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Austin Aslan Questionnaire 2022

1) In Flagstaff, our indigenous community has been marginalized for centuries. Nationally, there are efforts to limit the teaching of the histories of marginalized populations in the U.S. How would you ensure that Flagstaff is an inclusive and welcoming community and do you have ideas for how to include historically marginalized groups in local policy
decisions?

Our indigenous communities have been marginalized. More needs to be done at all levels to correct for historic and ongoing injustices. Last year I introduced a “Future Agenda Item Request” to Council asking to add a land acknowledgement to all Council meetings. The resulting acknowledgement was driven by a robust collaboration with indigenous voices. That collaboration offers a great roadmap for how we involve indigenous voices in every local policy decision. But a land acknowledgement is only a small token gesture. When Coral Evans was mayor, I joined her in an intentional outreach to create new bonds with Flagstaff’s indigenous neighbors. We met in person, council-to-council, with the Hualapai Tribal Council in Peach Springs, for example. Many meetings were planned—then the pandemic hit. I look forward to being on a new council that again prioritizes outreach and relationship building between whole Council bodies and not just individual personalities.

 

2) Northern Arizona Healthcare is proposing to move Flagstaff’s hospital from the center of town to a new location near Fort Tuthill. Do you have any concerns about the impact of this move on the Flagstaff community? How will you approach NAH to ensure that all new construction is in line with the city’s carbon neutrality plan, including the utilization of clean energy sources? How will you ensure that the City is not burdened with expenses associated with the move, e.g., with the need for an additional bus line, emergency services, etc.?

My support is contingent upon robust community participation throughout the entire process. FMC’s current facilities and location aren’t well-suited to meet increased regional need in the years ahead. New jobs and revenues will be generated. But I share numerous community concerns. Will FMC contribute financially to a bus line and multimodal upgrades surrounding the campus? Our climate goals and the importance of public transportation for any expansion of Flagstaff’s footprint must be respected. I want details surrounding sustainability practices, recycling plans, and dark skies protection. Most critically, what’ll happen to the current site? I applaud the developers for arranging a consultant to start meetings in September with Council and an impressive array of community groups, including F3. Establishing a planning methodology that results in a super specific redevelopment roadmap that all of Flagstaff can endorse is critical. I will take careful note of F3’s final verdict regarding all aspects.

 

3) Which state laws do you see as impediments to the city’s ability to craft appropriate regulations? Which of these would you prioritize as a target for the City’s lobbyist?

All of them? Humor aside, we face substantial challenges from a lack of home rule. From banning plastic bags to regulating short term rentals, we could discuss endless community objectives that are pre-empted by state laws and the chilling influence of the “1487” rule which allows the state to withhold funds if ANY state legislator complains about us. My priorities involve our electrification efforts and our affordable housing objectives. If we could leverage energy upgrade incentives, Flagstaff will save utility-payers $$$ at all income levels, reduce local emissions, and accelerate decarbonization. This is critical to our carbon neutrality objectives. Sedona recently discussed a “Rent Local” program to incentivize STR owners to provide longer-term affordable leases to local residents. I’ll be watching to see how this innovative idea plays out, and would be happy to champion a similar effort up here if it proves tenable.

 

4) The uncertainty of climate change impacts on Flagstaff’s water supply, coupled with projected growth means that the City is looking for additional sources of water for Flagstaff’s residents. What is your opinion of the Red Gap Ranch pipeline project and proposals to increase our drinking water supply with treated wastewater (indirect or direct potable reuse)? What do you believe is the best way to protect our water resources from contamination by compounds of emerging concern(CEC)? How can the Flagstaff City Council ensure that growth does not impact an adequate and safe water supply for our population now and into the future?

I’m the chair of the Coconino Plateau Water Advisory Council. We must live within our means and learn to grow within a regime of tightening water constraints. We do a great job of conserving water in Flagstaff but we’ll need to improve our efforts more if we’re to maintain a 100 year water supply as we grow. I’m not a fan of using Red Gap water because of the price tag and also the quality of that water. The City secured that supply as a fail-safe and I’m committed to protecting it even though I hope we leave it in the ground forever. Other Arizona communities are being forced to tighten their belts because of the extended drought. Our long tradition of conservation and adequate planning affords us the luxury to stay forward-focused while other cities scramble. I welcome productive conversations moving forward about direct potable reuse and combating CECs.

 

5) The needs of the residents of Flagstaff are changing and will continue to do so as climate change impacts are felt locally. We face the disastrous cycle of severe wildfires (e.g., the Tunnel, Pipeline, and Museum fires) followed by devastating flooding. How should the City respond strategically, proactively, and equitably to predicted local impacts on our neighborhoods?

Climatic changes after a century of fire suppression have turned Flagstaff’s monsoon season from a yearly blessing into a recurring nightmare. I feel profoundly for residents impacted by wildfires and post-fire flooding. When elected in 2018, buttressed by a degree in Natural Resource Management, I ran on these issues. I joined a delegation to DC in December of 2019 to secure $52 million in funding for the critical Rio de Flag project. I took flak for supporting an expensive endeavor that many saw as unnecessary. Museum Fire flooding wouldn’t impact neighborhoods for another eighteen months. But we secured those funds with difficulty by sounding the alarm in advance. I’ve prioritized wildfire mitigation and adaptation for Flagstaff and will continue to do so, especially as federal funding opportunities increase. More needs to be done. I will always prioritize and champion immediate and long-term investments in forest health and watershed infrastructure improvements.

 

6) The City has begun the “Visioning” (Phase II) of the Flagstaff Regional Plan 2045. This plan is mandated and is a policy guide focused on land use. The Regional Plan covers a range of topics with information on current conditions, the community's vision for the future, and goals and policies to realize the future vision. What is your vision of the future of Flagstaff related to land use and development and what goals do you believe should be included in the Plan?

I’m running for re-election to protect Flagstaff’s character. Thanks to skyrocketing housing costs locals are feeling abandoned. I believe there is a way to encourage greater diversity among incoming and remaining residents. State pre-emptions are a problem, but obstacles are what we see when we take our eyes off the goal. I promise to stay focused on solutions. We shouldn’t have to whittle away at our forests and dark skies and neighborhood diversity to achieve economic vitality. We can embrace climate solutions locally as we simultaneously increase opportunities for businesses and top-notch job-providers. I reject the characterization that our housing needs are at odds with our carbon neutrality goals and open spaces. I’m committed to greater investment in bike/ped infrastructure, and a denser urban core with convenient walkability. Flagstaff has hills and four seasons. We’ll never entirely abandon cars. But our transportation efforts cannot continue to focus exclusively on them.