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Eric Senseman

What three attributes do you consider Flagstaff’s greatest assets and why?
Extensive and easily accessible trails and open space, a warm and welcoming community, and a small but bustling downtown corridor combine to produce an extremely high quality of life for Flagstaff’s citizens. I want to ensure that these characteristics continue to flourish as the city grows and evolves.

What government strategies and policies, if any, do you believe can address Flagstaff’s high cost of living and unaffordability?
State operating subsidies programs, ballot-initiated bonds, and private-public land trust agreements can begin to address Flagstaff’s high cost of living and lack of affordability. A recent report found that roughly 60% of Flagstaff’s citizens are burdened by their housing costs, and that 23% of homeowners are financially overextended due to housing costs. That means that we need to build more housing, and more affordable housing, in Flagstaff. It’s imperative for the City of Flagstaff to keep affordable housing a top priority for Flagstaff’s citizens.

Flagstaff’s High Occupancy Housing Plan was approved in 2018 and staff is starting to bring to Council changes to the zoning code promoted in the plan. What are your thoughts about the goals in this plan regarding building height, location and size and do you think they are adequate to deal with the concerns people have expressed about this type of housing going into the future?
I believe that the Housing Plan is a valuable tool that should be better put to use for future developments. The Housing Plan aims to provide affordable, diverse housing for Flagstaff’s citizens. Future developments like Milltown fail to achieve that goal both in aesthetics and purpose, as the majority of units are marketed toward students. By implementing the Housing Plan more effectively in the future, we can pursue higher density housing projects for Flagstaff’s citizens that enhance Flagstaff’s culture and character. We can and should use the Housing Plan effectively in order to solve Flagstaff’s affordable housing crisis in a responsible way.

In 2018 the City Council passed the Climate Action and Adaptation Plan. Just recently they declared a Climate Emergency and elevated the goals of the CAAP to carbon neutrality by 2030. What strategies would you prioritize in order to achieve carbon neutrality and how will you reallocate budget resources or come up with new revenue streams to fund these changes?
The City should develop a more robust public transportation system that includes energy-efficient vehicles and a bus line to the airport. As the City grows, new communities should be designed intentionally with nearby trails and bike paths, and things like grocery stores and commercial space within walking distance. New buildings should be energy efficient, and we should invest in alternative energy sources like solar power. These strategies would help to reduce carbon emissions from vehicular traffic. To fund these proposals, the City should negotiate higher fees with companies like UNS Gas in order to increase revenue for these climate-related initiatives.

Flagstaff has been using reclaimed water to replace the use of potable water for applications such as irrigation, toilet flushing and snowmaking. City Water Services is starting a study to consider how to manage reclaimed water for the long term. The study will consider whether to expand its use, use it for aquifer recharge, or reserve it as a future potential source of drinking water (after further processing). What are your thoughts about the future of reclaimed water use?
The increased use of reclaimed water is of the utmost importance in order to reduce our use of potable water and avoid future water shortages. I fully support the City Water Services’ decision to undergo a study, as that’s the first step in determining how we can best put to use our reclaimed water. I would suspend judgment on how we ought to use our reclaimed water in the future until the study’s findings are released. Once those findings are determined, I believe the City should aggressively pursue what the study finds to be the most effective use for our reclaimed water.

Flagstaff has long used tiered water rates for residential customers as an incentive to conserve water (under tiered rates, the price per gallon increases as usage rises). Do you favor extending tiered rates to commercial and industrial customers?
Yes. Northern Arizona has limited water resources and those have been exacerbated by higher temperatures and less rain in recent years. Unless we heavily incentivize less water usage across all customers, the City of Flagstaff will not have access to drinking water for future generations.

Flagstaff’s minimum wage will rise to $15.50 per hour on January 1, 2022. On January 1, 2026 the tipped minimum wage, which is currently $3 less than the full minimum wage, will match the full minimum wage. Do you support the minimum wage ordinance that was approved by Flagstaff voters?
Yes. I voted in favor of the minimum wage increase. In Flagstaff, less than half of residents own their homes, nearly half of residents spend more than 30% of their income on housing, and the average rent of a two-bedroom apartment requires an individual to make around $30 per hour in order to spend less than 30% of their income on housing. For this reason alone, it’s imperative for Flagstaff’s working class to make more money each paycheck.

What, if anything, do you believe the City ought to do to support and protect undocumented residents?
While the City of Flagstaff is legally obligated to assist government organizations, like the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency, in certain situations, the City should go no further in pursuing the removal of undocumented residents. The process for citizenship has only become more challenging in recent years, and many of Flagstaff’s undocumented immigrants are victims of that process. The City should support these residents by working closely with local organizations that seek to advance the livelihood and well-being of our undocumented residents through monetary and legal means.

In light of the recent national protests against racism and police violence, many people are calling for re-imagining the role of policing in our communities. How do you envision applying this to Flagstaff?
For decades, police departments around the country have been tasked with an excessive list of duties that could be better performed by other departments. Heavily funded police departments divert much needed money away from education, health care, housing, and other critical departments. In short, there’s a lack of investment in human needs and an over investment in policing. In Flagstaff, police should continue to receive adequate funding to pursue their primary task of responding to crimes. Other emergencies, such as health care emergencies, domestic disputes, etc., should be handled by health care professionals, social workers, etc.

What are your three greatest concerns regarding Flagstaff’s future and what steps should we take to help address them?
A lack of affordable housing, a possible water shortage, and a lack of higher paying jobs are three serious concerns for Flagstaff’s future. As I outlined in other questions in this questionnaire, the City should pursue programs, bonds and agreements to build more housing; the City should highly incentive water conservation throughout Flagstaff; and the City should adopt policies and practices that attract businesses with higher paying jobs, like W.L. Gore, to Flagstaff.