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Jim McCarthy

What three attributes do you consider Flagstaff’s greatest assets and why?

First, our people are diverse, open minded, and smart. That leads to interesting interaction from the personal level to the cultural level, for instance the music scene — everything from Pickin’ in the Pines to local bands on Heritage Square. I have attended Hopi Kachina dance ceremonies and learning events at the Murdoch Center. Next, our natural surroundings are amazing. I hike the Grand Canyon and our backyard – Mars Hill, Mt. Elden, and Humphreys Peak.

And finally, we have a can-do spirit. Examples include NACET (Northern Arizona Center for Entrepreneurship and Technology) and several local startup companies.

What government strategies and policies, if any, do you believe can address Flagstaff’s high cost of living and unaffordability?

The cost of housing is one of the biggest challenges that Council is trying to solve. I volunteered to be the Council liaison to the newly formed Housing Commission because I care about this issue. Essentially every housing project that comes to Council gets an agreement to have 10 percent Affordable units. The city participates in federal programs to build Affordable housing. But that is not enough. We need to encourage more home construction in the mid to low price ranges. I have pushed for an evaluation of city policies that are unnecessarily driving construction costs up.

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 voted for the HOH plan and support it. I’m working with staff to address not only mega projects but also medium sized projects that are causing neighborhood issues. The plan will not completely remedy the building height and other issues because of voter-approved Proposition 207. Under this measure, the city would have to pay millions of dollars to landowners if we reduce their property values, like by only allowing shorter buildings. The city does not have the funds to do this. Nonetheless, we are working within the rules and with landowners to make changes.

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 has shown climate action leadership; we also need federal action. To address the 2030 goal, we will need to gradually transition to electric vehicles, get our power from renewable sources like solar and wind, improve building efficiencies, and more. We should consider either in-city or off-site carbon sequestration. The drivers for CO2 emissions are our life style and our population growth. In my lifetime, the world population has tripled; that is not sustainable. Regarding funding, we should consider fees associated with energy consumption, and reallocation of existing funds. Setting priorities should involve significant community outreach.

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?

I do not support a program to encourage more use of reclaimed water, unless it replaces essential potable water uses, such as toilet flushing. Reclaimed water is too valuable for low priority uses such as snow making and lawns. We will need reclaimed water as a future water source, after significantly improved treatment, for direct re-use or for groundwater recharging.

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?

I pushed for significantly tiered rates when I served on the Water Commission, and support the concept for commercial and industrial customers. I believe there is significant support for this. It would likely have been implemented already except that there is not consensus on how it would be implemented, for example, based on meter size, type of industry, or whatever.

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?

I supported the minimum wage initiative in 2016 because I have worked at the minimum wage and realize that people have to live on it. I support the stepped increases because they are reasonable and because I respect the will of the voters. I admit that the higher wages are difficult for some businesses, but healthy businesses will survive. The penalty being imposed by the state legislature is another example of the state talking in favor of local control, but then thwarting it. (We need to elect Babbott, French, and Evans so that LD6 can get some better representation.)

What, if anything, do you believe the City ought to do to support and protect undocumented residents?

People that came here as children (dreamers) should have a path to citizenship. Our police should not go on what the Supreme Court has called “fishing expeditions” trying to find undocumented residents. Our police must comply with the law, but no more than that. If we create a situation where people are afraid to talk to the police, then the police will not be able to address serious crime. Undocumented workers are hard workers and are an essential part of our society.

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?

I have a future agenda item request pending to address this very issue. It has the support of the other Council members, and Council has directed staff to bring this forward as soon as possible. Part of my request is to have a conversation about how other providers could be used when an armed police officer is not really needed. I feel the need to protect everyone’s civil liberties and rights. I absolutely will not tolerate police violence. I also want the police and the duties they perform to be done in the most efficient and sensitive way.

What are your three greatest concerns regarding Flagstaff’s future and what steps should we take to help address them?

Reasonably priced housing is a primary issue. We need to encourage builders to be part of the solution by eliminating unneeded rules, while keeping appropriate rules. We need to open up land south of I-40 for new family housing. Next, we need to limit development to that which protects existing neighborhoods. We need reasonably sized building to protect our character, but we don’t want Phoenix-style sprawl.

Finally, we need a Council that listens to the residents and has forward thinking. We need a balance between new blood on Council and enough experience that appropriate decisions are made.