as the city council allows developers to turn red rock into green dough, then top it off with lovely names like Bella Terra. When will we see the “For Sale” sign on Cathedral Rock?


Environment: trees near Tlaquepaque and the use of pesticides

After a lawsuit perused by the city to proceed with a condemnation process to cut down 60  heritage trees so ADOT could widen Hwy. 179 near Tlaquepaque, Sedona residents began demonstrations to save the sycamores. Following a meeting engineered by city leaders and representatives of Tlaquepaque, ADOT accepted some recommendations and implemented a method to build around most of the trees, thereby saving a good number of them.


Read The Sedona Observer’s lively, in-depth coverage of the sycamore situation in “Barking Up the Wrong Tree?” at http://www.sedonaobserver.com/SO_001/community_issues.html.

A public protest also ensued about a year ago when the city approved plans to use pesticides along public highways. The city council responded and ditched the plans after a heated public hearing.


While these environmental issues may appear past tense, asking the candidates where they stood on them will indicate how they will handle similar circumstances that are bound to show up during their course of office.


Wasting Wastewater

Watching the effluent at the Sedona Wastewater Treatment Plant as it is sprayed onto raw forest service land is troublesome for some area residents and conservationists.


With Sedona’s dry climate, some believe this wastewater could be put to better uses, including the establishment of a wetlands bird sanctuary or treated and re-introduced into the precious aquifers.


Economic Sustainability

Here’s a multifaceted issue that warrants a lot of questions for the candidates. Lousy jobs, low wages and a shrinking middle-class work force have all cushioned the welcome mat for an undocumented immigrant cheap labor force.  With community leaders still stuck in an Industrial Era mentality when it comes to creating jobs and attracting the right industries, the city scrambles to create a diverse economy while clinging to tourism as its sole economic base. 


Sedona Cultural Park

The Sedona Cultural Park has been dark for years. After initially hosting many of the premier events, expenses exceeded income and the backers declined to continue support. The city was not willing to take on the financially draining venue.


Monty Fitch, Fitch Industries executive administrator, approached the city council last year with plans to improve the area but also wants to put in a resort. Since the land was presented to Sedona residents since its inception as an arts, entertainment and education enclave free from other commercial entities, the empty amphitheater will continue to haunt the city and those who bemoan its closure.


Transportation: Parking and the Sedona RoadRunner Trolley

“They paved paradise and put up a parking lot.” This is the biggest local issue that has received the least attention so far. As local leaders search for solutions to parking issues, residents fear that the concrete islands will expand into surrounding scenic landscapes.


In short, many residents are calling for RoadRunner Trolley  public transportation system to increase ridership or be discontinued. In times of shrinking budgets, some say the cost cannot be justified.



Did we miss anything? As with all “top anything” lists, there is certainly room for argument here. Give us a shout if you have some other suggestions.

Meanwhile,  keep posing those tough questions; it’s the best way to determine who you think will best handle the job.


Mike Cosentino – mikec@SedonaObserver.com


Catherine Rourke – editor@SedonaObserver.com

General Election Information

Mail your ballots

In a vote-by-mail election, there are no traditional polling places. Instead, your ballot comes to you by First Class mail. If a general election is needed, your general election ballot will arrive the same way. The process is similar to voting early, according to the city of Sedona Web site.


In order to vote in any city election, you must live within the Sedona city limits and be registered to vote at least 29 days prior to an election.


Registration information

If you want to vote in an election, you must be a qualified voter and be registered to vote at least 29 days prior to the election.


If you live in Sedona-Yavapai County, you must register to vote with Yavapai County. Likewise, if you live in Sedona-Coconino County, you must register to vote with Coconino County.


Potential voters can find registration forms at the Sedona City Clerk's Office, 102 Roadrunner Drive. The Clerk's Office has forms for both counties and can answer any questions regarding voter registration or the election.


If you have any doubt whatsoever about your voter registration status, contact your county voter registration office or call the Sedona City Clerk at (928) 282-3113 to verify your status. For Yavapai County Voter Registration, call (928) 639-8100. In Coconino County, call toll-free 1-800-793-6181.


Tentative election results are available the night of the election. If you have any questions regarding an election or the city's election procedures, call the Sedona City Clerk at (928) 282-3113.


Early voting

If you are planning on being out of town during the ballot mailing period and do not have forwarding address where your ballot can be sent, you can come to the Sedona City Clerk's office at 102 Roadrunner Drive and vote early.


On the other hand, if you are planning to be out of town during the ballot mailing period and have an address where it can be sent, notify the City Clerk's office of that address.


You need to let the Clerk know the week before primary election ballots are mailed or the week before general election ballots are mailed. That way, if you are out of town, your ballot will reach you in time to vote. If you are going to be in town during the ballot mailing period, you need to wait for your ballot to reach you at home.


Marking your ballot

Read all the instructions carefully. Then, simply complete the ballot, sign the envelope, and drop it in the mail. The return envelope will be self-addressed and stamped for your convenience. You can also drop it off at the Yavapai County Ballot Box located in the City Hall parking lot, or drop it off at the City Clerk's office. It's that simple. Failure to sign the envelope will result in a wasted ballot.














                           Photo by Nancy Bartell

Dibor Roberts case provokes public  outcry

While The Sedona Observer currently lacks the staff to cover every local issue with our signature in-depth style, we are still keeping a close eye on this case as watchdogs of the public interest. Many people have sent in their letters, and we welcome the rest of you to e-mail your comments to editor@SedonaObserver.com.

Meanwhile, here's what some local residents have to say:

Enforcement or brutality?

It was encouraging to see so many people present in support of Dibor Roberts at the hearing in  Prescott.


Do not let this incident set a president. There needs to be a quick solution to this miscarriage of justice.  We are hopeful all charges will be dismissed.


We suggest a universal signal be adopted to aid those traveling alone on dark roads which would alert law enforcement the driver will stop at the first lighted intersection.


A great newspaper - so much more than what we have now. 


Phyllis Martinec and Jan Oswald, Village of Oak Creek


Too many questions

I attended the sheriff's press conference about the Dibor Roberts case and am left with more questions than answers.  He told us that the officer involved had previously investigated homicides. 


Well, if that officer is now back on patrol, I'd like to know what he did to earn the demotion.  The sheriff was asked if the pursuit of Roberts was at high speed or low speed, and he said that he could not answer that.  Why not - it would be very pertinent to the case I should think. 


When he was asked if the officer did everything by the book, he replied, "Yes, except pulling in front of the vehicle and cutting it off." 


Well THAT action exacerbated the whole situation!  Is the cop a hothead?   


And as to the presence of a "witness" who just happened to back up the officer's story?  It defies credibility that way out on a lonely country road at 10:45 p.m. right where the stop took place, there happens to be a man pulled over to the side in his car talking on his cell phone - who chooses to get out of the car and get involved in a potentially violent situation. 




I knew a woman who was pulled over by a cop in Texas, taken to another location, raped and then locked up.  The allegations were never proven and the subsequent harassment she received from colleagues of that officer caused her to finally leave the state.


I would hope that lemonade could be made of this lemon.  Maybe there could be a national signal like emergency flashers or something where women in similar circumstances could use them to say to the police: "I've seen you but I don't feel safe stopping here, and I will pull over at the next lighted or populated area after I've called on my cell to ascertain you really are a police officer."


Cheryl Fleet



Damage control 

After attending the January 15th “press conference” called on the previous day by Yavapai County Sheriff Waugh, I have questions.


First, how much more money are taxpayers going to be charged to defend the arrest of Dibor Roberts on July 29, 2007?


Second, is it usual and customary for a sheriff to call a “press conference” to explain and defend the actions of one of his officers?


Third, as the sheriff stated, this situation has “snowballed into something unfortunate.” Why has he not used his position to stop the snowball?


Fourth, if the traffic stop was, again, in the exact words of Sheriff Waugh, “just a traffic violation,” why has Dibor Roberts been charged with two felonies instead of being issued a traffic ticket?  Also, when does a traffic violation necessitate spending six days in jail and a $20,000 bond?


Fifth, Sheriff Waugh said, “Of the county’s 40,000 traffic stops, this is the first one resulting in this kind of situation.”  One in 40,000 tells me there was an obvious problem with this particular stop.  Should Sheriff Waugh question what went wrong with this 1-in-40,000 stop?


Sixth, Sheriff Waugh said his sergeant had to forcefully stop Dibor Roberts before she became a potential danger by entering a “highly populated area.”  Did the sergeant consider the town of Cornville a highly populated area?  The sergeant forced Mrs. Roberts’s car to the side of the road just after the intersection of Beaverhead Flat and Cornville Roads.


Seventh, if the sergeant made the stop “by the book” as the sheriff claimed, why did the officer pull his service revolver and why did the sheriff omit this significant detail as he told the county’s version of the traffic stop/arrest?  When stopping someone for speeding, is it “by the book” to draw a gun and use a baton to break the window of the person’s car?


Finally, if the forced stop was justified to protect the safety of others in “highly populated” Cornville, why did the officer also risk his safety and that of a citizen by a) not running the license plate of the car, b) not calling for back-up, and c) forcibly stopping a “suspect” in a dark area?


I believe it is time for the county to dismiss the charges against Dibor Roberts for the second time (Judge Sterling dropped all charges against Roberts on November 2, 2007). 


The county could also use this situation to create a positive outcome – the creation of a “universal signal” for citizens to use (perhaps turning on the car’s emergency flashers) to convey their desire to continue to a lighted area before stopping.


It is time for the county to stop defending its actions and for Roberts to be cleared of unjustifiable felony charges.  It is time for all of us to be able to feel safe driving in the dark and to have faith that our law enforcement officers are acting to protect us from actual criminals.


Mary Anne Mills



Citizen harassment  

I find it both interesting and appalling that all the authorities in the Dibor Roberts case are men - men who could never comprehend a woman's concerns on a dark lonely road late at night.

What this case needs is female officers and a female judge who might have some sense of the female safety needs that led to Dibor's actions that night. All we may have on our side right now is Sheila Polk.

This is a prime example of the patriarchal police state at its worst. First it was the use of tasers and then the absurd "zero tolerance" DUI laws that have forced us all into total sober terror. I'm afraid to meet friends for just one drink since the Cottonwood cops tailed me all the way home after dinner in Old Town last week - a dinner in which I sipped a Pepsi.

Now we have a new breed of terrorist motorcycle cops preying on workers commuting into Sedona from Cottonwood every morning. I see them hiding behind every speed sign that suddenly drops from 65 to 40 mph  - signs obviously set up as their revenue-producing speed traps.

I was pulled over on my way to work by one of these guys, who was rude and Gestapo-like, for going 45 mph in a 40 mph zone on a downhill slope right in front of Relics. Despite my perfect driving record, no criminal history and all my paperwork in perfect order, he kept me waiting while he called for backup. Without explaining why, he then let me go after writing me up.

This isn't protecting and serving; it is citizen harassment by bullies on terrible power trips. Dibor Roberts is just another victim.

Terri Myers


Seeing the Light

Streetlight debate moves toward a resolution

89A Pedestrian Safety Panel makes recommendations


The 89A Safety Panel has issued a draft of its Recommendation Report that will be presented to the Sedona City Council on Tues., Feb. 26, at its 4:30 p.m. meeting.  There will not be any discussions or decisions regarding the panel's recommendations during thel meeting. 


In 2006, in response to three fatal vehicle-pedestrian accidents that occurred at night along Hwy. 89A in West Sedona, from Dry Creek Road to the Andante Drive area, the Arizona Department of Transportation recommended to the city the installation of 76 street lights along Hwy. 89A, from Airport Road to Dry Creek. According to ADOT, the lights will reduce accidents by 45 percent.


Nearly 150 residents attended a city council meeting in August 2007 to express their concerns that lighting would interfere with Sedona's dark skies; the light poles would detract from the beauty of the area; and that lighting was not the most effective way to improve pedestrian safety.


In response to their concerns, City Councilman Rob Adams asked the council for an advisory panel to be formed to study the problem and seek alternatives to improve pedestrian safety along Hwy. 89A.


The 89A Panel convened in November 2007 and included six representatives each from the city, ADOT and the community, as well as two to three consultants.


These are the short- and long-term recommendations of the panel:


1. Reduce speed limit between Airport Road and Dry Creek Road from 40 mph to 35 mph.


2. Enforce all road-user laws: jaywalking, bicycle, autos.


3. Enforce Dark Sky ordinance. This will help with glare in drivers’ eyes.


4. Educate residents and tourists about Sedona‘s Dark Sky ordinance and pedestrian, bicycle and motorist safety precautions.


5. Place notices (painted curbs or sidewalks) and/or barriers in strategic locations encouraging pedestrians to use crosswalks and to restrict mid-street crossing


6. Conduct on-demand lighted pedestrian crosswalk warrant analysis at select locations and installation as soon as possible.


7. Install traffic signal at Andante intersection, with associated crosswalk and lighting.


8. Implement photo speed enforcement cameras along the corridor.


9. Install one or more “Your speed is…” radar speed indicators to alert drivers of their speed.


10. Install strategically located raised medians that could serve as traffic controls and a refuge island for pedestrians or barrier to crossing.


11. Paint curbing at driveways to aid motorist ability to see access points

Resident Rant

Guest Perspectives

There Goes the Neighborhood

by John Roberts

Let me get this straight. We're planning to install 76 ugly streetlights along a thoroughfare in a city that, on most nights, is as dead as a doornail.

Sedona is, unfortunately, not a city that accommodates pedestrians except in Uptown. But we're supposed to cater to a minority of those without cars jaywalking to Circle K for their fixes at the sacrifice of our dark skies.

Do we know just what percentage of our residents are crossing the road at night? I don't see many people walking, period, which is why everyone here complains about all the traffic.

Now we're complaining about pedestrians at night? How many of you, honestly, have crossed Hwy. 89A after dark in the past six months?

The city has made a lot of dumb moves that the public has had to set it straight on, such as the use of pesticides. But this one really takes the cake. So much for our "small-town character;" there goes the neighborhood again in Sedona.

Let's get real. What Hwy. 89A needs is either a couple of well-marked, designated pedestrian crosswalks, a single traffic light at the Circle K intersection - and some more alert drivers and pedestrians who watch where they're going.

Doesn't anyone remember mom saying: "Look both ways before crossing the street"?

City Candidates Quote Misleading Sources

of Information

By Stephen Williamson

Read in between the lines of “trusted” sources of information

During the Sedona electoral campaign, statistics about Sedona's finances and tax policies, as well as “evaluations” of its elected officials, have been made by candidates and their supporters, in articles and letters to the editor.


Much of the information cited comes from two right-wing organizations:


Arizona Federation of Taxpayers:  This is a right-wing, anti-tax extremist organization masquerading as a citizen watchdog group. AFT is a chapter of Americans for Prosperity, also an extreme right-wing anti-tax, anti-government group.


AFP is run by an extremely conservative Republican political operative named Tim Phillips. Phillips has been a longtime associate of Christian fundamentalist politician Ralph Reed, a leader of Pat Robertson's Christian Coalition, and has worked as trainer for their organization.


He has done a lot of different things, including running the campaign of Bob Goodlatte, a Virginia Republican who received a 0 percent approval rating from the League of Conservation Voters for his service in the 109th Congress. The group is funded by some of most right-wing foundations in the country.


Check out the the AFT and AFP Web sites and read between the lines. This group aims to weaken the ability of local government on everything from taxes to zoning, much in the same way that parallel groups want to weaken the national government so it can do almost nothing but wage war.


Their articles, public testimony, policy positions, and messages are grounded in an ideology of extremely limited government. Their policies would remove the ability of citizens to control their communities based on community interests and thereby enhance the clout of rich and powerful by putting more of their activities beyond the ability of government and citizens to control, for example, what a developer can and cannot do. 


Arizona Tax Research Association: This is a more respectable and moderate  anti-tax, “pro-business” conservative lobbying group. ATRA works with, for example, the right-wing Goldwater Institute and its Center for Market Based Education. There is reason to be skeptical of information coming from both groups and there is no reason to believe at the outset that they are providing accurate information.


Arizona Tax Research Association is a more moderate anti-tax and anti-regulation group. Most of us don't like having to pay taxes and we don't want to read a bunch of arcane tax laws. Therefore, groups like Arizona Tax Research Association move into this breach to influence policy in favor of large corporations and business associations based on anti-tax and anti-regulation ideology.


A look at ATRA’s board of directors is a who's who of powerful Arizona corporations and business associations. There are no educators and no one from education associations, environmental groups, civil liberties groups, labor unions, local citizen associations is visible on their list of board members. They are in the business of providing information on taxes and government operations to further the interests of their board and donors.


It's not much of surprise when they seem to always end up on the conservative side of things. Even if it's a conservation issue (like Prop 106), they have tax-based reasons for being on the side being opposed by progressive and environmental organizations.


Their proudest moments involve lowering taxes on businesses and tying up counties and cities like Sedona with regulations that inhibit their ability to manage their own affairs – by limiting their ability to control taxes and regulate business activities.


Are their figures and conclusions always wrong? We don't know. They are not peer-reviewed the way statistics and other information developed in a university context are. That's part of the reason the right-wing foundations fund conservative think tanks to remove the information they develop from peer review. The point is there is no reason to accept their statements on face value without careful examination. 


Looking at the organization’s public testimony, its research papers and newsletters indicate that this is NOT a broad-based organization whose mission is simply to make sure taxes are well-spent – as it claims to be.


One of the things that organizations such as ATRA and the Goldwater Institute and their earlier or whackier incarnations have done is to ridiculously tie up our city's finances through legislation and propositions they have initiated and supported.


Stephen Williamson serves on the board of the Democrats of the Red Rocks.

Sedona forum initiates dialogue on community needs

Lori Deutsch, director of Youth Count for Yavapai County, brainstorms with participants during the recent Community Needs Dialogue forum.


Twenty community activists recently attended a recent “Community Needs Dialogue” forum sponsored by United Way of Yavapai County. Those who participated represented nonprofit organizations, diverse community leadership and Department of Economic Security personnel.


The primary goal of the community forum was to identify and prioritize community challenges and opportunities rather than address specific agency or organizational needs.

United Way has developed a list of community concerns and opportunities, based on input from the events. In all instances, participants took the opportunity to develop Action Teams to begin addressing the shared concerns.


Facilitated by the staff and volunteer members from Youth Count, the participants completed a modified Institute of Cultural Affairs process. Ideas were generated and grouped into major areas within the United Way’s three Community Impact areas: Critical Needs, Successful Lives and Commitment to Learning.  All of the participants then voted on their chief concerns.


During this process, an opportunity was presented to create Action Teams. People signed up to work collaboratively on issues for which they hold a passionate interest. Those who chose to convene the Action Teams began discussions with their teammates.


In the Community Impact area of “Commitment to Learning,” participants noted the need for expanded communication and cooperation between schools, nonprofits, business and the general public to raise community awareness. A total of nine areas were identified as being of concern. Based on the voting of the participants, three other areas were identified as those to address currently.


One issue that rose to the surface was the need for an Intergenerational Community Center. Deborah Shoman of Boys & Girls Clubs and Janna Genovese of Big Brothers/Big Sisters signed up to form the Action Team for this community concern.


In another area of concern, long-time youth activist Fred Dorfman of DES and Amy Andrews, a concerned community leader and United Way volunteer, decided to collaborate on the preliminary steps necessary to develop a Youth Shelter in the area.


The third area that generated an Action Team was a need for a Media/Nonprofit Alliance. Catherine Rourke, managing editor of The Sedona Observer, is already recruiting media team members for that effort.


United Way will review the list of community concerns and build the information into its funding and priority planning process. United Way is available to Action Teams for further dialogue about their ideas.


The nine areas of concern also include affordable emergency medical and dental treatment; short-term and/or transitional emergency housing; securing work force resources for economic development; affordable long-term housing; and affordable transportation.


United Way Executive Director Tammy Linn noted that funding for projects under the Community Impact model will need to be “collaborative, feasible and time-limited.” She said that projects requiring major funding from governmental sources will not be feasible for United Way funding.


“We are already funding 36 programs throughout the county,” said Linn. “We are asking our Action Teams to find new, collaborative ways to address issues that they believe may need additional funding.”


Water Education was another topic, including the regulation of use, diversion and “facing reality.” No Action Team formed around this concern as participants noted that several groups were already working on the situation.


Addressing the needs of seniors and drug prevention were other topics the group examined but elected not to address at this time.


“We hope that United Way can take a leadership role in some of these areas,” said Deborah Darby, United Way coordinator for Sedona and the Verde Valley. “In fact, we already share space with the Sedona Community Center to both save money that could go to agencies and maintain our presence in the area.”


To join an Action Team, e-mail Darby at verdevalleyunitedway@msn.com. For more information on the scope of the programs currently being funded by United Way of Yavapai County, go to http://www.unitedwayyavapai.org.

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