What three attributes do you consider to be Flagstaff’s greatest assets and why? How would you use your position to maintain and strengthen these attributes?
- Our People – I love that walking down the street, strangers nod, smile, and say hello. Inclusivity, and ensuring people feel welcome, is critical in this position. I am the council liaison to the Diversity Awareness Commission and Inclusive and Adaptive Living Commission, and have pushed to revise our Civil Rights ordinance, which we are in the process of doing.
- Natural Environment – People come to Flagstaff because of the natural beauty of our environment. We must protect our natural environment and adapt to the new reality of climate change, which is why wildfire and flood protection has been, and will continue to be, a top priority of mine.
- Education – Flagstaff has the highest educational attainment of any city in Arizona, and we have many great educational opportunities from pre-k through college and beyond.
Flagstaff’s 10-Year Housing Plan and Carbon Neutrality Plan both call for incorporating appropriate density into residential neighborhoods and reducing parking minimums to meet their respective goals. What is your opinion of the value of increased density and reduced parking minimums?
Density is a natural and important part of growth, but we must be strategic. Too often our electeds go to either extreme—no growth or growth at any cost. I have a record of aligning with the Planning & Zoning Commission’s assessment of city code and not giving developers special favors. To increase density, change our code and regional plan rather than waiving the rules.
Decreasing parking minimums without proper infrastructure can create more problems, pushing vehicles into neighborhoods. This City Council has prioritized funding for bike/ped infrastructure and is helping to expand our bus system, so people don’t need to park a car in the first place.
How would you balance the competing needs of drivers, pedestrians and cyclists and what emphasis would you put on vehicle access versus alternative modes of transportation in local transportation projects?
We’ve prioritized vehicles for too long, and our infrastructure shows that. We have a lot of work to do to rethink road designs and ensure bike/ped safety and comfortability is at the forefront. That’s why across the city we’ve been reviewing intersection designs to change and expand bike/ped infrastructure. We must recognize though that this isn’t necessarily an “either/or” when it comes to bike/ped safety and traffic flow. We have the ability, for example, to build the voter-mandated Lone Tree bridge, while having a fully separated bike lane over the tracks and improving the respective intersections to be safer for bicyclists.
The city of Flagstaff recently partnered with Terros Health to launch the CARE unit, an alternative-response model to replace police in matters that don’t pose a threat to public safety. What is your opinion about this model as a means to supplement traditional policing methods? What additional ways can we reduce the incarceration of the homeless and mentally ill and better serve these individuals?
This was my #1 priority walking in as mayor, and I am proud of our team’s efforts to get this off the ground so quickly. The City of Flagstaff is now involved more heavily than ever in addressing mental health and substance use issues in our community than ever before. We have dedicated nearly $5 million in the last year to the cause.
Council member Shimoni and I are pushing to expand the CARE program to include a peer support specialist as well as scaling it to more units. We also must expand housing services for our unsheltered. Recognizing this, we have allocated record levels of funding for housing this last year.
The 10-year Housing Plan has a goal to reduce the current affordable housing need in our community by half over the next ten years. Do you think that this goal is feasible? What local and state strategies would you pursue to address Flagstaff’s affordable housing needs?
It is feasible, but the City of Flagstaff cannot do it alone. We need the state and federal government to assist. At the local level, the city is helping to convert motels into studio apartments. Homeownership is key though, and the model Habitat for Humanity has begun provides tiny homes that help people build equity. These city partnerships are critical to address our housing crisis.
At the state level, we have many preemptions. We need these removed so we can regulate short-term rentals and implement inclusionary zoning, which requires large developments to provide affordable housing. I am a board member on the Executive Board of the Arizona League of Cities and Towns, where we work collectively to regain local control over policy decisions, especially housing.
What strategies do you think are essential to securing an adequate water supply as Flagstaff grows? What is your opinion specifically of the Red Gap Ranch project and proposals to increase our drinking water supply with treated wastewater (potable reuse)?
Red Gap Ranch is a monstrously expensive project that the city cannot afford without massive federal investment, and inevitably it is “sticking another straw” into the same aquifer. Potable reuse is not an “if” but a “when.” The water in our region is at historic lows, and we are not seeing any abatement. The earth is warming, and we will have to adapt through technological advancement.
Do you support Flagstaff’s Climate Emergency Declaration and the Carbon Neutrality Plan that was developed to assist the city in achieving carbon neutrality by 2030? Explain in detail why or why not.
I absolutely support the Carbon Neutrality Plan. Cities can be a part of the problem, or they can also be part of the solution. We clearly won’t put a huge dent in climate change just by ourselves, but being a leader shows other cities it can be done. Flagstaff has become a major leader on climate action and adaptation, and many are looking to us to set their own policies and budgets. Sustainability is at the forefront of our policy and budgetary considerations. We recently rose Sustainability to a division-level status, expanded personnel, and for the first time ever, our Sustainability Director was on the budget committee.
What is your opinion of the draft Active Transportation Management Plan? How would you ensure adequate funding to implement the specific bike and pedestrian improvement projects outlined in the plan?
Transportation is one of the top drivers of climate change, and the ATMP is a critical document to reduce our carbon footprint. I think the Active Transportation Management Plan is a must to get cars off the road and provide a safe and comfortable environment for people to get out of their vehicles. We are already redirecting our transportation sales tax dollars towards bike/ped projects, but it is not enough. Properly funding the ATMP will likely take a bond measure on the ballot.
In Flagstaff, our indigenous community has been marginalized for centuries. Nationally, some groups are trying to limit the teaching of the history of Black people and the rights of LGBTQ individuals. How do you think these histories should inform local policy decisions? How would you ensure that Flagstaff is an inclusive and welcoming community?
Flagstaff is in the process of rewriting our local Civil Rights ordinance to create better protections. The City of Flagstaff created a new position a couple of years for an Indigenous Coordinator, and we continue to contract with Black Lived Experience to better inform the public and Council when we form public policy. Issues of equity are embedded in so many of our public policy decisions. Decades of lagging infrastructural investment in our historically Black, Hispanic, and Native American neighborhoods means we have a lot of ground to make up, and we are doing just that. Broadband grants and storm water infrastructure investments have been focusing on our historically neglected neighborhoods, most especially Sunnyside and Southside.
What are your three greatest concerns regarding Flagstaff’s future and what steps would you take to help address them?
1.Wildfire and Flooding – We have been cutting through red tape left and right to get projects funded and implemented. Through strong partnerships with 5 other government agencies, we have secured $15 million to address Museum Fire scar flooding, most of which was funded, designed, and completed in only 9 months. We purchased new ladder trucks, radio systems, and are planning to purchase more wildfire vehicles this coming year. We also rose firefighter pay 5.9% on average this year.
2. Housing – We have been cutting red tape here also, expediting processes and providing record-level funding for affordable housing. We are fully in with the new model of converting old motels into studio apartments and are excited about Housing Solutions and Flagstaff Shelter Services spearheading these efforts.
3. Water – Technically, the city has a 100-year water supply designation, but that assumes using Red Gap Ranch, pumping it uphill 2,500 feet at 5x the electricity needed to get to homes. We have to start rethinking the longevity of our water and consider new technologies.